Focus On This Podcast

77. 4 Ways Your Community Can Catapult You Over Barriers



There are few setbacks more discouraging than stalling halfway into a goal. It’s easy to think you need to “just try harder”—but sometimes, what you actually need is a little help. But how can you help someone help you on your goal achievement journey?

Verbs, Blake, and Neal dive into this question in this story-filled episode. They’ll highlight four key contributions anyone can make to support your goal progress. You’ll finally be able to enlist help to get unstuck—or help someone you love do the same.

In this episode, you’ll discover—

  • Why encouragement is actually simpler than you think
  • The power of perspective to challenge the stories we tell ourselves
  • Why solidarity matters—and how to practice it
  • A challenge to see yourself as more than a self-improvement project
  • Types of feedback you can request to take you further on your goals

Related Episodes

Episode Transcript

Verbs: Welcome to another episode of Focus on This, the most productive podcast on the Internet, so you can banish distractions, get the right stuff done, and finally start loving Mondays. I’m Verbs, here with Blake Stratton and Neal Samudre.

Neal: I am back.

Verbs: Welcome back, Neal.

Blake: By popular demand.

Neal: Oh yeah. Blake, last time I was on the podcast, you weren’t here.

Blake: I know. I know. I was out by popular demand, but I’m glad to be here with you. We’ve had many a productive conversation offline, and so it’s about time we broadcast it to everybody.

Neal: Finally. For all of you listeners, Blake and I go way back. We’re actually brothers from another mother. We look a lot alike.

Blake: Totally similar skin tone.

Verbs: Spitting image.

Blake: Yeah, general physique and height. I can’t grow a mustache like you. I wish I could. I can’t.

Neal: Well, you can grow a beard, so you have that over me.

Blake: That’s debatable. Debatable whether or not this actually enters that category. Verbs is looking at me like, “That ain’t no beard.”

Verbs: Hey, it’s effort, though.

Blake: Anyway, we’re connected though. Today, we’re connected in a virtual sense over on Zoom, whatever app we’re using right now. But the theme of this episode is actually all about connection and how it’s going to help you, dear listener. So I’m excited to have you on, Neal.

Neal: Yes. I’m excited to be here.

Verbs: Thank you for joining us. We always like to start off just with a question to kind of get things going. But here it is. Have you ever gotten halfway into a goal, maybe, only to see that your progress is stalling or it has just flat stalled out?

Blake: You don’t know who you’re talking to, Verbs. Neal has never stalled on a goal.

Neal: Never. I’m never only gotten halfway onto a goal. I always complete it 150 percent.

Verbs: If you start it, it’s done. Yeah. That’s why you’re on this show. We want to know the secret sauce to that 150 percent goal completion.

Neal: Well, obviously, I’m joking. Obviously, this has happened way too many times to count. Yes.

Blake: So, “Yes” is his answer. Awesome!

Verbs: Thank you for answering that question. I see that hand.

Blake: There are too many times to count, and so we will not attempt to count them. Move on.

Neal: I’m trying to think of an example.

Verbs: Thank you for joining us on Focus on This. No, because, I mean, it is possible that no matter what you do, sometimes you can’t seem to recover the momentum you lost once you’ve stalled. So you’re distracting yourself with less-important work because you’re tired of just being stuck. I mean, that can be taxing sometimes.

Then you get discouraged. Then you feel defeated, and you catch yourself asking, “Why even try?” and not put any more effort toward that goal. There has to be a way forward as far as getting unstuck, and that’s what we want to talk about today.

Blake: What I hear a lot from people is, “I just need to be more disciplined.” When people stall out on goals, it’s always they look internal, and they go, “What’s broken in me that is making this goal so hard?” The truth we want to illuminate first on this episode is that you were not designed to do these big, risky, difficult, satisfying goals all by yourself.

They may be a personal goal for you, but instead of shifting the blame or looking for what’s wrong internally, the shift you can make is to look externally, not to find blame but to find friends, to find people who can bring you strength, help you get unstuck, and move you forward to continue progress on your goals.

Neal: So when you find other people, what you’re saying is that’s when you start making progress on your goals.

Blake: That’s what I’m talking about.

Neal: Boom!

Blake: Sometimes it’s hard to know how to get somebody’s help. Maybe you feel like you’re being selfish. Maybe it’s just you don’t have someone in your life who you think would understand you or your goals. We talked about on a previous episode how I’m a misunderstood Enneagram Four, so my challenge is no one is going to get the uniqueness of my problem or something.

You know, it’s interesting Neal is on this episode, because Neal is someone I had to learn how to get his help, but he really helped me a lot in previous career endeavors get unstuck.

Neal: Totally.

Blake: If you can remember, if we go to 1996, Tom Cruise…

Verbs: There it is. You never disappoint on these references.

Blake: …sometimes you just ask him, and he’s saying, “Help me help you.” So if you feel like you need some help, some guidance…How can I enlist people so I’m not carrying this burden, I’m not staying stuck alone, but I can actually benefit from others? There’s not one size fits all. We actually have multiple ways we’re going to explore to help others help you.

Neal: So Blake, then how can people help us make progress on our goals?

Blake: Well, Neal, thank you for the alley-oop, my friend. We have four specific ways…let’s call them contributions…that people can make or you can give to somebody else to help them get unstuck. Okay. Are we ready to hit it, Verbs? Should we just dive in?

Verbs: I think we are. Would you do the honors of walking us through that first contribution?

Blake: Sure. First contribution is simply encouragement. But, Neal, as someone who is a giver of encouragement, at least to me, I’m curious your perspective on what it looks like to give encouragement well to someone who’s on their way toward a goal. Maybe even more beneficial is for those of us who maybe feel vulnerable or don’t know how to ask for the encouragement we need, I’m curious your perspective on those two directions of encouragement.

Neal: Yeah. Well, first off, I would say that giving encouragement is a lot simpler than it looks. I think we make it much more complicated, and we try to go out of our way to give encouragement. Really, giving encouragement is something that can happen in the moment. It could be simply reminding people who they are, saying, “Hey, you’re strong.”

Or if someone was giving me encouragement, they’d be like, “You’re the flyest Indian guy I know.” That is very encouraging for me to hear. But it can also be just asking the right question. I think that’s important, because you could ask a person, “Hey, why did you get into this?” and they do the work themselves with that self-discovery that brings them a point of encouragement.

Blake: I like that. I’m big on that. Verbs, has anyone ever given you encouragement, my friend? Because if not, Neal and I got you.

Neal: We’re here for you, man.

Blake: One thing that’s helpful I find, Neal, I don’t know, or Verbs, maybe you feel this way, but sometimes we get so obsessed with where we’re going that we can forget how far we’ve come. So what I found is really encouraging…

I think about just even in my marriage, sometimes if my wife is going after something, and she’s said, “Ah, I’m still not doing this and this,” one of the simplest tools is just to think about, “Okay, well, where were you six months ago?” Or, “Where were you last year when we were dealing with this?” Just to help the person look back and take a look at the progress and measure how much has been gained I think is huge.

Neal: Yeah. So I think we need to circle back and talk about what encouragement is. To encourage, to me, means to put courage into, like to put courage into someone. I think that’s so key that we fall back on that definition, because the truth is, if we’re achieving hard goals, if we’re doing hard things, we’re going to need courage. There’s no shame in asking to get courage from other people. So that’s why this whole point is so crucial. We need encouragement to continue on the journey.

Verbs: Yeah. I think this is good what you’re saying, Neal, because at some point, obviously, we all will need encouragement. But these contributions we’re talking about today will also help us know how to encourage other people, so it’s that whole circle of reciprocity sort of thing, because we’ll know it when we’re encouraged. That way, if we ever come across someone who needs it, we’ll know what to do in that case as well.

Blake: So the second contribution I want to highlight is something I call the narrative check, meaning what is the narrative or what is the story you’re telling yourself. And is that story, is that narrative, really true? Let me teach you something here, Neal.

Sometimes, the story you’re telling yourself is not true, and we would call that a limiting belief. If you believe something to be true that is false, it’s like running with ankle weights on. You can try to go toward your goal, but those beliefs, that narrative, is boxing you in. It’s weighing you down, and it’s actually sabotaging your own progress. So a narrative check. Neal, have you ever had to have a narrative check, or have you ever given a narrative check?

Neal: Well, you know, as we talk about this, one story comes to mind. It was actually you, Blake. You gave me a narrative check. There was one time where I was deep in my business. This was before I joined Michael Hyatt & Company. Really, I was overworking. You know, the double win was not part of my story. I was giving too much to my work.

This one time we were grabbing lunch, and you said, “Work is not meant to be everything. Work is not meant to be our whole lives. What you’re doing here is not meant to fulfill you 100 percent.” That was just the narrative check I needed, because I was living and acting in such a way that work was everything. That was just what I needed in the moment.

Blake: Wow. I’m so wise. Man.

Neal: You are. Now I’m going to throw the question right back at you, Blake. Bonus points if I gave you a narrative check.

Blake: Yeah, yeah, yeah. A narrative check. What’s so key with the narrative check is…I’ll highlight this before I share an example…just permission. It’s permission. I’ll raise my hand. I’m glad it worked it out well in that instance, Neal, but I think you’d sort of given me the green light. Let me just say…

Neal: I did.

Blake: Sometimes I’ll be like, “Hey, let me give you a narrative check,” and people are like, “Whoa, never asked for it, friend.” That can turn out poorly. So I think it’s really helpful to have people in your life who are challenging that narrative. Neal, I’m going to save a story about you for our next contribution.

Neal: Yes.

Blake: You know, I recently had a narrative check, and it was something where I was attempting this big goal that was kind of outside of the norm for me, related to work, and trying to generate revenue and that sort of thing. I felt really scared. I felt nervous, and I was actually concerned about what someone else might think about this. I would say that if you’re feeling fear, insecurity, doubt, those are red flags that you’re probably believing a story that’s not true.

Verbs: Exactly.

Blake: Because when we believe…not to break out the scuba gear too early today…something that’s true, we will feel more free, more empowered, more brave. Even if something is scary, it’s not the type of scary that’s a fight or flight; it’s the type that is like, “Hey, this is thrilling,” type of scary.

If we’re not feeling that way, then we’re probably believing something that’s not true. So I actually called up a friend of mine. It was just on an impulse. The reason I called them up was… To be perfectly honest, my goals in my career or my finances would be nothing to him. Not that they wouldn’t be important, but he has crossed that threshold a decade ago or more.

So when you’re thinking about, “Who should I seek out to help me check my narrative?” you probably want to seek somebody out who has already accomplished what you’re trying to accomplish. Otherwise, they may just contribute to a false narrative, because they also maybe feel helpless or stuck by that situation. What he did was basically squash my fear.

He was like, “Oh. What? Come on, Blake, you’ve got that. That’s not that big of a deal. I wouldn’t even worry about that.” All of a sudden, I felt empowered. Just like, “Oh yeah, I don’t have to be afraid of what this person might say or think.” So that to me is, I guess, an instance or a story of a narrative check. It’s looking to those who you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, they’re going to have an upgraded narrative.

Neal: I’m glad you called me that day.

Blake: Yeah.

Neal: I’m joking. That wasn’t me.

Verbs: But question though, before you go to your amazing story about Neal’s encouragement. You did mention permission and that being just a critical piece as far as receiving encouragement on a narrative check. My question is…let’s flip the question on its head…What if it’s an accurate narrative check that doesn’t come from somebody you’ve actually given permission to do that? How receptive or not would you be to that sort of situation?

Neal: Well, that’s interesting, because they haven’t built trust equity with you. Right? So you haven’t put them in that position where they’re intimate with you enough for them to see a false narrative being worked out in your life. I think for me…I’m saying this from experience; I feel like this happened recently actually…I would take more time to process it.

Like a couple of weeks ago, someone gave me a narrative check that I just was not expecting, and the next day, I was in my journal about it. I was like, “Oh yeah, they were right.” I think that’s just how I work. If I haven’t given someone permission to give me a narrative check, I need more time to process it, and I usually come to the conclusion whether it’s right or not. But if it’s someone I trust, and I’ve given permission…like for instance, my wife…if she calls me out on something, it’s 100 percent true.

Blake: If you are experiencing feelings, your feelings are really there for your benefit to give you feedback on what thoughts you’re having. Your thoughts are really the things that are driving your feelings even if it takes a while to travel distances there. So if I’m having feelings of, “I’m incapable. I’m weak. This is impossible. I’m stuck,” there’s something there.

Maybe the belief is, “I’m just terrible with money. So I can’t actually hit this financial. Here I am stuck again.” If the feelings you’re having are excitement, feeling empowered, feeling encouraged, feeling passionate, feeling free, feeling powerful, those feelings are giving you feedback that the thoughts you’re having are productive in nature and that the narrative you’re having is productive.

So if someone gives you feedback, and it actually just makes you feel worse, that’s worth calling into question. And if you’re wondering if the reason you’re stuck is because maybe you’re believing a false narrative, having a setback is not necessarily cause for feeling bad. The truth is, setbacks are cause for feeling good. If you’re lifting weights, you hope you’re experiencing setbacks every time you get in the gym. Right? That’s what it is. So if your perception of your setbacks is causing you to feel weak, stuck, small, then it’s time for a narrative check.

Verbs: All right. So contribution number three is solidarity.

Neal: Yeah. So I think there are few things more powerful than being with someone. You know, it’s easier to do hard things when we’re not doing them alone, we’re doing them with people. And for some goals, it’s really just easier for someone to join you. When that’s the case, go for it.

Like, for instance, if you have some physical health goal, you can work out with someone else. Or you want to hit this reading goal, you could read books with another person. If you want to start eating healthier, it might be better, easier for you, to enlist someone else with you in that journey. You know, solidarity and being with people often makes goal achievement easier, because there’s power in togetherness. Right? Two is better than one.

Verbs: No, that’s great. I can recall actually a couple of years ago now, there was a men’s event coming up. It was like a year away from the actual date of the event, and there were a couple of guys I knew who wanted to attend. I had attended previously. It was obviously a financial commitment that you had to contribute to get to the event.

So as we talk about solidarity, I found an app online that basically allowed you to get everybody into kind of like a money pool. So you can track and see who’s accruing or putting money in to their goal, and that sends you an alert to say, “Hey, so and so just put in $100 toward their $1,000 goal.” Just being able to see that other people are moving on this too, and I don’t want to be left behind, I found that encouraging, because we all agreed, “Hey, we want to get to this men’s event and have a good time, and we want to get there together, leaving nobody behind.”

So just being able to get in and be able to see each other’s progress and commitment for that year was like an amazing thing. I had never tried anything like that before, but I felt like we all benefited, and most of the people who were in that group actually ended up coming to the event as well. So that was just a great moment of solidarity as we’re talking about it.

Neal: That sounds so fun.

Verbs: It was. It was, indeed.

Neal: So obviously I have to ask. Blake, you said you had a story about me in which I gave you just amazing wisdom or gave you life. I think the listeners are dying to hear that.

Blake: Well, there are maybe two kinds of solidarity, if I could distinguish. I think there’s the solidarity of like, “Hey, join my running group,” when we’re literally pursuing the same goal together. But there’s another solidarity that is, “Hey, I’m with you, and I’m invested in your goal. Maybe I’m not running the exact same race step for step with you, but I’m with you.”

It’s closely connected to encouragement. I think encouragement can sometimes look like a word of encouragement. Like, “Hey, here’s this,” or, “Notice this.” Solidarity is almost more foundational than encouragement, I think, which is just saying, “Hey, I see you. I get you. I’m with you. Let’s do this.”

Neal: So I see where this is going.

Verbs: That was a great setup.

Blake: Well, there have been a lot of examples of this with you, Neal, I feel like. But there was one time I asked you to drinks, I think, or maybe it was to lunch, or something like that. Knowing me in this season, I certainly needed a cocktail, so it was probably drinks.

Neal: Yeah, I had apple juice.

Blake: I was so down and really, really in a bad spot. Like business kind of falling apart, in over my head, feeling very incapable and very stuck. Probably needed a narrative check. Probably needed some encouragement, some feedback. Probably needed these different challenge points. But what I remember bringing that to you, and I was emotional, was, I think, your instincts kicked in to go, “I think what Blake needs first is solidarity,” which is simply the acknowledgement that, “Boy, those challenges you’re facing sound really hard, but I’m with you. I’ve been there. You’re going to make it through.”

You’ve got this type of energy given back, directed back. Ultimately, I would say after that meeting, Neal, there were three or four opportunities…one of which turned into my job with Michael Hyatt & Company…but to be honest, there were multiple opportunities that came after that meeting. I think so much of it was my perspective shifted because I had solidarity from someone who really understood and grasped the gravity of what was going on in my situation, and understood the goal, understood what I was trying to achieve.

Of all the points we’re listing here, solidarity is one of those things that may seem like the smallest or like the least creative or the least efforted type of contribution you can give to somebody, but it’s oftentimes the most powerful to just be with someone on the journey toward their goal. So thanks, Neal.

Neal: I thought you were going to bring up this story. I remember it exactly. What I would say to that is it wasn’t that hard for me to give you solidarity, to be that safe space for you in that moment. Because when you came into that restaurant where we were meeting, I could tell you were hurting and you needed that encouragement and someone to just be with you there.

So it wasn’t that hard for me to give that to you, to create that safe space. I think when we’re in those vulnerable positions where we just need that solidarity, once we feel that safety of being with other people who know and see us, that allows opportunities to open up. Right? That’s what gets us moving forward to the next stage.

Blake: Absolutely.

Male: That we all would have a friend like Neal.

Neal: Man, I sound awesome.

Verbs: Contribution number four is feedback. Sometimes when you’re venturing into new territory, we need people who are outside of ourselves to help us navigate. I don’t know if either one of you would agree, but I know I find feedback extremely helpful and constructive.

Neal: Yeah. You know, this also reminds me of a time when Blake and I used to get together at the beginning of 2020 and talk about our goals and give each other feedback on our goals. That was a fun time, man.

Blake: Yeah. Why don’t we do that anymore?

Neal: Because a global pandemic happened.

Blake: Oh right. That’s what it was.

Neal: That’s why we stopped.

Blake: I forgot about that pandemicky old thing.

Neal: Yeah. But we both were looking for someone to speak into our lives and give us that feedback that calls us out and pushes us further while having our best at heart. We found that in each other.

Blake: Yeah. Feedback is really, really key. I think the magic of it is everybody has blind spots. It can hurt sometimes when someone points out an area you didn’t see or challenges you on something, but if you can get past that, if you can just say, “Hey, nobody’s perfect. I’m not taking this personally…” Something Michael says that I love is a goal is just as much about who you become as it is about what you accomplish. Getting feedback along the way is just going to accelerate who you can become in the pursuit of your goal.

Neal: Yes. I love that. You know, it’s so scary to ask for feedback and receive feedback, but one of the things I’ve been reminding myself lately is that fear leads to wisdom. It’s such a wise thing to do to ask for feedback. So if you have that fear, that’s healthy. What’s going to come out of it is just wisdom for your life moving forward.

Blake: Yeah. This is another one of those where you probably need permission if you’re the one giving it. It’s also one if you feel like, “Well, I’m so stuck. Why doesn’t anyone help me?” maybe you haven’t explicitly asked for it, and people may not feel comfortable giving you the feedback. So I think, like you said, Neal, it’s good to ask for feedback.

If you want, I’ll just mention here just a few options to sort of direct the feedback so it’s not just, “Hey, can you give me some feedback?” That’s kind of a hard question to answer. But maybe you could say something like, “Hey, can you give me some feedback on my effort? I’m doing my best, but do you think there’s more in the tank?” A great example of this is your personal trainer at the gym. They have a sense for what’s your best effort but also what’s safe. That’s an example.

You may also want to ask for alternative solutions. “Hey, is there a better way to do this that you can think of? Because all I can think of is x, y, and z.” Or, “What do you see? I was doing my After Action Review. I’m kind of confused as to what’s not adding up here. Do you see something that’s broken or not working or that’s missing?” Or maybe it’s just, “Can you give me some feedback on how I can finish well? Because I feel kind of stuck right now.”

I’ll give you an example from real life if I can of how to push through. It’s a great example of a total blind spot I had, but a word of feedback kind of saved me. It was my friend Jason. This was a decade ago, but I still remember it. I was in such a funk. I was low energy, low inspiration, low motivation to really work on my goals. To be honest, I just felt in a funk. I won’t use the word depression because I don’t know that it was anything clinical or that heavy, but it did kind of feel that way, for lack of a better term.

I would go to Jason for spiritual advice, emotional advice. He’s a counselor by trade. So I was like, “Jason, I am wounded. What’s happening? Can you give me something? What do I journal about?” He said, “Hey, when’s the last time you did something just for fun?” I was like, “Uhh.” I literally couldn’t remember. I was like, “I don’t know. I guess a few months ago it was Christmas, and I sang a carol.” He was like, “Okay. Just this weekend go play basketball or go do something that’s just for fun, and then come talk to me.”

It was crazy because that was totally off my radar. If you’re pushing hard toward a goal, maybe you needed to hear that too. But it gave me so much energy. It totally rejuvenated me. Once my biology was reenergized and refreshed, guess what? So were my emotions. So was my mentality. So getting that outside feedback to spot those blind spots is so helpful.

Neal: Blake, I have to say someone gave me the exact same feedback. It was actually my wife.

Blake: Who’s also a counselor.

Neal: Therapist. I said that like 10 times in the last episode I was on. But my wife gave me that same advice, and it was just so good for me, because I think I need reminders I’m not this constant self-improvement project. Right? That I don’t have to keep pushing myself to reach a goal, that I can just do something for the fun of it.

Verbs: I think that would’ve freed a lot of people up just now, just what you said, just even in their own thinking. What did you say? I’m not a constant self-improvement project.

Neal: Yep.

Verbs: Yeah. That’s good. I think a lot of it, too, is also in the way… What helps us receive feedback is being in that position, or at least that posture, of recognizing, “Hey, there’s a gap here. There’s something missing. I’m feeling like I’m giving my best effort or giving my best go at getting this thing done. But again, I need help on seeing my blind spots. What’s in the peripheral that I’m not seeing?”

Really, at the end of the day, it’s humility, saying, “Hey, I need help, and I want you to speak to what I’m going through right now, what I’m working on, or what I’m doing, so I can make the proper adjustments and align it with where I’m trying to reach.” Just to put a point on it and make it clear. Unsolicited feedback can actually lead to resentment. So make sure you’re honest about the feedback that’s helpful and the feedback that isn’t helpful. If you’re the person providing feedback, just be willing to adjust your feedback accordingly there.

So the good news is you don’t have to stay stuck on a goal. Turn goal achievement into a team effort by enlisting others to encourage you, to check your thinking, join you in solidarity, and offer the feedback you need to move forward. Neal and Blake, are there any final thoughts you may have for our Focus on This listeners?

Neal: You know, I was just reminded about how much I love you guys. A lot of the stories said in this episode were me bringing you guys in on my goals, particularly Blake. So just thank you.

Verbs: Now I feel left out. Thank you. I was encouraged, and it quickly left. I’m just kidding.

Blake: Verbs, I’ll invite you to lunch sometime and cry into some French fries for you so you feel included in my life’s journey. I’ll do that. I’d be willing to do that.

Verbs: Let’s get that on the calendar. Yeah.

Blake: Yeah. A final thought, I guess, would be some of you, especially I think in the wake of a year where a lot of our friendships or natural connection with people was disrupted… Do not be surprised, do not feel uniquely flawed, if it feels like there’s not a lot of people in your circle who can contribute in one of these specific ways we’ve mentioned right now.

You will most likely need to use some energy and some forethought and actually seek out the contribution of others, be it encouragement, solidarity, feedback, a narrative check. Don’t expect that to just come your way. I think the final thought is just it’s normal to have to ask for that stuff. Rather than doubling down your energy on trying to bust down the door that won’t open when you’re trying to reach a goal, use some of that energy to seek somebody out who you trust. Or if there’s no one, build a relationship with someone.

There are people who join our coaching program every day because they need someone in their lives who has been there and done that. So they’re like, “Listen, I’ll pay for this coaching because that’s so helpful.” Neal and I have both paid dearly for coaching just to get the feedback and encouragement we need to hit big goals we’ve never done before. So that’s my final thought.

Do not be surprised if you need to seek this out and specifically ask people in your life or hire people in your life or build friendship with people in your life so you can get the contribution you need.

Verbs: Thanks for joining us on Focus on This. This is the most productive podcast on the Internet, so please share it with your friends. Remember use #focusonthispodcast. We’ll be here next week with another great episode. Until then…

All: Stay focused!