How mentally fit are you? That is to say, how well you perform under pressure and adversity? Adam McGraw is on a mission to help himself and others improve their mental fitness through positive intelligence. After graduating from the University of Arizona, Adam spent years doing voice-overs and selling his services to TV and radio stations directly. He then spent twelve years with American Express selling and leading large B2B sales organizations that drove $4 billion annually prior to making the purpose-driven decision to join Positive Intelligence as their Chief Evangelist and Chief Revenue Officer. On today’s show, Adam joins Rodney Flowers take a closer look at mental fitness and the concept of positive intelligence.
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Positive Intelligence: How Mentally Fit Are You? With Adam McGraw
Adam McGraw is here with me. After graduating from the University of Arizona, he spent years doing voice-overs and selling his services to TV and radio stations directly. He then spent twelve years with American Express, selling and leading large B2B sales organizations that drove $4 billion annually prior to making the purpose-driven decision to join Positive Intelligence as their Chief Evangelist and Chief Revenue Officer. He is on a mission to help himself and others improve their mental fitness through the New York Times bestselling subject, Positive Intelligence. Adam lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, Kelly, and his two-year-old son, Hudson. Please help me welcome, Mr. Adam McGraw to the show. Welcome to the show, Adam.
Thank you, Rodney. I’m hyped up on that intro. I’m intrigued and entertained.
I’m happy that you’re here. I’m excited about the subject of positive intelligence. I’m excited about you and what you’re doing in the world. I want to learn more about you. You’ve been around the world. I’ve learned that you’ve moved into twelve different places before you landed in Austin. Tell us a little bit about your journey. What were you doing during those twelve different moves?
A lot of those moves were not my choice. I was an only child and my dad was a great story himself, professionally of coming from nothing and working his way up the corporate ladder. I always get the follow-up question when I say I did ten moves which is, “Were you a military child?” I say, “No, but I felt like one.” I completely empathize with the military families because we moved about every 3 to 4 years all over the Northeast and Southwest and then I said I would never do that. A lot of us go back on our commitments when we’re fifteen years old. I’ve done several moves in my professional career thus far, before landing ultimately in Austin, I don’t know if you’ve been to Austin, Rodney, but as much as I love the Northeast and Southwest, this is my favorite place so far. I feel blessed to be in this location.
I’ve been there once and I thought it was a great place to live and the weather was nice. You still get all four seasons, but it doesn’t get too cold. I’m a fan of warmer weather, the heat. I’m in Maryland and it’s that season where it’s super cold here and it’s going to get colder. I love Austin. You’re from Pittsburgh as well.Life's challenges are going to happen, but our response is on us. Click To Tweet
I was born in Pittsburgh and that’s where the family bones and roots came from. My parents grew up as next-door neighbors. Both sides of the family were big families and they’re all best friends and all Steelers fans. We had times where they were hanging out with all the Steelers in their glory days. We’ve got a lot of deep-rooted fond feelings about Pittsburgh. I still go back there and I’m still a Steelers fan, even amidst the turmoil we’re in.
You left American Express and you were pushing about $4 billion annually in sales and then something happened to you and your life. You got on a mission. Tell us a little bit about what happened there.
I think deep down, I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart and I gave it a run out of college doing the voice-over stuff, which was an idea I got in college when my dad said, “You’ve got to get a job eventually from college.” That was my first run at doing something entrepreneurial. I had some fun and my friends thought it was cool. They could hear me on the radio, on television stations, but that starving artist thing didn’t seem to be the right lane. I think I hit it at the wrong time. What made it easy for me to get into it and a lot of people to get into it, the barrier to entry because of technology.
I ended up in American Express coincidentally. I always knew that one of my fallback plans that I felt that I had some skills or some interest in selling. I got into the Commercial Card Division of American Express, which is “The Division.” It’s a massive company. Everyone loves the brand. If you ask people to work in the company, if they could be in sales, they want to be selling in the Commercial Card. I felt very fortunate to get in that lane. I started in frontline sales. I got to sell during the recession, which was an interesting time to be pushing financial services products to companies when everything was looking pretty grim, but all along, I had this idea of getting into leadership. I had a great run where I got into front line sales, then eventually VP/GM roles. It was an awesome run.
American Express does an amazing job of cultivating entrepreneurial-minded individuals, a diverse group of people, many smart individuals. It stretched me, challenged me, and it rewarded me. For the first ten years, I can honestly say I was happy. In the midst of the time, I was a second-year leader at American Express. I had randomly picked up a book as I was walking through an airport. I saw it at the airport kiosk. It was in there over and over again. It was the book. On the title, the tagline was, Why Only 20% of Individuals and Teams Ever Reached Their True Potential AND HOW YOU CAN ACHIEVE YOURS? The tagline was catchy. It had a picture of a brain with positives on one side and negatives on the other. The title of it was Positive Intelligence from Shirzad Chamine. As a consumer interested and a consummate learner of sales leadership and personal growth in general, I picked up the book. I read it on an airplane home.
One day, after not getting a job that I wanted internally, it hit me in a deep-rooted spot. I was profoundly impacted by the scientific backing of how people get in their own way and how we self-sabotage so much more than we’d all like to admit that we all probably realize. I had a visceral connection with it. Thinking back to my days as a younger guy, being an athlete, I spent my entire first 15 to 18 years dedicating my entire life to being physically fit as I can and playing sports, putting in all the work and doing all this studying. I had some decent talent. I’m only 5’8” so that was against me, but the one thing I thought about was, “I wish I had this framework when I was growing up,” because the one X factor that I never nailed was my mindset. What is the percentage of time that I would stay in the zone and have my mind serving me versus in an area where I would ultimately be sabotaging me? I would make mistakes sometimes in games that I never made in practice. What’s that difference when you’re lining up at the free-throw line at the end of the game or the grounders hit to you in the ninth inning? Why do you make that mistake when you’ve done it many times repetitively in preparation when it matters most?
The essence of this subject is how well you perform under pressure and adversity? Can you remain calm, clear-headed and laser-focused, which is ultimately your mental fitness? How mentally fit are you? You can be the most physically fit person in the world, but that becomes an X factor. I had that connection going back. The next thought I had, Rodney was, “I’m in sales. I’m in leadership. This is a high performance, high-pressure expectation game as well. To me, the commercial field of athletics is sales.” There is no off-season. The pressure to perform is monthly, weekly, quarterly. The stress is high and you’re dealing with emotional customers, emotional leadership and bosses. I saw it all the time. I didn’t know what I was seeing. I always said to people when they say, “What’s the X factor in leading people when we were having streams of success?”
I’d love to tell you, I have a great selling skills strategy and hopefully, the people that worked with me would tell you I had a few. I’d say, “I spend 70% of my time helping my people psychologically ride their highs and mitigate their lows.” When I was reading this subject, I realized there is a much more deep-rooted pragmatic platform that gets down to the individual level and meets them where they are on why they self-sabotage. How they can operationalize the way that they can find the zone or find peak performance and happiness when they need it most, which is under pressure and adversity or in their game time. What happened is I got done with the book and I said, “I’ve got to reach out to this guy.” I’ve got to see if he’s doing training for sales and leaders because I wanted to bring it into my organization. I got on Google, the beauty of technology, and I found the author.
I reached out to him and I said, “I’m a sales leader in American Express. I thought your book was the best thing I’ve read in my 10 to 15 years of trying to read anything I can get my hands on. Do you have any plans of doing training or operationalizing this for sales and sales leaders or commercial professionals in general?” He said, “Absolutely.” That’s a huge mission I have. He’s the former CEO of the largest coach training organization in the world. He saw viscerally the gaps that are in the learning and development community for helping people hit this baseline operating system level of their mindset, while companies are spending all this time dumping nothing but new applications on them all the time.
You’re helping them get to the root cause of why they do what they do. That was a big reason. It was a turning point. It was many years ago, but I’ll be honest with you, I can say this because I’ve made the decision to do this. I knew at that moment that this was somehow, me, being connected with this individual and with this subject was something I was destined to do. I believe that. I know some people may say sit there and say, “That sounds a little corny, a little cheesy.” In my core, in my soul, I always had a desire when I was growing up and one of the reasons I wanted to be an entrepreneur or be in leadership is I wanted to impact others.
I’m most excited when I inspire others, when I motivate them, when I help them reach their potential that they don’t think they can, much more than me doing it on my own. I knew that something was up here and I was going to stay in this guy’s orbit and see what happens. It organically cultivated over a relationship of going through his early iterations of training, programs being completely impacted and profoundly impacted by them. Ultimately, the lanes coincided and we both knew, “This was time to put this thing into more of a formality.” It was a very difficult decision. I will say that because I love Amex.
Let’s talk about what you’ve learned because you got on a path. I can hear your passion about this through this interview, but I want to understand because I felt that we, as individuals, if you’re not in a challenge, you’re either coming out of one or you’re headed into one. What makes the difference is how would you perform in that adversity, in that challenge. That what separates the good from the great. That what separates those that make it and those that don’t. What were some of the key elements that you learned with this training that allow you to perform better under pressure or in adversity?
This idea of how mentally fit you can be for the moment. For the inevitable variable of challenge and diversity, which life brings. The three key things that I’ve learned that I’m working on personally, on a daily basis and that we try and inspire and help others with. Number one, this is big first and foremost, you need to identify and intercept your automatic negative habits that you’ve been doubling down on when you’re in survival mode, under stress and pressure for the last 20, 30, and 40 years. You need to know what those are. Most of us are completely unaware of why we do what we do and what these knee jerk responses are and the subject labels these as saboteurs. The reason he calls them those is because they literally are sabotaging your own happiness and your success when you need it most.
This is heavily researched back. This is 500,000 participants deep and it’s leveraging what they refer to as factors analysis. That same thing that says we only need three primary colors to paint an entire color canvas is the same reason for all the crazy ways that we all self-sabotaged. As human beings on this planet, you can drill it down to ten very well distinguished common factors or the saboteurs. Most of us have a few of them. I know I do, that we actually go to and you need to intercept and identify those right off the bat. For me, personally, I am a massive hyper achiever, a massive hypervigilant and major restless tendency. Those are the things that they keep me up at night. These impact my performance when I need it most. They cloud my brain with brain chatter, stress and negative emotions. I know what those are.
Step two that I’ve learned that I’m trying to get help within the mental fitness framework is you need to develop a self-command muscle. Growing up, I joke a lot about my coaches. They were all great coaches and well-intended, but if you think about the little league or growing up as an athlete, they tell you, “Keep your head up, watch the ball, follow-through, shake it off, stay positive.” I call those the “no-crap” moments like, “Thank you, coach but I already knew that.” Honestly, a lot of the leadership sayings and guidance you get in commercial America where we’re paying people big dollars at senior-level jobs, they’re telling you very similar types of insight-based symptomatic advice. Why do people do that? We all know what we should do. How do we do what we know at the moment? That’s a self-command message.
It’s an actual muscle strength that we need to have to say, “Once I’m being emotionally hijacked by one of these negative habits, how quickly can I shift into a positive mindset? How can I shift my focus on command?” We provide what we refer to as PQ Reps. Think about it like fitness where you do little ten-second exercises. You can do them while you’re looking at me, Rodney. We could do it when we’re walking through an airport, when we’re on the free-throw line, we’re sitting across from the customer that helps you calm your mind and experience all the benefits that mindfulness and meditation provides, in the most practical, hyper usage setting where you can learn to practice that focusing technique to go from negative to positive. That’s the second thing that I’ve learned that I would practice.
Ultimately, when you’ve done those first two pillars, the third most important step is simplifying how you unleash all of your potential and emotional intelligence. Using the same factor analysis with all the participants in the studies, we took the eighteen variables of emotional intelligence competencies and drill it down to the top five powers that are required to drive all those competencies. That’s our ability to explore, to empathize, to navigate, to innovate, and ultimately to take action. These are the three things that you need to be practicing on a daily basis, like you get up in the morning and go for runs, hit the gym, eat the right food, work on your anaerobic and aerobic capacity. You need to be working on these three pillars in order to get as mentally fit as you can because something’s going to knock you down in life. Something is going to bring you distress, a challenge, pain and adversity, and these three elements will play a factor in the percentage of time that you stay sabotaging on in your full potential and happiness versus in the zone.
How do we practice that, Adam? We don’t have real game scenarios here. Most of the time, when we get into those types of adversarial situations, we blank out and then those habits, those knee jerk reactions, they take control. You’re saying practice. How do we practice when we don’t deliberately put ourselves in challenging situations? What are some of the recommendations to put here to perform under pressure?
This is the opposite of my favorite basketball player of all time, Allen Iverson. This is all about the practice because we can’t read books about this like losing weight. We can’t go to webinars and we can’t like blog posts. We’ve been doing that forever and not much is changing. Part of the reason I linked up with Shirzad and joined this mission is because of the pragmatic way that he’s bringing this practice to people is something that I feel is very beneficial and tangible. He’s provided the app-guided platform so that you do 10 to 15 minutes of 2 to 3-minute micro exercises every single day amidst your busy schedule. This is key here. Everyone wants to do training and work on workshops and everything when things are calm in air-conditioned rooms, when the coffee is nice and hot.You feel better when you're spending more of your time in the positive zone versus hijacked by things that cause negative emotions. Click To Tweet
That’s not life. We’re telling you that, “Your busiest time of year, that’s when you’re practicing this and you need to do it daily. You need to do it in increments throughout your day so that you start to build it to develop that mechanism.” What happens is when you’re doing this over a six week period of time, you can see on MRI imaging sections of your brain highlighted, the gray matter in your brain from the side of your brain that has all the positive powers, the Sage perspective, he calls it in the subject, start highlighting up and increasing and the level of your brain that has all the survival mode applications, all those negative habits starts decreasing. There are literal physical elements that happen including decreasing cortisol and all these positive physiological responses.
Do you call that? Is there a technical term for that?
I’m not the science guy, but essentially, it’s a physiological proof of gifting of regions of the brain. Doing this on a daily basis, if you go enough six weeks is where he has found in the research, you can start to see sustained, created new neural pathways, which is also known as new habits are about the length of time like anything, you are trying to quit smoking, you try to lose weight. That’s when you start seeing the benefit, but then you’ve got to stick with it. It’s a lifetime journey. I’ll be honest, I’m a few years in and my wife points out every single day those three sabotaging habits I have.
What I will tell you is the strength or the level of the challenge that I face. I’m now able to inhibit and intercept those bad habits a whole lot quicker than I did a few years ago. They don’t put me in smaller types of challenges. They don’t put me down nearly as long and larger challenges that I can recover from quicker. I think like physical fitness, you eventually start to be able to climb up a mountain with much more ease and flow. That’s the longtime game here. That’s how we’re trying to do it digitally because we know everyone’s addicted to having their phone. It has to be something that fits into your daily schedule so that you get the benefit of practicing chaos, not just before and after.
What is your perspective on challenges in life in general?
My perspective on challenges is that they are inevitable. They are what creates the character out of us and they are something that we’re not preparing ourselves for if we’re being honest. I think that the third pillar is the thing that I’m most interested in for the rest of my life is helping others. Think about these things that are going to happen to you. They are already happening. You’re going to have challenges so how well are you preparing for this? We bought into this concept physically decades ago and everybody works out and everybody thinks going to the gym and eating right makes sense. The mental side is a little bit behind the game. The mental side is still saying, “That’s for people that need mental health.” That’s BS. We all need mental health. We all could be stronger, better and quicker in shifting from negative to positive. Once we released that stigma and we look at challenges as the game times that we’re preparing for, is it that coincidental?
I’m excited because that is game time. Whenever the challenges come, it’s an opportunity for you to perform. A lot of times, we want to shy away from challenges, but we’re only hurting ourselves in our opinion because it’s the opportunity for you to perform, get feedback, grow mentally and emotionally. I agree with you. These are areas where we are weak and you find that whenever we fail, a challenge that we fall short, it has a result that is a long-term result in how we look at challenges from that point on. We see ourselves as not good enough, like, “I can never do that.” I’m talking about your goals and all your dreams and all the things that you want to accomplish in life, it’s going to be challenging getting there. You’re going to fall on your face several times and no one has taught you how to deal with this.
You have an education, but even with the smartest people, they go through challenges. They don’t talk about that. You don’t hit it as a society on Facebook or CNN. That’s background knowledge and information but that’s what happened. The person that’s successful that you see that looks like they’re winning is the person that has the ability to keep getting up, getting over the challenge and getting back on the horse and riding. They have this mental strength, but it appears that they’re superhuman or far out of reach that is okay for them to be able to do it, but not me. We’ve got to learn the skills on how to be adaptable, overcome and adjust to the challenges that are presented before us.
Most people, once you sit them down and talk to them about this and thinking about approaching this more from a lifestyle decision and creating a framework of daily discipline, they nod their heads. It makes a lot of sense and they start realizing, “All these examples of success that I love, I see all the correlations here.” Phil Jackson and Michael Jordan brought in George Mumford to help them with the mindset and to help them with mindfulness. He was the mental fitness coach for NBA back then. That’s correlated with Steve Kerr and the Golden State Warriors. There are examples out there all the time about how this is the edge. We need to think about and embrace that. The one thing I’ll point out is even this is more than performance, that’s the other thing for me.
This is about three different pillars here that could be impacted profoundly by being much more aware of the percentage of time we can be in this positive mindset is that this impacts our stress and our happiness. This impacts all of our relationships, work and home-related, and our productivity. We’ve been talking here a lot about being ready for game time. Let’s be honest, there’s a game-time for our spouses and people we love. There’s a game-time with are we enjoying what we’re doing in this one-shot we get? All three of those elements and very few people, there may be somebody crushing it on a performance stage, but one of those buckets probably could use a little TLC and all three of those buckets can be impacted by doubling down on this type of focus down approach to improving your mind.When you tap into your emotional intelligence when you face stress or adversity, that's the X factor. Click To Tweet
When we talk about mental fitness, it’s like your body. You can’t work out for six months and then forever all after that. You’ve got to stay in shape. Mental fitness is a life term commitment, just like physical fitness is a life term commitment. It’s something that you have to continuously work on, continuously cultivate. As you get older, there are adjustments that have to be made to your workout. As you get older, if you’re hitting the gym, then that’s going to be adjustments that you’ve got to make to your mental fitness and the strategies that you use to stay mentally fit. Why don’t you tell us about positive intelligence and how you guys help people do that?
What I had talked to there, as far as the three things that I learned exactly what we’re bringing to, whether you’re a professional or you’re a consumer, both sides of the spectrum is we’re bringing that app through our app platform. We’re giving you free assessments that you can go online and take assessments so that you will know what are my negative habits, what is the percentage of time that I stay in the zone versus sabotage? Ultimately, a platform, a digital coach, a workout routine, and regimentation to help you get as mentally fit as possible. Rodney, you’re a guy that’s clearly demonstrated when I read your story and your background. I was so interested to talk to you. It’s Mental Fitness 101. The rebound from adversity and inspiring others on how they do that, that is mental fitness.
You’ve got up every day and strengthen that or double down on that training your mind to stay in that zone as much as you can. We’re trying to create operationalized frameworks to do what Rodney inspires you to do, what Gary Vee, Tony Robbins and Simon Sinek. You name the person that you’re inspired by, your ability to execute on their amazing wisdom, insights and inspiration will come down to the percentage of time that you’re either being hijacked by your automatic negative habits or in that part of your brain where all your emotional intelligence lives. That will tap into the great skills and advice that you get from great leaders and great orators out.
How do you guys deal with distractions? The reason why I ask this is that one of the advantages that I have is the fact that I did go through my injury and it put me in a place of stillness. When you’re in stillness, you can think about a lot of things that don’t matter. You start putting them in buckets and then you can drill down on what matters most. It tends to dictate how you live, how you move, and your behavior in the decisions that you make. I find that people don’t have that opportunity in life because they’re busy with living and all of the things they’ve got to do with the kids, the wife, the job and everything that comes with that, they are distracted. How do you guys deal with that?
Great call-out and great question. That second bucket that I talked about, the second pillar of mental fitness that we believe we focus on and help you with that is PQ Reps. Those hyper-focusing techniques for ten seconds on any one of your senses. It sounds a little silly, but if I tell you to hyper-focus your attention on the tone of my voice. I know you’ve been listening to me, but try and hear for any different textures, sounds or the way that I say certain letters or words. You do that for a ten second period or if you were in a room, you’re listening to a particular instrument in the song that’s going on behind you. Those little mind training techniques are focusing techniques, we call them reps. That’s the strengthening component. They quiet your mind to your point.
In this day and age, due to the digital interruption that’s constant, we’re always being bombarded as consumers and work and life are blending at the most rapid pace ever because many people work from home and you’ve got your phone buzzing all day at times of the day. If you don’t have something that you can do at the moment to shift your brain on command and quiet the brain chatter and essentially create that stillness, you’re going to find yourself going through days, months, years and waking up and saying, “Where did the last decade go?” We do it in the version of what we call PQ Reps, which any one of your senses, you can choose.
Some people like the vision, they like hyper-focusing on their vision when they’re running or walking through an airport. Others like listening or smell food, but being mindful of ten-second pieces of time. That same strength that you need to say, “Quiet all this stuff going on in my brain, my to-do list. People yelling at me and let me do this for ten seconds.” It has the same calming technique and it’s an amazing thing to do before you have to be on a presentation or before you have to have a big conversation with a spouse or a boss. It’s a practical thing that you can lean on for that stillness that you’re referring to.
What is your definition of fulfillment?
I wake up every day that I’m on this new mission. I am asking myself that question constantly because it’s my number one goal for myself and for anybody I talk to. It’s not to have them become a customer of ours. It’s not to have them nod their head if they agree with whatever I might be trying to tell them. It’s that, I inspire myself and others to have fulfillment, which is joy without conditions is the way I would say it. Joy in the moment, in the process and amidst adversity. Most of the time, if we think about fulfillment, we’re more linking it to something like happiness. Happiness is usually conditionally bound like, “I’m happy when I have this going on in my life. When I win this, I’m happy. When this meal is perfect and I’m out at dinner, I’m happy.”
If you can have joy, it’s anything that’s going on and that’s a version of mindfulness. If we’re being honest or stillness that you can gravitate towards and you can even find joy in whatever the grind may be that you’re in or the adversity that you may have, then that’s fulfillment. That means every day of this life, there are pockets. This is not all bubble games and cupcakes. I never expect anyone to be in a positive, happy mindset all day, every day, but if you can find pockets of joy and every single day that are not conditionally bound, I think you’ll feel it by the time another 10, 20, 30 years is rolled by. If you’re fortunate enough to have that, that you feel like a pretty fulfilled person, that’s the way I would define it.
We’re talking about attitude. I think joy is a byproduct of your attitude. Your attitude is a byproduct of your perspective of things because if you have a certain perspective of things, it’s going to affect your attitude towards it. That determines whether or not you are happy about it. You have joy about it. I find that when things are not going our way, then there’s an attitude about it that may be displeasing. It’s not comfortable. It doesn’t bring me happiness. It is challenging our perspective on life. I don’t know if you talk about this in your Positive Intelligence training, but on a day-to-day, I’ve had to challenge my perspective of any given situation. When we look at certain things and these can happen, we can get back to our desk and we can be like, “This is crap. I hate this job. I hate my boss. I hate the situation. I hate my spouse. I hate this relationship, this financial situation.” It’s all based on a viewpoint.
It is based on a perspective of what you are seeing and what you are feeling is a reality at that point, at that given time. If we can challenge that perspective because you mentioned something about being joyful in the process. To understand and accept that I should be joyful in this process even though the process sucks is knowing that the process is serving me in some way. There’s good in it. That’s a start, but if we think about it, there’s good in everything. This life and life in itself is good. You may have a perspective that there are certain parts of your life isn’t good, but if you are alive, it’s good. Life in itself is good. There’s nothing bad about life. When you can get to that level of awareness and understanding that life is good, it doesn’t matter where you are and what you’re doing, it is all good. It is the perspective that makes it not so good.
Rodney, that is so well-said. That is the deep-rooted essence of what we’re trying to help people with. When we say helping people be more mentally fit, mental fitness is your ability that life is going to happen. Things are going to happen on a daily basis. Your lens that you view that through and ultimately the perspective you get and the attitudes that you carry is all something that you will ultimately choose to do. You’re either going to be subconsciously, automatically doing it the way you’ve always been doing it and many of those may not be the best serving for you or you’re going to get into a spot where you will find the right perspective, the right attitude and ultimately some happiness and joy given any situation.
Our response is our mental fitness. Life’s challenges are going to happen, but our response is on us. I love the correlation. That’s what I’m ultimately seeking myself on a daily basis and I’m a work in progress. That’s what I’d love to inspire others to think about as well because there’s a lot of great inspiration happening. When you think about platforms like LinkedIn and everything, there are tons of talk about happiness and thinking about fulfillment over achievement and getting people to think more about the big picture. I love the tone of where things are going, but we’ve got to dig in on that. We can’t just talk about it. We need to be about that and we need to operationalize that. If we’re being honest with us, a lot of us do.
Mental fitness is not a surface level conversation. It’s not even a surface level practice. It’s so deep, but you can only be fit to the level of practice that you put in or the level of experience that you’ve had and dealing with something that has caused you to go to a certain place when it comes to being mentally fit. Many people don’t have that because they shy away. A lot of times, we want to protect people. We don’t want them to go through challenges so they don’t get that opportunity. I remember the time in my accident where people would want to help me. I wouldn’t let them help me because I felt it was taking away something from me if I allowed them to take that challenge away. There’s something mental that I’m experiencing it.
It could be very tough and challenging. It could suck, but I know that I can overcome this, I know it. I’ve got to figure that out and it may take years to figure it out. That level of thought, commitment and energy towards that thing. The brain is amazing in how it has the ability to figure things out mentally. There are some things that I haven’t been able to figure out, but I’ve gained so much in the attempt, even though I may not have accomplished the ultimate goal. We’re getting into some deep stuff because it’s like people that have very bodacious goals that they feel you’ll never get to because the goal is bodacious. I say, “It is worth you attempting to get to that goal because it is what you are going to gain in the attempt.”
If you want to run a marathon, I can’t run a marathon, but try for a marathon, even you don’t finish the marathon, you’re going to be in a lot better shape than you are attempting to run a marathon. When you talk about mental fitness, look for things that will challenge you mentally. You can put these things that you’re talking about into play. It’s like if you never put in place like an athlete. I was listening to ESPN and this new guy that was coming into the league, he was eager and they were comparing him to some of the superstars. One of the things he said, “I’ve got a lot of work to do.” The other guy that they will compare him to that was already in the league. He said, “This guy has over a thousand some reps on this particular play.”
In his mind, he’s thinking, “I have to go through this process, practice these techniques or run these routes or duties, these drills that many times before I can allow myself to be to compete with this guy.” When it comes to overcoming challenges, when you practice, you look for things that you can overcome because you’ve got to have the skillset to accomplish those things. If you don’t, then you’ll be the person to say, “I would never run a marathon. I would never reach that goal. I’ll never do that.” It’s not that you can’t, it’s just that you haven’t acquired the skillset, the mental toughness to do it. If you did, I don’t think that that would be a statement that you would make.Self-judgement is a massive difference maker between somebody that goes for greatness and people that are always afraid to try. Click To Tweet
Those are great examples. Some people struggle with an avoider or saboteurs, that’s one of their main ones or a victim. If you think about those words of being in an avoider or a victim, when you face challenge and adversity, if you don’t get ahold of those, your ability to ever seek failure or seek big, bodacious and audacious goals, then you’re not going to do it. You have to get a hold of those things that are holding you back. Through the research we did, the number one sabotaging mentality that almost everybody deals with is our own judgment. We either judge ourselves or others or circumstances hard. If you think of the word, you don’t even have to read our definitions at face value, how much judgment, self-judgment, or judgment of circumstances and others gets in the way of going after things that could ultimately stretch us, grow us and bring us joy, that one element alone is a major deal-breaker for a lot of people.
How do we deal with that because everyone has that self-critic? The little guy on the shoulder that’s telling you that you can’t, you won’t, you never will. What are some techniques to deal with that?
First of all, you’ve got to realize you have this self-judging going on and that it’s taking over some of your goals, some of your success and productivity. A lot of people don’t even realize that that’s even happening to them. That’s step one. You’ve got to do the same three things. You’ve got to practice that ability to shift out of that. If the judge is in your mind, your ability to be innovative and explore and take massive action is going to be majorly inhibited. You have to get rid of that judgment in order to have the right performance and goal-oriented mindset that everyone talks about having for peak potential. It’s a big deal. It’s good to have to want to do well and to be discerning about what you don’t do well.
This isn’t about saying that I think that everything’s great and I’m not going to ever have judgment over what I did or didn’t do well, but putting your hand on a stove is the good thing. You want to feel the heat, but nobody sits there and says, “You should leave that hand on that stove for twenty minutes. Make sure it’s hot.” When you have some self-judgment, have it for a moment, have it for the discerning learning period, but don’t have it to the point that it inhibits the next decision, the next phone call or the next big play. That’s what we’ve got to get a hold of. The decision to know that discernment is healthy, but then how long you stay under that hijacking of something like a self-judge is a massive difference maker between somebody that goes for greatness and views failure as a gift and an opportunity and people that are always afraid to try.
I like to change the personality of that judge. When I’m coaching people, I say, “You get to change the personality of this person.” You’re going to always have this person. It’s that, what kind of personality does this person have? Is he a negative or a positive kind of guy? A lot of times, you have to train this guy to be a little bit more positive and not so mean because this guy can be brutal at times. Every time you think of something, he’s like, “You don’t even have to worry about that.” It can be brutal. We’ve got to think about how do we change the personality of this guy?
That is exactly what Shirzad and his research have told people that they need to do. Once you’ve identified what your saboteurs are, you label them and you start to create a different wanted poster or visual or thought process about when they show up in your mind the way that you view them so that you start erasing that negative. There’s my judge and it becomes this. If you’re talking to your wife, “There’s your judge again. Can we back you out of this conversation for a moment?” That element alone is a very practical way to soften its impact. It is super intuitive to hear you talking about that.
How can people connect with you, Adam? If they wanted to learn more about Positive Intelligence and get involved?
We’re highly visible on the web. Our website, PositiveIntelligence.com and I’m spending a lot more time on LinkedIn. It is my social media platform of choice. I’m a little bit of an introvert, so I’m trying to get used to this daily contribution, instead of being a consumer on the platform. I’m listed as my name Adam McGraw, CRO of Positive Intelligence. I think AdamMcGraw7 is my literal name there. If anyone from your readers, one of your audience members wants to connect, we’ve got two free assessments on that website, PositiveIntelligence.com or you could go through my LinkedIn to get to those.
Those alone, most consulting companies would charge you for the assessments that you get. It’s a great thing to do with either yourself, your coworkers, your loved ones. If you have any interest and wanting to go further in and embrace more of a program in a fitness regiment about this idea of mental fitness and improving your Positive Intelligence level, which is the measurement of it, then you can reach out to me. I’m sure we could work out something for any of the Rodney followers and audience members out there to make sure that we got them a good deal.
Thank you for doing that. I appreciate that. This assessment, tell us a little bit about that. How long is it? Can you give us some details about the assessment?
There are two assessments that are free on the site. One is the Saboteur Assessment. We talked about these negative habits a lot on the show. You can go in there, it’s five minutes long and at the end of it you’ll get a detailed report of what are your top one, two, or three. Most people have several, as I did, of the saboteurs that afflict them under pressure, adversity or stress. You’ll see what’s great about it. It breaks out the thoughts that it causes you to have the feelings, the justification lies. The one hidden thing because a lot of people say, “What’s the big deal about being a controller?” Have you asked anyone in your circle what they think about your ass being a controller? The impact on others is a big deal in one word if you are looking at it. If you don’t think it’s an issue, you might want to ask some other people. You get that in the Saboteur Assessment. It rates you on 1 to 10 of what these are and it gives you a real in-depth description of them. That’s what the factor analysis research is based on.
The other assessment is our PQ Score. When we’re talking about mental fitness, a reason that we haven’t dug that far into it is we haven’t had a measurement scale for mental fitness. We haven’t had a workout routine for mental fitness. There’s a reason that we’ve stayed 20,000 feet on the subject. One of the things that were the positive intelligence quotient is the percentage of time your mind serving you versus sabotaging you. That ultimately has become what we’re now referring to as your scale, your blood pressure indicator of your mental fitness. That one takes 2 to 3 minutes and it’s basically asking you thoughts and feelings you’ve had over the last 48 hours. Don’t do it if you were drinking mojitos on vacation. That’s not an accurate depiction. Do it on a Wednesday, of a normal work week and see where you score.
About 80% of the population that’s taken this assessment score below the minimum threshold for peak performance and happiness, which is about a 3:1 ratio or a 75% score on the PQ Score. It’d be interesting to see in a tough week and a realistic week. I encourage people to see and where they’re scoring at. I know even myself, after years into this work, I’ll take that on certain weeks and still score somewhere in the 50% to 60%, which is not optimal for I’m getting through. I’m getting stuff done and people made and say, “He’s being successful at what he’s doing,” but it’s all about relativity on my peak potential outlet and how much happiness and joy I have as I’m trying to reach that. We want people to seek to have consistently high scores on that PQ Score as we seek to have consistent healthy body weights and body fat percentages and blood pressure tests.
That’s what I was going to get at. If you worked out every day, your body should get stronger every day. There should be some level of consistency in the way you look and your fitness levels and the way you feel, especially if you’ve been doing it for years. Is the expectation with this if you practice, there’s this consistent mental key performance or if you practice these on the road on a regular, is there still the potential to have off days? Talk to us a little bit about what the expectations are.
We want to be realistic with our expectations. You will have things that you feel better when you’re spending more of your time in this positive zone versus hijacked by these things that cause all of your negative emotions. The feeling you get when you feel good from working out should be very self-evident. For those people that are a little more hyper-rational, which is one of our saboteurs or analytically-minded, they like seeing something that they can see their score. That’s where you can try and check-in once in a while on your PQ Score and see, “How am I doing?” Whether that’s your literal litmus test of the percentage of time you were positive versus hijack the negative over the past 48 hours. Will you have setbacks? Absolutely. Will you have days where that score drops? Absolutely, but the key is how long that’s happening? How frequently that’s happening? Are more and more days being spent in a peak performance zone where the PQ scores high? Are more and more challenges being handled where you don’t drop so low and you recover much more quickly?
Just as anything, we want to make sure that the judge isn’t too hard on ourselves. You’re going back to the judge. We don’t want people quitting their mission. Let’s face it, if you’re 30, 40 or 50 years old, you spend a lot of decades doubling down on some negative habits and it is not going to reverse overnight like eating habits or if you were to start going out and try doing a new workout routine, it isn’t going to come to you overnight. If you embrace the journey and you look at and you celebrate the small wins and the small feelings of feeling more ease and flow as you go through adversity and challenge, and also you’ll probably see a lot of people around you notice it and compliment you about it as well. If you’re spending more time in this mindset because it’s something that radiates out of you. It creates a vortex, especially if you’re a leader or coach or somebody that tries to inspire others. They can feel more than they even see or hear when you’re in this mindset and in the zone and in peak potential with high PQ. Enjoy the journey. You’ll have setbacks, the score will fluctuate, but I’m sure you’re a lot better thinking about it than you were when you didn’t even have it on your mind.
I know there’s a lot of researcher study going into the duration of being in peak performance or in the zone. Does this have the potential to allow you to be in the zone for longer periods of time?
That’s the goal. We don’t always use the zone. The zone is a great analogy for those of us that love sports. This is what we’re training you to do is learn how to get yourself into the zone type of a mindset when you need it most. That’s ultimately what mental fitness is, you dissipate these negative habits. You’ve got to self-command the muscle to stay positive, calm and laser-focused and you unleash all of your skills you’ve been training on. That’s the zone that only happens when those three things take place. The whole essence of the subject is, “Can you on a dime, get your mindset in the zone for when you need it for whatever your vocation is or whatever your big moment in life is?” Most people think that Michael Jordan just developed and he did. Over the years, he did figure out how to get himself on his own. We’re starting to come up with ways. There’s enough research out there, enough documentation scientifically of how we operationalize. Everybody is able to start to figure out how they get in their personal zone as well a little more strategically and a little less coincidentally.
Adam, where do you see this going? I don’t have any evidence or scientific studies to back this stuff up, but I feel that corporations are going to be looking at this. As they bring people in and interview people, they’re going to want people that have this ability to get into the zone and have this level of intelligence. Where do you see this going?
Having spent many years working for an awesome top Fortune brand and spending months talking to a lot of the top Fortune brands, there is a lot of interest in commercial applications with big companies. The reason is that for almost two decades, I don’t know exactly the timeline since emotional intelligence hit the radar mainstream-wise, people have realized in the science is all out there. The research is all out there of what emotional intelligence does for you and productivity and workforce, yet nobody nailed it. We’ve spent all this time and all this money. There’s been emotional intelligence training. People use it as a buzz word. “You’ve got to have a high IQ, more self-awareness.” We talk about all the symptoms of emotional intelligence, but very little has happened to move the needle on driving emotional intelligence. That is what we go in and do.
If companies believe in soft skills like emotional intelligence, which everyone pretty much does in a world that’s becoming more digitally focused and the main human element that can provide value still for job security is your emotional intelligence. You’ve got to figure out how to unleash that. I could teach you about emotional intelligence and try and get you to memorize the eighteen competencies all day long. Whether you tap into your emotional intelligence when you face stress or adversity and don’t get hijacked by these automatic negative habits that completely blunt emotional intelligence, that’s the X factor. What we’re telling companies is we know you want to drive emotional intelligence competencies for leadership development, for sales, training for a growth mindset, innovation and creativity. The only way you’re going to get there is if your people are mentally fit.
At the analogy, I love going back to athletics is we would never send football players out onto day one of the games of the football season without going through the physical aspect of training camp and getting in the best physical shape of their life. That’s the most important part when you come into the season and then you start downloading all the plays and the strategies and execution of the Xs and Os. In the commercial world, we’re giving everybody strategies, insights and applications, but we’re never doing anything for the mental fitness that gets in the way of it when they need it. I believe a lot of people are empathetic and active listeners and do have a lot of emotional intelligence. I don’t think we need to spend as much time as we do teaching people about emotional intelligence.
We need to help people realize how to tap into it because my ability to be empathetic to you as a sales leader completely comes down to how much I don’t let my judge hijack me. You don’t need to teach me about all the different ways of empathy until you help me intercept the fact that I judge people constantly when I face stress and adversity. We’re doing it backward. That’s where to your point, with time, with innovative thought leaders and companies that want to move the needle on this thing that it’s a $90 billion training industry and most of the statistics show there’s a 10% retention rate of training, change initiatives and courses six months later, 10% on that $90 million billion. I think it’s time we think differently and get to their deep-rooted cause of those symptoms.
We’ve got to stop thinking about the objectives of the company and start focusing on the individual because once you get the individual right and the individual will know how to go out and accomplish those objectives.
Most of these brands are attracting pretty smart people. Let’s get them out of their own way first and then we can start downloading all the applications.
Adam, thank you for coming on the show. This has been a wonderful conversation. Positive Intelligence is awesome. I am looking forward to learning more and thank you for the gift to the readers. If you could tell us one more time where we can go find out the assessment.
It is PositiveIntelligence.com, there’s an assessments tab for the Saboteurs Assessment and there’s a PQ Score tab for that. There’s also the PQ Program tab, which is where you’ll get a highlight of the app guided six-week program, which then after you go through the first six weeks, we have a monthly membership where you can continue to belong to the gym. We’re continuing to revamp and upgrade that program as well. Stay tuned if you have any interest in that.
Thank you again for coming on the show. What is some game-changing mentality message you like to leave with us?
The heavy-hitting question. First of all, thank you, Rodney. This has been fantastic. I love your mission. I’m supportive and keep doing what you’re doing. My main takeaway for the audience that I’d like people to think about is our happiness and our peak potential is much more controllable than we realize. Like anything in life, you can’t just talk about it and read about it and go out and look at people who do videos on social media about it. The benefits go to the people that put the most work into this. If you’re willing to put in the work and you’re willing to look at this as a lifestyle, you will see dramatic and profound improvements in maximizing your potential and most importantly, having joy through the process. I hope that for everybody.
Thank you so much. I totally agree. If you want your lights on in your house, you get out and you go to work so you can make the money to pay bills. If you want happiness, then you get out and do the work that will bring you happiness. Thank you again for coming on the show. I appreciate it.
It is another successful episode of the show. Positive Intelligence, check Adam McGraw out on LinkedIn. Take your assessment and see where you are. It doesn’t hurt to see where you are and once you know where you are. If there’s a destination that you want to get to, you got first and know where you are so you can start dictating the path that will get you to the end destination. Understanding where you are is the first start. If you want Positive Intelligence, let’s see what level of intelligence you have and then you can find out where you need to go from there. Thank you guys for reading once again and until next time, peace and love.
- Positive Intelligence
- Positive Intelligence – Book
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- Saboteur Assessment
- PQ Score
- PQ Program
About Adam McGraw
Adam McGraw is currently a Mental Fitness Evangelist and Chief Revenue Officer for San Francisco based Positive Intelligence Inc. Adam started his career doing voiceovers while back in college at the University of Arizona. He spent 4 years selling and producing voiceover services to TV and Radio stations. After that Adam went into B2B sales for American Express where he sold their commercial payment platforms during the recession and was a consistent top performer. He then moved into leadership while at Amex where he held various VP/GM roles and led a B2B
sales and account management organization that drove over 3 Billion annually.
While leading sales teams, Adam personally cultivated a relationship with NY Times Best Selling Author and Stanford lecturer Shirzad Chamine. Adam worked closely with Shirzad over the past 5 years and was so profoundly impacted by the programs of Positive Intelligence that he felt compelled to give up his fast track career in
corporate to begin the mission of bringing Mental Fitness to others. Adam feels blessed to have the opportunity to be on a mission that is aligned with his passions and purpose to motivate and encourage others to reach their full potential and experience true fulfillment.
On a personal level Adam is an avid workout enthusiast who competed in natural bodybuilding when he was in his early 20s. He is also a fan of all music and sang for his own band for 3 years after college. Finally, he is a self proclaimed foodie who loves craft cocktails and cigars. Adam has moved over 12 times across the northeast and southwest prior to landing in Austin TX where he currently lives with his wife Kelly and their 2 year old son Hudson.
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