This is a short, follow-up episode to ep42, which introduced a mental model for fulfilling work called ARM. That episode sparked several 1:1 follow up conversations with listeners, and I want to share a few lessons that have emerged since to add some nuance to the model:
- engagement and performance are really about the work itself
- making sense of passion vs purpose
- how to think about internal vs external validation
- how to think about toggling between internal and external explorations
As always, I love hearing what resonates and doesn’t land with you. Please do send me feedback on Twitter at @askotzko.
SCROLL BELOW FOR LINKS AND SHOW NOTES
- Send episode feedback on Twitter @askotzko, or via email
- Related episodes
- People & orgs
- Other resources mentioned
Transcripts may contain some typos. With some episodes lasting ~2 hours, it can be difficult to catch minor errors. Enjoy!
Andrew Skotzko 00:00:35 Hello, friends, and welcome back to another episode of make things that matter. This is the podcast that will help you to be fully alive and self-expressed at, and through your work, whatever roles you play in your work life, you are a creator and this show will help you to learn think, and better create things that are meaningful and fun for you. Now, I want to share in this episode, a few short lessons that I’ve learned through conversations following on episode 42, episode 42 is a short one. All about a model I came up with called arm, as in you have an arm, which is about generating fulfilling work and creative experiences.
Andrew Skotzko 00:00:51 If you haven’t listened to the episode at short, I recommend checking it out. And this is all linked to in the show notes. But in short, the episode says that fulfillment and our work experiences comes from crafting the balance of activities, relationships, and meaning. That is right for you. That episode sparked several one-on-one follow-up conversations with audience members. And I want to share a few lessons that have emerged since from those conversations. There are four that I’m going to cover briefly in this episode. First engagement and performance are really about the work itself, more so than anything else. Secondly, how should we think about internal versus external validation as creators, third, making sense of the ideas of passion versus purpose and fourth. How to think about toggling between internal and external explorations as we’re figuring out, but not only what to create, but how to create it now as always, I love hearing what resonates and what doesn’t land with you.
Andrew Skotzko 00:01:39 So please do send me feedback on Twitter at @askotzko, or via email at connect at makethingsthatmatter dot com. All right, let’s dive in. Now. First engagement and performance are really about the work itself. Engagement drives not only work performance, but it’s also one of the five pillars of a flourishing life. According to the positive psychology research done at the university of Pennsylvania as was discussed in episode 43 with Courtney beginni. I loved her definition of engagement. She said, we define engaged employees as those who find work energizing, inspiring, and meaningful because they’re leveraging their highest strengths, values, and passions. Now, I don’t know about you, but that sounds really good to me.
Andrew Skotzko 00:02:26 Now, this is also related to another model called Tomo T O M O, which stands for total motivation. It’s from a book called primed to perform, which is really a study about how to create the highest performing work cultures that are key for adaptive performance. Now, adaptive performance is exactly the kind of performance that we need in a complex and ever-changing world. The distinction is that adaptive performance is like creativity and innovation. And all the things that we talk about and hear about that are really valuable as opposed to, you know, just stamping out widgets or doing repetitive road work. Um, now this is based on self-determination theory, which is one of the dominant theories of motivation, and they sort of give it new packaging or new language, and they, they sort of break it down into six motivational factors, which are what they call the motive spectrum.
Andrew Skotzko 00:03:14 Now, the motive spectrum is broken up into two chunks. Each of three factors, there’s the drivers of performance, which they call direct motivators. And then there’s detractors from performance, which are the indirect motivators. Now they call them direct motivators because all the things that actually drive performance are directly connected to the work itself. And all the things that take away from adaptive performance are actually disconnected from the work itself. So to be specific about this, the three drivers of performance are play purpose and potential play is the sense of play you have, and curiosity, and exploration and autonomy in doing the work itself. This is by far the biggest driver. Secondly, is purpose. As in, you know, what is the purpose of this work and potential is how can this become even better? How can I grow? And that’s mostly driven by your identities, values and beliefs.
Andrew Skotzko 00:04:04 The detractors from performance are things like emotional pressure, such as obligation, um, economic pressure or a no-show, which is the worst of all, which is doing something sort of just because you’re doing it for no other reason. Um, and none of the good way, like doing it out of a sense of ongoing inertia, just sort of putting one foot in front of the other mindlessly, uh, it’s a soul crushing that’s basically, if you ever heard someone describe something as soul crushing, they’re describing the experience of inertia and these detractors are all driven by external forces, uh, emotional pressure, by the way, also a driven somewhat by your internal identity, values and beliefs. So the takeaway of all that is that when we think about the arm model, we really, really want to focus on the, a, the activities part of the, our model. And we want to focus on that the most now to that end, I want to suggest a new way to do that, which was just recommended to me in a conversation.
Andrew Skotzko 00:04:57 And it’s this question. If you only had three to five verbs that you had to live out for the rest of your life career, what would they be? So I’ll say that again. Think about it. This way only had three to five verbs, like single words that you had to live out for the rest of your career and you couldn’t change it. What would they be now? I’ll share mine as an example. I’m still thinking about this, but my first cut at my five verbs would be explore, create, teach, inspire, and strategize. And those were sort of right from my gut, as I thought about it. Those were the things where I said, yeah, I love doing those five things. And I, you know, if I could only do those five things, that’d be pretty great. So it’s a new lens on the, a, the activities in the arm model that I wanted to, uh, share.
Andrew Skotzko 00:05:42 Cause I found it to be very useful. Okay. So moving on with our model, I want to talk about making sense of these two ideas of passion and purpose, which we hear about all the time. So many questions that come up around something like the arm model relate to the ideas, passion, and purpose. These two words are used interchangeably all the time. I actually, I find it useful to treat them as distinct, separate different ideas. And I really think they are. And here’s how I’ve made sense of it for myself. Passion is about Tivity. It’s about activities and actions, right? It’s about verbs, right? It’s things we do. They often end in ING ING like teaching or writing or creative, um, purpose is about others. It’s about what those activities are for and how they help others. So, and I think I heard this first from Jay Shetty, but one way to think about it in short is that passion is for you purpose for others.
Andrew Skotzko 00:06:37 So we get our first hit of passion from the activities themselves, which is why we need to truly enjoy them back to what I was just saying a minute ago. But purpose and fulfillment comes from the impact on others. Uh, set another way by the excellent book. Uh, the purpose factor by Gabrielle and Brian Bushay purpose is what you have to help others and fulfillment is the emotional result or reward of helping others with what you have. So in summary, take those activities that you’re passionate about, do them with. And for people you care about in an environment you resonate with and pointed all at helping others in some way that you find meaningful. And hopefully that should be pretty solid. All right. So let’s talk now about toggling between internal and external explorations. I don’t know about you, but choosing what to work on. Like many career decisions feels really
Speaker 2 00:07:25 Weighty. It feels so significant
Andrew Skotzko 00:07:28 And heavy. Uh, lots of us, myself included, you know, we look for help in thinking through these decisions, whether that’s help from mentors or career coaches or, you know, listening to a podcast like this one. Now here’s what was pointed out to me that I think is really easy to overlook and forget. And it’s certainly a trap I have fallen into and have many times including reasons. So trying to figure out what we want to do with our life through just coaching sessions or other inward looking explorations. It’s kind of ridiculous inward facing modalities like these, you know, they’re useful. They’re very, very useful. They can help us work out blocks to our creativity, to what we want to go with. They can also all of us to connect with our deeper aspirations, but unless we’re going out in the world after that and taking those ideas that we’d found internally out into the world, it’ll all just stall out.
Andrew Skotzko 00:08:17 So we have to go inward then outward and inward and outward repeat so on and so forth. Twyla Tharp says this beautifully in the excellent book, the creative habit. And it’s this idea that creative life is about toggling back and forth between these internal and explorations and using all of it as material for our creative process. And that’s across domains, whether you’re an artist, someone in business and technology doesn’t matter, coaching for example, which I’ve done a ton of. And I’m a big proponent of is great for working through blocks and connecting to our own deeper aspirations. Doing that inner work really is critical. And you know, a given phase of inner work can only take us so far at a certain point. We, the given exploration that we’re on and we need to toggle back to the other side. So if you’ve been internal, you need to toggle external or vice versa.
Andrew Skotzko 00:09:02 And so if you’re coming from internal to external, we need to ask, okay, in what ways is the world already asking for help with this aspiration I’ve connected to internally. So to give you a concrete example, I’m coming out of a deep internal phase and I’m now shifting externally. Again, the main thing I reconnected with in this phase was my creative nature and my aspiration to help myself and others better express ourselves and to thrive in doing so. Now I’m getting to explore a bunch of pathways for where does that match up with what the world needs, uh, for anybody who’s listening very closely, you’ll recognize this is closely related to the Japanese model or concept of eeky guy, which is worth checking out if you’re aren’t familiar already. And I’ll link to this all in the show notes. And the reason is because what we’re ultimately trying to do in any creative life is to thrive in our self-expression and to do that, we need both sides.
Andrew Skotzko 00:09:50 We need to be developing and expressing something that is authentic to ourselves and ultimately for it to thrive, it does need to be accepted and find traction in the world. Somehow, that’s true. If you’re making software, if you’re painting, if you’re writing for doing real estate, it doesn’t matter traction. However, it’s measured by revenue, profit, eyeballs engagement, something else is a feedback loop. It’s just a measure of how an idea is currently landing in the world. And I emphasize the word currently because obviously lots of things you can change. Now, what does that lead to last? But certainly not least one of the big dilemmas of creative life, at least in my experience is internal versus external validation. So as I said, I’ve just come through a pretty intense eight or nine month phase of personal growth and evolution. I feel like I’m in this state where I’m getting this chance now to build a whole new relationship with myself as a creative person, taking all the lessons of my past, creating a whole new relationship on top of all that.
Andrew Skotzko 00:10:44 So while I’ll use the I language here, I really think this extends pretty broadly because I believe we’re all creators in every way deals with this. So one of the classic dilemmas of doing creative work is the battle between internal and external validation. Uh, what I’ve learned is that we’re, you know, frankly, we’re social animals, so it’s pretty unlikely. I will just stop caring about what people think, right? To some extent I will always care what people think about me or about what I do. And frankly, that’s probably a good thing. I think if, I think, I think the word is, uh, I’d be a psychopath. If I didn’t care about that, I might have other bigger problems. So, you know, to put a little bit, a little bit of color on this, here’s kind of an odd example. So I did this a really intense breathwork session the other day.
Andrew Skotzko 00:11:26 And in that session I had set out to explore how do I get in my own way as a creative person and how can I show up differently and hold space for myself as I’m building out this new relationship with myself and the session was superintendent, it was well over an hour and after the intensity sort of subsided and it was integrating, I just heard this voice, frankly in my mind just said, create, just to create work just to work, give, just to give now that’s kind of a privileged thing to say that I can even, you know, think about it that way. And I want to acknowledge that. But the key point here is to let go of the outcome now letting go of the outcome. That’s a trite statement, but it is true. And the thing is it’s really hard to do. It’s so hard to totally let go of the outcome because we are wired that way.
Andrew Skotzko 00:12:09 We are wired to care how people respond to us and to what we contribute. Um, but what I’m learning is that the key here isn’t to say, okay, I’m never going to care about what people think I’m only going to prioritize my own thoughts. It’s it’s not either, or it’s just changing the ranking of them. What I’m realizing is that what we have to do, what I have to do is to prioritize how I feel about the thing above how others feel about it. Of course I will care what they think they will have opinions. That’s fine, but what’s more important as a creator is your own is my own opinion of whatever I’ve created. Uh, and maybe the opinion also have a shortlist of trusted peers or advisors who really get the work, who get the efforts involved, um, who aren’t just, you know, random people on the internet.
Andrew Skotzko 00:12:53 We really brought this home for me. It was realizing that I could create and ship something. And if I put how others feel, think about it ahead of what I feel about it, then I’m just always going to be chasing external validation. It’s like a never-ending craving. And in that mode, I can get all kinds of praise and, you know, for accomplishments and sadly in the end it just feels hollow. And the reason it feels hollow is because it’s not connected to anything internally. So if you think about that, that praise or that feedback, that validation coming in for the world, it’s, it’s almost like energy coming into you externally. But if it’s not, if there’s nothing inside already there, there’s nothing for that energy to amplify. It just passes through you and it may be, you know, it feels good for a second for sure.
Andrew Skotzko 00:13:35 But you know, very quickly you’re going well, all right, what’s next. But when we put our own opinion first, when we really are prioritizing that, that impulse, that got us to do the thing in the first place and holding onto that and trying to honor our, our, that core impulse above all, then there is a foothold inside of us. There’s a place for that positive, external feedback to come in and actually amplify that we’re going to feel really good about rather than just, you know, passing through with nothing to stick onto another really succinct, pithy way to put this, uh, shared with me by Derek mills. Who’s the founder of glow and also a guest in the wonderful conversation. In episode 14, he reminded me of this when he quoted, I think from the Bhagavad Gita in our conversation, he said, remember, we’re entitled to our actions, not the fruit of our actions.
Andrew Skotzko 00:14:20 And when I think about that statement, it’s that’s, I think it’s exactly what it’s talking about is that do the work cause you want to do the work create cause you want to create and let the chips fall where they may. All right. I think it’s enough philosophizing for one episode, as I said, I’d love to hear what resonated with you about this. What did, what did not make sense? What you disagree with? Please send me feedback on Twitter at @askotzko or via email at connect at make things that matter dot com. Have fun out there my friends, and leave them better than you found them. We’ll see you next time.