People First! John Strelecky, "Discover Your Big 5 for Life"

Morag and John Strelecky discuss discovering you Big 5 for Life!

Welcome to SkyeTeam's People First! In this series, we explore the people side of successful business and careers. We all have a story to share, a leadership journey that we are experiencing.

We'll be interviewing authors, business leaders, thought leaders, and people like you to uncover the latest ideas, resources, and tools to help you become more effective at work - and in life. As it turns out, the secret is cultivating winning relationships. Business is personal, and relationships matter!

So, sit back, and grab a coffee as Morag and John Strelecky discuss discovering you Big 5 for Life!

Chapter Layout:
0:00 - Open
0:54 - What Did You Want to Be When You Grew Up?
2:47 - Inspiration
4:33 - Storyteller
6:18 - Big 5
10:08 - Museum Day
12:07 - Core Essence
15:10 - Practical Tips
18:27 - Patagonia
21:28 - One Thing
24:29 - Connect
25:12 - Wrap

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Morag's Article:

- [INTRO] Welcome to SkyeTeam's People First with Morag Barrett.

- My guest this week is my friend and fellow member of the Marshall Goldsmith 100 Coaches, John Strelecky. And John is the number one best-selling author of The Cafe on the Edge of the World, strongly recommended. As well as The Big Five For Life series of books. His books have been translated into more than 42 languages, sold more than 6 million copies worldwide. So I'm looking into tap into that expertise too, but John, welcome to People First.

- Thank you so much. It's great to spend time with you as always.

- Well, People First is all about the leadership journeys that we are on. And I'm curious, I want to go back to the beginning in your origin story. So when you were a wee lad before you'd sold 6 million copies of your books, et cetera. When the teacher said to you now, John pay attention what do you want to be when you grow up? What was your answer?

- Sadly for me is, I don't know.

- You sound like my 19 year old. I don't know.

- Really didn't know. I wasn't called in a particular direction. I didn't have a particular leaning. I ended up embarking on a career to be a pilot because the only thing I knew that was sort of inside of my DNA was that I wanted to go travel the world. I want it to be an adventure and I wanted a lot of time off. And honestly, Morag, the only industry I knew that enabled you to do that was if you were a pilot, because I heard that you could schedule your flight schedule where you'd work five days on and then have 10 days off and then five days on. So that was my whole dream was to do that. But very misguided for all the wrong reasons.

- Well, it's interesting 'cause when I go back to being a wee girl, one of my career aspirations and there were many was to be a long distance truck driver. Again, I thought in my youth that you'd get to see the world, I would see from the cab. Now, there's an element of truth in that. But once we get wiser, we realize that there perhaps isn't the amount of flexibility that you would expect as a pilot. So do you fly, do you have a pilot's license?

- Oh yeah, no, I did everything actually. I embarked on that adventure and was on track to be the youngest captain in the history of one of the major airlines here in the United States and then I had it all taken away from me because of a previously undiagnosed medical condition. So yeah, I invested my life savings. I invested countless years and then I had it yanked out from underneath me now in retrospect, thank goodness. 'Cause it ended up perfect.

- Let's talk about The Big Five For Life 'cause I have gone through a process that taps into the context of the book. So let's just start with the inspiration for The Big Five For Life.

- So I'd written The Cafe on the Edge of the World and was interestingly enough getting feedback from leaders saying that they were distributing it to their employees. And that really shocked me because that particular book has nothing to do with business at all. It's very much about the core essence of life asking the question, why are you here? And that really surprised me because the book was successful and doing well. And I was thinking about what else do I feel called to write? And I got into my head, the idea that wow, we spend such an inordinate amount of time at work thinking about work, getting to work it's about 70% of our awake life, Monday through Friday. And so I thought to myself if I'm going to make my best effort at trying to make a difference in the world then if I can inspire people to think about work differently and leadership differently then that might be my best effort. And I think at this point I can't remember how many years I'd been into this but I was doing some speaking, people were asking me to come and share things on stage. And honestly, Morag, I realized, . I was like, if I'm the only one talking about this there is a big limit to how much I will be able to share the concepts and ideas. But if I can inspire a leader who is in charge of 10,000, 20,000, 5,000, whatever the number is and they are sort of sharing this concepts and ideas and imbuing their cultures with it, there's kind of no limit. And so that was the genesis of it. And then I asked myself a very simple question which is, who would be the greatest leader in the world and what would that look like in the context of the type of stories that I like to write? And that was the real starting point.

- So have you always been a natural storyteller? 'Cause that's the thing that struck me about both of the books, is that they are parable based. And that to me is an amazing skill to have. So again, have you always been a storyteller?

- Yeah, I'll tell you what, I'm not sure I've always been a storyteller but I've always been a story learner. When I was in school going back to your question about the wee version of myself. I struggled to get through the non-fiction parts of textbooks and then there would always be the purple page. It was after like 10 pages of stuff then you'd get a purple page and the purple page would be a story. And the story would explain what the 10 pages were trying to convey. Honestly, I would not have made it through school were it not for the purple pages. And I'm the same way now, honestly I have a very hard time getting through non-fiction material but I can get engaged in a story for hours and hours and hours. It's just the way that my brain is wired for whatever reason. The first book, the Cafe book really flowed through me, but it flowed through me in a story format. And when I thought about The Big Five For Life, why is it that people love stories? And I think why is it that they're so engaged with stories? And I think it, because it doesn't feel like I'm learning it just feels like I'm being entertained. And so I wanted this book to be inspiring, entertaining and oh, by the way, there's some pretty powerful life wisdom if you sort of look under the covers of it.

- Oh, there is indeed. And I've been through my own epiphanies because of that process. So I know at the beginning of the book we actually start with an end the traditional change curve, but we're actually looking at the death of this leader and the museum of life. So tell us about that part, that anchors the story. And then the big five, what do you mean by the big five?

- I think that in general and in certainly this year has been an extraordinary year in terms of bringing to our awareness. The fact that this life experience is such a gift and it's not something to be taken for granted and it's not going to last forever. We know these things on an unconscious level, but in general, it's not something in a normal world that we're thinking about day in, day out. And I don't know why, Morag, but I've been aware of this since I was a kid. I just, have been very aware of my mortality. And what struck me when I was working as a consultant for many many years when I was sort of in the midst of the corporate worlds was this was sort of lost on people. I would see people that were much farther along in their career that were unhappy and yet still digging into the grind in the same way they had done it five years, 10 years ago. And their plan was to keep doing it for 10 more years. And I just couldn't understand it. And I realized that I was wired a little different but this idea of mortality was something that I wanted to bring to the forefront of the story. And so you're right on page one, where you learn that this character that we're going to get to know is dying. And then over the 240 pages we come to love this character and love everything he stands for and the choices that he's made and the way that he treats his people and his leadership style and the practices. And then he dies and it's heart wrenching for me. I wrote the story. I've edited it. I can't tell you how many times during the editing process but when I go through and I read it, I cry every single time. It's funny cause I've had so many leaders over the years, including probably one of my favorites that sort of fall into this category as I was doing some gigs for the FBI. And I had some FBI agents pulled me to the side at the start, when I showed up and they're like, "Hey man I just want to let you know, like I cried at the end of that book." I was like, well, I hope so. 'Cause that was the intention was to make it powerful enough that the story really connected on a deep cellular level because-

- I love that it's the intention, but it's all about living our lives intentionally. As I think about it in my own epiphany, I wrote a LinkedIn post, we'll connect it to the show notes, about the fact that I took pride as I suddenly realized a life half lived versus a life fully embraced for all its highs and lows. And that was the tipping point for me. It's amazing, it's powerful.

- Thank you. I just want to jump in for everybody who's listening, watching this, et cetera that you should go read that LinkedIn post because it's brilliantly written, it's wonderfully raw and funny and charismatic and just sheds a light the way that we all have these moments where we suddenly realize life is a little different than we thought 10 minutes earlier. It's just like an epiphany hits us. And then suddenly we see the same picture but we see something different in it. And you asked me how I came up with the idea of museum day. And it was a moment just like that morning. I was walking through this tiny little museum in a place called Winter Garden, Florida. And it's just a tiny little two room museum. But I was looking at these pictures of people from the 1920s. And I realized everybody in these pictures is probably dead. And it was like their high school pictures and prom and the early start of their 20's. And this thought hit me which has been this guiding presence for museum day, which was, I wonder if they did it. Like I had that moment. When you see that picture, what were they dreaming about? Were they thinking like I want to get on a tramp steamer and travel the world or I want to get in the truck and be a truck driver so I can see the whole country or whatever. But were they thinking, oh, I really hope that I can ask that young lady out or, oh gosh I hope that guy asks me to prom or whatever. But they were thinking something in that moment. And I wondered, did they do it? Because now their life is over and what was it like at the very end when they were looking back? And so that was the genesis of this idea called museum day. And then it sort of grew from there where it's about looking at our life and saying what if every moment of our life was cataloged and recorded. And then what if at the end of our life a museum was built to honor us except that it showed our life exactly how we lived it. If we didn't like our job, but we dedicated our life to that job, then that would be the majority of our museum. If we loved spending time with our friends or family but we only spent a little bit of time then only a little bit of our museum would be dedicated towards that. And then the big, what if is, well, wait what if the afterlife or however we perceive this thing actually consists of us being the tour guide for our own museum for all of eternity. And when that idea came to me it was a dramatic shift and I've had it so many times where readers come back and they say, wow, that is something that has just rocked my world and I think will continue to rock my world forever. And I love that because that's the goal that's I think the purpose of life is for each of us to have these epiphanies and share them with each other. And then we collectively grow.

- The thing came home for me though, is that it is the individual life. 'Cause as we're often raised it's to fit into the mold of what's gone before. And when we're in a period of rapid change and what this does is it allows one to anchor ourselves around those big five. So there's a lot of noise and stuff and things we could do but what are the big five that I want to do? And it doesn't have to be the big five absolutes 'cause once I've done them, then I can replace them with something else. But it avoids the, oh, if only, I wish I'd.... In that museum moment now is the time to prioritize and then plan for how do you make it happen?

- And I'll tell you something. You're referencing the core essence of The Big Five For Life, which is if were to put just a temporary pause and give ourselves an hour of contemplative thought in the midst of all the chaos that is going on around us, no phones, no distractions just us in our thoughts and our dreams and wishes. And we were to say, "What are the five things that I'm most want to do, see or experienced with my time left on this planet?" No matter what your starting point is whether you're five years old or 50, 85 but from this moment, wherever you're at what are those five things that you most want to do so your experience. And then rallying our resources, our time, our energy, our financial resources and dedicating them to those five things. So that, as you said, when we get to the end we can look back and say, you know what? I lived this life in the way that I wanted to live it. My life is a success by my own definition of success. I filled my museum with things that are special to me and I've realized something in the last year or so, Morag, which is really powerful as it relates to this. My parents are 79 years old and my father has been in the hospital for the last three weeks. I haven't seen him since before Christmas. What I realized is that when you are in those last phases of life, right, whether it's a year or two years or whatever, when you can't move like you used to be able to move, when you can't think and do like used to be able to think and do, what do we have left? We have our memories. We have those highlight moments from the museum. And if you have those and you can talk about them with someone else like you get to record another round in the museum. Because you're reliving the joy. But if you didn't fill your museum with those moments then when you get to these last phases, you have nothing. And that's just horrible. That vision is something that propels me to do as many interviews as I can. To try and share the concepts as much as I can. Because I think that would be a travesty to get to the very end and not even have like fun stories to tell and great memories to share either in your own head or with somebody else.

- It's funny I rediscovered a list that I wrote when I first started SkyeTeam probably 14 years ago. And this list was important enough for me to hang on to it in a drawer, but not necessarily important enough for me to actually do anything overt with it. And I just pulled it up. 'Cause it's now saved on my desktop. And number one on the list was a hot air balloon ride which I did have booked for last year. And then it's now been postponed, pending being able to get into a small basket of strangers. Safari, see my boys grow up successful, check. And there are a number of different things on here. But as I've rediscovered the list, I found that I have in the last three to four years made significant progress. So what I love about this is, it is an iterative approach but it is about being mindful and intentional. So that you don't rediscover the 14 year old list but you're a work in progress and you're checking them off as you go along.

- And let me give some tactical practical tips that I've learned over the years. We are such habit based creatures as humans. And so whether it's eating ice cream after every dinner becomes a habit or whether it is going for a walk after dinner becomes a habit. We just become habitual in the way that we approach things. And the choice is are we going to have habitual habits and behaviors that are supportive of the life that we want to live and the museum we want to create or not? And so let me give you some that I've found really useful as it relates to people living their big five for life. Number one is of course, know your big five for life. This goes to the idea of your list. So taking the time to figure out what are these five things for me and there's lots of resources to help you with that. You can certainly do it on your own. I backpacked around the world for a year. And when I was in my thirties that made it very clear for me. Everybody's got their, as you said at the start of our talk, everybody's got their own method and process that works for their personality. But know that the resources are there to help you make that discovery. Once you know it, then it's about allowing yourself to make just slow and steady progress in a time like this. And here is a foolproof method for that. At the end of the day, before you go to sleep have a little note pad by your bed and this is your big five for life notebook. And in that notebook every day you're going to write something that you did. That was part of your big five for life.

- My new habit this year is my little notebook where I write a few things. I'll flash it open .

- Fantastic, that is perfect. And the more personality it can have the better. So I love that yours got so much personality.

- Oh yeah, unicorn. Whether that is someone who says, "Here ae my big five for life and I'm going to take a picture and glue it onto the front of the notebook." Here's where it becomes a can't-miss. In addition to that notebook, I would encourage everyone to get a book related to one of their big five for life. So if one of your dreams is to go to Africa and go on a safari, like you mentioned and get a copy of Lonely Planet, South Africa or Kenya or whatever country that you want to visit or a book about safaris, whatever, but get a book about it and have that by your nightstand as well. And at the end of the night when you open up your big five for life notebook and you're about to write what you did today that was related to your big five for life. 'Cause this is going to be a good little adrenaline boost for your system. If there's nothing in there and you look at your day and like, wow, I really did nothing today. Then you pick up the other book and you read it for five minutes, then you put it down. You open back up the notebook and write, I read about Africa for five minutes. It is foolproof. You cannot miss with this, because this is the thing with behaviors and habits as humans, we're very self-condemning. If you go a day without exercising, and you told yourself you're going to exercise every day it's almost like it makes you even less motivated to do it the next day. 'Cause you already failed. This is a fool-proof fail-proof methodology to keep you wired up and connected. And the thing is, if it's really a book about one of your big five for life, you're never going to read it for five minutes. You're going to be at least six or seven minutes. And read more every night. It's just that it's a complete win.

- It is. And I love that 'cause it's baby steps. For example, when we're allowed to travel again, I saw a photo of Mount Fitz Roy. It's in Patagonia. And there's this road that just goes straight down. And then this most jagged of tooth like mountains that is just stunning. I'm going there. And every time I look at it, every time somebody asks that's where I'm going, I'm going to Patagonia once we're allowed to travel again. And you can get immersed in the experience. I just feel the endorphins, just thinking about it for when I get to do it.

- I hear your excitement as you talk about it, I see it in your face. And that you're a hundred percent right. That the joy of the adventure doesn't just start when you hit Patagonia. And this is one of the things I've been thinking about a lot in the context of all that's going on right now. But if you can't launch then prepare for launch. And preparation for launch can be every bit as productive, empowering, inspiring as the launch moment itself. 'Cause if the only thing we celebrate is the experience then we really missed out. I'll share a quick story with you about this as it relates to me and my life. I had a dream of making it as a professional beach volleyball player. And for years I played and did very well in two men's sand beach volleyball. But I was always about the championship. That was the only thing I cared about was winning a championship. And so for me, everything else was just a grind and it was just a step all on the way to get to the championship. And I'll never forget it. I was in the finals with the volleyball partner I'd played with for five or six years. And we were in this absolute battle for the championship. And the very last point I make a dig. He sets the ball. I come up, I spike it. We are now the champions. I mean, this is everything I have been working for... I used to live on the 26th floor. So during the winter time I would run up and down 26 flights of school to get myself in shape. So this has been thousands of hours of training for this moment. And the ball hits the sand. We are the champions. We high five, we hug each other, and Morag I like want to stop time in that moment because I've worked so hard to get there. Except we hug, we high five. And then people are talking about where are we going for dinner? And you guys want to go to a bar somewhere, celebrate a little bit. And then when's the next tournament is that next weekend or the weekend. And I just couldn't believe it. Everything that I had invested so much for was now gone like that. And it changed my life. That day changed my life. And I realized it was not just about the win. It is not just about the end of the trip in Patagonia. It's about every moment that gets me from the start of the dream, to the realization of the dream. It's the laughter laughing with my friends about the dream afterwards. It's the conversations leading up to the dream. If we do it that way, like man oh man, you fill that segment of the museum with so many special moments not just the photo of Patagonia, or the photo of the championship.

- I just want to for those listening and watching this, I encourage you share one thing, one thing that's on your big five list. Perhaps put it in the comments below here but share it with the people around you. 'Cause the other thing that's become clearer to me in the same way as I like helping others reach their goal. I also have to let people into achieve mine. And you introduced a new word. What was it? Selfless, selfish. No, it wasn't that. You made up a new word. What was the new word?

- Selflessishnish. It's not easily pronounced the word but the concept is important because yeah. And so why do we help people? I'll break this down into the simplest of things. Why do we help people? And at the core essence of it. We help them because it makes us feel good. And so for those of us who love helping other people often one of the biggest things is to allow others to help us. Everybody's got their own reason for that. And nonetheless, at the end of the day we help people because we like the way it makes us feel. It makes us feel good. And therefore, if we don't allow others to help us we are being selfish, we're not allowing them to feel good. And that's just selfish and that's such an aha moment. It was an aha moment for me when I realized it for my own behavioral patterns. And that enabled me to have a dramatic shift where I suddenly got more comfortable with enabling people to help me because I realized, well they liked doing that. It makes them feel good. And they really like to do it when it's something that they're excited about or passionate about. When you tell someone about Patagonia and they've been to Patagonia and loved it they can't wait to sit and talk to you. They can't wait to map out your itinerary for you for some reason. So many of us grew up in an environment where we think that we don't want to give somebody else an obligation. No, no, no, thanks. It's okay. Everything's okay. I'm good. I got it. That's just not allowing other people to have the joy of sharing, and your tip is so on-point, how many times, let me just break this down to it was like a very visual example. 'Cause that's the way my brain thinks, which is, so let's say you are getting together with a group of four friends and you get together every month and so in the previous month you sort of all connect and you talk about like what you're doing, what you're up to all the rest of that. When you get together the next month, the default conversation for people is whatever you told them you were doing or thinking about last month like that's what sticks in our unconscious mind. If the month prior you said, "My dream is to go to Patagonia." And here's the things I'm thinking about. You know, what's the very first question, Morag? They're going to ask you when they see you a month later.

- Have you booked your ticket yet?

- Yeah, in that month gap between when they saw you and when they're going to see you next time if they happened to come across a fascinating article about Patagonia, well now they can send it to you. But if we never have the conversation about these big five for life items, we miss tremendous opportunities to have other people out there sending us cool stuff and making connections for us and just being excited for us.

- So, John, I've really valued this conversation. How can people make a connection with you, learn more about your speaking, obviously the books, and the work that you're doing in the world.

- Yes, I'm available on all social media platforms. And we do our very best to put out inspirational content in short little bites, you were talking about sampling. If you've enjoyed this conversation and you'd like to keep connected in terms of inspirational stuff follow us, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and the rest of that. You can also certainly reach me through my website which is So my and yeah, you know I love to do this kind of stuff. I love interesting conversations with interesting people. So thank you so much for allowing us to spend this time on camera.

- My pleasure, so John Strelecky, author, prolific storyteller. Thank you for sharing some of your big five for life insights with me today.

- Thank you.

- [Narrator] Thank you so much for joining Morag today. If you enjoyed the show, please like, and subscribe. So you don't miss a thing. If you learn something worth sharing, share it. Cultivate your relationships today when you don't need anything before you need something be sure to follow SkyeTeam and Morag on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If you have any ideas about topics we should tackle, interviews we should do, or if you yourself would like to be on the show drop us a line at that's S-K-Y-E Thanks again for joining us today. And remember business is personal and relationships matter. We are your allies.

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