Interview With Tasha Eurich + Exclusive Book Excerpt

Dr. Tasha Eurich is an organizational psychologist, researcher, and New York Times best-selling author. She writes about psychology and the workplace, and her life’s work is to help leaders become more self-aware and successful. Dr. Eurich has contributed to Entrepreneur, the Huffington Post, Quartz, TED.com, and CNBC.com, and her work has been featured in The Guardian, Business Insider, Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, and New York Magazine. She has been named a “Top 100 Thought Leader” by Trust Across America and a “Leader to Watch” by the American Management Association. Her 2014 TEDx Mile High talk has been viewed more than 1 million times. Be sure to check out her newest publication, Insight: Why We’re Not as Self-Aware as We Think, and How Seeing Ourselves Clearly Helps Us Succeed at Work and in Life!

What 3 things or experiences bring you the greatest sense of fulfillment in life?

  • My loved ones: my husband, my two poodles, my parents, my sisters, my dearest friends.
  • My research and writing: to paraphrase Steve Jobs, they help me make a dent in the universe.
  • My non-work passions, theater and traveling, help me appreciate the human experience and the beauty of the world.

What are the small things you do every day to be happy/fulfilled?

I try to stay connected to the people who are most important to me. Even if I’m on the road (which I am a lot), it might be as small as a quick text exchange.

Since my job is so extraverted (and I’m an introvert), I also give myself permission to relax and recharge at home when I can—in my 20s, I used to pressure myself to be constantly “on,” and it was just exhausting!

People often find they don’t have enough time. How do you make time for those things that you don’t have enough time for?

Everyone has the same number of hours in the day—world leaders, working parents, road warriors, and everyone else. I think that saying “I’m too busy” is often code for “that’s just not important to me.” So, I try to structure my world around my most important things and not try to do everything or be everything.

What health habits do you stick to no matter what?

If I don’t run or work out 3-5 times a week, I’m much less pleasant to be around! It also feels great.

As a lifelong insomniac, I’m also a stickler for sleep. I always make time for 7-8 hours, no matter where I am.

What’s your best relationship tip?  

Empathy and perspective-taking won’t just enrich our relationships—they can save the world.

You seem to balance both happiness and success. What’s your secret to being happy and productive?

Honestly, I’m not sure I have this figured out yet. As a hyper Type A overachiever,  my natural urge is to define my happiness by my achievements. So being happy, for me, is the constant process of remembering that I—and my life—are about far more important things than what I accomplish.

What – in your opinion – is the best way to spread happiness and fulfillment to others?

Be kind, give generously, and show gratitude.

What is a quote you live by?

Goethe: “Whatever you do or dream, you can begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”

An exclusive excerpt from Tasha Eurich’s newest publication, Insight: Why We’re Not as Self-Aware as We Think, and How Seeing Ourselves Clearly Helps Us Succeed at Work and in Life:

It was almost exam time at the Government Secondary School in Chibok, Nigeria, and 276 girls were deep in hard-earned sleep. In the early hours of April 14, 2014, their peace was suddenly shattered by a group of men bursting into the darkness of their dormitory. The men reassured the panicking and confused girls, “We’re security guards. We’re here to assist you.”

Once the now-terrified students had left the safety of their dorm, they were loaded onto trucks at gunpoint and driven to a fortified camp in the Sambisa Forest. The men were, in fact, members of the Nigerian terrorist organization Boko Haram. Though at the time I’m writing this, 57 of the girls managed to escape, and 23 have been released or rescued, it’s hard to say whether the remaining 196 will ever be found. And though this story received worldwide attention, what isn’t widely known is that the Nigerian military had four hours’ warning about the attack. They also knew exactly where the girls were being held. And yet they did nothing.

Far from the Sambisa Forest, a manager at a Nigerian oil and gas company was in New York City when she heard the news. Initially, she dismissed it as impossible. But 34-year-old Florence Ozor soon realized that it was tragically and unacceptably real. She had to do something—but what?

Florence had always felt most comfortable at home with her nose in a book. She wasn’t outgoing and had always intentionally stayed under the radar, both at work and in her community. And as someone who kept her head down to avoid being labeled self-promoting or arrogant, Florence certainly wasn’t someone you’d expect to see on the front lines of the war on terror. But in a divine act of timing, she’d recently had a profound insight that would alter the course of her entire life. If self-awareness is a journey, insights are the “aha” moments along the way. They’re the fuel powering the souped-up sports car on the highway of self-awareness: with them, we can step on the gas pedal; without them, we’re stranded on the side of the road.

And Florence was about to hit the gas. Just days before the Chibok girls were abducted, she was in Washington, D.C., attending an orien­tation for a coveted four-week mentoring program put on by Fortune magazine and the U.S. State Department. One morning, Florence was sitting in a breakout session on engaging the media to create social change that was making her pretty uncomfortable. To her, the session’s call to action seemed to be to hang out a neon sign for the media that said, “Look at me!” She’d always stood for justice, but not publicly—Florence was more inclined to fight these battles in small circles. As an introvert, she feared that stepping onto the world stage would let too many people into her space, and the inevitable result would be a loss of privacy and control.

But shortly after the session ended and Florence returned to her hotel room, a dam suddenly burst inside her. Her desire for privacy, she realized, was nothing compared to the changes she wanted to effect in the world. And the day the Chibok girls were abducted, this resolve profoundly deepened. She made an instinctive and instantaneous decision: no matter what the risk, no matter what she’d have to give up, it was a moral imperative to take a stand to bring the girls home. Never again will I run away from something just because I’m scared of the spot­light, she vowed; I’ve always been a fighter—why not let the world know it? That is who I really am.

By the time Florence had returned home from New York, the #BringBackOurGirls movement had begun to sweep the world. But her government was still doing nothing. Around that time, a remark­able woman named Hadiza Bala Usman organized a group to demand a response from both the international community and the Nigerian government. Armed with the newfound insight that she was capable of creating a wide social impact, Florence joined the group’s first protest in the capital city of Abuja. They gathered in the pouring rain near the city’s Unity Fountain, an enormous cement monument with a cas­cade of water soaring many stories into the sky. Holding the protest here wasn’t just a signal of their intent—unity—they also needed to be close to the country’s national assembly.

The protesters would continue to gather there every day until their message was heard. In the process, they faced intimidation and harass­ment by hired thugs who chased them with sticks, stole their phones and cameras, and even broke chairs over their backs, all while indiffer­ent police and public servants looked on. But nothing has diminished their will. Florence and her compatriots will continue to demand ac­tion until the girls are safely home.

People tell Florence all the time how surprised they are that she stepped out of her small circle and into public life. Initially, she says, she even surprised herself, but she came to realize that this resolve wasn’t entirely new—it just hadn’t been brought out this powerfully before.

And since that time, her growing notoriety (both online and offline) has allowed her to make a deeper and more profound mark on her country, her continent, and her world. Through her newly formed Flor­ence Ozor Foundation, for example, Florence and her team are focused on creating opportunities, inspiring success, and fostering prosperity on the African continent. In 2014, they spearheaded a civic, non-partisan initiative to educate and engage Nigerian citizens in the elec­toral process. They began a far-reaching media campaign that shaped the conversation and ensured that Nigerians knew where (and why) to vote. When the election was postponed, they partnered with organizations to organize protest marches, making the emphatic statement that the Nigerian people would not accept any more postponements. And it was thanks in large part to their efforts that, in spite of the unprec­edented threat of terrorism and violence, nearly 30 million Nigerians turned out for the presidential election on March 28, 2015.

Florence’s remarkable commitment to self-awareness has helped her make choices in service of her long-term success and happiness. It’s helped her realize the impact she can have on the world. It’s helped her find her life’s calling. And with each passing day since the pivotal insight that steered her in a new direction, she has found that the more people she reaches, the bigger the difference she can make. (Incidentally, as someone who knows Florence well, I have absolutely no doubt that she will accomplish her greater vision, perhaps, as I often tell her, as the first female president of Nigeria.)

But what’s just as remarkable about Florence is that this particular insight was just one among many others. That’s the thing about the highly self-aware—they know that self-awareness isn’t a one-and-done exercise. It’s a continual process of looking inward, questioning, and dis­covering the things that have been there all along. Florence Ozor is a study of the transformative power of self-awareness.

Excerpted with permission from the new book Insight: Why We’re Not as Self-Aware as We Think and How Seeing Ourselves Clearly Helps Us Succeed at Work and in Life by Tasha Eurich, published by Crown Business, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York. Copyright © 2017 Tasha Eurich.

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