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Anxious Achiever with Superpower Skills.

Anxious Achiever with Superpower Skills: How the Anxious Achiever can turn their biggest fears into Superpowers to help start and grow a small business with Morra Aarons-Mele.

Morra Aarons-Mele - Entrepreneur & Author

Morra shares how she has helped herself and others to turn their biggest fears into life-changing leadership.

For anyone who worries that anxiety or other mental health challenges stands between them and the success they deserve, Morra will share highlights from her upcoming book “The Anxious Achiever” which features powerful stories, practical tools, exercises, and strategies that empower leaders and other high achievers, including business owners and entrepreneurs, to transform an apparent weakness into a critical strength.

Morra Aarons-Mele is the host of The Anxious Achiever, a top-10 management podcast that helps people rethink the relationship between their mental health and their leadership. Morra founded Women Online and The Mission List, an award-winning digital-consulting firm and influencer marketing company dedicated to social change in 2010 and sold her businesses in 2021. She helped Hillary Clinton log on for her first internet chat and has launched digital campaigns for President Obama, Malala Yousafzai, the United Nations, the CDC, and many other leading figures and organizations. She lives outside Boston with her family and menagerie.

Morra is the author of the book “The Anxious Achiever – Turn your Biggest fears Into your Leadership Superpower.

More about the Book: The Anxious Achiever:

A timely and compelling guide to managing the anxiety that comes with succeeding and leading—from entrepreneur, mental health advocate, and top-rated podcaster Morra Aarons-Mele.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in the world. But in our workplaces, anxiety has been a hidden problem—there in plain sight but ignored. Until now.

The Anxious Achiever is a book with a mission: to normalize anxiety and leadership. As leadership expert and self-proclaimed anxious achiever Morra Aarons-Mele argues, anxiety is built into the very nature of leadership. It can—and should—be harnessed into a force for good.

Inspired by the popular podcast of the same name, The Anxious Achiever is filled with personal stories, research-based insights into mental health, and lots of practical advice. You’ll learn how to:

  • Figure out your own anxiety profile so that you can recognize and avoid common thought traps and triggers
  • Confront bad habits and unhealthy coping mechanisms
  • Resist perfectionism, manage social anxiety, and set boundaries to prevent burnout
  • Deal with feedback, criticism, and impostor syndrome
  • Model—and communicate—healthy behavior as a leader

Whether you’re experiencing anxiety for the first time or have been battling it for years, The Anxious Achiever will help you turn your stress and worries into a source of strength for yourself, your career, and the people you lead.

[Source: Amazon]

Anxious Achiever with Superpower Skills with Morra Aarons-Mele:

  • Political Science degree from Brown. Master of Public Administration from Harvard. Career in Marketing. Please briefly share the story of your early career and what led you to start your first business.
  • I’m also an extremely anxious overachiever.”
    • “Those of us who are anxious by nature, like me, have what psychologists call trait anxiety: it’s just part of who we are, like a personality trait.”
    • “Across the globe an estimated 284 million people suffer from anxiety, making anxiety the world’s most common mental health ailment.”
  • “The Anxious Achiever – Turn your Biggest fears Into your Leadership Superpower” why did you write the book and who is it for? Who is an “Anxious Achiever”?
  • “Anxiety affects over one third of Americans. But anxiety at work, especially among leaders, has long been a taboo topic hidden in plain sight.”
  • Anxiety is a normal human response and by its nature, a major part of leadership, and a double-edged sword: When unmanaged, it can be a destructive force – as overwork, perfectionism, micro-management, unhealthy diets, drinking, or substance use all impact today’s workplace [and small business] experience…”
  • How can we begin to turn anxiety from a perceived weakness into a strength?
  • “But if harnessed constructively, it can be a catalyst for growth, helping channel strengths like greater vision, empathy, and communication skills.” How? Can you please share an example of how this can work?
  • How do I begin to “Decode your own anxiety profile to avoid common thought traps and triggers”?
    • Common trigger for small business owners: Conflict or difficult conversations
  • Avoid burnout by resisting perfectionism, managing social anxiety, and setting boundaries.
    • As it related to managing perfectionism, how do you personally determine if something is good enough?
    • Can you share an example or technique for setting boundaries?
    • How do you manage your social anxiety?
  • Control – “Why does control feel so good to an anxious leader, or anyone, for that matter? Anxious people seek control as a way of protecting themselves from the bad outcomes we imagine. It’s driven by the hope that if only we can take the wheel for a while, the thing we fear most won’t happen.”
  • “A lot of think that we hate our work, when really we just hate how we do our work.”
  • Morra explains whey is about Pace, Place and Space.

Episode Host: Henry Lopez is a serial entrepreneur, small business coach, and the host of this episode of The How of Business podcast show – dedicated to helping you start, run and grow your small business.


Books mentioned in this episode:
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The following is a full transcript of this episode. This transcript was produced by an automated system and may contain some typos.

Welcome to this episode of The How of Business. This is Henry Lopez, my guest today is Morra. Aarons-Mele. Mora, welcome to the show.

0:00:24.7 Morra Aarons-Mele: Thanks Henry, I’m glad to be here.

0:00:26.2 HENRY LOPEZ: Now, Mora is with me today to share how she has helped herself and others to turn their biggest fears into the life-changing leadership. So for anyone who worries that anxiety included myself or other mental health challenges stands between them and success, that success that they deserve more is going to share highlights from her upcoming book, The anxious achiever, which features powerful stories, practical tools, exercises and strategies that empower leaders and other high achievers like us as business owners and entrepreneurs to transform an apparent weakness into a critical strength, if you wanna receive more information about the Howard business, including the show notes page for this episode and how you can continue supporting my show and receive exclusive content. And discounts through a Patreon membership. Please visit the holiness dot com. So a little bit more about jarama irons. Mele is the host of The anxious is achiever, the anxious achiever, a top ten management podcast that helps people rethink the relationship between their mental health and their leadership, as I mentioned a moment ago. Morra founded Women Online and The Mission List and award-winning digital consulting firm and Influence or marketing company, dedicated to social change back in 2010 and sold her business in 2021.

0:01:51.6 HENRY LOPEZ: She helped Hillary Clinton log on for the first internet chat for her first and an echo and has launched digital campaigns for President Obama, the United Nations, the CDC, and many other leading figures and organizations. She lives outside the Boston area with her family and Minotaur, so how many animals are we talking about?

0:02:12.4 MORRA AARONS-MELE: We have four right now. It’s kind of a low watermark.

0:02:15.3 HENRY LOPEZ: Yeah, yeah, I imagine anybody uses that, where it means there’s lots of critters around. And of course, as I mentioned, Mora is the author of the upcoming book. By the time you listen to this episode, it should be coming out soon. You can pre-order it, but it’ll be available everywhere you buy books including Amazon, I’ll have a link to it on the show notes page or this episode as well, but the book is gonna be… Is entitled The anxious achiever turn your biggest fears into your leadership. Superpower. Mara ARIS Beale, welcome to the show. Thanks. Alright, so let’s start to hear a little bit with the journey, which is always of interest to me as I did the research, you’ve got some serious education, so you’ve got your political… So I just agree from Brown and you went on to get a Master’s of Public Administration at Harvard. What was it that you wanted to be when you grew up? Back then…

0:03:08.7 MORRA AARONS-MELE: Well, I always wanted to work in politics, that was just a passion of mine ever since I was a teenager really, and I got my start actually working in independent film in New York City and then… Yeah, ’cause I also loved film, film and politics were my passions, and then I learned about this thing called the internet, that all my friends were starting to work at these dot-coms… This was in the late 90s, and then went to work at Ivie dot com, which was at the time the leading website for women, it was a huge innovator, really, really early online community, pioneer, and I went to work for them, and then they sent me over to London, and I helped build their marketing operation in London, and then went to a work and online travel, so I worked for… Yeah, that was a great experience. I learned a lot of of quantitative marketing skills, did a lot of ad buying, worked for Europe’s second largest travel, second largest online travel company at the time, but I love politics, so then I thought, You know what, I’m gonna go to Washington and hang out my hat and see who hires me, and I ended up getting a job for John Kerry’s presidential campaign.

0:04:21.3 MORRA AARONS-MELE: This was in 03, so he was running against George W. Bush and again, had the great good fortune to be at the moment of a new internet innovation, which was logging and what we called web 20, which I’m sure you remember, and I just fell in love with logging because it was like all the principles that I had learned at I village about connecting through community online, but it combined writing an opinion, and so I got really involved in the blogging world and political blogging. And I thought, Gosh, this is what I wanna do. And so after that election cycle, I went and worked at Edelman, which is a huge communications firm and really helped them pioneer a lot of their web 20 stuff, I started a department, but I just one day realized, oh my gosh, I’m crying in the bathroom all the time, I cannot cope. I had had so many jobs, Tough Jobs, big jobs, and I always felt like my temperament, my anxiety and my depression were butting against those big jobs in those environments.

0:05:41.0 HENRY LOPEZ: And you were… I’m assuming, because I understand it, you were over-achieving almost to try to prove to yourself into the world that you didn’t have this anxiety that you could do this…

0:05:54.2 MORRA AARONS-MELE: I think I was over-achieving ’cause it’s all I knew how to do. Yeah.

0:05:59.1 HENRY LOPEZ: I’m sure a lot of our listeners are either you think you were wired that way, or were you influenced that way by your parents or a combination of all of the above…

0:06:08.4 MORRA AARONS-MELE: All of the above, my mom will say that I just was born that way, she’s like… When you were three years old, I used to wake up at six, I’d be like, What’s adding today? But I was also a very, very anxious child, again, starting at three years old, and then I grew up in a pretty competitive environment, my parents were both great, but also I feel like I had high expectations and you know… All these things combined. It’s nature, it’s nurture. I think all I knew how to do was over achieve and I just hit a wall about 10 years into my career, and so I went back to graduate school and I wanted to be a workplace psychologist, so I actually… As I was going to Harvard, getting my master’s at pope administration, which I thought was a really good sort of foundational management degree, I was pursuing my Master of Social Work as well, but I never finished it, which is a huge regret.

0:07:06.7 HENRY LOPEZ: So what did you go on to do then after getting that degree.

0:07:12.4 MORRA AARONS-MELE: I started freelancing to put myself through grad school, and after I had left corporate America, and I loved freelancing. I called it freelancing. I’ve never thought of myself as an entrepreneur, really but that was the first taste of it, right. We’re totally… But then it did, it create even more anxiety because now it was up to you to go get the next gig.

0:07:33.8 MORRA AARONS-MELE: No, it felt like I was free. Interesting, and again, I think probably a lot of your listeners will resonate, I felt that… And this was way before the pandemic and remote work. Right, this was during the era when we showed up every day and we sat there when we were expected to be there, and that was it, and I really struggled with corporate office culture and political dot com, all kinds of office culture. I struggled with office politics, I struggled with standing up for myself, I struggled with impostor feelings, I struggled with performance anxiety, I struggled with social anxiety, the whole set up of work just made me of all of anxiety and I didn’t like being there all day, it was very taxing to be in the minute I started freelancing and literally I could work for my laptop at my kitchen table, I literally felt a burden left because I realized… I love to work, I love my work, I just didn’t like how I had to do it. It didn’t suit me.

0:08:40.9 HENRY LOPEZ: And you still to this day, prefer to work… More isolated. I’m that type of person. I love working at Home Office, but my business partner, David began, for example, he needs the social interaction, he feeds off of it or I as I don’t…

0:08:57.9 MORRA AARONS-MELE: Yeah, my first book was called hiding in the bathroom, and how to get out there when you’d rather stay home, so you could probably get a sense of my answer… Right. And that’s again, where my passion for online community really saved me because I was connected to so many online communities there, my work as a blogger, and that actually made it kind of easy to build a business and to build a print… It just came naturally.

0:09:29.5 HENRY LOPEZ: Yeah, there’s a quote from the book, I was able to preview the book, but I believe this comes in the book with the quote is across the globe an estimated 284 million people suffer from anxiety, making anxiety, the world’s most common mental health element, it’s pretty impactful, but it’s also as I was doing the research and preparing and reviewing your book, it was a little… It was liberating for somebody like me who deals with anxiety as well because… And so he’s very isolating, we feel like we’re the only ones that are suffering this way.

0:10:04.4 MORRA AARONS-MELE: Would you talk a little bit about your anxiety right now… Sure, yeah. Tell us.

0:10:08.9 HENRY LOPEZ: You know, it’s similar to you. And I had a career, very successful career in the 90s and sales, where I had to be friend and center, right, having it up and present and convince people why our solution… In that case, I was selling software systems and I suffer from Impostor Syndrome just about every time that I would get up to do a presentation, so that created tremendous anxiety. Right, and then over that 10-year career or so over the 90s, it would then manifest itself, and I just hated travel, getting on a plane was just like, I can’t stand it, and then staying in another hotel room was just like… I started almost almost developing germ phobia, I didn’t quite get there, but it was like everything seemed like foreign to me, to the point that when I retired from that career, we bought an RV and spend… My daughter was early, she was pre-school, and we spent the better part of a couple of years doing long RV trips ’cause I could not stay at another hotel room… Right.

0:11:08.7 MORRA AARONS-MELE: Oh my gosh, wow.

0:11:11.3 HENRY LOPEZ: I’m amplifying it a bit, but that’s how it manifested for me, just to share a little bit of it was that impostor syndrome, I always felt that when I was up there presenting, somebody was gonna point at me and say, You don’t know what you’re talking about, and you’re a fraud. And I always dealt with that. But to your point, This is what I love about this, I was able to, however, channel that into a super power of source at a cost, because I was gonna be as prepared as anybody, but that took a lot of energy, a lot of effort, a lot of anxiety to make sure that I was as prepared as I possibly could before I got up on that stage. And when I say stage, I’m talking about in a conference room, and I’m not talking about a formal stage, but you know what I mean, but we’re on stage when we’re doing those type… That type of work, right?

0:12:01.4 MORRA AARONS-MELE: We’re also on stage. We were on Zoom every day now. Exactly. Oh wow, I am really resonating with what you’re saying, I had almost a flying phobia, I could get on planes, but I would have to medicate myself very heavily to do so, and similarly and still to this day, and just crippled with impostor feelings all the time, and then, you know, when I feel like an impostor, when I feel like I’m gonna be found out, when I feel like I don’t belong, I respond by acting my anxiety out through perfectionism, and this is a cycle that a lot of us get trapped in, and here’s the thing, when you’re your own boss, this can become a real trap…

0:12:50.9 HENRY LOPEZ: Yeah, well, there’s no one there necessarily to check us, is there…

0:12:54.1 MORRA AARONS-MELE: That’s right, and we really have to develop skills, and this is part of the super power, we have to develop skills to protect ourselves, to take care of ourselves while still building a great business. And that is really hard to do. I feel like I’ve really learned the hard way. I’m sure you did too. And I really want people to understand that they can build whatever they wanna build, whether it’s a small business, whether it’s the next Google, while they suffer from anxiety, from depression, from bipolar disorder, but they’re gonna have to work differently. The good news is working differently is amazing, and it’s what I argue everyone should do, because it creates sustainability and it builds resilience, so

0:13:49.2 HENRY LOPEZ: Can you start to share a little bit about what you mean by working differently?

0:13:53.8 MORRA AARONS-MELE: Of course. I mean, I wanna also start with the good news right now, which is that we have so much more LINC, certainly those of us whose work depends on a screen and a computer and a phone to place our own work, I think that there are three pieces of the workplace that I have sort of pulled out over the years as being really important levers that people like us probably wanna control at their work, and actually I don’t think it’s the work content itself that necessarily should be the first to change… A lot of us think that we hate our work when really we just hate how we do our work. So the first is pace, I call it PACE, place and space. Pacing is exactly what it sounds like. It is the energy and speed and content of your day of your week, you like to work alone, but do you also like to have a couple hours free in the middle of the day, are you a night out… Do you prefer to put in three really intense weeks and then have a week where you can kinda coast if you’re a working parent and you have kids at home or obligations as a caretaker, do…

0:15:19.2 MORRA AARONS-MELE: You wanna build that into your schedule. You know, when I ran my small business, I understood everyone’s desire for pace because I had my creative director, Christine, she was a nine to fiber, she would just work, work between 90 to 50, but she had a boundary which is after five… Please don’t contact me unless it’s really important, please don’t contact me on the weekends, and then Jen, my partner is a night owl, and she really got going late at night, and so everyone I argue, should be able to modulate the pace of their work and that really helps us build in guard rails and sustainability, the second one is place, and that’s again, that’s exactly how you laid it out, where do I like to do work? Where do I draw energy? You like to work from home. Your partner likes to be out there, some people really love being in their cars and having a job that allows them to get the refuge of their car and then go sell, and space is a little bit more metaphysical, but space is really how you operate around people what your energy gets drawn from, Do you need lots of time to think, do you need time to prep before a meeting? I find as an introvert and someone with social anxiety, I need a lot of space from people, I need a lot of space to think and do really good work, I’m not great, just jumping into a brainstorm, and that’s a really, really important thing to think about, especially if your temperament falls outside our biased sort of patriarchal norm, which is someone who’s much more extroverted and likes to stand in front of the room…

0:17:09.9 MORRA AARONS-MELE: Although I like to do that too. I’m a ham. My introvert.

0:17:14.5 HENRY LOPEZ: I am in the same way, I can turn it on and I love the attention that you get. Right, a little of that. But for example, the other way would manifest for me is after a long day of meeting with prospective clients and doing presentations and demonstrations, the thing that I dreaded the most was that going out to dinner with

0:17:33.1 MORRA AARONS-MELE: The… Oh my God, I hate to the dinner.

0:17:36.2 HENRY LOPEZ: I was just exhausted by then and I just… I can’t do this anymore, I would, but it was just… It was just painful for me by that time of the day…

0:17:46.6 MORRA AARONS-MELE: Oh, Henry. I mean, I would go so far as to always have an excuse radiate why I couldn’t go out to dinner, you know, but then the older I got, I realize this is a real boundary for me, and I have to work really hard because the thing is as your business grows, you have to provide for more people, of course, and if you’re not in good shape, you can’t provide for those people much less yourself, and so you really have to take this so seriously, it becomes a necessity for your leadership.

0:18:21.2 HENRY LOPEZ: Yeah, agreed. Okay, so as you laid out pace place in space, how do you recommend that for those of us to our business owners, and like you’re just spoken to, We gotta work with others, our teams, our partners, whatever, and understanding what they need in those three categories, how do you recommend we assess that… Talk about that. Be aware of that.

0:18:45.1 MORRA AARONS-MELE: I think we do exactly that, especially in small business, where it really, really matters that you function well as a team and respect each other’s boundaries. I think that you as the founder, whether you have one person or you have 10 or you have 100, whatever, you as the founder set the tone, so you model really good respectful behavior, you model your own boundaries and you ask people things like, are you better? If you get a document two or three days before the pitch, one day, whatever, or are you okay just seeing it 15 minutes beforehand and that if they need to see it a day before to really prep and sink in and I have to adjust my schedule. Are you happier on camera or off camera on Zoom. When you need to write, what is your ideal? Should I leave you alone? All these things that are so fundamental to how we function and to our mental health, we somehow feel disempowered to talk about… And I don’t understand why. To me, it’s sort of people who live on the East Coast will understand the M-track. There’s always a quiet car, and then a lot of communion rail systems, there’s a quiet car and you go in the quiet car when you just don’t feel like talking to your neighbor, it see it like the quiet part of business.


0:20:11.1 HENRY LOPEZ: You think that… Because I am a proponent for the different systems that exist, to different assessments that exist, like Colby and others, to help us understand what our preferred methods are, what are your thoughts on using tools like that to help us understand our co-workers, our partners, our staff, what are your thoughts there?

0:20:35.1 MORRA AARONS-MELE: I think tools are great because a lot of us are so used to working in a style that is not suited for us, we don’t even know it takes a little bit of inquiry in a little bit of work. This is why I also think that therapy and coaching is incredibly valuable if you have the resources for it, a lot of us… We couldn’t just say it off the bat, because we’ve come up in systems that don’t suit us, so whatever helps you really get to a place where you understand how you can thrive on the fan of…

0:21:10.5 HENRY LOPEZ: Yeah, and how you can help your team thrive as a leader in your small business.

0:21:14.5 MORRA AARONS-MELE: 100%… I mean, self-awareness. Self-awareness, self-awareness, self-awareness is the best leadership quality.

0:21:24.0 HENRY LOPEZ: This is unrelated briefly, pausing this episode to invite you to join me for one of my next live online workshops. During these interactive workshops, I cover a specific topic that will help you with starting and growing your small business, just visit the holiness dot com to learn more and to register if you need help creating an effective business plan, for example, to start your first small business, then my next business plan workshop may be just what you need, or perhaps you need help completing your financial projections for your new business… Well, I have a workshop for that too, and if you’re already operating your business and you can probably benefit from learning how to better manage the cash in your business by attending my cash flow management online workshop, these are just a few of the workshops that I currently offer and I keep these workshops to a small number of participants so that we have the time to answer all of your questions, whether it’s getting starting with your first business or growing and exiting your existing small business. I can help you get there with one of my online workshops to find out more and to register for a live online workshop, please visit the holiness dot com, take that next step today towards finally realizing your business ownership dreams.

0:22:38.2 HENRY LOPEZ: I look forward to having you join me for my next workshop. Right, I wanna explore control a little bit more because this is a big word for me, if one asks me, Why did I become an entrepreneur? Wanted to become a small business owner, control is part of that, but it’s deep rooted. It comes back to, if I go all the way back to childhood, my dad controlling me and wanting to get out from under that control, but there’s a great quote that really resonated with me in the book on control. And it is this quote, Why does control feel so good to an anxious leader… Let me repeat that. Well, why does control feel so good to an anxious leader or anyone for that matter, anxious people seek control as a way of protecting themselves from the bad outcomes, we imagine it’s driven by the hope that if we can take the wheel for a while, the thing we fear most won’t happen a quote. There’s a lot of those couple of sentences there that resonated for me, so give me a little bit more about that. Why is this that this control and the way it manifests for us who are more anxious.

0:23:54.4 MORRA AARONS-MELE: Why does control feel so good to an anxiety… So we humans are wired to really hate uncertainty because uncertainty back in the stone ages and certainly could kill us underneath danger or eminent death.

0:24:11.6 MORRA AARONS-MELE: Yeah, exactly. And as I explained in the book, I’ve interviewed a lot of neuroscientists, and that’s hard wired, we unfortunately can’t change that, that’s in our lizard brain, so we may fear, whereas we used if you’re a saber to Tiger jumping out to kill us, we may fear that 5 PM meeting with Bill, and our brain thinks there’s a tiger in the ones, and a lot of us then reach for control or the illusion of control as a way to calm down those really uncomfortable feelings of anxiety, and that becomes a habit. And it is something we can do to fill the space that would otherwise be occupied by worry and anxiety, and so a lot of us in this manifest in micro-managing this manifest in so many really, really damaging behaviors that we don’t even realize we’re doing it, ’cause we’ve been doing it for so long, it’s just our need to not feel anxiety.

0:25:24.4 HENRY LOPEZ: It’s so critical to understand this because what we allow ourselves then… We touched on this a moment ago about nobody checking us as entrepreneurs as the business owner, there’s no one necessarily to rein me in on this to become this monster. There’s a side of it that makes sense, is why one of my motivations, as I said, to have control over my own destiny or over what I can produce or were how much I can make, how much I’m worth, that kind of control, but it grows beyond there if I don’t check it into all of these things, perfectionism, not being able to delegate micromanaging all of those things, all of those bad things is what it can grow into if I’m not careful. Right.

0:26:06.7 MORRA AARONS-MELE: That’s right. And the irony is, is that a lot of us get rewarded for that behavior… Right, right. And it works for us until it doesn’t… And I would just ask people, I still wrestle it with it every single day, I am an over-function or… Which is something that I also talk about in the book. And this comes from family systems theory, which anyone who’s been in therapy, especially with their partners or kids might know about, which is that those of us who grow up in difficult homes or have difficult experiences as a child where we feel like we have to take care of ourselves and others, maybe when we’re too young, we tend to find other people in our life who we think need help and we do for them, and this shows up in leadership really often, because over function ERS sort of anxious achievers can get really far through sheer drive and work ethic and always doing everything well, right. But the problem is, is that for every over-function or there’s an under-function or… And that can really suppress teams and really stifling, plus it’s exhausting.

0:27:30.0 HENRY LOPEZ: Yeah, well, and then also as you talk about it in a bucket, of course, one of the things it does is it leads to burnout, and that’s again, because that burn out by dealing with the perfectionism, by managing all the anxiety, all of those things. The question I had for you related to perfectionism and not leading to burnout, the thing I’m always challenged with is, and I’m curious is how do you determine when something is good enough.

0:27:58.0 MORRA AARONS-MELE: This a… Such a great question, right? It’s subjective, but it could be objective. And this is something I would encourage everyone to do. Your standards might be wrong… Did you ever think about that your standards might be wrong, they might be too high, they might be too low about it, and so think about how you can objectify, what good is… Can you put that into numbers, can you put that into hours, can you put that into output? This again, is the kind of practice that we small business owners really, really need, because otherwise we might drive ourselves into burnout because we just work too much, I’m sure everyone can relate to that presentation or that speech or that whatever, that report, a deliverable that they’ve just worked. And for what? Really.

0:29:02.4 HENRY LOPEZ: Right? For diminishing returns, and not to mention what it does to the teams that we lead because… Because it’s never good enough. Right.

0:29:12.0 MORRA AARONS-MELE: That’s exactly right. I mean, this is what my new LinkedIn Learning course is about, and I’m so excited for it, it’s about managing your own perfectionism and navigating through it, because this kind of stuff is contagious, it’s not only about us, and we as managers and leaders, and frankly, we as vendors, people who have clients, we need to remember this.

0:29:35.4 HENRY LOPEZ: The other thing you talk about in the book as it related to burnout is setting boundaries, and you’ve touched on that already, but is there a technique that you can share that you use for setting boundaries?

0:29:46.3 MORRA AARONS-MELE: I mean, again, this is the kind of stuff that many of us had ignored sometimes for decades, and so it’s not always immediately apparent what your boundaries are, it takes practice, it takes noticing in takes playing detective, as my friend Rebecca Harley says. And so you can start in… One of the best ways to start is to listen to your body throughout the work day, your body takes in all these feelings, and I think a lot of us at certain points, we may feel that feeling of our chest is really tight or stomach is clenched, did you, I just learned that our stomachs are the hardest muscle or stomach muscles, the hardest one to uncle and let go and that… Interesting, interesting. We hold so much, and your shoulders might be tight and your job might be tight in, your hands might feel shaky and you might start to get distracted or your heart beats or you feel nauseous, listen to your body.

0:30:47.6 HENRY LOPEZ: You have an exercise in the book, right? Could you walk us through that just briefly, how that works, ’cause I know you…

0:30:55.6 MORRA AARONS-MELE: To do a body scan. Yeah, body skin. Yeah, for sure. And, Oh, I love a body scan, and you don’t have to listen to me, there are so many resources out there for this exercise. It is truly great. So one of the things that I would try to ask you to do is to sit in a place where your feet are on the floor, and just kind of comfortably sitting, but you can also lie on the ground and take a couple of breaths to just try to center, right? Oh my gosh, I just let my stomach go, try to send your breath into your belly and start at your feet and your calves and your knees, and your this and your butt and your hips like… Does anything feel really tight? It’s anything hurting. And what about your lower back and your stomach… My stomach is super tight today, and your chest… You know when we’re anxious, we hold breath tightly in our chest, and see the chest can feel really tight, and then think about your hands and your wrists of four arms, on your upper arms and your older… Oh my gosh, your shoulders and your neck, and your jaw in your head, and if any part is really tight, try to tune into that and think about when did it start feeling tight? Does it feel tight at a certain time of day, is there a pattern…

0:32:30.7 MORRA AARONS-MELE: It’s such a great way to just start beginning the practice of noticing, because noticing is also a habit, and when we notice our anxiety, we can talk about it, we can put it out there, even if it’s just to ourselves and we start to sort of take the teeth out of it.

0:32:54.5 HENRY LOPEZ: That’s beautiful. Yeah, and listen, I’m not big into… I’m not big into wood stuff, but what this does is it helps you be aware just to take a moment for us to be aware, and like you said, I’ve always found that once we are aware of what is causing us that stress or we start to think about it, we’re on our way to hopefully addressing it and doing something about it, and just that awareness of it, I think helps us relieve some of that tension… Stress anxiety perhaps.

0:33:31.4 MORRA AARONS-MELE: Absolutely, and I wanna just highlight something you just said, the difference between stress and anxiety and why this exercise is especially helpful, there’s another exercise you can do, which is going through your calendar, hour by hour, what this act of noticing does is that it helps you distinguish between stress and anxiety and take action. So stress is external, it’s an external demand placed upon us, anxiety is an internal… It’s an emotion, it’s a state that we feel stressors are things that can be addressed, what is the stressor? That is pulling me down. And can I do something about it? Can I ask for a couple more days on the deadline versus what’s making me anxious, which is what I’m anticipating feeling, which is sort of a deep-seated feeling of warrior anticipation or uncertainty or bad feelings that I have, what are those trying to tell me and what am I anticipating? And I think that that nuance is helpful.

0:34:42.5 HENRY LOPEZ: Yeah, agreed. So we both have children, and one of the things that I worry about is, Am I have I… And do I continue to pass on my anxieties to my daughter… How do you think about that? And do you think that it just goes back to the conversation we had at the beginning, is this something we’re born with, or does our upbringing influence… That’s probably a combination of all of those. But what are your thoughts on that? How do we avoid… And maybe avoid is the wrong word, but how do we deal with not or helping our children deal with anxiety.

0:35:19.0 MORRA AARONS-MELE: It’s a really hard question, especially right now, my kids… I’m sure your kid and everyone’s were really affected by the pandemic, and our mental health has all suffered… What I don’t want people to do is to beat themselves up if they’re anxious and they have anxious kids, yet you don’t need another source of parental guilt…

0:35:42.3 HENRY LOPEZ: Right, and that was one of the things as I was reviewing the book, it did kind of provide that, You know what, we can… First of all, it’s not all my doing, I didn’t do that to her, but maybe she was born with some of that, maybe you said, or hereditary, but she can continue to turn it into a super power, which is one of the key points of the book…

0:36:02.0 MORRA AARONS-MELE: Right. Well, yes and no, I mean, anxiety might be something that’s really dragging her down and that you both want to invest in fixing. The thing that… The thing that I want to just say is, if you’re a parent and you are super anxious, your kids know, and I am really struggling with this myself because it’s been a really challenging time, and then I’ve been really anxious, and then it feels like a cycle of anxiety in our house sometimes, and I’ve been really trying to model, not pretending like I don’t have anxiety, but acknowledging that I do, but that… That’s Okay, I’m working on it. Mommy sees a therapist, mommy talks about it. And we can talk about it too. You don’t need to be perfect, you need to model trying to get help and trying to get better.

0:36:57.3 HENRY LOPEZ: And that’s one of the ways that we turn this into a leadership superpower. Exactly. Covid, as you said, created as my partner, David begin, really called it out for me early on, is the biggest impact that this is gonna be the mental health impact, however, on the flip side of it is, you mentioned earlier, it has allowed… And said, for a lot of us, that’s different ability to have that pace place in space, hasn’t it…

0:37:25.2 MORRA AARONS-MELE: It’s radically changed work. It’s radically changed work and for knowledge workers. Yes, and that’s a good thing. I mean, I was part of the work life and workplace flexibility community and movement for many years, and it always felt like banging your head against the wall and then to overnight… Everyone got to work from home, so I think that’s amazing. And I think it’s opened up possibilities, however, it’s also helped real… A lot of people really struggle with boundaries, and it helped a lot of people feel like they don’t have places anymore, they don’t have space, so it’s not perfect, we still have to work on this, but the heart of it is communicating at the heart of all good management frankly, is communicating, and I just want people to be able to talk and feel like they know themselves well enough to sort of advocate and ask for what they need.

0:38:28.7 HENRY LOPEZ: Well, said. Alright, I usually ask this at the outset, but let’s go back to the book again, is the anxious achiever turn your biggest fears into your leadership super power. Why did you write it? And who ideally… Who is it for?

0:38:42.0 MORRA AARONS-MELE: It’s for anyone who notices their anxiety, certainly in the course of a work day and wants help, and one ideas, it’s also for people like me who have more serious mental health challenges and really struggle sometimes to match their ambition and their goals with what they need to take care of their mental health. I wrote it because when I was sort of touring for my first book, hiding in the bathroom, we talked a lot about introversion, but I also would talk about anxiety and people’s eyes would light up and all of a sudden the floodgates would open, and I thought, Oh, my God, that the origin is that I pitched this as a podcast to Harvard Business Review, because I said This is something that people never talk about in the context of work, and yet we all bring anxiety to work every single day. And that’s kind of how it was all born.

0:39:46.9 HENRY LOPEZ: Wonderful. When someone… Let’s say you meet someone for the first time and they share with you that they are also an anxious achiever. Where do you recommend that they start? Where do you recommend if someone starts to continue to have this conversation but also begin to channel this as a leadership superpower.

0:40:10.0 MORRA AARONS-MELE: I really would encourage people to start with therapy, honestly, with getting some professional help. I think that I’m not a doctor, I’m not a psychologist. I think that there are so many evidence-based strategies out there, and I include many of them in my book, but there’s nothing like learning, there’s nothing like really getting in touch with this stuff, it is such a life skill, it will change you and it will make you happier and more creative and more innovative, and more driven, and so but driven for the right reasons, and then when you understand your anxiety, then you can really channel it… I understand my anxiety, well, sometimes I hate it and I tell it to go away, and a lot of times I use it like right now, promoting a book, I’m really anxious, but I am using that anxiety because I have a lot of output… Right. And so it’s actually something… And I do wanna say if you’re struggling so much right now that you are unable to function, please go get help.

0:41:15.2 MORRA AARONS-MELE: To best get help, and that’s not the kind of anxiety we’re talking about, we were talking about sort of in the middle of if it’s on a spectrum, it’s the middle of the spectrum where it’s something that you bring with you, that you notice that you travel with, but it’s not keeping you from living your

0:41:29.2 HENRY LOPEZ: Right is not debilitating is not to the point where it’s got us in a deep depression, we must get help and we’re there and we must get help regardless, but definitely if you’re there, you must get help… Reach out to someone. You must get help. Okay, just to continue with the example of now that you’re promoting this book, give me a little bit more about how that’s manifesting for you, how is it that you’re channeling your anxiety to promote this book? Give me an example of how that works for you.

0:42:00.5 MORRA AARONS-MELE: Well, like many anxious achievers, I’m very good at working, I’m great at working, and so I have sort of made a deal with myself and my anxiety, and my husband and kids, frankly, that this time we’ve set a sort of eight-week period, this is like mom’s time, to really just go for it. And every day I struggle because I wake up and I’m super anxious, and I’m also really excited. But I have a lot of energy, I have a lot of nervous energy, and I’m really, really putting that to use to be really high performance right now.

0:42:42.2 HENRY LOPEZ: Is the eight-week period part of it, the fact that you have a boundary there, an end that you’re working towards.

0:42:50.5 MORRA AARONS-MELE: Yes, that is a really good point, thank you for bringing that up. If you’re functioning like this, and many of us do 365 days a year, you’re gonna burn out your one… But you know what, if you’re heading towards something that you really care about, I’ll never forget, and I don’t remember the Psychologist who said this, but… Someone said, anxiety shows that you care. And trend that, I like to think about that.

0:43:20.4 HENRY LOPEZ: Alright, good stuff, right. So the book again is the anxious achiever turn your biggest fears into leadership, a super power, by my guess, Mora Aarons mele. I’m always looking for book recommendations in addition to yours, is there a book that comes to mind that you would recommend?

0:43:37.0 MORRA AARONS-MELE: There is, and it is called Achieving success through social capital by Wayne Baker. It’s an old book, but it’s available on Amazon, it is possibly the single most helpful book I’ve ever read, and it was recommended to me my space to free man, who’s a really prominent professor at Wharton and a pioneer in integrating your work in your life and your family, and the thing that’s amazing about this book is that for every business owner, for every entrepreneur, you have a network, and especially if you’re introverted, especially if you’re anxious. You need that network to help. Yes, and this book tells you how… And it is. It’s just so great.

0:44:24.9 HENRY LOPEZ: Thanks for that recommendation. It makes me think you… To that point, I have not read this book or Thanks for that recommendation, I’ll have more Aransas as well as his book recommendation on the show notes page at The How of, but what I maybe think about just that as you were describing that, that that’s probably one of the reasons why I prefer to work with a partner, because it gives me that person that I can balance things with and that can help me through those anxious moments, sometimes… 100%, 100%. Great stuff. What is one thing that you want us to take away from this conversation that we’ve had more about being an anxious achiever and the key takeaway or e-book? What’s one thing you want us to take away?

0:45:12.0 MORRA AARONS-MELE: You’re not alone, and you’re not flawed.

0:45:16.8 HENRY LOPEZ: And where would you like us to go online to learn more?

0:45:20.6 MORRA AARONS-MELE: I would like you to buy my book, wherever you like to buy your… I would love you to listen to my podcast wherever you like to get your podcasts, and you can always reach out to me on LinkedIn, send me a message, a connection invite, and I will write back. And

0:45:36.2 HENRY LOPEZ: The great thing is it’s a unique name, Morra Aarons-Mele, so you’ll be able to find her fairly easily, I think online.

0:45:47.3 MORRA AARONS-MELE: Yes, thank you so much, Henry.

0:45:50.0 HENRY LOPEZ: Thank you, this has been really in conversation, I appreciate you taking the time and the time to share and be with me today…

0:45:57.4 MORRA AARONS-MELE: I appreciate it, thank you.

0:45:59.3 HENRY LOPEZ: And thanks for joining me for this episode of The How of Business podcast. My guest today again was Morra Aarons-Mele, it released new episodes every Monday morning, you can find a show anywhere you listen to podcasts, including Apple Podcast, Google podcast, Spotify, or at my website, The How of Business. Thanks for listening.

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