Avoiding Personal Improvement Mistakes

In this, The Faces of Business, Carla Fowler, MD, PhD, Founder & Managing Director, THAXA®, talks about personal improvement mistakes and how professionals can avoid them.

In this, The Faces of Business, Carla Fowler, MD, PhD, Founder & Managing Director, THAXA®, talks about personal improvement mistakes and how professionals can avoid them.

Dr. Carla collaborates with clients with lofty aspirations in the business and non-profit sectors, guiding them to success through laser-like concentration on their work. By incorporating the latest findings from performance science into her client work, she guides them in identifying the key factors necessary for achieving their goals and maximizing their impact.

Dr. Carla honed her managerial skills through a general surgery internship at Stanford University. Her passion for the intersection of strategy, productivity, and psychology led her to establish THAXA. Moreover, she holds a magna cum laude degree from Brown University and an MD and PhD from the University of Washington.

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Her company, THAXA®, is a specialized coaching company utilizing cutting-edge performance science techniques to assist leaders worldwide. Carla’s research-based coaching methods have gained popularity among executives from various organizations, including large tech companies, budding startups, and progressive non-profits.

Damon excitedly starts this Livestream with Carla. He believes the guest is different from a typical business owner since she has a background in medicine and surgery. The host requests Carla to talk about her experience.

Carla reveals her career journey, starting in science and medicine with a focus on building capabilities, working on unstructured problems, and having deep discussions with patients and colleagues about high-stakes decisions. Later, she transitioned into executive coaching, using performance science to help leaders level up their results in areas of risk and uncertainty.

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The guest believes that the capabilities she built in science and medicine have helped her in coaching, particularly in dealing with the stress that comes with building or growing something new or at scale.

Damon comments that despite her science background, she has prepared herself well for coaching using performance science.

Damon asks Carla a question about the biggest mistakes people make when trying to improve their performance or coaching.

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The THAXA founder, while talking about the mistake people make, says that they often come at personal improvement with misperceptions and need to take the time to define what they want and what’s important. They jump into doing a pile of tasks or daydreaming without forming a concrete plan.

Carla suggests taking the time to write down what people want, which forces them to bring it more into reality and identify the target. Carla says it’s best not to be distracted by the “how” and to begin with a clear understanding.

Damon agrees that having a clear target is important before planning the journey toward it. In the same breath, he asks Carla to talk about the realities that come up after setting a clear target for one’s goals.

To Carla, the problem starts when people strive to attain a hundred percent perfection in their projects even before starting them. She encourages embracing uncertainty and learning from figuring out how to achieve one’s goals. She asks to run a good experiment as a tool to approach problems.

The guest proposes approaching life with a scientific mindset of experimentation and learning, which can set people up for greater success. She gives the analogy of swimming past the horizon. She emphasizes setting up experiments with an outsized upside to downside, thinking about how to interpret results, and having a process for trying and learning.

Damon appreciates Carla’s use of the analogy of swimming. He asks the guest to talk about how people can achieve goals that may be years or even a lifetime away and how to determine if they are moving in the right direction toward those goals.

To determine the right direction, Carla has developed a self-styled process for investing named S2P2, which stands for states, stories, progress, and process. It involves identifying the current and future states, hypothesizing steps of progress, determining the most important actions and investments, and reassessing key points. She emphasizes the importance of sustainable investment rather than perfection in achieving one’s goals.

Carla emphasizes the importance of stories in achieving long-term goals because they motivate us when we can’t see the result. We can build stories on past accomplishments, strengths, and data to support our process. Our brains need a good story to reground in when uncertainty arises or doubt sets in.

Carla shares her findings on people’s mistaken behavior. She says that individuals mistakenly believe they must tackle everything, resulting in dispersed energy and inadequate attention to crucial tasks. She advocates a “brutal focus” on critical tasks to attain desired outcomes. To achieve this, she suggests conducting a brain dump of all ongoing activities, categorizing them, identifying the top three crucial tasks, and breaking them down into fundamental parts. This prioritization process enhances resource allocation and task management.

Carla believes in decluttering. Similarly, she suggests that scaling back tasks by 50% or 80% can be a good way to make progress in a business. She notes that practicing sales is important, and partial measures can help build relationships and understand customer needs.

Damon asks Carla about the universal things she does in her business, such as brutal focus and onboarding. He also asks the guest about the next steps.

While responding to Damon, Carla emphasizes the importance of a coach helping individuals get clarity and reduce friction, which can help them build momentum toward achieving their goals. She identifies three sources of friction: time, skills or knowledge gap, and belief or mindset. Carla suggests that coaches can help people reduce friction by identifying the type of friction, helping them get started, and focusing on consistent practice rather than improvement. She shares a mental framework called the 90-90-90 rule to help people figure out new things and take action.

Similarly, Carla notes that getting too comfortable in our careers can lead to stagnation and a lack of growth, which she sees as a flaw rather than a feature. Being a beginner and taking on challenges can help us feel empowered and equipped to deal with environmental changes. She recommends picking a small growth edge each year to keep us confident and interested in our careers.

Carla is passionate about performance and helping people achieve their goals. She has a point in understanding how people are good at things since she was young, and she loves watching, learning, and strategizing. Her passion is not limited to sports or academics but also work and takeout leftovers. Carla loves understanding why things work for humans and helping others achieve competency and capability. She feels happy seeing people feeling excited and competent in uncertain situations.

Carla suggests that her website is a good resource for those interested in exploring or learning more about her coaching services. Moreover, she loves to engage with individuals on LinkedIn.

As the conversation draws to a close, Damon thanks Carla for generously sharing her precious time and engaging in such a valuable discussion.

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Carla Fowler, Damon Pistulka


Damon Pistulka  00:00

All right, everyone, welcome once again to the faces of business. I am your host, Damon Pistulka. And I am excited for our guests today. Because I have Carla Fowler here. And Carla, I didn’t ask you for it. But is it faksa?



That is correct. Oh, X executive


Damon Pistulka  00:22

coaching. See, like, I like I asked me like a good host should have. I didn’t sorry. But we’re gonna be talking with Carla Fowler today. Dr. Carla Fowler. I mean, I’m really kind of embarrassed to be in the same room because this doctor, Dr. Fowler is an MD, PhD, an elite executive coach, you for the last decade and for the last decade plus have been a secret weapon for many CEOs, entrepreneurs, and under three senior leaders, helping them you know, improve their performance in our lives with your coaching. So I’m just excited to have you here today.


Carla Fowler  01:01

Well, David, thank you so much for having me. This is gonna be fun.


Damon Pistulka  01:05

Yes, yes. So So tell us just start out with Carla. Tell us, or should it be Dr. Fowler? Oh, Carla is great. Okay. Okay. So, Scott, tell us about your background a little bit, because you not probably the typical executive coach.


Carla Fowler  01:27

That’s it. Very true statement. You know, what I’ve been working on for the past 10 years, is really building my executive coaching practice. And I love helping leaders use performance science to level up the results they’re getting. But I did not always know that that was what I was going to be doing. And, you know, really, maybe I don’t know how common this is. But as I approach my career starting out, I was really thinking about how do I build capabilities? You know, that would be marketable?

How do I follow and work on things that I’m interested in? How do I work with smart people on problems that seem important or, or matter? And I kind of followed that path. And that path originally led me into science and medicine. And so you know, they have these programs where you get an MD and a PhD, and you sort of you sign up for the whole ride? Yeah, I was an it’s funded. And I was like, that seems like the best deal ever.

So I, that was what I spent most of my 20s doing. And I did get to work on really interesting things. And it was a really great journey to learn how to think about a problem, particularly about unstructured problems. So a lot of science is actually you walk into the lab every day, and you don’t know any of the answers, like your whole job is to sort of figure out what you don’t know. And keep building on that.

And, and the other thing that was interesting about that time was, even as I was headed into the clinic, in medicine, you know, it was a pretty unique opportunity to get to work with people have really deep discussions with patients and colleagues about kind of high stakes decisions at a pretty young age, like a younger age, and we often get to do that kind of stuff when we are on other career paths.

And so there is a lot about that journey that actually really led into what I do now, which is, you know, thinking about and working with people on stuff that is high stakes, that matters to them, really talking about those things, thinking about performance, and particularly in areas where things are really uncertain or where there’s risk involved. And so, it’s such a unique way to get into executive coaching.

But for me, ultimately, it kind of led there and all the capabilities I was building in a really different contexts, which was medicine and science have helped me in so many ways, as I then went to both build a structure for coaching that I thought would help for the kinds of problems leaders are facing today, the sorts of you know, innovations or uncertain paths that they’re trying to walk and, and how to really deal with the stress and all that comes with that as you’re trying to, you know, build something that hasn’t existed before or grow something to scale. So yeah, that’s that is how I got here.


Damon Pistulka  04:42

Yeah, yeah. Because I looking at your background and you know, you you did an internship and general surgery at Stanford, you know, it’s it’s, it’s not your typical coaching career path that you would think but as you you expect Lane, the science behind it does prepare you very well, to establish you know, the way that you can coach and use the the performance science behind it to really drive drive good results.

So in your, in your time doing this? Well, as we’ve talked about what are some of the biggest mistakes you see people when they’re they’re trying, they’re trying out trying to improve their performance or their coaching. But just let’s let’s start down that path a little bit.


Carla Fowler  05:34

Awesome. Well, none of us like to make mistakes, we’ve all made many mistakes. And I think there’s actually when we think about performance, we often come at it with some like misperceptions about what we think it should look like. And I think that’s sometimes what leads us into mistakes. And so, you know, like, one of the mistakes, for example, is we often think like, oh, I need to have an action bias. And I need to, like, I got to do a bunch of stuff. And if, you know, if I have want to start to see some results, we automatically go to doing and I having an action bias is a great thing to have.

So this isn’t to say that’s the mistake. But I think the mistake we sometimes make is we don’t take a moment, take a breath, to define what we want. And also what’s most important for getting there. And usually what is more likely to have happen is we have a pile of to do’s, like a list that is a mile long of things that we haven’t really vetted, but we kind of know they’re associated with what we want, and we just get going on that.

Or we sort of have a daydream or fantasy, but it’s not super well formed. And the thing about fantasies is that they don’t have to obey the laws of the real world. Like, you know, we can have a fantasy about something we sort of want, but we haven’t have or had to translate it into the fact that we have 24 hours of a day in a day, we have other commitments that might be really important.

And, and also that, you know, there’s gravity and all these sort of physical laws that we we have to obey. And so the thing that I think is really important when we when we realize that either, gosh, I feel like I’m doing a bunch of stuff, but I’m not sure I’m seeing results. Or, gosh, I’ve had this dream for forever.

And I’m really just not making any progress on it. The thing and the tool that I always like to say is like, that is a great moment to ask yourself some more questions about what you want. And sometimes I like to say, if it’s sort of the Daydream, and even if you’re like, I don’t even know how it started to translate that, to ask the question of like, what would it look like to have some, as opposed to have none? Like, if you wanted to have introduced some of this idea into your life, you know, what would it look like? It’s a great way to look at it.

But really, I just encourage people to sit down, take some time and start to train right out and put into some concrete words. Because even the act of trying to put it into words forces us to bring it more into reality. And to give it some descriptors, if there are numbers involved, that’s helpful, too. But once we can identify that target, like what do we really want, that’s the thing that then puts us into position to actually try and figure out the how.

So I try and always say, when you’re starting out, don’t get distracted by the how there will be all sorts of reasons why you don’t know how to do it, or you don’t have time to do it or any of these things. But start by just working to get some clarity of what you actually would really want and what it could look like in the reality of your life. So yeah, so I think that’s mistake number one that I think we all do. Even Even I do I have to stop myself and say, okay, like time to define what you really want to this.


Damon Pistulka  09:15

Yeah, because if you have a clear target of where you want to go, then you can start to plan the journey. Yes. And and it’s so your your you know, and it’s people say it as you gotta go slow to go fast, or whatever you want to do. But that that step like you said that taking that breath, and really moving that way first allows you to go the right way and do it. Yeah. And in the end, we’ll get there faster, I think too. Yeah. Yeah. So as you as you go along, so now we got our target. And then then is that when some of the realities of the gravity kicks in, or what are we what are we talking about then?


Carla Fowler  09:56

Oh, yeah, great question. Okay, well, this brings up another Another thing that I like to think about so it’s this idea of often, we want to know, before we go, is what I say and what it’s like, we want to have figured it all out before we get started. And it’s like, no, I’ve got the whole plan, whole process. And I’ve 100% Like competence, that’s gonna work. And it’s like, we want to pull all that together, we want to know the whole story and the punchline, before we get started. The problem with this as a as a way of thinking about things is that we get stuck, before we’ve even started.

There’s often some inherent uncertainty, to the things that are most interesting to do in life or in work. They’re often not, they’re really kind of clear cut, there’s a workbook for this or, you know, a playbook. And I also think, until we do it, I think because we want to have the right answer before we put in any work, we want to have 100% confidence. But I think it’s actually some of the most valuable stuff we do is the work to figure out how we get what we want in life. It’s that the learning from that getting what you want is awesome.

But I would say part of what feels so great about getting what we want is actually the amount of self efficacy and the learning of how to approach a problem that we get in having gotten to that place. So yeah. And so I think one of the reasons that we don’t do it is we almost think there’s like something wrong with us, like we make ourselves wrong, because we don’t know the answer to start.

But if we can sort of stop doing that, and say, It’s okay, that I don’t know exactly how, but what I could do is say, You know what, the uncertainty is something I could relish, it probably means there’s some learning in front of me and something good out there that might be kind of unique. And, and then my tool that I use with people is the idea of running a good experiment. Yes, yes. Two tools. Yeah. First one is running an experiment?


Damon Pistulka  12:14

Yes, because I was gonna say what you’re what you’re talking about really is I can see how this ties back to your your work as a scientist. Because you really don’t know you’re, you’re testing hypotheses, seeing and good. So continue.


Carla Fowler  12:31

So the nice thing about an experiment is, when you’re in science, like, that’s kind of how you walk in, that’s the mindset you walk in every day, you don’t make yourself wrong for not knowing you say, No, it’s my job to figure it out. And that will be part of the satisfaction when I get there. And, and so, the other great thing is when you can approach life and work and your goals are the things you want with this mindset, it sets you up to go so much farther. So I have this friend, her and she grew up in Croatia on the coast.

And so she spent a lot of time swimming, and there’s islands, and it’s beautiful. And she brought up the point that she was like, you know, you’re swimming from the from the coast to an island, and you can see the islands like, then you know where you’re going. And you can swim it. She’s like, but you know, you can’t swim to any of the islands you can’t see. Unless you’re willing to sort of swim out and know that you will, there will be a time where you can’t see where you came from. And you can’t see exactly where you’re going.

But, you know, if you can create a process for yourself, maybe that’s a compass reading a process that you know, I’m going to run this process. And I think eventually I know I will see that next island, because I think it’s over there somewhere. So that was her her analogy for like how to think about it in life was like, alright, sometimes you got to swim past the horizon way to get where you go.

So the other way to look at this, so there’s sort of two ways to look at it. One is just to say, what is the experiment I could run here that I think would teach me something useful, that has the potential for an upside, and that the downside of it is reasonable to me. Usually it means you want an outsized upside to the downside. So you set yourself up not to be in great risk is my point.

And then think a little bit about how you will read out your experiment. So how might you interpret what happens? What are you going to try? How long are you going to try it? How might you know it was working? How might you learn if it was not working? And why? And those I think are three great things to think about when you’re saying okay, I’m gonna approach this like an experiment. I’m like asking those three questions. Yeah, it helps you put shape to it.


Damon Pistulka  14:56

Yeah, that’s for sure. So when the back to the example of swimming to the island, I think so that’s a very relevant example. Because a lot of times when when you’re talking with people, they have goals that could be years away, exact, maybe a lifetime away.

So are there things that we can do that kind of give us an idea for heading in the right direction? Because that’s, that’s really what I think, is it because I think of the whole thing and career or life, whatever we’re trying to do. It’s really about oftentimes, you never have a destination, like I’m going to this point, right? It’s really am am I moving in the right direction? More than than that? So how do we know?


Carla Fowler  15:55

Yes. This, this is great question. And there’s a process that I found to be really useful. It’s sort of I don’t know, it’s an exercise, it’s something you can do, you can think through or you can write out some answers. But it’s, you know, a lot of people talk about milestones. So what might be some milestones along the way. So using the island example, it might be like, well, I know I hit this island, and then I need to hit a little left of that island. And that points me on my direction, and I just need to hold that. But sometimes we know what those things are.

Sometimes we don’t. So the process that I really like, is to, I call it sort of the SP p s process, or the s two P two process. And so what they stand for is states. Stories, progress, and process. And the way you use this is to kind of ask yourself about what your current state is. And also think about what is the future state? So this is the future state is sort of saying what you want? We already talked about that it’s like, what’s the goal? How are you headed? And what does that look like?

And really describing those things clearly. And then, what I like to do is, and this is definitely links to the running experiments. I like to ask myself, like, Okay, well, what are some of the steps of progress that I think might link up those two states? And these are hypotheses, right? Sometimes, you know, sometimes you don’t, but I think if you spend some time thinking about it, you can both identify what you feel confident about, that you would need to be able to do. And also you can identify things you’re not confident about, but that you think you could go learn about that might be necessary steps along the way.

And then I like to ask myself the question of like, what do I think is most important as like a compounding driving set of actions or places I need to invest, to move myself towards that. And that is really where we’re starting to get into process. It’s like, what is the process, I think will help me drive progress along the way. And one of the ways you can hypothesize about this is you can actually define your past state, like Where were you last year, compared to where you are in your current state?

And you can ask yourself, What progress did I make? And what processes have I tried? And so sometimes that can clue you into what’s working. So if something’s working, you know, that might be something you want to keep doing. But so that’s another place you can look. But really, you want to start to identify, what are some things you could do sustainably that would compound over time and start to move you in that direction? And then I like to sort of say, and at what points in time, would you want to reassess and say, Okay, do I hit that milestone?

Was that milestone, a good readout? Have I learned some things since investing in this that makes me think it’s not actually the right readout? Yeah. But when you put some structure into place, it is okay. If it’s imperfect structure, and I think that’s something that’s really important, because I think we often think we have to be perfect to reach our highest level of performance. But I think it’s often we need to be thinking and at the wheel, and we need to be paying attention and really investing sustainably. And that that is much more important than perfection.


Damon Pistulka  19:51

Yes. Don’t need to be perfect.


Carla Fowler  19:55

We didn’t talk about stories. I realized we didn’t talk about the last piece of it. So This story is important because when you’re working towards something that you can’t see over the horizon line, we need the stories that we tell ourselves and often that we tell others about what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, why we believe in it, and why we believe in our process, because that’s a big piece of what motivates us over time, as we’re walking into the answer.

And those stories can be built on things we’ve accomplished in the past and strengths we have, they can be built on why we think our process is a good one, why we believe in it, like what’s the what’s the data to support it. So there’s lots of different things we can build that story off of, but our brains hate uncertainty. And so it’s worth giving them like a good story to just come back to and reground in, when we have those moments of like, doubt, losing the faith. Or it’s just it’s been a long time since you’ve had some readout, like some feedback.


Damon Pistulka  21:03

Yeah, yeah. Stopping and assessing once in a while is really important, because as you said, early on, people think that doing doing doing, but really, there’s some times that you have to stop and just kind of take stock of where you’re at, right? Absolutely, yes. Because it’s it’s



so out of the the people that you help.


Damon Pistulka  21:31

How many of them,



as you look at it as as they move up, or their their, I should say,


Damon Pistulka  21:38

I don’t even know the right word to use. But how many of them come to you, and when you talk with them, and you go, Oh, my goodness, they have about 400% of what they really should be trying to do here. And we need to cut it back down into, you know, much less? I’ll just say,


Carla Fowler  21:59

yes. How do we approach that that question? Yes.


Damon Pistulka  22:04

I mean, is it is it one of the more common things and mistakes that you see people making is like, I’ve got to do all this? Rather than? Yes, boiling it down.


Carla Fowler  22:16

Yes, and, and it makes sense, I think that’s one of the misconceptions we have about performance is I have to do it all, like I need to hedge my bets, anything that might be important, I should do it. And the result of that is actually that it dilutes our energy, it often means some of the most important things we could do, don’t get our best energy or resources, like they get some, but they don’t get enough to get it over threshold.

And there’s often a threshold effect in things, for example, you’re looking for investment for your company, you need to get enough investors at the table that they start to, with that social proof spill over into commitments, for example. And, you know, font, for example, when you go into a fundraise, I would often say it is much better to really make sure you’ve opened up the right amount of time to really devote to it and do kind of that full press on it. You don’t want to be like halftime part time dabbling in fundraising.

Yeah. So that’s just an example. You know, from how to think about some of these things from plants. And so But your question is, how do you help people with this, because it’s a common issue. And in my coaching practice, one of the things that I actually designed right off the bat, that had to be a piece of the process was to help people get to clarity. And I call a brutal focus about brutal what they want to have happen, which we already talked about why that’s important.

And what is actually most critical to get them there, like, what are the gears, the big gears, not the small gears, but the things that really help you make that progress that you need to be investing your best time and resources in, because they have an outsized impact compared to all the other stuff. So and the way I do that, actually, we do this sort of deep dive, I do a five hour onboarding session with clients are like, really long, but it’s actually pretty energized.

And we get to the end of it, and people have so much clarity, because we take time to get into all the weeds, the weeds, we kind of lay them all out. And so sometimes when I’m talking to people, people at home, people who want to start to come into this process of like brutal focus, I often recommend if you’ve taken some time to define what you want, the next step is really to kind of do a brain dump of like, everything you think is important to or that you’re currently doing, to try and like move yourself in that direction.

And embrace give big piece of paper and really just do Everything you can think of even the stuff you’re like, I shouldn’t be doing that, because I think other people are doing that, or I read about that thing.

And really kind of lay it all out there. And I think that releases our brain from having to remember it all, once you sort of in front of you. But then the process I go through with clients is sort of a way of sorting or prioritizing or connecting the dots of these things. So you could like look at that list and ask yourself, are some of these things related? Like, do they fall sort of in the same category?

Are they all around? Like the business development by which I need to kind of build some pipeline for my business? Or, you know, are they related to more the making of stuff? Like the creation of my service? Or the codifying of that, or so not the sales side, but the making stuff side? Or is it around fundraising, like I need to not run out of money right now, we are prereqs. So, but you can sort of start to group some things.

Another great step you could take is be honest with yourself and say, what’s kind of extraneous, like, it’s sort of nitty gritty, but it’s not really a big thing. And other things on this list, I could just cross off, I could just choose not to do. Are there things you’re doing because other people are doing them, but that you don’t actually think they are a huge driver, given your situation, like for instance, some people have businesses where the sales pipeline is through social media. But that’s not the case for all businesses.

And so maybe you’re spending a ton of time on social media, but it actually does not have any direct links, or even indirect, real social proof links to you know, your real revenue streams, just as an example. And so I sort of recommend going through the list and starting to pull out themes of what you think are the big drivers, even if they’re just a category of things. And then I usually say train, find three big ones, and be real honest with yourself about the other stuff. Like if you had these three big ones, they were firing on all cylinders? Would the other stuff be sort of okay? Like, if you didn’t do it? Or if you let someone else do it?

Or maybe you hired now or, but I find, then you can take those areas and actually ask yourself in this area, what are really the three most fundamental parts that go into that? So if one of them is don’t run out of money, like, you know, it’s worth thinking about, like, okay, that might be some mix of I’m fundraising for this, and I’ve revenue streams are currently at this and, you know, or if it’s, we need to scale that might be thinking about, Okay, do I need to really focus more time on hiring, like, I can’t let that be an afterthought, it needs to be a primary activity.

So it’s an, I find that you will generate sort of three big areas, and you’ll get kind of three sub points related to each of those. And that is a great working draft. Yeah. And then your goal is to figure out how much of all the other stuff can I start to clean out? Like, is there stuff I can just stop doing? And or, could I do it less? Well, like, maybe I’m doing it my 90th percentile effort?

Yeah, give it 5% effort, like check the box done. So these are, it’s just a starting place. But going through the exercise does not have to be perfect, makes you so much smarter about what you’re trying to do and what matters most. And it is brutal focus, it will feel a little painful. Because yeah, they’re making cuts, and you’re simplifying. But it just is such a great exercise for the piece of us that wants to simplify and distill and make it more potent, versus the How am I gonna cram more in? I have no time as it is.


Damon Pistulka  28:58

Well, I think, too, and one of the harder things that I’ve personally experienced is some of the stuff that you really enjoy maybe one of the things that you have to cut.


Carla Fowler  29:08

Damon, that is the truth right there. And you know, this, this is a great place where you can employ the have some, right, so maybe what that means is you say I can have some of that, but I need to not be investing as much time in it as I remember staying now.

But what if I scaled it back by 50%? What if I scaled it back, you know, by 80%, but still got to do some of it. And sometimes those halfway measures or those partial measures are really good ramp to making progress and making the evolutions that need to happen in a business because often, many people really hate sales until they feel like they’ve had enough practice that it doesn’t feel like it You’re, like, really awkward and like, I’m just trying to get you to buy something.

And they get comfortable building a relationship and really listening to someone and understanding what they need and being able to connect your product to them. Like, but that takes practice. And if we don’t have time to invest in it, we stick with the stuff we wait. Yes, we feel great at it. And that is so natural. And Gary, no.



Yes, yes.


Damon Pistulka  30:26

So, as you’re as you’re gone through this, you know, you’ve you’ve got the systems that you put together the processes you put together behind this. What are what are some of the things that universally that you’re going to do? And we talked about one, I know your brutal focus, I think that’s, that’s awesome. Your onboarding is getting, you know, starting out and doing that process. But then, as we’re as we’re there, what are some of the next things we’re going to do? And then then beyond that, what are coming to lead up to that a little bit


Carla Fowler  31:00

awesome. What I love thinking about getting clarity to start, because I think one of the best things you can do as a coach is help people have more clarity, like having discussion and asking questions to help them see more clearly where they want to go, and what’s most important. But the second thing that I think is the really important thing that coaches can add, is to help people reduce friction, to then making making moves on those priorities. And so, you know, the coach doesn’t go run the race, ultimately, like the client has to go do things.

But I have found that if you can help people get clarity, and then reduce sources of friction, that then people build their own momentum. Because most people want to make progress. They I think we all really want to win and feel like we’re growing and achieving things. And so what happens next, I would say, is really where we start to reduce friction, to help them build momentum. And there’s a couple of different sources of friction. One is often time friction.

So this idea of I don’t have enough time to now devote where we’re going to find the time to really invest in these priorities. Another is often a skills gap or knowledge gap around, I don’t know how to do that, like, Yes, I should start selling. I do not know how to do her, like, I don’t feel very experienced at that, for example. And then I think this third source of friction is often around belief or mindset, that thing of like, do I believe I can go do that thing.

So it’s kind of a psychological friction. And what I have found is really useful is we can identify what kind of friction is at play. And sometimes it’s multiple, say, for a priority they have. And with regards to, if it’s something in sort of the belief area, or even the like, I don’t know how to do that. One of the things we talk about is like, how to get started. And so sometimes getting started means learning about that thing. Obviously, there are some skills that I can just coach people on about give them good tips and habits about how to do it.

But sometimes it’s stuff that’s really industry specific. And so we start to map out, how could you just get started? You know, what would it look like to start, so sometimes that’s mapping out all the things you might want to know, and mapping out the different resources you think you could go to, to get some of that information. Sometimes you know what to do. And you just are feeling a little uncertain about it or not confident about it.

And you maybe haven’t been a beginner for a while, like particularly, you know, sometimes when people are kind of mid career, they’ve gotten comfortable, you know, they’re good at the stuff they’re good at, but it’s time, you know, to maybe build a new area that you are consulting on or, and suddenly you’re a beginner again, and I find in this scenario, I call it the 9090 90 tool is a really helpful mental framework to help people get into new stuff. So that the 9090 90 is just that what people should know about starting anything is that usually 90% of people never start, they get an idea about something but they just don’t.

And then other people will start maybe 90% don’t like keep going on it. They start they dabble in it, and then I don’t know, couple months later, it’s like they’re onto something different. Of the people who start and keep going, you know, probably 90% of them. Don’t ever start, iterate or improve what they’re doing to make it more active.

And so I like this tool because it actually encompasses a number of the things we already talked about today, which is, you don’t have to know everything before you get started. And, and it doesn’t have to be perfect. And you can run experiments to figure out how to make it better. And so usually what I do is I try and help people figure out what are some first action steps that they could take. And we don’t worry about assessing how effective it is, we literally focus on getting started.

And we then focus on opening up the time and figuring out how we help people consistently keep doing or practicing Whatever it looks like, depending on the skill, how do they get opportunities to practice it, and just doing it, but I still, at that point, tell them to not worry too much about improving, just like, just get the habits set up. This is something I’m doing. It’s something I’m working on. And I do this now. And really figure out when you do it in your day or week, you know, who are you interacting with?

Who else is involved? What’s your process for it, and just really understand how you’re beginning to incorporate it. And the reason I say that, and is because so often, we jumped to step three, where we’re trying to like improve it and make it perfect right away. And that kind of kills our fire, because we’re often not good at it right away. And and then we quit. And so I love to help people get comfortable with being a little uncomfortable being new at it and have that not actually be so uncomfortable anymore.

And that’s often the stage, when we can then start to ask, Well, is there a small thing you could tweak about that, that you think would make it better, but that would be would take no extra energy for you to like, make that change. And so it’s only after we feel really sort of comfortable with the just do it to then start to ask that question of is there an experiment you could run that you think might make an improvement in this. And but the key just being by that point in time, you’re already a little more comfortable.

And it’s a little more normal, that you are kind of working on this thing. And so that’s the 9090 90 tool, and I find it to be really effective as particularly as people are getting into something new. And you know, we talked about the state’s progress process and stories that I find it’s really helpful as a way to start having people design some process, even if they’re not exactly sure what the process should be. You can also kind of use this 9090 minute tool to help people get going and start to figure out what’s an effective process? So, yeah,



very cool. Very cool.


Carla Fowler  37:51

Yeah, you kind of move around the priorities. And again, I recommend not trying to start all your priorities all at once you pointed out so eloquently, we can overwhelm ourselves. And it’s great to focus on something, build some momentum, feel good about it, before you start to add and layer on something else. Yeah.


Damon Pistulka  38:13

I think about the 9090 90. And someone said, or I might have read something recently about how as we get older, we get more afraid of trying new things. And if we can adopt the child mentality of, you know, I have to learn how to talk I have to learn how to walk, I have to learn how to ride a bike, I got to do whatever learn how to you know, what school is like, or whatever it is, to really back ourselves up to the point to where we lay, as you said, the 9090 90 You’re gonna get get doing it.

And you’re gonna continue to do it and get familiar with it. And then you can work on getting better at it as you do it. Because I, you know, did, do you think that’s holding a lot of people back as they just are afraid to go back into the unknown of they really don’t know how to do something and and the whole process of learning. And


Carla Fowler  39:10

this is funny, this is, I suppose another one of the mistakes that sometimes that I see is that we often get kind of comfortable. And it’s funny like earlier in our careers actually okay with a certain level of discomfort of not knowing things and not knowing how to do things. Because our peers are in the same place. And we’re all just figuring it out. And it feels normal, and we normalize it. And yet I think in our culture, we get to this point where we’re like, I’ve made it, you know, I’m comfortable, I’m confident, and then the sticky thing happens where we sort of stagnate and we stop growing, and it feels like a feature.

But I think it’s actually a flaw because as human beings we feel the most empowered when we feel competent to take on a challenge. To pursue it and to grow. And when we stop doing that, even if it’s like, feels comfortable, I think there’s the sneaky sense of like, are the people younger than me going like is my like, am I going to become obsolete or the landscape changes, and suddenly we feel less equipped.

But we also feel out of practice, being a beginner. And so using the child analogy, the reason I mean, babies are like, fascinated by the world and the early moving arms, they’re like, look like my right thumb. Yeah, exactly. It’s freedom and more autonomy and control. I mean, like a toddler, like, think about a toddler who is like, wanting to be in charge of what’s going on or like, and just every little bit of new control or ability they have is, like, awesome.

And I think it’s true for us, even as adults, when we get back into the practice, which is why I like 9090 90, as a way to kind of relearn and start to go back into something uncertain, be a beginner, again, by, you don’t have to do it all at once. And there are some good practices that can really help us with that. And start with a small thing, like you have lots of stuff you’re good at, pick a small edge of growth. Like, you know, if you picture a pyramid, it could be just the top little part of the pyramid.

And for people who are earlier in their career, even as you’re getting good at stuff, I always recommend, figure out what your edge of growth is each year, and push on. Just like spend some time doing that, because it will keep you feeling like confident it will keep you interested. I think this is the one of the ways we don’t get bored, like in our careers and in our jobs. And it will really equip us to deal with changes in the economic environment in the landscape of technology, and all the changes that just are always happening. So that might be my, my last sort of thought


Damon Pistulka  42:06

on that. Well, I mean, it’s, it’s very poignant, I think it’s, it’s super important as, as we get further along in our career, we, if we’re not, I believe anyway, if we’re not doing something like that, like edge of growth, learning or getting in people will talk about a lot, and some don’t really know what it means. But getting out of your comfort zone into areas that you really don’t know, but you know, that’s where I’ve got to go. And, and then like you said, do the 9090 90 or a situation where I’m going to do it, I’m going to figure things out, and then I’m going to start to get better at it over time.

We did this stagnation is so easy, if you if you really end and it will lull you into a false sense of security because, you know, there’s, there’s there’s not security and much of anything if you’re not changing with the times, and with the change in yourself, your family, the world, and those kinds of things. So this is awesome. It’s awesome talking with you, Carla, because you’re getting you can tell that the science background has really allowed you to develop ways, processes, that you can help people through this. So it’s Hey, here, here’s what we’re going to do. And I can explain the steps in the process.

Because I think a lot of people look at coaching or look at other other kinds of things. And they, they go, it’s kind of flexible moving around, I’m not even using the right word, you know, but there’s really not a process to it. And when you when you lay down a process where people can, okay, I know what I’m gonna do. Gotta be uncomfortable here, but I can see where I’m moving to, and really help them. So what we’re getting close to time here, and I want to ask you one last question. All right, what do you enjoy the most about coaching? Why are you passionate about it?


Carla Fowler  44:11

You know, I am passionate about it. Because I have been obsessed with like, thinking about performance, and how are people good at things since I was in like fifth grade? So like, really, like I loved challenging myself, but it wasn’t limited to that. Like, I loved watching other people and being like, Hey, do you like how are you good at that thing, or like learning from them, but also helping other people long before as a coach, I would totally get into conversations with people about like, Oh, you’re like, that’s your goal.

Oh, let’s talk about what would help you get there. Like, let’s just ideate let’s talk about it and figure it out and strategize. And I mean, this has been true for me for sports. It’s been true for me for academics for work. I even My husband was making fun of me the other day because I sat down with some like takeout leftovers. And I was like, let me tell you why these Dan Dan noodles are high performing like this is performing well.

And I just I love thinking about why things work like with with regards to human beings and thriving and really being able to produce great work and great results. I love understanding why and I love, like, being able to help someone get that and when I see how excited and how competent and just how capable that makes people feel when they learn how to walk into uncertain stuff, like stuff. That’s not just like a gimme. Yeah. I love it. It makes me so happy.


Damon Pistulka  45:49

That’s awesome. I’m so glad I asked that question because I just saw your eyes light up and let go. Because that’s really what we want to understand is and really hear from you is why are you passionate about because, you know, when when you’re talking about coaching, high performing people, they’re not doing it just to do it. They’re doing it because there’s passion behind what they’re doing.

And they like to be around other passionate people that really do it. And I just think it’s great. Thank you. So thank you, girl. It’s been awesome. Having you again, we have Dr. Carla follow here from tax of executive coaching, and how can people get a hold you if they want to talk with you, Carla


Carla Fowler  46:31

opso A great way to learn more about my coaching and also get in touch if that is something you are interested in, talking about and exploring whether it would be a good fit is my website. And that’s baxa.com THAX a. And then I love having conversations with people about performance. And so I’m on LinkedIn. And that’s a great place to follow me. I always post if I’m on a podcast talking about these ideas. It’s always a little different. And they’re all great conversations. And so I always post them on LinkedIn. And I’m at Carla dash dollar. So that’s a good spot.


Damon Pistulka  47:12

Well, thank you so much for being here today. Carla, it’s been a wonderful having you and learning from you. Well, thank


Carla Fowler  47:18

you, Damon. I love this.


Damon Pistulka  47:21

All right. Well, thanks, everyone for joining and again joining us again on the faces of business. Now, if you want to talk to Carla, remember, it’s Karla Fowler, and her website is taxa.com THAX a.com and reach out. We’ll be back again next week. Thank you. Hang around for a minute, Carl




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