F-16 fighter pilot, author, and leadership authority Rob Shallenberger on living life by design

Transcript

Rob Shallenberger talks to Clint Betts about what he learned about leadership from the high-performance fighter pilot world and what he means by “Do What Matters Most.”

Rob Shallenberger is one of the world’s leading authorities on leadership and execution. He’s trained and coached hundreds of companies around the world, including many Fortune 500 organizations. He is also the author of two books, Becoming Your Best and Do What Matters Most.


Clint Betts

You were an F-16 pilot. Is that what you always wanted to do?

Rob Shallenberger

It is. The nutshell version on this is when I was 16 years old, for me, that was a pretty tough time in life. I didn't have any direction, didn't know where I was going. And at that point, I didn't even know if I was going to graduate from high school. And I don't know if anyone can relate to that, but it's a tough time in life.

And we are at this event in Utah, which both of us are from Utah, so you've heard of the Stadium of Fire, and we were sitting in the Stadium of Fire, and as you know if you've ever watched that, there's always a four ship fly-by of F-16s that start the Stadium of Fire. And those jets thundered over and we felt that rumble that you feel in your chest and my brother and I looked at each other and said, "Someday, we're going to fly those jets right over this stadium."

And that was when the seed was planted. And I'll tell you what, you had this 16-year-old teenager, at that point there was a switch that was flipped, everything changed. And I got this laser focus then on becoming a fighter pilot. And that's exactly what happened. So 15 years later, both my brother and I ended up becoming fighter pilots, both flying the F-16. And in 2007, we were approved by the Pentagon to do the fly-by for the Stadium of Fire.

And so we did that. He was on the left side of the formation. I was on the right, one of the coolest experiences of my life, our families were in the stadium crying, we got tears, and it was just very cool. So yes, from a young age, that is something that I wanted to do. And really, it was an incredible experience to work around such amazing people and be a part of such an amazing culture. You talked about high-performance, everything about the fighter pilot world was high-performance.

Clint Betts

How many times have you watched Top Gun?

Rob Shallenberger

Probably only three, maybe four times over the course of my life. It's one of those that starts out really cool and then it gets to the point where you're like, "That's not how it goes. That's not real. That's not right."

Clint Betts

There's a new one coming out, and there's a Top Gun Two. Did you know that?

Rob Shallenberger

There is. And I'm excited about that. That one looks pretty awesome.

Clint Betts

Yeah. I'm excited too. I've watched it more than you have. It's the coolest thing a person can do in my mind, is to fly an F-16. And so for you to be doing that is unbelievable. So did you go into the Air Force? How did that all work? Because that's not an easy thing to get to do.

Rob Shallenberger

Yeah. No, it's not actually. And I shared the experience on where the seed was planted or the idea was born. But then a lot of the work started. So I started asking, “Well, what needs to happen?” That became my vision. And you'll hear that term a lot. That became my vision. So obviously you have to graduate from high school. You need to go to college and graduate with a degree, officers are pilots, and to be an officer, you have to have a four-year degree.

So I went to Utah State, went through their ROTC program. My brother went to the Air Force Academy, went through their program. And afterwards you spend two years of flying training, and you spend the first six months on a T-37, which is now a T-6. The next six months and a T-38. And it's just a continual sifting process.

You start out with about 24 people in your class, and at the six-month mark, they start with the number one person and ask which track do you want to go down? Fighter track, heavy track, helicopters. And about six, usually five to six out of those 24 can go down the fighter track. And then at the end of the year of pilot training, they'll get maybe one F-16, one F-15, an F-22. And again, they'll start with the number one person and say, "All right, here's what we call the drop. Number one person, what do you want? F-16. All right, that one's gone. Number two, what do you want? F-15, that's gone." And so on goes the training.

And it's just a continual sifting process like that. We spent three more months in Georgia, another eight months in Arizona, learning to fly and employ the F-16. So it takes about two and a half months to get fully operational to where you could be deployed. And at least for the F-16, the fighter pilot world, by the time it's all said and done, they invest about $4 million per pilot to get you combat mission ready.

Clint Betts

Wow. Let me ask you this, so I would be immediately weeded out for all sorts of reasons, but the biggest one being, I would get sick. Are you taking Dramamine or anything like that when you're up there?

Rob Shallenberger

No, you can't take Dramamine, but it's not uncommon to be sick. And it's kind of funny, five months before I went to pilot training, they used to do this thing called casual status. They don't like that term anymore. They don't call it that. But that's where you go to basically a holding base somewhere.

So I went to Mountain Home in Idaho and I had the chance to get two backseat rides, one in an F-15C and the other in an F-15E. And 45 minutes into both of those flights, I was just throwing up and I'm thinking, I remember the very first flight, I went home and laid on my couch and fell asleep for four hours, from 12 o'clock to four o'clock in the afternoon. And I told my wife at the time, I said, "How in the world am I going to be a fighter pilot?"

I couldn't even function afterwards. I had to sleep for four hours. But the body acclimates. My very first flight ever in pilot training, I was the one flying. I remember getting a little sick right at the end, I went to oxygen 100% and that helped. And then pretty much never felt it again. And I remember after you've been doing it for years, you can eat the Big Mac, the fries, whatever, and then go fly and no problem.

But for some people, it is an issue. There are some people that can't overcome the air sickness, and that is a naturally weeding out type thing. So if someone's not able to overcome it, and they have a program for it, they do a pretty good job working with people. You sit in what's called a barrel chair and you spin around until you puke and puke and puke and puke and puke. And for most people that will cure it. There are a handful of people who never can get over that. And that obviously is something that will sift that person or people out, if it's something that you can't overcome.

Clint Betts

You mentioned how the pride of like, “Hey, when I'm 16 years old, I'm at the Stadium of Fire. Me and my brother look up at the sky, see those F-16s and say, ‘Hey, that's going to be us someday.’" 15 years later, you do that. And the pride that your family and yourself feels when you do that. And so that mission must have been just like pure pride. I'm sure there were some missions that were a little hairy and not as, I don't know, they didn't feel like that.

Rob Shallenberger

Oh yeah, of course. Yeah. It's like anything else. There's good days, there's bad days. There's everywhere in between. Absolutely.

Clint Betts

What did you learn about leadership in your time as a fighter pilot?

Rob Shallenberger

Yeah. It's interesting because this is a real segue into what we're doing now. And what I saw in the fighter pilot world was what a high-performance culture looked like. In other words, in the fighter pilot world, I became accustomed to what I realized was completely abnormal. In other words, you give a fighter pilot something, it gets done well, it gets done on time or ahead of schedule, and you don't have to think about it again.

And it's just the culture that exists. It has to, right? I mean, because of the environment that you're in there, it's not a culture where you can afford a lot of errors and mistakes. And you're dealing with high performance machines. So everything about it is in that "high-performance realm." Well, leaving the air force, things like mission planning and debriefs and time management and productivity, these were all things that were integral in the fighter pilot world.

This was a great opportunity. And my father and I started talking about this about four years prior to me getting out, because at the same time while I was in the Air Force, he was over here researching high-performance and great leaders. And so leaving the Air Force, I joined him in that research and it really was a natural segue to continue to ask, what do great leaders and high-performers do that most people don't do?

In other words, if you look at the top 10% in whatever industry or field they're in, what did they do that allowed them to get to the top of their field, the top of their game? And what we found is there are 12 principles of highly successful leaders that you see over and over on the very best lists. And that's what we put in our first book, Becoming Your Best, the 12 Principles of Highly Successful Leaders. And we built a training program around that. That has taken us all over the world. Having met with presidents of countries, organizations, and it's been awesome.

And it really, for me, started in the fighter pilot world, because what I realized was that that was an anomaly. I've now had the chance to work with hundreds of organizations that include the Dallas Cowboys, Charles Schwab, and many others. And if an organization can build even something that's remotely close to a fighter pilot culture, it's amazing what can happen to productivity, to planning and having a process on how to do that, and the environment that it creates, and work-life balance.

It all has a huge impact in an organization. And I realized how thirsty people are for something that will help them and empower them in that arena. And so it's been a great segue and a great transition, and that's what set the foundation, was that fighter pilot culture, and then learning that's not the norm and that's not the way most teams and businesses run, and there's a huge need for something that can empower them to really adopt more of that fighter pilot type culture.

Clint Betts

Well, I'll tell you that the list of companies and organizations that you have worked with through Becoming Your Best is unbelievable. It's some of the greatest and biggest organizations in the world. What are these 12 principles of successful leaders? Let's go through them, if you wouldn't mind.

Rob Shallenberger

Yeah. And then at some point, Clint, what I'd love to do is share just a few ideas of this new book that we just released, Do What Matters Most?

Clint Betts

For sure.

Rob Shallenberger

Because it's such a great segue that people can take and incorporate right now. Here's what's interesting about the 12 principles. We broke them into three separate sections, if you will, Transformational Leadership, Transformational Teams, and Transformational Living, at the individual level. And so the first four are all about leading a life by design. And this is what really evolved into Do What Matters Most.

And I'll share the 12 principles with you. But as we do, here's where I want to segue and share some thoughts on this. These first four principles really resonated deeply with people across the board. And we realized that there was a need for a whole other level of research that goes deeper into time management productivity, which is what those first four principles are all about.

And so that's what we now call our Do What Matters Most research, that was specifically focused on time management productivity. Now we'll come back to the 12 principles, but I just want to share a couple of the things we've found, because if there's a CEO or business leader or manager who's listening to this, it is critical that we as leaders understand this. And that is that 68% of people feel like prioritizing their time is their number one challenge.

And I think anybody can relate to that out in the world right now, where there's so many competing demands for our time, right? Everybody wants a piece, whether it's our family, our children, our friends, all these different things that are happening in the workplace environment. And a person is 47% more productive at work when they have a balance of success stories across their different roles in life.

Now here's the key: 80% of people do not have a time management process that will empower them to prioritize what matters most. It's usually to-do lists and sticky notes. And so this is where Do What Matters Most evolved is we developed three separate high performance habits that will give people a tool and a process to schedule their priorities rather than prioritize their schedule.

In other words, to lead a life by design rather than live a life by default. It empowers employees and people to take control of their schedule, to focus on their priorities and do what matters most. And it has a huge impact. So with that being said, let's come back to the 12 principles. You asked about what are they? And I'll briefly go through them. And as I briefly go through these, 12 can seem like a lot, and so what we invite organizations to do when we work with them is focus on one principle a week as a team. And ask themselves, what can they do this week to better live that principle?

And we've got to define what a principle is first of all, Clint. A principle is a governing way of leading our lives. It's a principle. It's not, do it exactly this way, here's the principle. And we have developed tools and processes to empower people to better live that principle. There's a lot of ways people can better live principles though, right?

So principle one is, Be True to Character. That's the foundation. And the laundry list of companies who have violated that principle is extensive. Enron, WorldCom. And so there's a huge vested interest in creating a culture where people are true to character. Number two is to Lead with a Vision. Whether it's a team or a personal life, leading with a vision. From the personal perspective, this comes back to do what matters most now. This is one of the things that we found, only 2% of people have a written personal vision.

So you think about, who are going to be your most engaged employees? How powerful would it be for us as CEOs or leaders to have a written personal vision? I mean, we've worked with a group called YPO, Young Presidents Organization. These are presidents of companies who typically are $15 million or more in revenue, and that same statistic applies to them. So CEOs are not exempt from these statistics. They fall right into the same category, if not more so, right?

I mean, there's an increased demand on their time and everybody wants a piece of them, it seems like. So that's number two, is to Lead with a Vision. Number three is to Manage with a Plan. Sounds so simple, right? We hear the term goals all the time, but yet only 10% of people have written personal and professional goals. And you think about this from a fighter pilot perspective, how much more successful will a fighter pilot be when they put together a clear flight plan and have a mission plan to go out and execute?

Number four is, Prioritize Your Time. And I don't need to go through maybe all 12, I'll just summarize maybe three or four others. Number four is to prioritize your time. And this goes back to again, Do What Matters Most. We identify the principle, but people didn't have a process. And so that's why I Do What Matters Most became the next iteration is, people needed a process and some tools to prioritize their time.

Some of the other ones I'll just give you a smattering, Never Give Up, Be Accountable, Be an Effective Communicator, Build and Maintain Trust. Live the Golden Rule, Innovate Through Imagination, Apply the Power of Knowledge. These are principles that great leaders and high-performers live by. And what's amazing is when you focus on one principle a week with a team or an organization, it's something that creates that culture by design. And that's exactly what has happened in, like you said, the Dallas Cowboys or any of the many other organizations. And it's something that anybody can implement and it's very simple to do.

Clint Betts

And like you mentioned, Do What Matters Most just came out, this book. We highly recommend everyone check it out. People can buy it on Amazon, right?

Rob Shallenberger

Amazon is probably the easiest place.

Clint Betts

Yeah. Amazon, they're like magic.

Rob Shallenberger

Took over the world.

Clint Betts

So I want to talk about Do What Matters Most and how you do that and what that means. But you said something there that I find interesting. One of the principles is to be true to your character. And to me, that sounds like, how do you stay within integrity? Both in your own values and with the integrity of the organization, all that type of stuff. You mentioned some great examples of companies that did the exact opposite of that.

And, Enron, is a great example of that. I'm sure that they didn't start out of integrity with themselves and community and their values, but boy did they end that way. How does that happen? How do you get out of touch with your integrity and you start to become untrue to your character? I mean, what kind of warning signs are there when that starts to happen?

Rob Shallenberger

Yeah. That's a good question. From my experience, Clint, very few people go into anything saying, "We're going to intentionally create this massive fraud."

Clint Betts

Right. Yeah, yeah, yeah. For sure.

Rob Shallenberger

"We're going to go into this and do this big thing." That's not the intent of most people—

Clint Betts

Maybe Madoff started out like that.

Rob Shallenberger

Yeah. I mean, there's a very small number of people that do that, but they're the exceptions. For most people, it's a snowball and it starts really small. And there's this phrase that we use in our seminars that we say, “The collapse of character begins with compromise.” And it usually starts out with one or two small, subtle things, but then it starts to snowball. And pretty soon you find yourself woven into this web that's really difficult to escape.

And let me come back and answer that question here. This is why these principles tie together so deeply, is in Do What Matters Most, we share three high-performance habits. And only 1% of people do all of these together, and yet anybody can learn them. So it's really a mindset and a skillset. And the first habit is to develop a written, personal vision.

Now, that's something that we've heard about all kinds of times, right? Find your purpose, find your why, find your passion, but rarely does anyone show us how to do it. And that's partly why only 2% of people have a written personal vision. Well, we invite people to look at these three habits and I've only shared the first one with you, through a different lens. And that is the lens of our five to seven roles that matter most to each one of us.

So if you're listening, think about the five to seven roles that matter most to you. maybe it is a CEO, a manager, but that's not where your responsibility and leadership stops. How about at home as a parent or as a husband or wife or as a brother or a sister or a son or daughter, as a coach? And personally, we lead our own lives before we lead other people's or anybody else for that matter.

And so developing a written personal vision, Clint, is part of that. And when we can identify a vision that's meaningful, that gives us direction, that becomes our internal compass and destination, our North Star, we don't need to compromise or deviate from that. There doesn't need to be anything in there that compromises our character because we have that clear vision, whether you're in alignment with it or out of alignment. But most people haven't done that.

Clint Betts

Well, how do you stay true to your written personal vision? How do you ensure that you don't make a compromise for what you've written down?

Rob Shallenberger

Well, first of all is to have it. Remember 98% of people don't have it. You can't be true to something that's not there. So you've got to have it, and 98% of people don't. And it's not a critique of anyone. For most people what we found is that it's just, nobody's ever learned how to do it. I mean, in my four years of college and an MBA, I'd never had a class that talked about developing written personal vision and how to set goals, and how to prioritize your time.

So where is someone going to learn it? And it's not most people's fault. It's really a matter of going out and getting the skillset. And that's why chapters three and four of the book walk someone through exactly how to do it. So, Clint, I'd say that's the first part. You've got to have it, because how do we be true to something that we don't know what we're being true to?

And I mean, I'll give you an example. Let me give you a personal example of this. So, we're not just talking about it here, I've gone through this exact process myself. I've seen thousands of other people do it, from CEOs to frontline employees. And it's equally powerful for everyone who does it. And the book, in chapters three and four, will walk people specifically how to do it, but let me give you an example of the end result for my life.

So in my role of husband, this is my actual vision, word for word. Now, vision is not a goal, right? It's this high-level definition of who we are, the very best version of yourself in that role, that internal guide. And it's this, “I'm a kind and caring husband who always helps Tanya feel like a 10. I am totally faithful in thought and action, and I constantly strive to compliment her, serve her, and be the husband of her dreams.”

Clint Betts

That's beautiful, man.

Rob Shallenberger

That's a pretty high standard. So am I always in alignment with that? No. And it goes back to your question. So what happens if we're not in alignment? Well, we feel it. I know if we just had a little, call it an argument or discussion, where we both walked away not feeling very good about each other, I know I'm out of alignment with that vision. Did I just help her feel like a 10? No. Okay. So what do you do about it at that point? It's my responsibility to get my life back in alignment with the vision. So maybe give it 10 or 15 minutes, give us a chance to simmer down, get out of fight or flight mode. And then it's my responsibility to go back in and say, "Look, I'm sorry. I apologize. That didn't help you feel like a 10 and I'm sorry, I'm going to work on that and try to do better."

And it's the same with every other role. But we can't do that if we don't make the effort and the time to identify what that looks like. Think about this, Clint, this is why the best managers, the best employees, the best CEOs will go through this process and develop a written personal vision, one of the three habits, because it does exactly this, what we're talking about.

It empowers us to articulate what matters most to each of us in our various roles and what is going to be our standard and our guide. And for most people, for most, that will solve it. Because once you articulate that, I mean, each one of us knows whether we're in alignment or not with it. And if a person is not willing to get back in alignment with their vision after they've gone through that effort, that's a separate discussion.

Clint Betts

Right. Yeah. It is interesting. We all get out of integrity or out of alignment with our values. It's how you get back in alignment that's important. And actually getting back in alignment, right? Your example with your wife, if you get out of alignment there, the noble and integral thing to do is to get back in alignment.

Rob Shallenberger

Yeah. Let me give you one more example, and maybe it's not directly related to character, but in a sense it is, because character is far more than just being honest or not, right? It's being true to a correct set of values and so on. Let me give you an example of a manager who has a vision versus who doesn't. Think about a manager or a leader who has a vision that goes something like this, “I'm a transformational leader who knows the stories of my team members. I'm engaged in their lives and want to bring out their very best individually. I'm here to help them succeed.”

When someone can write something like that and they really truly believe it, is going to work and checking a time card enough? No. They're going to be deeply passionate. They're going to know the names of their employees’ kids. They're going to know what's happening in their lives. They're going to be engaged. And what's going to be the result of that type of leader? Their team is going to start improving unlike it has in any time past, because that's what leadership is. We manage things and we lead people.

And great leaders can inspire their team members to do things that otherwise they wouldn't do. And I would suggest that we can all be better leaders, right? We can all improve as leaders. And I don't think there's ever a time that we arrive and say, "We've arrived. We're the very best leader that can possibly be." There's this improvement that we can all improve on. And that's the idea in articulating what that looks like first.

Clint Betts

Well, I love this idea of it starts with leading yourself, which I think a lot of people miss. I've told this story before, but it's probably worth repeating. I was at an event where Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings came in, and he said something that stuck with me forever. We asked him a question about leadership or something along these lines, like, "What is it like to lead in a company as big as Netflix, as diverse as Netflix, all the different problems and challenges that are coming at him and the company every single day?"

And he said something again, that just sticks with me always. He said, "You can't lead people if first you can't lead yourself." And he says, "So first thing I do is I focus on how do I improve myself? And then I brought it out to, how do I focus on my team?" And then he started talking about how for him, it was, I run every day or I do all these different things that are for me, to keep me in sound mind and all that type of stuff. What does a typical day look like for you?

Rob Shallenberger

Well, okay. Do you mind if I answer that question by sharing the other two habits?

Clint Betts

No. I'd love that. Yeah, that'd be awesome.

Rob Shallenberger

Because that really ties into how I lead my own life. And on the back of our book, I don't know if you can see that or if the text is backwards or forwards, whatever it is, but it says, lead a life by design, not by default. And it's to your exact point, Clint, whether it's the CEO of Netflix, whether it's a startup or whether it's a stay-at-home parent, it doesn't matter.

Leadership starts right here with every one of us. And I love the way he said that we can't effectively lead others if we're not leading our own life. It goes back to the statistic I shared at the very beginning, we're 47% more productive in the workplace when we have a balance of success stories. In other words, when we're leading our lives effectively. And most people, if we go back to this, are just looking for a process. Give me a tool, give me a process.

And so habit one in Do What Matters Most is to develop a written personal vision. Habit number two is what we call Roles and Goals. In other words, it's identifying those same five to seven roles from the vision and asking, “What are the one to four specific measurable goals that you could focus on in each role this year?” In other words, how does a person measure success in each of the roles this year?

And so that's part of that, Clint, is each one of us stepping up and asking in that personal role, physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, what are the goals this year that matter most to you and I? How are we going to take care of ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually? And then those other roles, as a father, as a mother, what are some of our specific measurable goals on how we're going to show up as a parent, as a spouse, as a CEO, a manager, a sales rep? Any of those key roles. That's habit number two.

And again, only 10% of people have done anything like that. Habit number three is the key one. And this goes into answering your question. And that is prioritizing our time each week through a process we've developed called pre-week planning. Now this ties back into the fighter pilot world, right? Because what's going to happen if a fighter pilot says, "I'm just going to skip my preflight planning. I'm just going to wing it." Well, it's going to be chaos. How many people listening to this would go jump on a plane if you knew the pilot had skipped preflight planning?

Clint Betts

Right. No.

Rob Shallenberger

Nobody. I'm like, "I'm not getting on there." Because it's going to be chaotic, chaos, confusion. Well, how many of us go into our weeks without a plan and expect a different result? Now, we're going to take it up a notch higher and pre-week planning is not just planning your professional role. People are pretty used to that. They're like, "Yeah, I kind of put in my week, my meetings and what I need to do." One of my favorite quotes is this, Clint, “Good, better, best, never let it rest, till the good is better and the better is best.” Going through your week and pre-week planning in your professional role is good. In the spirit of good, better, best though, I'd invite you to do pre-week planning and see if it can enhance what you're already doing.

Because pre-week planning is when we sit down for 20 to 40 minutes at some point on the weekend, we look at our vision and goals. So can you imagine how awesome that would be to look at your vision and goals every week, at least once a week, what the alignment is that comes from that? And then number two is we look at our roles.

Step three is what matters most in each role this week? Specific actions. Write a note to my wife, daddy-daughter date with my daughter, call a key client, work on the strategic plan for Q4. These are all examples of what matters most, specific action items. And to your point, personally, what am I doing for exercise this week? What books am I going to read? What are we doing to take care of ourselves, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually? Specific actions.

And the last step is, when will we do them? And so that's pre-week planning. Imagine how powerful that would be to do that every weekend. And if you could get all of your employees and team members to be doing pre-week planning through that lens. And a person who does that will accomplish 800 to 1,000 additional things in one year than a person who doesn't, and all with less stress. That's a pretty bold statement.

And so now to answer your question, I do pre-week planning every week. I've been doing this for 22 years. It's in alignment with my vision and it's in alignment with my goals. And everybody who I know doing this has experienced what you would call life changing results in the way they show up in their relationships, for themselves, for their company, et cetera.

So what does my week look like? Well, it's slightly different every week. But I'll tell you what I'm going through those roles every weekend and I'm asking, "What can I do that matters most this week?" So tonight, for example, I'm going on a horse ride with my daughter, Clara. That's part of what I did in pre-week planning.

Today I'm reaching out via text to several of our coaching clients. That's very intentional. I've set up pre-event calls. Tomorrow I'm flying to Las Vegas to speak to a SHRM group. And well, where am I at in that process? Right? That's the personal role. So I put in the time during the week—this morning, I went on a two mile run, 6:30 in the morning, two mile run. That's not every morning. Tomorrow's going to be a core strength before going to the airport. But it's intentional. It's thought about.

There's reading, there's a spiritual aspect of it for me. And so every day is going to look slightly different, but I will say this: pre-week planning, and I shared this earlier, is about scheduling our priorities rather than prioritizing our schedule. So it's prioritizing what matters most into our week and then accomplishing hopefully 70 to 80% of those things, because we know life happens, right?

Things will move around and shift. So most CEOs I know through YPO, through EO, through other organizations, Clint, are experiencing in a fighter pilot term, what we call Task Saturation. There's so much happening in the cockpit, you can't keep track of it all. And what tends to happen to pilots is when we get task saturated, we start to miss-prioritize. And I know pilots, unfortunately, who have died, who have literally hit the side of a mountain going 500 miles an hour while they were looking down at their radar in a perfectly good jet.

And you say, well, how's that possible? Well, because there's too much happening. They forgot to look out the window at where the ground was, and we've all done that. And how many of us are getting task saturated and letting priorities in our life slip through the cracks. And I can tell you that from my experience with CEOs all over the world, this is very common, that they're feeling task saturated. And it's like, "Man, I'm just trying to keep my head above the water here." And these three Do What Matters Most habits give people a process and the accompanying tools with which to lead their lives and bring their priorities back to the forefront and empower them to do what matters most.

Clint Betts

You said something interesting, you said, was it only 2% of people are willing or do write out their vision for themselves?

Rob Shallenberger

Yeah. It's not willing, because a lot of people are willing once they learn how to do it.

Clint Betts

But actually do it.

Rob Shallenberger

That's right. Here's the statistics. Only 2% of people have a written personal vision. Only 10% of people have written personal and professional goals. So nine out of 10 don't. When you talk about your time, 68% of people feel like prioritizing their time is their number one challenge. 80% of people don't have a process.

And so you put all of these three habits together, it addresses every one of those statistics. And if you put them all together, written vision, roles and goals and pre-week planning, only 1% of people have and do all three of those combined. And so it really is life changing when someone does this. And do you mind if I just share one example of this plan?

Clint Betts

No, yeah, for sure.

Rob Shallenberger

And by the way, if you're looking for a tool or an app, we just released an app, or I should say it's more of an extension because it's used for your desktop or your laptop. It's  dowhatmattersmostapp.com, and you can get the extension that you can use on Google Chrome or Outlook, where you can put your vision and goals in there. And it gives you a place to do pre-week planning every week.

So you put your roles right across the top. And then what matters most to you? This exact process we were following with the Pepsi executive years ago. It was a seminar, so we actually had them do it right there while we were together. And he was doing pre-week planning for the first time ever. He had delegated his time management to a secretary. In my opinion, huge mistake. We don't delegate our lives to someone else. And it's one of the great leadership mistakes, I see it often out there.

Hey, I'm going to let my secretary lead my life for me. No, that's not how it works. And so here he is, he's in his young 60s, white hair. My father was leading that event, and he wrote in the role of father, “call my son.” And my father asked him, "Well, why? Why call your son? That's cool. Great. Nice. Why would you write that? Just out of curiosity."

His response was because seven years ago, his son and him got into an argument and they hadn't talked since. Now that's a big deal, right? I mean, imagine not talking with your son for seven years. And so my father asked him, "Well, when will you do it?" Step four. And he put it in there Wednesday at seven o'clock.

Okay, great. Six months later, we were back with that same team and this executive bee-lined over, shook my father's hand and said, "I made the call." And he went on to say that he was scared to death to make the call that day, as any of us would be, right? Is my son even going to talk with me? He said but he made the call. And it was amazing because as soon as they started talking, they couldn't even remember what they had argued about seven years ago. And now they talk every week and they're best friends. And on that same call, Clint, this executive at Pepsi found that he had two grandchildren who he didn't even know existed.

Clint Betts

No way.

Rob Shallenberger

Can you imagine? Now, in his own words, he would have never made that call had it not been for pre-week planning. And he's not that different than most of us listening to this today, whether it's a relationship with our son, whether it's taking care of our health and starting, whether it's our mental or emotional wellbeing, whether it's a relationship, whether it's showing up at work, whatever it is. I know that everyone listening to this has procrastinated or postponed something.

And it's really just about having the habits that get us started. They get us focused on what matters most. And for him, it was calling his son. His best years as an executive were after he made that call. Because as we would guess, that emotional weight was on his shoulders every morning. It felt like the world had come off his shoulders when he reconnected with his son.

So for some of us who may be overweight, how would it feel to lose that 60 pounds, to get that blood pressure down, to feel vital and healthy and have energy in the afternoon? For those that may be struggling in a relationship, what would that look like to have the fire come back to the point where it was when you got married? Or to have that quality relationship with your son or daughter, or actually enjoy going to the office in the morning when you go? That's what happens when we start prioritizing what matters most. And for most people, Clint, it's like we've talked about, it's just a matter of having a process. Just show me the how-to, and I can do it.

Clint Betts

Well, what you must deal with is because these numbers are stark, the vast majority of people don't live their life by design, they live it by default. And so what you must be constantly butting up against is, get out of the default, stop living your life by default and take some control of it.

And how do you, I mean, you've explained pretty in-depth actually how you do this, but what is the first step for you as a coach, as a leader, as the author of these books, how do you shake someone out of the default and get them to understand that they should be living their life by design and they have some say and control over what they do?

Rob Shallenberger

Yeah. At the very beginning of any keynote or seminar, Clint, we always start out with this slide that says, “Do what matters most” and then we say, “Mindset plus skillset.” In other words, this really is a mindset plus the skillset. And so let me start with the mindset. I already shared the good, better, best quote with you. And in chapter two of the book, we talk about the enemies of that mindset.

The enemies of it are procrastination, complacency, or comfort and what we like to call the cynic or the skeptic. Now, the cynic or the skeptic is a healthy emotion. It's what filters out all the noise that we hear every day. The challenge for a lot of us—including myself—is that skeptic, that cynic has become a pretty strong voice. And we start to weed out a lot of things that could really make an impact in our lives.

And so the mindset part of the equation, Clint, is for each person listening, for each one of us, is to be willing to do some new things that we think might be powerful, and then have the discipline to apply the skillset. So let's have a willingness to invest in ourselves. Most people, I mean, all of us across the board are reticent to invest in ourselves. And I like to use the word invest versus expense.

With expenses, we minimize expenses. We try to grow investments, right? But for so many people, they view spending money on themselves as an expense not as an investment, and we don't do it. So the starting point for most people is let's start with the mindset of saying, how can we do better than we currently are today? As a leader, as a CEO, as a parent, spouse, friend, brother, son, sister? Whatever.

And as soon as we ask that question, I invite people to read the book, because the habits are in the book, the how-to, and the why are all in the book. Now, 43% of college graduates will never read another book the rest of their lives. So for some people, reading the book is a big step. I acknowledge that. And so that's number one, though.

We've got to do something that allows us to learn the skill set. If we don't have the arrow in the quiver, we can't shoot the arrow. And so it starts with the mindset. And then the skill set are the three habits, vision, roles and goals and pre-week planning, especially pre-week planning. If you look at almost anything, Clint, whether it's an exercise or relationship or mental or emotional wellbeing, almost any of those things come down to, “what's your plan?”

It's the fighter pilot world, show me your plan. And I've done this in enough seminars, enough keynotes. When someone says, "I really want to feel healthier in this." So why are you not there now? And we all have these different challenges, right? We all have different things. I want to have a better relationship. Let's talk about your relationship. How many dates do you go on? How many times have you written a love note to your husband or wife? How much time are you spending together?

And pretty soon it's the deer in the headlights look for most people. Now I acknowledge that's not the case 100% of the time. There's other reasons, but for most people, it’s just not having a plan. And because there's no plan what happens? It doesn't get done. And it gets procrastinated or we don't do it. And so if we can set aside that cynic, that skeptic, and test the power of the habits, nobody will come back and say they didn't change their lives. I've never had anyone ever say that. Because how could it not?

If every one of us sat down and said, “What's our five to seven roles? What's the vision for that role? What are the one to four specific goals this year for that role?” And then every weekend asking what can I do that matters most in that role this week? Knowing that they're not all going to get accomplished, right? 70 to 80% will, but knowing that they all won't get accomplished.

So to answer your question, I have people start with the book. Then they need the Do What Matters Most app, download the extension and put their vision and goals in the computer, and start doing their pre-week planning each week. If someone likes the paper planner, they can go to our website, becomingyourbest.com and get it at the store. But the point is to get the tool, whether it's paper or online, once a person learns the skill set and you have the right tool, the odds of success go dramatically up.

Clint Betts

No, I'm sure that's true.

Rob Shallenberger

And so the simple starting point is get the skill set, get the tool, and start.

Clint Betts

Finally, I can talk to you about this forever, but I got to let you go. We should have you back on because I feel like we could go even deeper on a lot of what we've talked about here. I was thinking about this as you were talking about the cynic and skeptic and how that comes out of us. And I've noticed personally that is diminished. Those two characteristics of mine are diminished in the morning.

I don't know if there's studies on that or anything, but I've read a lot of different biographies about writers in particular, being somewhat of a writer myself, I write better in the morning. There's more courage or whatever you'd call it. Right? There's not as much as the cynicism or skepticism. Whereas when you write at night, you've just been beaten down all day. It's like, "Yeah, you can't do this." But in the morning, for some reason it's diminished. Is there any truth or relevance to that?

Rob Shallenberger

My observation would be similar to your observation. I'm sure there's some research out there, but I haven't seen it, but I've observed this with tens of thousands of people that similar to you, Clint, the morning is the best time to do a keynote. The morning is the best time to do a training because people are alert. They're attentive.

We don't want to start too early, you don't want to take them out of their sleep cycle. But I agree with you, the morning is when people have the most energy, typically. There are exceptions, but by and large, the morning is the time to get stuff done for a lot of people because that's where the energy is high. It's exciting, you're facing the day. And so I would agree with you. Yeah. I think for most people, the morning is a productive time. Meaning until around one o'clock or so.

And then for a lot of people, there is a little drag there from one to four o'clock and that's why pre-week planning becomes all the more important because what are we doing to take care of ourselves and be able to maintain a high energy level throughout the day? We're not going to be 100% on all the time, but what can we do to maintain energy throughout the day? And especially in the evening, when we go home and then it's time to be there with our kids or spouse or take care of ourselves.

But overall, I would agree with you. I think the morning is a great time to do things. Energy is higher. The mind is usually pretty fresh. And so the morning is a powerful time to get things done. A lot of people call this, Clint, the power hour. Taking care of ourselves. Now, whether you get an hour or 10 minutes is irrelevant, if you will. It is relevant, but the point is to do something to take care of yourself in the morning. So whether it's 10 minutes or an hour, call it the power hour, and focus on ourselves first thing in the morning, getting our mind, our heart, our body all right. And again, that comes back to pre-week planning.

Clint Betts

To those listening or watching check out or by the Do What Matters Most book. You can buy it on Amazon. It's magical. Just push a button, shows up at your house the next day. Unbelievable. If you want to, the dowhatmattersmostapp.com, check that out, becomingyourbest.com. Thank you so much for coming on. We're going to have you back on again.

Rob Shallenberger

Well, thank you, Clint. Thanks to everyone listening. Awesome. The fact that anybody's even listening to this, Clint, says a lot about their character and to go back to what you said, their values. So thank you. And it was an honor to be here with you.

Clint Betts

Likewise. Appreciate it.

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