How can we get to the next level? What must be happening for us to get to the next level? Do we need a next level? Are we being the best version of ourselves? Are we conscious leaders? What’s the difference between a coach, a mentor and an expert?
Carlos Muñoz: Estamos en “Aún No Eres Quien vas a Llegar a Ser”, ahora versión Chicago con Raff Louis Vitón. Bienvenido Raff al programa.
Carlos Muñoz: Raff, it’s such amazing to be here in Chicago, your hometown. I want to ask you first. You are working right now a lot with leaders in terms of working in both innovation leadership and both developing their mindset as leaders. What do you think are the main setbacks that people have, that cannot … that sort of slow them down as a leader? I’d like you to speak about two or three, so we can get that train because I have a lot of people that want to be that CEO, they want to be that entrepreneur, but they’re not getting there. Usually it’s connected to that bit there. They’re still not the leader that they should become, right? What are the setbacks?
Raff Vitón: All of us, we’re somewhat trapped by our current success form. The people you work with are successful entrepreneurs in their own right, right, but they’re at a current level, and they want to get to that next level. But just like them, we get caught in our current level success formula, because it works so well.
Carlos Muñoz: It works so well at that point, right?
Raff Vitón: Yeah. It got us there, we’re comfortable with it. We know it works so we hang onto it really tight. Then what happens while we’re hanging onto it really tight, we miss seeing how it’s limiting us from getting to that next level. In most cases, it is our tight grip on it is what keeps us from getting to that next level. It blinds us to the things that could really be helping us. It blinds us to the things that are holding us back, so the setbacks are really our blind spots and our, I call it, our unsober mind.
Raff Vitón: I like to equate the blind spots and the biases that we have in our heads as being more dangerous than when we’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or something like that, because when we’re under the influence of those narcotics, alcohol, whatever it is, we know we’re under the influence. When we’re caught and trapped by our bias and blind spots, we don’t even know that we’re trapped. So when you say what’s the setback, the thing that holds us back is our own attachment to what has worked so well. All of us, right, leaders, wherever we are at our stage in life or our company or our relationships with our spouses, whatever it might be, we’re at that current level, pursuing a next level, if we believe there’s a next level. If we’re happy, we don’t grow, we don’t transform, but if we’re aspiring towards something better-
Carlos Muñoz: Not everybody knows there’s a next level, right? Not everybody wants the next level. That’s something that triggers me. I was talking about this fear I have, if my kids don’t have the drive that I have. You think there are different types of people, where some have a next level and some don’t? How do you feel about that?
Raff Vitón: Their version of next level might not match the version of next level for your kids. It’s situational. It’s a moment in time. They might not have a next level right now. It might take five more years before they go, “I want something else. This might be great.” So here’s a question. Why would you need a next level? Why would anybody need a next level?
Carlos Muñoz: For me, it’s because I think growth is happiness, but that’s me. I might be misinterpreting.
Raff Vitón: So lack of growth is what? Unhappiness, yeah, so there has to be some level of dissatisfaction with the current level.
Carlos Muñoz: Okay.
Raff Vitón: Otherwise you don’t pursue next level, so you have to be dissatisfied with something. If you’re getting all the best results, if I have everything I could ever want, then I’m happy. Why should I search for next level, right? But that’s awareness, too. If you don’t have awareness of am I happy or not, am I asleep and I’m just going through life, and nobody shakes me and wakes me up, or I don’t have a midlife crisis, I don’t have a near death experience, I don’t get sick, I don’t grow old, I don’t have some life stage that wakes me up to go, “Oh my gosh, what am I doing with my life?”
Carlos Muñoz: You can just stay there, and stay there.
Raff Vitón: Right, so awareness and a sense of dissatisfaction, which is energy for maybe wanting to do something different.
Carlos Muñoz: …and they’re looking at a company that’s public, does $100 million or whatever, and I’m telling them that’s not your next step. That’s step number 10 if you can get the other eight right, which is extremely difficult, right? Why do people tend to do that? Why would you go do five more steps when you haven’t even done one?
Raff Vitón: So there’s the expression that practice makes perfect, and there’s … What’s the rule that Malcolm Gladwell made so popular?
Carlos Muñoz: 10,000 hours?
Raff Vitón: Yeah, 10,000 hours, so it’s a bit of a misuse of the data that came out of the honors Erickson’s peak research and whatnot. I don’t know if this is answering your question or not, but the idea of well, how do I get there, right? Well, isn’t there a shortcut? Can I hack the system?
Carlos Muñoz: Right.
Raff Vitón: Can I just be-
Carlos Muñoz: The $100 million guy?
Raff Vitón: Yeah. Can I be that right away? Well, what would it take to get there? What attributes do you need? What successes do you need, have to have? What are the disciplines, practices, things that the … Let’s use an athlete. The Olympic gold medal athlete does something to get to be a gold medal athlete. They don’t just wake up and go, “You know, I’ve never tried pole vaulting. Let me go for the gold next week,” right? Or let me try just on the weekends every once in a while.
Raff Vitón: The same goes for us in business and in leadership, right? In most cases, the people you and I work with, they have thousands of hours of leadership already to get to where they’re at, to be successful enough to be paying you or I, to say help me get to the next level. They’ve got 10,000 hours, but that next level is counterintuitive types of muscle practices, and different types of muscles to develop, the idea of there is no shortcut, right? There is a expert way to practice in order to take that capacity that you have. We all have this capacity for next level. We all have the capacity for gold medal performance of some sort, but until we do the right kind of practices to actually build the competency and the mastery, you don’t get there. You don’t have gold level or gold medal delivery until you do this work.
Raff Vitón: Often we don’t even know there’s an expert way to practice. We just think, well, let me just do it a lot more. Here’s a good example for you. It’s a good story. Want to hear a story?
Carlos Muñoz: Yeah.
Raff Vitón: Okay, so younger days I always … I was a shorter kid so I had a little chip on my shoulder. I had never really got tall, right? I used to hang around the basketball players. I used to tell the basketball players when I was 15 years old, “Hey, by the time we get done in high school, I’m going to jump up and touch that rim. I’m going to touch the rim before you do.” Nowadays everybody touches the rim, I know, but back then someone would jump and touch the rim. So I would all year long, I would practice jumping up on things. You would see Raff the jackrabbit jumping up on tables, on chairs for all high school. Senior year we’re about to graduate. What do you think? After four years, think about how many reps that is of jumping up. Do you think I could touch the rim?
Carlos Muñoz: Yeah, you could.
Raff Vitón: No, I couldn’t. I still couldn’t touch the rim, but it didn’t dissuade me. I was very persistent. I said, “By the time I get in college …” I went to college. I started hanging around the basketball players there. I said, “You watch. I’m going to hit my growth spurt. I’m going to grow still.” How old are you when you graduate college, 22? Whatever. “By the time I’m 22, I’m going to touch the rim. Maybe I’ll even dunk.” Jumped up on things for four more years, so now I’ve got eight years of jumping up on things. By the time I graduate college, do you think I can touch the rim?
Carlos Muñoz: It didn’t work it seems. Could you?
Raff Vitón: I appreciate the maybe. He gave me a little bit of a window there. No, I still couldn’t do it. It didn’t matter. I said, “By the time I’m 30, I’m going to touch the rim.” Jumping up on things. So now imagine, jumping up on things for 30 something years. I’m doing all the work. I’m working hard. I’m getting my reps in. There’s no lack of me trying, right? Will, discipline, whatever. I could do it. I turn 30. Did I touch the rim?
Carlos Muñoz: You did?
Raff Vitón: No. No, so here’s what I learned. It wasn’t until years later. I had given up on the goal of touching the rim. Usually I’m at one of Michael Jordan’s gyms down here in downtown Chicago, and we’re shooting now, just a bunch of guys having a pickup game. It turns out one of the guys is a professional basketball player, or retired professional basketball player, so I stopped him. I said, “Hey.” He’s shorter than me, and he’s slamming. I said, “How do you do it? I have been jumping up on things for 15, 20 years trying to get to the rim. How do you do it?” I said, “I haven’t been able to.”
Raff Vitón: He goes, “Well, that’s your problem right there.” He goes, “You’ve been jumping up on things. That’s not how you increase your vertical leap. You have to practice jumping down, not practice jumping up.”
Raff Vitón: That’s the face I made. I go, “Practice jumping down? What are you talking about?”
Raff Vitón: He goes, “If you want to improve your vertical leap, you don’t jump up on things. You have to climb up higher than you can jump because it’s a plyometrics type of a muscle building. You have to jump higher so that the resistance when you land is far greater than you can create on your own by jumping up. It’s a series of body weight ratio type of things.” He goes, “There is a way to practice if you want to improve your vertical; jumping down.” So I had to learn the expert way to practice. So my invitation to fellow leaders is you’ve been jumping up on things forever.
Carlos Muñoz: Wow, that’s an amazing.
Raff Vitón: And I have a tool box that can help you as an individual and as a team practice jumping down for a while, to try something different, to see if that helps you improve your vertical.
Carlos Muñoz: Now I love the story, Raff, and I love the idea. I usually invite a lot of people … I invite them always to have a mentor, somebody that can push them to their next step and I think when I see an entrepreneur that’s doing $1 million or 2, I can easily see what the trouble is, and with a little bit of a push I can multiply them easily.
Carlos Muñoz: Now the problem is when you’re at a certain point, you need a teacher that’s doing much more than that, and then it comes to a point where it’s hard to find that teacher. I would love to have more $100 million teachers, see what I mean? Because I believe that I’m missing something there that I can’t … I’ve read a lot and I’ve put in the work, and I still haven’t gotten to that point. I believe it’s simple.
Carlos Muñoz: The other day I was speaking with Grant Cardone. He says, “It’s easier to do $1 billion than to do $100 million, or something like that. Anyway, when you go to the specific house, it’s so difficult to find that teacher that’s on your next level. Now the question is, does the teacher have to be on the next step that you are, or do they just have to see the stairs? How do you think of these teachers that can help you get to the next stage?
Raff Vitón: Well, I think anybody who supports next level performance has visibility into what are the patterns of success that leaders need to embrace. I think there’s differences, obviously, as you know from a $10 million business, $100 million business, $1 million business. The difference is in, I think, leadership awareness and understanding complexity changes exponentially depending on whatever’s happening around it, and it’s always different. It’s always different because the leader is different one year to the next as well. I think having coaches, mentors, experts at unlocking and helping empower the leader to see things they can’t see is the key.
Carlos Muñoz: Coaches, mentors and experts. The three of them?
Raff Vitón: Yeah, because some coaches might not be experts at the business technical piece, right? Many technical experts are not the least bit aware of how to coach somebody around their blind spot, or around the thing that has them stuck, or how to invite them into seeing things differently, right? That’s very different. There’s a reason why, even though I’m trained as a coach in the Axialent Conscious Business Methodology, I don’t bill myself as a coach. A coach has a different energy than … Many times what I do is more of the advisor and the motivator. You said you want to do pushups. Let’s do pushups together and get stronger.
Carlos Muñoz: Now what would be the difference between a mentor and a coach? Because I get the difference between an expert and a coach.
Raff Vitón: I think a mentor shares … It’s an experienced share, and a helping see farther than this person can see. That’s what a mentor does. A coach asks the coachee the right question so that coachee can just see things very differently. It’s much more interrogative, and it’s about inquiry. A mentor is more advice than inquiry.
Carlos Muñoz: That’s amazing. Can the three things appear in just one person?
Raff Vitón: Sure, sure.
Carlos Muñoz: I believe I’m the three of them to some of the people I work with.
Raff Vitón: I think we all have those abilities, right? The idea is, again, like gold medal world-class performance. At a coach level, there are certifications that you earn to do that. Mentor level, there’s degrees of performance that you would have achieved to do that.
Carlos Muñoz: Your experience shows you how good of a…
Raff Vitón: Correct, credentializing you in certain ways, and that delivers on the expert positioning so that people will believe you, and have confidence in what you’re saying. There’s no question somebody could have all three. The tricky part, again, more tricky for me perhaps than for you, is to be deliberate in one of those mindsets, in one of those roles, whereas I might almost always just naturally have this energy of, “Come on, let’s do it! Let’s go!” You know?
Carlos Muñoz: You’ve been very insistent on the exercise part, and you’ve created a life for you that is amazing for me. You’re 50 and you look better than me. I’m 30 something. Why are you, and this is a couple of questions down that road, but why are you so focused on the sport part? How does that connect to that next level thinking?
Raff Vitón: Well, so I think you’re referring to kind of the physical dimension of life, right?
Carlos Muñoz: The physical, yeah.
Raff Vitón: We all have a physical dimension. We have a mental, emotional dimension. We have the vocational dimension, spiritual dimension.
Carlos Muñoz: Usually the physical dimension peaks at what, 30s, maybe 20 somethings? Like normal, but now it’s sort of people are keeping it longer, and it’s reconnecting stuff in their lives.
Raff Vitón: Yeah, I mean 50 is the new 30, or who knows what they say, but the idea of … I think we’ve learned a lot more, too, about how do we live healthier, and manage the aging process differently than before. I see pictures of 50 year olds who look like they’re 80. I have friends from school who I’m like, “Is that somebody’s grandfather? Oh my gosh, no. That’s my classmate.”
Carlos Muñoz: But give me your habits. How does your habit look so you can make it a habit?
Raff Vitón: It’s integral, right? How do I hold a holistic view of physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and work? How do I see how they all work together, and support each other? Not, “Well, I’ll be focused on my job for a while, and let my relationship with my family go to hell,” right? Some people do that. Some people, “Let me focus on my job, and I’ll let my relationship and my health suffer.”
Raff Vitón: The idea is no. Happiness was a big thing for you, right? How do I do them all? Why do I have to have a trade off? How do I get the best out of all of them? How do I design my life in a way that I can elevate all of them? Because they all work together. The healthier I am, the better I perform at work. The more aware I am of my emotional intelligence, my emotional mastery, the better I am at work, and the better I am in relationships. How do I see how they all work together? How do I design and prototype and experiment with a lifestyle that helps me actually manage them all? They’re not all managed equally, but the idea is how do I manage as many as I can optimally? You and I have to experiment with different ways to live our life, to build the regimen that isn’t unconscious. So I wake up really early. How early?
Carlos Muñoz: You work out at 5:00 a.m., or something like that.
Raff Vitón: Yeah, so my ritual … This is what I learned at a late age, and it has helped me kind of turn back the clock in terms of aging. I learned you have to have a disciplined morning ritual, and an evening ritual. So rituals, I have experimented to see what works. I wake up at 3:30 a.m.
Carlos Muñoz: 3:30 a.m.?
Raff Vitón: Well, the alarm is set for 3:30 a.m. but I typically wake up before. But people go, “Wow, that’s amazing! How do you do that? Don’t you need to sleep?” Yes, I need to sleep. I go to bed early. It’s not magic. I’m not skipping sleep. I go to bed early. People go, “Raff, you’re 51, almost 52. You’ve got a six pack like you’re 16 years old. How do you do it? What’s the secret? What’s your workout?”.
Raff Vitón: I go, “Don’t worry about the workout. Let me ask you a question. How much sleep are you getting?” Right? The first question they want to know is, what kind of exercises do I do? It doesn’t matter. Ask me about my sleep. I prioritize sleep. That’s how … I prioritize sleep. I go to bed. I try to go to bed at 7:30 p.m. I never get to bed at 7:30 p.m. I’ll get to bed closer to 8:30 p.m., maybe 9:00 p.m., right? If I’m asleep by 9:00 p.m., that’s good.
Raff Vitón: So you get up at 3:30 a.m. I get, that’s how many? That’s six and a half hours. That’s good! I can take a nap during the day, right? I’m not only getting three hours of sleep, so there’s nothing miraculous about my sleep. I just prioritize it, and the clock moves up a little bit. I don’t watch as much tv because I go to bed early. I don’t stay up late. If you want me to stay up to go out to dinner, and stay up until 11:00 at night or something, that’s like New Year’s Eve to me. I can do it every once in a while, but it’s going to ruin my morning routine. So anyway, so first, how do I do it? I prioritize sleep.
Carlos Muñoz: But that’s going to hurt your social life.
Raff Vitón: During the week? It changes the social life. When I am involved in social gatherings or whatever, I’m healthier, I’m younger, I’ve got more energy, I’m focused on what I think are important things to me. Nothing makes me happier than showing up to a social gathering.
Carlos Muñoz: This is actually funny for me, because I actually predicate that we’re sleeping too much, but that’s me again, right? I think it-
Raff Vitón: But this is a good conversation. What’s too much? Is six hours too much, or is 10 too much? I would say I don’t know what it is, what’s right for you. How is it helping you perform better? Is it helping you turn back the clock with aging? No? Okay. Do you wake up and have not enough sleep, so you can’t really think straight, you can’t do complex reasoning? You can’t control your emotional response to increased stress? Guess what? You’re not going to be a world-class leader if you’re under resourced when it comes to the stresses of work.
Carlos Muñoz: The energy.
Raff Vitón: Yeah, you’re going to fall short. So you want to be a world class leader that runs a company like Tesla or whatever else, and plows through the challenges of the world of today and everything else? You’d better be well resourced and healthy, and vibrant and inspiring. Can you do it when you’re unhealthy? No.
Carlos Muñoz: I want to wrap this. Thank you so much for your time, Raff, but I want to wrap up with, you’ve been working a lot in open innovation, connecting that to leadership. The question for me is somehow those two got disconnected at some point. Leadership became leadership and innovation became the research lab, something like that.
Carlos Muñoz: Now it seems to me that in literature right now, in business, they’re kind of reconnecting the two. It felt like innovation was supposed to be done in a different set of weird people, on a dark room or something. Now we’ve realized that innovation needs to come back to the C-suite, as I believe. Why did we get disconnected, and what are you doing to connect innovation with leadership?
Raff Vitón: Well, so that is my whole thesis, right? It’s around the idea of innovation and leadership, and how usually when I’m in the room, I’m not talking about management, which is the authority and seniority to get people to do things you want them to do. I don’t talk about leadership, because that’s the … Regardless of seniority and authority, you get people to do things that you want them to do. I talk about innovation leadership, transformation leadership, so part of what I learned as an innovation practitioner, as an innovation strategist, running an innovation consulting firm, it’s test and learn, test and learn, test and learn. Build, test, learn.
Raff Vitón: Innovation leadership is a never ending same type of thing, test and learn, test and learn, and it’s expanding. It’s the, what do I know now? What is there to know? It’s current level, next level stuff. It’s how do we empower and support leaders so that they can see both at the same time, and bring them all together to leverage, for wherever they need innovation, right? Not everything in the company needs to be innovative. We don’t need to innovate on our P&L. We need the math to work with the accounting stuff. We need innovation in certain spots. We need different degrees of it, but first of all, every leader today has to recognize that their part in contributing to adaptability, and speed, and velocity and growth is different than it was-
Carlos Muñoz: Right, 10 years ago.
Raff Vitón: 10 years ago, 20 years ago, et cetera. Every leadership today is about transformational leadership. How do I lead transformation? Of course is happening everywhere. How do I lead my organization through it? How do I stay ahead of it, at least keep up with it, and enjoy the ride while I’m doing it, right? How do I get my piece of the best talent, the best clients?
Raff Vitón: I think innovation leadership or transformational leadership is just another way of describing there is a complexity gap that exists now, a leadership complexity gap where our leadership assumptions don’t match with the speed of change with technology. Now with AI and biotech and everything else, it’s even faster. The idea is, how do I close that gap? How do I help leaders really be that much more adaptive so they can help their teams be more adaptive, the organizations be more adaptive and high performance, so they can get more of what it is they want?
Carlos Muñoz: So thanks. You were asked so much. It’s been very inspiring, and I hope this is not the last of these conversations. Thank you for your time.
Raff Vitón: Pleasure.
Carlos Muñoz: See you in the next one. This is “Aún No Eres Quien vas a Llegar a Ser”. You can say that if you want “Aún No Eres Quien vas a Llegar a Ser”
Raff Vitón: “Aún No Eres Quien vas a Llegar a Ser”
Carlos Muñoz: There you go. There you have it now, guys!