Most humans are, well, human. People’s productivity tends to ebb and flow with their motivation levels. Their ability to implement and stick with personal habit changes is as variable as their shifting moods. So how do you get people motivated? We answer these questions and more in this episode as Victoria Wieck talks to best-selling author, mental training and performance specialist, and business strategy consultant Mike Kavanagh. Mike discusses why people lose their motivation to work and how they can go around maintaining balance in life. Do you frequently fall victim to the villain we all know as procrastination? Perhaps you need to implement the Coach’s Plan. Curious? Tune in for more and be inspired.
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Coach’s Plan: How To Keep Your Motivation Levels High With Mike Kavanagh
In this episode, we have Mike Kavanagh, who has been coaching for a while. He’s also the author of several books and one of those books is called What Is Your Calling? If you read my show week after week, you’ll know that it’s something close to my heart. He has a book called Coach’s Plan. He’s a successful manager and also a podcaster. His podcast is called Fueled By Impact. Without further ado, I wanted to introduce you to Mike and welcome him to the show so he can share all of his wisdom and passion here as well. Welcome to the show, Mike.
Thank you for having me. It’s an honor to be here.
Thank you for agreeing to spend this time with my audience. Give me a little bit of your backstory because what you’re doing is a culmination of your entire life’s journey. I wanted to add a little context. Tell us a little bit about yourself and what got you here.
I left a graduate school program and got into the business. I started off doing management consulting. What happened was I very quickly was thrown into situations where I was able to advise senior leaders of very large companies on very big issues. It gave me a big exposure at a very young age, got thrown into some very unusual situations for somebody in their mid-twenties. In some regards, that almost catapults it. That was my business school.
You have your MBA background. My MBA came from this experience. I did that work for probably about a decade and then got wooed over to the corporate leadership side. I worked in a variety of different corporate leadership roles, including as a C-level executive leading product development and strategy for a large manufacturing company.
Throughout that whole time, on the side, I was nurturing these passions. I enjoyed a lot of what I did but I also felt like I was getting pulled in the direction. There was a lot of momentum of these opportunities would come my way and I would say yes to them, even though there was this other part of me that I wasn’t necessarily cultivating or nurturing as much.
I was doing that more as a side hobby, which was all-around mind, body, performance and wellbeing. That was a big interest for me, everything from meditation. I teach meditation, breathwork and fitness. I was doing a small amount of coaching and that work on the side while my day job was senior leadership in Corporate America.
I was primed and ready for a change but the change happened to me. The company that I was working for went through a leadership shakeup. Private equity bought the company. There was a new leadership team put in place. I was let go. For me, that was the moment where I was like, “If not now, when?” Since then, I’ve been doing what I love, including writing a book that’s very personal about helping people find their calling and find work that they love because that was a struggle for me over the years.
It’s great to have an expert come in and help you every now and then, but most of the time, if you did everything you knew you should do, you would be in an incredible position.
First of all, in your little intro, you have gone through what you thought at the time was a great career. You thought, “This was a great career. I was so fortunate to be leading this C-suite leader and all of this stuff.” In the beginning, you think this was a great thing. You have the real passion, which is about aligning your mind to body and how that impacts your overall performance as a human being and in a corporate world. You weren’t free to exercise that passion.
I’ve traveled probably about 50 countries, which is a very significant part of the world. In America, we tend to compartmentalize a lot. We tend to go, “This is my work self. This is when I come home. This is when I become a dad. This is my time.” When in fact you, as a person don’t change through all those things. You could be that whole amazing dad, inspiration, motivator, leader and worker. All of that is in one being.
I’m not sure if we’re out of COVID yet or not but having gone through 2020, it seems like we’re living with that. The world has woken up to think about how much we are impacted by our health and the health of our coworkers, their children and society as a whole. That health means both physical health and mind. You are ahead of your time on that.
Let’s talk a little bit about what your calling is because here’s another place where you and I are completely aligned on our belief system that we all have a calling. You may not realize it. You may think that calling came masked and disguised as it becoming a great senior vice president of some company that you don’t connect to. Tell me a little bit about the book and why you wrote the book.
It was ten years in the making because there was a point along my journey where I started reaching out to people who are doing some of the things that I wanted to make more a part of my livelihood. I went through some periods where I felt like my mental health and overall wellbeing were at an all-time low. It manifested in some lack of health in various ways because I felt like these two things weren’t aligned in terms of livelihood and who I was as a person. It didn’t feel authentic to me. That is a hard place to be. A lot of people find themselves in that place.
I started reaching out to people who had taken a risk, people who are freelance artists, living their passion. I asked them, “Can I write about you because one of my passions is writing?” I started a blog and profiled these people on that blog. I knew that there was more there that needed to be told. When I was laid off, I went through a real soul-searching period to say, “What is my reason for being here? What brings me purpose and passion? What would I truly love and enjoy?”
I saw that process that I went through, which had didn’t happen at that time but had been building that point. It was something that I felt like more people could be going through. If they had a little bit of guidance then perhaps, they’d be asking themselves these bigger questions and might be willing to take that risk. I wanted to help be that catalyst for people who felt like I did.
The book is trying to be almost an end-to-end view of how you go from discovering what it is whether it’s your calling or something that you feel a sense of passion around if you don’t know what that is through to how you take the risk and go for it, including some of these profiles of people who have to live the path.
For those of you who are reading, I would go ahead and encourage you to find this book called What Is Your Calling?: The Journey to Find Work You Love. That’s the complete title and the subtitle of the book. It’s a real low investment financially but it’s also a good read. We all have a calling and very few people are ever fortunate enough to discover the calling and even fewer people die without ever knowing what that is. Especially during this COVID time, when you are shifting priorities to figure out, “Who are the people that are going to have my back? Who are the people that are going to be here if I ever get COVID?” I’m sure most of you have thought these things through so try to discover your calling.
I came from a very humble background. My parents came here with $30. When you have nothing, maybe you’ll find bankruptcy, go through a divorce or get laid off like Mike has, whatever it is, in those times, you have to think about what is the purpose of your life? If you can sit there and complain about, “My horrible boss laid me off. This corporation wanted to make more money so they’ll replace all of us who are experienced with college graduates,” you have time to figure out what your purpose in life is. That time could be 30 minutes, 60 minutes or 15 minutes a day. Pick up the book and it all enriches your life multifold.
You’ve got the successful manager and your book, which is called a Coach’s Plan. I’m interested in the book because, at this point, you are coaching other people. With your first book, you’re asking them to discover their passion and purpose and how you then take a reasonable risk. We’re not saying you should take a leap of faith or jump in the pool to find that if you can swim. Check out the lay of the land, how you fit in that and take that risk. In Coach’s Plan, you’re teaching people how to be productive on your own, for yourself and for the people that you’re responsible for. Tell me a little bit about that book.
Maybe I’ll tell you how it came about because I’m probably picking up on a theme where my books are largely solving problems that in my life, I felt like maybe I had something to share.
That’s the best thing. A lot of people who coach have never lived their life. They’ve never lived the pain or experienced any of it. I’ve known a lot of coaches who’ve always been coached. They were told by a coach and they coached. A lot of my professors in school are still teaching professorship and primarily the same things that they taught years ago to me, which were already outdated then. You think about that. The fact that you are writing books from your heart, based on your personal life experiences and what you have seen, the commonality between your experience versus a lot of other people, that’s the best way to impact people.
It’s funny because part of my background and the thing that I’m trying to encourage people to do has to do with mind, body, health and wellbeing. I’m on this mission in one avenue in my life to try to bring that into more of the business world, whether that’s entrepreneurs taking better care of themselves, leaders, people in corporate roles, recognizing that, “If I’m going to do that job well, have a good life and enjoy myself then I need to see how all of these different things feed into me showing up as my best self.” That was something that I had been helping people within various forms in terms of teaching meditation, fitness and trying to coach people within the corporate context.
I went through my transition where I was getting started on more of an entrepreneurial. In my case, starting as the one-man show. I had a real hard time. I’m a hard worker and normally don’t struggle with some of the things that I found myself struggling with. There were a lot of factors involved, as there always are. We have a new baby in the house and the pandemic. When you look at it, it always boils down to mindset in some way. I felt almost like it was a very humbling experience and maybe even a little awkward because you’re trying to help other people and be an inspiration or a motivation to them, yet you’re falling off the wagon right and left. That was how it was for me.
Even productivity-wise, what was happening was I was working a lot of hours but I wasn’t getting the results but more so, it was that I could tell I wasn’t doing the hard things. I was avoiding the uncomfortable things. I was filling my time but it wasn’t the level of productivity I needed. It certainly wasn’t the level of productivity to have a balanced life where you and I share the same interest. I’m a father of two kids. I don’t want to be the guy that burns the candle at both ends, doesn’t have time for my family, all that. I was like, “How can I solve this problem?” This light bulb went off for me.
Sometimes, it’s helpful to take a moment, take a step back and ask yourself, “why am I doing this now? Why am I leading things this certain way?”
I talk about it in the book. It’s a short book. It’ll take an hour to read. The audiobook will be out soon and it’s very short. It was, “Here’s how I solved this problem,” which became the system called Coach’s Plan. The realization was we’re all this inner ball of conflicts. There’s you at night and you the next morning. There’s you who says, “I’m going to start the diet tomorrow. I’m going to make those tough calls tomorrow.” Then tomorrow rolls around and it’s a different you who shows up. What I started to realize is, “If I treated myself where I was the coach and the coachee, all of a sudden, this entire system emerged from that of how I could craft a plan that I could then follow that freed me to be extremely productive.”
I didn’t even think it was going to work but I tried it because it was like, “Nothing else is working now.” Soon I noticed that not only was I doing much better concerning my days were mapped out, I was tackling the hard things but I was also starting to do other things like habit changes. Things that had come very difficult in the past were starting to become easy things for me to throw into Coach’s Plan.
To be clear, Coach’s Plan is not me telling anybody what to do. In Coach’s Plan, you’re the coach. This whole thing is how do you find the way to bring this coaching aspect of yourself but translate it into actual action and results in your life. I discovered a system that works for me that I’ve got to imagine there are other people out there who are like me who might be able to find some benefit from trying this approach as well.
Do you play golf or tennis?
I play tennis and I’m a terrible golfer.
My kids played USTA competitive tennis. There were nationally ranked kids. I’m not good at tennis but one of the things I did was I spent unlimited time with them while they were awake. All of their tennis lessons, I sat, watching the kids being coached. They’re in the warmup and they’re great. All their shots beforehand, the backend, everything went great. When the kids were playing national-level competition, there was a lot of other great kids. All of a sudden, my daughter wouldn’t get a serve. Nothing goes in.
The parents can’t coach them when they’re on but in between one match, if they survive it, even at the junior level, the mom can teach them what they’re doing wrong. I asked how the coach how and he said, “If all the balls are going beyond the service line, that means they’re not rotating. If you have to toss the ball one way or the other, make them feel like they’re rotating it.” They taught me all the ways to be a guide sitting next to them.
It’s interesting because what you’re describing is doing that, giving somebody the framework where they could assess their little problems. If these four things consistently happen, you got to fix this. That’s great. When you were talking about productivity, entrepreneurs and C-suite leaders suffer from this as well.
If you ask entrepreneurs like, “Why did you start a business?” They will tell you they want freedom, emotional freedom, financial freedom, be the boss and dictate their own time, yet they’re working probably twice as many hours as to when they were working in a corporate world. They’re making less money and have quadruple the stress level of dealing with the finances. It could be almost like a vicious cycle where they feel like the more hours they work, the more money they make so they feel guilty after taking time off.
Even when they are spending time with their son or daughter, they’re 4 or 5 years old at a soccer field, you’re like, “I got to get to this phone call.” If you can discipline yourself to be productive, have the hours that you do work by tackling things that are uncomfortable for you. Most of us come to work. I got up and kid you not, I had about 200 emails but 60 of them had to be answered. If you write down all the things you have to do, leaders in the corporate world and maybe not even leaders but anybody in the corporate world, go to the easiest things to check off first because they feel like, “At least, I can get rid half of them out of my calendar.”
As an entrepreneur or a C-suite leader, you got two types of decisions. One type is where you bet the farm, go all in and it can make or break you. The other type is, do we go with this advertising or that advertising? Do we want that color or another color? Do I want to have a meeting at 3:00 or 5:00? None of these things will make a huge difference in your life. You don’t even have to make those decisions. One of those things is you have to figure out what are the things that have to be tackled that day.
Those things you have to work on it, even if it’s uncomfortable because the more you do it, the easier it becomes but if you never tackle it, the mantra becomes bigger. If you don’t even touch it, you will hire somebody later on the road. First some amount of money then they don’t know what to do and make mistakes. You eventually end up tackling it yourself.
I love the Coach’s Plan, which is not for coaches but for all of you to coach yourself. If you had a coach, what would that plan be for you? You know yourself better. I went through all the different tennis coaches with the kids. You know your kids and yourself. Both of my kids played national-level tennis and play a completely different style of tennis. They’re both good. There’s no right or wrong. I like that you have this framework there.
In terms of mind and body, I am a firm believer in that. My father was an acupuncturist. I come from an Asian culture where everything is always connected. When I used to first preach that like yoga, meditation, all of that, people used to think I was crazy years ago. They used to think like, “That’s a coo-coo, earthy tree hugger.” They used to call me whatever they want it. I’ve been called the worst. Your brain is not disconnected from your body. Your brain is a muscle. The more aligned your mind and body is, the more productive you’re going to be.
Talking about productivity, if you are sleep-deprived, staying up at night at 2:00 because you’re worried about something, don’t get to sleep back because you’ve filled out at 4:00 and have the first call at 6:00, the quality of your time the next day decreases hugely when you can hardly think. How can you think with clarity?
That mind-body alignment is one of the critical facets of success. When I was in the corporate world, I used to say to somebody, “How are you?” She would say, “Do I look sick?” She meant it because people have said, “Are you well?” That can’t start your day well. The first thing is I go, “Do I look sick?” This mind and body is the key thing. You go even further than that. You do not only the meditation mind and body connection but you’re also coaching people how to stay fit.
Everything that you are doing, the deepest why behind that, always comes back to either a sense of happiness, contentment, or fulfillment that you’re seeking.
I’m not talking about necessarily weight loss but I’ve been at times where I was more fit than other times. When you’re more fit, you have more energy and are optimistic about things. You feel like you can tackle more things and go the next ten hours but you don’t need to. Give me a quick few tips on how you execute the mind-body alignment?
For everybody sometimes the place to start could be a little different depending on where you tend to focus and what already is working for you. You spoke about the fact of sleep. We all know that all this stuff is interconnected. The only thing that is out of balance ends up having this cascading effect on a lot of other things. Over the years, I used to be much more because I got a lot of my start in fitness and meditation. I was like, “It’s all these two things.” That’s what it’s about.
I realize many years later that almost anything impacts your energy level and inner sense of wellbeing. That could be things around your relationships, work or sense of meaning or purpose that comes from work. All these different things feed into how you’re living your day. Are you enjoying yourself and feeling your best?
I have all of these tools and techniques that I’ve trained in over the years whether it’s meditation, breathwork or heart rate variability. To me, it’s a toolkit that you can pluck out whatever works the best for you that allows you to find and hone that sense of balance and energy that is going to allow you to feel your best, which ends up translating into performing your best. I believe that most people know. It’s great to have an expert come in and help you but most of the time, if you did everything you know and do, you’re in an incredible position.
The question a lot of times ends up becoming, “Can I take an honest look and say, ‘What am I not doing? Why?’” This comes back to then focusing more of your energy on training, what I might call the meta-skills. Training yourself in how to become better and personal change is more important than implementing one specific personal change.
If I’m doing a workshop for a team in a corporate environment, I’m focused much more on, “Let’s zero in on those meta-skills. Train your mind training and ability.” Coach’s Plan is an example of a way to almost hack yourself so that you get better at personal change. Therefore, you’re armed to say, “I want to make a nutrition change and incorporate more exercise or yoga in my life. I’m going to follow through with it.” That’s been a lot of my mentality. It’s shifted, as you can tell, from where I began to how I see things.
When I want to do something and somebody says to me, for example. “I don’t like pita. I felt like it’s very greasy. It’s something I’ve never going to like.” If you told me tomorrow, “You could do whatever you want to do but except eat pita,” that’s all I’m going to want to eat. I don’t know why. That’s how your mind works. The other thing that’s astonishing too is a lot of times when you look at a fitness person who focused on fitness, they’re talking about cardio and pumping iron. They’re not necessarily talking about yoga or meditation.
The goal is to develop tools to implement personal change. That personal change is different from person to person. Everybody has different goals, body types, situations and amount of time that they can spend. You’re giving everybody a preview of all the different tools there. If somebody needs a kitchen knife, food processor or a different tool, you are sitting there going, “Here’s the best knife. Here’s the best whatever.” Those are all the different tools and they can figure out what’s going to work best for them.
I agree with you that most people know what’s good for them. Most people have the wisdom to understand what they need to do. Somehow they get all motivated. They have all these tools but have a tough time making that first step. It’s having somebody like you there as an example because you went through all this. Also, bring out with your blog all the other people who’ve gone through a similar change.
The time with all of you reading, you all know what we’re talking about. If you only got two hours of sleep, I doubt that you’re going to want to go to the gym and work out because you don’t have the energy level to even think straight. You don’t work out and the next day, it’s the same thing. It becomes a vicious cycle. At some point, that cycle has to stop.
I always ask people, “What would you do with your time if you find out that you don’t ever have to worry about money again?” It’s a good place to start about how you would be free. The money issue is such a big issue where people are like, “How do I pay my bills? I need to pay my bills so I need to put off all these things that I need to do.” Start now because your mind and body health can never wait. It needs to be healthy pretty quick before any other thing can change.
If you convinced yourself that, “You’re not just an entrepreneur. You’re going to be a great leader in a corporate world or maybe in a nonprofit,” that’s fine but you still need to be the best leader you can be because you’re still impacting people every day. You can’t be that best leader unless you’re your best self.
Between Mike’s two books, What Is Your Calling, Coach’s Plan and his podcast Fueled by Impact, at least make that small change. I’m not asking and I’m sure you’re not, to make a huge change because it’s all those little changes that add up to the big thing. Any other words of wisdom you might want to impart before we end the show?
For me, the place that I would always want to bring it back to is everything that you are doing, the deepest why behind that, always comes back to either a sense of happiness, contentment or fulfillment that you’re seeking or a sense of contribution and having a positive impact on the other people in your life. Sometimes it’s helpful to take a moment and step back. “Why am I doing this? Why am I leading things this certain way?” The big questions as well are the smaller ones. Remind yourself is there a more direct route to those things?
To me, we’ve only got this one life. This global pandemic has shined a light on it for people that, “If not now, when? Am I living my life in a way that is both bringing the greatest sense of joy, love and fulfillment for me personally, as well as for the people who I touch, help serve or have an impact on in the world?”
How do people reach you other than buying the books and listening to your podcast?
The best place to go is MikeKav.com. That will route you anywhere. I got the books on there, the podcast, the online course, Self-Mastery for Leaders that I have as well as even the corporate work that I do and more of the business and strategy side of things. You can find anything that I do through that website.
Thank you so much, Mike, for coming in and sharing your wisdom and time. That’s very generous of you. Until next time. Please be happy and healthy. Remember, happiness is a choice. I hope you make great choices. Thank you.
About Mike Kavanagh
Mike Kavanagh is a #1 Amazon best-selling author, speaker, entrepreneur, and consultant in the areas of personal development, leadership, performance, and well-being. Mike has served as a trusted advisor to C-level execs of some of the world’s most recognizable names in business, he has led large organizations himself, and he has coached high-performers in mental training, meditation, fitness, and personal well-being. For more, visit www.mikekav.com.