EP 81 | Saddle Your Own Horse - Part 2: Three Questions

Uncategorized May 09, 2024

In this episode of Being in the Arena, Zach Arend digs deep into what it takes to lead and live authentically. Drawing from his TED Talk, Zach explores the vital elements of choice, effectiveness, and autonomy in our daily pursuits. He gets real about the things we're good at but secretly dread, urging us to confront three meaningful questions regarding our choices and who we’re being. It's a candid conversation that challenges us to embrace discomfort as a catalyst for growth and fulfillment. So, if you're ready to shake things up and step into your power, this episode is a must-listen.

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 Zach Arend: What are you good at that you don't like doing? That right there is where most of us go and we stagnate. 

 Welcome back or welcome to being in the arena. This is a podcast really about what it means to live and lead in the arena of your own life. My goal for these conversations is maybe sometimes to give you a little nudge, a little kick in the butt, push you back into the arena, because I fundamentally believe life always happens in the arena. this is part two of a four part series on a deep dive into a modern leadership solution that I'm calling Saddle Your Own Horse. I did a TED Talk on this. 

 Many of you that have followed along, have already seen it. It came out just several weeks ago. If you haven't, go watch it. 'Cause it, everything we're going to explore in this episode and several to come is a deep dive on a lot of the concepts I introduced in the TED Talk.

So this is part two. And part one, we dove into really what the problem is. As I see it, we live in a world that says we're burnout. And we, we're spending all this money on self care and but at the end of the day, more of us are bored. We're not burnout. We're bored. And we explored the importance, the critical nature of getting yourself and pushing your team into bigger and bigger arenas. Because that's where, that's where mental health actually comes from. Doing the thing that you're feeling called to do. You're not over obligated. You're just not doing deep down what you know you can do. And we've got to start listening to what we're being called towards.

To being our best and giving it everything we got to being in the arena. And we explored that in our last episode, in part one of this, this four part series. So if you haven't heard that one, go back to it after this episode and listen to it and get, get familiar with what's truly going on in your life.

I believe that episode will, will help you see. And get a sense of who you truly are so that you can come back to this episode in the future episodes to come and start to really change things for yourself and for your team. Well, today I want to talk about three powerful questions that our relationship with these questions are the very thing that correlate to us being our best and fully engaged in whatever we do.

The opposite of boredom. It's the opposite of burnout. It's in flow. It's. It's just that sweet spot, that zone of genius. And in my talk, I, I talk about and we start to segue into, okay, so we need to start asking more of people we are in a world today that has perfected the art of making us not feel necessary.

And we need to start asking more of ourselves, not less, asking more of our team, not less right now, the world's saying "maybe ease off a little bit, maybe take it easy, take a break." No, no, because there's a lot of research that's gone into this. These three questions are a mixture of, of some things that I've pulled from self determination theory.

And if you're a nerd like me, go check that out. There's a book, 

 Ryan and Deci wrote a book. 

 I think it's all about human motivation and drive and go check that book out if you want to dive into this. But I, I also, I take the research, like I was sharing in the last episode. And I also kind of check in with what, what's been true for me and a lot of my clients.

I work executives and leaders and leadership teams, like I just kind of bring it down to the ground to experience because sometimes too much research just feels too nebulous and generalized. I've got to bring it down to my life and maybe your life, but I encourage you to check in. But there's really three things that, and we know this, we know, you do, check in. Intuitively, instinctively, we know this is what we need to feel fully engaged and at our best. There's three things and the first one, I'm going to share all three of them with you. The first one is, do you feel a sense of choice in what you're doing? That's number one. Do you feel a sense of choice in what you're doing? Number two, do you feel effective at it while also challenged by it?

That's number two, feeling effective in what you're doing. While also challenged by it. And number three, are you doing it on your terms? Do you feel like, or, or better said, are you doing it on your terms? So do you feel like you have a sense of choice in what you're doing? Do you feel you're effective at it while also challenged by it?

And do you feel like you're doing it on your terms? Those three things, if you can answer yes to all three of those, then I'm pretty sure you're, you're enjoying what you're doing. You're enjoying life. You're engaged at your work and in your profession. You are. It's, it comes down to those three questions.

Do you feel a sense of choice? I want to explore each one of these a little bit because it's subtle, because I believe when I ask these questions, a lot of us are listening in a way, that's. where we're looking at the externals. Okay. Do you feel a sense of choice in what you're doing?

"Where I work and what I do day to day, do I feel like I have a sense of choice in what I'm doing?" And right away, if you're not a yes, it's a no. And oftentimes there's some sort of external obstacle in your way. He doesn't listen to me. I just don't have that level of freedom. I just can't, I can't afford it.

You know, I don't have the money. I just need this job. I need the, I need the benefits. We go into story mode about how, you know, all these stories tell us how, "no, we don't really have choice." We don't have choice on what you're doing. You, you just have to do it. And this is where, and we blame, we blame our organizations.

We blame our leaders. No, I don't feel like I have a choice what I'm doing. Nobody cares what I think or whatever. We, we look outward, we look out into the world and we find something to blame for why we don't feel a sense of choice. And this is where Saddle Your Own Horse really comes to play. And you know, in a TED Talk, it's like 10 minutes.

I don't have a lot of time to go deep into this stuff. And this is one of the nuances where I'm like, gosh, I'm pretty sure people are going to hear this, and it's going to create this defensiveness. Like, " no, I don't actually, I actually hate my job.  I don't, I don't feel like I have choice. I don't," you know, and we go down and we spiral down into this victim mode, this victim mentality where we feel hopeless and powerless and stuck in a situation that we don't want. Absence of choice, and it makes sense that we go there. It's a story. It's a clearly well constructed story and it's very convenient and how it can keep you right where you're at. And there's a lot of nuances here, but what I wanted to really capture, and I don't know if I captured it, I'm going to capture it now.

The key thing is, do you feel a sense of choice? I'm not asking it as if it's a fact or not. Like, because here's the thing. This is all about your relationship with the question in your external circumstances. Do you feel a sense of choice in what you're doing? That's a, that's a choice. That's a choice.

 That alone, to, to see the choice in what you're doing is a choice. That's interesting, right? That's what I'm trying to capture. I don't know if you're hearing me, but do you feel the sense of choice? Do you actually recognize that you are at choice in everything you do? So the powerful thing about this is not an externally.

"Well, do I? I don't know. Do I?" It's a, the answer is always yes. It's just whether or not you choose to take hold of that. Do you feel sense of choice in what you're doing?

 Because oftentimes I'm working with leadership teams and they're going to be telling me a story of how they're stuck in their organizations with a team member or if it's relationship, and you know, at home and I'm, I'm just, and, they're telling me all about the other person and how, I don't know, I don't have a choice, like, they're just not listening.

 You know, I don't have a choice. And inevitably, bringing that Saddle Your Own Horse mentality to the game, like, it's like, well, what choice are you making in all of this? Inevitably, like they may not say it. I might have to say it for them. Well, one choice you're making is you're choosing to tolerate the thing that's not working for you.

You're choosing that. "What do you mean?" Well, I, you know, throw some extreme. Well, you could quit.  You could fire them. You could, you have a lot of choices. You are making a choice right now in this moment to do nothing about it. You're making a choice to just complain about it instead of turning around and facing it. We could go on and on and on like, so the answer to the question number one is always, yes, always, do you feel a sense of choice in what you're doing? You better. "You better" not like that's a dare, like you better, it's, it's going to serve you if you connect to that sense of choice.

And the truth is,  you're always at choice. So that's the first one, like, do you feel a sense of choice in what you're doing? And my ultimate encouragement on this one is, can you change your relationship with that question? This isn't about checking a box externally and, well, no, does he let me make my own choices or does he not?

Well, regardless. You're, you're at choice. You're choosing one or the other. And I, I just like this. I like this responsibility that these questions, this question especially brings. This idea of saddling your own horse, because, look, nothing changes until you take hold of the sense of choice that you have.

That is yours. It's, it's your right. You have a choice, always. But far too often we forget that and we kind of move into this powerless victim position. And the thing about that is we can't move forward. So do you feel a sense of choice in what you're doing? Number two, do you feel effective at it while also challenged by it?

This again requires a lot of self reflection. Do you feel effective at what you're doing while also challenged by it? And I think, and to be honest, I had written my talk and I'd rehearsed it. And I, something wasn't right about, I originally was like, do you feel effective at it? Do you feel a sense of choice?

And do you feel effective at it? Like there's something about, yeah, I feel effective at it, but it doesn't really light me up. So I'm like, okay, yeah, it's, it's effective while also challenged by it. This is true for me. I don't know if it's true for you, but it's, that's the sweet spot, the intersection of there's a level of I'm effective at it.

Maybe I haven't mastered it by all means, but God, there's just this level of competency that I do have that I am connected with, but ooh, it's also brings a level of discomfort and it does challenge me. And those are the things when I'm doing those things. On a consistent basis, those are the things that at the end of the day, when I lay my hand on the pillow, I'm like, oh, It was a good day. I gave it all I got. I was in that zone of genius where I was effective, growing, learning and challenged by what I was doing. 

 And this one is is an interesting one because I  work with a lot of leaders and managers and their organizations are growing and even their team is telling them like, "Hey, you gotta... who's coming behind you because wow, we're  really growing and like, who's going to take this when you're not here?"

And, and I always kind of hear this, "Oh no, I'm good. You know, I got it. I got it. It'll be okay." And it's like, well, the whole room is saying, "I don't think you got it. I think, I think you got to start letting go of some things." And there's this exercise I do with leadership teams. And one of the things we do is we start looking at the things that we're good at, but we don't really like doing. Maybe at one time in our careers or our professions, we enjoyed it, but gosh, we've been doing it for a decade now. And frankly, it bores us. We're good at it. Well, yeah, we've gotten really good, but it's, it's disinteresting. It's boring. What are you good at that you don't like doing? That right there is where most of us go and we stagnate. 

We over obligate ourselves and tell ourselves that, "well, we're good at it and we need to do it." And one of the number one things this question does is you have to elevate yourself to what you feel like you're effective at, but also challenged by, like, we've got to find a way to bring the love back into what we're doing.

And for me, for me to love something, it has to stretch me. Like one of my core values is growth. Probably is one of your core values too, if you're listening, because it's just, you know, we kind of tend to attract people into our worlds that are similar to us, shared values. I have to have a sense of growth, so effectiveness and just being good at something isn't enough.

I have to stretch myself. And so you want to increase your vitality for life and your engagement, start asking yourself, "do I feel effective while also challenged by what I'm doing in my business, in my, in my leadership and my management?" Because a lot of us are going to say, "well, no, I, all I do is send emails and attend meetings.

And it's frankly, I don't feel challenged by it at all." Well, then do you feel a sense of choice in what you're doing? You better find it because nobody's coming here. You got to Saddle Your Own Horse. You got to take this one on and, and this is where it requires you to take some bold steps to raise your hand, to say, "I, you know what, this isn't working for me.

And I think there's some changes that we can make in this organization that would better serve our goals. And I also believe I can make a greater impact," like that's called putting your butt on the line and most of us are unwilling to do that, but you know what, one of the thing when you start to do that and you loosen your grip on the need to, for certainty and safety and comfort, which is actually the root cause we explored in the last episode, part one, the root cause of a lot of our burnout and boredom were so clinging to these things that aren't allowing us to experience ourselves for who we truly are.

The only way you do that is through courage and stepping into new challenging arenas. So do you feel effective at what you're doing while also challenged by it? That's your choice. You have to lean into that. You have to lean into that. You have to create it. You have to create the thing that you're effective at and challenged by.

Like that's one of the things I do when I'm working with individuals is we look at that. "Where is your greatest contribution to the organization? What, what would you love it to be? What do you think it could be? What would you like it to be? And how might that challenge you? And how might you bring some of your current strengths and abilities into becoming great at that?

It's like this constant growth. Like a lot of us get into our forties, we get our, we, we stop growing. No wonder we're bored or burnout, whatever you want to call it. I call it bored out. Or yeah, bored. So do you feel effective at what you're doing but also challenged by it? Move into the, move into the resistance, go find some challenge.

If you don't have it, go create it. It's, it's a choice you choose. Number three. So the first one is, do you feel a sense of choice? Number two, do you feel effective at a while also challenged? Number three, do you feel you're able to do it on your terms? On your terms. Do you feel you're able to do it or are you doing it on your terms? Meaning, is this an inside out job or is it an outside in job? So that's probably a little confusing, let me explain. 

 For you to do something on your terms Ralph Waldo Emerson shared a, he said this, he said that, to be yourself in a world that's trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. To be yourself in a world trying to make you someone else is the greatest accomplishment. That's what I'm really talking about. Are you doing and being it in a way that you believe others expect you to do it?

Or are you doing it in a, from a creative space? That's the distinction. Do you feel you're doing it on your terms? Doing it on your terms mean it's a creative act. You are the artist of your own life, of your business, of the results that you're trying to create in your organization. This isn't an act.

We're not trying to, you know, take something on, but do it in a way that we think our peers are going to approve of us. 

 Like, I'm not suggesting we just blatantly go be rebels out there, but what I am, I'm just encouraging you to check in, like get out of everybody else's head because most of us aren't who we truly are.

We're being who we think others think we are, or we're being who we think others expect us to be. And we never truly tap into that gift that we have in our, our own creative insights. So to do something on your terms. I don't know. For me, it was like magic when I started to get a sense of my own creativity and as a young professional, I wasn't in touch with it.

I wasn't. I was reading every leadership book out there telling me what I should be doing as a leader. And I was trying like heck to be that type of leader. I was looking at the leaders I admired and I was trying like heck to be like them. And the person I was least connected with was myself and my own values and what was important to me and what I thought.

Like I was like disconnected from what I thought. Like I was running everything through the filter of "what do the leadership books say?" And "what would he say about it? What does he think I should do about this? What would he do? What does he think I should do here?" And I would try to like use that as my operating system almost.

And it wasn't until I started, frankly, it was when I started writing, I, I kind of secretly started a blog and I was writing on medium.com and I was just like... It was a safe space for me just to write my ideas and they were terrible, it was terrible, but it was authentically me and it was me working through my own ideas.

And every time after one of those sessions, I left like feeling a little bit more alive. Like, "Oh, I have something to say." It's maybe not worked out perfectly yet. And it's maybe confusing, it's still hard to articulate, but it started connecting me with something, a message, and I don't think it has to be words.

I think there's just something about this creative act, doing something on your terms, making it a creative act, going back to number one. Do you feel a sense of choice? Are you choosing to make it a creative act? Are you doing it in a way that stretches you? You're effective while also challenged by it on your terms.

Like, I want you to really check in with these three questions. In your business, leadership, at home, like, part of playing a bigger game and getting yourself into a bigger arena is constantly reflecting on these three questions. Like remembering, "oh yeah, yeah, yeah, choice. Yep, I'm choo so, how am I choosing this?

In what ways might I be contributing to the thing I say I don't want? Cause there's some choices I'm making here." Number two, like, "oh, yeah, I used to feel challenged by this, but I honestly, I'm starting to feel a little bit of boredom creeping." Oh. Okay, well then how can you up the stakes?

Yeah. How can you step back out, get to the bottom of a new mountain? Because that's kind of my mentor taught me several years ago. He's like, "zach, there's no graduation." I had just achieved something great. And we were celebrating. And then he reminded me, he's like, "yeah, but Zach, there's no graduation."

Like tomorrow is going to come. Today, tonight, you're going to go back home, you know? And it's back, it's back to, it's back to work. And there's some freshness that comes to that. Some energy. When you just stay in the pocket of challenging yourself, that's growth. And are you seeing everything you're doing as a creative act?

And if you want to go deeper for sure, DM me, like, I love talking to people about this very subject. The, like being the artist of your own life, that creative act. And leadership and companies where often it's not talked about, I think it's. I think it's an untapped resource within all of us. If we could learn to see what we're doing more as a creative act, right?

And so please reach out. I would love to talk to you about it. Over a cup of coffee, virtual or in person, if you're local. Another resource, if you, if you're someone who doesn't like to reach out there's a book that, well, there's several books, but one, The Artist's Journey. By Julia Cameron, The Artist's Journey.

That's a great place to start. If you want to just have some quiet time and start kind of going down this creative path and getting in touch with your own creative power, that book's powerful, it's, it's not only a book, it's a journal, it's filled with exercises. It's something to spend 30, 45 minutes, an hour with every morning for like 30 days.

I think it's actually a 12 week program. It's powerful. It will turn some stuff on for you and you'll, you'll like it. Trust me. So that's, that's another resource for you. I hope you enjoyed this episode. So this was part two of a four part series. So when we're together again for part three, we're going to start looking at the number one thing you can do to get people on board.

So these first two episodes really had a lot to do with you. Right. Like, okay, what are the, where are we not playing a big enough game? Where are we not stepping into the arena? Where are we not making the choices that are serving us where we're challenging and growing and seeing our life as a creative act where that's all been about you now, part three is like, okay, now that we start to get, start to lead ourself, now let's start looking at, "okay, now, how do I get, how do I lead others? How do I teach others to saddle their own horse? 

 How do I get them on board? How do we do this together?" So we're going to really explore the other side of leadership, which is getting people with you on your journey and getting them engaged as much as you are and excited about the, the, the journey ahead and the vision that you will be creating together.

So if that's interesting to you, which it probably is, this is a leadership podcast, stay tuned for part three. Thanks for listening and we'll see you in the next episode.