Locus of control is the degree to which people believe that they, as opposed to external forces (beyond their influence), have control over the outcome of events in their lives. The concept was developed by Julian B. Rotter in 1954, and has since become an aspect of personality psychology. A person’s “locus” (plural “loci”, Latin for “place” or “location”) is conceptualized as internal (a belief that one can control one’s own life) or external (a belief that life is controlled by outside factors which the person cannot influence, or that chance or fate controls their lives). George Costanza of Seinfeld fame is a classic example of someone who lives with a mindset that nothing is in his control, and nothing is fair.

 

In this episode, Frank and Ian break down the tangible value of mindset in relation to careers:

How early do we start to develop a locus of control?

The role of sports on our mindset

Why we take credit for the good, but explain away the bad

How external limelighters make others feel

The double standard – we expect others to own it, but don’t always hold ourselves to that standard

Unintended consequences of being too hard on yourself

Watch the episode here:

Listen to the podcast here:

The Limelight Effect

The George Costanza Episode

Let’s get back into the limelight effect.

Who’s caught right? I’m caught right.

You’re not caught right.

Of course, I’m not caught right.

It wouldn’t kill you not to be so funny all the time. That’s all I’m asking. This woman thinks I’m very funny. Now you’re going to be funny so what am I going to be? I’m going to be a short bull guy with glasses. Suddenly, that doesn’t seem so funny.

I’m not treating you to lunch anymore. You had to tell Julie that I made a special point of telling you that I bought you the big salad, didn’t you? If it was a regular salad, I wouldn’t have said anything but you had to have that big stuff.

Julie, is this funny?

It’s funny.

Why couldn’t you make me an architect? You know I always wanted to pretend that I was an architect. I’m an architect.

What do you design?

Railroads.

I thought Engineers do that.

They can.

It’s not a lie if you believe it.

What do you do?

I’m an architect.

Do you design any buildings in New York?

Have you seen the new addition to the Guggenheim?

You did that?

Yes. It didn’t take very long either.

I’m also an architect.

The lame, bald men with no jobs and no money who live with their parents don’t approach strange women.

I’ll tell you something. I wish they were pigment.

We all know George Costanza. In fact, we are all George Costanza in some little light. This episode is about the limelight effect or locus of control. When things happen in our life, do we take credit for it or do we explain it away? Good or bad. We talk about how this can impact our careers. We talk about this in leadership. We talk about what it’s like being around someone on either spectrum. We dive into the fact that Frank is more of an external limelight guy and Ian is all about the internal.

If you haven’t subscribed yet, please do. If you haven’t shared this with one of your friends, what in the world are you waiting for?

What’s going on?

How are you?

I’m pretty damn good. My back is a little sore. I didn’t get great sleep. If I don’t have a great show, you can’t blame me. It’s not my fault.

That is foreshadowing for what we’re going to talk about.

We are getting better at this show page. Do you like that intro?

George Costanza is a theatrical representation of everyone's worst. Click To Tweet

What an incredible intro. I wanted to tell you we had a groundbreaking moment. I got our first piece of fan mail. A friend of mine who I’ve known for years sent us our first ever appreciation. It was something we talked about in shows. My buddy from Charlottesville, thank you for this. I will send you a note and reach out. I know you’ve read that book. It’s Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. I’ve not read it. I’m excited to. It’s a groundbreaking moment.

Aurelius was not a man big on excuses. He was a very accountable person. The opposite of another hero of ours is one George Costanza. In this episode, the main title is going to be The Limelight Effect but this is the Costanza episode. We are excited to start talking a little more Seinfeld. Frank, why do Americans love George Costanza so damn much?

I think it’s because he’s a theatrical representation of everyone’s worst. It’s a hysterical way to summarize the worst that’s in all of us. When we were talking about this episode, this is micromanaging. Certain things you micromanage, certain things you don’t. That’s how life is. In this episode, we’re going to talk about the limelight effect. Is it internal or external limelight? We’ll define what that is. George lives in the world, the external limelight. They use ridiculous stories where he does everything humanly possible to let everything bounce off of him. Nothing is ever his fault. He was born under a bad sign. He had the wrong parents. He was too short. The water was too cold. He was too close to the fire. Everything always comes down to it’s a complete and total BS excuse. That’s what painted his life. What’s hysterical is he has these alter egos. He’s either a Marine Biologist or an Architect. He’s so full of crap that he never talks about what he does. He talks about this alter universe that he wishes he was a part of.

In some ways, George is incredibly accountable when he’s with his friends. He’ll admit that, “Nothing ever goes my way, I’m short. I’m bald. No one likes me.” He can be honest about a lot of his flaws. In other ways, the world is against him. Fate is against him. I’ve always thought that everyone loves George Costanza because one, we all knew a Costanza. When we see George, he’s an obnoxious version of Costanza that we know, usually someone in our family or someone that we talked to who is always coming up with an excuse or a reason why their life isn’t going better. I also think there’s a little bit of George in all of us.

When we talk about this effect, when we break into it a little, there are spectrums of accountability with most people. It is very rare to find someone who is 100% accountable. It’s rare to find someone who can’t be accountable for anything. It’s a little easier to find the person who’s not accountable often than it is the person who’s always accountable for 100% of things. What we’re going to talk about is the human nature of feeling in control or out of control. I want to delve into what kind of tactics that we can use to get ourselves back into a locus of control where we feel like we’re in charge of our life.

Before we get into that, Ian, I want to bring something up. You talked about it as the extreme examples of someone who’s always in the limelight or the opposite of it. Are there moments in life where maybe you’re a little bit more selfish? You and I have had conversations about periods in our careers when we’ve gotten a little bit too sure of ourselves. We acted in a way where nothing would affect us. We were too above it. Those types of things are real within people. If you handle it properly, there are seasons to it or there are moments of it. You have to harness it and corral it the right ways. There are ways to look inwardly and outwardly. That’s what we’re going to talk about with this entire episode. It’s a constant tag along. I have a toddler at home, absolutely external limelight. Because of the world around him, he gets pissed regularly.

That’s because he doesn’t understand how things work. We’ll get into that at some point. Our role as parents is to break that cycle. I feel like as a dad, my job is to convince my kids that they are in 100% control of what happens in their lives, the good outcomes, the bad outcomes. My job is to get them to be independent, to feel like they can impact their lives. Things don’t wake up and happen to them. They make things happen. That’s my job as a dad.

Let’s roll.

There’s a great book that I love. The title of it is Succeeding When You’re Supposed to Fail. If you don’t read the book and you read this one chapter, which was a life-changing chapter to me. I’ve read hundreds of books, business books, non-fiction books. Very few of them changed my life. Very few of them even change any habits at all. You forget about them. This book, this chapter has stuck with me to the point where I made every single person who worked for me for years read this chapter from this book. You would get a copy of this.

Before you even started, we would send it to your house along with your new hire paperwork. We would ask you to read this chapter and come ready to talk about it. I would talk about this chapter at our new hire orientation to set the culture of this is important to me, our company, and our culture, especially in homebuilding. A customer doesn’t care why you miss their settlement date, why they have movers lined up, and they didn’t get to move in that day. They don’t care about your excuses. You need to either get it done or you didn’t. You need to own it.

This chapter speaks to Julian Ritter, who is a Hall Of Fame Psychologists. We liked to talk about lots of psychologists on this. He’s the father of the term locus of control. Locus of control means a mindset of do I believe I’m in control? Do I believe others are in control for me? The other common nickname for locus of control is the limelight effect. What Julian Ritter found through a series of studies was that when people perform well on a task and receive praise, they start to develop a self-image. The opposite happens when they perform poorly. There was a small minority that can take no credit for their behavior or results, good or bad.

No matter how strongly or poorly they performed, they failed to recognize themselves as agents of change. This is a very small minority. The funny part of this is Ritter received a major award for all of his work on this. In his acceptance speech, he spent the entire speech explaining a way his success almost in an irritated manner and refused to take any credit for his findings. The irony of all of it is this guy spent a career-defining external limelight people without knowing he was one of them, which is fascinating.

It’s very rare to find someone who is 100% accountable as well as someone who can't be accountable for anything. Click To Tweet

It was almost like he was your cranky granddad when he won the award, chastising people for not recognizing all of his other great work, which was hysterical. You and I both took away from that piece of the article how ironic and funny it was. What’s interesting to me about this is you sent me this article. What’s funny about it is fifteen paragraphs in. They mentioned one of my favorite characters in the history of American television or literature, George Costanza. For some reason, the first 10 or 15 lines always turned me off. I’m like, “I’ll come back to it. It seemed too heavy.”

It early mentioned Noam Chomsky. It talks about Ritter. I’m like, “I’m not reading the headspace for this.” I always put it down. What’s funny is I finally read through this thing and I’m like, “This is what perseverance is all about. This is a great article.” I can’t get something more highly recommended if it came from you. It’s a pretty good source. This is great. I make everybody read it. For some reason, I couldn’t get it through my thick skull that I needed to read this. When I finally read it, that’s what all the hype’s about.

That was a very good example of internal limelight right there, Frank. Picture limelight at a play. The star is there. There’s always a spotlight on them. People either shine the limelight on themselves and control, good or bad, or they shine the limelight away. They want to distract you and push you away. To say someone has an internal limelight, those are people that take full responsibility for events in their lives. They see themselves as the central participant of their outcomes. Someone who has an external limelight interprets events in their life as luck, fate, others actions, random incidents, society’s rules, there’s George Costanza. You talk about favorite fictional characters. Mine is Uncle Rico in Napoleon Dynamite. He’s one of my favorite characters ever.

He is George Costanza. He is all of us a little bit. Uncle Rico spends the entire movie talking about if he could go back, how things would be different. He lives in the past. People with an external limelight tend to live in the past. Rico is always like, “If coach put me in things, you better believe things would be different. We take state. I’d be in a hot tub soaking it up with my soulmate.” He spends all day even trying to buy a time machine online. He’s so desperately taking videos of himself throwing footballs. He can’t ever let it go. We love Uncle Rico because we know Uncle Rico. We know them all the time. I have a few friends who I nicknamed Uncle Rico sometimes because they get caught too much talking in the past.

With some people, it’s incredibly sad. My Uncle Tori, long since deceased, was one of my favorites. He spent all of his time griping about he had a good job at Ford. He came over to work at my great-grandfather’s business. It was a coking and coal business. He left a good job with tenure. He went to work for my great-grandfather and ended up hurting his back. My great-grandfather’s business ended up having to sell out. There wasn’t the same future there. He lost all that tenure. He spent 30 years of his life talking about that decision. “I should have never done that?” Every time he’d have 4 or 5 beers, he’d start griping at his wife about it. I always looked at that like that’s so sad. You made a decision. Move on. He could not see his future. He could not see that he had years left of his life to go make other great decisions. He dwelled on that decision. I don’t know if you had anyone in your family who did a lot of that but I always find that very sad when I hear people so focused on the past.

I’m going to go backwards and I’m going to come forwards. The definition that we have written down in our notes for external limelight is this, interprets events in their life as luck, fate or others’ actions, random incidents, or society’s rules. The outside world is controlling you. You don’t have control over it. Another way to state that is you’re physically not taking accountability. You’re blaming all this other crap on others. What I’ve noticed in my life, which is one of the real gifts I’ve had in my life, is an ability to look at that and realize it’s sad. As you were saying that you would see your poor uncle and you’d be like, “It sucks.” He’s great but he can’t see that this is holding him back. Thankfully, you and I have the ability at a young age to look at that and be like, “That’s not going to be my life. There are thousands of things we can go into with this where it comes through your life and how you take control of it.”

There’s a scene in Michael Clayton where Michael Clayton is in the car with his son. Did you watch that movie? Did you like that movie as much as me? There’s a scene where his brother’s screwing up real bad. He was drugging, alcohol, all the stuff. They ended up losing a restaurant, a bar that he was supposed to run. Michael Clayton stops and tells his son, “When you see your uncle and the kitchen sinks come flying out of the sky and they land in his lap, that isn’t going to happen to you. That’s not going to be your life. You’re too strong for it.” I loved that moment in that movie. It’s a weird example. The first time you hear it, you’re like, “What the hell is he saying?”

It’s this argument. You’re going to take control of your life. You’re smart. You don’t make excuses. You have control of it, which I thought was interesting. The other thing I’ve noticed, Ian, is the people in my life who are bitter disenfranchised are the ones that have the external limelight that rules. They’re focused on high school football in their 60. They’re focused on the bad job or the bad boss. It’s a life of bitterness and disenfranchisement. If it goes wrong, it turns into something like the Unabomber who has a moment where they’re like, “The world was stacked against me.” It comes out that way.

There’s someone else in my family, I’m not going to say exactly who, but for 25 years has never had a good boss. They’ve had fifteen bosses. They’re all idiots. Every single one of the bosses they’ve ever had is a complete moron who doesn’t belong in the position, incompetent, and has no right to manage them.

To clarify, this person never worked for Ian or me.

George Costanza: We all have someone in our family or someone that we just talked to who is always coming up with an excuse or a reason why their life isn’t going better.

 

This is a person in my family in Michigan. You listen and you’re like, “Have you ever put 2 and 2 together? That the only common element out of those fifteen bosses is you. You’re the only common element. If you went out of your way a little bit to get along with your manager early rather than assuming they’re all morons and starting friction right out of the gate, maybe you wouldn’t be talking about some of these things.” I’ve had lots of bosses. I could tell you some good I took away from every single one of them. I’ve had some bad ones.

I’ve found a way to make a work with all of them. What the hell was the point of complaining about it? If you’re complaining that much, find another job. You’re in more control. That’s the thing. This person I’m talking about has worked for the same organization for that entire time. You have choices. You can pick up and go. You’re a free agent. Do something about it. If your organization only hires moron managers, which I don’t believe, if that is a true premise, find an organization that hires not morons.

I’m going to use the push and pull up, my mom and my dad. You met both of them multiple times. My mom is the most optimistic person in the world. She probably has way too much of internal limelight. She always thinks everything is her responsibility. That’s how she is. She overdoes everything. She always takes ownership of it. She tries to overwork every situation. That’s how she is. She’s a giver. My dad is on the opposite side. It’s not as bad as your Uncle Tori or Uncle Rico. It’s could’ve, should’ve, would’ve stuff. What I was fortunate to learn from watching my mom do it and watch my dad do it is I pick the right amount for me that’s in the middle.

There’s a side of me that’s still my dad. There’s a side of me that’s my mom but I had to find the right spot for me that’s a toggle between both of them. What’s funny is one of the best days of my life was when I was 22 years old. It was 1997. My summer internship was ending. I’m going back to college. My dad and I have a conversation. He’s like, “You want to get together? We can meet up.” The way that we usually would spend time together is we would go to work. My dad is self-employed. He has an electrical contracting company. I met him. I jumped in his van. We went and did a job. We’re done at 10:30. I’m like, “What’s next?” He’s like, “That’s it. it’s a light day.” He’s like, “You want to go to a coffee shop?” This is before Starbucks on every corner. He’s like, “I wired this coffee shop down by the beach. Let’s go.”

What was funny is we were having a conversation about regrets, going into my last year in college, and talking about something specific. I’m like, “I wish I could go back and do this part of high school again.” My dad, who’s on the opposite side of this, who’s usually the one that is the external limelight goes, “Do you want to say that about college?” It smacked me in the face of, “I’m doing it. I’m being called out.” It was a springboard for my last year in college, which turned out to be this incredible year of college for me. It’s the one I always think about. It was because he was usually on the side. He delivered that message to me. It pulled vault to me into something cool and set me up for an awesome year of college where I had zero regrets.

When people get caught in the past with external limelighting like you were where you’re thinking about high school and want to do it more, they’re missing what they should be living and enjoying. In years, we’re going to be talking about, “I wish I’d have played 2021 a little bit better.” They were so focused on how they played 2019 wrong. It never ends. If you can’t get out of that cycle of regretting things in the past and making excuses for why they didn’t go right, you don’t enjoy what you’re going through. A good way to start into this is think about some choices when you think about an internal limelight. Someone with external limelight feels like their career is something that is preordained. It happens to them, whereas someone with internal limelight believes that every single choice they’ve ever made has led them to exactly where they’re at. They would take none of them back, the good, the bad, the ugly, any of it.

You believe, “I needed that. I needed to overcome that.” It’s like Jordan needed the bad boys to kick his ass a few years. He wouldn’t take that back because it made him who he was. If you want to know who you are, you should be able to look at 9 or 10 flashbulb moments of your career that led you here that you were in control of decisions you made that made a difference. I’ll start with one. I saw a GE Career Day. I should have been paying attention to all the career days that were coming. GE was high on my list of companies that I would be interested in working for because they had leadership programs. I wanted to go anywhere that has a leadership program. IBM has a great one. Intel had a great one. GE Procter & Gamble had a good one. They were always there. I miss the fact that GE’s Day was that day until I walked by and there was twenty minutes left. If I’d have gone home to put on a suit, got my resumes and everything, I would have missed GE’s Career Day. I was like, “Screw it.”

I had on Champion nylon shorts, sneakers, a t-shirt, and a hat on backwards. I go in there. I got my backpack. I was like, “Outfit, what do I have to lose? I’m going to go in here and shake some hands.” GE’s Career Day was outrageous. At the time, GE had twelve business units. Everyone had these huge sections. There was the aircraft engine section and the medical. It was very intimidating. Every kid in there head on a nice suit, resumes, a portfolio with everything to show. I had shit. I had a backpack with nothing in it to show anyone. I walked around until I saw tables that were looking for sales because I want a sales job. I would wait in line, walk up, shakes hands, and say, “I missed you. I’m glad I’m here. I’m Ian. Let me tell you about myself.”

I went from table to table in sales until one of them put my name into a slot. I’m like, “I don’t have a resume to give you but I can bring one tomorrow.” It was shocking that they even did it but it got me in. That was a decision that I made on the spot that led to an offer and a lot of big things in my life. I could have walked by. I could have said, “You’re not dressed for it. You’re going to look like an asshole walking into that room with 200 kids in nice suits. You have a hat on backwards, a backpack, and sneakers. You’re going to look like an asshole.” At that moment, I thought, “I don’t give a shit if I look like an asshole.” I will regret it more if I go back to my fraternity house, sit on a couch, watch Jerry Springer, and think I should have walked in there. I have nothing to lose at this point.

Take control of your life. Don't make excuses. Click To Tweet

I’m going to tell a similar story. It was about you picked how to go to GE and promote yourself, even though you weren’t prepared to do it. You missed the moment but you didn’t let it go by. I was in the college of building construction that I was in at the University of Florida. They promoted commercial construction, building structures, building the wind hotel, building one-of-a-kind beautiful building around the world. I decided that I was going to go work for Ryan Holmes. We were going to build the same house over and over again. I was going to do something that they thought was beneath someone who would be a graduate with this major, especially someone who was at the top of the class. I got a lot of flak for it from professors.

The line I put in here is like what Biggie said, “Considered a fool.” I dropped out of high school. People look down their nose at me because I made this decision. The way that I looked at it is like what you said, “Screw it. I’m going to do this job fair. I’m going to do it in sneakers. I’m going to prove to them that I belong.” For me, it was the exact same thing. I said, “This is the best course of action for me. I’m in charge of my life, not this teacher or professor.” I’m married to a professor. She’s friends with a bunch of professors. By and large, they aren’t that happy. I was basing my happiness upon someone that was in a role of responsibility and power. Now that I have perspective, I realized, “What the hell I was listening to these people for anyways?” I didn’t know that then. You going into that job fair turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made. My guess is it’s going to impact every moment from then until I die because I pick the course of action that was best for me.

When I got promoted from my first management job, sales manager, I was maybe 25 as a young kid. I’d only been with GE for three years. The top sales guy in our office who reported to me was bitter. He was not happy. He made it clear he wasn’t happy. How could this happen? He doesn’t have the experience. He doesn’t have the results that I have. I was qualified. These were all fair points. I had been with the company three years out of college, all that. Here’s how I got the job. About a day before, three big executives were coming into town. These are guys that reported into Jack Welch. They were coming around on a city trip. These are high-level senior executives. These were kingmakers. They were coming around to see how Chicago was going. Someone was delegated from every business to get up and give us state of the market. A guy got up and talked about what’s going on in hospitals. A guy got up and talked about what’s going on in the power industry. Another guy got up and talked about aircrafts. There was a finance guy there.

I was in Chicago. I was planning to go. It was mandatory. There were hundreds of people at this event that would sit and watch, but only a handful presented. Twenty-four hours before, I was asked to give a presentation. The reason I was asked is because our senior most guy, the guy who didn’t like me getting the job, turned down giving a presentation. He didn’t want to. He’s busy. He’s got a big account he’s working on. He came up with a bunch of reasons but the truth was he wasn’t a great presenter. He was scared to present in front of all these senior executives. He was 25 years older than me. He was 50 years old at the time. I’m like, “That’s tomorrow you want me to do this?” I cleared my whole schedule. I didn’t sleep that night. I stayed up all night. I put together a ridiculously good PowerPoint with images. I put some humor in it. I talked about strategy, what I was doing to build accounts and how we were pulling.

I made suggestions that we should quit playing around the paper industry. It’s going away. We need to get into oil. I put myself out there. I did some aggressive stuff telling these executives that we were slow on moving to where the business was moving. They asked me a few questions. I had some funny quips. I made them laugh. I made the whole room laugh. Days later, I was in Atlanta interviewing for that management job. The kingmakers were like, “Give that kid a job. He’s great.” The guy who was bitter about me getting the job passed on doing that presentation.

You could have done what I did. Instead, he offered a “now, you’ve dunk to me.” The one thing I was better at him was public speaking. I was very good at it. He who passed to me. I stuffed it. He lost but he couldn’t get over the fact that they gave me that job. I could have said no. I could have said, “I got a lot going on. I don’t think I could put it together. It’s only 24 hours’ notice.” One person made a decision. The other person made a decision. Our careers went completely different directions. He blamed everything but himself.

George Costanza: There are periods in our careers when we’ve gotten a little bit too sure of ourselves and we acted like nothing would affect us or we were too above it.

 

I put a different example here in my notes but I’m going to use a different story based on what you talked about. Ryan Holmes and GE were on opposite ends of the spectrum in the late ‘90s, early 2000s on technology. I was talking about eFaxes in 2005, the shocking new technology. We were using that GE in the ‘80s behind the times. They didn’t have a PowerPoint presentation except at the annual meeting. I was going to tell a story about how I found myself in the worst communities. I always had a chance to prove that I was good. This happened over and over again. This happened after I was a new project manager. I was still an assistant. It was in my 6 or 9 months of training. We had to present. There were a couple of people from corporate that came to the meeting. I brought my presentation printed, bound, and laminated. I put it in a deck where they could flip through it with me. I could talk to them.

Everybody else showed up, winged off a set of notes. I did that. That was probably the first time I got recognized as being different than everybody else. I wasn’t told to do it. No one said like, “This is the program. Jot your notes down.” I’ve graduated from college. They required a laptop. They showed me how to print things. I’m using this to my advantage. I showed up in that meeting. I remember not too far after that, I got promoted. Things started to happen. The other thing that’s along the same lines is I constantly got put into crappy communities. I didn’t bitch. I would get a lower quota. If I did well, it was easier to make money. I always turned them around. Nine months later, everyone was like, “Frank gets the easy communities.” They were always broken when I got there but I didn’t bitch. “This is the opportunity. This is what’s best for the company. This is what’s best for the division. I’ll go do it.” I always turn those things like everyone would use the term a candy shop but it wasn’t that way when I got there.

Frank, it’s easy for us to sit here with hindsight of some years of business, be these sages up on a mountain, talking about we made all these great decisions and how we’re always internal limelight. The truth is I’m not always internal limelight. I preached this for years in my business. I made everyone read this chapter. I read it thousands of times myself. On a daily basis, I catch myself external limelighting. I’ll write something. I’ll be like, “This is good.” It doesn’t get much engagement. I’ll be like, “The algorithm changed. There’s no way this got so few views.” I’ll see someone who is a shitty writer but they have tons of engagement. I’ll be like, “How in the world? They must be cheating somehow because they suck at writing and they got it.” I do this all the time that I have to catch myself and be like, “Cut it out. That’s bullshit. You need to write better. You need to write more.” How often do you external limelighting? I feel like I do it every day.

I feel like we do it together with this show. The story you told me about your friend started a show that has 30,000 subscribers. He started about the same time we did. We pat each other on the back of how we’re doing with this. It’s a slow grind.

In that conversation, we tried to explain it. It’s a different niche. He’s in the religious area. He spent a little money on marketing. Maybe that’s it. We were trying to come up with reasons why they were smoking us. They started after us. You could have said, “Maybe they’re putting out some good content. We should check it out, see what they got.”

The majority of the time, you and I live in the internal. From time-to-time, everyone lives in the external, especially if something isn’t going the way you think it should go in your head. What I can tell you is I’ve been in business for many years. The first 6 or 7 are freaking awful. There’s a lot of like, “This isn’t working. This isn’t happening the way it should. I should be getting better.” Eventually, after you bitch, complain to yourself and you’re tired of it, you realize, “I wasn’t good enough yet. I’m better now. I have better talent around me. We have better terms with banks. We figure things out. Things I was scared of we’ve embraced.” Those are the reasons that we’re better than we were. While you’re living through it, it’s scary. You make a damn excuse and you blame somebody else. That’s where the rub comes in for what is and what is not external versus internal limelight.

You and I are both the same that sports shaped who we are. We both liked to hire former athletes that were on sports teams because we know that we’re going to get certain traits from them. Sport is a killer be killed kind of an environment, the tryouts and putting in work to make teams. I know one of my earliest memories of being forced into an internal limelight. I had progressively got better at hockey and made better travel hockey teams. That meant I got to play with some of my best friends, specifically my best friend might call in who was a way better hockey player than me. I was always on his team, which was cool. I got cut from a big travel team with all of my friends on it. I felt like I showed out at that trial. I felt like I was better than the kid that made the team. I was pissed on the way home. I was telling my dad, “This is bull crap. The coach must be friends with Mike’s dad,” Mike Cullen, the kid that made the team. I was external limelighting everything.

“Did you see in the checking drill? I knocked him down three drills in a row off of his skates.” My dad was great. He was like, “How was your skating? How’d you think you skated backwards?” I wasn’t a good backward skater. I probably wasn’t one of the best in that drill. He’s like, “How often does a defenseman skate backwards?” I’m like, “Most of the time, skate backward as a defenseman.” He’s like, “How’d you think your slapshot was?” I’m like, “It was pretty hard.” He’s like, “Did you lift any?” I’m like, “I’m not real good at lifting it yet.” He’s like, “Were the other kids lifting it? Is it important to lift a slapshot when there are a lot of guys laying on the ice? You got to get it over him from the point.” He asked me a bunch of pointed-ass questions. The killer was he was like, “How often do you rollerblade at school? Every day when we’re dropping you off, I see Mike Cullen rollerblading in with his backpack on. He skates to school. He skates home. In fact, Mike skates over here every time he comes over. I drive him to their house.”

I was a chubby little kid. Mike was in great shape. He’s like, “I don’t ever see Mike Cullen not in rollerblades. He’s the best skater on the team because he works hard.” He systematically crushed me to where it was like, “You didn’t work hard enough to make that team. You want to be out with your buddies.” It made an impact on me, Frank. That whole winter, I would be shoveling snow off our driveway and taking hundreds of slapshots destroying our garage door, getting better at the things. I started rollerblading to school. I started rollerblading everywhere. He made an impact on me where he didn’t let me feel bad for myself in that moment. Even though he maybe was talking to my mom and saying, “This is bullshitting. He got caught. He was better than Jody or whatever it was.” He didn’t let me do that. It was one of those defining moments in my life where I was like, “Hard work is going to lead to something better.”

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Coaches aren’t responsible for parenting. They’re responsible for coaching you. Sometimes your parents need to back that up. I remember telling my mom I had dreamed to play in the NFL. My mom was always the most supportive person in seventh grade. She’s like, “Are you sure?” It was a nice way of saying, “I don’t think you’re good enough.” I realized I wasn’t good enough as a 10th and 11th grader playing varsity football down in Broward County, where tons and tons of college and pro players are. I dedicated my junior year and my summer leading up to my senior year because I wanted to play. I wanted to excel as a senior. What’s funny to me is the thing I thought about in the same example was I had done all the work and I’d got better, but I didn’t believe it.

I got into the shoots. I played against somebody. I didn’t beat them. It was a stalemate. That person and I had stalemated for years. I still thought I was his equal. My football coach said to me, “Cava, what the F. You’ve dedicated yourself. You’ve worked hard. You should destroy this guy.” What happened at that moment was I believed it. I put in the work. I did the slapshot. I did the equivalent of the rollerblading but I didn’t believe that I deserved it. As soon as I knew, I’m like, “You’re right. I should dominate this guy.” I started kicking his ass. That’s the cool thing about sports. You can’t fake it. If it’s not good enough, you’re not going to make the team. You’re not going to get on the team. If you do the work and you internalize it, you’re rewarded. That’s why we both love sports. You have the encouragement from good coaches that say, “You’re not holding yourself accountable enough to what you should be capable of.” I know that’s what you love about coaching. It’s what I loved about playing. It’s the best part of it.

You talk about the weight room in football. It’s similar to other ones. What’s beautiful about sports, as you can see, is the work translates immediately onto the field. If I work out a lot more and all of a sudden I’m beating someone who wasn’t working out, I see that I did something. I made a decision and committed myself to something that led to an outcome that I like. If I go get my ass kicked by somebody and it was a bad outcome, I still have that connection in my head saying, “I must not have worked out as hard as him. He must have worked harder.”

For me, it was baseball’s batting cages too, same with you with the weight room. If I have blisters on my hand, I usually had a good baseball game in varsity. If I didn’t have blisters on my hand, I wouldn’t have a good game because I wasn’t taking the cuts that week. All of those things translated when I got a job or when I was at college and I needed to study. It always was in the back of my head that more hours will lead to better outcomes, more effort, more grind, more persistence. Sports for me created who I am and everything I do.

I would point to my parents one and then sports two is what helped to shape me and who I am. I want to also talk about this in a slightly different way about external and internal. My mom was a hypochondriac. She always thought if you put a drug or anything in your body, you were going to die immediately, or you’re going to be addicted for the rest of your life. They strongly discouraged me from using alcohol or drugs and things along those lines. Using steroids, I knew there were kids that were using them and I didn’t. I refuse to. What I did instead is I went all in. Nickel and I went to the GNC in the mall. My mom found that I had GNC stuff. She yelled at me, threw it away, and told me I wasn’t allowed to use it.

George Costanza: When people perform well and receive praise, they start to develop a self-image; the opposite happens when they perform poorly, but there’s a small minority that can take no credit for their behavior or results, good or bad.

 

I got good in a short period of time. I remember being home and the voices of one of my friend’s dads left a message for my parents about the strong rumors coming out of our high school that I was using steroids. “There were strong rumors that Frank is using steroids.” My parents pulled me aside and they asked me. I said, “I’m not. The only thing I’m using is the hot stuff that you saw in the bathroom that you threw away. I’m not using that anymore. I’m working out hard. I’m eating a ton of food. I’m doing all this other stuff but I’m not doing that.” They believe me because they knew it was true. I remember right there, the internal versus the external, these are more factors in limelight but it’s relevant for this reason. I remember right there thinking, “That’s bullshit. I can’t believe this fucking guy left a message on my parents’ phone.” He never asked me. He went right to my parents. In addition to that, I was like, “His son sucks. His son isn’t working. His son doesn’t play. It’s crap.”

He’s not at the same position as yours.

No and you know all these people.

There was some bitterness that you were playing and his kid wasn’t. You had grown up together. All of a sudden, Frank is stronger.

I don’t know exactly what it was but there was something there. What I immediately looked at that was this. I deserve this because I worked hard. I deserve this because I put in the time. I’m going to enjoy it. This is the last shot I got at high school football. I want to have fun with it. The other thing was he’s wrong. He’s an adult. I’m told to respect those people but that is a noise that’s outside of my head that I’m going to block out because it isn’t true. If I ever got tested or anything of that, I would have passed. It doesn’t matter. What ends up happening with some of this stuff is you start to realize. This comes down to exactly what we’re talking about. External factors and things along those lines can crystallize within you. You can look outward and say, “I’m not accepting it. I’m not listening to it. I’m not letting that excuse stop me. I’m going to persevere because or in spite of.” That was one of the first examples that I remember of that happening.

It reminds me of that story that your dad told me about. The time when your high school principal called and said there were strong rumors out of Douglas that Frank is cross-dressing at night. Do you want to tell that story? Let’s get back into the limelight effect. There are a couple of little nuances with this. People have a tendency to take credit for the good and explain a way the bad. They are internal limelight when they do something good. “That was me.” They are external limelight when they screw something up. The external in studies have a lot more anxiety than internal limelight. That’s because they feel like they’re not in control. They feel like the world is out to get them. An external is someone who’s going to wake up and say, “What have I done to deserve this?” Whereas an internal says, “I don’t like my reality. What can I do differently to try to get a different result?”

That’s an interesting part of this effect, whereas in the externals, “What have I done to deserve this?” That’s very Costanza. Nothing is ever George’s fault. A woman opens the door on him after he was in the pool and sees his wiener. He says, “There’s shrinkage, Jerry. Would you talk to her about it?” He doesn’t want to hone up to the fact that he’s got a tiny Johnson. The time he sleeps with the cleaning lady on his desk and his boss calls him out on it. He says, “What is that? Is that bad? I’ve worked in a lot offices. People do it all the time.” He blames his boss for not being understanding of what that is. Everything George does, it’s someone else’s issue. He lands a date with a girl because she thinks he’s funny. He’s got to go on a double date with Jerry. He tells Jerry, “You have to not be funny. Would it kill you to not be funny all the time?” He can’t own up to the fact that he should do a great job with this new girl he’s dating. He’s got an already start. He starts pre-blaming before anything bad even happens.

When people get caught in the past, they're missing what they should be living and enjoying right now. Click To Tweet

He’s so convinced he’s going to have a bad ending because he knows he’s going to ruin it. He’s trying to precede the event, and give excuses along the way. That’s why I told that story about the high school football thing. I’m not willing to do that. There had been other examples in my life where it’s like you could take that other route but you choose not to. We started off with this whole thing with Costanza because he’s incredible. He’s so funny. It is a personification of the worst things that we all think and feel it. Jeff Bezos is the richest person in the history of the planet more or less. He’s a human. He’s also felt these things. There are poles on all of us for the internal and the external. Is this an excuse or is it not? You got to learn how to slay the dragon but the dragon is there.

Is there a price to pay for being all-in an internal limelight, Frank, of this extreme ownership? Is there a price to pay for people that are all ownership all the time?

You put two names in here like Goggins and Willink.

They’re known for being ownership, own it, no excuses.

Why don’t you talk about who they both are and I’ll tell you why they’re bad examples because they put too much on it?

They’re former military. Jocko’s a SEAL. Goggins might have been a SEAL too. Both of them were known for their getting up early in the morning, working out, extreme ownership. They both have shows. Every time I see them talking, they’re pretty much barking at you to get off your ass and do something. That’s their brand. It can be inspirational if I’m being lazy and not working out. I’d like to see Jocko showing me his watch at 3:15 in the morning that he’s doing pull-ups. Sometimes that gets me motivated. Sometimes that would make me sleepy. They’ve certainly built very big brands that are profitable around the concept of 100% ownership all the time, internal locus of control.

I don’t disagree with what you said. Jocko is better at corralling it than Goggins. If you look at it, Jocko had a more distinguished military career. He didn’t have to lose 150 pounds to get into the military in the first place because he got fat like Goggins did. Goggins is incredible but he’s also an extreme example where it’s too far. I’m going to utilize him. He’s in pop culture everywhere. The thing with Goggins that is incredible is he’s done some major things. His job is a firefighter. Not the highest paid job in the world and not a job that allows you to utilize a bunch of strengths that he clearly has. In addition to that, he’s had somewhere between 3 and 6 marriages that have failed and he’s been remarried.

What’s the cost on those things with extreme accountability and with the locus of control? Do you have that control if you are constantly getting divorced? You’re getting married. You’re getting divorced. Ian, I read a book. It’s a book I have people in my business read. It’s called Radical Honesty by a guy named Brad Blanton. When I read this book years ago, it was very hard to find. Even on Amazon, it took a month to get it back then. Nowadays, you can get it in 1 or 2 days. The reason I bring it up is the book is roughly 400 pages. For 300 pages, he pound you over the head how honesty is so important. On page 300, he admits he’s been divorced 3 or 4 times. There’s clearly a cost of being that honest. Like everything else in life, you can’t live a great life without eating ice cream at least some of the time but if you eat ice cream all the time, you’re not going to make the hockey teams. You got to pick and choose. What I see about this extreme ownership is you’ve got to regulate it or it’s as bad as having none.

There was a British study of ten-year-olds. They studied this group of ten-year-olds for locus of control. They went back and restudied them years later as 30-year-olds. The group that had an internal locus of control were significantly less likely to experience psychological issues as adults. They were also significantly healthier physically. Those with an internal locus of control saw their health, saw their lives in general, their relationships, saw them as things that they could control with their actions, whereas in the kids that were already demonstrating. As early as ten, you can start to see kids that are either internal or external locus of control. The externals felt like they woke up and they were at the mercy of things that happened to them. I’m not like that, so I can’t understand it. When I think of folks like that, that would be a miserable way to live. If I woke up and didn’t feel like I was in control of my life, I can see where that would be a very dark place to be if that’s how I believed life worked. If I believed fate was out to get me.

George Costanza: Someone with an external limelight feels like their career is something that is preordained, whereas someone with an internal limelight believes that every choice they’ve made led them to where they’re at and would take none of them back.

 

This is one of life’s gifts. We don’t feel that way. It’s because of the environment we were born in, the people who raised us, and the influences that were around us. There’s probably nothing I have a harder time relating to than having no control over my life. I’m a new dad. We can help control them, but what if my sons become alcoholics or drug addicts and they lose control of their lives? My wife and I have talked about how scary that is. Every role or responsibility in life, they should have a leg up on this and be able to control it, but what if they can’t? It’s one of the scarier things that I worry about as a parent. What if they lose control of that? You don’t know things could go that way. It’s going to be a challenge you have to deal with if it goes there. Not having the control, not being able to set the frame, not being able to realize that I’m in control of something, it’s more foreign to me than almost anything.

There’s a double standard with the internal locus of control.

Can we start with the double standard with ice cream, chips, sugary cereal, two guys that hold each other accountable so much? The only way that I get up to work out in the morning is I have to have a trainer meet me at the house because I can’t do it on my own.

I could tell anyone how to lose weight. I just don’t want to do it 100%. Imagine you’re late to a meeting that’s important and a lot of bad stuff happened. It was a bad morning. There was a power outage, so your alarm clock went out in the middle of the night. The alarm didn’t go off in the morning, so you didn’t quite wake up. When you went to take a shower, there was no hot water. It was harder to get ready. That day, there was a bad car accident that took an extra twenty minutes normal. Everything went wrong that could go wrong for you. You feel some of that. As you’re walking in, you’re feeling this isn’t fair.

This was a set of terrible circumstances. You’re attributing your bad morning to fate, to bad luck. Most of us, if we found a way to get to that meeting and we were there twenty minutes early, we were there when the meeting started, someone else rolled in twenty minutes late and dropped those three excuses, we would be looking at them like, “What a turd? I can’t believe they made us all wait. They showed up late. Those are all bullshit excuses.” We would cut ourselves a break knowing what we know. Most of us would not cut that same break to someone who went through the same challenges and struggle.

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There are two things I want to say here. I remember it was somewhere early in college or freshman year maybe. I completely totally procrastinated. It was a book we had to read. It was an English class. I read the whole thing but I pulled up two all-nighters to get through it. It was terrible. I remember complaining in the class. This girl who had read it who was more organized than me said something back about my complaints as she walked out under her breath. I realized the only way she knew that as I said, “Nobody gives a shit about your story. You’re making yourself look like an idiot.” I was able to reign that in and I understood that.

What has that meant in life? I am notoriously bad at getting up, especially when I was younger. I would always go to bed late. I’d always miss things in the morning. I was always running late. I run late to damn near everything, including this show. One of the things that I’ve learned is what to say, how to sell it, and how to package things so the outside world doesn’t judge me as an idiot, a failure, or a screw up. Some of these things you can keep to yourself and you keep them quiet. With the example of running late, if that story happened and I missed something or was behind, I would not use the fifteen excuses. I know everyone would look at it like, “That guy is weak.” I would probably come up with something witty and take it. Nobody cares. All they care about is you’re late and you’ve made them late. That’s where the internal versus the external shines through.

The only thing to say in that moment is sorry for disrespecting everyone’s time. Say something like that. You show that, “I know I wasted your time. It’s on me. Let’s move to what’s next.” You make it worse by bringing anything else up. They’re already irritated. They’re already thinking bad thoughts. Show that you genuinely feel crappy for doing it.

George Costanza: The cool thing about sports is you can’t fake it. If you’re not good enough, you’re not going to make the team, but if you do the work and you internalize it, you’re rewarded.

 

Let’s wrap this sucker up.

What’s important is understanding the concept and understanding when you’re doing it. The question to always bring yourself back to is, what am I in control of? What can I do to change the next opportunity? What could I have done differently? If you can get good at asking yourself those three questions, you’ll be far ahead of 80% of people in the business world. From a leadership perspective, the words that you accept from your team go a long way in defining the culture. That’s whether you’re coaching a sports team, you’re leading a team in an office or you’re starting a business. If you’re the type of leader that accepts things like, “I’ll try. I’ll do my best,” you’re going to have an external limelight in culture. When things don’t go wrong, those people are self-handicapping before they even start. They’re saying, “I’ll try” that when they miss a deadline and you say, “What the hell happened here?” They say, “I never said I was going to do that. I said I would try and look at all these things that got in my way.”

As a leader, I was always highly sensitive to hearing words like try, do my best, and we’ll see. I would stop people and say, “I’m asking for something you’re uncomfortable for. Do you need more time? Is this something you feel is impossible?” Nine times out of ten, Frank, they would say, “I’ll get it done.” They didn’t even recognize they were external limelighting before they started. It’s important, I believe as a leader, to exterminate that kind of language by calling it out every time you hear it. I do the same with ten-year-old boys on baseball teams. If I say, “Go run poles,” they say, “We’ll do our best,” that’s not an okay answer. “Go run ten poles. Go do it. Tell me you’re going to do it. Come back and show me you did it.” It’s the same inside of an office with paying attention to the vocabulary of your team and checking it when you start to hear excuses.

A good company is an accountable company. One of the things that’s in our core values is we won’t do our best, we’ll do whatever it takes. Those are different. That’s the mentality of like, “We’re going to set a goal and we’re going to go get it.” That’s what you have to drive towards. What I’m thinking is the most interesting. You talked about coaching kids. I’m not to that stage in my life yet but to me, the capstone class is raising kids. If you don’t know how to hold someone accountable or to get them to focus outside of themselves, you’re going to struggle with kids. That’s a big reason why so many kids are coddled is because parents want to be friends with their kids.

They don’t want to be parents to their kids. That’s a big part of it. You have to utilize these skills when you’re parenting. You got to get little selfish two-year-olds to look out past themselves, see other things that are happening and how it affects. To me, that’s where it starts. With my two-year-old, with my infant, I’m like, “You can’t push him. You can’t cough in his face. You have to think about something other than yourself.” It starts right there. My wife and I both think of it. It’s not too early. “You can’t cough in his face. That is not allowed. Move away.” Those are little things but that’s how it starts.

It comes with sports, school, anything. When you want to get into parenting, you get into some of this helicopter crap that people do where they are all over their kid on every quiz, on every homework assignment, everything they did. I’m more of the nature. “I’m checking your grades. If you didn’t do your homework and you took a zero on something, that’s on you. I want to hear what you’re going to do about it next time. If you have a quiz and you need my help, you waited until the morning I was about to take you to school to say I don’t understand the concept, that’s your fault. You should have talked to me earlier. That’s not my job to follow up on these things.” We had a little league baseball game. IJ was catching dropped a third strike hit the dirt. It got away from IJ. The kid got to first. It would have been the third out of the inning. It ends up.

The next kid hits a home run, two run home run. It costs us two runs. It was a tough play. IJ didn’t need me to be on his ass about it. We always go through all the players. I’m like, “That was a tough play. That was a curveball in the dirt. Those are not easy to block.” He’s like, “Dad, I needed to block that. That was on me. I should have kept that in front of me. I should have made that out. It cost us two runs.” I didn’t jump on him. I didn’t say anything else but it made me feel good. You get a kid. “If you want to be a great baseball player, you need to understand that you do need to make that play. You don’t need me to chew you on it. You said what you needed to say.” “It’s on me. I need to drill more.”

I’m a new dad. Who the hell knows how this will turn out? One of the things that I talked to my wife about is every human being needs struggle. You need struggle and conflict struggle. It’s mandatory. I had it in my career, moving, trying things. School was hard for me. Sport was a big part of it. My parents let me fail. That’s one of the things that you must do with kids. You’ve done that clearly with IJ. They must have failure and struggle. If they don’t have struggle while you’re alive, they’ll have struggle after you’re dead. You’d rather someone struggle early and overcome it than struggle late and have to figure it out. That is part of the process. If you can teach, most of the time what you need to do is look inward. The internal limelight will get you through it.

Good companies are accountable companies. Good kids are accountable kids. Good parents are accountable parents. This whole thing is about accountability. I’m touched by we all need struggle. Truthfully, before this show, I had none in my life. Having to deal with you has brought more structure and struggled in my life pulling you through this call, carrying you through every episode, bumping, and grinding our way through this. I wouldn’t trade you for the world. You are my only struggle in life.

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This is taking a page out of your book. It’s good to know that I’m up there with Costanza. I’m at the various shows. The thing we should do to end this show is this. In the limelight effect, coming from the book Succeeding When You’re Supposed to Fail is the following quote. George points his limelight outward almost as a reflex action without even thinking about it. When he accidentally damages Jerry’s car during another incident, he once again shifts responsibility to someone beside himself. This time to Elaine. “You had to move the mirror,” he complains. You threw off my equilibrium. The author writes, “Whatever that means.” In this scene, it’s hysterical. The whole thing is funny. He wrecks the car, the whole thing. George is George. He does no regard for anyone other than himself. “Can you tell Jerry?” “No. Let me get the bill. I ruined your car.” Jerry goes, “I’ll make a scene if you’re buying me a cup of coffee.”

We have pounded home the internal limelight effect. Frank, I hope you have an accountable day.

You, as well. It’s good to see you and carry you through yet another show. Although I know you’ll tell yourself something else. You use that external limelight to tell me how great you are.

See you.

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