Laura Gassner Otting (@heylgo) is a motivational keynote speaker and the author of Limitless: How to Ignore Everybody, Carve your Own Path, and Live Your Best Life.

What We Discuss with Laura Gassner Otting:

  • Everyone has a scorecard that defines success, and it’s totally limiting you — even if you don’t realize you have one.
  • Why, when you don’t define success in your own terms, finding your purpose and carving your own path becomes impossible.
  • How you can learn to ignore the rules that created your limits.
  • What you can do to align your energies with your actions.
  • How to do work that actually satisfies and fulfills you, regardless of the unsolicited opinions of others.
  • And much more…

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Limitless: How to Ignore Everybody, Carve your Own Path, and Live Your Best Life by Laura Gassner OttingHave you ever noticed how you sometimes make yourself miserable because of the way you define success and chase happiness instead of fulfillment? Being stuck in this rut can be especially disconcerting if you look hard enough and notice that these definitions of success and happiness were probably instilled in you by others who may have had the best of intentions — like parents, teachers, bosses, friends, spouses, and mentors. Unfortunately, this came with the unintended consequence of burdening you with expectations beyond your interest or capacity.

But as our guest today, Limitless: How to Ignore Everybody, Carve your Own Path, and Live Your Best Life author Laura Gassner Otting points out, you can’t be insatiably hungry, or deeply inspired, or happily fulfilled by someone else’s goals. The scorecard you carry with you that defines success and happiness was scrawled in someone else’s handwriting; in this episode, you’re going to learn how to discard it in order to find and follow a more personally driven (and no-BS) path to fulfillment. Listen, learn, and enjoy!

Be sure to take Laura’s free online Limitless Life Assessment Quiz here if you want help finding your consonance and becoming limitless!

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Transcript for Laura Gassner Otting | Living Your Limitless Life (Episode 323)

Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:02] Welcome to the show. I’m Jordan Harbinger. As always, I’m here with producer Jason DeFillippo. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world’s most brilliant and interesting people, and turn their wisdom into practical advice that you can use to impact your own life and those around you. We want to help you see the Matrix when it comes to how these amazing people think and behave. We want you to become a better thinker. If you’re new to the show, we’ve got episodes with spies and CEOs, athletes and authors, thinkers and performers, as well as toolboxes for skills like negotiation, public speaking, body language, persuasion, and more. So if you’re smart and you like to learn and improve, you’ll be right at home here with us.

[00:00:42] In today’s conversation, Laura Gassner Otting, she caught my attention because of her no-BS way of communicating and backing up her ideas and skills with real practical strategies you can use in order to carve your own path, whether that means a pivot in your career and your job or something new entirely. We’ll discuss why we sometimes make ourselves miserable because of the way we define success and chase happiness instead of fulfillment and what we can do instead. This is a really useful episode, especially if you’re wondering if what you’re doing with your life right now is really going to be something that fills you up at the end of the day or if you’re just chasing the success dragons, so to speak.

[00:01:19] If you want to know how I managed to book all these great people and manage my relationships using systems and tiny habits, check out our Six-Minute Networking course, which is free over at By the way, most of the guests on the show that you’ll hear, they actually subscribe to the course and the newsletter. So come join us and you’ll be in great company. All right, here we go with Laura Gassner Otting.

[00:01:44] So I normally don’t ever start a show this way, but I happened to — yeah, never a good sign, by the way, how I said that. You said your audience is primarily made up of millennials and Gen Xers who want to improve their lives. True. They are educated, they are affluent, and they have choices. True. But why does somebody who’s educated, affluent, and able to pivot listen to a show that engages on topics about improving their lives? And you say, “Because, with all their success, they aren’t actually deeply happy.” And I’m like, well, I’m not sure I agree about that because — so people who are happy, then conversely go, “I don’t need to improve myself because I’m deeply happy, so I’m never going to work on myself.”

Laura Gassner Otting: Yeah. I think a lot of people think that they’re really happy and they don’t want to do anything and they’re fine.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:26] There’s that.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:02:27] The thing is, happiness is a temporary state.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:30] Oh, I agree with that.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:02:31] I can be happy if you give me a chocolate cake right now. The woman who walked in with Girl Scout cookies, that looked pretty good. I’d be pretty happy —

Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:37] We could probably — I think we could take her.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:02:37] We could take her, the two of us definitely, for sure. But I think that you can be happy in a temporary state and then we hit these milestones, right? Maybe it’s an age that has a zero at the end of it. For me, it’s the fours and the nines. We have those like, “Oh God, I have another year and then it’s going to be a big five or a big zero. Am I in the right place? Am I doing the right thing? Am I married to the right person? Am I living in the right house? Do I have the right job?” And those are those moments of self-assessment when you’re like, “Yeah, this is what I was supposed to be doing. I did all the right stuff. I went to the right schools. I got the right job. I got the right title and I created the life that on paper looks really good. It’s supposed to make me happy.” It’s like a look-good goal. One of the goals you put on the wall, on your vision board.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:16] Is it weird that I don’t have those thoughts? Like, I’m like, “Oh, 40. People will finally take me seriously,” which by the way —

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:03:21] Well, you look 12. I think that’s awesome.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:22] Yeah, that’s part of the problem. Yeah, when I was 30, I was like, “Ah, no one’s going to be like, ‘You’re not old enough to be a business owner.'” Now, of course, all of these supposed entrepreneurs are like us, literally 11 or 19 or 22, so now I’m the old guy, which is good, but it hasn’t really worked for like, people taking me seriously.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:03:41] I think that’s why you keep your hair short on the sides, because I think it’s really just gray.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:43] It’s edgy. Oh, yeah. No, it’s also gray. It is gray.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:03:47] I’ve exposed you.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:48] Yeah, I don’t care. I’m exposed. Literally, I went to — God, I shouldn’t say — I went to get an emergency haircut yesterday because my sides were really growing out and I was like, “Damn, I look old.”

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:03:57] Yeah, I think I’m old. I’d like to think you have got the haircut for me. You wanted to like, up your game —

Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:04] I barely remembered I even had this until about 10 minutes before you showed up.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:04:07] Well, I was late. So, you know, I got five minutes on you there. But, here’s the thing, I think that when we spend our lives pursuing success as identified by everybody else, we get to a place where we’re like, “On paper, it looks perfect.” And then we’re like, “I don’t know. Why am I not happy? Why am I reading all these self-help books? Why do I go on Instagram? Why do I look at memes of girls in flower crowns staring out into the sunset?” Because there’s something that’s not there, and that’s what we have, this middle-age crisis or a quarter-age crisis, or we have, you know, boomers who aren’t letting go of leadership because they’re so afraid of what’s over the other side of the cliff that they’re afraid to do it.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:38] Yeah, over the hill, if you will.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:04:40] Yeah, over the hill! So I don’t know. You don’t have those ideas, you don’t have those thoughts, that’s great. It’s probably because you have, at every turn in your career, made specific decisions about things you wanted to do. I mean, you’re a podcaster. You spend your days interviewing people about subjects you find interesting.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:55] True.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:04:55] So you’ve always pursued curiosity. You’ve always pursued interest. You’ve never shied away from “Here’s a subject I don’t know; here’s a topic I don’t know.” So that, in general, that’s going to lead you into places where you’re constantly growing and changing and learning. It’s when people aren’t and they’re just pursuing the title or, you know, the title of the job or the title of the car, or the title of the house, whatever that title may be. They’re not stretching themselves and not asking, “Is this something that’s really interesting to me, or is it just something that someone else told me to pursue?”

Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:23] Sure.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:05:24] You can’t be insatiably hungry for someone else’s goals. And I think a lot of people are in a place where they’ve been handed somebody else’s goals early on. You’ve spent your career pursuing your own, finding interesting things. So, it’s not surprising to me that you don’t have those thoughts.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:39] Well, that’s good. I was wondering about that because I mean I did end up a lawyer because one aunt who’s like a gym teacher was like, “You should be a lawyer because you argue a lot,” which like isn’t real advice from somebody who you should be taking advice from.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:05:50] I had a fourth-grade teacher who told me I was very argumentative and that I’d be a good lawyer. So I went to law school also, except I dropped out.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:57] Well, you’re ahead of the curve.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:05:58] Or maybe I just got worse grades in my first year.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:00] That’s also very possible. That does weed out a lot.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:06:04] Well, I smoked a lot of weed! That may have been what led me out of the first year of law school. But then I joined the Clinton administration, so you know, that worked out well.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:10] So yeah. And then all your weed was free.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:06:12] We all inhaled it. It was great.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:14] Well, your book centers around many questions, but one that I noticed was what if success and happiness were like two different things. What if success didn’t equal happiness? Am I saying this right?

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:06:24] Yeah.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:25] So what do you mean by that then for the listening audience, what does that mean?

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:06:29] It means that you are going to spend your life trying to be successful. We all want to be successful. But where do we get the idea of what success is? You had an aunt who said, “You’re argumentative; you should be a lawyer.” I had a teacher who said, “You’re argumentative; you should be a lawyer.” When I dropped out of law school and I joined the Clinton campaign, I ended up in the White House. And when I was there, I met and began to date the man of my mother’s dreams, right? Success. Marry the nice, Jewish medical student, and you know, nice guy, good family, good teeth, all the rest, except there was no chemistry at all. Every time I kissed him, it’d be like, “I’ve got to pick up the laundry. I’ve got to get the dry cleaning.” Like he was success on paper, but he wasn’t making me happy.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:08] Do you think he’s read the book, and he’s like, “God, I’m getting wrecked?” Because you bring up that example. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen that example.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:07:14] No, but it’s a good example. We’ve all been there, right? Where you’ve got, “I’m gonna fix you up with so-and-so,” and it’s like for the life of you, it’s just not that exciting. You just can’t get with it. I wish I knew his last name. I really do. I wish I could find him. I don’t know what his last name was. I wonder whatever happened to him. He probably made somebody else very happy, but he wasn’t going to make me happy. I think there are probably a lot of your listeners who are sitting in the corner office, who are driving the fancy car, and who are like, “Okay, this is what I was supposed to be doing.” Right? “This is success.” And I realized that I’m not really cut out to be a lawyer. I wasn’t cut out to work for somebody else. I’m a serial entrepreneur. I like being in control of my destiny, even if it’s scary as can be and I have no idea if it’s going to work out or not. I’d like to know that I’m placing a bet on myself. If I’m going to work my ass off, it’s going to be for my own interests and my own dreams and my own goals. I’m going to be the one who defines what quality is in the work that I do, not somebody else. And so I think this idea that there is success is based on this idea that somebody else is defining it for us and we just can’t pursue that and expect that’s going to be fulfilling to us individually because we’re all individual.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:19] So if we are doing work and we feel stuck, even though on paper we look like we should be crushing it, you think that in all likelihood that’s a problem of how we’ve defined success — or maybe we haven’t bothered to define it. We just let other people define it for us.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:08:32] It’s precisely that. I think that we let other people define it. There is a moment when you’re like 15, 16, 17 years old where somebody says, “Pick a path, pick a major, pick a college, pick a job, pick a trade, pick something.” And you’re like, “Yeah, okay, awesome.” And then you go and you do it, and then about six years later, you develop a frontal lobe.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:51] Totally.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:08:51] You know, like the actual part of your brain that helps you make good decisions. So how are we supposed to make these decisions that are going to affect the rest of our lives before we literally have the capacity to make good ones?

Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:01] Seriously, like, I should’ve gone to college when I was 30, not when I was 19.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:09:04] Absolutely, absolutely. So you’re picking a major based on what? Based on what your parents tell you should do, based on what your aunt tells you should do, based on what some random teacher tells you you should do. We’re not even fully developed yet. So you don’t know what you’re good at. You don’t know what you’d love. So that’s the first thing is that we don’t define it for ourselves. And then the second thing is, even if we do do it, we don’t give ourselves the grace to look back and say, “Maybe I want to do something else — maybe I’m a different person,” or “Maybe I’m in a different season of my life right now.”

Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:31] Yeah. We get sunk cost, right? Like, “I can’t just do that now. I went to law school. What are you talking about? It can’t just be like quit everything and start a business. I didn’t need to go to law school for that. I didn’t even need college for that.” And I went through that thought process and then it was like, “Yeah, but what am I going to do about that? Just keep working in the legal field or just start now. I can’t go back in time.” But I think a lot of people go, “I’m not wasting this education.”

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:09:52] Right. So you’re going to say like, “Okay, I’m not going to waste these three years of my life” — at the cost of the next 60? That’s insane!

Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:59] “I’m not going to have these go to waste. I’m going to double, triple down — ”

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:10:02] On misery.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:03] Right, on misery. “I hate this. I’m going to keep doing it.”

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:10:06] Exactly.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:07] “Show them who’s the boss.”

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:10:08] Exactly. And that’s so fucked up. Why would you do that? We all have this one, big, juicy life on this planet and there are so many interesting careers. I wish I knew when I went to college, how many different kinds of careers are there. Growing up, it was like, you can be a doctor, a nurse, a teacher, an accountant. Like there were very specific jobs and those were the jobs, and everything else, it was like, “Or you’re a failure.”

Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:31] You just totally flagged where you grew up, “Oh, accountant? Lawyer?” I’m like, “Wait, I didn’t know any accountants.” There was a doctor, a policeman, a fireman. Army, I think was one of them. Yeah, but I talk about this, I do this exact same example, because when you’re in kindergarten, those are the jobs that you know exist. And then like later on, you find out what your parents do and you kind of understand like, “Oh my daddy makes sure that the cars that Ford builds are good quality.” And then when you’re in college, you’re like, “Huh, I still have the exact same spread of jobs in front of me except for, I think I know what my friends’ parents do and my parents and like a few of my uncles,” but you have no idea about actual jobs.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:11:07] Yeah. I mean, if somebody had told me when I was in fourth grade loving to draw that you could be an animator? Okay. Who knows? That’s a job. I did not know that these were jobs that existed. And I think that our parents do the best they can based on what they know, and then we do the best based on what we know, and on and on. But my parents grew up in one-bedroom apartments in Brooklyn, and my father shared a pull-out sofa with his brother until the day he left and married my mom. They went to Brooklyn College and they thought like, they had made it.

[00:11:38] So when I was going to college, it was either you get into Harvard — which I was not going to get into — or it was like, go to University of Go, State! Whatever. I went to the University of Texas. I didn’t know that small liberal arts colleges existed. I didn’t know that science and technology schools existed. I didn’t know that there were other things because they did the best they could based on what they knew, and I think that’s what happens. So when we let other people define success, it’s going to be a smaller version of what we want it to be.

[00:12:04] In the same way that, you know, when you were leaving law and you told people that, they looked at you like, “What, are you crazy?” And the look that they gave you wasn’t, “Oh, my God, Jordan, you can’t do it.” It was, “Oh, my God, I don’t know if I can do this.”

Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:18] Yeah, of course.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:12:18] Right? So we have this like, smaller version, smaller definition of success that we start with, and then it gets shrunk even more by everyone else’s anxieties and their fears. And nobody knows what we’re capable of because we never really push ourselves to be in an uncomfortable place, on the edge of our incompetence, and just figure it out. Like, “What if things go wrong and how do I figure it out from there?” And that’s when you find all the good juicy stuff, right? It is in that failure moment. Like, “Oh my God, I’m afraid!” and “Will it work out?” and “I’ve got to dig in deep and make it happen.” That’s when you figure out what you really love to do because in that moment — that do-or-die moment — you focus on what you really want.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:53] Yeah. It’s really hard for people, I think, to wrap their minds around this when you’re in the middle of something that should be successful because it’s like, “Oh yeah, I totally understand what they’re saying, except I can’t do that because I mean, I have three kids or whatever. I’m in this law job. I’m doing pretty well. It’s not the worst. You know, I get two weeks off a year. I mean, I can’t really normally take two whole weeks, but you know, it’s fine.” And you hear that kind of thing a lot. Mark Manson and I were talking about how people chasing happiness are some of the most miserable people around. To your point that I think you’ve made before we started recording the show — because happiness is fleeting, because it’s also subjective, you can’t really use it as a metric. It’s completely worthless because it is fluctuating. It’s like the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. If you look at it, it’s moved.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:13:38] Absolutely.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:39] And happiness is the same way. Like it’s fleeting, it’s subjective. You can’t be sure if you have it right now because if you’re busy thinking about that, then you’re not happy at that time. And then you think, “Well, in the past, I’ve been happy, right? Well, was I? It must be. Wait, is that cognitive bias? I’m not really sure.” And then you’re not sure if you’re ever going to find it again in the future. So you’re like, “Well, I’m not going to gamble with that and leave my career. I’m just going to stay here because I believe that in the past I have had some happy moments maybe.”

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:14:04] Yeah. Well, and it’s also an asymptotic curve. So the closer you get to it, you only can get closer and closer and closer, but you never quite reach it because we have this — you know the whole self-help industry that we talked about before we started. The “I’ll be happy when” — “I’ll be happy when I get the job.” “I’ll be happy when I get the promotion.” “I’ll be happy when I get married.” “I’ll be happy when I have a kid.” “I’ll be happy when I get divorced.” Like, I’ll be happy when, and it’s all this giant happiness industrial complex that’s there to teach us that we can’t be happy now. Like it’s always got to be something that’s just yet beyond our reach.

[00:14:34] The thing is, we can be. We just have to define it for ourselves. I was talking to a client of mine and he was saying, “Well, you know, I don’t drive. I don’t have a driver’s license. I like to walk everywhere. Life is great. My neighbor just got this beautiful brand new car and I thought to myself, ‘Should I get a car? Maybe I should get a car. That’s a really nice car.'” And I was like, “Well, do you want a car?” He said, “No.” And I’m like, “Well, then forget about the car.” But we have this thing where like — God forbid — where we say, “You know what? I am happy. This is good. I like what I’m doing. I’m enjoying it. I’m going to spend a little time in this space and let things percolate and grow.”

[00:15:09] I think the Heisenberg principle is a great way to think about it because we have this notion that we shouldn’t be happy, so God forbid we are. And then if we are, well, maybe we’re settling or it should be something that’s just further.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:20] That’s a good point. I haven’t thought about that.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:15:22] Yeah, I think we can be happy now. It’s okay.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:26] So we are taking input from people — votes from people in our lives that shouldn’t have votes. That’s kind of the way you phrase it.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:15:32] Yeah, we shouldn’t take votes — we should stop taking votes from people in our lives who shouldn’t even have voices.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:37] Yes. So that’s really important to note, and I don’t want to gloss over it because it’s really easy to put that like on an Instagram meme and then send it off into the Internet. But it’s true because we don’t just do that when somebody says you should be a lawyer because you argue a lot. We do it in more subtle ways like it’s more insidious than that. That’s the obvious example, but there are other examples that are less right on the nose where we see like our brother or friends doing something. “Well, they’re working in finance. Look, he just bought a boat,” and it’s like, “Oh, okay, that’s the rat race. I’m not going to do that.” Maybe that’s the adult version of “You should be a lawyer” because it’s really, really clear. But there are other things where people would say, “You’re being irresponsible if you work from home and start your own company right now because you’re going to make partner in five years.” Or, “Why would you leave the hospital job and go into private practice in a clinic, in a poor area? Like, what is wrong with you?” And then you start second-guessing yourself and no one’s saying this to you. You’re saying it to yourself, but it’s based on a program that’s been installed in your software —

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:16:38] Your hard drive. Yeah.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:39] — for a long time.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:16:40] Yeah. You know, when my kids were in second grade, my oldest was in second grade. One of the parents got divorced and another parent got divorced and then another parent got divorced. And I remember saying to my husband, it’s like divorce contagion. Because in the beginning it was like the first person who got divorced was like, “Woohoo, I’m free!” And all of a sudden the unhappy parents were like, “Oh, that looks pretty good.”

Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:00] “Their life didn’t disintegrate.”

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:17:01] “Their life didn’t disintegrate.” Because we see the highlight reel. So we’re busy seeing the highlight reel. We’re like, “This decision is making them happy. Maybe the decisions I’ve made have made me unhappy.”

Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:12] Yeah, like, “Their kid’s not shoplifting. We can do it and Tom won’t shoplift.”

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:17:15] “And everything will be fine. No problem!” Like nobody shows you the crystal ball from 10 years ago when Tom’s on crystal meth but right now —

Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:22] Divorce causes crystal meth. That’s what you should take away.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:17:25] That is the takeaway from this thing! I am a trained expert. Divorce causes crystal meth addiction. But we do have this and it’s everywhere. I mean, it’s in advertising. What size should you wear? What clothes should you wear? It’s in the movies that we watch. It’s in the voices that are elevated on television and on radio, and the ones that aren’t, we see it everywhere and it’s really difficult. So how do you figure out? How do you figure out what’s actually going to make you happy? Should you leave the hospital job? Should you leave the corporate job? And I tell a lot of people that we get it wrong because we think that we have to have a purpose — like big, lofty, higher goal of purpose. Like as if the only jobs that matter are jobs of service, and service only counts if it’s sacrifice. Like if you’re literally not taking the shirt off your back for some kids in Haiti, like your job is just useless and you’re mailing it in. So we see these friends on Instagram and on Facebook with the pictures of them with a bunch of black and brown faces around them as if they’re holier than thou, and the truth is it’s just like fashion tourism.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:20] It is, oh my God. Don’t even get me started on influencers doing that. There’s a whole lot of people that have one or five photos from their trip to Africa. And you see them on their feed once a month because they’re in the rotation. And I’m like, do you even — don’t even get me started.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:18:34] Oh, I did a whole TEDx on this topic.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:36] Did you?

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:18:37] Oh, yeah, like this question of, you know, we see this big, horrible thing that happens in the world and the first thing we say is, “How can I help?” And you’re like, “Oh, how can I help? How can I be the center? How can I be the solution? I’m a nail, so this problem must be a hammer.” And then we send, you know, teddy bears to Newtown, Connecticut, or we send stuffed koalas to Australia right now. Or we send winter coats to Haiti or milk to Japan, or —

Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:59] Yeah, meanwhile, Australia is like, ‘Do you have any idea how flammable these stuffed koalas are?”

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:19:02] Exactly. And, “By the way, in Japan, we don’t drink a lot of dairy.” So, you know, not a lot of milk. And the money that it costs to ship and to store and to distribute and eventually to —

Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:12] To landfill.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:19:13] — to landfill all of these things, to incinerate all these teddy bears. It could be better used for other things. And so my whole TEDx is about this idea that we have to stop asking this question, “How can I help?” And ask the question, which is, “What needs to happen? What needs to happen so that these things don’t happen again?” What needs to happen so that we put out the fires? What needs to happen so that there’s better buildings for earthquakes? What needs to happen so that we don’t have these massive shoot-ups in schools? So you know, the whole thing is this rail against people who are like, “Check, I did it. I built this cathedral to short-term comfort and everything is wonderful now, and I’ve gotten my picture on Instagram to prove it.” It’s crazy-making to me.

Jason DeFillippo: [00:19:51] You’re listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show. We’ll be right back.

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[00:22:52] Thanks for listening and supporting the show and to learn more and get links to all the great discounts you just heard from our amazing sponsors, visit Don’t forget we have a worksheet for today’s episode so you can make sure you solidify your understanding of the key takeaways. That link is in the show notes at If you’d like some tips on how to subscribe to the show, just go to Subscribing to the show is absolutely free. It just means that you get all of the latest episodes downloaded automatically to your podcast player so you don’t miss a single thing. And now back to the show.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:27] You call this the four horsemen of the success apocalypse, these insidious, unreachable ideas.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:23:32] Yes.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:33] I love this because not only are these insidious and unreachable, and often we do it to ourselves by accident, there’s a whole industry of people that are out there doing it to you on purpose. They’re called influencers/self-help influencers or whatever. They’re doing it on purpose because it creates a market for them and it sells this aspirational bullshit.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:23:51] Yeah. And by the way, the worse that they make you feel by uplifting you, the more they make from you.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:57] Sure. Yeah, of course.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:23:58] That is problematic, I think.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:59] I agree.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:24:00] It’s now practice, frankly.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:02] It is. If those people were smart enough to be licensed in anything, they should lose their license —

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:24:05] Absolutely.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:06] — for doing it.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:24:07] Absolutely. I was joking around with you and before we started recording that, that I realized one day that I wrote a self-help book —

Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:13] Yeah, shame on you.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:24:13] — and not a business book. I thought I wrote a business book. I thought I wrote a book about how do you take your career and your work and use it to make your life better, to have a happier life. And then I got called to be on the Today Show in the nine o’clock hour which, you know, the Hoda and Jenna Bush hour, and the producer is like, “Most of the people in this are stay-at-home moms.” And I was like, “Stay-at-home moms? I wrote a business book! What are they going to know? Why do they care?” And we went back and forth with what the topic was going to be about and it’s all about how to ignore other people and how to get unstuck. So I was like, “All right, okay, I guess I’ll do that. It’s the Today Show. Like how can I say no to that? I wrote a serious business book, but how can I say no to the Today Show? I’ll guess I’ll go do that.” And then one after another after another, the market kept coming back to me, quoting back to me some of the lines. And I was like, “Oh shit.” And I called my publisher and I was like, “I think I wrote a self-help book.”

Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:00] You accidentally wrote a self-help book.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:25:02] And he said, “Duh.”

Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:04] Roll with it.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:25:05] So here’s what I’ve learned about the self-help world. There is a lot of really damaging stuff in the self-help world.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:11] Definitely.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:25:11] And it is there to make you feel worse after you’ve read it so that you’ll buy the next product and the next course in the next whatever. But there’s also some good stuff in there. And the good stuff is the one where they bring the help, but they demand that you bring the self. So there’s some where it’s like they give you the help in these Instagram memes and these quotes — and frankly, half of them are plagiarized from other people — and all you have to do is buy the mug that says, “This might not be coffee,” right? Like it might be wine. And then you feel good because you’re like part of the tribe. But the ones that demand that you actually ask yourself hard questions, the ones that demand that you bring the self and you show up — those are the ones that I think are useful. It was a crushing moment when I was like, “Oh, my God. Am I a self-helper?”

Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:52] Yeah. Wow. Well, I don’t want to — I was going to make a joke that involves someone else’s name. Let’s not do that. From what I understand, my liability insurance is good for like one year. It’s good for one big lawsuit.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:26:05] So you’ve already had that one for the year.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:06] No, no. It’s just —

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:26:07] You’re not going —

Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:08] It’s early in the year.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:09] This isn’t worth

Jordan Harbinger: It’s only February. I don’t really want to pull the trigger on that, just yet.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:26:13] It’s got to be worth it. You’ve got to aim big.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:15] That’s right.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:26:15] Be limitless!

Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:17] “Follow your passion” is terrible advice.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:26:20] The worst advice.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:21] Okay. I just want to make sure we agree on that because a lot of people will be like, “Oh, okay, so follow my dreams. Got it. Bye.”

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:26:27] Oh, God! So I say often on stage when I’m speaking that “Follow your passion” is the spoken word, illegitimate sister of the “Live, love, laugh” tattoo.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:36] Yes, which many people have.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:26:37] And then one of the organizers came up to me after. Then she was like, “I have that tattoo.” I was like, “Oh, ouch.” Here’s my problem with “Follow your passion.”

[00:26:47] “Follow your passion” tells you that all you have to do is find your passion and you’re going to be jolly keen, fine, everything’s going to be roses and rainbows and unicorns singing. And the minute it gets hard, the minute you mess up, the minute you don’t sell the deal or you don’t close the pitch, whatever, the minute things don’t work out, you’re like, “Oh, I guess it must not have been my passion, because I found it and I was following it. So everything should be fine.” And I think that your passion is going to gut you. I think it’s going to tear you apart. I think it’s going to turn you inside out and have its way with you. Your passion is going to destroy you as you try to perfect it. And people say all the time, “Tell me what you would do if you knew you couldn’t fail. That’s your passion.” And I’m like, “That’s horse shit. Like, tell me what you would do if you knew for sure you would fail, and yet you would do it over and over and over until you got it right, because doesn’t your passion deserve that?”

Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:37] Yeah. That’s a good point. It’s kind of a useless exercise. “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” There’s a lot of things that I’m really not that — I mean that are, yeah.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:27:45] I would sit in a room and do nothing, like I knew I wouldn’t fail. That’s not my passion. Right? So I tell people that “Follow your passion” is terrible. I want you to invest in your passion. Like figure out what it’s going to take to get better at things. Be willing to fail — be willing to fail all the time. Because like I said, it’s in that space that you’re like, “Oh, I actually do like this,” or, “No, that’s actually not worth it. I don’t want to be uncomfortable. It’s not worth it to me to do that.” I think that’s one of those times when you realize — like for me in law school, it wasn’t worth it for me to be uncomfortable. What I saw at the end of the tunnel was not interesting enough for me to struggle in that way. So I stopped. It clearly wasn’t my passion and I didn’t want to invest in it, so it was pretty obvious that it wasn’t going to work out.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:28:26] Happiness is all too often a stand in for fulfillment. Can you talk about that? I think we kind of touched on that in the beginning of the show, but I’d like to hit it one more time because it leads nicely into the next little bit here.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:28:35] Yeah. So look, I talked to a lot of companies who are like, “Oh, our employees are super happy. We’ve got ping pong Fridays and kombucha on tap and you can bring your dog to work on Wednesdays.” And I’m like, “Great. They’re happy, but they’re not engaged. They don’t really care.” And happiness is — it’s this short thing. Like you can be happy in a moment, but you don’t have a deep sense of fulfillment. It doesn’t give you the thing that you really need to show up. I spent 20 years doing executive search.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:01] What is that? Like recruiting?

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:29:02] It’s recruiting. So there’s two different kinds of recruiting. There’s the kind of search where an organization brings you in and they ask you to find a new CEO and it takes three to four to five months to like go and comb the universe to find the best in class to do that. And then there are staffing recruiting firms where they’re finding 50 people to work in a call center or something. And I did the retained executive recruiting. And I never really looked for subject matter expertise. I mean, I was the CEO of the company, so by the time people got to me, they were qualified, but I looked for hunger, weight, tenacity, speed, and grit. Like for five personality traits. And I did that because I understood that somebody who was actually fulfilled in their work, who actually cared about what they were doing, who wanted to invest in their passion and was willing to fight for it, were the people who had demonstrated those traits.

[00:29:47] And with hunger, weight, tenacity, speed, and grit, you can figure out anything. You can read a book, you can watch a TED Talk, you could figure out how to do anything. Obviously, brain surgery or mechanics take longer to learn, but the people who are simply satisfied with looking for the fleeting ephemeral happiness, like the dopamine hit, don’t do the hard yards to try to get really good at the passion.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:09] That makes sense. I feel like that it’s true in every industry and definitely not just true at the executive level. It’s probably just a human —

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:30:16] It’s a human thing. Yeah. I don’t know if it takes 10,000 hours.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:19] I’m pretty sure that’s like a made-up thing. Work-life balance, let’s speak to that a little bit because I think that — well, first of all, people always trip when I tell them I don’t believe in it. They give me this look of pity when I say that because they think that I’m just like slaving away, which maybe I am. I don’t take much time off, but most of my days don’t really feel much like work in the first place. So I feel like I don’t need a lot of it. And then whenever I do get time off, I’m always like, “Ooh, let me read my backlog of books. Oh, I should interview this person. Let me download that.” I’m always doing that. I get bored when I’m just sitting around, and some of that’s just like me being neurotic, but the other part of it is me really enjoying what I’m doing.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:30:58] Yeah, you’re one of the lucky few.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:00] Yeah, I think so. But I think a lot of people are worried that they don’t have work-life balance, or they either feel guilty that they don’t, or they’re trying to find it in this weird way. Or if they’re running a company and they’re like, “Ooh, we need like mandatory time off like one day a month.” There’s like, “You can’t come in for this.” Like, “Oh, you have to be away from your email after 5:00 p.m.” You saw that study where like some French companies or something are like, “You can’t email your employees after work or whatever.” That’s like, “How much do people hate working there? How much do people hate their coworkers?” Where it’s like, “Hey, I got your email at six.” Come on!

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:31:36] I feel like work-life balance is this idea that is kind of outdated. It’s this idea that you are a different person at work than you are at home, and that was all well and good like in the ‘50s, in ‘60s, in the ‘70s and even into the ‘80s where you went to your job and you got in your car or the bus or whatever, subway, you went home and then you could be whoever. That doesn’t exist now. Like it would be very hard to find somebody who was listening to this podcast who is not on social media, and it would be very hard to find somebody who’s listening to this podcast on social media who is not friends on social media with some coworker or some colleague or something, somehow. That wall between the two just doesn’t exist anymore. It’s very difficult. And so you can’t post about being in a cigar club if you’re an oncologist. You can’t post about making candy as a hobby if you’re a dentist. You have to live a life where you don’t have work-life balance, but you have work-life alignment where the “What you do and who you are” are actually matched.

[00:32:36] So then it doesn’t feel like you’re in two different camps. We have this cult of busyness and we’re all such martyrs. “We’re so busy, we’re so busy. I need more work-life balance.” And I don’t think the busy comes from doing too much. I think the busy comes from the costume changes in-between the doing too much.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:51] Interesting.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:32:52] If you’re trying to be a different person in one place, and a different person in the other, that’s exhausting. That’s completely exhausting. You know, even in the work that I do — do I have work-life balance? I don’t know. I don’t really have a line between work and life like it is my life. Some of the things I do, I get paid for. Some things I do, I don’t get paid for. And the more of the stuff that I do that I like that I can get paid for, the better. But I don’t have like, I’m at work, clock in, I’m out of work, clock out, and then never think about work. There certainly have been days where I fantasize about like, I’d like to just go flip burgers and not think about it again. But those are very few and far between and I don’t think anyone’s ever going to have work that’s like, “This is glorious and I love every minute of it.” But the more of the times that we like, the more the times that we can be our very best version of ourselves, then I don’t know that to me, I’d rather have just more alignment than balance.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:33:39] What about this whole leaning in thing? You wrote about this in the book too.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:33:42] So now I’m going to get sued!

Jordan Harbinger: [00:33:43] Now I’m going to get you sued! But there are a lot of books, influencers, people, wisdom, whatever speeches that are like hustle, grind, get to the top, scramble —

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:33:52] That’s nonsense.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:33:53] All those stuff. It’s nonsense?

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:33:55] It’s nonsense.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:33:56] Why?

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:33:58] So all of these things — and look, I’ve read Lean In and I really wanted to love it. Like I knew I was supposed to love it. I’m part of the army of women, like I have a uterus, like we should love Lean In.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:34:09]You’re disempowering other women by not loving that book.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:34:11] Yeah, I don’t love that book. And here’s the thing about it. Like I was not upset with Sheryl Sandberg about her achievement of success and how she achieved success. Frankly, I did the same thing. I used every ounce of privilege that I had to get to where I got to, and I was successful — youngest vice president, corner office, the whole nine yards.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:34:29] Humblebrag, continue.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:34:30] Well, except I was ridiculously miserable. So like I got there and I was like, “All right, well, I got to the top. But the top of what?” Like I killed myself to get there. And I used everything I possibly could, just like she did. So like, I’m not upset with her about that. I mean, I had a lot fewer zeros behind my name doing it, but I did the same thing and then I got there and I was like, “All right, fine. I got to the top — but the top of what?” And what I realized was that the definition in Lean In is this is one myopic, unflinching definition of success, that the fastest, the most expedient path to the corner office is the only one that matters, and if you’re not on that path, and if you’re not pushing everyone else over to get to where you want to get to, then you’re a failure. And all of this, “You’ve got to hustle harder, and you’ve got to rise and grind, baby!” And all that stuff, it’s such nonsense because it says that success is defined by like, having the Maserati and the G6 and all that stuff.

[00:35:22] Frankly, all these influencers are standing in front of the ones that they are renting anyway, or maybe they’re not even renting them and they just found a Maserati in the street.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:35:29] My friend who owns this network is probably one of the wealthiest guys in L.A., and he has all these model planes of all the planes he’s owned, and I was joking and I said, “Which one can we take today?” And he goes, “Are you kidding? I sold it! It was the worst investment, ever. Who buys a plane?” He was a little more colorful in his language, but he was like, “It’s so stupid to have this.”

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:35:46] So all these brilliant entrepreneurs that are so wise about money are owning planes? It’s the stupid thing. So my issue with Lean In, it wasn’t how she achieved success. It was how she defined success. Because there was a point where I realized that that wasn’t success for me. That wasn’t how I define it. And frankly, there are so many audiences that I speak in front of where the women and some of the men, but especially the women come up to me in the book-signing line afterwards and they’re like, “Thank you. I hated it, too. But nobody will admit it.”

Jordan Harbinger: [00:36:13] Because it seems especially — look, is it different for women? Because I feel like women have more constraints on what they’re allowed to say about this kind of thing. Because I think if you say something like, “Hey, you know, this is kind of a bunch of bullshit that we’ve been fed.” People are like, “Oh, you’re taking us back to — what, should we just all be domestic now?” And like they put words in your mouth, but it still seems like you can’t really do that. Whereas if I tell guys to go ahead and like, find out their own path, people are like, “Thank you for giving me the permission to do it.”

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:36:40] Oh, yeah. It’s ridiculous. And I will tell you that Limitless, the first line of it started, “I hated Lean In.” It was like the very beginning of it and my publisher called me and said, “Oh, you can’t do that.” Well, first of all, it’s not an anti-Lean In book. There’s so much else in the book, and that’s one segment. And he goes, “So it’s not an anti-Lean In book, so we don’t want to position it that way.” And he goes, “And also, it’s kind of cruel since she lost her husband and on and on.” And this is like before the anti-Facebook backlash of the last year. So at that point, I was like, “Okay, I guess you’re right.” Yeah, it was going to be like this horrible thing. So we took it out of the very beginning and we moved it. And then when all that came out, I was like, “See?”

Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:17] Yeah. “See, I would have been a pioneer in hitting on Facebook.”

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:37:20] But for sure, I mean women like, God forbid, we say anything negative about another woman. And I’m not saying anything negative about her. I respect her. She’s worked so hard to get where she is. What I’m saying is that her definition is not the definition for everybody and the happiness industrial complex that I talked about, the hustler, industrial complex, all it tells you is that there is one definition and that definition is it. I’m like, thinking about Gary Vee. Thinking about all the people out there who are trying to be just like Gary Vee. Nobody is going to be like him. He’s Gary Vee, right? But as a woman, you want to talk about whether or not there are things that I can say and I can’t say. I can’t get on stage and curse a blue streak. People are like, “Oh, that’s fair. That’s uncouth.” When I was on the Today Show, I didn’t curse, obviously, and I was very gentle. It was the nine o’clock hour, so I was wearing muted colors and sleeves and my makeup was quiet and I was very like, I was talking to my —

Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:10] Stuff I would never think about at all.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:38:11] — talking to my in-laws. It was like that kind of conversation like this. Men would never think about it. So I did that and then lots of people signed up for my newsletter from there. And then I got emails from people. They were like, “You were such a nice, gentle young woman on the Today Show. What happened to her? I got your, your email and the language. It was like I was affronted by your language!” I h-e-double, what is it?

Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:34] Hockey sticks.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:38:35] H-e-double hockey sticks was the word I used! That was offensive! And I was like, “Oh, lady, just wait until you get the second interview.”

Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:41] Yeah, you might want to unsubscribe.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:38:42] You might want to unsubscribe right now. But I do think men and women are able to say different things in public, period. And then about other women, about other men, absolutely. So look, I’m not here to tear down anybody. I think everybody can go out there and do whatever it is they want to do and be the best version of themselves. I’m just unsubscribing to that as my only way of measuring success.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:03] Tell me about this consonance concept. First of all, it’s a great word. Nobody uses that word probably because we don’t know what it means.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:39:11] Well, but see, here’s the thing, you do, and everybody does. Once I explain it, they’re like, “Oh,yeah. Oh, that’s right.” We all know dissonance. We’ve all heard that word.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:19] That’s true.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:39:19] Simply the opposite, right? Consonance is alignment. It’s flow. It’s harmony. So Jordan, think about —

Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:26] That sounds very — what did you use? Floral crown?

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:39:29] Yeah, it’s flower crowns, girls in flower crowns.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:31] There are crystal healers everywhere that know exactly what you mean.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:39:34] Absolutely. So here, you’re going to know exactly what I mean by this. Think about a moment when you were at your absolute, very best, when the things that you do really well were called upon to solve the problem at hand, and it was a problem [about which] you cared deeply, and you were rewarded for solving that problem in some way that was either financially, karmically, emotionally interesting to you, meaningful to you. Think about those moments that you’ve had.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:57] Yeah, I’m coming up blank here, but I’m trying to run a show, dang it!

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:40:03] So those moments, the moments when you’re like, “Yeah, I got this!” Right? “I can walk through fire. I know how to do it. I can do it in my sleep. And it’s so fun, and I could spend every day doing this thing right here.” Those are the moments when you’re in consonance — what you do matches who you are.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:17] I mean, we’re doing that right now, right? Isn’t that what I’m doing right now?

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:40:19] This is what you’re doing right now! I was sort of thinking that you were going to say it. Like, “Well, doing the show, interviewing people.”

Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:24] I just thought that was kind of a crap example, but I mean this is my whole thing.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:40:26] This is what you’ve dedicated your career to, so I hope it’s not crappy! So here’s the thing. I want people to stop leaning into this one singular, fastest and most expedient path, corner office, hustle, get the G6, that definition. And I want them to figure out what puts them in consonance, and I want them to lean into that instead.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:43] So how do we do that — the first step to finding this? Can we practicalize it? That’s a word I just made up.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:40:48] Yeah, we can practicalize it! I like that word. We’re going to use that. That’s better. See? Consonance, practicalize — you’ve learned two new words today.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:55] That’s right. One of which is not a real word, probably.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:40:58] I mean, you know, there are lots of new words we’re discovering every day, apparently, putting in the OED. So there are four parts of consonance. There’s calling, connection, contribution, and control. And so how do you get consonance? You figure out what your own personal rubric of these four things will be. So at every age and at every life stage, you’re going to want and need different amounts of these at different points. So should we go through them?

Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:22] Yes, let’s go through those four elements.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:41:24] So calling —

Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:25] I don’t even need to be here. You’re doing great!

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:41:30] Calling is that thing that you love, that you want to do, that gravitational force, like the thing that wakes you up in the morning. The thing that on vacation, you’re like, “I’m going to listen to my backlog. I want to read these books. I want to think about who I want to have on.” It’s clearly for you, this discovery of interesting people doing interesting things. That’s your gravitational force. It takes the form of doing it in a podcast. Right now, you’re working on this book. There are other things that you do. It takes lots of different forms, but your calling is this sort of discovery of ideas and people. That’s your calling. And for some people, their calling is curing cancer. And for some people, their calling is starting their own business. For some people, their calling is being a stay-at-home mom and nurturing their kids. It can be anything. It’s just your calling and this is where I say like, “Don’t give votes to people who shouldn’t have voices in your life.” Like, figure it out for yourself.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:15] Yeah, because that’s like noise, right?

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:42:17] Yeah. I don’t want to purpose-shame anybody. Like if you’re calling us to buy a beach house and a Maserati, like all the more power to you. Awesome. It doesn’t have to be my calling. It just has to be yours. And again, at every age, at every life stage, that’s going to change. And we think that like you have one calling in life, like you only have like this one true soulmate.

Jason DeFillippo: [00:42:36] You’re listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show. We’ll be right back after this.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:39] This episode is also sponsored by Better Help. Believe me, I understand not wanting to find a therapist. It’s time-consuming. It’s tedious. Even if you find someone you like, you’ve got to hope their office is close to where you live. Cross your fingers that they have convenient parking, but with Better Help, those concerns do not exist anymore. Better Help is an online counseling service that will find you a professional therapist and you can communicate with them from literally wherever you are, even while you’re parked on your couch. Better Help has a network of 3000 therapists in 50 states and all over the world who are trained to approach every possible problem. In the way that you have your sessions is all up to you — video chat, phone call, text, live chat. Not only are the licensed professionals on Better Help trained to handle just about anything — self-esteem concerns, relationship problems, grief, depression, and anxiety. It’s almost like a qualified therapist that handles your questions like Feedback Friday, only they’re not talking out of their ass like me. But if you don’t love the therapist you are given, you can easily switch with no additional costs. I always feel like the process of finding a therapist and going to weekly sessions should be easier. It’s 20 freaking 20, so soon we’ll be able to download emotional support from the cloud to our brains, but in the meantime, it’s really cool to see a company like Better Help crack the code on what people need. Of course, the sessions are secure, confidential, convenient, and affordable. Jason.

Jason DeFillippo: [00:43:55] Our listeners get 10 percent off the first month with a discount code JORDAN. Go to Simply fill out a questionnaire to help them find the right counselor for you and get started. That’s

Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:08] This episode is also sponsored by ZipRecruiter. Hiring is challenging, but there’s one place you can go where hiring is simple, fast, and smart. A place where growing businesses connect to qualified candidates. That place is ZipRecruiter sends your job to over a hundred of the web’s leading job sites, but they don’t stop there. They have powerful matching technology, which scans thousands of resumes and finds the people with the right experience and invites them to apply to your job, you can even add screening questions to your job listing so you can filter candidates and focus on the best ones. ZipRecruiter is so effective that four out of five employers who post on ZipRecruiter, get a quality candidate within the first day. Jason.

Jason DeFillippo: [00:44:47] And right now to try ZipRecruiter for free, our listeners can go to That’s, ZipRecruiter, the smartest way to hire.

[00:45:01] Thank you for listening and supporting the show. Your support of our advertisers keeps us on the air. To learn more and get links to all the great discounts you just heard, so you can check out those amazing sponsors, visit And don’t forget the worksheet for today’s episode. That link is in the show notes at If you’re listening to us on the Overcast player, please click that little star next to the episode. We really appreciate it. And now back to the show.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:29] You’re right. It is like the soulmate of jobs.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:45:31]  Absolutely.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:31] Oh, it’s such bull.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:45:32] It’s such bull. I was listening to your show with Mike Rowe and the whole idea, like his career is fascinating, right? And he has had seven different callings, and he keeps changing what he does, and it’s incredible. But he’s being led by this one interest in the discovery of just finding neat people and seeing what they’re up to. That’s pretty cool. So calling is the first piece. The second piece is connection and connection really answers the question: does your work actually matter to that calling? Not does it matter in the world — not, how are you finding world peace? But what if you call into work sick tomorrow? Will anybody notice? Maybe they care? Clearly, your working ethic is very connected.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:07] Yeah, this would be a problem.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:46:09] This would be a problem. You have a lot of connections in your work, but there are people who say, “Yeah, I don’t know that anybody would notice. I don’t understand how the work that I’m doing right now actually impacts the company’s bottom line. I don’t know how it’s helping my business grow.” I talk to so many entrepreneurs who say, “I started this work because my calling was that I wanted to solve whatever problem. I wanted to build whatever business. I wanted to work with these clients. And now the company has grown and all I’m doing is dealing with HR nightmares.” Like that’s not connection. So do you need to have a lot of connection to understanding the work you’re doing actually matters to you reaching that calling.

[00:46:43] The third piece is contribution. So contribution is a piece that we often get wrong in our, like humblebrag, faux humility society. I want to know from people, what do you want your work to contribute to your life? How much do you want to get paid? How much flexibility do you want? Will you be able to afford the lifestyle that you want? Have the life you want? Are you manifesting your values on a daily basis?

Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:06] Oh, manifesting is an icky word right now. They’re out there saying things like, “You know, imagine it and it will happen.”

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:47:12] Yeah. So I’m not saying that. I’m saying: are you somebody who believes deeply in the environment? If you are, are you working for a company that’s polluting the environment? The act of manifesting is not “I’m dreaming it’s going to happen, but am I actually causing it to happen in the world?” Like how does it actually show up? Are you able to bring your values to the work that you’re doing so that you’re not having a work-life balance, but it’s actually aligned with who you are?

[00:47:35] And then the last piece of contribution is really — is this contributing to the career trajectory that you want? So if you’re somebody who says, “You know, I’m at the age where I’m having kids right now, I want to just stay stasis in my job because I want to spend most of my energy on the homefront.” Fine. Then you’re in a job where you can stay at that level for as long as you need, and nobody’s giving you pressure to move up. But how is it contributing to the kind of life that you want?

[00:47:56] I had a business coach once who I went to and I brought him all of my fancy stuff. I thought I was going to get all the gold stars. I brought him like the P and L forms, and I brought in the marketing materials, and my next-year strategic plan. It’s beautiful. And I placed it all in front of us on the table and he took it and he pushed it off the table and he was like, “All right, tell me: how do you pay yourself?” And I was like, “Ah.” And I gave the worst answer ever. I was like, “Well, I pay my people, and I pay our overhead, and then I reinvest some of the company and then I pay myself what’s left over.”

Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:27] Terrible.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:48:27] Terrible!

Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:28] My dad told me when I was 12, “Pay yourself first.”

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:48:30] Yeah. It was the worst. But you know, I came out of 20 years of nonprofit and government work and I was just like, you know, I was wearing the like the badge of honor of purpose.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:40] Yeah. The martyrdom hat.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:48:41] The martyrdom hat, exactly. And he said, “Stop thinking like a girl.”

Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:46] Dang.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:48:47] Yeah, you know, I was like 36 years old at the time, so I was deciding, finally, I’m not a girl.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:53] A little too old to be.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:48:54] So he said, “Tell me what kind of life you want to live.” I was like, “What do you mean?” He goes, “How often do you want to go on vacation? And when you go on vacation, do you want to stay at the Motel 6 or the Four Seasons? Do you want to fly coach? Do you want to fly first class? When you rent the car, are you getting the Maserati or the Hyundai? So you think about the kind of life that you want, and then how much does that life cost? Okay, now you know what that life costs. Now you know what you need to pay yourself. Now go build a business that’s going to throw off that amount of income.” I was like, “Oh.”

Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:20] That’s important, because what people do is they just go, “I need to make as much money as possible, because that’s what you do in business.”

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:49:26] Bigger, better, faster, more.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:27] So then you get people who have like $10 million businesses, but they live $300,000 lifestyles and they’re more than happy. So they invest in saving a load of money. And I know these people for real, this is not like a hypothetical, and they’re building a house that’s like 1,700 square feet for them, their wife, and their one or two kids, and they’re fine. And I’m like, “Why are you always stressed out?” “Oh, my business and this, that, and the other thing.” “What are you going to do? Sell it for $100 million, and then what are you going to do? We’re going to be having the same conversation, except you’re going to have a new iPhone case.” Maybe.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:50:00] When I ran my last business, we brought in a very high-level Harvard-educated business MBA to facilitate it. And she had us go around the room — our executive team — go around the room in the beginning. And she said, “To start the day off, the retreat off, I want to have everybody go around the room and say, ‘how many do you think will be the ideal number of employees for this company?'” So everybody goes around the room and it was like 25, 75, 102, six. People were pulling numbers out of their ass. And she got to me at the end and I looked up and I was like, “That’s the dumbest question I’ve ever heard.”

Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:30] Yeah, it’s weird.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:50:31] It was a terrible question. Because I could run a way more profitable business at 35 than I can at 75, and then I can run a profitable business getting to 125, but there’s still those quantities of scale, so this pressure, like this hustle, grind, pressure — bigger, better, faster, more — you have to keep growing and growing and growing. Actually, what kind of life do you want? Do you want the kind of life where you can leave every day at 4:30 and be home and have dinner with your family? Then that’s a different kind of business than you’re building. So, you know, I ask people to say like, “I want to know what you want this work to contribute to your life,” right? So you have: What is my calling? Does my work connect to it? And how is the work contributing to my life?

[00:51:07] And then the last piece is control, and control really is how much personal agency do you actually have to impact how much that work connects to your calling and how much it’s contributing to your life? So do you get a say on which teams you get placed on? Are you able to go into the meetings and be part of the decision-making processes? If you care about your company’s philanthropic endeavors, are you on that committee? Like how much say do you get to decide where you are or are you just basically in the passenger seat of someone else’s van the entire time?

[00:51:38] Now I’m a serial entrepreneur. I’m a control freak of the highest order. Like I literally have to sit on the aisle of every airplane I’m on because I just even want the illusion of control. Like if that plane’s going down in a fiery ball of —

Jordan Harbinger: [00:51:50] Oh, it’s like you’re not letting people go to the bathroom.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:51:52] Well, that too. Listen, I’m a grown-ass woman and no one is going to stop me from peeing the second that light goes off. Ding! I’m up, yeah.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:52:01] Yeah. And if you want to get by Laura Gassner Otting on the plane, you better mind your pees and Qs!

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:52:06] I will take you down!

Jordan Harbinger: [00:52:08] This is an important point because you know, the more I think about this, the more I’m in this area right now where I have to start thinking about these kinds of things. Probably, I could have used some thought earlier in the game, like before —

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:52:18] Or nine months ago.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:52:18] Oh, yeah or that. But also like looking at this, I’m thinking of a friend of mine I just talked to recently. He essentially lives a little bit more of a consumer lifestyle than me because he has a lot more money, but he has 900 employees. And I realized that when I look at take-home pay, his is more than mine, but it’s not like an order of magnitude more than mine,  but he has 900 employees,

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:52:42] It’s like 900 headaches.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:52:44] All the time.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:52:45] And that’s what I said to my team. I said, “We could grow the business and we could have 300 employees or 3,000 employees, but at the end of the day, when things go sideways, that lands on my plate. So are you going to tell me that I’m going to make that much more money, or am I going to make that much more impact in the world? Like, what are we trying to do in this business? Are we trying to maximize profitability for ourselves? Are we trying to maximize the impact we’re having for our clients? Are we trying to change the way that this work is being done in our sector? What are we aiming for, right? How are we defining success?” And then I can build that business. Like if everybody around the table says, “I want to make as much money as humanly possible and work as little as I need to,” then we can build that business. And what you’re saying is, “We want to make tons and tons of impact on all of our nonprofit clients who are changing the world,” then we can do that too. We can do whatever we want, but just the number? That’s the worst metric of all.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:37] So how do we put this into action? You’ve got this, I don’t know if it’s a system.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:53:40] My next book’s going to be called Wonder Hell.

[Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:42] Wonder Hell? What’s that all about?

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:53:43] So when the book came out, I honestly expected, like I’d sell six copies and five of them would be to my mom, and suddenly it was successful. I didn’t quite know what to do, and I was on an airplane on a red-eye on the way back from speaking on a stage that I shared with Malala. Talk about humblebrag. Yeah, that’s ridiculous. So I literally took a selfie with Malala, and about 15 minutes later found out that my book had debuted on The Washington Post bestseller list right behind Michelle Obama. And I was like, “Okay, this will literally be the weirdest week of my life. Like, no matter how long I live, it’s all downhill from now. I might as well give up.” And I had that moment at like 4:30 in the morning when I couldn’t sleep on the plane and I was like shoved in the center seat in between, you know, the seat wouldn’t go back and I couldn’t fall asleep and I opened up my laptop and I just started writing, and I was like, “It’s 4:28 a.m. or maybe it’s 1:28 a.m. or maybe it’s 7:28 a.m. I have no idea — all I know is that I am like in the space between the chaos that was yesterday and the castle will be tomorrow is where I am right now and it’s Wonder Hell. It is so amazing and humbling and special that anybody wants to spend even five minutes thinking about a thing that I created. That is such a wonderful feeling. And also I have never been so tired in my entire life. It’s Hell. It’s Wonder Hell.” And I wrote this thing where I was like, “And you know what happens in Wonder Hell? Wonder Hell is that space in your psyche where the burden of potential walks in and unpacks your backpack and is like, ‘Hey motherfucker, what you got for me? Are you going to live into this?’ Like you’ve just seen that you’re capable of more than you’ve thought you could do. What are you gonna do with it now?”

[00:55:33] And I think there’s this Rubicon moment where the world opens up and you’re like, I could lean into this and I could do more with it. Or I could choose not to and let it pass by. And what do you do in that moment? And I think this moment of Wonder Hell, I think that there are people who thrive in it and who have succeeded. And I think there are people who are drowned by it. And I’m so fascinated by that moment and I want to interview a dozen well-known individuals and hear from them what the themes are, like why did they do it? And I think there are probably things like, you learned to get over imposter syndrome by understanding that you could teach other people what you know, like you could give kindness out and the more that you use your knowledge as currency, the more that you actually love this moment. Or things like, there will be people who you will have to drop who don’t like you because you’ve outgrown the small ideas that they had for you. I think there are these hard moments you have to go through. So the next book I want to write is going to be called Wonder Hell.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:56:15] It’s actually a really useful concept. People always say, “How do I know when to cut someone out of my life?” There are some obvious people that you know, like, “This person stole my identity.” Those are bad parents or bad siblings or whatever, but there are other people in your life that are super negative, or not negative at all, but insidiously keeping you small.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:56:32] Absolutely. I think there are people in your life who will actively diss you, who will knock you down and to say things. And then there are people in your life who are like, “Oh, that’s a really great shirt. It’s a lot better than the one you wore last time.” And then there are people in your life who don’t say anything at all, who never cheerlead you. And I think those people are just as toxic as the other ones because those are the ones who sit in the corner and they wait and they bide their time and they keep score and they’re just like, they don’t show up when you’re succeeding, and they also don’t show up when you’re failing when you need them the most. And I think those toxic vampires are the ones that — look, we all have enough voices in our head that say like, “Oh, what are you doing? You’re crazy. You’re going to fail. This is — ”

Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:10] I’ve got at least four right now!

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:57:11] We’ve got all of those voices. Why do we need to add onto them with people who don’t have our best? People always talk about that Jim Rohn quote that, “You’re the average of the five people you keep close to you.” A couple of weeks ago, I  saw John Wooden, the basketball coach. He said, “You will never outperform your inner circle.” And I thought that is such a good concept. So who do you keep around you? And the ones who are keeping score and who don’t have this abundance mentality, the ones that are like kind of just sitting there like waiting and biding their time, I think when you know when to cut people out when they’re not actively cheering for you all the time, good or bad, and if you don’t want to actively cheer for them.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:50] Oh, that’s interesting. That’s really good. It goes both ways. Most people don’t think about that. So what would be the first step for someone after hearing this should even take in order to like one, start applying this, but two, figure out like, “Am I doing the right thing that’s the right thing for me, or am I just delusional in thinking that my current career is good for me?”

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:58:07] Yeah, so there are a couple of things. The first is anyone who’s like, “Okay, calling connection, contribution, control — that sounds sort of interesting. I don’t really know where I sit.” I have an assessment online and I think you’ll have it in your show notes.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:19] Yeah, it will be in the show notes.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:58:20] and it’s a fairly intensive quiz. It takes about 20 minutes, but anyone who’s listening can tell that I’m a fairly intense human being.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:26] Yeah, way to unsell that!

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:58:28] Yeah, you know, it’s funny because I know that I’m supposed to make these quizzes like super easy and really light and you’re supposed to feel awesome about yourself after and “Yay,” but I feel like anybody who’s going to take the time to actually invest in an idea and who wants to think about something and wants to improve their life, it’s your life, take it seriously. Like you can afford 20 minutes, like get a glass of wine or goblet of OJ or like whatever your drink of choice is.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:50] For those of you that have goblets around the house after your Dungeons & Dragons tournament, go get some orange juice.

Laura Gassner Otting: [00:58:56] Listen, man, I played a mean game of Dungeons & Dragons back in my day! So go and take that quiz. At the end of it, you get a beautiful radar chart and there are two different charts and one shows you how much of each of the four you have in your life, and the other shows you how much of each of the four you actually want to have in your life. So it shows where you’re not in consonance, where they don’t overlap, and then there are some actual very specific, practical tips. But I would say if you’re sitting here and you’re like, “Well, I’m not really sure. Maybe I have it, maybe I don’t.” I would ask yourself, “Who set that definition of success for you? Is it yours? Is it what you’ve always wanted to do?” I mean, you know, when I was 10 years old, I wanted to be an astronaut. I’m clearly not an astronaut today, but why was that set for me? It was set for me because those were the careers that I saw. Those are the ones that were put in front of me. Those are the ones who like, when they brought people into Career Day at school, nobody brought in a software programmer. They brought in a fireman. That was exciting. It was sexy. It was interesting. So I would ask yourself, “Who set up my definition of success? What am I pursuing?” And then, “Why am I doing it? Is this something I really want to go after?”

[00:59:59] And to really have that conversation with yourself about whether or not the things that you like to do when you’re not being paid to do them, when you’re on vacation, do you gravitate towards the stuff that’s actually part of your work? Or are you going so completely far away because you’re just dreading Sunday night you get like that case of depression, you don’t want to go in, and then it’s like, “Well, is it the work? Is it the environment? Is it the career that I hate that I have? Is it the workplace that’s just not really part of what’s interesting to me? I don’t like the people that are there. I don’t feel like they’re looking out for my best interests. Or is it me and have my goals changed since I’ve changed?”

[01:00:33] I get asked a lot on interviews like, “What would you tell your 22-year-old self?”

Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:37] Yeah, people ask me that too.

Laura Gassner Otting: [01:00:39] It’s terrible advice. At one point when the book came out, I did like a hundred podcasts, and I got a little cranky on one of them because this guy was asking me really, just terrible questions. And so I said, “Well, that’s a terrible question.” I said, “My 22-year-old self who’s listening to a podcast, on my mobile device that was recorded over the Internet? None of those things existed when I was 22.” So even if I knew who I was when I was 22, which none of us did, the world around us has changed so much that we will have to change. Like we have to do different things. We have to continue to evolve and to grow and to reevaluate. And I think just not being afraid of reevaluating, not being afraid to say “This was the path I was on; it’s not the path I want to be on anymore.” I mean, in 20 years of doing executive search, the most interesting, actually the only interesting people that I spoke to, were the ones who took left turns and U-turns and right turns. Like the ones that just set the straight and narrow path were incredibly boring. I never presented them as candidates.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:01:39] It’s interesting. I’ve got a friend in Toronto. She’s a listener of the show. I was going to name her, but maybe she doesn’t want me to do that. She used to work at like some corporate job making a ton of money and she quit and she’s like an actress now in Toronto and we email back and forth as I do with many show fans. I think she’s happier now, but she literally can’t afford good food sometimes or food in general because she’s like a local actress. But she’s happier now having left corporate. I think she went to like Stanford or Harvard or something like that. I can’t remember now, but she wasn’t exactly — she was like at Goldman Sachs. She wasn’t just like working on the back end of the — whatever. That’s going to come out rude no matter how I say it. She really had a high-powered corporate job that would have resulted in a lot of money.

Laura Gassner Otting: [01:02:22] And probably everybody in her life told her she was insane to do it.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:25] Of course, yeah.

Laura Gassner Otting: [01:02:25] And I think we take other people’s opinions of us as definitional when they’re really not. They’re literally just opinions. And the person who tells you that you’re crazy because you want to do something, by the time they’ve gotten their coffee at Starbucks and gotten back in their car, they’ve forgotten all about your conversation. And that sticks with us as if it’s like, “Oh, that person thinks I’m crazy.” But like, he wouldn’t — if that person gave you incredibly great, wonderful compliments about the show, would you take them seriously? Maybe, maybe not. So why are you taking their concerns about you seriously also because they’re really just about them?

[01:03:00] You know, your friend who’s the actress, this is where she is right now at this stage in her life, and maybe there’s another stage where she’s like, “You know what? This doesn’t work for me anymore. It worked for me then. It caused me happiness then. Now I want to do something else.” If I could wave a magic wand for all your listeners, I would just release them of the burden and the stress of living into everybody else’s idea of what they should be and who they should be, and God forbid what they can’t be, and let them just define for themselves what’s going to make them happy.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:03:27] Laura, thank you so much.

Laura Gassner Otting: [01:03:28] Thanks for having me.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:03:31] Big thank you to Laura. Her book is called Limitless. Of course we will link to that in the show notes. There’s also a video of this interview on our YouTube channel at Also, in the show notes, there are worksheets for each episode, so you can review what you’ve learned here from Laura Gassner Otting. We also now have transcripts for each episode and those can be found in the show notes as well.

[01:03:53] I’m teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships using systems and tiny habits over at our Six-Minute Networking course, which is free over at The problem with kicking the can down the road and saying that you’re going to do this later — well I’ve heard that before — but if you don’t dig the well before you get thirsty, you’re going to find that when you need relationships, you’re probably too late to create them. These drills take just a few minutes per day. This is the stuff I wish I knew decades ago. It’s not fluff. It’s crucial both in your career and in your personal life or if you’re self-employed. And you can find it all for free at By the way, most of the guests on the show actually subscribed to the course and the newsletter, so come join us and you’ll be in smart company. In fact, why not reach out to Laura Gassner Otting. Tell her you enjoyed this episode of the show. Show guests love hearing from you, and you never know what might shake out of that. Speaking of building relationships, you can always reach out and/or follow me on social. I’m @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram.

[01:04:52] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. This episode was produced by Jen Harbinger and Jason DeFillippo, engineered by Jase Sanderson, show notes and worksheets by Robert Fogarty, music by Evan Viola, and I’m your host Jordan Harbinger. Our advice and opinions, and those of our guests are their own. And yes, I’m a lawyer, but I’m not your lawyer. So do your own research before implementing anything you hear on the show. And remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for the show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. And I think here, anybody who’s wondering if their career is the right place for them, thinking about a pivot, thinking about making a change. Of course, I hope you find something useful in every episode, so please share the show with those you love and even those you don’t. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show so you can live what you listen and we’ll see you next time.

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