Marshall Goldsmith is a leadership expert who has helped people grow by achieving positive, lasting change in behavior—for themselves and their teams. Ranked as one of the most influential business thinkers in the world by The London Times and Forbes, Goldsmith has published numerous books, including the New York Times best-selling What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. His latest book is MOJO: How to Get It, How to Keep It, and How to Get It Back If You Lose It.
SUCCESS: In your book, you write about the importance of having mojo. How do you describe someone with mojo?
Marshall Goldsmith: People who have a positive spirit on the inside that radiates to the outside. These are people, especially people in leadership roles, who are always up, always positive, always communicating a sense of happiness and joy in what they are doing.
SUCCESS: How can people increase their mojo?
Marshall Goldsmith: We can always increase it. You are not going to walk through life in some state of bliss or ecstasy. Let me give you example. Let’s assume you have to go to a meeting, a stupid and boring meeting—PowerPoint slides, very dull. We have something called a “mojo meter” where you can start measuring your experience of happiness and meaning as you go through the day. Here’s my theory. If you knew you were going to have to evaluate yourself on a one to 10 scale on how meaningful that hour was, you’d start acting differently. You’d think, “OK, I have to spend this hour anyway. This hour of my life is gone. It’s going to happen. How can I, assuming I can’t get out of the meeting, make the best of it? What can I do to make myself happy during this meeting?” As opposed to being a victim and saying, “Poor me. I am in a bad mood. This is awful.” And making myself and everyone around me miserable.
SUCCESS: I love that. So, what’s your advice for maintaining mojo in a challenging economy?
Marshall Goldsmith: It’s tough out there. Before you act and before you speak, ask yourself one question: “Is what I am about to say or do in the best interest of myself and the people I love?” If the answer is no, then this might not be a good year to say it or do it. It’s tough out there. This is not a good year to make ego points. Some people are going to need to suck it up this year. If you have a job, learn to make the best of what you have got. Be an entrepreneur where you are. Look for opportunities where you are. If you don’t have a job, go for real offers. Until you get real offers, it’s all speculative theory. Put yourself in sales mode. Great salespeople get rejected more than others. Every offer is a business sales call. There are no information interviews. Offers are good—you can always turn them down.
SUCCESS: What’s your best tip for maintaining a positive attitude?
Marshall Goldsmith: Every decision in the world is made by the person who has the power to make the decision. Make peace with that. Not the smartest person, or the best person, or the right person, or the person you agree with, but it’s made by that person. If you learn to influence that person, you make a positive difference; and if you don’t, you don’t. So many people walk through life, and one of the main reasons they feel negative, bitter and angry is they say, “Life is not fair. The decision maker is stupid. The decision maker is not good.” There is nothing in the world that indicates that decision makers are always smart or decision makers are always good. Decision makers are just decision makers. Every decision is just made on who has the power to make a decision. Make peace with that. Quit expecting a leader to be something other than human.
SUCCESS: What does an entrepreneur need to know?
Marshall Goldsmith: I have had a guaranteed base salary of zero for the last 30 years. You have to earn it. It’s kind of hard to coast when you are an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs don’t get headaches. Don’t get a cold. You just suck it up. It’s part of your life. No one is taking care of you. The good news is entrepreneurs tend to be high in terms of personal responsibility. They find their work meaningful. They have a positive attitude in what they are doing.
SUCCESS: What do you say to people who want to use their mojo to leave corporate America and become an entrepreneur?
Marshall Goldsmith: Are you willing to take a chance? You need to know risk is real. If it is in your heart, and you think you can make it and you are willing to pay the price, you should go for it. I haven’t met too many lazy entrepreneurs who are successful. A lot of us want an easy ticket, but I don’t believe in it myself. I have been around a lot of successful leaders and entrepreneurs, and they are dedicated. They work hard.
And, by the way, they are not martyrs. If you love what you do, you don’t mind work. If you don’t love what you do, hard work is painful. I think that’s one thing people don’t understand about entrepreneurs as victims or martyrs; they love what they do.
SUCCESS: How can entrepreneurs identify the right business for them?
Marshall Goldsmith: People need to ask themselves, “If I could pick any path for the rest of my life that I think would make me happy and I could find meaning, what would it be?” And then make a list of possible options. Then go down the list and ask a second question: “Through which of these paths can I make a living?” Maybe you want to be a Hollywood movie star. Most people? It’s not going to happen. Realistically, what are you capable of doing? And then you ask yourself, “What is the price I am going to have to pay?” And then, “Am I willing to pay the price?” “What dream would work for me? What are its odds of success?” If you aren’t willing to pay the price, then sit back and dream your life away. If you are willing, go for it.
SUCCESS: Great. So why do you think so many people don’t hit their goals?
Marshall Goldsmith: We all underestimate the degree of difficulty of achieving our goals. I think people believe they are going to do these things they set out to do. It’s always harder than you think. It’s always going to take more time than you think. There are always going to be distractions. Something else is always going to come up to get in the way. When you achieve one goal, it doesn’t mean every other goal in your life is going to get better. For example, if you are a man who lost weight, and thousands of women don’t flock to you, you think, “I didn’t have a date before, and I still don’t have a date. I might as well be fat.” You give up. It’s always harder than you think, longer than you think, and there are always going to be distractions. The rewards are never what you think they are going to be, and you have to keep doing it. If people want to achieve any level of success, you have to face these facts. If you don’t face the facts when you an encounter a roadblock, you will give up.
SUCCESS: So, what’s your take-home advice in a nutshell?
Marshall Goldsmith: Make peace with what is. Change what you can change, and if you can’t change it, take a deep breath and make peace.