- Posted by Action Catalyst
- On May 30, 2023
- 0 Comments
- author, coaching, habits, leadership, learning, mentorship, motivation, networking, psychology, soccer, sports, success, Time Management
Dr. Ruth Gotian, educator, speaker, and author of the book “The Success Factor”, shares the striking similarities between herself and the original Dr. Ruth, recalls a fierce independent streak that began at the age of 10, and explains peak vs passive tasks, informal learning and virtual work’s effect on it, the 4 researched mindsets that make create success in any field, why habits are NOT what leads to success, why Apolo Ohno feels like a colleague, how to play the game of high profile networking, defining and harnessing the power of “flow”, why often “no” just means “not yet”, and why she begs you to PLEASE not ask someone to be your mentor.
About Dr. Gotian:
Dr. Ruth Gotian is the Chief Learning Officer and Assistant Professor of Education in Anesthesiology and former Assistant Dean of Mentoring and Executive Director of the Mentoring Academy at Weill Cornell Medicine. She has been hailed by the journal Nature and Columbia University as an expert in mentoring and leadership development and is currently a contributor to Forbes and Psychology Today where she writes about ‘optimizing success’. She also has a weekly show and podcast by the same name where she gathers high achievers to talk about their journey to success. In 2021, she was one of 30 people worldwide to be named to the Thinkers50 Radar List, dubbed the “Oscars of management thinking” and is a semi-finalist for the Forbes 50 Over 50 list.
During her extensive career, she has personally coached and mentored thousands of people ranging from undergraduates to faculty members. As Assistant Dean for Mentoring she oversaw the success of nearly 1,800 faculty members at Weill Cornell Medicine. Currently, she researches the most successful people of our generation, including Nobel laureates, astronauts, CEOs and Olympic champions, in order to learn about their habits and practices so that we may optimize our own success.
Dr. Gotian received her B.S. and M.S. in Business Management from the University at Stony Brook in New York and certificates in Executive Leadership and Managing for Execution from Cornell University. She earned her doctorate at Teachers College Columbia University where she studied Adult Learning and Leadership and focused her research on optimizing success.
Dr. Gotian publishes on topics ranging from networking, mentoring, leadership development and optimizing success and has given keynote talks on these themes all over the globe. She regularly publishes in such journals as Nature, Scientific American, Academic Medicine, Psychology Today, Forbes and Harvard Business Review. She is the co-editor of a book on medical education, won numerous mentoring awards and is the author of The Success Factor – Developing the Mindset and Skillset for Peak Performance.
Recently she won the Thinkers50 Distinguished Achievement “Radar” Award, ranking her the #1 emerging management thinker in the world.
Learn more at RuthGotian.com.
The Action Catalyst is presented by the Southwestern Family of Companies. With each episode, the podcast features some of the nation’s top thought leaders and experts, sharing meaningful tips and advice. Learn more at TheActionCatalyst.com, subscribe below or wherever you listen to podcasts, and be sure to leave a rating and review!
SUBSCRIBE TO OUR RSS FEED: https://feeds.captivate.fm/the-action-catalyst/
SUBSCRIBE ELSEWHERE: https://the-action-catalyst.captivate.fm/listen
(Transcribed using A.I. / May include errors):
Stephanie Maas: So I’m sure you get this all the time, but I am from that generation that the most famous psychologist, psychiatrist, doctor of my generation would be, of course, Dr. Ruth.
Dr. Ruth Gotian: The original.
Stephanie Maas: So it’s gonna be very difficult for me to call you Dr. Ruth and stay on task.
Dr. Ruth Gotian: So I’ve met many times the original Dr. Ruth. And we have many things in common. We both worked at the same institution, not at the same time. We both got our doctorates from the same institution. . We were both in our forties when we got our doctorate. We’re both bilingual in the same languages, but only one of us is a trained sniper. She’s a ball of fire. The original.
Stephanie Maas: Okay. Well, what can you do that’s cool?
Dr. Ruth Gotian: Not that. I just talk to Nobel Prize winners and astronauts and Olympic champions and N B A champions and talk about success and what it takes to get.
Stephanie Maas: Really hanging out with some losers, huh?
Dr. Ruth Gotian: Yeah. It’s a tough job.
Stephanie Maas: So everybody has these ideas of what they think overachievers are like in all of your research, in conversation with them. What would be the things that people would be surprised to learn or know that these highly accomplished individuals have in common?
Dr. Ruth Gotian: One of the things to notice is that it’s not about the habits. They don’t have the same habits because they’re different. Even if you’re comparing Olympians to each other or Nobel Prize winners to each other, it’s not about habits. And I think that’s where we’ve been getting it all wrong all these years. We’ve always been taught to wake up at 5:00 AM and read for three to eight hours a day, and they’ll make you successful. But that doesn’t fit with all of our lives, right? But there are elements of what they have done, their mindsets that we can emulate. And there’s four of them. And the one that surprised me the most was the fourth one. And that fourth one is just opening your mind up to new knowledge. So we heard. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett and Mark Cuban read for three to eight hours a day, but that’s not what made them billionaires. What made them billionaires was that they open their minds up to new knowledge, and once you start getting all this information and all this data and all these ideas, and you can start making connections between two disparate points, and these are connections that other people don’t yet. That’s when you have innovation, that’s when you have greatness. That’s when you have all these big, bold ideas. That’s why they’re so successful. So it’s not that they were reading that made them so successful, it’s that they opened their minds up to new knowledge and we can all do that. We’re already doing that, right? So they were reading books. You can read articles, you can read newspapers, you can watch webinars, you can watch LinkedIn learning courses. You can listen to podcasts. Hopefully the listeners are going to learn something new today, other than the difference between the original. Doctor heard the naming , but there’s so many ways that we can learn new things and opening our mind up, and all of a sudden we’ll say, oh, I heard this was done. Maybe we can use that in my job. And aha, that’s the big aha moment. That’s how you get these new things to happen.
Stephanie Maas: So I could see that direct lineage from people who build businesses, invent things, and then like from an athlete, what is an athlete learning that helps them connect these dots?
Dr. Ruth Gotian: One of the people who I got to interview was Apolo Ohno. Apolo Ohno is the most decorated winter Olympian, as I think eight medals. Also got the uh, MI ball trophy on Dancing with the Stars. And when I was talking to him, people say, which, uh, interview surprised you the most? And it was definitely Apollo Ohno. because when I was talking to him, it was like talking to a colleague. So yes, he knew everything he needed to know about short track speed skating, but he knew more about positive psychology and sleep and nutrition and all of these other things. Adult learning, just like my colleagues would. and he learned all that because he realized that if he could get in the mindset of the positive psychology, if he understood the nutrition, if he understood the sleep, if he understood how to get into what we call a state of flow, when time melts away, then he would be at peak performance. So that’s why he, on his own, he studied all of these things. It’s pretty cool.
Stephanie Maas: That is super fascinating and there has been the renewed focus on sleep, so I would love just to speak on the importance of that.
Dr. Ruth Gotian: I will tell you what I do know is we all need a certain amount of sleep and what you need is not going to be what I need and every single person is different. And it’s not about waking up at 5:00 AM This is why I go so nuts when I hear these, these habits of pie achievers wake up at 5:00 AM It’s not about that. It’s about what you are doing during your peak performance hours. So I happen to be one of those 5:00 AM rise. and my peak performance hours are probably around seven to 11. This is when I am at my sharpest. This is when I get things done in a fraction of the time. This is when I can do that deep work, so I make sure to block that time, perform my deep work, which for me is a lot of writing and editing, which means my passive tasks that don’t take the same amount of focus and energy. Such as Zoom meetings and responding to email and social media post and things like that. I reserve those for the afternoon hours. When I’m a bit more sluggish and things take a little bit longer, I am not going to burn my peak performance time doing passive tasks. And the high achievers learn to opt, optimize their peak performance hours. Now, if you are a night owl and your peak performance hours are 10:00 PM to two, Go for it and do your high performance deep thinking work during those hours. Don’t try to do it at 5:00 AM if you only went to bed at 2:00 AM but figure out which are your peak performance hours. Figure out how many hours you need to sleep to function and leverage that, and you will see that you will get so much more done in a fraction of the time and it’ll be better work.
Stephanie Maas: Super helpful. Okay, so I’m gonna go back to something else you said in reflection on your time with Apolo Ohno. Power of flow. Talk to me aboutn that.
Dr. Ruth Gotian: So flow is what that means. It’s a, it’s a term of a positive psychology and it means you are working on something where you are appropriately challenged and you have the right amount of support. So it’s not so. that you just start to poo poo it and it’s not so hard that you’re completely overwhelmed. It’s just the right amount of challenge to say, oh, this is really cool. I wanna figure this out like a jigsaw puzzle, right? Some people really love that, right? When you get to that point and you start working on things, you are actually at your happiest, and you start to focus. You are in your deep focus time, because what happens is, You’re really working on that time melts away. You’re not tired, you’re not hungry, you’re not thirsty. You don’t need to go to the. You are so focused, you are able to block out everything around you. When you’re able to do that, you are in a state of flow. It is so hard to get to, but when you’re able to get to it, you don’t want to leave it. And in the book, in the Success Factor, I talk about ways that you can optimize that state of flow. How to turn down the noise that’s all around. You have to turn down the distractions. If you’re able to work in your peak performance hours and get to a state of flow, well now you’re unstoppable. I tell people the book was written on weekend mornings.
Stephanie Maas: You know, it’s interesting you said something there too, in that that’s when you’re happiest. And I think a lot of people would hear you say, Hey, I worked weekends to get this done. They’d go, oh, well, you know, I, I, you know, that’s my downtime, but you did it because that made you happy.
Dr. Ruth Gotian: That was my choice. That was definitely my choice. Remember, the pandemic was happening. We couldn’t go anywhere. If I was going to be at home, I was going to make the most of it, and I’m not the only one. That’s why so many people were able to get so productive during the pandemic when other people couldn’t get off the couch.
Stephanie Maas: Ooh, that’s a whole can of worms in and of itself. Okay, so here we are, post pandemic. And every day there’s conversation about pulling people back to the office.
Dr. Ruth Gotian: Look, I think everyone needs to do what’s right for them individually and as an organization, but I think these are conversations that need to happen, and it’s not a one size fits all model.
Stephanie Maas: It’s just such an individual thing that’s gotta be super difficult.
Dr. Ruth Gotian: That’s why we need to talk to people and we’ve sort of forgotten how to do that. Our conversations, every conversation we used to have in the hallway in the office now becomes an official zoom meeting on the calendar. And that’s exhausting. I don’t know about you, but there’s a limit to how many zoom meetings that can happen one day. So everything has become so formal and there’s something in adult learning that we call the informal learning. The informal learning. It’s, it’s not just what happens outside of the classroom. It’s those random acts that happen when you bump into someone in the break room by the coffee machine and you start to talk about something that can lead to an idea and those moments are gone. So maybe there’s a way that we can still have that still allow people to work virtually if they need it, but also to come in so we can have those.
Stephanie Maas: Okay. So I’m gonna jump back to your book. Give us the four parts that you talk about in the book.
Dr. Ruth Gotian: Sure. So the book is called The Success Factor. I have always been fascinated. It’s been a very healthy obsession with success. Why do some people have it and some people don’t? And how do some people get it and maintain it and other people don’t? I’ve always been interested in the stories, what’s below the water line. So when I interview people, I tell them I’m not interested in what I can Google about. I’m much more interested in what it took to get there because I have learned that high achievers are 400% more productive than the average person. So as we had this great resignation, everyone was walking out. Well, we need to not just replace those people, we need to replace them with the right people. And if we have those high achievers, not only are we replacing people, we’re actually being more innovative. So who are these high achievers and how do we get them? So at the age of 43, I went back to school to get my doctorate to study this, and over the years I have just added different kinds of high achievers. So I’ve interviewed Nobel Prize winners and astronaut. And Olympic champions and other Olympians and N B A champions and N F NFL Hall of Famers and Fortune 500 CEOs and senior politicians. And the list keeps growing and growing. And I realized that a Nobel Prize-winning scientist is just like a bedazzled Olympic champion figure skater. And if that’s the case, I realize that success can be learned. But I was frustrated because I have three degrees. I don’t remember having. Single class on how to be successful. So I decided that I was going to figure this out and I was going to create the blueprint, and that’s what I did with the book, the Success Factor. And I found out that it’s not habits, it is mindsets. And there’s four of them. The first one, and you have to do all four. But here’s the first one that needs to happen. You need to figure out what you were put on this earth to do, what you love more than anything. What feels like play to you, right? I was writing on the weekends because I loved it. I read so much because I love it. To me, that’s not work. That’s play because when you can tap into your intrinsic motivation, what you would do for free if you could, when challenges are thrown at you, you don’t give up. So this is different from extrinsic motivation. When you’re doing something for an award medal bonus promotion, that’s really hard to maintain because that’s when other people are judging you. But when you do it for yourself, Nothing can stop you. And if your listeners want to figure out how they can figure out what is it that they’re so passionate about, I have created a worksheet that they can do something I call a passion audit. It’s a simple three column exercise to figure what is that you love to do, and they could just download it for free from my website at Ruth goan, g o t i a n.com/passion audit.
So that’s the first. The second element of success is how you approach challenges. So I share the story of Dr. Peggy Whitson, who was working as a biochemist at NASA for years, and she wanted to be an astronaut, but she applied and was rejected over and over and over again. But she said, I know I’m going to become an astronaut. It’s not a question of if it’s a question of how. I just need to figure out the strategy to convince them I will be a good astronaut. Well, ultimately, she became an astronaut. Spent more days in space than any American astronaut, became the first female commander of the International Space Station. Then went on to become NASA’s chief astronaut. So when you’re faced with a challenge, you have to ask yourself. It’s not if it’s how, and you ask yourself, what is the strategy? I haven’t thought of. The third one is what made you great at the beginning. It’s what you keep on doing later on. You don’t rest on your laurels. You don’t just prepare. You over prepare, as they say in the military. You train hard and fight easy. And I share the preparation process of Neil Ka, who argued 48 cases before the Supreme Court of the United States, and he has done the same three things as part of his preparation. In all 48 cases, he doesn’t say, ah, I’ve done this before. I don’t need to do it again. He keeps doing it, and that’s why the N B A players have the same warmup routine that you would see in any junior high school. The only thing that’s different is they have more expensive sneakers. And then last but not least is what I was talking about before, is opening your mind up to new knowledge and figuring out how you can learn things, books, podcast, LinkedIn learning courses, and also, Surrounding yourself with a team of mentors who are your guides by your side, and those are the four.
Stephanie Maas: So let’s talk about that. This team of mentor, we aren’t taught how to go and pick, I mean, most of us, I think to stub our toes into good mentors, but if there’s a science to it, hey, we gotta know it.
Dr. Ruth Gotian: Yeah. I actually, the best way is the organic mentors, because these are people who you connect with. And the tip that I give people is don’t ever, ever, ever, ever ask anyone to be your mentor, because when you do that, you’re asking them to take on another job, another responsibility, another obligation. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t know people who have that kind of remnants of time. So instead, you want to ask people for their perspective on something, for their experience on something. So you can say, oh, I am working on this project. I am stuck on this one thing. I know you’ve worked on this before. Could I schedule 15, 20 minutes so I can run this by you and I’m trying to figure out what it is that I’m missing. You wanna establish that relationship where people get to know, like, and trust you. And when they know, like, and trust you and they see the promise in you, they start to take you under their wings. Don’t worry about the label of mentor that’ll come, that’ll come when the mentee gives them the. It’s really somebody who shares their knowledge and experiences with you. And if anyone’s interested in developing their own mentoring team, there’s another worksheet that they can download, which will take them right through it. I also describe it in full in the book, it’s ruthgotian.com/mentoringteam.
Stephanie Maas: It sounds like that’s a, a great tie into what you were saying earlier about this formal conversation versus the informal and the formal learning versus the informal learning. And I love how you come right out of the gates and say, Hey, don’t ask somebody, will you be my mentor. Just when you were saying those words, it was like, I could feel the weight of responsibility. And yeah, it just changes the dynamics versus, okay, I better get this right. They’re counting on me, you know, this is this role I now have to play.
Dr. Ruth Gotian: Yep. You know, it’s interesting. I gave a keynote once and I said at the keynote, don’t ever ask anyone to be your mentor. It sounds like an obligation, right. afterwards. I very often get emails from the people who are in the audience and they said, oh, Dr. Gotian, I loved your talk. Will you be my mentor? Here’s my dissertation. I’d love to get your perspective. I was like, hon, we need to step this back a little bit.
Stephanie Maas: Exactly. Okay, so another thing I think, um, I really liked what you said is when you go into an interview with somebody, when you’re doing your research, it was, Hey, I know what I can read on Google, I wanna know what’s not there. So what’s not there for you?
Dr. Ruth Gotian: For me personally? Yeah. Ooh, wow. You just really turn the tables . I don’t usually get asked about me that way. Um, I have always been extremely competitive and the path that worked for everyone else never really worked for. So I always had to just create a path, and it was not without a lot of heartache because there was no precedence for certain things. So for example, uh, when I was in fifth grade, it was a long time ago, probably before Title ix, recess was broken down by gender. The boys played soccer. The girls traded stickers and if you had googly eyes, that was, that was extra valuable. Well, I was not so interested in the high commodity sticker exchange. I just wanted to kick a ball around, and I remember my fifth grade teacher said, I’m sorry, but girls don’t play soccer. Well, that didn’t sound right to me because I couldn’t, I mean, I was, I couldn’t figure out, there was nothing physically wrong that I couldn’t play, so I couldn’t understand. Now remember, this is before we had the Mia Hams and you know, the Megan, all these people. So I went to the library and I took out every single book that had a picture of a girl playing. That Monday morning I put it on my teacher’s desk. It was, you know, two feet high. And I said, I’d like to revisit that conversation about girls playing soccer. By the way, girls have been playing soccer at that school ever since. And I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine because I played varsity in high school and I still, I was cleaning out some stuff and I found my. Why am I not throwing out these cleats? Like I haven’t worn them in 35 years. Right. And I think it’s just a symbol of that independence that I think has just been woven into everything that I do. I’m a doctor who’s not a physician who works in academic medicine. I study high achievers across industries, not just one in. I do things differently and um, sometimes it’s amazing, but sometimes it’s extremely isolating cuz nobody understands.
Stephanie Maas: I really appreciate you sharing that. Like you said, it’s so interesting not just what people accomplish, but the why. And in that not only did I just hear a super vulnerable story that you heard some, and I, I always am cautious with this word, but the right kind of pride in the sense that because you were doing things differently, it made a difference. Yeah. But then I also heard part of your way is when someone tells you something, part of your response is to go do some research, which is exactly what you said. How you came up with the book was, Hey, I’ve got three doctorates and I, I know a lot of stuff and not a single class was on how to be successful, so bye golly, I better go find that out. And that’s how you do.
Dr. Ruth Gotian: You know, I, I didn’t even realize that, but you summed it up perfectly. And I think unless it’s your personal safety, when someone tells you no, it really just means not yet. And I need to figure out how to convince you to make this happen.
Stephanie Maas: You just wanted to kick a ball at recess.
Dr. Ruth Gotian: That’s all I wanted to do. And what was so funny was that there was no girls team for me to play with and they had to put me somewhere because I wouldn’t go away. So they put me with the boys team and they were not kind. But you know what? That made me better. So when I got to high school, I right away played with the varsity. Average becomes the people that you’re around, right? So that made me better. So that’s why I’m on a mission to make average the floor not the ceiling of what we can achieve.
Stephanie Maas: Wow. That’s a powerful statement. So what’s next?
Dr. Ruth Gotian: I am working on my next book. It’s on mentoring because I realized all the high achievers have a team of mentors, so I knew I needed to pull the string on that a little. But I’m still contacting a lot of high achievers and we’re having those great conversations about mentorship and I’m, I’m just honored that I get to do this and tell their stories.
Stephanie Maas: That is so cool. I know we just have a couple minutes left and I wanna be super respectful of your time. Anything you wanna make sure we get to talk about in our time together?
Dr. Ruth Gotian: Well, people are usually curious how I got to talk to people like Dr. Tony Fauci and the nine time N B A champion, Steve Kerr and you know, Apollo el No, and all kinds of really amazing, amazing people, and that’s where the power of networks comes. I really needed to find one astronaut, one Olympian, right? One Nobel Prize winner. And if I did my job well, and people would notice that this is a real study and I’m here to showcase the good in what they do. I’m not a tabloid reporter, and they get to know, like, and trust me. Then what happened with Alma even asking is they started referring me to other people, and one just led to the next, to the next, to the next, to the next. And many of them have become really good friends. And at the beginning we didn’t even start talking about work that came, that came much later. We talked about what we have in common. And trust me when I say we all have something in common with the Nobel Prize winners and the astronauts and the Olympic champions, because we all have something in common. We just haven’t figured it out yet what it is. And if we talk enough with people, we’ll figure it out. And one of the things I try to tell people when I coach ’em is that when you are meeting somebody whom you don’t know, you need to have a toolkit with conversation starters to kick off a conversation. There’s always something that you can talk about. I once talked about, I was interviewing someone who had these enormous troph. in the back. And I said, I know who gives those enormous trophies. That’s martial arts. Cuz I have spent many hours in a karate dojo watching my kids. So I knew that they have those, those big trophies. So I said, well, which martial arts did you do? And he said, well, how did you know I do martial arts? So I explained the story. He said, well, I do, um, karate. I said, well, what kind? Right? So if you know that there’s more than one. That already has this conversation. Now I don’t do what he. , but we were able to have that conversation and that was over trophies that I saw in the back of his room. I put together 13 of my favorites again, right on my website, Ruth gutti.com/conversation, and this is how I’ve kicked off conversations with astronauts and N BH champions and Nobel Prize winners. And you can too.
Stephanie Maas: I really appreciate your time and thank you so much for your willingness to share, especially some of the things that are a little bit more vulnerable.
Dr. Ruth Gotian: My pleasure.
Stephanie Maas: Okay, one last question; will you be my mentor?