Sometimes becoming inspired -- let alone staying as such -- is a difficult proposition. Authors Jason and Jodi Womack believe they have the answer to the question of how people can get momentum and use it to better not only their professional lives, but personal matters as well. Jodi joins us on this week's episode of 'Cotto/Gottfried to share her findings. 'Get Momentum' at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Get-Momentum-S... SEE more interviews HERE: http://www.sanfranciscoreviewofbooks....
COTTO: Get Momentum — something easier said than done too much of the time, at least for a lot of us. A new book on the subject addresses what it means to have momentum, why people should consider getting it in alternative ways, and just what momentum can do for individuals not only in a professional capacity but a personal one as well. This book, cowritten by Jason and Jodi Womack, is the subject of this week’s episode of Cotto/Gottfried. Jodi Womack joins me, your cohost Joseph Ford Cotto, editor in chief of the San Francisco Review of Books, and my cohost Paul Gottfried, head of our editorial board.
COTTO: Talking about momentum, I think it’s something that everybody wants or needs at a certain point in their life. There’s always a point where we feel a bit sluggish or stuck or something like that. But at the same time, when you address getting momentum — the concept of it — you’re talking about something very specific, sort of like a lifestyle change rather than just something you do on any given day to get through it. Explain your approach to this — I guess — in a nutshell.
WOMACK: Sure. So, momentum really means to me that you want something that isn’t true yet. And I love that because it means that you’re an ambitious person even if you’re feeling stuck. And the only reason my husband Jason and I could write a book called Get Momentum: How to Start When You’re Stuck, is because we’ve all been there. We’ve all wanted something to happen that wasn’t quite true yet. And so, we start off with these questions. And my hope and goal is to make them super practical. This is a manual or a guide or a how-to book that really is meant to coach people through their own process. So, the first question we ask is, “What do you want to be known for?”
COTTO: And, please expand on that question.
WOMACK: So, we’ve all heard that legacy question, and it can be a little debilitating. For me, when someone says, “What’s your legacy? Why are you here on the planet?” that just seems so grand and I don’t have a great answer for that yet. But if you say, “What do you want to be known for?” and a really good way to break this down is to write down some of the roles that you have in your life. So your role at work, your role at home with your family, maybe you got a couple of — I’m a wife, I’m a daughter, I’m a sister, I’m an auntie — those are all different roles that I play with different people in my life. And same at work — you may have different responsibilities. So, make a list of the roles that you have and then give yourself a timeframe. I think the problem with the big “L” Legacy-question is that it’s all encompassing from now until you die, and “what’s the purpose of being here on the planet?” and that’s a good question to — but to me it’s more theoretical. In order to answer it well I would say, “what do you want to be known for in the next three months, in the next six months, in the next twelve months? How far out can you see into your future and be realistic?” And sometimes it might be two weeks! Let’s make it real! Because we all have those times in our lives where it’s like, I can see two weeks out and that is it. After that, who knows? Chaos is coming.
So for me, my folks are getting older. They’ve gone through cancer. My mom’s got dementia. It is a wild time in our lives, and there’s no real manual on how to do this. And so, for me I’m really trying to figure out what kind of a daughter I want to be. What do I want to be known for? I’m really good at organization and tracking things. So I’m helping out with doctors’ appointments and tracking meds and documenting the whole process so that when the doctors ask a question, which they always do, we’ve got some resources to answer them accurately so that she gets the best care and support that’s available. So, for me I want to be known as a loving daughter that helps out with the hard times in a really practical way.
So, that’s what I encourage people to do with this question — that first momentum question is “What do you want to be known for?” — is to create some roles. Write down all the roles you can think of, and then a timeframe that seems doable to you. It’s not forever. It’s a short timeframe that you can realistically guestimate what you’re going to be doing.
COTTO: And when you ask yourself what you want to be known for, presumably even if you’re not known by-and-large for something — if you’re not known by a large group of people, I should say — that’s not really what matters. What matters is how you want to view yourself — what you want your self-image to be. You really want to make that image your reality.
WOMACK: Right. That’s a great point. What’s within your control? You may not be able to — if you say, “I want to be a published author,” you may not be the one at a publishing house that makes that decision, but you are in control of turning in a book proposal. And maybe doing that twenty times, or fifty times. Right? So, I want to be known as an author that’s getting her work out in the world publishers, and that is 100% within my control.
GOTTFRIED: I’m listening to this, and I think that Jodi may be talking about two different things. I am sort of coming from my own position as a political philosopher, and intellectual historian, and a classicist. And if you read Aristotle‘s politics or his ethics, he tells you that human beings are part of a social organization or community, and those things that we wish to excel in are those things that are our duties within a particular social framework. We are mothers, daughters, fathers, heads of family, whatever it is, and carrying out our duties brings fulfillment, because that is exactly what we should be doing as members of an organized society starting with the family.
The other point of course is what I want to be known as, or known for, is a question about personal ambition — personal, individual ambition — not what I should be doing as a member of the family or of a community. It’s quite possible that I would like to be president of the United States, or world-famous author, whatever it is, but that’s a personal ambition. Being a good daughter or a good mother and so forth is a traditional social role which brings with it fulfilment within a community. It does not really fall under the category of personal ambition. How would you respond to that Jodi? To the distinction that I’m making.
WOMACK: I would say I’ve been a different kind of daughter different times in my life. So, being a great daughter now at this point of my parents’ lives is more important to me than any other time. And I look back and I realize what a bratty little kid I was, that I didn’t realize how much they did for me at the time. So yes, it’s a personal ambition and it’s a social — I don’t know, I would argue about the social contract. People interpret what that means really differently, and the way that I see being a daughter is different than somebody else in another family. It depends on what your sibling’s situation and finances and relationship — I’m 100 miles away from my folks. So, I would say when I was feeling stuck about my relationship with my parents that was so stressful was when I didn’t have a clear idea of what good daughter meant. So for me, I call every day. We do FaceTime with my 80-year-old dad and my mom that doesn’t know how to use anything anymore because nothing makes sense, but she knows when there is a blinking green light. She pushes it and we do video chats, which to me is just shocking and amazingly wonderful. So, being a good daughter means that I’m in their lives. I’m helping out in a level that I hadn’t ever done ever before.
So, for me the what do I want to be known for gives me structure in times when I feel stuck or frustrated or angry, or any of those other emotions that come up where the world should be different than it is. And getting out of that emotional downward-cycle — that feedback cycle of just getting stuck and more stuck, and it’s not fair, and “why is this happening” and all of that which can really consume people and take years of their lives away, and for me I was just looking for the shortcut of like “What can I do? How do I want to be?” Because it’s not just doing. When I do get to talk to my folks, how do I want to be? I want to be loving. I want to be of support. I want to be of service. And quite honestly that was not always my attitude and outlook when I saw my phone would say “it’s dad calling,” I didn’t always take that call. And now when dad calls I stop heaven and earth to take that call. So really, it’s what do you want to move forward on in your life, and feel like you have a little bit of control when things feel chaotic?
COTTO: I think you’ve literally addressed the topic of answering the call, which features prominently in your [inaudible]. But now organizing a team and getting the perspective of those you trust, how does that factor into getting momentum?
WOMACK: I think we’ve all worked in places where — little feedback there — where the person in charge isn’t actually a leader. They may have the title, but they don’t have the social capital. They haven’t earned and demonstrated that they’re a person worth following. So, for me asking that question of myself at work, what do I want to be known for? — I want to be a leader worth following. I want to be an empowering team member that gives people the tools and the emotional support they can actually take initiative and demonstrate how smart they are and how they can be solving problems. So, I would take this and use that same role as a manager as a newly promoted person in my team — my department.
I just had a coaching call with a woman who was recently promoted and so the folks who used to be her peers, she’s now their director. And it’s a very interesting time of her career, where she has to be very intentional about what she wants to be known for because she’s no longer a buddy in the lunch room. She is the one who’s reporting and has a whole new set of responsibilities. And so, redefining what that relationship is is an intentional process. It can happen by accident, but I think for the results that most people want, with a little bit of structure and time and attention, they can really experience a more fulfilling time and relationship in that space.
GOTTFRIED: There’s also I think, a more difficult relationship, thinking of one of my daughters who has sort of a mid-managerial position working for a large corporation. Most of the stuff she does is graphics or public relations stuff for them, but there was somebody promoted over her who had been kind of dependent before but who obviously had better relations with her superior. And she’s in a very bad position because she is more competent, and everything being equal she was the one who should have received the promotion, and she’s also left doing a lot of the work, although the other person’s salary is higher. I think it’s sort of difficult to deal with a situation like that, in which you are not given something you feel you deserve, and in which you have to do a lot of work for somebody who was below you has now been promoted over you. How does one deal with a situation like that? It never happened to me, so I have no idea how one deals with it.
WOMACK: What would I say to her? I’d say work on that same question — what do you want to be known for? Because she has a reputation. That whole concept of personal branding, and building your brand. I don’t think people build their brand. I think people have reputations and things that they’re known for out in their workspace and in their families and in their communities and it’s whether we want to magnify it or modify it. So, when you say, “oh OK, Paul’s going to be on your team, and you’re going to work together on this project that’s due in two months,” people have an opinion. They have a thought. Like, “oh good; Paul’s the guy that always carries his own weight and gets things done.” Or, “uh oh, it’s Paul.” Right? Or somewhere on that spectrum, you have a reputation that precedes you. So, first of all we’ve got to know what we want to be known for. And then it’s our job to figure out in our workspace, in our communities, what are we known for, and try and align those — get those more toward what you want to be known for. Your daughter needs that assertiveness — and I’ll just say it — as a young woman we don’t get that kind of training most times. Saying what it is we want is a double-edged sword and it’s a very political — it’s a great skill to have to learn how to do that in an effective way, where you’re not seeming demanding or bossy or too assertive, and yet you need to let the people around you and especially above you in those hierarchical environments — let them know, “I’m doing this graphic design now, but I really see myself in the next six to twelve months leading the team in this new division. Do you have some projects where I could manage the interns, or do something to show and demonstrate to you and get a little experience where I’m running other, I’m managing other people?” Right? Those are new conversations that don’t just happen, because everybody’s busy doing what’s due yesterday. We’re all under these crazy deadlines, and every company we worked and consulted in is saying we have a lot to do. Everything’s due. We don’t really get to that long-term planning and that relationship-building and so we need as individuals in the workspace to do that work on our own behalf, and then find the times and the relationships where we can have those more deeply rapport-building kind of conversations, to say, “I’ve been here three years and I love the work, I love the company. I have aspirations of running my own team and department. Do you have any advice on what kind of projects I should be looking at so I get that type of experience under my belt and I’m a better candidate next time?” Right? And then that can’t be the first conversation you have with a person that’s a manager or director or somehow above you. Those are great conversations to be practicing along the way before the job becomes open. Right? So maybe people have an eye out for you. Like, “hey in this other department; hey in this other city; hey in this other company my wife works at I’ve heard of this thing!” You never know where it’s going to come from. But if people don’t know what you want to be known for, what you want to be moving more into, it’s really hard to help you.
COTTO: Another key point you raised to momentum is measuring something, but you advise not measuring everything at once. Why is it important not to sort of measure different things at the same time, as much as that’s possible?
WOMACK: For me personally, I just think of New Year’s resolutions and how — how should I say it — how they don’t work for me. Because I want to change everything. I want to learn a new language, make more money, change the way I eat, and everything under the sun. That’s too much, and it’s not realistic. So, my thinking is, “What’s one? Pick one for a timeframe. For the next six weeks I’m going to focus on my communication and really honing what I want to be known for and having at least one conversation a week with someone in my professional setting and really getting good and used to, and practicing that so that when the big conversation comes with my main boss it’s not the first time those words have come out of my mouth.” So, to me it’s like a very practical thing yeah sure you can try and lose weight and gain — learn a language and whatever else — learn typing skills, learn a new software learn, learn, learn! But at some point, what do you want to master? And then if you give yourself four weeks, six weeks, that’s a reasonable timeframe to really have — I don’t know— two hours a week?
Let’s start breaking this down. In the book, we talk about milestones and breaking big projects into three small pieces, so you know when you are on and off course. And again, it goes to that mindset of like not being overwhelmed by everything all the time. And I think stuckness comes from when the world just feels too heavy. When things are hard at home when their stress at work, and when the car doesn’t work, and the weather’s crappy, and all these things start to pile up of course we lose momentum and we get a little tired, and it’s easier to just turn on the TV at the end of the day or whatever those escapes are. But taking one little thing one step at a time to me it’s just a very gentle way of making progress, and building my team and finding some fans and building rapport along the way.
GOTTFRIED: I’m just listening to this advice. One of the things that I sort of take away from this — it’s something that relates to my own life — is that my field in college was actually linguistics and I’ve studied a number of languages, and I’ve begun to forget them. I’ve forgotten most of my Spanish, but I do remember German and French and Italian and some other languages. But in order to be known as somebody who is a good linguist I suppose I should not watch television I should spend hours every day trying to recover knowledge that I’m losing at my age, and …
WOMACK: Maybe you watch TV in Spanish! Maybe One TV show is a Tele novella.
GOTTFRIED: Actually I’m addicted to certain sports events. I’ll watch boxing and football. But I have to sort of wean myself away from those things and engage in more serious intellectual activity otherwise I think I’ll not only lose my edge at my age , but I also might lose my reputation. But I think you’re right you have to sort — much of what you do is based on an image that you’d like to project and the way you perceive yourself. And the people who come home and just watch TV seem to have sort of given up on life.
WOMACK: Well, I think the devices have made watching other people’s lives very compelling and very easy to do. So, whether that’s Facebook or whatever social media’s the flavor of the day, my thing is how do I focus on what I want my life to be like? And I am not a fan of brute force or pure determination because I think that only works for so long and then when we, when I get — I’ll say for me — when I get tired or things are hard, I slip back into my routines. So, anything I can do to make things fun and novel and engaging, I’m more likely to do. So, whether it’s a cooking class in Spanish or finding a Twitter feed that’s in French or for you — I’m trying to think of like how many ways can I show up and do things that I like and blend it and not feel like I’m punishing myself because punishment doesn’t work. We don’t go toward that.
GOTTFRIED: We’re watching old movies that are in French or German or Spanish, whatever. I mean that’s less painful than opening up a grammar book, right? Or trying to.
WOMACK: Exactly. Having friends over that speak that language and having Spanish-only tapas night, where we just talk in Spanish and we have a good time. So, then it’s feeding that part of your soul and your heart, that you’re doing something find that you enjoy and you’re reinforcing that “I am the kind of person who speaks ten languages fluently and with grace — whatever that affirmation is.
COTTO: I was going to bring up another theme of your book, Experimenting Specifically and Practicing Deliberately, but I think we actually wound up covering that with the last topic we addressed. So, I’ll go to Building Momentum, Recognizing Your Wins and Paying It Forward. That’s three different things but you could say they’re under the same heading, so to speak. It’s obvious to see why each is important, but at the same time, why do you think they’re so vital to sustaining momentum? I mean, you could get momentum but then you could just lose it again. Why do you think that these three things within a point are so important?
WOMACK: I do better when I have friends and fans and followers and mentors and people on my side that want me to succeed. So, the more I share specifically what I’m working on — the results I’ve had, the troubles I’ve had, the hurdles — the more likely people are to be able to help me and then want to help me. And I think that’s a key part of this is — we don’t have to make this as hard as we do. There’s so many people out there rooting for us to do well and be well and succeed and for me — I have these two girls in high school that I mentor in writing, and I think so much of our lives are set up as competitions that we forget that there’s also this loving base — and I hope that ‘L’ word is OK to use here — but I really believe that there’s people out there want us to be happy and to do well and create great things, and so that we can collaborate so that they can share and be a part of that circle of awesomeness of people who make the world a place that they want to live to and do the kinds of things that they want.
So, the reason I told you about these girls is sometimes they’re a little shy of sharing their readings, sharing what they’ve written, and we all take turns reading out loud. And I’m telling you when people share authentically and genuinely, vulnerably — I know that’s a big buzzword now — not just for the sake of oversharing but things that are really important, it creates a bond. It creates actual relations between people that more momentum comes out of because — now I’m just getting kind of out there — but yeah, there are people want to help and they don’t know how to help if they don’t know what you’re working on and what you want to be working on and what you really stand for.
GOTTFRIED: I think Jodi is right. That it’s very hard to work even on something for which one is dedicated in total isolation. I try to do it and it’s very hard and it’s best to find people who share these interests and are rooting for you. Having worked in both situations I certainly prefer the second — one in which I do have some kind of support system even if I’m doing my own thing and working on my own project.
WOMACK: And I’ll share — I love that — when you work on something by yourself nobody cares if you’re done. So first of all, sharing what you’re working on, it gives you that level of accountability. Like oh, somebody in the world is expecting me to actually do something.
I have three kinds of people in my support circle. Number one — in no particular order — the cheerleader; the optimist. Somebody who that just — the visionary. Where I tell them an idea and they encourage me and they can see it even grander and add a zero to the end of the income potential, and ra — I love talking with them. And I have specific people that pop to my mind when I describe that, and I definitely love talking to those people early on because it creates momentum just with their energy level.
The second is an accountability buddy, and that person may or may not magnify my vision of the project, but they’ll say, “oh; so, when are you going to send the book proposal to the publisher? When are you going to get that thing done?” And it’s like, “oh, do you want me to call you or check in?” They may offer, or I’ll ask them could I send it to you to review before hand and a lot of my folks in my circle will say “yes,” because we have that agreement.
And the third — and I share this one because I don’t want you to think I’m all Pollyanna, all rainbows all the time — I need a realist also on my team. But the key is — they are also called joy squashers and vampires, and all kinds of other names — but I need somebody who’s going to try and poke holes in my idea before I put too much time and effort, or money, all that love into it. I don’t like to go to those people first because my thinking and maturity hasn’t had enough time to really mature an idea. But after an accountability and a cheerleader, and me giving this idea some of my effort, it’s a great person to have on your team who’s willing to find the faults with it before you go to the world — before you go to your boss, before you go to the book publisher. To say, “oh, this has already been done,” or “oh, this isn’t very interesting; I didn’t get past the third page; I wouldn’t do it this way, I would do it that.” Those people have a place, and it’s important to know when and how to share with them. I have a couple people in my life where I say very specifically, “I would like you to look at this and this is the kind of feedback I would like from you,” so that they’re not lighting it on fire and torching the whole thing and saying “this sucks from beginning to end” but I’d say “what are the faults or what do you think of the arguments against this are?” And when I give them that very specific set of instructions for feedback, I feel like I’m getting what I need and they’re doing their natural thing which is just rip and shred. Because they’re usually super brilliant, super witty, super smart and fast, and if you give them a project too early they’ll just beat it up beyond recognition.
GOTTFRIED: I’m glad you mention the accountability person because for many years I had an accountability person — this was back about thirty, forty years ago — but it was a very distinguished professor, it was a lady who was like semiretired, and was a historian and I would always send her stuff I was working on, and she was a terrible accountability person because she would try to change every word that I wrote, every comma that I inserted into a sentence, and she held back my productivity by years and then our relationship gradually dissolved and I’ve done much better since she has not been my accountability person. So, I think you need the right kind of critic. To whom you can send things.
WOMACK: Yes. And that’s a great point. When people aren’t in the right position they undermine the product, the end project. So, she may be a great line editor before something goes to press, of finding all the typos or commas and that sort of thing. But when it’s a vision project that you want to get off the ground, that’s not the kind of person who’s going to give it wings and let it grow.
COTTO: Last question — Why should people get Get Momentum? There are other books out there about essentially the same thing, although not precisely, but generally. What sets your book apart from all others? Something about it that you think really makes it relevant to people regardless of where they’re coming from when they read it?
WOMACK: That question's for me, right?
COTTO: Yes it is.
GOTTFRIED: Specifically, for you!
WOMACK: Trying not to be too biased, because it’s my book that I wrote with my husband based on our coaching where we help people all over the world. Here’s what it is. It is a very simple, easy-to-use guidebook to help people with something we call self-coaching. It has 24 activities, and if people will give themselves the gift of their own attention and do some of the activities, their lives will improve. And that’s my big sales pitch on that. And that’s what I hope is that people find what it is that they’re really here meant to do and be and have, and give themselves that gift of that attention and time and effort.
COTTO: That was a really great discussion. Thank you for joining us Jodi and thank you for tuning in everyone. See you next week.