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Episode 412: Life is a Glorious Journey!

Episode Summary

In this episode, Rob Shallenberger joins us to talk about how to find happiness and joy, good health, and be professionally successful in 2024. Throughout our conversation, Rob shares three simple yet powerful tips that propose a whole new way of looking at what we want to achieve in 2024 and how to do it. You’ll learn to improve your time-management skills, be more specific and intentional with your roles and goals and be less reactive toward unexpected events and setbacks.  

Steve Shallenberger: Welcome to all of our “Becoming Your Best” podcast listeners, wherever you may be in the world today. This is your host, Steve Shallenberger. We have a fun guest with us today. I know him very well; it is none other than Rob Shallenberger, F-16 fighter pilot, family man, scholar, and one of the top thought leaders in the world of productivity, time management, and how to prioritize your time. Welcome, Rob. 

Rob Shallenberger: Well, it’s fun to be here. Over the course of 400-plus podcasts, we’ve only done a couple of these together. So, it’s fun to do. And it’s fun to do going into 2024.  

Steve Shallenberger: Indeed it is. Well, I actually asked Rob if he wouldn’t mind joining me today and being interviewed. I think he has a lot to offer. We are always so impressed and so grateful that you would join us on this podcast. You honor us, but it says far more about you and your desire to become your best, and to improve. And there’s no time like right now, to actually take things to another level in our life and think about the things that matter most. This is a great time of year, which is towards the very end of the year, where you can reflect on how your year went, and just take stock. But also then really listen to your heart, the inspiration and feelings that you have, and use your creativity and imagination about what can be. And that’s what 2024 represents for us because we’re never going to have the chance to go through 2024 again. So, how do we make it great? How do we find great happiness and joy, have good health, and be successful professionally? Well, that’s what we’re going to talk about with Rob today. So Rob, as you think about this coming year, what are some of the things that are most important that a leader, a person, or an individual, whatever their walk of life might be, of how they can have a great year in 2024? 

Rob Shallenberger: I thought about this this afternoon, knowing that we’re gonna be doing this, and this is an answer for moms, dads, single individuals, working professionals; it doesn’t really matter. This is an answer for everybody. There are probably about a million different ways we can answer this, but I’m gonna give three different thoughts on this. Of course, we could answer with the easy answer, which is “Do What Matters Most”—one of our books—vision, goals, pre-planning — that’s the foundation. I’m going to build on maybe a slight variation of that. So, number one would be, in this coming year, to focus on being a voracious learner. What I mean by that is that we all have blind spots, maybe it’s blind spots on how to listen or communicate with others in our relationships; maybe it’s a blind spot on how to handle money; maybe it’s a blind spot on health. We all know someone, we have probably been in different situations in our lives where having the right information or the right knowledge would have had a huge impact. In a certain scenario, whether a person is diagnosed with a form of cancer that could have been prevented with a particular test. Or heart disease — they get caught off guard with the artery that’s 99% blocked whereas there are plenty of tests that could have caught that early on did the person even know those existed. A relationship challenge with a son or daughter or a co-worker. If someone’s going through that type of challenging situation, having the right knowledge to handle it is key. And why I said blind spots is because we all have blind spots. It’s not what we don’t know that should concern us; it’s what we don’t know that we don’t know. If we don’t know something, like I want to learn how to weld, I can go out and take a course on welding and learn how to weld. That’s my approach to solving that. But if I don’t know that I don’t know something, I can’t even do anything about it. That’s why I would hope that as we go into the new year, one of the things that we can focus on is being voracious learners via reading books, podcasts, audiobooks, whatever it is. It’s crazy because 43% of college graduates will never read another book for the rest of their life. And that’s astounding to think about. I didn’t used to believe that, ad then in our own research, of course, that’s been confirmed. I see that all the time. So, where do we get that knowledge? Like I already mentioned, there are millions of podcasts to choose from, there are some amazing audiobooks out there, and physical books. And I’ve heard people say, periodically, “Well, I just don’t have time to do that.” 

Rob Shallenberger: So, my follow-on question to that is: Well, how often are you in the car? How much time do you spend in the car each day? Say, the average is an hour. If a person will just spend 30 minutes a day listening to an audiobook, and you can even listen at 1.2-1.4 times speed, if a person spends just 30 minutes a day in their car, listening to an audiobook, that’s three to four audiobooks per month. So, I’m not saying every day, having to listen to an audiobook; if we even did that two or three days a week, that’s easily a book a month. So, anybody can do this; it’s just a matter of making the time and prioritizing it. It is probably one of the most life-changing habits I’m aware of. So, that would be number one: really being intent and focused on learning and reading, and listening to different books. I just started one this morning called “Breath.” Many people have heard of this. It’s the impact of how we breathe, and the power of breath in our daily lives. Fascinating. I’m guessing most people don’t know that the way we breathe is wrong, inherently, by nature. In other words, the way that most of us have dealt with breathing habits is just too short of a breathing cycle, and there are some other things that go along with that. But the point is getting the right knowledge on how to do it. For most people, it’s a blind spot, including where I was two years ago before I learned anything about breath. So, that’s number one: getting the right knowledge and having a voracious appetite for learning. 

Rob Shallenberger: Number two, shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone listening to this podcast, and that would be roles and goals. Maybe I’m going to share this from a different angle, though. One of my favorite things is “Where our focus goes, energy flows.” So, roles and goals is an exciting process because it’s us stepping back and asking, “What is it that really matters most in our lives?” What is it that really matters most to you, as the listener, in each of your key roles? Whether that’s professional or outside of work, which many of our roles are outside of. What is it that really matters most to you this year? And for me, if I can take three to four weeks to really think about that, and put some thought and effort into it, it’s an exciting process; it’s powerful. Then we go on to focus truly on what matters most to us; what we deem to be important and ways that we might measure success in our various roles. So, roles and goals can be inspirational and powerful process, especially when we treat it as such. In other words, taking 2-3-4 weeks to really be thoughtful about what does matter most.  

Rob Shallenberger: I’ll just share one more thought on the roles and goals. And that is, there’s an outcome goal and there’s a journey-based goal. Let me give you an example between the two, and it’s not that one’s right or wrong; it’s just finding what works for you and is motivating to you. An outcome-based goal might sound like this: “Run a 10k by September 1,” that’s the destination or an outcome-based goal. A journey-based goal might be “average four strength workouts per week.” In other words, they’re not necessarily a destination. It’s just the pure journey of working out and developing strength habits. So, you might think about what are your outcome-based goals or journey-based goals that are important to you, that motivate you. “Average two dates a month without the children,” in the spouse or partner role, that’s really a journey-based goal. The outcome, of course, is an improved relationship and things like that. So, I would just invite anybody listening to this to be considerate and really thoughtful about what matters most to you in the coming year, go through the process of developing your roles and goals, and really be intentional to put some thought and effort into it. If you don’t know a lot about it and if you’re not familiar with that, then read our book, “Do What Matters Most.” It’s a great starting point. We don’t use the words “more” and “better.” The word “average” is a great word to use because it builds in flexibility. So writing our goals is a skill set, not going to get into that here. But that would be the second suggestion on how to have a great year is to really focus on what matters most. The best way that I’m aware of to do that is via roles and goals and being intentional. 

Steve Shallenberger: Just a quick thought on that, Rob. Do words really matter of how you write your goals? 

Rob Shallenberger: Oh, yeah, of course. So, in the book “Do What Matters Most,” there are specific words we want to use and certain words we want to avoid. So, for example, we never use the words “more” and “better,” like I mentioned. The word “average” is a great word. Rarely do we want to use the words “daily” or “every day.” So, for example, common New Year’s resolutions, of which 85% to 90% are broken two weeks into the year, are “exercise 30 minutes every day” or “exercise every day.” Well, there’s no flexibility or grace in that goal. Whereas if we say “average four workouts per week,” there’s a lot of grace and flexibility within that, and you can still maintain the material driver focus of the goal. So, absolutely, the words matter. And we want to use the words that set us up for success, rather than the proverbial New Year’s resolutions that are broken two weeks into the year. So, yes, words absolutely matter. The third, and final thought that I would have on how to have a great year, maybe our best year ever, would be—and this is an important one—trust God. And what I mean by that is that we can be a voracious learner, we can have roles and goals, and we can do all the right things. And yet, we may have a curveball thrown our way, something that we never expected to have happen; it could be in a relationship; it could be a health surprise. Even though we did all the things that we could, there are just some things that are out of our control in life, that’s just the nature of life. So, at some point in there, despite having goals and goals, and despite being focused on what matters most, learning, reading, and doing all the right things, life happens, things happen. So, we’ve got to trust God in the process, and not lose faith, and not lose hope. At least, fundamentally, for me, there’s a belief that if I’m striving to do the best I can, and I lean towards Him and look towards Him, that all things will work in our favor, in this life, or in the next life. And that has been the case, throughout my entire life. Most people I know, that share that mindset, that has been the case for them. So, sometimes, even in the midst of a trial, or a challenge, or a difficulty in life, we might ask the question: why are we going through this? Why are we doing this? Why did this happen to me?  

Rob Shallenberger: The “why” questions are tough because we may or may not ever get the true answer here. But oftentimes, a year down the road—three, five, ten years down the road—many times, we start to see the “why,'” behind things that happened earlier. What might have been a challenge in the midst of it, going through it certainly was a challenge, what was the blessing on the backside of that? And oftentimes, there are amazing things that are waiting for us on the backside that make us a better person, that help us see others differently, that have more compassion or empathy. So, we have just got to trust God in the process, that things are gonna work out, and that it’s all going to be for our good. So, I’ve seen amazing things happen as we focus on roles and goals, things that will probably never be accomplished, will be accomplished when we have those in front of us. But if things don’t work out, if things take a detour, then this is where we need to come back to trusting in God that things will work out. If we take the scriptural side of it, His thoughts are not our thoughts. In other words, He sees a much bigger picture than we do. So, that’s been a really key learning for me over the years, that I think applies to pretty much everyone out there. I’ll just use one example of this. Anyone who’s been through our training, our 12 principles training, knows that principle 12 is “Never give up.” And we wrap up that particular principle showing a video about a man named Derek Redmond. He was an Olympic athlete in the 1992 Olympics. He was favored to win the gold medal. His two runs leading up to his official race, he set what would have been an Olympic record. So, here’s this guy, that’s been training his whole life, he was running for the UK. And as he got in the race, halfway around the track, he feels a searing pain in his leg, and he tears his hamstring. He falls down, and then as the video plays out, he gets up, he hobbles, and his dad comes down to the track. And they cross the finish line, shoulder to shoulder. 65,000 people, all cheering and clapping, and it’s just as powerful, amazing video to watch.  

Rob Shallenberger: Well, in the moment, he might have thought, “My Olympic dreams are shattered; they’re gone. I didn’t win gold. All that I’ve been training for my whole life, gone.” Well, that would have been a potential mindset. But that’s not, I don’t think, the way Derek saw it. He trusted in God, if you will, this approach that we’re talking about. And as a result, he’s become one of the best speakers throughout Europe. And guess what his topic is? Never give up. And so, the question is, would he have ever become a motivational speaker talking about “never give up,” had it not been for that experience? And that really paved the way for who he became the rest of his life, was that pivotal experience. So, while in the moment, it was devastating, it ended up being a catalyst for who he was, and what he did for the rest of his life. And many times, if we’ll trust in God, things will work out for our good, and it may take an entire lifetime to see the “why,” or maybe not even in this life. But eventually, we’ll understand why certain things happened, even despite having a focus on other things. So, that would be my three recommendations: Be a voracious learner; read, listen, audiobooks, find podcasts that are motivating and inspiring on topics that are important to us, and make those a habit in our life. Number two is, really be thoughtful about roles and goals, what matters most to you, and what’s most important to you in the coming year. And then three, after having done all that we can do, trust God in the process. So, those would be my tips for the coming year. 

Steve Shallenberger: I love it, Rob. Those are wonderful; those are so good. A couple of things that I’d like to just ask about these: How have you found it best to, once you do your goals for the year, how do you keep them in front of you so you don’t forget them? So that they’re part of your life, and you can keep working on them. And then, also, if you don’t mind, address the habit of sharing them. Maybe those two kind of go together. 

Rob Shallenberger: Yeah, and anything is better than nothing. Thinking about goals is a start. It’s not the same and doesn’t replace writing them down and keeping them in front of us, but it’s a start. Far more powerful is when we write them down and keep them in front of us. We’re 90% more likely to accomplish a goal when we have it written down and when we reference it often. So, I would suggest that anybody listening to this find something that works for you. We obviously have a paper planner, Becoming Your Best. We have a digital planner that can be used with Chrome and Outlook. I use the Chrome version because I use a Google Calendar now. I know that you use paper planners, and about 40% of people still use paper. So, it really doesn’t matter whether you’re using a digital planner, a calendar, or a paper planner, I would suggest putting your vision and goals in either one of those. So, if you’re using our extension or our digital planner for Outlook, Chrome, Google Calendar, put it in there so it becomes your one-stop shop. That’s exactly where mine is. So for anybody that’s familiar with pre-week planning, again, who’s been through our training or read our books, step number one in pre-week planning is to review our vision and goals. So, even if you don’t review them every week, even if you’re reviewing them every other week, that is still far better than what 99% of people do out there. So, I would invite you to test the power of that, see what impact it has to write them down, and either put them in your paper planner or digital planner, and really try to be disciplined about looking at them every week if you can. And again, if you miss a week or two, that’s fine, no big deal. But the whole point is, out of sight, out of mind. If we’re not looking at them, then why did we come up with them in the first place?  

Rob Shallenberger: That goes back to the previous comment: where our focus goes, our energy flows. So, we want to keep our focus on what we’ve already identified as mattering most; that’s our roles and goals. So, number one, put them in a place where you’ll see them often. For me, it’s in my digital planner, the extension that we have for Google or Outlook. If you don’t want to use those, you can print them out and put them on your desk, you can put them on the wall next to your computer, you can put them in your bathroom. The idea is to keep them in front of you, whatever you end up doing. I just like having a one-stop shop. And then, as for sharing them, we recommend that if you would like accountability, if you’d like to have that additional motivation, you’re 33% more likely to accomplish something when you share it with someone else. And so, I’ve been sharing my goals for about 27 years. There are certain people that come into that circle, and certain people that go out. There’s been a couple who’ve been there all 27 years, and it’s awesome. It’s great to share them. I share them with people that I respect, who I admire, and it’s a very low ask on their part. At the end of the year, I give a report on how I did on my goals for this year. And then I share my upcoming year’s goals. That’s it. So, it’s not like I meet with them throughout the year or anything like that; it’s a matter of an email. And they appreciate it. They respond, they like it. And I’m glad they do because that’s what is in the back of my mind as I’m thinking about my goals. So, accountability is helpful for most people. If you’d like to have that extra accountability, then I recommend finding a few people that you respect, who you admire, and that you would feel comfortable sharing your goals with. 

Steve Shallenberger: Rob and I share our goals with each other, and that’s been fun. We’re not flaky about it; we don’t have to—we don’t have to share—but it’s an honor and a privilege, and I love knowing what Rob’s doing. We have other children that share as well, and with each other, it’s private, but it’s very special, I can tell you that. Well, going through this, “having your goals by your roles,” that lens is really a very personal, meaningful process as you reflect on bringing the very best out of yourself. So, not only is it helpful, it gives you great motivation because it’s your life, and you’ve listened to your heart, mind, and everything that’s important to you say, “This is what I want to do. This is how I want to raise the bar.” And this brings a lot of fulfillment. Well, Rob, it’s been great having you here today. I love the recommendations that you’ve given; they will help us. These things would be very helpful to us. Any final tips you’d like to offer before we end our podcast today? 

Rob Shallenberger: Going back to the learning, if we put an effort into learning, it’s amazing what we can become and do. There are so many things out there that we just aren’t even aware of or know, and there are millions of resources, literally, to tap into, whether it’s YouTube, podcasts, books, and everything else. One of my favorite acronyms is GIGO — some would say, “Garbage in, garbage out.” Well, “Greatness in, greatness out.” That used to be when we look on a computer—if we remember back in the day—if you search for a file, and if the file wasn’t there, it says, “File not found.” Well, if we’re trying to do something in our life, whether it’s to improve our financial situation, to improve our relationship, how do we do that if we don’t have the knowledge? So, what I found is the more I learned, the more I realized I didn’t know. That’s what I meant by “blind spots” early on. So, I don’t know that I would add anything else right now beyond those three, going into the year. There are a lot of other things we could. But if we can just start with something, bite-size. The art isn’t in the start; we don’t have to be great to start, but we have to start to be great. So, start with something, even if it’s just one of these three things. And ultimately, I do believe that the more that we’ll focus on learning, the more it will expand our capacity. And by that, I’ll just finish with this statement: I was with the University of Maryland football team, and doing a training with them. So, I had this big guy—just fit, athlete muscle, like six foot four—he came up, stood next to me, and I had him hold a glass or a cup. Now, I had a big pitcher of water. So, if you can imagine that in your mind, I’m holding this pitcher, and I’m 5’11”, I’ve got the six-foot-four guy next to me, just ripped and muscly, in the prime of his life, and he’s holding this empty cup. Well, I dump this pitcher of water into the cup, and I dump it fast so that it overflows, and water goes all over, and the whole team is laughing, and he’s got water all over him. At first, he didn’t know what to do, but then he started laughing. And then, I asked him this: “So, why did the water overflow?” He’s like, “Well, I didn’t have a big enough cup.” Ah, so it was about capacity. And I asked, “So, what would have happened had you had a bigger cup?” And I gave him a pitcher. Now, this time with the pitcher, you dump the water in, and the water transfers over the pitcher, he didn’t overflow. It was just a matter of capacity.  

Rob Shallenberger: So, each one of us has a certain capacity right now with our life experience and where we’re at, and what we’re doing is increasing our capacity. In other words, the more we learn, the more we can—to use the same analogy—get a larger cup, so to speak, and it can hold more water. And as all we’re doing is expanding our capacity. And then, after all we do, we’ve got to remember to trust God in the process. That has become such an important part for me. Because we’re all going to have different journeys, we’re going to have some great successes in life, we’re also going to have setbacks and challenges, some of which there’s nothing we could have ever done to prevent them. And when those happen, we need to remember that there’s a higher purpose to this, and all things will work out for our good. So, I would end on that reminder for us all. 

Steve Shallenberger: Well, Rob, thanks so much; it’s been fun having you. Like Rob said, we don’t have the chance to do this very often. It’s fun to do, but really great insight. Thank you for planting the seed in me to be more deliberate and more thoughtful about gaining knowledge. I mean, I’ve loved that, as you know. One of the things that’s fun to do, as you’re gaining knowledge, is to share knowledge with one another. I think that’s a way to even expand it more. Rob, and others on our team, have done that; people that you associate with, you probably do it with. But I have really enjoyed that; sharing insights that you get from things that you’re reading. So, one of the take-homes from today is I’m going to be more thoughtful about that, more deliberate. What do I need? What would be helpful? This is a tremendously inspiring process, what Rob just talked about today. It’s fun to work on becoming your best. So, we’re so grateful for you. Thank you, Rob, for being with us today. 

Rob Shallenberger: Well, sure, love and appreciate you; fun visiting again. And to all our listeners, we sure appreciate you, wherever you might be in the world. 

Steve Shallenberger: Now, a big hug to Rob, look at that good-looking guy! Well, to all of you, we are so grateful for you. We’re honored that you would join us. We love being able to associate together with you. How we wish we could be in the same room with you while we have these visits. And we’re wishing you a great 2024, and all the happiness, health, and best that can come your way. This is Steve Shallenberger, signing off, and wishing you a great day. 

Steve Shallenberger

Founder, Becoming Your Best

Founder, CEO, Executive, Corporate Trainer, and Community Leader

Rob Shallenberger

CEO, Becoming Your Best

Leading authority on leadership and execution, F-16 Fighter Pilot, and father

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