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10 Things Powerful People Can Do to Not Screw Up Their Lives

Interview with Al Andrews

Episode Description

Being successful isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.

I mean, look at the headlines. We can all name a few celebrities who crumbled under the pressure of fame and fortune.

While well-known artists may deal with the problems of success on an amplified level, most successful leaders have similar struggles and are in danger of the same downfalls.

That’s why I’m so excited about this week’s Building a StoryBrand podcast. I sit down with Al Andrews, the founder and executive director of Porter’s Call, a service that counsels and supports recording artists. Al has a client list with names you’d certainly recognize so he’s very familiar with the problems fortune brings. As he shares his wisdom about how he helps his clients stay healthy and grounded, you’ll find help as a leader too.

After reading this blog post or listening to this podcast, you’ll learn 10 paradigm shifts you need to make as a leader on the road to success.

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#1: Create Your Own Central Park

In 1853, the New York State Legislature set aside more than 750 acres of land to create America’s first major landscaped public park. Today, we know it as Central Park.

Why did they do it?

The designers had enough foresight to understand the magnitude of the growth of New York City and prepared for it. They recognized that a city of that size would need an immense park to contribute to the public health of its people.

Imagine New York City without Central Park.

Al says, “I find that many leaders are living life like a New Yorker without Central Park.” They’re living without the space set aside for rest, recreation and restoration.

To remedy that, Al suggests building a Central Park in your life — carve out space that will contribute to your overall health and the health of your most important relationships.

You may just be gearing up for success. As more good things come your way, you’ll discover you have less time in your day.

If you’re as wise as the city designers and legislature in 1853, you’ll build it bigger than you need right now. In other words, you’ll prepare for growth.

Or you might be feeling like you don’t have any space in your life. Your life is already full. So, how do you build a Central Park when you already don’t have enough time as it is?

Notice some things that you’ve agreed to in the past and say no. Or pick a few things you do out of obligation and stop.

Al says, “You need to tear some things down.”

Notice some things that you’ve agreed to in the past and say no. Or pick a few things you do out of obligation and stop.

Al says if you’re too worried about hurting people’s feelings, you might need some help in setting healthy boundaries. Most of the time, you’re imagining the worst, but in reality, people’s feeling aren’t that hurt — they respect your limits.

Your Central Park can be a tangible thing like going to the movies or taking the dog out for long walks. At our house, we have a card night every week.

Al says, “Just know that you have to be intentional to create it, or that space will fill up with ‘necessary’ things.”

Don’t let “necessary” things invade your Central Park.

#2: Bridge the Distance

One of the warning signs of a leadership crash is perpetuating an artificial image (see #7 here).

Leaders are surrounded by people who only know their glossy image, not the real person behind it. These people see the amazing, organized person. The great speaker. The actress or singer on stage.

Al says you need to help people have a real perspective on who you really are. To do that, bridge the distance by letting people in on your thought life. Whether it’s in your public persona or your private life, you should let down your guard sometimes and reveal you have insecurities and feelings.

Otherwise, you’ll get exhausted trying to keep up the untarnished image.

#3: Read Poetry

You’re probably not going to find many leadership books that include this item.

As a writer, I’ve always loved poetry — I even wrote some. As a business leader, however, I was surprised to find that poetry was extremely beneficial to my company. So much so that I asked Al and his wife to come and do a poetry course for our team.

Why?

For someone who is dealing with the pressures of success, poetry delivers some specific perks:

  • There’s an economy of words. The words in poetry are carefully chosen to produce the most efficient and powerful effect and communicate a clear point. Leaders can learn a lesson from poetry by applying this principle to their lives. By removing everything unnecessary, you can live a life of radical clarity and deliver a powerful message with your legacy.
  • It’s aimed toward the heart. Al says that leaders usually have the areas of organization and motivation covered. They’re competent and capable at work. But what about their personal lives? Successful people have more trouble tapping into their inner lives and emotions. “The heart is where we need to go,” Al points out.
  • It causes you to think, even meditate, on deeper matters. As a leader, you can get caught up in the minutiae of your business. By expanding your mind to include greater philosophical ideas, you can keep your business in its proper place — it’s a big part of your work life but it’s not the only thing that matters.
  • It slows your life down. As leaders, you can get so focused on the future and paving the path, that you forget to live and enjoy the present moments.
  • It helps you see things in a new way. You can get in a rut about how to do things. Poetry is surprising. It’s meant to knock you off balance and it causes you to view simple things from unexpected angles. This can open the doors to creative solutions in your work life.

Poetry pulls you from the hard-core, steely world of success and into the warmer places of your life that keep you balanced and whole.

#4: Sometimes Decline the Perks

“Powerful people get perks,” Al says. He adds that there’s nothing wrong with that, but warns it can lead to entitlement.

As a leader, you can get to a place where you expect extra. You anticipate the best seat. You assume the world will arrange itself to your liking.

If you’re not careful, you can slip from the attitude that brought success:

How can I serve you?

to the attitude of the proud:

Do you know who I am?

As a way of staying humble, Al says, “I think sometimes, just for your own health, it’s good not to take the perks that are offered.”

#5: Share Your Platform

I’ve discovered that, almost always, when I’ve shared my platform, the generosity comes back to me. A new opportunity or connection opens up that wouldn’t have otherwise.

Whether you’re an artist, speaker or a leader, Al suggests inviting other people to share your audience or the lead once in awhile.

Why?

“It’s a way of giving back,” Al says. “It’s a way to promote generosity, and it’s a way to deal with your possessiveness.”

#6: Know Your Story (Or Your Story Will Live You)

We all know people who are angry all the time.

Al explains they can’t help it. Unresolved issues are controlling their behavior.

“If they don’t know their story,” he explains, “if they don’t know their own narrative, their own history, then their story will live them.”

Al hasn’t always sat in the counseling seat. He’s done some of the same work he expects of his clients. One of the discoveries Al made while going through counseling were that repressed incidents and conditions from his childhood were affecting the way he was doing life as an adult.

Analyze your behavior objectively. Are you reacting to ‘triggers’ that seem to only bother you? Do all your relationships have common problems?

Relating his life to a novel with chapters for each year, he explains, “When I understood what happened in those missing chapters, my life began to change, and I began to make some new decisions.”

Analyze your behavior objectively. Are you reacting to ‘triggers’ that seem to only bother you? Do all your relationships have common problems?

If so, get some counseling. It will free you up to be your best self. At the very least, build some self-awareness. As many of you know, we talk about the Enneagram and how learning about your personality will help you respond better to situations.

If you ignore your story, your story may take you to places you never wanted to go.

#7: Be Sent Out and Welcomed Home

Most leaders end up traveling a lot. It seems to come with the package of success.

When a friend takes the time to send you off and welcome you home, these interactions act as a way of keeping you connected with a larger family.

If you’re spending a good deal of time away from home, Al recommends that someone other than your wife or team, a buddy, knows you’re leaving.

Logistically, it is nice to know someone will be there for your spouse or family if they need anything.

But psychologically, it places you within a community. When a friend takes the time to send you off and welcome you home, these interactions act as a way of keeping you connected with a larger family.

They are saying, “Hey, you have a place. You have people.” And that’s a really good thing to keep in mind when you’re alone.

#8: Get Help

Most leaders have an inversely proportional relationship with leadership and support.

The more you lead, the more you don’t ask for help.

The people who surround you perceive you as someone who must have it together. They assume everything’s going fine.

But for your own health, you need to seek support — whether it’s from a friend or therapist. You must accept and embrace the idea of relying on someone other than yourself.

“We all know people who have crashed,” Al points out. “It happens every day. And almost every one of those people didn’t reach out for help when they needed it.”

Perhaps you’re on the precipice of a crash. This describes you. And you’re thinking about telling someone about it.

Immediately, thoughts will rise up and fight against it:

There’s just too much at stake right now.

I’ll figure it out and get through this on my own.

With a little more time, I’ll right this ship.

I don’t want to lose respect with this person.

Al has something to say to you:

“You’re wrong.”

Almost always, when you finally decide to rely on someone, that person steps up and helps you shoulder the load.

These are the famous last words of leaders before a downfall. Al says losing someone’s respect after sharing a problem is rare. Almost always, when you finally decide to rely on someone, that person steps up and helps you shoulder the load.

As leaders, you have your eye on the goal. You’re designed to win. But you need to realize you’re not designed to get there by yourself. You need someone to help you along.

#9: Walk Behind

“Leaders are often pushed or escorted to the front of the line, metaphorically or physically,” Al says, “and sometimes it’s just okay to let other people walk in front and you walk behind.

Why?

First, it gives you a better perspective, he says. When you take a new place in the line, you can see what others see. Your eyes are opened to the experiences of your team.

It also promotes humility. When you release the leadership role, you get to feel what it is like to be in a support position.

Lastly, it allows you some room to breathe. Let someone else bear the burden for a while. It will give your team members insight about the difficulties of leadership. They may even gain a new appreciation for all that you do when you’re there.

#10: Gracious on the Way Up, Gracious on the Way Down

Al invited a successful, seasoned artist to share some insights with a group of aspiring, young artists.

Her mantra was: Gracious on the way up. Gracious on the way down.

What she meant was to be polite and kind to everyone you come in contact with. If you’re in a coliseum, be gracious to the person checking hats and coats. If you’re at a party, spend some time chatting with the person with the tray of hors d’oeuvres.

Why?

One reason is because they are just as interesting as you are. There’s something wrong with you if you think otherwise, she warns.

If you’re genuine all the time, you’ll feel confident wherever you land on the ladder of success.

Another reason is if you’re gracious all the time, grace will follow you wherever you go. And you’re going to need it someday.

“There’s going to be a time when you go down,” she pointed out, “because that’s life.”

In the everyday world, small kindnesses happen between people all the time. It’s only as you rise in power that your world becomes hierarchical. If you’re genuine all the time, you’ll feel confident wherever you land on the ladder of success.

Now that you’ve learned these paradigm shifts, you can lead with confidence because you’ve created space for restoration, let people know the real you, and you have some poetry in your pocket.

You can also lead with humility because you’re going to decline some of the perks, share your platform, be willing to walk behind and remember to be gracious wherever you go.

And you’ll avoid a crash because you’ve got someone to send you off and welcome you home, you’ve taken the time to know your story and you’re willing to get help.

At StoryBrand, we don’t want to just grow your business, we want to help you grow as a person and a leader. You impact many lives and if you’re not healthy, it will affect the people you influence. Take time to care for yourself as a leader. If you do, you’ll find that your success will make you rich in more ways than just money.

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