420: Life’s Great Question with Tom Rath

Tom Rath is the author of StrengthsFinder 2.0, Eat Move Sleep, Life’s Great Question, Wellbeing, Strengths Based Leadership and many other books. Listen below to get his insight on how you can best contribute to the world!



Tom Rath, Author and creator of Contribify

Tom is an author and researcher who has spent the past two decades studying how work can improve human health and well-being. His 10 books have sold more than 10 million copies and made hundreds of appearances on global bestseller lists.

on this episode

Contribution is often overlooked as we look at creating a career that is fulfilling and meaningful.

Tom Rath joins us to help you discover how you contribute to the world. Tom has written many books, his newest out is out now and it is titled, “Life’s Great Question: Discover How You Contribute to the World.” He also wrote “Strengths Finder 2.0” and the Clifton Strengths assessment that goes along with it.

What you’ll learn

  • How fighting cancer led to Tom’s writing
  • The challenge leadership faces to help people see how they make an important contribution
  • How to find the intersection between passion, personality, and demand
  • The myth behind finding your purpose
  • How you can challenge yourself and your assumptions to grow and contribute in a more meaningful way

Books that Tom has authored or coauthored 

StrengthsFinder 2.0 

Eat Move Sleep – How Small Choices Lead To Big Changes 

Life’s Great Question 

Wellbeing – The Five Essential Elements

Strengths Based Leadership

It’s Not About You: A Brief Guide To A Meaningful Life

How Full Is Your Bucket?

Are You Fully Charged?

Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford To Live Without

How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids

Assessments that Tom has helped to create

Strengths Finder 2.0 now known as Clifton Strengths Assessment


Success Stories

“It’s hard to find something that fits, that’s why so many people change careers. When I finally understood my strengths and how I could apply them it all made sense. It just made it easier to see what types of jobs and roles would fit me. In my new career I get to do the marketing that I love with a company I’m excited about.”

Kirby Verceles, Sales & Marketing Director

All the stars aligned and I ended up finding the right thing at the right place at the right time, and it was you guys! Everything that you said was speaking to me and the things that you had done in the job that you had transitioned out of and into. Also how finding work that you love is your passion for people! Honestly, it was you Scott, I mean, the way that you talked about it, how passionate you were, I was like, there's no way he's gonna put out a faulty product. So I'm gonna try it, you know… I recommend you to all my friends, you know, even if they don't realize that they're looking for a new job, I'm like this is the first step, let's do this! Even if you maybe don't move out of this career. This is going to help!

Maggie Romanovich, Director of Learning and Development, United States/Canada

With Phillip's help, I was able to believe that this is the area that I should be in because I just feel a lot of passion towards it. And the aspects of "what if I'm not paid enough, after transferring into this new field?" HTYC motivated me to not be afraid of those things, and just keep looking and connecting with people.

Vicky Meng, Treasury & Finaincial Analysis, United States/Canada

Tom Rath 00:01

The current apparatus and language we have for describing why we do what we do and kind of summarize in our careers, it's resumes and job descriptions, for the most part. And I couldn't imagine a more cold and sterile and lifeless way to sum up a person if I worked on it, than a resume.

Introduction 00:22

This is the Happen To Your Career podcast, with Scott Anthony Barlow. We help you stop doing work that doesn't fit you, figure out what it does and make it happen. We help you define the work that's unapologetically you, and then go get it. If you're ready to make a change. Keep listening. Here's Scott, Scott. Here's Scott.

Scott Anthony Barlow 00:46

Tom Rath, is a best selling author and researcher who has spent the past two decades studying how work can improve human health and well being. He's written a variety of books, his newest out is now available, and it's titled “Life's Great Question” discover how you contribute to the world. And if you don't recognize his name right away, I'm 100% sure that you'll recognize Strengths Finder 2.0, and the assessment that goes along with that book. We've talked about it many times on this show, but I'll tell you that additionally, while doing all of his research, his writing and many other contributions along the way, he's also spent the last 25 years battling cancer, tumors and other health challenges. And one other point is that even though he's written many books, he was also a reluctant author and Tom, that's where I would love to start. Can we go way back in your life for just a second? Your life and your career for a moment and can you share how the author part of your life came to be? Because as I recall, at first, you never really considered yourself to be much of a writer.

Tom Rath 01:51

You know, I still don’t, just for the record. It was fascinating. I grew up as kind of analytical, still I'm a numbers guy - I'm far more comfortable with a really good spreadsheet or a data set instead of in front of an audience or sharing my writing with people. But I've learned to do the latter out of necessity, for both out of necessity, I guess, and that really got the writing piece got started when, as you mentioned, I'd been battling cancer, I lost an eye to cancer when I was 16 and been battling cancer, my kidneys and pancreas and spine ever since then. And so when I was about 25, I'd been working with my grandfather, Don Clifton, on the real early versions and iterations of Strengths Finder, I was the project manager and we're trying to pull together all the science and ideas that Don had for many decades into one web based assessment and we were a few years into that project and we found out that Don had stage four gastroesophageal cancer. I was the one in the family, I was kind of the resident expert in cancer by that time. And so I decided to dedicate most of my time to traveling around the country with Don to various medical centers, trying to figure out how can we help him to live a little bit longer and keep him alive as long as possible. And as a part of that process, I remember at some point that when I was a kid growing up, Don always said he thought it was a tragedy that we waited to eulogize people until after they were gone. So, I was determined to make sure that didn't happen with Don and I wanted him to know everything that he contributed to my life. And so I stayed up for several nights in a row and wrote a 15 or 20 page handwritten letter to Don about the big influence that he'd had on my life when I needed it most and I gave that letter to Don on a hot summer day when we were in Houston at a medical center there. And one thing I've learned from that was it was a deeply moving experience. I highly recommend everybody do that for someone who's had a big impact on their life. But then what surprised me most from that was two days later, Don pulled out that letter and said, "You know, I've been reading and rereading this. And I think you have a real talent for bringing things to life with words." And he said, "Do you think we could write a book about your story?" And this kind of different bucket topic that he'd been talking about for years. "Do you think we could do that in the next two months?" Is what he said to me. And I was taken aback by a challenge, because I would never have shared a word for public consumption if Don hadn't given me that very specific challenge and said that he identified and saw something there. And to make a really long story short, we ended up finishing a draft of that book just before dawn passed away about a year later. And that book went on to be called “How Full Is Your Bucket” which originally took off in the business world and now it's used in, I guess most of the schools across the country is a core part of their behavioral strategy with kids and it's turned into a children's book that I worked on with Don's daughter, my Aunt Mary, and her very meaningful project. But there's no way I would have gotten into the writing at all if Don hadn't said he spotted something really specific there. And I think as you alluded to before I'd had an AP English teacher telling me to stick with math and numbers instead of writing. I'd been through StrengthsFinder, 15 times at that point, and every other psychological test you can imagine growing up in a family of psychologists, and no one had ever told me that I had a talent to write until that point. So big learning for me from that experience is that, you know, one of the most valuable things you can do for another person is to help them spot a talent they may not have uncovered.

Scott Anthony Barlow 05:16

I think that's so interesting. And we see that again and again, and again, to the point when we end up getting the opportunity to help people, we actually embed that into the process to be able to, well, we've engineered some ways in order to solicit that type of feedback as well. You're talking about it from one pretext. The most important thing that you can do is be able to share that with other people, which I totally agree with and benefactor of that many times throughout my life and turned me on to things I would not have otherwise have done. However, I think that there are ways to solicit that feedback too and that leads me to my next question. Have you ever thought about it or experienced it from the other side, too? Well, I guess suppose you know, the Strengths Finder Assessment is actually one way to do that. Now that I think about it.

Tom Rath 06:03

Yeah. And, you know, I think it's a big leadership challenge for anyone who wants to lead in the future, is how can you view it as a big part of your job to, kind of, hold a mirror up, be observant, help people identify unique areas where they're making an important contribution, they may not have noticed, and in addition to just kind of spotting some of the raw talents and examples of excellence, to help that person connect their daily efforts, with the meaningful and positive influence it's having on other people. I think that may be one of the biggest and most valuable leadership exercises in the next 25 years.

Scott Anthony Barlow 06:42

Well, when you think back to, I mean, probably everybody's had this conversation, when you think back to people that have made an impact in your life, you know, whether it be teachers or family members or whatever, I have noticed the pattern over the years that a lot of the times it's been those people that have believed, that's what people will say in conversation, like this person believed in me. However, in the functionality of it, it often is that sharing of that type of feedback that you're describing.

Tom Rath 07:14

It's a great point. That’s a unique insight there because I agree with you that the outcome is that a person testifies that a mentor believed in me, but in reality, what was probably occurring pragmatically in the moment was that person was identifying a few real specific things, and helping you to see that. So I think to break it down to that level is important.

Scott Anthony Barlow 07:37

Well, I don't know that I thought about it in that way until this moment, this conversation. So I'm glad that we're talking about it. Before we actually hit the record button here, I was telling you a little bit about, you'd ask me how on earth did I get into this, you know, what we do now with our company and getting to impact people in this way? And I started sharing with you a little bit of the story where I had, you know, been in a role that was really unhealthy for me and certainly was not a great fit for a variety of different reasons, including strengths. But along the lines that you mentioned, most of us don't share what it is that we appreciate about somebody until they're gone often in the eulogy. I've got to say that I got turned on to your work, maybe I think it was approaching 15 years ago or so. And even before I knew, you know, all about you, I came into contact with this idea that strengths are a different way to look at it, a different lens to look at it through. And actually, that is what made it possible for me to begin to view work differently. So the reason I'm bringing that up is I want to say thank you, it's made a tremendous impact on my life. Actually, I can't think, now that I'm talking out loud about it, I can't think of any other guests that we've had on the podcast where they've impacted my life and my views for as many years. So thank you very, very much. I appreciate that.

Tom Rath 08:57

Thank you. I appreciate your saying that and it's meaningful. And I, you know, it's one of the things that I've been thinking about a lot lately is, I mean, really, what I've been trying to kind of continue to help a lot of those efforts that my grandfather and others started to continue to grow even more now that he's gone and continue to help more people. And I think maybe 20 plus million people have now been through the online tool that we put together back then, which is wonderful to see. But that's one of the things I've realized I worked on this most recent book, “Life’s Great Question” about what are the things that you and I and any of us can work on yet today that at least get a chance to continue to have a positive influence with someone a week from now, a month from now, a year from now, whether we're there laboring on that task or not, or whether we're even here a decade from now, or generation from now. Because the more time we have the opportunity to allocate to efforts like that, that can grow in our absence in a given day. I think it also makes days easier and smoother and less stressful, because it takes some of the pressure off of days where you're just responding, everything flying at you, and maybe looking inward a little too much.

Scott Anthony Barlow 10:06

So here's what I'm curious about that, particularly as it relates to contribution. Actually, semi-recently, I had a conversation with Dan Pink. We were talking about it from a different standpoint, we're talking about passion being an overused and misleading word. And he was saying that he felt contribution was a much better way to measure what you're getting out of your work in a variety of different ways. But you have shifted some of your views, I'm going to call it for lack of a better word, over the years to focus more on this contribution element. And I'm curious, what are some of the events along the way that have caused you to really shift and place a lot more focus on, you know, how a person can contribute to the world?

Tom Rath 10:48

Yeah, you know, and some of it comes back to what you said, Dan was touching on who I've had good conversations with on that topic as well. And it's when you're giving someone guidance at a college, for example, to just follow their passions. I think the problem there is it assumes that that person is kind of the center of the world and all the needs of the world need to circle and alignment around that person when one the world usually doesn't work that way, unfortunately. And two, the problem is it's almost like we're ignoring the entire demand side of an equation and an economic model, right? Where I think it's important to focus on personality and it's important to focus on passion. And it's important to focus on things that you're interested in. But unless there's demand for that supply that is you, it's really not that helpful to the rest of the world and the big job market of what people need out there. So most of my work in the last few years has kind of been focused on, I think, what I like a lot of your work on, how do you begin to pull together the center between who you are and what the world out there needs. And so, on this project, I probably overcompensated and just focusing on what the world needs, because I think a lot of us have done a lot of work already on how do you look inward and have more self awareness and look at who you are personally, what your passions are. So now it's about mapping the other side of that equation. And then essentially bringing arbitrage a lot closer between the supply and demand of people and what the needs are out there and the rest of the world.

Scott Anthony Barlow 12:18

You're absolutely right that I feel very strongly, that's a lot of the work that my team and I get to do every single day is help find, I don't know if you want to call it the intersection between a lot of those areas. But I'm curious when you think about that as a whole, what are some of the myths that surround it currently, particularly as it relates to contribution?

Tom Rath 12:37

Another myth that I stumbled on when I was being interviewed a couple months ago is, someone asked me about my purpose in life. And when I found it, and I hadn't given it much thought I just laughed when I heard the question, because I don't think I've found any purpose. And I'm not looking for one either. Energy, I mean, it just kind of hit me because there's so much talk about that I almost titled this book, something about pursuing purpose, I think. And then the more I got into the meaning of what were what I was really trying to say, I realized that, as I'm sure you've learned from all your work on careers. A career is kind of a spiky pattern and trajectory over years and over decades, and I've yet to meet a single person who fell out of college into the perfect job that they stayed with forever and just enjoyed as much as they could. It's usually, you might start off in a tough place. Make a little bit of progress after a year, you kind of backtrack for 18 months and things spike up again, when you get involved in something new at work, and it's this very erratic, bumpy pattern over time. But one thing that matters is that you're making some forward progress. And you have a good trajectory over the span of years, and especially over the span of decades. And for the most part I found that to be pretty true is people learn more about themselves, they learn more about how they can serve their community, they learn more about how they can find a job that also serves their life, like we were talking about a little bit earlier. At the very highest level, I think all of us need to rethink there were fundamental relationship we have with our effort and our work in life because organizations to be really frank, organizations have got it down to a science in terms of determining how much discretionary effort they're extracting out of us on a regular basis. But we as individuals have not done anywhere near enough work to ensure that our lives and our families and our communities are better off because of the work that we're doing, I think the more we begin to connect those dots, not only is it good for the trajectory of our careers over time, but it helps us to do more meaningful work on a daily basis as well.

Scott Anthony Barlow 14:39

Part of what I believe I'm hearing you say in there that's behind what you said, for lack of a better phrase is, the more that you're taking control, or the more that you're taking agency in that process of determining what that is probably the more that you're going to be able to contribute to any given organization or determine what really is the right fit for you. Am I getting that right first of all?

Tom Rath 15:02

Yes. And it's an important point because I, honestly, you mentioned earlier, you know, a good day for me is when I prove myself wrong and challenge one of my existing assumptions. And 10 years ago, I was really convinced that after the big wave of employee engagement work that I've been a part of and seen companies get really good at showing how they can emotionally engage workers more during the day, I thought, well, hey, this big movement around, we can measure well being, we can quantify someone's overall well being. So now companies should care about that. And companies should begin to prove to workers that they're better parents, and they know how to manage your finances better. And they're better physical health, because they're a part of this organization instead of another one, and so forth. And to be honest, I've spent the last five or 10 years just running into wall after wall after wall on that topic. And I think eventually, a few organizations will get there. Where they're, they care about and they're proving that they're demonstrably improving a person's well being because they work for that company. But I don't think 99% of us as individuals, I don't think we can wait until companies finally get to that point. I think we probably need to take ownership ourselves to make sure that those conditions are present because companies just are not structured to be adapt, and good at that yet today.

Scott Anthony Barlow 16:15

That so interesting that you say that and from that perspective and I'm very interested in some of the walls that you've run up against to, as we have looked at the impact, and I say we, my team and I, the impact that we want to make on the world, you know, we made some choices early on about are we impact it from a one on one level and, you know, consumer standpoint, or are we impacting it from an organizational standpoint? And I think the real answer is that we have to do some of both. However, part of our philosophy for choosing to go heavy on impacting one person at a time is that we believe if we can create enough movement in what people are expecting out of their organizations and taking control of their own career and what they want, then that will be able to set some level of new standard for guiding leadership in the organization too, and that will impact it in a different way, partially from the bottom up, if you want to look at it that way. But my question becomes, though for you is, how do you see that people can play more of an ownership role in that? What are the areas where you would encourage them based on your experiences based on your research?

Tom Rath 17:29

Yeah. And you know, it's also a part of the answer to the organizational question is, what I have learned works is when one leader individually can view themselves as being a role model for valuing the well being of employees throughout an organization. And that's the one thing that leaders I spent time with are comfortable with, and some of the best ones are learning to do. So I think if for a leader to understand that if they're talking about their need for kind of making the right physical health decisions, being more active throughout the day, value in sleep, talking to people about their schedule so they can get more sleep, talking to people about how they want them to be involved in their communities and talking about the importance of close relationships and being good parents when they get home and like if organizational leaders can demonstrate those values or each of us as individuals can, I think we can be very powerful role models. And over the span of years, that changes the cultural expectation where each employee of an organization knows that it's not only okay, it's valued that you should take care of your own well being unexpected. Not only is your life better off because you decided to join this team and this organization, but you really feel like your communities are better off your customers, your clients, the people you serve, their lives are better off because you chose to be a part of that organization. And you know, some of this gets back to the real practical kind of brass tacks of let's say you're in food service, for example, and you're preparing food in a kitchen. If you're stuck in the back of that kitchen and there are no windows and you can't see people out there in the booths eating the food and enjoying it. You make poor quality food, you feel less satisfaction about your job and you make less nutritious food when scientists study this and that holds true everywhere from cooks, to radiologists, to software developers to people in manufacturing environments, we need to find ways to see the positive impact of our work on a day to day basis, in order for it to give us that energy and well being so that, I really do believe that in the future, we should expect that we can go home after a day of work with as much or more energy than when we showed up in the morning and that's a good bar and litmus test for people to think about.

Scott Anthony Barlow 19:42

I love that. Love that. Obviously, I'm a little biased, as you might imagine, however, I think that is a great way to think about it. And on a slightly different note, one of the things that you've done a lot of work over the years and is in the areas of energy and health and particularly as it relates to well being and when you're talking about this idea of you know, being able to go to work and then come home with as much or more energy as you had, you know, at the beginning of the day, I'm curious, what are some of the most impactful things that you have found? If you were to take what you've learned over the last, you know, X number of years and say, you know, here's some of the things that people don't realize or don't know, what would those be?

Tom Rath 20:29

Working on the book “Wellbeing” that I co-authored with my friend and colleague at Gallup Jim Harter, we learned a lot about, what the key determinants of well being and it sinks pretty well with what I've learned personally as well. I mean, a lot of it starts at just a basic physical level, where, if no matter how bad your day is today, if you get one good night of sleep, it essentially functions like the reset button on a smartphone or video game where you get to wake up the next day, you're more likely to be active throughout the day, you're more likely to eat a lot of the right foods. I realized that if I eat some of the right things early in the day, I have more energy in meetings or presentations later in the day. I have a lot more energy to keep up with my 9 year old, my 11 year old when I’m done with the work at the end of the day. And it also gets into I think, to have a really good day you need to have pretty frequent social interactions and regular contact with people. That's one of the biggest drivers of well being. The other big key in the workplace is just the minimization of unnecessary and chronic stress is one of the biggest factors and all of the research that I've conducted and looked at. So if you can help people to avoid those recurring constant moments of unnecessary stress throughout the day, and then as we talked about a little bit already, to be able to connect a little bit of your work with the influence it has on another person or on community or customers that you serve, that’s another big bar in the equation.

Scott Anthony Barlow 21:50

That totally makes sense. But it also makes me think of a lot of those things we know already and I'm a total nerd for behavioral change and those type of topics. However, what do you see are the some of the biggest reasons why, even though we might know some of those things, that we just don't do them or we don't choose to do them or maybe we don't realize just how big of an impact that they can have in our lives?

Tom Rath 22:16

You know, I think there are a couple things. One, is that, I've grown up in, and seen a very admirable kind of hard working culture and mindset when it comes to work where I mean, when I was young, nobody I knew would admit to needing a whole eight hours of sleep or talk about it, I need more sleep. And it wasn't socially valued. And even to this day, every single day, I encountered leaders who I admire a lot, well meaning people, and they say, “Well, of course, I want all my employees to have good health and well being” but they say, “I don't need to.” So they're still up on email, midnight, shooting off emails to people and bugging people on the weekends and saying, oh, it's just me. I don't expect that. Well, if you're in a leadership role, you're setting the tone and that is expected of everyone whether you say it or not. So I think some of those cultural elements, you see where they come from, and they probably come from good intentions and good work ethic, we need to begin to turn that around back a little bit. I think one of the other challenges is, we just have so much stuff flying at us from text messages and dings and emails and phone calls that we don't take enough time to sit back and say, “here's what's important that I need to make sure I have the energy to be my best every day.” And so we need to begin to prioritize things like building some activity in your day, whether it's getting up to go for a walk or walking to the second closest Starbucks or just taking the time to go eat and digest a healthy meal in the middle of the day. So you can continue to get more done in less time throughout the afternoon. And a part of that I think, starts with building some of the right defaults into an environment. So if you know that there are only healthy snacks within arm's reach, and you structure your environment in your workspace for that to occur, and I mean, I know in my house if the sum of the unhealthy things like the chips or the peanut butter, pretzels make it into my cabinet, from the grocery store, they're going to get eaten...

Scott Anthony Barlow 24:09

They will be...

Tom Rath 24:10

Ours. And so to kind of structure your environment to avoid some of that temptation to make you need to go out and take a walk to, when I travel, for example, I know that I need to allocate about 10 hours to get eight good hours of sleep. And that means taking an earlier flight, going to bed two hours earlier, and working back from what I know I need to be sharp at eight o'clock in the morning when I'm on the road. And so I think to structure our days so that we can be our best is... that's one way to start to manage around it.

Scott Anthony Barlow 24:41

I have taken a ton of steps personally to remove myself from all the stuff that flies at you, like you mentioned a minute ago, you know, ranging from I have an amazing executive assistant that helps with a lot of that. I've set up a lot of systems in place, but even back I don't know, you know, 20 plus years ago or so, like keeping as gross as it sounds to a lot of people like I'd keep a can of tuna fish and a can of black beans in my desk so that I would never not have food available. But what I'm curious about is, what are some of the steps that you've taken personally, to filter yourself from all the stuff or remove a bunch of the stuff or be able to handle it differently, and then to build some of those pieces in or out of your environment.

Tom Rath 25:29

I've taken a lot of steps in the last few years to try and get myself more opportunities to focus time during the day on projects that can continue to grow when I'm not working on them. And a part of that gets back to a question that Dr. King post many years ago, it kind of anchored this most recent book where he said, “Life's most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?” And, you know, that may sound like a big broad existential question. I've actually used that exact question, try to ask myself that every single day before I start my work to say “am I anchoring at least an hour, ideally more in a given day towards efforts that really make a substantive contribution for other people and can grow in my absence.” And I've found that when you do that, it makes it easier to both literally focus time on those efforts. But it also makes it easier to be objective about tuning out some of the things that matter less. So I just this week had a conversation with a team that I'm working with. And we were all kind of getting to know one another and going through the talking about the contribify exercise. It's a part of the book. So we kind of understand why we do what we do. And I said, “you know, I'll be really honest, and I had to frame this up a bit. So it didn't sound too callous, I guess.” But I said every extra email that I don't get as a gift from above, I mean, even if it's I know a lot of times it's pleasantries, and we've been burst and thank you and thank you in person for thanking you and doing all this. But the more I can minimize what I need to go through every few hours when I check back into my inbox, that really does save a lot of time and a lot of cognitive effort. And I've learned that when I have some of those conversations early on with people, then we view it as appreciation of one another's time.

Scott Anthony Barlow 27:12

I love that idea. It was probably about four years ago where I really got turned on to that idea to the point where when I work with my team now, and when we bring somebody on board to our team, we talk about, like, we don't necessarily need to say thank you to every thing that goes through our Slack channel, or we can do everybody else on the team a favor by putting in our end where it says no reply needed or, you know, little things that add up drastically over time. But what I've noticed in an average environment, that type of shift feels insurmountable sometimes. So I'm curious what you have found that people can just start doing to minimize those types of things that don't need to be there so that we can focus on contribution?

Tom Rath 27:56

There are some roles where you need to be just immediately responsive for emergency purposes and the like. And if you're in a role like that, I think to kind of bracket the time where you need to be in that mode, so that you at least hold out a little bit of time in a day where you can have more clear and productive thoughts. It's not being constantly interrupted is really important. But I do think one of the questions that Bill George, who's who I really admire and respect over the years asked me when we were talking a few years ago was about, you know, “how do you prioritize between what's really urgent versus what's truly important?” And there are a lot of things that fly at me in a given day that on the surface seem to be urgent. But when I take a breath and step back and say, “is it really important?” it changes my response. So instead of getting back to something that just claims to be pressing, but really isn’t, I've found that if I wait until tomorrow morning, and batch process and respond then, not only is that more efficacious for me getting things done in a day, it also sets a better expectation with the other person who maybe have never had a conversation with before about whether they can continue to email me. And I'm just going to be on 24/7 to respond to them instantly. And so I like where you were going with that, where it's really about learning to have more respect for your own time and showing respect for the time of the people you're interacting with and working with on a regular basis. So they know that you're working to value their time, just as much.

Scott Anthony Barlow 29:32

One of the crazy things that on that note that you're mentioning, it seems like a lot of that is prioritization. And I feel like if we would really oversimplify what we get to do here, at Happen To Your Career, a lot of it is teaching people how to better prioritize and behave around, you know, what is actually most important, and I feel like that's a lot of what you're describing in one way or another, but also, I think about this idea that you're talking about, and, you know, how can I contribute and how can I make that important, and I still find that it can be really, really difficult. And I don't know if I necessarily have a question about that, except to say that or except to ask that so far, we've talked about, you know, those things that stop contribution. Yeah, our conversation up till now has been a lot about, hey, what is getting in the way of contribution. But when we focus on the profile itself, can you share a little bit about that so people can understand, you know, how they might use that tool or any tool or just an understanding how they can contribute better.

Tom Rath 30:39

One of the reason one of the things I've learned is I try to help people get more focused on contribution and some of the meaning that's connected to their work is that the current apparatus and language we have for describing why we do what we do and kind of summarize in our careers, it's resumes and job descriptions, for the most part. I couldn't imagine a more cold and sterile and lifeless way to sum up a person if I worked on it, than a resume. I think we've got to find ways to bring the humanity of what we do and why we do it back into the discussion. So the way that we're trying to help readers when people who buy the “Life Great Question” book or the e-book, get a code to go to this contribify, our website and assemble, they go through an inventory and ask a bunch of questions. And then they get to build this profile. That's, I hope, a far more human version of a resume about kind of a positive baseball card synopsis of a person. But what it asks you about is it starts with what are the big roles you play in life. So for me, that's being a dad and a husband and a researcher and a writer. And then it asks about the miles or most influential life experiences that you've had over your lifetime. And some of those are positive. Some of those, like I mentioned, my own example, were negative, or they were more challenging or traumatic events, but they really shaped who I am and why I do what I do. And then it asks about what your natural talents, your strengths are in your own words, and it takes people through a series of about 50 questions where they prioritize how they want to contribute to a given team they're thinking about and they can go back and take out as many times as they want as they join new teams and are thinking differently about how they want to contribute. But the product is a nice one page scorecard and then a lengthier report with ideas about how you can optimally contribute to a team. My one hope is just that people will use that and share the second code in the book with a friend or a team member or colleague so that they can have a conversation as a team, when ideally when you're forming a new team, to say, “here's who I am, here’s what's important to me, here's how I want to be known in life, here have been my most influential life experiences and here's how I think I can uniquely contribute to this team into this effort.” And I think if people have that discussion upfront, it should enable a bit of a negotiation process there so that you don't have a bunch of like minded people who are all trying to do the same thing. And so it should help teams to move a little smoother in parallel, and it should help individuals to continue making that connection between who they are and how that effort makes a contribution to customers, clients into the world.

Scott Anthony Barlow 33:16

I took the time to go through it and when it first popped up the instructions after I created an account everything it said something to the effect of it'll be a series of open-ended and closed-ended questions and like, “Ah, how on earth are you going to integrate the open-ended questions into the profile?” And did not disappoint. So that one page scorecard, as you're calling it, actually was really interesting to see and really helpful to see too because as you said, it's got those defining roles on one side and you know, some of your strengths on the bottom left and then those contributions that you're talking about as well, which for me are achieving, initiating and adapting. But one of the challenges we have had in working with people over the years is helping them put words to what creates more meaning for them, or how they can contribute, or what makes them feel more purposeful in one way or another because it's, quite frankly, slightly different for everybody. And everybody has kind of their own unique definition and in some way without getting into the weeds on it. So I thought you did a really, really nice job in doing that. I'm also curious, miles did you start with the word miles? Or how did that come about?

Tom Rath 34:43

I think I was drawing on a whiteboard and was trying to think about, what are these? One area we have not done enough work on is, what are the real influential and searing life experiences people go through? I actually think we need to kind of push people through intense experiences to sort out what they might be good at. They haven't even tried before. So I was trying to think through, how do you bring some of these stories to the surface that are a little more narrative than kind of the roles you play in life? So that's where that came from. But what I've been learning is you have five people on a team, for example, and you all go through and do that and bring that baseball card to the table and just talking through that could be a really good kind of relationship expectation setting experience, I hope. And it's a good way to get to know people quickly in a more human way than looking at LinkedIn profile or whatever.

Scott Anthony Barlow 35:30

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Well, nicely done. I've enjoyed it immensely. And where can people get the... and the assessment?

Tom Rath 35:39

They can get the book anywhere books are sold, and each book includes a code. The first edition hardcover has two codes, so you can go through it with someone else and do it as many times as you'd like. And you can find more on that at contribify.com/ and more about any of my books at tomrath.org

Scott Anthony Barlow 35:56

Tom, just one last question, you know, for people that are in the place where they do want to a different level of meaning they do want a different level of contribution as many of our listeners are, what advice would you give them with where to start?

Tom Rath 36:11

I would suggest that they've probably done enough looking inward already. And that life in the end is really more about what you put into it now what you get out of it. And so if they can start to examine the world around them, the people they care about, the community that surrounds them, and find some of the most pressing needs of the people that they hope to serve, that they can start there and then work back to how they could meet some of those needs. It might enable more rapid growth.

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