Leslie Ehm wants to help you unleash your authentic self and become the confident, magnetic, unmistakable creative that you've always wanted to be. Take a listen to discover how you can unlock and unleash your own personal swagger.
Leslie Ehm wants to help you unleash your authentic self and become the confident, magnetic, unmistakable creative that you've always wanted to be. Take a listen to discover how you can unlock and unleash your own personal swagger.
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Leslie Ehm: We are not our history. We are the stories we tell ourselves. And you'll find that you talk to your parents about some of the things that wounded you as a child. You say, mom, when you said this to me back in the day, remember this situation that happened and your very selective memory, because we can only store so many memories from our lives.
Leslie Ehm: And it's usually the ones that are super amazing or super painful, that tends to be what we have the capacity for. And so you revisit one of those situations and say, I remember when you told me, blah, blah, blah. And then your parents go, what that's either that barely happened or they tell you the context of other, they tell you what came before, came after and reframe it for you.
Leslie Ehm: You go, what? I always took it as X, or I just remember the why or I, or whatever. And again, you're selectively choosing the pieces of those stories that you have chosen to take on and they continue to be the narrative that plays out in your.
Srini: I'm serine route. And this is the unmistakable creative podcast where you get a window into the stories and insights of the most innovative and creative minds who started movements,
Leslie Ehm: built thriving businesses,
Srini: written best-selling books, and created insanely interesting art for more check out our 500 episode firstname.lastname@example.org.
Srini: Leslie. I'm actually thrilled to be able to do this in two parts. I think that it says a whole hell of a lot to me, about how much you have packed into this book. One of the things that you say before you start to introduce us to the things that block swagger is that if you start to believe your own hype, without having the actual chops to back it up, you not only start making bad decisions, you also literally brainwash yourself into believing you're better than you are, which leads to less of a desire to improve.
Srini: And I appreciated the fact that you put that in the book, because I feel like there's so many people who believe in their own hype with nothing to back it up. Why do you think that people even get away with that? It seems like there's a lot of that, particularly in the online.
Leslie Ehm: I think there's actually an expectation to do that.
Leslie Ehm: People believe that the fake it till you make it thing is what ultimately brings them success. If you can convince people that you're amazing before you feel amazing, you have a better chance of becoming amazing, but I don't really believe that. I think that you want to experience self belief, but that's different than confidence.
Leslie Ehm: You can only experience true confidence as a result of true competence. Only when you've done something enough times that you become unshakable in that. Do you exude what? That thing that everyone aspires to that confidence when people can come for you and you go out, I'm all good.
Leslie Ehm: It's fine. You can think what you want to think, but I know where I am in my journey. The thing, the problem with that though, is that whenever you get to that place of confidence, it's such a fricking relief. You go, oh my God, I finally know what's going on. Oh my God. And you don't want to move outside of that so quickly.
Leslie Ehm: And I think the difference between people who really accomplish great things in their lives is that they don't get too comfortable in the place of confidence. That they're really okay with going back into that, getting punted out of confidence and going back into that competence building thing.
Leslie Ehm: So when we get a convince ourselves that confidence is everything, then we actually limit our ability to grow. And self belief is very different. Self belief is a choice. And to me, what self-belief is, it's just that unshakeable kind of, that center that tells you that you can take a step off the cliff into the unknown or into what appears to be the drop or the nothing, and that you're not going to die.
Leslie Ehm: You don't lead there. Things might happen to you. You might experience a bunch of things and it might not go as planned, but you're not going to die. And I think that lack of self-belief is what stops people from going into the unknown. So there's a, there's these, all these different elements in my mind, from my perspective.
Leslie Ehm: So I think if you believe your own hype too much, then you don't get into that competence building. And if you don't believe in yourself enough, Then you don't take a step off the cliff. So there's a sweet spot there. It's like hustle and humility next. Yeah,
Srini: no, I love that because I think that one of the things that I've become hyper aware of over the last year or so, we've, based on the conversations I've had with people here on the show and my own reading is a role that cognitive biases play in the assumptions that we make.
Srini: And then the decisions that we make which is why I frequently tell anybody I'm teaching to consider the possibility that everything I'm telling them is bullshit, because it might be for them. I wonder, when it comes to this whole idea of believing your own hype, like, why do people ignore context so much?
Srini: I'll give you an example just to frame it. So you look at an online course or something like that. And you'll see that, oh, this person got this result. So if I just follow them and do exactly as they did, I will get that same result too. I had a friend who was been a guest here before she sent me, I think, 10 different websites from 10 of her clients.
Srini: And I put them all up to next to each other. And I said, I'm going to pass on all of these guests. Cause I have no idea what the fuck any of these people do. And it sounds like they all do the same thing.
Leslie Ehm: I, boy, I think that we. Our lack of our context or lack of context. So let's take context first.
Leslie Ehm: We will compare ourselves to that, which we find impressive. And just because we find it impressive, doesn't make it by definition. Impressive. That's just perspective. I remember my mother, my amazing mother when I was a little kid watching the news and she said to me, see you, you realize that there are other news crews taking a different perspective on this.
Leslie Ehm: And the ones that you're seeing are showing you only what they want you to see. So you're not seeing what's real. You're just seeing what they want you to see, and it doesn't make it true and it doesn't make it right. So you have to be able to form your own opinions about these things. And imagine that you're seeing a much bigger picture than you're being shown.
Leslie Ehm: And I think that in our social. Social oriented world. We have, we developed this incredibly curated view of everything, and we don't want to think about what is true and real beyond that. And we're going to like what we we're going to gravitate towards what we gravitate towards and we're going to believe what we want to believe.
Leslie Ehm: I think it takes a really strong mind, in, in this today's environment to go. Yeah. Okay. But pride because that's the opposite of what that curated social media thing is trying to do. They're saying no. Just see only this, see a collection of this, a pallet of this, a reinforcement of this.
Leslie Ehm: Don't think about what I might look like off camera or that what the situation might be besides this. Just accept what I'm telling you. And I think we've become super myopic as a result.
Srini: Yeah. I think that sort of myopia tends to lead to a lot of delusional
Leslie Ehm: optimism delusional, everything delusional pessimism too.
Leslie Ehm: I think w I think it works, in, in many ways, I think that we have a far less sense of what's true. And what's real. We seen that, we understand that in the media, that what we're seeing now, where we used to really believe that what we were seeing was real. We now know for a fact that what we're seeing is not necessarily real, which is terrifying for people because they want the concrete, they want that with.
Srini: Wow. What let's get into the first swagger blocker, which is persona. And you say the first buyer of blocker separating the real you from the world is personas. So many of us develop a conscious demarcation between who we really are and what we reveal to the world, particularly in the context of our professional lives.
Srini: We do this because we've been conditioned to believe that there's a way we're supposed to show up if we want to succeed, but the truth is having a work persona does not help. It just hides our uniqueness and shrouds our value. And you may be the one person who can finally answered this damn question for me because I think that when you're a public figure it comes with some very unique challenges.
Srini: Perfect example, I was on a reality TV show. People said a lot of, not so nice things about me during that. And the person they matched me up with everybody else had plenty of nice things to say. But one of the things that I was very mindful of was the fact that I am a public figure.
Srini: I have a body of work and everything that I say and do in such a large form. Is a reflection on every single person in my life. My investors might literary agents, my speaking agents. And so I think that this is one of those that I really, it was one of the ones I thought a lot about this when I thought about what's involved in the psychology of building audience.
Srini: When I met Glen Beck, I wrote an article titled person versus persona and the media mask, because I think inevitably I am a different person behind the microphone than I am with my roommates and closest friends, because a lot of the things that I say to them would basically be career ending PR crisis in the making.
Srini: So where's that boundary between, being genuine about this and being a jackass.
Leslie Ehm: I don't think, see I, a lot of people get down on the concept of authenticity because they say it's an excuse to be an asshole. Now you can just be unfiltered, uncensored and say, Hey, I'm just being authentic.
Leslie Ehm: It's just who I am. It's just the real me. That is not what swagger is all about. And I think also that. Yes, I might I'm I guess I might say different things to my best friends, in the context of conversations that I would say in service of the swagger message, for example, but if they were conflicting, then I'm full of shit.
Leslie Ehm: I might say them differently or express them differently. I might swear more or I might be more specific or whatever, but if I'm changing my context, if I'm full of shit, about what I believe in, I think it's about, I think people mistake, professionalism with credibility. And that's where I think it gets very messy because when I know, and it's a very long and Rocky road, because very often when we step into our professional environments at the beginning of our careers, we start with that mask of persona.
Leslie Ehm: We walk, talk, dress, behave like a fucking business, buzzwords and acronyms and all the shit that we think that is going to gain us entry into this new tribe that we've entered into, and then it just continues from there. And we tell ourselves that the reason that we are experienced success, so we're ascending is because we're doing that.
Leslie Ehm: No, we don't think about the spaces in between where our humanity is shining through. We think about I must be succeeding because I'm doing this right. I'm playing this game, this role, correctly. And so it just goes on from there. What I always say to everybody is you gotta be who you are from the jump, like from the time that you go and you interview for a job, for example, you gotta let them see who you are.
Leslie Ehm: So if they do want you, you can go a few. Okay. So they want me for who I am. And yes, there may be people in my work environment who are trapped in that persona paradigm, who aren't going to like it because my realness holds up a mirror to their lack of realness and the fact that they're very trapped and they don't know how to escape it.
Leslie Ehm: So the more authentic and the more real I am, and the more people will gravitate towards me as a result, because we know that we fall in love with people, with whom, for whom, what is what you get, because we feel safe with them. We don't feel like there's something, there's something hiding behind.
Leslie Ehm: That's going to like. Those are the people that we love and respect in our world, but for so many people they've gotten so disconnected from it. They don't know how to get back there and they feel like it's going to be this big radical shift. And for me professionally, It's being respectful of other people.
Leslie Ehm: That's fucking cost of entry. Don't be an asshole, it's it's doing your work to the best of your ability. It's trying to elevate the collective and not just yourself. It's about taking responsibility when you screw up. And it's about, it's about being a part of something bigger than you, and considering the goals of the collective, to the best of your ability.
Leslie Ehm: To me, that's what being professional is. It's not about wearing a certain kind of shirt or speaking a certain kind of way, but if you're, if you have a client meeting and you believe that your client is going to be offended, if you swear a blue streak, but it's not good for the collective for you to swear a blue streak, but when you're in a meeting with your colleagues, and you're a swear where your fucking ass off it's who you are, it's not going to hurt anybody.
Leslie Ehm: Nobody's ears are gonna fall off or bleed. And I think that you have to learn to make choices. And if you, if what. Say and do is out of alignment with what you think and feel, your experience in what I call the swagger gap that you're full of shit. And you're trapped in persona somehow.
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Srini: It's funny. You say that because there are two experiences that come to mind for me. When you say that the first was the first and probably the last time I ever went to give a talk at Pepperdine, my dad's side, he said, you use way too many swear words. And part of it was, I think I'd been watching these Gary Vaynerchuk speak peace speeches.
Srini: And I was like, wait a minute. This actually doesn't serve the message at all, as and that was a pretty profound realization for me. I was like, okay, I'm not Gary V I shouldn't be swearing just for the sake of swearing. The other one is job interviews, and I love that you brought this up, but he's, I have been fired from every job I've ever had.
Srini: And now that you've said this, it makes a lot of sense because I was really good. Interviewing because I can put on that mask and I could go in and I could basically present the image of who they wanted me to be to get the job. Of course I could never keep the job because I wasn't me. And I remember thinking if I'd ever had the opportunity to do it again, I had one last interview for a real job sometime in 2011.
Srini: And it's funny, cause I wrote about this in my book where there was a guy there basically said, when we say, eight o'clock, we don't mean eight 15. And I think if I had been honest, I would have just put the interview to the end, right there and said, you know what guys, I think I would hate working with all of you.
Srini: So I think let's just save each other some time and, call it a day. Like clearly I'm not a good fit for you, but I didn't. And what's funny is the woman who was hiring for the job got fired, the person they hired got fired and then this other guy was just a lifelong person who just followed rules.
Leslie Ehm: Yeah. I understand how badly we want to fit into the tribe because that's primal, right? That's if we don't fit into the tribe, we're the first one that gets eaten, in the event of a famine kinda thing. So we want to fit in and we feel so proud of ourselves when you go, yes, I have been accepted.
Leslie Ehm: I have been approved of, but if you're being accepted and approved of, for being someone other than you're not, what is the fucking point? What is the point? We cannot be for everyone when we are for everyone, we become like this artificial vanilla, bland, nothing. And, yeah, it doesn't make waves and yeah, you think you're making other people's lives easier and that you're going to experience some kind of security as a result, but when you are screaming on the inside and going, oh, I can't, I'm trapped in this, vanilla world when I'm a double, triple fucking, mochaccino with a twist of lemon and some cayenne pepper sprinkled on top, you, it will not last.
Leslie Ehm: And I would rather be respected and accepted and loved and approved of by a few for who I really am, then accepted and loved by everybody for who I'm not because it's not real. And we're so starving for approval that we'll do anything to get it. It's heartbreaking. It's heartbreaking because we don't know how to self validate.
Leslie Ehm: We don't know how to internally validate. That's not anything that anybody teaches us how to do.
Srini: Yeah, I'm so glad you brought that up because I've been like writing about this idea of what I call a CRE a creative MBA, which is what I want to start to form based on just looking at curriculums in both MFA and MBA programs.
Srini: So there's a huge knowledge gap which is largely around the subject that you're talking about, because you can learn how to do all these different things. You can read all these business books, but if you don't address the very things we're talking about, you're building it on a
Leslie Ehm: house of cards.
Leslie Ehm: Yeah. Oh, whoa, listen. A hundred percent. That is what inspired this book in the first place, because I, I, when I launched combustion, which is in my training company in 2008, it was called something else initially. But the company that eventually became combustion and I was training skills for which I considered myself to be relatively expert.
Leslie Ehm: That was what may combustion different. It was subject matter experts. Who became trainers in order to share that knowledge and make people's work lives better the very next day, that was my whole thing and doing it in a very irreverent, very soulful, very human centric kind of way. But what I discovered it didn't like, it didn't matter where I went in the world.
Leslie Ehm: It didn't matter the level that I was working with CEOs down. It didn't matter the culture. It didn't matter. The company that, at their core people didn't feel like they were good enough to succeed. Didn't feel like they could reveal who they really were and still experience the success that they were dreaming of.
Leslie Ehm: So all of these skills that I was teaching storytelling, presentation, skills, creativity, leadership, that it was like built on the most incredibly shaky foundation because how could they actually internalize these skills and own them if they weren't internalizing and owning themselves?
Leslie Ehm: You know what I mean? It was yet another layer that they were putting on the outset. Okay. Presentation skills. Okay. I got to look like I'm all over it. I got to look like I'm super COVID. I got to look, I was like new. We got to learn what it means to feel that what can you tap into that is proof for you so that you can experience that sense of true confidence.
Leslie Ehm: Then when someone questions you in the moment, you don't fall off your center, you don't freak out. You don't crumble, you don't get mad or all of those things that become the shit show when we're having to get up in front of people. And when I realized that. I spent all of my time trying to break people down.
Leslie Ehm: When I had them in front of me, that was what my training became. It was like this deconstructing of their psyches to show them that if they pull out who they really are, even for a moment and let other people in that training experience, see them and experience the feedback from that, that they'd start to see the proof of concept that start to go wait a second.
Leslie Ehm: We need to be like that. That was good. And I was like, yeah, that was so much better. That was so amazing. That idea that thought that the way that you carried yourself, the way that you told that story, you were like a different person and I'm like no. And that was actually you. That was the real you, do you understand how much of you, you are leaving off the table, and if you tapped into everything that you were, how, what a difference this would make.
Leslie Ehm: So I, that's why I went, I, skills training is great, but it is not going to work in less. People believe that they are. Of embracing this new information and using it in a way that only they can and then bring it back out into the world and an incredibly powerful place,
Srini: yeah. No, absolutely. I you're a conversation that comes to mind for me is my friend, Eric Aramark, who has also been a guest here. I remember she would tell me, she said, you know what she said, when I talked to you per go offline, she said, you're incredibly opinionated to the point where you'll say things that piss people off.
Srini: And she said, but that doesn't come into your work. And she said, and that's going to be the difference if you're willing to do that. And Justine Musk once told me, and I've quoted this quote a thousand times. Cause I think it's such a valuable quote. She said, if you have a bold and compelling point of view, it will piss people off.
Srini: And I remember the moment that happened, that when I finally embraced those two ideas, that's when everything changed.
Leslie Ehm: Yeah. But three it's about your intention, if you got it, that's why that is so key to swagger is you've got to know. Y you're saying or doing the thing, not just because it needs to be said, okay it needs to be said, and all you have to do is alienate people.
Leslie Ehm: There's no fucking point. Cause not going to land people, aren't going to embrace your truth. You're actually going to defeat the purpose of saying it. If your intention is to help people understand a different point of view, then you don't change your truth, but you gotta have the smarts to be able to reframe your truth so that it lands so that people understood.
Leslie Ehm: It's understand that it's not just about you and not just good for you, but it's good for the greater good and for the collective. And when you learn how to do that, to make things that are important to you. Important to other people because they have a connection to it in some way, or they see that it also benefits them or that they can be part of something bigger and greater, then you don't piss them off.
Leslie Ehm: Then you're just, creative or you're just strong minded or you're just whatever, you're not an asshole. And I, and it's like one of the things that I wish that I could teach people how to do too. Like with nuance, I talk about it in the book about how truth is about it's, you don't change what you say, but you reframe it.
Leslie Ehm: And you also think about the, when the, where and the, to whom you speak it. Because if it's not going to land in that moment, you're wasting your breath. And if you want to make sure it gets heard, you got to get a little strategic. Cause that's what gets people into trouble is they just puke out their truth and expect everybody to sift through it for the good chunks.
Leslie Ehm: It's no, no one's going to do that. It's not going to happen. Yeah.
Srini: I've often joked that geo my book unmistakable lie only is better than best could have easily been called. Everybody is full of shit. But to your point, that's exactly why it wasn't called that.
Leslie Ehm: And I don't think, I don't think it's about, like sometimes the shit that comes out of our mouths is us trying out ideas, we're they form in their heads and they're out of our minds before we even, even really think about it in process.
Leslie Ehm: Cause that's how we operate. And that it's only by the reflection of other people that we start to go. Was that, did I do that the right way? Was it the right thing, the right time, the right place? Or do I even believe this? And the people who I respect most in this world are able to do that and then just sit back and hear what other people have to say and reconnect.
Leslie Ehm: You know what they said or how they set it to either clarify their intention or Diaz. I go, yeah, that probably, he was my intention. That probably wasn't the best way to communicate it. I'm not backing down from what I believe in, but I understand why it didn't land the way that I'd hoped it would land.
Leslie Ehm: If we could do that better, we would be able to have that kind of better discourse across the board, as opposed to my ideas. My thought is the thought of you. Don't like it fuck yourself and all the rest of it. And I, people say about me that I'm like I, that I'm incredibly direct.
Leslie Ehm: I get that a lot, but I'm also like that. Unlike cartoon violence. You know that when I have a super strong opinion or what I get in your face, it's not like I'm going to punch you in the face. It's more bugs bunny with the mallet. It's you don't, it doesn't re it doesn't really hurt, but it gets your attention.
Leslie Ehm: Yeah.
Srini: Let's talk about this whole idea of ambition because it's such an odd paradox to think that ambition is something that blocks swagger, but you say there's a big difference between being purely ambitious in being in your place of excellence, raw ambition, forces you to constantly look Skyward, focusing on the next, rung up the ladder instead of inward and being present in your journey toward accomplishment on your own terms.
Srini: And I love that as somebody who I think, had ambition, to a fault, to the point where my ambition actually alienated a lot of people I made some decisions that honestly, I'm not proud of. Ambition. Yeah. While I was in business school, cut friends out of projects without telling them, and I lost friends for good.
Leslie Ehm: That's exactly it, babe. That's exactly it because the reason that's that ambition can be a swagger blocker and don't get me wrong. I'm all for efficient. I'm all for success and striving and taking risks and doing it well, do you if it comes to the cost of your authentic, And not okay because you're going to be left alone and you may have what you perceive to be success, but trust and believe that a certain point in your life, you're going to have a little come to Jesus with yourself and go, holy shit.
Leslie Ehm: What did I have to sacrifice in order to get here? Who am I, and how did I become this person? So I think that when we are looking upwards to the next rung of the ladder, what we get so fixated on that, that by definition, we don't focus inwards enough because if we did, we would, we would check ourselves.
Leslie Ehm: We don't focus enough left and right to our peers and colleagues because we need them. And they are part of our journey. And that's part of being professional and respectful of other people and being part of the greater good. And we sure as hell, do not focus on our followers. For all those people who are listening, who are spine aspiring to be leaders, you cannot be a leader without followers and followers have a choice.
Leslie Ehm: Just because you are a people manager or you have a title does not mean you will have followers. And if you do not focus on your followers and if you're not in service of their growth in their journey, you do not deserve the mantle of leader. And so if your swagger, if your swagger is coming it, if it's at the expense or the, your author authenticity is coming at the expense of your ambition, then that is not about swagger.
Leslie Ehm: So being in your place of excellence is saying, I want to do a really great job. I want to learn. I want to do the best that I can, not just for myself, but for everyone who is connected to the work that I do. And I wanted to help lift the people around me. And when you do that, you have to climb because people will lift you.
Leslie Ehm: That's the beautiful thing. That's what people forget is that people will lift you because if you're a natural. Then when leadership roles are open. Yeah, sure. You go for it. Absolutely. And everybody else is going to endorse you for that. You're going to have so many people going, oh yeah. 3d is you got to be he's the best he's, he's got our backs.
Leslie Ehm: He's amazing. We trust him all the rest of it. And yes, you're going to have to adjust to new status as you move up the ladder, but that's the least of your problems, so I think that it can be a really slippery slope, which is why you got to watch yourself with them.
Srini: So one other sort of follow-up to this whole idea of ambition, when you see things like, the way that our politicians behave in the United States, the way our startup CEO, founders behave when they've achieved the billion dollar evaluations. Do you think that there's a danger of pushing ambition and self-interest to the point of diminishing return?
Srini: And how do you recognize that before it happens?
Leslie Ehm: Listen, I've always said that, that power absolute power corrupts. Absolutely. You can't, it is the very rare individual who remains uncorrupted in some way, shape or form as a result of having massive power. Because I think we, we disconnect from reality at a certain point.
Leslie Ehm: When you forget what it means to, to be, and feel like someone who is deep in the struggle, that's when everything is lost. And if you can't stay connected to that, you just, you lose your. Motherfucking might you lose your mother bug of mine. And I watch people in power and I shake my head and go, what w have they really forgotten what it felt like and what it looked like to be in a place of wanting or in a place of not having on a place of struggle.
Leslie Ehm: And I think it's really hard to hold onto it. I, I think the amount of money that people are allowed to collect is an obscenity. My husband and I talk about this all the time, that there should be a cap as to how much money one individual can have. And beyond that, the question is, what do you do with the remainder?
Leslie Ehm: Because that's the true test of who you are, yeah. To keep your a hundred million dollar. 'cause when he ever going to be able to spend that, but after that hundred million dollars, it is time to share it with the world. And what kind of things do you want to share it with? How do you manage those projects?
Leslie Ehm: How do you, what do you do? Like I look at bill gates, what he did or what he continues to do with the latter part of his career. And you go, that's what I'm talking about. You get to a point where you go, okay, I'm Richard, the God, what do I do now? Okay. I'm going to set up a really smart foundations where people have to take responsibility for their returns.
Leslie Ehm: So it's not just charity after charity. But I'm going to set all these things up for success so that people who do have that intention to change the world are going to have that leg up to do that. And I'm going to support them in that. So I, people often say to me, so what celebrities, what public figures do you think have swagger?
Leslie Ehm: And I go, how the hell would I know, because for the most part, what we're seeing of them is completely cured. And based on not the stuff that they say on social media, where they say on a news or interviews, but based on their actions, in terms of what kind of contributors they are to the greater good, I would say almost none because they lose their minds in the process, that's what happens.
Leslie Ehm: Yeah.
Srini: Yeah. W let's talk about this whole idea of insecurity. You say insecurity is really about the challenge we're about to take on it's the history of self doubt. That's the killer. So how do you resolve that history? We can't rewrite history. Whatever's happened to us, has happened to us.
Srini: You might've been told by your parents who weren't smart, you might've been told by some kid in school, you're an idiot, whatever it is, you can't change that. So with that in mind, how do we actually deal with this history of self doubt so that we can resolve insecurity?
Leslie Ehm: I'm going to be glib with this one and say, we are not our history.
Leslie Ehm: We are the stories we tell ourselves. And you'll find that w when you ever you've ever been around someone, or even for yourself where you talk to your parents about some of the things that wounded you as a child, you say, mom, when you said this to me, back in the day, remember this situation that happened and your very selective memory, because we can only store so many memories from our lives.
Leslie Ehm: And it's usually the ones that are super amazing or super painful, that tends to be what we have the capacity for. And so you revisit one of those situations and say, I remember when you told me, blah, blah, blah, and then your parents go, wow. Not just that's either that barely happened or they tell you the context of what did they tell you?
Leslie Ehm: What came before, came after and reframe it for you? You go, what? I always took it as X, or I just remember the Y or I, whatever. And again you're selectively choosing the pieces of those stories that, that you have chosen to take on. You've chosen to take them on and they continue to be the narrative that plays out in your head.
Leslie Ehm: Like I was told a perfect example is, I had amazing parents. My parents supported me a hundred percent, however, I was a really difficult kid. I was completely wild. I did not follow the rules. I had a big issues with authority. I was super precocious. I was, I would act out a lot.
Leslie Ehm: I was hyper all of those things. And so my mother would often say things to me, trying to help me like, Leslie, you're so incredibly creative. If only you could just focus a little bit more, Lesley you're so passionate. If only you could pick your moments, Leslie you're.
Leslie Ehm: You're so this, if only, and what happened was it didn't take long for me to stop hearing the first part of that. And to only hear the second part of that, I became a caveat if only, and that stayed with me for years and years. And I believe that I was somehow not good at.
Leslie Ehm: That there was some that I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, for people that they would accept me on the surface, but really they were thinking it was too much, too big, too loud, too, whatever. And I wore that and it made me very angry and very frustrated for a lot of, for a lot of years, until I realized, wait a second, that may have been true of someone's perspective at a certain point in time, but that is still their perspective and their opinion.
Leslie Ehm: And if I wear it, then it's mine. And it's the equivalent of, going into the fucking airport, going up to the baggage carousel, Dragon's somebody else's baggage off the carousel, drive it down the Causeway, taking it home, unpacking it and putting someone else's dirty underwear on your head and starting over.
Leslie Ehm: And we would never do that, but we pick up other people's baggage, like it's fucking candy and we wear it, we eat it up and we let it take root in us as truth, as opposed to saying, wait a second. In the past, I was told that I was X, but today people tell me that I Y and yeah, I couldn't be where I am and do what I do today without having been the sort of a collective of my history, but I can choose the damage that I continue to wear, or I can choose to recontextualize it and embrace who I am right now, in my journey.
Leslie Ehm: So I just stopped. I just stopped hearing that in my head. And you can't like your psyche is going to talk to, it's going to say something. The key is not to just put your fingers in your ears and sing and go, not listening to negative voices in head. You have to literally record over them.
Leslie Ehm: You have to replace them. With something that's going to that's going to play just like those negative tapes did and when they did so the same way that, that in a situation, the negative tape is going to go, you're not good enough. And you suck and you don't have what it takes. If we can record over those tapes, the same trigger is going to go.
Leslie Ehm: You got this. You got the chops, get on it. You're going to be fine. You're not going to die. And you can do that. But you have to almost exercise the demons. You have to get them out instead of trying to suppress them or hide from them or be mad at them, you have to say, come on out and play inner saboteur tour.
Leslie Ehm: Let's get you out on paper. It's an exercise that I do with people. I get them to write themselves a letter from their inner saboteurs and I go nuts, get evil, dirty with yourself because we accept so much more shit from ourselves than we would ever accept from somebody else. If somebody came in and said to me some of the shit that plays in my head, I would punch them in the face.
Leslie Ehm: I would lay them out and I can, I would lay them out. And yet I choose to allow that I choose to allow my own insecurity to speak to me in that way. So I get people to write a letter from the interceptor. And once it's out on paper and it's a totally emotional exercise because I want every dark and shitty thought that you have about yourself to come out on paper.
Leslie Ehm: And often when I'm coaching people, I'll read it back to them, which is really difficult for them because now it's somebody else's voice saying the things that are their worst fears, they're their worst beliefs, and then once we're done, I go, okay, so like any good lawyer, I want you to write a rebuttal to this letter, but I want you to use facts and not supposition.
Leslie Ehm: So I want you to sift through your life to date and find concrete facts, proof to dispute these points of insecurity. Okay. So it's not just don't be mean to me, I'm a nice person and I just want to be loved. And I'm going to talk about you say you're on level. And when in fact you have a partner who loves you, you have friends who have known you and loved you for the past 25 years.
Leslie Ehm: You have, those are facts, those are indisputable, right? So I get them to do that just for like line by line. And then I have them compress that down, to distill it down into what I call the swagger mantra. Find the highlights of that. I'm a blah, blah, blah, blah, blah person. Or I have a lot of, I'm a person who is accomplished, blah, blah, blah.
Leslie Ehm: And I deserve all the good things because no one could take it away from me because however you want to frame it. But it's that distillation so that when that negative voice comes a. You go, you put your hand up immediately. You don't even let it start. You go, let me tell you something. You try out your swagger mantra and if you need more, you start going through that resume of awesome.
Leslie Ehm: That is all of the things that are the proof and slowly but surely, like in everything with your brain you have to do it with repetition. You have to believe it. And it starts to shift that balance. So now the voice in your head goes, actually, I'm a beautiful, lovable human. Who's got a ton of passion who is committed to doing great things in this world.
Leslie Ehm: So fuck you in her voice, that's what happens. It's work. It takes work, but I find so many people that I work with get into the whole victims thing. The voice always comes and I can't. I'm like if you're not going to fight it, then you're not going to win. You gotta be in the game to win.
Srini: Yeah, it reminds me of something, a boss, one of the many bosses who fired me and told me, he said, you're not the type of person who's interested in controlling your own destiny. And it's funny because, I owe him a huge debt of gratitude for telling. That's
Leslie Ehm: pretty insightful. It's pretty insightful from a boss.
Srini: You know what I said, I was like, you're right. I'm not interested in controlling my own destiny and the context that you think I should control it. Working at the same company for 20 years. I like, you don't do what I've done. If you lack motivation.
Leslie Ehm: Yeah no. And that's not controlling your own destiny.
Leslie Ehm: That's, working for the same company for 20 years is creating your own illusion of security. That's what you're doing. It's the illusion. It's an illusion, and listen, some people make that choice. All good, no shade to that. But I remind people over and over again when they, again, when I work with them, when they say, I'm not happy in this, or I feel trapped and I go, dude, the security that you think you don't want to give up is is an absolute illusion anyway, because they will fire your ass as soon as it's convenient to them.
Leslie Ehm: And if you have put all your eggs in that basket, simply for security, you're going to end up. Very disillusioned and disappointed. So if you want to be there and you want to do your thing great all in, but if there's things about it that you don't want, that don't fit you or don't fit you now and did fit you 10 years ago, you got to step, you got to take your own life in your hands and understand that there are other options for you in this world.
Srini: Okay? So in the interest of time I want to cover pain and fear, and then I want to get into the things that drive swagger. So let's talk specifically about pain and fear, because I feel like so many people are terrified to do whatever this thing they say they want to do is, I hear it over and over again, whether it's, with creative work, whether it's starting a business, whether it's, quitting a job or something, and you say that fear is where confidence goes to die, a horrible death.
Srini: How do you prevent that from happening?
Leslie Ehm: The thing that I love talking about when I talk about fear is the neuroscience of it. And you, as a, as a hardcore creative you get this that, according to the brain that which has been tested and proven equals good, right? We have a default system in the brain that says, you know what?
Leslie Ehm: I know what I have context for makes me feel safe because I know that I'm not going to die. That is what the brain is designed to do for us in terms of the primal brain, the reptilian brain. And anytime that, that that reptilian brain is challenged, our context is challenged or experiences challenge.
Leslie Ehm: We have this process that triggers in the brain. So we have that, which has not been tested and proven, which equals bad, scary, never done it. Don't know what the is going to be. And the. The reptilian brain takes over. It triggers the amygdala. The amygdala produces cortisol in the brain, cortisol, floods, the brain, which then causes the limbic and the neocortex, which are the really sentience parts of the brain causes them to shut down because we don't need those parts right now, according to the brain, it's run, kill it or freeze.
Leslie Ehm: Those are the only options available to us. So now we lose the ability to think. Clearly our brains are flooded with cortisol, which then says to the brain, I got a fight. Give me the stuff. And then you get adrenaline in the body. So you get that sweaty shaky kind of, over amped kind of vibe. That whole paradigm is the worst thing that we can imagine because the brain cannot differentiate between, a tiger is going to eat me fear, and someone's going to give me the side-eye in a meeting fear of.
Leslie Ehm: There isn't, there aren't really levels of fear unless you know how to deal with them and quickly contextualize them. So you want to, when it comes to fear, you've got to learn how to not let that process run away to the point where the Centurion parts of your brain gets switched off. It's learning to be uncomfortable with discomfort.
Leslie Ehm: That is the key because discomfort is designed to stop us from doing shit that we don't know the outcome for. And we've learned, especially in the business world. Oh my God. We have started to treat discomfort as something that is oh, I don't know that doesn't feel right. Based on your personal one, w one person myopic, little tiny box, experience, it might feel scary and uncomfortable, but that doesn't make it so for the world or for the, for the opportunity or whatever it is.
Leslie Ehm: And so when we're dealing with fear, you gotta, you got to embrace it and under, see it for the bullshit biological process that it is. That is the key to dealing with fear is to go wait a second. What am I really afraid of happening? Or I do I play a game with with people that I train is game called and then what, so when they talk about being afraid of a situation, I say, okay, take me through it kind of moment.
Leslie Ehm: Bye. And they say, so they say, okay, so I don't know, I'm going to make it up there. They're afraid of confronting their boss about something. Okay. Okay. So what's going to happen? I go into the, to the room. Okay, great. I sit down. Okay. And then what I broached the subject by saying X. Okay. And then what and they, I get them to tell to me moment by moment.
Leslie Ehm: And and then they get to the moment of the thing that they think is going to be cataclysmic. I go great. And then what? And they keep talking and as they play the scenario out in their heads, almost inevitably, the end of the story is, and then I'm homeless on the street. I go. Okie dokie. Great. Okay.
Leslie Ehm: We've talked. We've talked about the entire situation now. Can you pinpoint at which this is story ceased to be realistic in. And at the worst, it, th the real, the realistic point is and then I have to mend fences, or, and then my relationship with my boss has changed forever, or, and at the worst it's, and then the boss questioned being, gives me the side eye and the conversation turns, so they want to, and I go, okay, so can we not contextualize the fear to that then if we're going to do it, let's deal with that.
Leslie Ehm: So now let's have a plan for that. So let's go sit in a scenario plan. We think one of three things might happen out of this let's scenario plan for it, so that we're taking the unknown out of it. And now we don't experience that same level yet. We'll get a little bit of a heart pound, but we're not gonna to to deal with this overblown imagination of what you know of the us ending up homeless.
Leslie Ehm: Everything, every career I've had, I was uniquely unqualified for like uniquely unqualified, but I got an opportunity or I stepped into an opportunity and I was totally open about the fact that I was uniquely unqualified, but what I do is I'm a big proponent of like transferable skills.
Leslie Ehm: So I D I would always tell people all the shit that I done in my life that was applicable to this in really fricking amazingly unique ways that nobody else could bring to the party. And I would make it so irresistible that they go let's try it. Okay. Sounds good. What do we got to lose? And then I would just learn how to do stuff, because again, I would say what's the worst thing that could happen.
Leslie Ehm: Like really what's the worst thing that can happen. And people do not ask an answer that, that question for themselves enough. So that's how I deal with view pain. On the other hand, The thing with pain is that it's scar tissue, right? It's it's proof and it's hard to argue with proof, but again, we can contextualize it because pain is the voice that says, oh, I tried that once that did not go well hurt like a mother on her hurtling.
Leslie Ehm: A mother of I got did not go well. I am never doing that again because we, as humans are conditioned to move away from pain and towards pleasure, and pleasure lies in the known. So we go back to that time and time again. And when it comes to pain, if we experienced something 30, 40, 50 years ago, that brought us pain today, we will still be afraid to revisit it.
Leslie Ehm: Even though 95% of the context has changed. That's how powerful pain. So the key again, when when people talk about the those scarring experiences that make them not want to take those risks and do those things. I see, let's talk about it. Let's talk about it and put it into perspective, like even to say, so if you were in that situation now, today, what would you do?
Leslie Ehm: And people go, oh, I would do X, Y, and Z. I say, okay, something, you don't have to worry about it anymore. So that is memory. It is not something that that the scar tissue was there, but you don't have to face that pain again, that's been done kind of thing. But of course, when, if you imagine those swagger blockers as being kind of concentric circles and the real you is trapped on the inside pain is the one that is closest to you.
Leslie Ehm: It's the first ring. Cause if you're not prepared to face down that path, Forget it is that ain't gonna help. You're not going to get the benefits of swagger, cause you're going to have to push through the memories of the things that have happened in the past that have made you withdraw. It's catch 22.
Leslie Ehm: The reason that you're stuck now is because you've experienced some painful shit in your life that conditioned you to believe that you weren't good enough and that you were better tucked away, hidden. So that's the first thing you're going to have to.
Srini: Wow. So we've talked about the blockers let's get into the drivers.
Srini: I think you've alluded to them throughout our conversation. So on the section on truth, you said that truth is the number one driver of our spider, because it has the power to carry our authenticity out into the fresh air. Speaking your truth. Isn't a license to run around, spinning your opinions or judgments on others.
Srini: Either. It's more an antidote to feeling unheard, misunderstood, or suppressed in some way. If swagger is the authentic manifestation of who you really are, then speaking your truth must be in your toolkit if you want to be successful. So what are the components of that toolkit? Cause you alluded to when, where an intention
Leslie Ehm: earlier.
Leslie Ehm: Yeah, I think when, what we wants to let go of is all of those moments in our lives where we say, I wish I would have said, or why didn't I say, or why did I say it? Say that when that's not what I was. All right. Imagine walking around being unburdened by that. A lot of us really don't have a lot of experience in speaking our truth.
Leslie Ehm: So many, I know I meet so many people who were raised in a household where no one was interested in their truth. They just, they weren't taking seriously, even as children, they were told to to not say certain things that, in the worst case, you know that children are meant to be seen and not heard.
Leslie Ehm: I, how many people I've worked with, who come from cultures where, for example, being female or being dark skinned was was a crime in their own homes, their own community. Yeah. And so all of those things, all of that truth has become so muzzled and muffled that they don't even know how to do it anymore.
Leslie Ehm: So I talk about practicing, speaking. Learning how it feels in your brain and your mouth. What does your heart feel like? Because you can't just go from zero to two brutal honesty kind of thing. But as I said, that there's, there are checks and balances in that true thing.
Leslie Ehm: First of all, is if it's just for your own benefit is probably not going to fly. It's probably not going to fly if you know that any truth that you could hope to speak has to somehow be reframed, double as being good for the other, for the collective or for the greater good, even if it's super duper good for you.
Leslie Ehm: If you feel like your boss is being an asshole or if something's not right, it means that because of the way that they're interacting with you, they're not getting the best. And that's not good for them. That's not good for the collective. So if you go in, if you even have that conversation and go, I don't like the way you manage me.
Leslie Ehm: And I think that you're, you're disrespectful and you're all of these things that I listed out. All. I criticized this person to high hell and all the rest of it. They're just going to shut down. And my truth is going to just, die a horrible death. But if I go in and say, Hey, listen I know that what you're trying to do is to build a team that's accomplishing X.
Leslie Ehm: I know you have goals. I know what, what you've invested all of your time and energy in it. And I know that my ability to bring a hundred percent to the table is going to be a benefit to that. Am I right? And the person's going to go. Yeah. Cause that's fact you go, okay. So I feel like as a result of some of our communication and some of the things that I'm experiencing, I'm not able to bring my a hundred percent to the table.
Leslie Ehm: Are you open to talking about some of the ways that that I feel like I could bring more of who I am to the table. Are you open. Now, if that person truly is in service of their greater good and all the rest of it, they're going to be open to them. If they're not, you are wasting your breath.
Leslie Ehm: There is no point in having the rest of the conversation cause they don't want to hear it. So I'm not going to waste my truth on people who don't have the capacity or the willingness to hear it. So it's a waste of time, I will find other ways to do it, which leads me to think about reframing, but also think about is right now in this moment, the best time for my truth to land, sometimes you got to just judge, it should shut.
Leslie Ehm: It should hold your fucking tongue. You might want to say it in the moment, but it's not going to serve your message. It can also be, is is. This, the situation, something that, that, that needs my truth right now, or am I better served to wait until after it happens and then go around and talk to one person directly so that I don't inadvertently call them out or do something, in that situation, that's going to stop my truth from landing.
Leslie Ehm: So I always say it's when, where, and to whom you speak it, because the goal is to have it land. And then we have intention, right? The why, because if the reason you're speaking your truth is to build yourself up and make somebody else smaller. It's not going to go well for you. I don't care how true it is.
Leslie Ehm: It's not going to go well, if your goal is to, take something away from somebody to have more for yourself, it's not going to go well, if it's to get back at somebody to pay them back, but it's not going to go all those things, you gotta check your intention there, check yourself because that truly is the, to me, it's the mark of someone who really has.
Leslie Ehm: When you say I understand why I'm doing what I'm doing, which is part of what gives me the courage to be everything that I am, because I understand what I'm in service of here. And it's not just my own ego. It's not just my own ambition. It's not just my own, my own point of view. It's because I'm trying to contribute meaningfully to something beyond myself.
Leslie Ehm: And the last thing is self belief, right? You gotta believe that you're worthy of speaking it and that the world deserves to say it and that you are the right person to speak in and then no one can take that away from you. So those are your sweater dress.
Srini: Okay. Just a few more questions.
Srini: I had asked about boxing because I remember reading that big. Okay, wait a minute. That's getting a cool what in the world made you get into boxing of all
Leslie Ehm: things? I, I've always been, I've always been a big boxing fan. I think it's incredible. I, and that's before I even really knew a lot about it, but I I just find it to be, it's playing chess with your body.
Leslie Ehm: It's just an incredibly intellectual pursuit, which most people do not think of it that way, but that's why they call it the sweet science. And when you understand it you have a whole nother level of respect for it. I also love the, the the attitudes of boxers and what makes somebody really successful in the ring and all the different styles and all the rest of it.
Leslie Ehm: So when I was 48, Okay. I've waited too long to do this. I gotta do what I, I, if I don't do it now, I'll, physically I won't be able to do it. So I found a trainer, this incredible man who was one of my closest and dearest friends a guy named Virgil barrel. And he started to train me.
Leslie Ehm: And when I was 51, I thought in my first sanction to amateur bout black tie event in front of 900 people in order to raise money for cancer research, I raise 30 grand for cancer research and I fought my first sanctioned amateur belt. I have never learned more about myself and about myself and so so much more beyond myself than I have from boxing.
Leslie Ehm: I have I've, just develop this incredible awe for what it heal because people think that it's violent. And when you actually train and you fight, you learn, it's like the boxing people are the best people in the world, because in order for you to practice what you do and learn how to be better at what you do, they have to offer them their own bodies up for you to practice on.
Leslie Ehm: So someone's got to be willing to get hit in the face, in pursuit of your growth and your development. If there is no greater, there's no greater gift that you could give someone in the world, that to say, yeah, try, come try and pop me because that's a mark of your getting better at what you do.
Leslie Ehm: And so there were all of these beautiful things. We as boxers support each other massively, we spar with each other. We they're the most supportive and loving my boxing. People are the most real people on the planet. And I just find that it has taught me just what my body can do. Which is amazing.
Leslie Ehm: I've pushed myself further than I could ever have imagined, doing that. It's the most like physically grueling sport in the world. Like when you're training for a fight and you're doing, to train, you're going like 13 rounds on the bag, like 13, three minute rounds on the bag. Because you're going to fight three, but you will never know.
Leslie Ehm: It's to fight three rounds until you're actually fighting the three rounds because the amount of adrenaline that pumps through your body exhausts you. And so even though you go 13 rounds on the bag, or you spar for five or six rounds or eight rounds, it when you actually fight and the crowd is screaming and yelling and you're in that, and you want to win.
Leslie Ehm: It is a whole different ball game. So I've been boxing now for what almost 10 years or so. And I just love it with a passion, best sport ever. And In this life, everyone should know what it feels like to take us solid head snapping, punch to the face and know that they're just fine.
Srini: Amazing. You know what? I know that just from having this conversation with you, I think our listeners are going to want to hear a lot more from you and probably have a lot of questions. And I wanted to see if you'd be up for participating in a after show that we do on something called airspaces, where basically you can asynchronously communicate with our listeners.
Srini: They will be able to submit questions and you can actually record answers for them. If you're up for it,
Leslie Ehm: we would participants absolutely a thousand percent all in all.
Srini: Okay, awesome. So anybody listening to this that will actually be at unmistakable creative.com/participate. I know that some of you participated in it for the cult series, but we wanted to make sure that you understood that this was not an ad for a product.
Srini: So I figured we actually mentioned it on air. Leslie, this is why we need to do this because I feel like literally you and I could talk for five hours. And in the interest of time, I want to finish with my final question. And that is what is it that you think makes somebody or something unmistakable?
Leslie Ehm: I think when you embrace everything that you have and everything that you are, all of the messy, flawed, imperfect on the shiny, visceral shit about yourself, then your uniqueness becomes absolutely unmistakable. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, there was only one Leslie M in the world, and I am so good with that.
Leslie Ehm: And I'm going to remind people that there was only one Leslie, out in the world every day that I live. And when you meet me, you. And that's because I do just that I'm not afraid of my grunge and my goodness and my mess and all of that stuff. And I'm not afraid to embrace it and I'm not afraid to share it with other people.
Leslie Ehm: So I think that's what makes you unmistakable
Srini: amazing. I can't thank you enough for taking the time to join us and share your story and your wisdom and insights with our listeners. I have to say you're probably my favorite guests
Leslie Ehm: this year so far. Oh, I love you too so much friends. Now, this was like, this was it for people listening.
Leslie Ehm: This is, was a friendship happening before your ears. That's what was happening, watching it just happen and then get cemented over time. So this is the beginning. You can all say that you listened to the beginning of Leslie and thirties.
Srini: Amazing. Where can people find out more about you, your work, your book, and everything.
Leslie Ehm: You can check me email@example.com. That's L E S L I E H m.com. You can check out the book, it's sweater, the book.com. It's available on all the platforms and all the things and so any good bookseller and and I love playing on social is as I, I confess that I take what I do incredibly seriously, but I don't take myself that seriously.
Leslie Ehm: So I'm trying to have a lot of fun. You can find me at Leslie M speaks on Instagram at Leslie M on LinkedIn at Leslie speaks on Facebook at Leslie I'm on Twitter and listen, I'm the most accessible person in the world. So if anybody's listening and they have a question, they want to know something, just reach out I'm right here.
Leslie Ehm: Happy to talk anytime.
Srini: Awesome. And for everybody listening, we will wrap the show.