Episode 023

How to beat procrastination through human accountability

In today’s episode Taylor Jacobson, founder of Focusmate, talks about human-to-human accountability and how it helps us beat procrastination and achieve professional and personal goals.

In this episode, we cover:

In today’s episode, we talk to Focusmate founder Taylor Jacobson about human-to-human accountability and how it can help us beat procrastination and achieve our professional and personal goals.

If you’ve ever sat down to work on a task and then suddenly minutes—our hours—have passed without you accomplishing much, you’re not alone. Taylor experienced that situation enough times to know something had to change: so he created Focusmate, an app that pairs people with an accountability partner for live, virtual co-working sessions. 

Focusmate’s vision is to improve the way millions of people work by helping them keep on task and get their jobs done. As you’ll hear in this episode, I tried it myself, and I can personally vouch for it!

In addition to hearing the story of how the app came about, we cover powerful ideas such as:

  • How pairing people with an accountability partner helps improve focus and achieve goals
  • Why relying on willpower is not an effective way to change behavior
  • How vulnerability and being willing to admit our mistakes enables us to be more productive
Show notes
  • [00:01:04] How Taylor ended up being interviewed for this episode
  • [00:03:30] How Taylor’s interest in accountability partners got started
  • [00:07:25] What happened when Taylor moved to India for his first startup project
  • [00:10:54] The event that sparked the idea for Focusmate
  • [00:13:00] Why Taylor believed that other people would benefit from Focusmate
  • [00:20:26] Why relying on willpower alone to change a behavior isn’t effective
  • [00:23:59] How Taylor used accountability to develop Focusmate
  • [00:26:49] How many people are part of Focusmate now
  • [00:27:03] How Nir Eyal got involved in Focusmate
  • [00:28:28] How Taylor would convince people who feel skeptical about accountability
  • [00:32:57] Resources that Taylor recommends

[00:00:04] David: Welcome to The Human Strike Back by Hotjar, the weekly podcast designed to help you succeed by putting people first. I’m David Peralta. Today, you’ll be hearing from Taylor Jacobson, the founder of Focusmate on how powerful human-to-human accountability can be in helping us to achieve our goals, and how that became the principle behind the company he founded.

In this conversation, we will dive into some very practical topics such as; how holding ourselves accountable to someone else can help us overcome procrastination and the cycles of shame that procrastination can induce, how vulnerability and being willing to admit our mistakes can enable us to be even more productive, and how to find an accountability partner that can help you stick to your goals. Taylor was a pleasure to speak with and I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did.

I wanted to start by introducing our listeners to how you actually made it onto the show, how you and I actually connected. The back story is that Nir Eyal was a guest on The Human Strike Back maybe four or six weeks ago. He hosted an AMA in our Facebook group. During that time, he was talking a lot about distraction and productivity and he mentioned how he had actually invested in a company recently called Focusmate which was a really helpful tool to fight distraction and be more productive.

I was really curious about it and then I decided to check it out and the tagline, the positioning really stood out to me. Correct me if I’m wrong, but basically you schedule a 50-minute block of time with a remote accountability partner. A living, breathing, human being, and that 50-minute call is basically a video call where at the beginning you state what you intend to work of during that 50 minute period. Each of you states what you’re going to work on, you focus of that, you work on that, and then at the end you check in with each other and see how it went. That’s the concept, right?

[00:02:13] Taylor: Yup, nailed it.

[00:02:15] David: When I registered for my first session, it turns out that Taylor, the CEO and founder, happened to be my accountability partner, my focus mate. We got to talking and at the end of the session I was so interested in the story behind Focusmate and what it enabled me to do that I just asked him right there on the spot, if you wanted to be a guest on the podcast. Thanks for making it.

[00:02:38] Taylor: I think a fun clarification worth making is actually, we weren’t talking exactly. You were working on the podcast and you had written down, part of the protocol on Focusmate is you write down each task that you do and you we're doing outreach, something like a manual thing, sending some emails, researching some people. I deciphered, “Okay, you’re working on a podcast, obviously.” I guess we’re chatting at the end as well.

[00:03:05] David: That’s right. Actually the funny thing is I was actually working on doing the outreach to get guest for the podcast while I was on the session with you. It was actually doubly productive because not only that I send out all my emails but I landed a ‘Yes’ right away at the end of that session with you. That was really cool.

I’d love to hear from about the backstory of Focusmate and what lead you to create software that enables people to hold each other accountable.

[00:03:34] Taylor: Yeah. I’m going to give the long and extra fun version of this story.

[00:03:39] David: Please do. That’s exactly what we want.

[00:03:43] Taylor: I’m going to go all the way back to middle school. Honestly, one of the many bad experiences of my middle school career, I’ll say. I must have been a 7th grader, 11, 12 years old and I was trying out for the baseball team. One of the activities at the try out was to be timed, how long it took you to run around the bases. I did this, I don’t really know what I expected but I know that I didn’t expect to be in the last place. I was actually tied for last place. I had a creeping suspicion at that time that I was maybe getting a little overweight. But at that moment, I was just like, “Oh my gosh. This is a real thing.” I’m laughing now but I was definitely horrified.

A few months went by and I was trying to figure out a game plan of what to do about this. Because 7th grade, hormones are fully raging, being overweight wasn’t cool with me. I wound thinking, “Maybe if I joined the cross country team, that will be a good structure for me to start exercising more, maybe that will lead to some weight loss.” At the same time, I was petrified to even go to the first meeting. I was like, “Meet those cross country kids will be weird,” whatever. I hit up my friend Dave and I was like, “Dave, let’s do get to cross country team together.” Dave was not overweight, Dave is down for whatever but he said sure. Because of I having this other human being to accompany me, I felt safe enough to go to that first meeting of the team. There are no try outs, thankfully.

The cross country season came and went. I maybe got marginally improved from having to walk this course to eventually running the whole thing. But what happened was, Dave and I developed this new relationship where we just started running together. It grew and grew, eventually we are running Saturday mornings and just doing this thing together where we weren’t even necessarily talking but I would call him up on his home phone at this point in time and we would schedule a run, and for years and years and years, that relationship became the thing that enabled me eventually to lose weight.

When I started high school I felt way better about my image. I remember the front of my shirt was no longer touching my belly and that was a moment that stuck out of my mind. That structure of finding an accountability partner, I started to intuitively use that in other places. At first it was other fitness places and I ran a marathon. But the first step was asking my friend Blake, “Do you want to train for a marathon with me?”

In college, that became my core strategy. Finding within any class I would seek out who is somebody in this class or someone that I can do the problem sets with and I can study for the test with. I would even choose classes to take based on knowing that there is going to be a good accountability partner in that class. It all came to a head several years later in my career when I had left my last real job, so to speak, and I was doing my first full time startup.

I was living in India at that time…

[00:07:28] David: Was that Focusmate?

[00:07:29] Taylor: It was not Focusmate. This was a subscription micro donation platform, really cool idea. I was really pumped out about it. Won’t go into those details but long story short, I had to work at home. That was the only option. There’s no ‘we work’ in Mumbai. It was just like impossibly hard for me to get anything done.

[00:07:55] David: You were there on your own?

[00:07:57] Taylor: I had some roommates but they would head off to their jobs in the morning. They weren’t really paying attention, for that close attention.

[00:08:05] David: What we're you doing in Mumbai?

[00:08:07] Taylor: Originally, I had moved to Mumbai to join Teach for India. It was a six-employee, Teach for India, spent a year and a half working there, my rent was pretty cheap, good exchange rate. I decided to stay in India which I really, really loved. It was a great place for me on a lot of levels. But I said, “I want to do a startup. I have low overhead. I like where I live. I like my friends so, why don’t I just stay here and give it a shot?”

As I was saying, I am not someone who sleeps in. I wake up 7:00, 7:30 whatever. But I struggle to ever start working before probably noon. This was like a six-month stretch of time. It was my first time really working from home. We are talking about shame a little bit before the show. My sense of shame got so intense that at a certain point, I was like, I have to stop even thinking about my goals associated with this business or my level of productivity. My only goal right now is going to be to just stop shaming myself about this and just embrace the way it is. “You know what, you start working at 12:00, at 1:00, whatever. Your job is to just not shame yourself.”

[00:09:28] David: What were you doing between 7:00 and 12:00?

[00:09:30] Taylor: That’s a really good question. I think you’d have to put a camera on the wall somewhere because I would think about trying to work out, I probably get my computer out sometimes or I’d catch up on emails. I would be doing stuff but there’s a big difference between doing stuff and like, “Okay, we have to build V1 of this website.” and there is like 20 steps to that, so I was not doing these 20 steps, suffice it to say.

[00:10:02] David: I understand. Something was happening during that 7-12 time but you weren’t actually getting anything productive done.

[00:10:09] Taylor: Yeah, yeah. I managed eventually to try to get the shame underwraps. I wouldn’t say that I figured out much about how to actually get more productive for a while. When I moved back, I started working out of a Starbucks because I just thought, “At least, if I’m around other people, I have to put some pants on.

[00:10:33] David: You have to at least present yourself somewhat.

[00:10:34] Taylor: Yeah. These baristas know me. They’re asking what I’m working on so I better sort of do that. But that didn’t really work. I wound up standing too much time talking to the baristas. I started to know all the other people at Starbucks and they became distracting.

All of that came to the head years later. I was working as an executive coach and I was talking to a client. He called me up because he had an investor pitch that was a couple of weeks away. Really successful high achieving individual, this guy. But he had just been putting this thing off. He’s just been busy, overwhelmed, whatever. For whatever reason, he was down to the wire at two weeks left to do this presentation. He just called me and we were brainstorming a little like, “Okay, something has to change here. This is clearly not working.”

I had been working with him long enough that I knew that there was no coaching that I could give him that was going to really have an impact. He actually asked me, he said, “Would you consider calling me or texting a few times a day to check up on me?” I didn’t really have the time for that. I didn’t know what I would charge him, whatever. Ultimately I said, “You know what, I have been sitting of this freaking blogpost that I am supposed to write for three months. Why don’t we just get of Skype tomorrow for a couple of hours and I’ll sit there and I’ll write my blogpost but I’ll hang out with you while you work on your investor deck.”

We did that and boom! At the beginning, we did the protocol that you shared at the start of our conversation where we each committed to exactly what we are going to do. We wrote it down, and then we just got to work and instantly, both of us just heads down, focused, cranking some stuff out, two hours flies by. We did that every day of that week, he finished his investor deck. Pretty quickly, started to become clear that there was an opportunity there to say like, “Forget willpower, let’s not try to use willpower. Let’s just create the most intense hands on accountability structure possible to help us be more productive.” That was the seed of Focusmate.

[00:13:00] David: You said quite a few things that I actually wanted to dive a little bit deeper into. Let me follow that story through a little bit more. What led you to the thought that this could actually be something that other people would benefit from and that this is something that you should develop into an app?

[00:13:20] Taylor: I guess there’s the pretty answer which is I worked as an executive coach for many years. I had been in the trenches with a lot of people, many of them very high performers. I got to see how many even high achievers really struggle to just follow through on the things that they say they want. We just have a lot of habits and inertia in our lives, people’s emails demanding our attention. I had a lot of practical experience of seeing people from one week to the next or the next month saying, “Yeah, I still haven’t done that thing.” Frankly, feeling like there was something that I was missing as a coach that I wasn’t able to help them get over that.

I guess the more personal answer is, I don’t really identify as a procrastinator. But just going back to all the phases of working from home grief that I went through, that first shame phase, and the Starbucks phase, and all that stuff. I knew that this thing was remarkably effective for me, and I just thought, “I’m not that weird. I’m not that unusual. I’m not like a super outlier. There must be a lot of other people out there for whom this could be helpful.”

I talked initially about health and fitness. Why do people hire personal trainers? After a few personal training sessions, you know what to do. You don’t need a personal trainer to tell you what to do but if you’re paying money to show up and have someone to tell you what to do, the chances that you actually follow through go up a lot. That’s just one of many examples of places where this kind of hands-on support has already been proven really effective. I think we didn’t quite see that this could be done for just any task, for getting your stuff done.

[00:15:21] David: Coming from personal experience, I want to share the experience that I had with Focusmate actually reinforced something that I’d been realizing over the past few months which is that when you are able to stay on task, and when you’re able to focus, and you’re able to work towards what you feel matters or something that you have a vision about, there’s this inner sense of self-worth that builds and builds and builds and gets stronger. The stronger that that gets, the more unstoppable I tend to feel. The better I feel, the less I tend to procrastinate. The more productive I tend to be, the more I tend to get done, and the clearer I tend to be also. Suddenly, it’s just like this positive feedback you acquire. I accomplish things, the sense of self  worth grows, I’m able to do more, I’m more creative, I’m more inspired which allows me to do more, which lets me feel better, which gives me more energy and it just keeps feeding itself.

The other side of that cycle is something that I’ve definitely been through and I’m sure a lot of our listeners have also been through where I am somebody who very easily gets overwhelmed. I actually have a very high capacity to perform but I also have a very high capacity to feel overwhelmed by a situation or a task that I need to do, or a bigger project that has a lot of moving parts to it. It’s very overwhelming for me.

For example, when I was a kid, if I had a messy room or if I had to clean the kitchen, it was overwhelming for me. I wouldn’t know what to do or where to start. It wasn’t until my dad helped me to realize like okay, just forget the big picture and just focus on one part. Just clean up this corner, and when you’ve cleaned up this corner, move of to the next corner. When I could do that and when I could filter out the bigger picture and just focus on one thing at a time, suddenly I started to find that I could get things done.

But what would happen a lot of times is when I was on my own, when I didn’t have somebody helping me to create that structure, or I was too overwhelmed to focus on one thing at a time, or I wasn’t able to break that down, it led to this incredible sense of guilt and shame. It just fed this inner voice that told me that I wasn’t good enough, that I didn’t have what it took. Or, I would get hired for a position because I do have some positive qualities and a lot that I have to offer but then I’d come in and suddenly, this feeling would start to take over.

I would have this great idea for a marketing strategy but then, in the follow through, I would get so lost in the day-to-day. I would start to get distracted because it was such an uncomfortable feeling, this unknown of how am I supposed to do this that I would start to say, okay. I wouldn't even say it to myself, I’ll just be like, “Okay, I don’t know what to do right now so I’m just going to do this,” and either it was an unimportant task or I was actually distracting myself.

As I would do these things, in my heart, it felt like this pinching, and this pain and the stronger it got, the less I was able to get out of it. And then suddenly, it would be like a day would go by or week would go by and I hadn’t done what I was supposed to do, and then I would have to make an excuse to my higher ups. I have to say, “Oh, this came up and that came up and I got so busy.” Because I couldn’t admit to them like, “Okay, I got distracted. I felt overwhelmed. I need help here. I need help there.”

That’s why I resonate so much with your story and why I immediately took to Focusmate, was because this was something where I already recognized that my least productive time is right after lunch. Because this is the time period where my mind’s a little slow, I tend to come back, I don’t have a momentum pushing me to do the next thing. This is the time where I usually fall off the wagon. This is the time where I’m usually a little relaxed, and I feel like okay, I’ve already gotten things done. Maybe it’s okay if I read the news a little bit. Then suddenly, 20 minutes later, or 30 minutes later, or 40 minutes later it’s like, “Oh shit, I didn’t do what I was supposed to do.” I’m not feeling good and then suddenly it’s just this downward cycle and I end the day without the sense of fulfillment.

[00:19:45] Taylor: Yeah. That was extraordinarily articulated. I want to just pull one thread of that which is, you talked about the upward spiraling and the downward spiraling. One thing I think we also all fall prey to is we start to identify with that behavior and we’re just like, “Oh, I am person who just like can’t get to work before noon. There’s like Elon Musk and there’s me.” Good for him. I like that. We do that because it makes us feel better. It’s like, “Well, there’s nothing I could do, that’s just how I am.” It makes sense that we do that.

I’m going to steal this idea from Benjamin Hardy, he just wrote a book called Willpower Doesn’t Work. This concept is so near and dear to my heart. The basic idea is like our environments are like custom built to just screw with us, and drag us down, and it’s just only getting worse, and like, I freaking love Netflix. You leave me alone with Netflix, there is only one outcome.

[00:21:00] David: And it’s hours later, Taylor emerges from his cave.

[00:21:03] Taylor: It’s like, “Oh my God! It’s 4:00 AM? That’s so strange.” When you combine these two ideas, number one, we start to just identify with negative stuff. It’s really just like, as human beings, we are not evolved or designed to perform in the environments that we have which are just constantly like stimulating us and giving us these opportunities to slide off of the path that we want to be on.

I really deeply, profoundly believe that any time we’re relying of willpower, it’s just like a matter of pride and ego that just like, “Oh I should build a muscle through. I should be able to change this behavior I have.” I just think that’s dumb. If you can find a better way to get it done, if you can find a resource that supports or you talked about finding the courage or something or the vulnerability to tell your boss like, “Hey, I just got distracted or this thing happened.” and being able to share that and get the support. I just think we have to do that.

[00:22:14] David: Yeah, I agree. I actually feel that vulnerability is something that I’m more and more realizing. It’s actually something that’s essential to reaching a full capacity. Because what I‘ve seen is that in the one case where I wasn’t admitting my faults, I wasn’t admitting my weaknesses, I wasn’t admitting what I didn’t know, these we’re all things that would burden me. It was a guilt feeling that was just creating this heaviness. It would just get me into this negative feedback cycle.

At Hotjar, we have the exact opposite environment where feedback is constantly welcomed and asked for. Also, it’s a culture where people recognize you have your strengths and you also have your weaknesses. So focus on your strengths and admit your weaknesses. When I came into this team and I was able to start able to start saying like, “Hey, this is something that I’m really good. This is something that I’m not good at. Yeah, I need your help in fleshing out this strategy or I got distracted or I made this mistake or I spent an hour on something that should’ve taken me five minutes because I got so perfectionist about it.” All these things started lifting and then suddenly, I started to feel this lightness which gave me more energy and suddenly I was like a thousand times more productive than I’ve ever been in my life and it’s all because of this vulnerability and this ability to share how it is that I’m feeling.

Coming back to Focusmate and accountability, it’s a powerful tool to prevent from going into that downward spiral. Because when you commit to another human being that this is what I'm going to do, you have this inner drive to…

[00:23:43] Taylor: Yeah. We’re social animals.

[00:23:46] David: Yeah, that’s right. Exactly. If we say that we’re going to do something, we have an inner drive to follow through with it whereas if we don’t have somebody that we’re telling that to and keeping us accountable to it, then it’s very easy to fall off the wagon.

One thing that I wanted to ask you, unless you’re inspired to say something else is, how did this start to translate concretely for you to actually develop Focusmate? How did you use Focusmate and accountability to move Focusmate forward?

[00:24:17] Taylor: Yeah, I have this terrible joke that I make actually that Focusemate is what allowed me to build Focusmate. Because in the early going, it was just me. I’m not a software engineer. I did think about learning for a while. I ultimately decided against it but I was just very alone trying to move this thing forward and there was like deja vu of like, “Okay, am I going to go through the same terrible failure experience that I’ve had in the past?”

The way that I solved the problem was basically just creating the first minimum viable product of Focusmate where I literally just created a Facebook group, and we had a terrible name, Procrastination Blasters. I just went and recruited some people from I would go into another Facebook group for freelancers, or something or designers, or people that I thought okay, there’s probably some other people working alone in these groups. I just said, “Hey! I’m doing this experiment. Me and this client of mine. But we wanted to recruit some more people so that we could have more partners.” That’s what we did. I just went and recruited a bunch of people to this Facebook group and we would just post times in the Facebook group, “Hey, I want to get some work done on Monday morning. I’m free from this time to this time.” and someone would message you and you’d PM them your Skype handle.

Then it grew to, “Okay, I’m going to use Zapier and Google Sheets.” I cobbled together actually a functional prototype that automated the scheduling process. I can still actually remember, I was out an island, visiting my cousin or maybe dog sitting, and he wasn't there so I was really alone. I was trying to get this first really duct taped together prototype done and it just felt like a gargantuan project. I was a nontechnical person. I’d never done anything like this before. The biggest pieces of that I can remember accomplishing those because I had one of these Procrastination Blasters partners that was working with me. I really don’t know what would have happened if not for having those initial partners.

I do 28 Focusmates a week now because it’s just like I can count on myself to follow through on the stuff that I know I need to get done.

[00:26:48] David: How is it going with the community? How many people are part of Focusmate now?

[00:26:54] Taylor: We’re rockin’ and rollin’. Our Facebook group just topped a thousand people couple of weeks ago. We’re off to the races.

[00:27:02] David: Nice. How did Nir Eyal come into the picture?

[00:27:07] Taylor: Basically, I courted him. I was at a book launch for another friend and just mingling and I happen to share what I was doing with someone. This someone was the publisher for this book launch and she said, “My other author, he’s written this book about how to build habit forming products. It sounds like really relevant for what you’re doing, can I send you a copy?” I was like, “Awesome, send me a copy.” She sent me Nir’s book which is called Hooked. A really, apt title.

I read that in like a couple hours straight. It’s a really simple framework for how to build habit forming products—won’t go into that but I was just really smitten. I’ve reached out to her and I said, “This is amazing. Nir is brilliant. I’d love to meet him at some point.” She just replied and copied Nir. He and I started talking. It turned out that he wrote the book in part with the help of a writing buddy. Basically, using this exact format, this was another author not working on the same book and they would just show up and they would crank out some words together. We started talking about the concept. He was like, “Oh, that makes total sense.”

[00:28:24] David: Uh-huh. Okay. Yeah, that makes sense. A lot of people are of the fence about embracing what we call a people-first approach. In this case, talking about accountability, what would you say to people who would have some kind of skepticism towards working with a partner, the feeling that I can get things done on my own. Or if I could phrase it differently, who is accountability for and who is it not for?

[00:28:51] Taylor: Accountability is for humans.

[00:28:54] David: What do you mean by that?

[00:28:59] Taylor: We mentioned this earlier in the conversation that we’re social animals, right? Going back to ego, we really like to think of ourselves as rational creatures but we’re just not. One of the classic examples is, if you’re standing in the street trying to decide between two restaurants to go to, and on one side of the street there’s a place that’s really affordably priced and really healthy and you know that. On the other side of the street there’s a place, it’s like bustling with activity and there’s lots of people eating there, it costs twice as much, you don’t know if the food is healthy. If you ask somebody, “Oh, which one would you choose?” I think they would choose the healthy option, but if we are actually in that situation, the vast majority of the time we choose the bustling place because this thing called social proof. There’s other people there so I’m going to do what they do.

As we talked about before, we evolved in tribal societies, we evolved in environment where your survival required you to cooperate with other hunters to hunt an animal or to rely of somebody else to protect your baby while you are doing something else. No baby monitor to help you out. We are evolved to respond to social triggers. We just can’t help it. If we’re vulnerable enough to just embrace that then we can totally hack that brain chemistry to our advantage.

For sure, accountability is more effective for some people than others but there’s lots of research. Basically, accountability is very effective period.

[00:30:48] David: I really loved that in this case, even though it’s remote, you still got a living, breathing human being of the other side of your Focusmate session that’s actually helping you. By the way actually, we have no affiliation with Focusmate. I don’t get any royalties from this. It’s such a human-first solution to a problem that I think so many of us have. It’s such an obvious solution when you think about it in terms of like, “Oh yeah, find a partner and commit to what you’re going to do and do it. I really admire the fact that this has been packaged into an app format that makes it so simple to do this.

[00:31:28] Taylor: Even if Focusmate isn’t relevant for you for some reason, you don’t work at home, or you just are insanely productive. I think the idea of having some sort of circuit breaker that we all get into downward spirals, we have emotions. Part of why Focusmate is effective is just it’s the circuit breaker where like, I schedule a session on Monday at 9:00 AM, no matter how crappy of a weekend I had, or how epic of a fail I had on Friday, I had my butt in the seat and I’ll be like magically working of something important. On Monday morning, I start to climb out of that hole and you talked about cleaning your room. You pick up that first sock or whatever, you start to feel better. I think we can use that same system in any part of life. Like, “Okay, I want to get in better shape. Alright I’m going to have Saturday 10:00 AM run with Steve.” That’s my circuit breaker. Or even if I eat pizza eight meals a week, and I’ve just been a sloth all week, that’s my circuit breaker to get me back of track.

[00:32:38] David: Right. Just doing that continuously, you enter this state of continuous improvement where you’re doing a little bit now, a little bit then, a little bit the next time, a little bit the next time, and before you know it you’ve actually gotten so close—if not already reached the goal that you we're working towards—which is something really powerful.

My last question is, if you had to pick one resource to help our listeners succeed, by putting people first or being more accountable in this case, what would it be, whether it’s a book, a podcast, video or anything else.

[00:33:11] Taylor: Since we’ve already promoted the pack out of Focusmate. This isn’t exactly a resource but one of the things that I think is really important it people-first culture is—we talked about vulnerability—I think it’s learning that it’s safe to be how you are and who you are, all the good and bad or hopefully not even calling it good and bad just like what is. There’s a couple of things I’ll mention.

One is—this is sort of more team culture oriented but I think it’s relevant across the board—is there’s this Google research that talks about what creates high-performing teams. They tested hypothesis. You would guess that if you put a bunch of high performers together on a team and pit them against a bunch of average performers, that the high performers would blow the average performers out of the water, but that’s not what happens. What they found is that the greatest predictor of high-performing teams is this thing called psychological safety. Basically, what that means is it’s okay what you think and to just come as you are, and to disagree, and debate, and to be the only one who thinks that we should do it a different way or whatever. I think that really goes hand in hand with this idea of forget shame and make it okay to be how you are.

Speaking from my personal experience, I’ve had to really find ways to create environments that promoted my ability to be vulnerable. It gave me the support to learn that and to know what it feels like, that leads you down this path to being able to ask for and accept the kinds of support that are available in your life.

My suggestion is proactively find a place where you can practice feeling safe and telling the truth, really just for your own benefit. That could be a therapist or an Al-Anon group. I have a men’s group, it’s like a confidential, no holds barred sort of mastermind type of group. All those types of environments I have taken advantage of and have helped me get rid of shame slowly but surely. Obviously, I can still come back and really just learn to get the support that you need.

[00:35:50] David: That was an awesome resource. I would second that 100%. By the way, that Google study is something that comes up on these interviews so often. I’m happy because I feel like this is a theme that we need to repeat over and over again. The importance of psychological safety, the importance of being able to be yourself and to unburden yourself from all these negative emotions that we carry, that we feel like we have to hide, or that we feel like aren’t appropriate for the workplace. These are actually things that we have to uncover, we have to share them, we have to get them out of us so that we can be the best version of ourselves possible.

Taylor, thank you so much for coming on and for taking the time. I really enjoyed the conversation.

[00:36:27] Taylor: Likewise. Thanks so much for having me, David.

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