Michael is the founder of Intentional Leadership, an in-demand speaker, and the New York Times bestselling author of LIVING FORWARD: A PROVEN PLAN TO STOP DRIFTING AND GET THE LIFE YOU WANT. Michael shapes today’s thought-leading conversations through his widely read blog and his ‘This is Your Life podcast’, which consistently ranks among iTunes’ Top Business Podcasts.
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What we chatted about today:
- Michael’s story – why he decided to begin the life planning process
- The importance of life planning.
- How is a life plan different from goal-planning or resolutions?
- The consequences of “the drift”.
- How and why to write your eulogy.
- Once you’ve created a life plan, what’s next?
Michael Hyatt: I’m ready, John. Let’s do it.
Interviewer: Yes. Michael is the founder of Intentional Leadership, an In Demand speaker and the New York Times bestselling author of Living Forward, a proven plan to stop drifting and get the life you want. Michael shapes today’s thought leading conversations through his widely read blog and This is Your Life podcast which consistently ranks among iTunes top business podcast right next to EO Fire. Michael, take a minute. Fill in some gaps from that intro and give us a little glimpse of your personal life.
Michael Hyatt: Yeah, my personal life is I’ve been married for 37 years to my wife, Gail. Have you met Gail before?
Interviewer: I’ve never met Gail.
Michael Hyatt: Oh my gosh. She’s a rock star in her right. I have five daughters grown. I have four sons-in-law, eight grandchildren and we all live within about 10 miles of each other in Nashville, Tennessee.
Interviewer: Well, you’ve invited and I’ve accepted at some future dates to come visit you in Nashville. That’s when I’ll get to meet Gail and it sounds like we might have to have Gail on the show at some point in the future, too.
Michael Hyatt: Oh my gosh. She’s so much fun. We just did Celine Johnson’s in fact.
Interviewer: Oh she’s so good.
Michael Hyatt: And she did – Gail did a Q&A with me on the topic of marriage and we talked about what does it take to be married for 30 plus years, in our case 37.
Interviewer: Wow. Well, I may be taking notes on that soon and fire nation, if you recognize his voice, no big surprise because again, Michael has one of the top ranked business podcast and has for years now. In fact, we launched our show at very similar dates. I remember both of us were new [inaudible] [00:01:30] together and I’ve admired what he’s done for a very long time and if you haven’t read his blog, it is consistent value bombs. If you haven’t heard him speak from stage, you’re missing out because he just controls the audience in such a powerful way.
It’s just like you can hear a pin drop every time you’re on a stage, Michael. I love that and I’ve brought him back on EO Fire because this is not his first, second or third time that he’s been on. In fact, this is time number quatro or numero quatro that he’s been on EO Fire here and it will not be the last. I can guarantee you that and we’re here to talk specifically about Living Forward because Michael every time you launch a book, it is just a must read and fire nation, this is no different.
I’m actually holding in my hands a signed copy of Living Forward which I read in two and a half days on my balcony here in San Diego. Just amazing reading and it was just – I was just drawn into this book because drifting is such a big word that so many entrepreneurs get caught up in and we’re going to talk today fire nation about how you can stop drifting and other things along that. So, Michael, let’s kind of talk about how you decided to begin the life planning process within Living Forward.
Michael Hyatt: Yeah, so John, what happened to me is in the year 2000, I was the assistant general manager of one of Thomas Nelson Publishers’ 14 divisions and suddenly I got promoted and suddenly I found out that my division of the 14 was dead last in every financial metric. So my boss, the CEO of the company, said how long is it going to take you to turn this division around? And I said, just picked a number out of the air, three years, and he said, okay, great.
So I went back to the team. I shared with them what the score was and I said we’ve got to turn this around and we really worked hard and in 18 months we went from 14 to number one, but at considerable cost. I ended up in the ER three different times thinking I was having a heart attack. Fortunately, I wasn’t. It was just stress related, but on that final time, my cardiologist said to me, he said, look, your heart’s fine, but if you don’t do something to get some life balance into your life, you’re going to end up here for real. You’re charging too hard. You’re pushing too hard.
You’re not getting enough rest and something bad is going to happen if you don’t do something. So that was like a wakeup call. So at the time I was publishing John Maxwell. He was one of our authors at Thomas Nelson. So I went to John and I said John, look, here’s the deal. I think I need an executive coach. I need somebody that can help me get this back in shape because it’s not sustainable at my pace and he said well, I want to recommend to you a guy named Daniel Harkavie who’s my co-author on the book Living Forward.
Daniel became my executive coach for about a decade, but on day one, he described to me the concept of a life plan. He said, here’s the deal. You’re drifting and you need to get clearer on what it is you want on the different areas of your life, come to the realization that life is more than work, buddy. You’ve got to have a balanced life and so I put together a life plan like I describe in the book Living Forward and everything began to change. It wasn’t overnight. It wasn’t a magic pill, but everything began to shift from that point forward because I was living with intention.
Interviewer: So Michael, I had to be real with myself after EO Fire had been going and really successful for a number of years and I had to say you know what? This past season of my career of my business, 2012, 2013, 2014, I have been nose to the grindstone. I have been hard charging, an episode a day, a webinar every week and I had to take pulse of the other sides of my life. I was in the worst shape of my life.
I didn’t seem to have the same energy I did when I started EO Fire and so I kind of shifted back in 2015 into a new season which was more balanced and I’ve only seen positivity as a result. So can you kind of take that, what I just shared about my first season which was nose to the grindstone which I don’t recommend for anybody by the way. I think if you can move in a balance as soon as possible, you should. I moved into that balance in 2015 and now 2016 and beyond. Can you kind of talk about how a life plan is different from just those plain old resolutions?
Michael Hyatt: Yeah. Absolutely. You know, a life plan is really like the 30,000 foot view of your life and I believe in annual planning. I’ve got this course five days to your best year ever as you know. I really believe in daily planning, even quarterly planning, but the thing about a life plan is it gives you an opportunity to get your head above the clouds, see in the distance and see where you want to go in the major areas of your life and we had this model as you may recall from the book where we talk about these circles of life, where we talk about the circles of being, like your spiritual life, your physical life, your intellectual life, the circles of relating, like if you’re married, your spouse and your kids and your social life and then the circle of doing which would be your vocation, maybe your avocation and then your financial life and a lot of people try to live from the outside in.
They’re so concerned about all that results doing kind of stuff that they don’t attend to the inner work of their interior life to their most important relationships and that inevitably always leads to a life of regrets where you’re looking back and you’re going man, now I realize that life is more than work and believe me, John. I believe in the importance of work. My whole motto on my blog site is win at work and succeed at life. I think you can have both, but I think it takes being very intentional and being very deliberate and coming up with a plan.
Interviewer: That’s one word that I’ve always associated with you Michael is the word intentional and I think so few people live a life of intention and fire nation, if you step back and you look at your last week, how many of the activities that you did every single day were intentional, were like – that you actually planned to do or were you just in total reaction mode 24/7. You wake up and you’re in your inbox and you’re getting bombarded left and right.
You’re running off to whatever. How much of your life is intentional and how much of your life is just reaction and that’s again, I always associate that word intentional with you, Michael, because you’ve always just really beat that drum in a great way and fire nation, I want you to think about that and I alluded to this a little bit right in the intro, Michael, but this word drifting, I think it’s very important for so many reasons.
And I think so many people unfortunately look back when they’re 80, 90 if they’re blessed to live that long and they say, man, I feel like I just drifted along without a rudder, without a plan and then here I am at the end of my life, like why didn’t I take control and can you talk about the consequences of the drift?
Michael Hyatt: The whole concept of the drift came to me when Gail and I took a vacation after we’d be married about 10 years and we went to Hawaii. We’d never been. We saved up all of our airline miles. We didn’t have hardly any money in those days, but when we got to Maui, we decided to take snorkeling lessons because the hotel where we were staying was offering them for free. So we went to the swimming pool, got checked out and then they took us out to the reef. Our heads exploded. It was so gorgeous. So we rented snorkeling gear.
I think it was $10 for two sets of snorkeling gear for the week. Next morning, we went to the lagoon that was adjacent to our hotel. We slipped into the water about 6 am in the morning. There wasn’t another soul on the beach. The water was crystal clear. It was calm like glass and as we got into the water and got totally captivated, totally distracted by all the multicolored fish and the seaweed and the light playing on it and all that.
So we just were paddling around and what we didn’t realize is that we’d been caught in a riptide and we were swept to sea and when I finally looked up, I realized that we were way out in the ocean. I mean the hotel looked like a toy in the distance. Gail looked up. She gasped and we had a boogy board with us thankfully and so I said, babe, we’ve got to swim as hard as we can for the shore. I didn’t even know you’re not supposed to swim against a riptide, but fortunately it was – it had evidently gone past us so it wasn’t a problem, but we swim hard for 45 minutes to an hour, pulled ourselves up on the beach and collapsed and until last fall we hadn’t ever been snorkeling since then, but it really represents to me, John, how most people live life.
Most people don’t choose to get up and say what can I do to get myself massively in debt and end up bankrupt or what could I do to eat away at my health little by little until I have a heart attack or suffer some chronic disease or what could I do to drift away from my spouse and end up in a separation or divorce. They don’t. It’s just something that happens and people drift when they’re living an unconscious life and they’re not choosing their destinations, but the key thing is that people never drift to a destination they would have chosen. That takes intention and that’s what life planning is all about.
Interviewer: So there’s a couple things I want to hone in on here. Number one, fire nation, just because I am an ex-life guard, if you ever get caught in a rip tide, you’ve got to swim parallel with the ocean until you feel like you’re out of the rip tide because they usually run directly into the shore and outwards and then you’re out. Then you can hopefully swim in. So don’t panic because you’re all good, especially if you have a boogy board so good on you for that and number two, and this is a little off topic as well, but fire nation I hope you understood the power of what Michael just did.
He told us a story first and then he related that story to real life. He is a master storyteller. Now of course that has come from years of writing hundreds of thousands of words in books and in blogs and of hundreds and hundreds of hours of recording podcasts and talking and doing interviews like these, but think about how that just made you stop and think and cling onto every single word and then say, wow, I get it now because he’s not just throwing fail forward, fail fast at me. He’s actually relating this to a story, to a topic.
So how are you in your business, in your life relating what you want to get across in the form of a story because stories are so powerful in so many ways. Now we have fire nation some killer things that are coming up to close this interview off because we’re not even close to done yet, but we are going to take a quick minute to thank our sponsors. So Michael we’re back and I hope that you haven’t scared all of fire nation away from snorkeling because it is really fun and I’m looking forward to be doing it pretty soon here in Puerto Rico.
So look out there, but let me just tell you this fire nation. You need to be having a life of intention and that’s what we’ve been talking about this far. It’s been a recurring theme, but let me ask you this because this was kind of strange and I will be honest with you. I haven’t done this yet, Michael, but I do plan to do this because of the case that you make within your book Living Forward. How and why to write your eulogy. Can you expound upon that?
Michael Hyatt: Yeah. So the way that we frame a life plan, Daniel and I, my co-author, is that it’s the answer to three powerful questions and the first question is a question about clarity or it’s designed to give you clarity and it’s this: how do I want to be remembered and so what we do is we take you through an exercise where we have you consider your own death, your own funeral which sounds incredibly morbid, but it’s also incredibly clarifying to do this and I remember Steve Jobs about two years before he died.
It was unbelievably prophetic when he said it, but he said that death was the best tool that he’d ever found to give him clarity about his own life and I love that quote and so what we have you do in the book is write your eulogy as though you were today and the people that you love the most were to stand up and say things about you. Now, what would they say? What your spouse or your significant other say? What would your kids say? What would the people at work say, your teammates?
What would the people that are your followers if you’re on social media or if you’re an entrepreneur, your customers, what would they say? Now, probably if you’re like most people when you look at that you go, I’m not quite ready to die yet because I don’t like what they would say. Well, the good news is you’re not dead yet and so you’ve still got time to shape or I like to say engineer those conversations. My father in law died in 2005.
He was a full air force colonel, worked at the Pentagon for a number of years as the assistant to the joint – chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and had an illustrious career, but he was an extraordinary family man, really invested in his kids and even me – in me as his son in law and so when we had the funeral, there was a full military funeral back in the days when they did the jet flyovers and the 21 gun salute and all that. Then we came back to my house here in Nashville, all the family, all of our closest friends and literally all day long all we did was pass around pictures. We cried. We laughed. We told stories.
We talked about the meaning and the legacy of this man, and it dawned on me then that you and I have the ability if we’re intentional to inform those conversations now. We can shape, we can engineer those conversations now so that we create a series of what we call in the book legacy statements where you actually write what you would like those significant people to be able to say. Now the power of it is that you can begin to shape your life by doing, by becoming what it is that is required for them to be able to say those things about you.
So a better wife or a better husband or a better boyfriend or a better parent or a better entrepreneur or whatever it is, but you can inform those discussions today, but it gives you enormous clarity about where your life is going in the direction of your life. Question number two is what matters most to you? Now, most people know what’s important to their spouse, to their parents, to their boss, to their customers, but for many of us, we never stop and ask the question, but what’s important to me.
This is a question about priorities. The first one’s a question really about legacy. This is a question about priorities and it’s important to get clear on this because inevitably, you’re going to want to try to do everything and the truth is you can do anything you want. You just can’t do everything you want. Another quick story. So in the midst of the recession, I was the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers by this time. The year was 2009 and I mean we were walking guerrilla warfare, just hand to hand combat trying to survive as a business and I remember telling the board of directors.
I said I’ve got to have a vacation guys. I mean I’ve been going for months now and we’re worn out and I just need to get some rest and I really felt like I had drifted in my relationship with Gail and I’ve got to reconnect with her in a significant way because ultimately that’s what matters to me and so they said, great. So I put it on my calendar. We took off on a Friday afternoon for Denver, Colorado and then we were going to drive deep into the wilderness and just spend a week unplugged, but we had a stop in Dallas.
We were changing planes there and as I stopped, I checked my email and there was a message from the chairman of the board and he said, look, I know you’re probably on your way to your vacation, but we need you to come back to Nashville. We’ve got some important things we’ve got to discuss on Monday and I really need you there and my heart sank. I mean we were packed. We had been planning this for months. We were ready to go. I showed it to Gail. She looked at me and she said, what are you going to do babe?
And she said listen, before you answer that, whatever you decide to do, I’ll totally support. I get it. So I said well, I’m going to tell him no and so I wrote him back and I said as I mentioned, I’m on vacation. This is really important to me and I would be grateful if you’d postpone the trip. If you can’t do that, my staff will assist you in my absence and then I didn’t even wait for him to respond. I turned off my email, turned off my phone and we went away for a week.
Now here’s the kicker. When I got back to Nashville, I asked my staff, I said, so about that meeting. Yeah, they came. Well, how did go? They shrugged their shoulders, like it was a non-event. They could have gotten these questions answered by email. We’re still not sure what it was about and nothing ever came of it, but here’s the important thing. If I had not had a clearly identified set of priorities where I knew that Gail and my own health, my own rest came before work, I could have made a really bad decision because of the pressure of the moment and for most of us, I don’t know about you, John, but for me I’m a recovering people pleaser.
Interviewer: I’ve actually never been that way thankfully, but I hear you.
Michael Hyatt: Good for you. It’s – there’s a lot of us out here, but it’s hard to say no. My heart is to help people and I want to say yes and so to have a set of priorities creates a filter for me so that I can say no to the non-essentials, so that I can say yes to the things that are most important to me, so that I get to the end of my days and look back on my life and go, you know, I loved the people I should have loved and I said no to the people I should have said no to, and to me that’s – it’s a great benefit of having a life plan.
Interviewer: Okay. So fire nation, number one, how do you want to be remembered and yeah, a little morbid, but write that eulogy and get that out of your head that it’s too morbid to do. It’s something that will give you that clarity just like that Steve Jobs quote death is the best tool to give you clarity in life and then point number two, what’s important to me and again, how eloquently Michael just explained that through story that makes it so real.
Believe me, he would have looked back on his life and said I cannot believe I cancelled that trip with Gail for this non-event meeting that was of course everything’s urgent, of course, but it never ended up being. So point number three, Michael.
Michael Hyatt: Yeah, question number three is how can I get from here, wherever here is in whatever area of your life you’re looking at, but how do I get from here to where I want to be and so we take you through an exercise and this gets so stinking fun because we have you craft this envisioned future statements where you look at all the different categories of your life and you say how is it that I want to be remembered in these different areas of my life? What is the future that I’m consciously trying to create in my life? And then once you do that, in fact I’ll give you an example if you want.
Michael Hyatt: So this is one for my health and I state in the present tense and by the way, I’m not here. This is a future me, but I say to myself this is the future. I am lean and strong, possessing vibrant health and extraordinary fitness. My heart is strong and healthy. My arteries are supple and clear of obstructions. My autoimmune system is in excellent condition. I’m disease, infection and allergy resistant. I have more than enough energy to accomplish the tasks I undertake.
This is because I control my mental focus, workout six days a week, choose healthy foods, take supplements as needed and get adequate rest. That’s my envisioned future for my health account. So I have these different accounts and that’s my health account and I have an envisioned future statement for each one of my life accounts. Then we go back to what the current reality is. It’s kind of like a GPS system. Okay. Here’s where we want to go.
Here’s where I am now and I’ve got to know those two things before I can plot a course and so the current reality as you’re going through this, we really encourage you to be brutality honest. This is not going to be turned into somebody else. Nobody’s going to review this unless you share it with them explicitly, but to be honest and for me recently, I was looking at this and I thought well, okay, I’m working out with a trainer. That’s good. I’m doing cardio. I’m eating pretty well, but I’m nine pounds heavier than I want to be. I mean that was my current reality.
So it’s not the envisioned future. Now once I have those two things, then what I can do is put together specific commitments. These are the things that I’m going to do to incrementally move myself forward and close that gap between where I am and where I want to be, and I think a lot of times we think that we’ve got to have the whole path illuminated before we can start and we really advise against that. Usually it’s like driving a car through a forest at night.
You don’t have to have the entire path illuminated by your headlights. The next 50 to 100 yards are sufficient and that’s how it is with life. You may not know the entire path to get from where you are to where you want to be in the various categories, but you usually know the first couple of steps and so we encourage you to write those down as specific commitments and begin to take action and begin to build momentum and begin moving toward that envisioned future.
Interviewer: I love that driving through the forest at night analogy. Something that I use is very similar is I ask people flat out. I go fire nation, when you’re driving on a country road and you see there’s a corner coming up 100 yards ahead. How do you know what’s around that corner? And they say, well, I don’t. I said, well, how do you find out what’s around that corner and they say well, I drive up to that corner and I start going around the corner and then I see what’s ahead and I’m like exactly.
You can’t expect to see around every corner until you get there. So that’s why action is where you need to go. So again, that final question fire nation was how do I get from here to where I want to want to be. So powerful and Michael, we always end strong here at EO Fire so take it away. Once you’ve created a life plan, what’s next?
Michael Hyatt: This is the important thing. Then you begin to implement it and by the way, we recommend that you take one full day to do this. Don’t try to piecemeal it, but get a date on your calendar. Clear the decks. It may be a Saturday. It may be a Sunday. It may be a day when you take off from work, but get a day where you can specifically focus. Jim Roane talks about the law of diminishing intent whereas you get all amped up, you get excited, you intend to do something, but the more time that passes from your excitement to actually doing it, the less likely you will be to do it.
So get it on your calendar and then it’s implementation and so most people feel like okay, now I’ve got these specific commitments, but good gravy, I feel so overcommitted. I don’t have room for anything else on my calendar. So we tear your calendar apart in the book. We talk about calendar triage, making margin or making space in your calendar to do the things that matter most, to get rid of the things that are now if you have your life plan, less essential, and then we talk about creating an ideal week and we map that out for you.
And we even have some templates online that you can use to do that and then we give you a framework for saying no so that in the push and shove of life when you’re feeling the pressure, when you’re – somebody’s breathing down your neck to say yes to something that you end up regret or end up realizing it’s a low value activity, we teach you how to deal with that on the front end and then how do you review your plan so that you don’t lose sight of it so that you’re always moving in the direction of your envisioned future.
Interviewer: Fire nation, if you weren’t already on it then I hope you are by the end of this interview. The book Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want is a must read for entrepreneurs and if you’re listening to my voice, if you’re listening to Michael’s place, you are an entrepreneur. So put this on the must read list period, Living Forward. Michael, I want to end today on fire. So share with us a parting piece of guidance, the best way that we can connect with you and then we’ll say goodbye.
Michael Hyatt: Yeah, the parting guidance is that I think for most of us we think that we need to take some kind of massive action to make a difference in our life. We’re swinging for the fences. We’re hoping to hit a home run, hoping to win the lottery. That’s not usually how life works. It’s usually just a steady change, incremental choices over a long period of time, but there’s power in that like compound interest.
If we make those little decisions day by day, we can create an extraordinary life in every aspect that’s important to us. In terms of connecting with me, you can get everything related to what I do at michaelhyatt.com. You can find out more about the book explicitly at livingforwardbook.com.
Interviewer: Fire nation, you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with and you have been hanging out with MH and JLD today. So keep up the heat and head over to EOfire.com. Just type Michael or just the word Hyatt in the search bar. All of his show notes pages will pop up from his previous three episodes and you can listen to those. He drops value bombs galore and of course this show notes page will pop up for episode 1242, but the reality is this. We are here to talk about Living Forward. So go check out livingforwardbook.com.
This is the proven plan to stop drifting and get the life that you want and Michael, I want to thank you for sharing just your knowledge with fire nation. For that, we salute you and we’ll catch you on the flip side.
Michael Hyatt: Thanks, John. Great to be with you.
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