What happens when you stop worrying about what other people think of you? Unleash your alter ego and see yourself perform at the utmost level that you can. In this episode, host Jesse Cole plays the truth or dare game with author, coach, and mindset geek, Todd Herman. Todd shares his journey into mindset coaching and explains the advantage of having alter egos to express who you really are and succeed on a specific aspect of your life. He also talks about his book called The Alter Ego Effect: The Power of Secret Identities to Transform Your Life and how he helps ambitious people do hard things. Discover how being an extrovert can be better for your customers and why you should surround yourself with phenomenal people.
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The Alter Ego Effect With Todd Herman
Our guest has fired me up from afar after hearing his story a few years ago on a podcast. He’s the high-performance coach who’s worked with world-class performers, Olympic athletes, top CEOs, MLB players and even a guy in a yellow tuxedo. His book Alter Ego Effect is an absolute game-changer and I am pumped to welcome the one and only, Todd Herman, to the show.
I’m taking you as my traveling promoter. Thank you for that. I’m super excited to be here. I’m a big fan of everything that you do. We are kindred spirits with the stuff that we talk about.
I appreciate it and I would love to be your promoter because I don’t even know if you know the origin of the yellow tux and how this all fits into what you’re doing. When I heard what you were saying a few years ago, I was like, “Yes. This is it.” I’d love to share with you my origin of how it happened and then you can share a little bit of your origin. It was several years ago and at our ballparks, it was about having a regular baseball game. I was like, “We can’t put on just a baseball game. We have to be different or we’re going to fail.” I read every book, on PT Barnum, that I could and I was like, “I love this guy.” Before the movie came out, I followed everything.
Before our first game in our 2010 season, I was like, “I can’t be putting on the show dressed up like everyone else, like a regular polo and a regular subject. I’m going all in.” I get my buddy to get a black tuxedo with full tails and a huge top hat. The first game was 102 degrees. I almost melted and I was like, “This does not work at all.” I was like, “I’m still going to find it. I like it.” I searched online, BrightColoredTuxedos.com and it exists. I found the yellow tuxedo. I put it on for the next game. I wore it and it took off. The people were taking pictures and it was like, “This is it.”
I was on the field and I was going all out and getting the fans dancing. It went through the whole season and the people start calling, “Is the yellow tux guy there? We want the yellow tux guy to emcee our event.” It wasn’t even me. It was the yellow tux guy. It’s channeled into this thing. For several years, it’s been my thing, but I put it on and I tell myself, “I’m on stage. It’s show time.” For you sports guys, I played college baseball. I look at it as like, “This is my uniform.” There’s a difference when you’re practicing, but when you’re wearing this, “It’s show time.”
When you put that suit on for the first time, what did you feel that allowed you to go and do now?
I immediately said, “There is no holding back.” I went to PT Barnum like, “How would you put on a show that you’re going to be over the top, big smiles and throw things out in the crowd?” It wasn’t Jesse anymore. It was a different persona doing it. That’s exactly what happened going from that ordinary world to the extraordinary world. It has crossed into two worlds. Right now, you’re Todd, you’re not Richard. I’d like for you to go into your origin story and how you’ve maybe transferred like what I’m doing right now as well.
I played sports at a high level too. I played college football and I was a nationally ranked badminton player. Sports was probably like you when you’re younger, it was my life. Everything revolved around what season was it and what sport was I playing or how many sports could I play. I grew up on a big farm and ranch in Western Canada and I’m a huge extrovert and loves sports. Any chance I could get to get off and out of working on the farm, I wanted to participate in any sport. I’m not a physically gifted person. I’m not like 6’4” and 245 pounds of solid muscle. I struggled to put on weight when I was a teenager. When you’re playing football, you can’t use it as your excuse when you’re swimming in your shoulder pads.
Inside, I felt like I was a beast. I did and I had that. Maybe some of that was I was the third boy, I had two older brothers. I had to fight for everything. I had to split up a gritty personality and I created a persona that would go onto the football field with me. Even the way that you said it where you say like, “I wasn’t Jesse anymore. I was this.” The reality is language matters in this idea for people and I’ve talked about this for such a long time. Many people are averse to the term, “Faking it until you make it.” They’ve heard it and people have said it. Even successful people have used that term.Allow yourself to play with a new idea of what you can be. Click To Tweet
They’re saying it because they don’t have a better way of languaging what they mean and it’s such a cliché, so they’re latching onto it because they know it’s an existing idea that people are saying, but that’s not what’s happening. You’re not faking it. What you’re doing is suspending the disbelief or identity that you’re currently acting through, that you currently associate with the most, and you’re acting through a new side of yourself. Everything is still you. It’s just that you’re allowing yourself to play with the new idea of what you can be, which is the PT Barnum.
The PT Barnum is already inside of you. The PT Barnum is in all of us. It’s just that we flex the muscle of our repetitive identity every single day that when we see a PT Barnum or we see you go, “Jesse could do that, but I couldn’t do that.” No, Jesse allowed himself to play with a new idea. When he did that, he allowed this amazing gift that we’re given as human beings, which was our creative imagination to play into a new idea. To anyone who is completely unknown to those people that are out there, I work with some of the most elite human beings and top athletes on the planet. People that have extraordinarily hard and tough exteriors. I work with executives here. I live here in New York City. I’ve worked with CEOs and top-level public figures around the globe. It’s not a bragging thing, but what I’m trying to get across is that they used this idea. If there’s something better than other people, is they allow themselves and their creative imagination to help them win more than other people do.
Most of them get stuck in a narrative and a story about what they can and cannot do and they let that rule their life. The moment I met you, I was like, “This guy is drinking from the same Kool-Aid as me. It’s good.” A little more of the top, but we need more of you out there. Life is challenging and there are obstacles in there. When you have someone who comes along and they’re way more playful with it and they don’t take themselves seriously, that’s the great gift that you’re giving people. You’re allowing other people to have more fun at your park and other parks.
That’s the goal. It’s amplifying potentially the best part of you. It’s all in us. I think that’s faking it and I’m not being real. Hopefully, everyone reads the book. It’s a game-changer.
Not hopefully but just go read the book because I’m not done until every human being on the planet has read the book. At some point in time, you’re going to be buying the book and might as well be now rather than later. What’s going to happen later is, you’re going to say, “Why didn’t I pick up this book sooner?” It smashes a lot of paradigms that people operate through personal development and self-help. The leadership world out there has given people as almost traps because they’re regurgitating a lot of stuff from the past. These people are not practitioners. I work with people one-on-one. It’s 17,000 hours of working with people. When you’re crawling between the six inches of the people’s ears, you get to see what the top people are doing differently than the people who also run or just about performing at a high level and that mindset side of things. I’m peeling back the curtains on what people are thinking about, plus all the science as to why all this stuff works in there.
A lot of times, it’s the fear. It’s these moments of impact in the ordinary world versus the extraordinary world. I thought the way you broke it down was great. Can you give a version, maybe go from either you or someone that went through that or someone understands a little bit how this works?
First, let’s use someone that everyone already knows as an example and that would be Beyoncé because people have heard of Sasha Fierce before or if you haven’t, then you’re going to know it now. Beyoncé has arguably one of the great careers in music. Whether you like music or not, you’ve got to stand back still and say, “It’s an amazing career that this person has.” Beyoncé grew up in Houston, Texas in a gospel singing family, going to church every Sunday and her voice became legendary in her community. People would show up just to hear her sing. This is a young girl who’s growing up in a churchgoing community singing gospel hymns and her father sees her and her sister as having this talent. He wants to foster that more.
He puts them into an all-girl group, eight girls total. They’re being asked to go on stages and entertain people with maybe provocative dance moves and singing maybe some provocative lyrics. Lyrics and moves that are different than her standing in front of the church, which is where she has honed her skills. That honing of her skills is important because you start to develop an identity as to like, “This is what it’s normally like to sing. I’m in front of people. They’re waving or swaying back and forth and they’re clapping. They’re excited for me. Now, I’m up on a big stage and I’m wearing different clothing and dancing differently and singing different lyrics.”
For her, that was a challenge now because of the way that she saw herself and the entertainer now were two different things. She created Sasha Fierce. Sasha Fierce was the identity she stepped into who embraced and loved the provocateur side of things. She gave it everything that she possibly could. Over the course of time, she even talked about like there are many times where she would get off stage and she’s like, “I had no recollection of even what I did out there.” What she’s describing is because she got into the zone and the flow state. You know that as a baseball player. You’ve found those moments over those games where you got in the zone, you come out and you’re like, “What the heck is happening?”
Everything slows down and there’s a reason biologically as to why that is, too. She’s getting on stage and she’s like, “There are times where I’ll be bleeding. I get a cut from being fierce out there.” She’d be like, “Where did that cut come from?” She had no idea. My point of what I was saying is she found her entertainers self by adopting this other identity that did allow her creative expression to come out unencumbered by the worry about what other people were going to think of her. As soon as you start worrying about what other people are thinking of you, now you are outcome-focused and you’re concerned about pleasing other people.
In the book, I called it the outside-in approach and it traps you and you wonder why. The reason I say traps is because the most common word that’s used when someone doesn’t feel like they’re performing to the level that they know they can or they’re avoiding pursuing something is you feel trapped. It isn’t me. Whatever results I’m getting is not in a true expression of what my capabilities are. I’m fascinated by that stuff and some of it is because we need to build up some more skills. For most people, it’s not a lack of skill. It’s a lack of using the creative genius that we’ve got between the six inches of our ears and our mindset is the thing that’s trapping us. That’s where I’ve been sitting for the last several years in working with athletes, public figures, entrepreneurs and executives on adopting a different mindset and a different way of operating and establishing new habits and routines. Rituals are what we care about more than routines to show up in a better way.
The ordinary world is where you’re trapped. It’s where your mind is thinking too much about what people think, your fear and all that. You create this extraordinary world by taking on a new persona and a new alter ego.
The extraordinary world is something that happens because of you acting with more intention for how you want to be shown up. You’re such a great example of this. You said, “I take a look at this ballpark and this experience. If people are just coming here to sit down and watch a ballgame, that’s going to be 15% of Savannah that’s going to be that excited about baseball. If I want to fill this stadium, then I need to make this into an entertainment stadium.”
You create your extraordinary world and you’re a character in that extraordinary world.
The reason I say the extraordinary world is your experience now is that because you’ve decided how you want to be showing up in this one field of play of your life. Because you’re intentional about that, it creates an extraordinary world for you. You get to own all of the actual results because you decided it. Nothing’s more frustrating to a golfer than when you step up to a ball and you’re uncertain somewhat with the choice of the club that you have. Any uncertainty is going to create tension and stress in the body. That tension and stress are not going to allow the elasticity and the muscle memory that is there to be fluid for you. What happens is you take your swing and the ball leaks a little bit to the left or right, snap hooks or you stole it or whatever the case is and that’s terrible data. That doesn’t tell you that you chose the wrong club. It was a mindset thing.
The same thing happens and that’s why people are experiencing an ordinary world. There’s something that you can’t identify as to what is holding you back from experiencing the results that you want, but in the extraordinary world, it is the opposite. You’ve unleashed or unshackled yourself from your own mental story narrative about what you think you can and can’t do. You’re not worried about what other people are thinking of you and the judgments and the doubts of what other people might have. You’re like, “This is how I’m going to show up.” That’s why I love your story because you’re unapologetically saying, “I’m the yellow tux guy. Deal with it. This is how I want to show up.”
There are still challenges, the mindset. I still have challenges thinking people think what’s crazy. I know we’re further along. You went through this and you can share briefly how you got over your fear of speaking and becoming Richard, but Beyoncé, “Is she now Beyoncé all the time?” That’s a challenge. It can’t be 24/7. Explain to me the fields of play, how often are you Richard versus Todd? Maybe explain how that became because it’s interesting to know when you become this person and when those people expect this person all the time.
We live in a world of context and this is one of those things that I want to break for people. For the longest time, the world of personal development, the world of psychology specifically, and even the spiritual traditions had trotted out the idea that the people were the healthiest mentally. It meant that they had the lowest rates of depression, anxiety and stress disorders, or personality disorders. These were the ones who had one single identity that they acted through oneself that they identified with and that’s who they took into the world of work and career, husband and wife or whatever the case and in all the other areas.Life is challenging and full of obstacles. Seeing someone being playful with life and not taking themselves so seriously is a great gift. Click To Tweet
My experience with working with people one-on-one, I’m like, “That doesn’t make any sense.” I’ve got athletes who are an absolute beast on the field or on the court, but they don’t act that way off the court. To reconcile this with other people who are reading, have you ever met a public figure, a celebrity, an entertainer or an athlete and you’re like, “That guy’s a lot different than I thought he would be?” That right there should tell you that on the field of play of life, the narratives, the ideas and the paradigms that other people are talking about, don’t bear fruit. I’m constantly paying attention. I feel like I’m grateful for the way that I have thought that I came to think this way, that I question everything. The way that person said that on what it takes to be successful, does that reconcile with my experience of life? The answer is no, it doesn’t.
Fields of play are important. The fastest-growing field in the psychological study is a multiple self-theory, which rule of psychology has completely flipped itself. They say that the people who have the healthiest mental states have lower rates of depression. More studies are coming out about disorders. They see this as many roles and many identities that they live through based on the context of their life. For me, there’s the guy who wears the glasses. I wear them just for a dress because I like wearing them, but I’ve got a perfect vision. I’ve got 20/15 vision. When I first started out in business, I was terribly insecure about how young I looked. I was 21 years old starting on this mental game coaching company. It didn’t have nine letters behind my name with different degrees. It didn’t have three bestselling books.
We create all these rules about what it’s going to take to be successful, but the reality, I was volunteering at a high school with a football team. I was good at coaching these guys on the mental game side of things by accident because that was my strength. Their weakness was that they weren’t doing enough cone drills or sprints. Their weakness was their preparation, their routines, their goals that they were setting for themselves, their mental game, visualization skills and all things that I had already developed, so I’d give them these strategies.
People started asking me if I could mentor their sons and daughters. I didn’t think that it was a real business, but it was starting to turn into a business and I was not doing the next thing, which was promoting myself and promoting the work that I was doing. I was insecure. I was caught up in the worry of rejection, resistance and stuff. That’s not going to help you if you’re starting a business because you’re on the field of play business and it demands that your business needs a promoter or a salesperson. Most of us don’t have the money. We don’t hire a promoter, a salesperson or a business development officer or something like that, so I needed to turn into one. I was like, “I use Geronimo on the football field.” Geronimo was my alter ego that helped me step into this way more powerful version of myself, inspired by some of my heroes in the world of native American lore and also football. I was like, “Geronimo doesn’t fit for this identity, so I need to create a new one.”
That’s where I created the Super Richard. Super Richard was a blend of Joseph Campbell, Benjamin Franklin, and Superman with some of their qualities and traits that I loved. I’m talking about the Superman from the 1970s and ‘80s version, not the current versions of the Superman that are out there. I went out and got a pair of glasses. I did the whole reverse Superman or reverse Clark Kent. He put on those glasses to become Clark Kent, a mild-mannered version. I put on the glasses to become Super Richard and Super Richard was the guy who could make the phone calls and promote the work that Todd had created. This is how people who operate at high levels think at work and what they play with. Your ability to sidestep your own insecurities and your ability to sidestep yourself because you are the one who’s going to stop you from doing those things is the superpower. If you can develop that superpower, all bets are off of what you can do.
You’re talking about promotion. One of my favorite quotes from PT Barnum is, “Something terrible happens without promotion.” That’s the quote I always think about. Are you promoting? Are you out there and doing it? I want to get into some fun games, but briefly, my question here is on the fields of play because I still struggle with this. First, it was at the games, then people wanted to speak, so it became speaking. I was putting it on and when I was speaking, I’m putting on a show. It was at work because people who come to the office stadium, they only want a picture. I was like, “I’ll be that guy.” My field to play became anything that’s work-related but there’s a blend in there and then MMT. There are all these balances that I have. I love the field of play about the dad that you mentioned. He wasn’t a great dad, so he started showing up wearing the hat. Are there ways that you can separate it better? I like being that person, but one of the most powerful quotes you said from Shep Gordon, “If you allow that public figure to be you, you’re never going to be happy.” That hit me like a scar.
On that side of things, what I would encourage you on is recognizing that you are the yellow suit guy as much as the yellow suit guy is you. The quote I love the most that encapsulate this whole of what happens is from Cary Grant. The Hollywood Golden Era actor where he says, “I pretended to be somebody I wanted to be and I finally became that person or he became me, but at some point, we met.” Cary Grant grew up in Bristol, England in a poor family with a single mom. He had this deep desire to want to go out and make a name for himself and do something, so he came to Hollywood.
This is the guy who battled with mental health issues in his life like depression and stuff. At the end of his career, that’s when he said that. The only thing I would change about his quote based on the work that we do is not I pretended to be something, but I activated the person I wanted it to become and I became that person. This is a part of you. I’ve worked at the military on this as well. The military has this because uniforms do mean something and you take it as uniform and you created a story around the uniform. Uniforms are powerful because they’re triggering devices for activating performance, both in a negative and a positive way. There’s a big reason why the military has one of the highest rates of domestic violence and divorce rates. That’s because when they come home, some of them don’t even take off the uniforms. They continue to act through the trace that would make them successful out there in a war zone type of thing. It’s not a war zone anymore.
Even when they do take off the uniform, they haven’t mentally switched off. The work that I’ve done in the military helps them establish a new uniform that they’ve sent and been to at home. The uniform, for 200 years, didn’t give any meaning. It’s got credo around it, there’s a motto and there’s all of this culture that’s built around that uniform. What about the uniform you’ve got at home? It can’t win that battle unless you give it back. I talk about the story of a colonel in the book. On stage, I’ve talked about a lot of stories. All the stories I could ever talk about onstage, that story about the colonel who came up to me after talking to Army Rangers, Green Berets at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. One of those powerful stories that I can tell is about a guy who three months afterward, after him almost tearing up outside of the event space that I did the speech at, he called me and said, “My wife and I were sleeping in the same bed. My two young boys came to the door and were excited to see me when I got home from work. That was not a reality for me for more than two years. It’s all shifted and changed because I’ve shifted and changed how I show up at home.” That’s the idea of the fields of play.
I’m a challenger personality type in the way that I show up as a coach, advisor and mentor to people because I have to crack through some tough exteriors. My mentor, who’s the greatest guy in the mental game coaching world ever, he’s known as the Yoda of baseball, Harvey Dorfman. He wrote the book Coaching the Mental Game, the bible of the world. He was as tough as they come and Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Craig Biggio would go to him. All the biggest names went to him. We have to be tough, but that’s not what my kids want. It would be easy after ten hours of work of watching that muscle of that side of myself to take that side home. That’s not all of what I am. I am more than that. There’s also a patient side of me and it gets flushed much. I am patient in coaching work. I do because you have to be in order to uncover someone’s world, but there’s a playful side, creative side and all these different things. That’s what my kids want.
When I go home, there’s an inspiration for who I would love to show up for my kids as a totem device that I would like to live into, and that’s Mr. Rogers and my own dad. That’s the inspiration for who I show up with at home. These glasses don’t get worn at home. I have a little bracelet that sits at the front door and it’s on a hook. When I go through the door and that little bracelet that was made by my two little girls, I put that on. That bracelet embodies the traits that I want to show up as. When I’m wearing that, the moment I put that on and I snap it, it snaps into a place in my head and it is now Mr. Rogers and my dad. They’re the ones who sit there and watch me as I go through the day to make sure that I am honoring the way that I want to show up.
There are some people I know when I unpack this, they go, “That’s brilliant. That’s amazing,” or do they go, “I understand that, but that seems like work?” I was like, “Yeah, that’s a great thing.” All of the amazing stuff in life has the word work wrapped around it but what I also encouraged people with this stuff is you’ve already used this. Every human being on the planet has already played with this idea because we all did it as kids. We played with these ideas and put it on a cape to be Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Black Panther or whoever it is nowadays. Out in your front driveway, you’re pretending to be your favorite baseball player or your favorite hockey player and it’s because you’re asking yourself the question, “What could I do if,” and that if a statement is, “If I wasn’t four-feet tall. If I wasn’t the slowest kid on the block. If I wasn’t white, black, Jewish or Catholic,” insert whatever you think is stopping you, but now you get to play it. All of a sudden, your performance changes. That’s not you being fake. That’s allowing yourself to see what you can do on shocking yourself on these stories that stop you.
It triggers. I’m thinking right now, “I am working right here. I’m a yellow tux guy, but I’m at home. If I go downstairs with Maverick, this comes off. I should have a trigger and I am on full dad mode,” and I think that’s such a great lesson.
This is a lesson for the people because this still answers the challenge of the question that you had. I want to be mindful of that for the readers. You’re saying, “This persona, which is the promoter side of me shows up out in front of the crowd.” Jesse and I both are members of a community called Mastermind Talks. What happens when I’m in the office? What I would say is yellow is a color that I would always use. I wouldn’t use all of the entire uniforms. When I’m at the office, maybe it’s a yellow blazer, but not the hat, a shirt and the pants. Someone comes in to get a photo of you and maybe they get the guy in the yellow blazer.
It’s not just about a photo of me. It’s the people coming in for it.
That’s what I do, but like, “That’s the stage side of things.” That’s not you being weird. That’s you saying, “This is how I want to live my life.” The way that you can judge me is based on the results that I’m getting. Everyone’s experience around Jesse Cole is that everyone walks away because I hear it happening all the time because we’re at events together. People are like, “I love being around Jesse.” I’m saying this because that’s the stuff that matters. That’s what I agree with things on as I’m a performance guy. Performance is about results. How can we get that result? One of the results that we wanted is for people to have a good experience of being around us. The way that you have created yourself is definitely producing that result because people walk away saying, “I love being around Jesse. I love that guy.”
It may be a little different in certain situations and I appreciate it. I love it. I want to go into it after our game. How do we bring this into teams? There are some interesting ideas I want to share. Our first game is truth and dare. Which one do you like first?
Dare.The extraordinary world is something that happens because of you acting with more intention for how you want to be shown up. Click To Tweet
This is what we do at our ballpark. It is a sing-off. There are 2,000 people in one grandstand versus 2,000 people in another grandstand, but now, it’s just you, Todd. We play a song. When the song finishes, you have to finish that song lyric. It’s fitting with what we’re talking about.
I’m looking for the man in the mirror. He’s helping me to change the way.
“I’m starting with the man in the mirror. I’m asking him to change his ways and no message could have been any clearer. If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself.” You nailed it.
I nailed the voice, too. It was hard for other people to probably tell that you ended the song there. I appreciate all the love that people are saying.
You get compared to Michael Jackson all the time.
I used to compete in singing competitions when I was a young kid. I used to go inside my sister’s room and it was the Royal Conservatory of Music up in Canada. They had competitions across the country. Before puberty, I could hit high notes and now, I’ve got about three notes that I can hit. I used to take a beating from my brothers over that stuff and I was like, “I don’t care. I like it.” Thank you for giving me the opportunity to rekindle some of that spirit.
You’ve gone through this for many years, working for somebody. What’s one thing that’s still holding you back with this and being your best self in the different fields of play of life?
Truthfully, because of some top experiences that I had as a kid, trauma, I’ve also had to battle severe levels of depression throughout my life. I’m going to be putting a video because it’s an important topic and there’s nothing that has shame or guilt around that. Depression is a biochemical thing. It’s a broken brain at the moment and there’s so much stigma that’s around it. If you broke your arm, there’s no stigma around having a broken arm. If your brain, biochemically, isn’t operating to the level that it can, that’s not on you. It feels like you because all of the processing about ourselves happens up here. One of the emergency breaks that I’ve had to be challenged by that does limit performance at moments is the biochemical stuff that I’ve had to be challenged by with depression. That’s the truth. As someone who worked with a lot of top-performing people, I see it as a recurring thing.
One of my biggest frustrations in the world of personal development and leadership is that everyone’s like, “You lack the desire and the ambition. You need to do more affirmations or visualizations.” Some people are struggling with actual biochemical stuff that is going on and no amount of more workshops, goal-setting, visualization techniques or whatever is going to help some people that are in the depths of it. That’s important because in the influencer culture, everyone is a freaking expert on what it takes to succeed in life. It’s unfortunate because it’s hurting many people and it causes you to doubt yourself when you shouldn’t be doubting yourself because it’s not a you-thing. It has nothing to do with your skills and abilities. It’s your body.
I love how fired up you get. We went from singing to that and you still kept the energy. It was impressive, though. I like it.
I love what I get to do.
I want to go ahead and bring this back to teams. I heard an amazing podcast about Trader Joe’s and how Trader Joe’s does what they do on Freakonomics. One of the people went undercover to work for Trader Joe’s. He said, “The second day of training, an executive walked in and there were 50 people sitting together. The executive said, ‘Who would like to tell me your name and a story about themselves?’ The 50 people threw their hands up in the air. He goes, ‘What is this?’ I’ve never imagined that many people extroverted that want to share a story in front of a whole group.” I thought about that and I was like, “That’s why Trader Joe’s brings so much energy and excitement to their grocery store experience.” I and many companies want that as part of their retail experience or stadium. On stage, I often ask, “Introverts raise your hands,” and nothing happens. It’s unbelievable. I’m thinking of all the introverts that work for us. How do you get them to channel this alter ego effect, bring in energy and become potentially extroverts that are better for a customer?
The first thing you do is you let them know that once you walk through these gates, there’s a new you that gets to show up. First, it starts with an invitation that this is what culture means. People talk about culture, but most of them don’t have anything that’s tactical or a tool to explain what it means. Culture is about inviting people into a new way that they can show up. It’s about giving them the allowance of having a new identity. Trader Joe’s do a phenomenal job with their culture. One of the things that they do that helps to invite people into an experience like a guy saying, “I don’t have a story.” Trader Joe’s has a great job of telling people, “You matter and your stories matter. Your experiences matter and our job at Trader Joe’s is to give people the one experience in their day that gives them joy.” We are here and it looks like our business is selling consumer packaged goods, dry goods and fresh fruits and vegetables, but no. The wrapper around it is we’re here to give people a joyful experience in their day and make their day a little bit better. Every single one of you is empowered to make that happen in your way.
You have a group of introverts and you set the tone, “This is who we are. This is what we’re doing.” When you come to the office, are there exercises? Are there things that can happen to get them to understand, “We’re turning it up to a whole other level?”
It goes to uniform then. When you put this thing on, this is what this thing means as it happens in the military. “When you put on this Marine uniform, this is what Marines are and this is what we do. These are the stories that Marines that came before you and what they did.” You’re reinforcing that narrative and that story of what that uniform is when you put on the Savannah Bananas jacket, the apron and the hat. Most of them were terribly non-deliberate with the uniform creation. I encouraged more people to talk about that or create uniforms for people. That’s why the whole myth of, “You get to work from home in your pajamas.” Here’s what I know from a performance standpoint, you are going to do under index in life. The narrative and the sword is out there like, “I get to work from home in my PJs.” Here’s what I know. If you woke up and you cloned yourself and the one person went and worked in their pajamas and the other person got dressed up into something that was going to be more representative of the work that they’re doing, that person will outperform them 99.99% of the time.
For you, it’s like, “This is what this apron means. When you put this on, here is what I want you to bring to that cash register.” It doesn’t matter. We do everything here with flair. You want to come up with three specific terms that your culture is about. Three traits and three abilities, “We’re playful. We have flair and we have fun.” Some other stadiums count the amount of time it takes for you to pour a soda. We don’t do that. We don’t count the time. What we count is the number of smiles from people who walk away. We have cameras up there that look down and we’ve got this AI system that counts smiles. Right now, we’re over-indexing by a factor of 45.” It’s counting traits and abilities to the outcome, which is the smile.
When you create the traits that you want, you start a uniform to do it. This is powerful. I want to go some rapid-fire here. You mentioned Saddleback is one of your favorite companies. Why? I love hearing about favorite businesses.
Saddleback Leather company started out making this amazing hand-sewn leather duffle bag, old school, big flaps and straps and everything. What I love about them is what they’re about from their bio page, and their brand itself is gritty, raw in your face and phenomenal storytelling. It’s impossible to not read about their bag and go, “I would love to own that.” It’s a powerful story. It’s the power of what you’ve done.There’s no such thing as self-made. It's impossible for you to be self-made because even from the beginning, you were made by two people. Click To Tweet
If you want better answers in business, you’ve got to ask better questions. What’s one question that you’re asking a lot of people that you work with?
Who helped you to get where you are? That is one of the most underappreciated parts of the journey towards success. If you take a look at any long-term study on the quality of someone’s life and what they say as fulfillment, the only constant in every single study has been the quality of the relationships that I have. I am fascinated by the people who will admit that someone did help them. I started out in life where I was like, “I’m going to climb to the top of the mountain. I’m going to plant the flag up there. I had to do it on my own so I can tell everyone that I did it.” I’ve got doubters which is a lot of them are just BS in your own head. I will say, “That’s about the slowest and stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” because when you take a look at anyone that’s been successful, they all surrounded themselves by phenomenal people. The moment you’ve got phenomenal people around you, you’re within one phone call, one text message and one email of hundreds of people who can get you over the obstacle around the challenge, open a door, coming in the back window. I’m fascinated by finding out the who’s that are behind the other people.
It’s something that a lot of speakers should share on stage, too. I might mention the PT Barnum’s and all those people. I think that’s important because it brings humility and also shows that, “No one’s self-made.”
There’s no such thing as self-made. It’s impossible for you to be self-made because even from the beginning, you were made by two people.
Let’s move to our final four here, Todd. What’s one thing that you’ve done to stand out in business and in life? What’s the thing that comes to mind? I’m sure there are things that you did. The Alter Ego has been huge, but what else?
It’s probably my willingness to be real with people. There’s going to be people who are more popular than me, but that’s because they spit out a lot more cotton candy and bubblegum type of fluff. I’m more about getting people meat, potatoes and kale. Cotton candy is going to taste good in a moment, but it’s not going to say she had the appetite. Where that stands out for me is, I attract the top-performing people because average people want to try to find an easy path. Top performers know that they’re looking for effort and hard work because they know the other side of effort and hard work is it’s a better version of themselves and more valuable stuff. That’s probably been the one thing that made the difference for me.
If you were to give advice to someone younger to stand out in business and in life, what would you say?
I would say, “Go and be an apprentice.” Be humble and be modest enough to know that you don’t know your stuff. You’ve got a taste for it and you’ve got a desire for it, but you don’t have the skills yet. I can tell you that if you want a greased slide to success and if you want to get there faster than you’re trying to do it on your own, go and talk yourself under the wing of the person who is the absolute best at that thing. Don’t look for someone who’s just doing it. If you want to be a phenomenal lawyer, find the best lawyer and tuck yourself underneath their wing. That whole world has been lost, apprenticeship and it’s been a big part of my journey.
Internships are everything for us. Get more internships and learn from good people. You’ve got a lot of mentors, what are some of the best advice you’ve received from a mentor?
The best advice I’ve got from Harvey Dorfman was our job is to hold up a mirror and show people exactly what they’re doing at the moment. Most people over-index or under-index how good they are. Some people overestimate or underestimate and our job was to hold that mirror, show them the actual data and then lead them past that to a better possibility. The second one is from my dad. We were standing in the corrals one day cutting some cattle right before I was going off to university, moving the calves into one pen and the cows and the other. We stopped for a little soda or pop drink for the kids and he’s like, “You see that piece of cow crap over there?” I was like, “Yeah.” He’s like, “You can take a piece of cow crap. Wrap it in red ribbon, but it’s still a piece of cow crap.” He walked away and all he knew was I was going to be traveling around the world and I wasn’t going to be a farm kid or anything like that anymore. His advice is more around, “You’re going to meet a lot of people in three-piece suits. Make sure that they’re not wrapped around a piece of crap.”
How do you want to be remembered?
Nelson Mandela had a great quote around legacy, “My concern isn’t about how I’m remembered later. What I want to do is important stuff that helps as many people as I possibly can.” If people remember me for that, then great. That’s what I care about.
They may remember you for your Michael Jackson singing. There’s a lot that could come from the show.
If I put a smile on your face, then great.
Todd, thank you for being with me. Seriously, get the book, Alter Ego Effect. It was a game-changer for me. I learned about it many years ago and he’s preaching and telling you how to do it.
Catch me online. ToddHerman.me is my website. All the links to my socials are there and tag me if you’ve got questions. I’d love to hear from you.
Thank you, Todd.
That was fun.
About Todd Herman
Creator of the multi-award-winning Leadership & Skills Development Program, 90 Day Year, author of the WSJ bestselling book, ‘The Alter Ego Effect: The Power of Secret Identities to Transform Your Life’, and recipient of Inc. 500’s Fastest Growing Companies Award, as well as the ‘Rama Award for Wisdom and Leadership’, Todd’s professional programs are delivered annually to over 200,000 professionals in 73 countries.
Named by the Boston Herald as a “Training Superstar”, Todd has been featured on the Today Show, Sky News, Inc Magazine, CBS and Business Insider among others.
Originally from Alberta, Canada, Todd grew up on a large farm and ranch (where he developed a healthy dislike of chicken coops). Todd now lives in New York City with his wife and three young children, and is currently the world’s worst ukulele player.