Todd Musselman – The Vital Choice (338)

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Todd Mussselman is a Leadership Trainer, Motivational Speaker, and Executive Coach. Famous for producing effective results through one primary mechanism – Fierce, Focused & Supportive Conversations. He’s also a musician and leads the folk-rock band Exit 232.

After working in his family’s business for more than 25 years, Todd chose to become a coach and trainer and studied under master coach and best-selling author Steve Chandler.

You will learn a lot more about Todd on this podcast, and you can check out his website for a full overview of everything he does.

Also mentioned in this Podcast:

Steve Chandler, Ouray Sportswear, Reinventing Yourself

To learn more about Todd, please see the links below:

And now here’s Todd Musselman.

Full transcript below

Video With Todd Musselman – The Vital Choice

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Podcast with Todd Musselman. The Vital Choice.

Todd Musselman – Episode 338

Wed, Nov 23, 2022 2:37PM • 1:08:27


victim mindset, life, steve chandler, people, todd, steve, mike, business, committed, talk, human beings, coach, fear, capital t truth, request, experience, create, hear, purpose, story


Todd Musselman, Mike Malatesta

Mike Malatesta  00:03

Hey, Todd, welcome to the podcast.

Todd Musselman  00:25

Thanks, Mike.

Mike Malatesta  00:27

Yeah, I’ve been looking forward to this for so long, Todd, as I may have mentioned in the intro, I mean, this guy had like the most impact that I think a speaker has ever had on me. I spent three hours with him, not just by myself, with a small group about a year ago, and I just took so many notes, it was like, you’re gonna be blown away by Todd. But, you know, it took us a while to get this going, but the anticipation and the patience is worth it for me because I’m just so happy to be here with you today, Todd. So let me tell you a little bit more about Todd Musselman. Todd is a leadership trainer, motivational speaker and executive coach. And he’s famous for producing effective results through one primary mechanism; fierce, focused and supportive conversations. He’s also a musician and leads the folk-rock band Exit 232. After working in his family business for more than 25 years, Todd chose to become a coach and a trainer and studied under master coach and best-selling author Steve Chandler. We’ll talk about Steve but if you want to find out more about Steve, go to his name, And you’re gonna learn a lot about Todd. But if you want to go to his website, after the podcast, it’s his name,, two s’s one n for a full overview of everything he does. So Todd, I start every show with the same simple question. And that is, how’d it happen for you?

Todd Musselman  02:23

Gosh, that’s a big question. I mean, there’s a couple of big chapters in my life I could point to I think, as it relates to this podcast, I’ll go for the one that’s most relevant. So as you might have mentioned, Mike, I grew up in a family business called Ouray Sportswear and I worked with all my siblings, and my parents have four siblings. My parents had 220 employees, and it was it was a fantastic experience. I loved working with my family. I didn’t really love the job that I did for our family business, I was a sales rep, and I didn’t really love it, so I spent the last 10 years working inside my family’s business wanting to do what I’m doing now. But I didn’t have the courage. Fear got in the way. Specifically, the fear of not being good enough got in my way. I played small for 10 years and languished in a lot of upset and disappointed myself that I just couldn’t muster the courage to push through the fear to, you know, start a career that I felt like I knew I was called to do. And then, whatever you want to call it, maybe divine intervention intervened for me, and in 2008, my family brought our business through bankruptcy for two years and out of that loss, came an opportunity to reinvent myself at 47. And it was a long journey. We spent eight months inside of what’s called Special Assets in the Wells Fargo environment. And it was super challenging. You know, a couple of my family members suffered mightily, I certainly suffered as well. In fact, I had one of the best pity parties you’ve ever seen. It was a lot. It’s a long story. But for me, the breakthrough came when one of my brothers was in distress. He was the CEO, and he was in a lot of distress and because of his distress, I got into action. I went down and supported my brother. I live in Steamboat, Colorado, the business was in Denver, and for three months, he and I walked a journey that was really, really amazing. And, you know, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever been through. It is really hard to watch my brother go through it and yet I’m so grateful for all that pain and suffering, because, you know, we grew collectively as a family. You know, my experience is that, for me anyway, all the growth in my life has come from when I’ve had some challenges. That’s where it comes. It’s never fun. But, you know, that’s what happened for me. And once we lost the business, I kind of had no choice but to reinvent myself. So 47. It’s a bit of a longer story, but I ended up hiring Steve to be my mentor for a year, Steve Chandler, as you mentioned, he’s an amazing man. And I was his apprentice for a year. And that experience really kind of launched me into my coaching, speaking career and I’m incredibly grateful for that experience and opportunity to work with such a gifted man. And so, yeah, that’s kind of how it happened. It’s a little more to that story. But for sure, I had the ashes, I came, you know, through it. And it was, it was an amazing experience.

Mike Malatesta  06:16

And how is your brother now,

Todd Musselman  06:19

Mark is doing great. All my siblings are doing well, they’ve all, like me, had to kind of reinvent themselves. You know, we grew up in that family business, so it’s all we knew, really, most of us. And so Mark is in the same line of work that I do; he’s also a coach. He doesn’t really speak, but he coaches a lot of CEOs and really supports people in that realm. And he’s a very gifted leader. He’s a great, great leader in prehuman being, actually. So he’s doing, I think, very well right now, I think he would say that.

Mike Malatesta  06:58

I’m glad to hear that. And, Todd, you mentioned that you’d had this desire, I’m gonna call it a desire, you may call it something else, for 10 years leading up to that. The Business Bankruptcy event. But you were playing, as you said, small for 10 years, even though you had this desire. I’m curious to dig into that a little bit. Like what was making you think that you wanted to do this? And what was preventing you from doing it?

Todd Musselman  07:34

Well, it’s two of my best friends on the planet. One is a very high-level coach, and one is a very gifted national speaker. And they had both, in their own way, been after me to do this for a very long time. I’ve been through some personal growth seminars, where I watched the facilitators with just a sense of awe and came away thinking, oh, man, I’d love to do that. I don’t know how I would do that. But I’d love to facilitate, you know, meetings and speak. And so that was the awareness that created you know, my desire. Coupled with that, I knew that I wasn’t meant to sell clothing. I mean, I didn’t care, the fun aspect of my job was leading people inside the organization, which was really fun. But my, you know, my last role was to sell and so I think in some ways, Mike, I got intoxicated by comfort. I’ve come to realize that comfort, I’m not a fan of comfort, honestly. I mean, I get it, but fear loves comfort. Fear loves comfort, it just sucks you into being complacent, at least it has me and I got complacent. I knew you know what to do, and how to do and just enough to make enough you know, good income and, I wasn’t growing at all. It’s not in the comfort of life where we grow. I’ve never grown when I was comfortable, but I got really comfortable. And that complacency, just, you know, essentially got in my way of really taking a bold action and making a bold request, which I’ve come to see are really powerful attributes of living a fulfilling life, at least to me, is the willingness to make bold requests of others and yourself. And so I wasn’t willing to do that. So I just put it small.

Mike Malatesta  09:35

And so this causes you to, well, it takes away your small game, so you reach out to connect with Steve somehow, tell me a bit about that because I’m thinking that’s a very proactive, it seems to me thing to do.  lot of people I run into you think, Well, I can be a good coach, right? But we don’t do anything to like get trained up to be a good coach, we just think, Well, I’m talking for myself, well, my business experience and my life experience, my leadership experience has prepared me pretty well to be a good coach to people like me. You decided to do something different.

Todd Musselman  10:24

Yeah. And I listen, I would love to take credit for having the wisdom to reach out to Steve Chandler. Unfortunately, that’s not quite how it went. It’s actually kind of a hilarious story. So after we lost the business, and to be quite honest, the new ownership kept us on. You were founders of the business and were incredibly valuable. But every day I walked in that building, I was out of my integrity, because I didn’t care. I wasn’t trying. And it just was an awful mess for me. It was, I mean, my spirit was just destroyed because I was out of my integrity every day. So I finally ended up quitting, honestly. And so then I started down this path of speaking and coaching. And I remember a very funny conversation I had with my mom about three months in. I remember, she called me said, you know, so how’s that speaking and coaching thing going? I said, Oh, my God, Mom, I love it. It’s so fun, except for one thing. And she said, What’s that? I said, Well, Mom, so far, I haven’t made a dime. But other than that, I love it.

Mike Malatesta  11:27

It’s great.

Todd Musselman  11:29

What the problem was, I had three young children, and they were hungry, and they wanted to play hockey and go skiing, and that costs money. So I, honestly decided to quit. I convinced myself that I was a joke, that this was a joke, that I wasn’t meant for this. And the day that I decided to quit, I will never forget, I was walking through a back alley in Steamboat where I live. And my best friend, Steve McGee, who was a very high-level coach called me and, you know, he’d been after me. So he said, Oh, how’s it going? I said, Well, it’s interesting you called, Steve, because I just decided today I’m going to quit. Oh, no, why? And I said, well, because I suck. I just don’t know what I’m doing. I have no idea how to get clients or anything. He goes, Well, everybody goes through that. I go, Well, you’re kidding. He said No, everybody that’s done this goes through that phase, and then you break through and I said, Well, that’s helpful to know, but I mean, I have to make money. I can’t do this anymore. Well, it’s interesting that we’re having this conversation, because the reason I called is there’s a guy in Phoenix who s offering an apprenticeship. You know, I think you should throw your hat in the ring, because if you could work with him, it would change everything. So I did, I contacted Steve and sent him, you know, not a resume, per se, but just some background material. He called me, sent me a book called Reinventing Yourself, which is one of the best books, I read it in, like, literally three or four hours, it’s so awesome. And I’m like, oh my God, I love this guy. And then we have a long conversation, about two hours, and you know, Steve loved that I’d been through a bankruptcy. And he loved that I was a professional musician, because that would make the speaking thing a little easier, probably. And then I didn’t hear from him for a week. And then he called me back and said, Alright, I’ve decided you’re my guy. I’m like, Oh, my God, that’s awesome. And it was awesome, except for one thing. To work with Steve, there was a $50,000 fee. And I didn’t have two nickels to rub together, like none. And, so I did something incredibly unusual for me, at that time anyway, I made a bold request. And I called one of my best friends who’s a venture capitalist. And I said, So Kevin, I got a crazy question. Have you ever invested in a person before? Oh, what the hell are you talking about? So I told him what was going on, and he said, Well, all right. I mean, I’m intrigued. What do you need? And I took a big gulp, Mike, and I said $15,000, and my amazing, beautiful friend said You got it, didn’t even hesitate. So I went over and I got that, and I pieced together another $10,000. And I’ll never forget, I remember dropping that check for half, which is what we agreed, Steve and I agreed to half down, half monthly. And I put that check in the mail on a Friday. And when I put it in the mailbox, I literally almost threw up on the mailbox. I was leveraging literally everything I had.

Mike Malatesta  14:44

I’m nervous for you right now. Just telling the story. I’m nervous.

Todd Musselman  14:48

So what was amazing, Mike is I dropped that check in on a Friday and by the next Wednesday, I had four paying clients and I did nothing different. For one thing, I committed, I went from being interested to committed. And that is a big distinction that I work inside of in my life. And when I coach people, one of my favorite questions to any coaching client or any speaking environment is what are you interested in? What are you committed to and who you committed to, I mean, really committed. And I have realized, I was only interested in speaking and coaching, I had never committed, I hadn’t put any skin in the game. And then I put that $25,000 of skin in the game. And, you know, my experience of life is that the universe, whatever you want to call it, God, some people call it God. It never gets behind you, when you’re interested in something, it only gets behind you when you’re committed to something. And so I’m pretty sure everybody on this phone call knows exactly what I’m talking about. I’m pretty sure everybody on this phone call could think of a time where they went from being interested in something to committed. And the minute they committed, doors started opening up they never saw. And that’s exactly what happened to me. So I’ll finish the story, because it’s kind of funny. So right away, I get these four paying clients out of nowhere. I’m like, Oh, my gosh. And so I started off pretty fast when I started working with Steve. And it was going great. And then about seven months in, I started noticing my sales pipeline was a little scarce and fear showed up for me, you know, and I got a little scared. And just the day that I noticed my sales pipeline was not looking like I wanted it to was the day I had my monthly meeting with Steve. And so were we on this meeting, and I started hinting around that since I paid him so much money, maybe it was time he threw me a referral or two. I hinted around, but I never made a bold request. And I’ll tell you what, Steve Chandler is the king of bold requests. And finally he picked up what was going on. And it pissed him off. Like I had never seen Steve like irritated with me. But he was agitated for sure. And then Steve Chandler changed my life in about 45 seconds. He said I think I know where you’re going with this, and I only have one thing to say to you. I said, What’s that Steve? He said, well, Todd, no one is coming. I said to him, What do you mean by that? He said, I mean, no one is coming. Like no one is coming. What the hell’s he talking about? Oh, no one is coming to make my life easier, or happier or more fulfilling? No one’s coming to fill my pipeline? No one is coming. That’s the challenge shown to me to see in that moment was I was 100% responsible for my life and everything. And I mean, 100% responsible. It was such a powerful gift. And, you know, I love the whole kind of just the reality that no one is coming for any human being. That we are the architects of our own life. And if we want something to be different, our marriage, our health, our wealth, that’s up to us by the choices we make. And it was just such a slap in the face. He just woke me up. I’m up. Yeah, that pipeline doesn’t look very good. It’s up to me to fill it, not Steve Chandler. And so I got busy again, and I started filling it again. And so I don’t know if that helps. But that’s kind of the story. Now one other thing that was interesting during this period is, you know, Steve was amazing, but he never told me how to create a speaking career. He never told me anything. He just, he just gave me some distinction to work in. But he never told me how to actually generate a speaking career. And I went out to lunch with one of my assistant when I worked at Ouray, and I love her, name’s Laurie Kendall. She’s just a gift to me. And we’d worked together for about six years, and I really adored her and, and this is after we lost the business and everything. And we just went for coffee. And she was saying, Well, how’s it going Todd? I can’t seem to break through on the speaking thing. And then all sudden, it dawned on me, you know, she started asking me who do you want to speak to? And I’m like, well, I don’t know. And then it dawned on me that I have a reverence for one particular category of human beings more than any other category of human beings. They’re called Moms. I have a huge reverence for moms. I think moms are the most amazing people on the planet, bar none. And then it just dawned on me. What if I put four or five moms in a room, and I came and did this training for them. And so I did it 29 times. 29 times I did three-hour talks for groups of anywhere from five to 10 Moms, 100% free, didn’t charge them anything. But during those 29 times I learned what stories worked, what stories didn’t, what distinctions work, what distinctions didn’t; created my entire speaking career out of those 29 talks that I gave to those amazing human beings called Moms. And oh, by the way, you know, most of them have husbands who a lot of them run companies. And that’s how I started. So that was just kind of I’ve never heard of anything like that before. It was just such an ad hoc creation in the moment with Laurie just brainstorming, and that’s how it happened.

Mike Malatesta  20:25

And that, okay, I didn’t see that coming. So Steve didn’t help you put it together. Was your mom, one of the moms?

Todd Musselman  20:42

Nope. Laurie talked to her. She was the first mom, Laurie was a mom. And she put I think seven more moms in the room that day. And then I invited them, and they had their own little groups, and they wanted me to come talk. And so that’s how it happened. You know, it just mushroomed. And it was fantastic. I had so much fun. I mean, I got my little flip charts and drove around Metro Denver and spoke to all these groups and moms, it was incredibly fun and rewarding. But only moms. Let’s see, oh, I never spoke to anybody else. Just moms.

Mike Malatesta  21:16

And the title of the talk, rough title or title of the talk that I went through with you is Victim Versus Owner, victim versus owner.

Todd Musselman  21:27

Yeah, well, actually, the title of that talk, it is about that distinction, the victim versus the ownership mindset. But the title is the Vital Choice.

Mike Malatesta  21:36

Vital Choice.

Todd Musselman  21:39

And the reason that I titled it that, Mike, and it’s a much longer explanation, probably. But I it’s my experience that every human being is in a vital choice, pretty much on a moment-to-moment basis. And the vital choice that I believe we’re all engaged in, on a moment-to-moment basis is that at any moment in time, they’re coming from fear, or coming from love. One of those two is running the show. And, you know, in my perspective, preoccupation and distraction are just manifestations of fear. They are fear. And, you know, a lot of times they get in the way a lot, preoccupation, distraction, they destroy relationships, more than any other thing I know of. They destroy productivity, they destroy fun. It’s a longer conversation about the destructive nature of preoccupation, distraction. And so you know, when I go out and speak, one of my charges to everybody is what if he chose love over fear 10% more often? Who would you be then? Because you can be more loving, what gets in the way of us being loving is fear a lot of times? So anyway, that’s the title at the top of the bottle of choice.

Mike Malatesta  23:02

And was that the title that you started with with these moms? I’m wondering how you developed for your talk, you know, the way that you talk to them versus the way you talk to us and, you know, business owners and stuff.

Todd Musselman  23:15

I didn’t develop the Vital Choice until COVID.

Mike Malatesta  23:19

Oh, okay.

Todd Musselman  23:20

I reinvented that talk during COVID. Because see, before COVID, it was a completely different talk, I had two flip charts, and I do these distinctions. And I played a song or two, on my guitar, I bring my guitar and we always sing, and then during COVID, you know, singing over the internet doesn’t really work out very well. It’s horrible. So I stopped doing that. And in the process, I just started, I just completely revamped the talk, and now about the Four Pillars of the Ownership Mindset. And, and I never had that before COVID. And out of that, that’s where I invented the talk called the Vital Choice.

Mike Malatesta  24:00

I’m gonna get into the Four Pillars in a moment. I’m glad that you brought that up, but this interest versus committed thing, I was like, you know, for breakfast, the chicken is interested and the pig is committed, you know, fried eggs and bacon sort of thing. But I’m wondering when you ask people that question what they’re interested in and what they’re committed to and who they’re committed to, are people able to answer that, Todd?

Todd Musselman  24:36

Well, you know, yes. And it really has a lot of people dive into some pretty deep self-reflection because my question is bigger than that, and I also use four areas that we tend to be interested but not committed. The first area is our jobs. I don’t know, 10%, 15% of people watching this podcast right now are only interested in their jobs and not committed. And they know it. And so what that amounts to is, every time they walk in the door, they’re, you know, their jobs, they just check a box and do enough to get by, but no more. And there’s nothing wrong with that, except for one thing, you’re out of your integrity. And it sucks. I’ve been there, as I said, with my family business. And, not to be brutal, but it’s kind of a God-awful mess when you’re just checking the box just enough to get by. And so some of the people on this call say that they’re interested in their jobs but not committed. Some people on this call are interested, but not committed into creating a better relationship at home with their spouse. And some of them might even talk a good game about Yeah, honey, I’d go see somebody, if you make the call, I won’t call, but if you call, I’ll go see somebody, I guess. That’s somebody that’s interested but not committed, you’re creating a better relationship at home. Some people on this call, no doubt, are interested but not committed to being healthier. You know, they talked about, you know, their eating habits and changing that, or maybe an exercise regimen that they’re going to do, but they’re just interested, they don’t commit to it, and they stop. And some people on this phone call, Mike, are interested in pursuing a passion, but they’re not committed. I’ll give you an example. As I said, I’m a professional musician. I’d say probably 25% of time I finish a gig, I bet about 25%, I have somebody come up to me and say something like this, oh my God, I have a guitar. I’m so I’m so interested in playing. And every time they say that, my heart just sinks for them. Because I know one thing, every time they go home, and they look at that guitar that they’ve never picked up, there’s only one thing that happens, your spirit just dives, because they’re not committed. They’re just interested. And so I think it is a powerful question. And the only thing that’s required to go from being interested and committed it literally is one word, it’s a very powerful word. It’s called action. Actually picking up that guitar, picking up that phone and calling the therapist or actually getting recommitted to your jobs, whatever that is for you. That’s all, action is the only thing required to go from interested to committed. In fact, action is always the way out of the victim mindset. If you ever find yourself immersed in the victim mindset or stuck in the victim mindset, I think the most powerful question anybody could ask themselves is, what action can I take right now? And the more the uncomfortable the action, the better the result. That would be my experience anyway.

Mike Malatesta  27:59

And Todd, you mentioned fear many, many times? And is it always fear that’s keeping you from being committed? Because I think I’m trying to think of the ways people would rationalize their way out of no, it’s not fear. It’s, you know, blame, well blame someone out there that there’s a million routes that I suppose you could take, right. But in your experience is that what you think?

Todd Musselman  28:30

Not to be brutal, and I don’t know how you feel about this use of language, but that’s just happy horseshit. Yes, it’s always fear. To me, it’s always, and if you distill it down, it’s almost always the same fear. And that’s the fear of not being good enough. I don’t want to go to the gym, because I’m overweight or I’m out of shape, or, or whatever. I don’t I don’t want to go to a therapist, My God, what would I make that mean about our relationship that we’re not, we don’t have it all figured out, you know, I could keep going, I don’t want to pick that guitar up because I suck, you know, I don’t want to push through all the plateaus you have to push through playing guitar to actually be decent. I don’t want to do that. I just want to talk about playing guitar. Sounds way more cool than actually playing guitar. So to me, it’s always the same fear, the fear of not being good enough, that crushes the human spirit.

Mike Malatesta  29:26

And why? Why is it that things that you could do? Actions that you could take, like picking up the guitar, for example, all by yourself? That no one would see. And hence, no one would judge? Why is it that people take on the role of someone else? You know, telling them they suck or judging or whatever, instead of just being like, there’s no danger here. Like, I can take these actions, maybe not every action, but I can take these actions, anonymously. I’m the only one who knows that I’m doing it. And I’m the only one who knows whether I’m good, whether I suck, whatever. And yet, we still, yeah, why do people do that?

Todd Musselman  30:15

I think, as I said earlier, again, guilty as charged, they’re intoxicated by comfort. Yeah, it’s a lot easier to sit on a couch with a remote, turn a TV on, than it is to pick up a guitar and push through that phase that you’re going to suck, it’s hard to do that. It’s, um, you know, I’m a big fly fisherman. You know how many times I hear people interested in fly fishing that never actually do it, because it looks hard? And it is hard. And there is a curve that you got to push through. In many ways, you know, again, I’m on this phone call, because friend, Stephen, had the belief and the love for me to encourage me to keep going, as a coach and speaker, don’t stop. And if I hadn’t had that phone call, we wouldn’t be on this call for sure. I was, I was definitely committed to quitting that day, I promise you. I was just, I had to make money. And then I gave all my money away to make money, which is hilarious, you know, even that, I guess it does sometimes boil down to, What do you want? What are you willing to do give up or change to get what you want? So yeah,

Mike Malatesta  31:31

let’s just get back to that for a second. What about your friend that you asked, Have you ever invested in a person and you know, he invested in you?

Todd Musselman  31:41

So interestingly enough, lots came from that. Instead of me paying him back, I ended up coaching him. And he’s a dear friend of mine. But he you know, he was starting a brand-new business and was up against it, and then he pulled me into the business, I started working with his business. And then I mean, out of this one request, I added, not only did I disappear the debt, but I actually created an income stream based on that request, because he started this business in Colorado. And, you know, I worked inside that business coaching a lot of people. And it turned out to be an amazing experience for him. And he’s still one of my dearest friends. And his business just sold recently, and, you know, super proud of him. And, it was a mutually beneficial relationship for sure that I didn’t see coming, I was just kind of desperate, and he’s the one I knew had the most available cash. So that’s where I went

Mike Malatesta  32:44

Bold request, bold request.

Todd Musselman  32:46

I really can’t overstate that, you know, as a coach, what I’ve noticed, I’ve worked with people that I would say live pretty amazing lives, Mike, not all of them, for sure. But some of them in the one thread that I see are those people that I believe live amazing lives, whatever that means. They’re pretty good at making bold requests consistently over and over again, of others and themselves. They just ask for what they want. It’s remarkable how similar they are in that regard, really, and, you know, for most of us, we’re not willing to ask for what we want, because we’re afraid of rejection, which is just another, you know, I wrote down, I’m not good enough, but they don’t see rejection the same as most people, they just see as an opportunity for growth and expansion. It’s bizarre. I mean, I can’t explain how they just they just plow through that, quote unquote, rejection or failure. And they just say, Well, what can I learn from that one, you know, whereas most of us just sink into the I’m not good enough, you know, soup?

Mike Malatesta  33:51

I find that I do have a mixture of both. Like when I first had the idea to make a bold request, I tried to talk myself out of it. And then it’s like a filtering mechanism, almost like if it keeps coming up. When I’m talking myself and I keep trying to talk myself out of it, or I’m scared to do it, or I feel like people will laugh at me if I asked for that or whatever. If it keeps coming back up, then I take the action, but it’s almost like I have to convince myself that the bold request is legitimate. Right? Before I do.

Todd Musselman  34:27

Yeah. Is if there was such a thing, right. Like it’s just yeah, it’s a funny how we filter even that for me. Yeah, I totally get it. Yeah, yeah.

Mike Malatesta  34:37

When you first started coaching, how did you prospect, I mean, you said that you’ve taken us a little bit through it, but I don’t think you’ve said specifically how you prospect and then what was your value proposition like, how did people mean I know what your value proposition is? Or I think I know what it is now. But back then, what was it that, you know, you thought would resonate with someone and they would hire a guy that’s just been, you know, sales, running sales and being a part owner of a family business?

Todd Musselman  35:16

Well, there’s a little more to that running that family business story that really is my unfair advantage in the world. Yeah. So working with your entire family can create a lot of challenges, as you might imagine, a lot of big personalities in my family. And, you know, we worked well together, but we’d have these meetings, and they would go horribly. And I mean, horribly. And inevitably, my mom would end up being the referee between her kids and her husband, that happened almost every meeting. And so after one particularly tough meeting, my mom and I went out to lunch, and I said, Mom, you know, we got to do something here, because this is going to destroy our family, as strong as our family is. It can’t withstand this kind of, you know, challenges all the time. So, I said, you know, I believe we should try to get some support here. And she said, Oh, God, I’ve been thinking about that for a while, and so we just went back through, but instead, what would you think about working with, you know, a counselor in our family dynamics, and so I was really a little surprised, especially that one of my brother’s agreed to it, because he was more resistant to that kind of work than the rest of us. But he agreed. And so for seven years, Mike, my family had the love and the courage to carve out not only the time, but the resources to get in a room, at least once a quarter with our counselor and work our stuff out as a family. And it is by far the biggest gift I’ve ever been given, because I’m complete with all my siblings, and my parents, which is quite honestly very rare. So when we went through bankruptcy, there was no blame. There was no one was pointing fingers. We were all in it together, because of all the work we’d done. It was incredibly graceful how we navigated a very, very challenging time. My dad died in 2016. He was in hospice for the last 10 days of his life. And it was the best 10 days of my life, because of how it went. The hospice workers told us that they’d, you know, never ever heard so much laughter and singing coming out of one room ever for many of their other patients. And it was 10 days of celebrating my dad’s life, instead of trying to clean our family. And, you know, I was doing a Vistage talk a couple years ago, and I tell the story about that. And one of the Vistage members said, you know, I heard something about that recently, I heard some that until you’re complete with all your immediate family, you can never be fully expressed as a human being, there will always be something in the way of you being fully expressed. And I’m like, wow, I mean, I don’t know that that’s true. Maybe it rings true for me, because I’m both incomplete and complete with my siblings and my parents. And I feel like I’m way more able to be fully expressed now that I’m complete with them. And so that was the backbone of my coaching. I mean, honestly, I spent so much time in that environment with a very gifted counselor that was essentially a coach really, that I just gleaned a lot from her. She’s amazing. She’s a Samsonite. Actually, her name is Lynn Hitler. And she’s she comes from the Samsonite family, which I didn’t ever even know. But that’s a family business. She grew up in a family business. So she was really adept at navigating all the pitfalls and challenges we had in our family system.

Mike Malatesta  39:12

I’m glad I asked the question, because that yeah, that makes a click for me, like,

Todd Musselman  39:19

Yeah, I mean, almost everything that I talked about is experiential. I wouldn’t get up and speak about anything I haven’t been through myself. That’s just the way I look at it. You know, I don’t think I would be super keen on getting parental advice from somebody that doesn’t have any kids. Wouldn’t be my first go-to, let’s put it that way.

Mike Malatesta  39:45

Yeah, very true. Yeah. The Four Pillars you mentioned them earlier, let’s walk through those because I think they’re super powerful. Well, I think they’re super powerful.

Todd Musselman  39:59

Yeah, yeah. So, I mean, I think it’s important to lay the groundwork a little bit in that, you know, in my mind, we operate out of two very distinct mindsets as human beings, we’re either immersed in the Victim mindset or the Ownership mindset. And, you know, I’ve spent a lot of time with human beings in every stretch of human experience. I’ve never once met a person who doesn’t spend time with the victim mindset, and I don’t believe I ever will ever. And, you know, the victim mindset, how we get there is when we start reacting to life, that’s when we enter the victim mindset. And, you know, I’m 60 years old, I don’t think that there’s ever been more human beings immersed in the victim mindset than there have been the last 28 months because of COVID, Oh my gosh, reacting to this virus up and down and up and down. And so what causes us to go the victim mindset, is reaction, but what keeps us in is fear. Fear just sucks us in and holds us in the victim side. And, you know, if you distill it down, it’s pretty much always the same fear. And it’s the one I’ve mentioned several times as the fear of not being good enough. That’s the one that just disables human beings from taking action and playing the big game. And you know, there’s some big costs in the victim mindset It’s not wrong to be in the victim mindset. It’s not bad or wrong. It’s just not very fun. It’s not very fun, because we give up things, the things we give up, our energy drops right off a cliff when we enter the victim mindset, right? Exhaustion is a great indicator of the victim mindset. If you feel like you’re exhausted, that’s the victim side. Our confidence tends to dissipate. When we enter the victim mindset, we start languishing over decisions we made easier the day before, the week before. Our performance also suffers mightily when we enter the victim mindset. You know, one of the indicators is babysitting and firefighting all day, as a boss that’s incredibly draining, you’re reacting all day long. And you’re not probably creating any great results babysitting and firefighting all day long. The biggest cost by far, Mike, is presence. You cannot be present and immersed in the victim mindset at the same time. And as far as I know, there’s literally only one place that magic ever shows up as a human being. It’s this moment, that’s the only place I’m aware of that magic ever shows up as a human being and yet it’s hard to be present, it is for me, anyway, it’s hard. There’s lots going on. I already said that preoccupation  and distraction are just manifestations of fear, they are fear. And so, you know, that’s a big killer. You know, I might have mentioned this in our talk, just before I get to the four pillars. One thing that might be useful for everybody on this phone call is I work in distress marriages a lot as a coach, and the number one reason that couples are sitting across from me anyway, for sure, in my experience, the number one reason is a lack of trust. But it isn’t a fidelity trust. It’s a presence trust. That’s by far the number one reason. And it’s usually, if I’m being honest, it’s usually the husbands who are distracted, preoccupied at home thinking about work. And how do I be even more enough at work in lieu of being present with my kids or my spouse? It’s not always men, certainly women can fall prey to preoccupation, distraction, but either way, it definitely destroys that connection. And so that’s kind of the victim mindset in a very short brief synopsis. On the other side is what I call the Ownership mindset. And it’s awesome. And you know, how we get to the Ownership mindset, Mike, is when we start actively creating our life, that’s when we entered the Ownership mindset. And I say that because we’re born to create as human beings, at least in my experience, we’re born to create. When we’re creating, we’re at our highest self and so, you know, when we enter the Ownership mindset, so to speak, when we start actively creating our life, it makes sense. The first thing you notice your energy is super high. A lot of times it’s contagious, right? If you’ve been around somebody recently with contagious energy, like I want someone what they got, yeah, of course, that’s the Ownership mindset. They’re actively in my perspective, and, and your confidence is really solid, it’s not cocky, it’s solid and grounded. And, of course, your performance follows suit. That’s when we create our best results is when we’re actively creating our life. And, you know, I think the biggest benefit is you’re slowing down, you’re way more present in not only yourself but your people you work with, the people who are in your houses with, and your spouse, your kids. It’s super fun when you come from the Ownership mindset. And you know, as we talked about in the talk that I gave for your Vistage group, I’ve distilled it down into Four Pillars in the Ownership Mindset. They’re not the best pillars or the right pillars. They’re just the ones I see in those four pillars. The first one is love. The second one is purpose, the third one is presence, and the fourth one is personal responsibility. Love, purpose, presence, personal responsibility. Those are the four pillars of the Ownership mindset as I see it. And so, you know, I spend a lot of time talking about those four pillars, and that all got created during COVID.

Mike Malatesta  45:17

One of the most impactful things that you that said when you were talking to us was this notion of discretionary effort. Can you talk about discretionary effort? Because I thought it was, you know, it was kind of like there’s no such thing as a lack of energy in a person. And then there’s this thing called discretionary effort. I guess the point is, what do you need to do in order to earn the discretionary effort of someone else?

Todd Musselman  46:04

So just to be clear, I call it discretionary energy, effort and energy are the same thing.

Mike Malatesta  46:09

Well, I’m a sloppy note taker.

Todd Musselman  46:14

So there’s three major ways that we tend to pull the discretionary energy out of someone else, and the three mechanisms, primary ones anyway, purpose, appreciation and presence, those are the three ways that we tend to pull the discretionary energy out of another human being. And you know, as it relates to purpose, a simple formula about purpose and discretionary energy is, the higher the purpose, the more willing I am to give something my discretionary energy. In other words, if I don’t know why I’m doing something, it’s very, very unlikely I’ll give it my discretion energy, I’ll do enough to get by, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not going to give it everything I got. And, you know, as you said, in my experience, there’s no such thing as a lack of energy ever. What’s missing is purpose. And I could show everybody that’s listening on this phone call or this podcast how you’ve gone from completely exhausted to completely energized in exactly one second in your life based on one thing, purpose. And, so maybe there’s some parents on this phone call, and, you know, I’ll just give you a quick scenario. Let’s just assume you’ve had a really challenging day at work, and you come home and you’re exhausted. And on this very rare day, you have the opportunity to lie down on the couch, and you’re exhausted, there’s nothing that’s going to get you off that couch, you’re not moving. And you’re lying there and maybe your spouse comes up and says, Hey, Mike, what are your thoughts for Virginia like, Hey, honey, I’m not, I’m hanging, this is this is my resting place for the night. And you’re lying there, Mike, but all of a sudden, you hear a primordial scream come from the bedroom from a one-year child. Now you don’t know what’s going on. But you know, by that scream, it’s bad. I mean, I very much doubt you’d have thought you know what? I’m pretty exhausted right now. I’ll go check on that once I have more energy.

Mike Malatesta  48:13

Or I’ll wait till I hear it again. Because maybe I heard Yeah, yeah.

Todd Musselman  48:17

So what showed up is discretion energy based on purpose, because it’s very likely if you’re like, oh, I don’t know, most human beings, I would guess the well-being of your children is your highest purpose, is that fair? And so there would be no way in your life, you could ever show me an example where you wouldn’t be willing to give your discretionary to your children’s well-being I can’t think of a scenario where that would happen. But you know, sometimes we can fall into this story. I don’t have the energy right now. You hear that one a lot, right? Sure you do. You know, a couple of the common ones I hear, one is, I literally had clients telling me as God taught it. I was so exhausted, yes, I just didn’t have the energy to call my distressed client back. I mean, it was 4:30. In the afternoon, it was when the call came, I still have the energy to call him back. So I just didn’t call him back because they don’t want to. Another one is very likely that some of us on this phone call within the last month or so have walked in our front door and right off the bat were greeted by our partner or spouse and by the look in their eye, you know, one thing they want to have is a meaningful conversation. You know, the kind that actually creates your marriage, that kind of conversation, Oh, my God, Honey, I love to have that conversation. I’m so tired. Can we just turn the TV on tonight? And so you don’t have that meaningful conversation. And some of us might have walked in our front door, been greeted by a seven-year-old who just wants to wrestle. You look down and say, God, but I’d love to wrestle, but tomorrow night, we’ll definitely wrestle, so you don’t get on the floor and wrestle. And some of us have probably walked in there, my daughter looked at our running shoes and thought, God tonight. Tonight, I’m going to finally go for a run. And then you realize, oh, you know, I’m pretty exhausted, a beer sounds a lot better than that damn run. So I’m not gonna, you know, so those are stories we can tell ourselves. But none of them are true. It’s not energy that’s missing its purpose. In other words, if retaining my client was high enough purpose, I’d create the energy to call him back at 430. Because if you wait overnight, you might not have a client in the morning, you check out of having enough meaningful conversations in your marriage, you’re not going to have a partner anymore, you’re gonna have a roommate. And if you decide to not engage with your child, think about that. Once your kids have not seen what version or mom or dad walks through that front door, but if you’re believing the story, you don’t have the energy tonight, they pay the biggest price. And you cannot get those moments back. Yeah, you know, and exercise is just, you know, it’s a simple metaphor. I talked about exercise as a metaphor to just show how many times we can opt out of life by believing the story I don’t feel like doing it, as if that matters. You know, I exercise four or five days a week. You know, when the last time I felt like exercising was Mike, about five years ago, and I never feel like. But I got to trust one thing, I got to trust the moment I start pedaling, the feeling is gonna show up. And so far, it’s never failed me.

Mike Malatesta  51:29

So one of the things that I wrote down that I think you said, and it goes along with what you were just talking about was that no one ever got a feeling wrong. So I’m wondering you, um, so I’m wondering how that squares up with what you just said, you know, when someone says, I don’t feel like it?

Todd Musselman  51:47

Yeah. So that’s, it’s in a different context. I mean, it’s a big topic. I don’t know how much time we have left. That’s a big conversation. Basically, what that was related to is that a lot of times we, as human beings, believe it’s our job to change somebody else’s feelings.

Mike Malatesta  52:08

Oh, yeah. Okay.

Todd Musselman  52:11

And I’ve felt guilty that one of my children was distressed when he was a teenager, and battled depression. And for a long time, I tried to change his feelings. And every time I tried to change his feelings, I made him feel wrong. And then he added shame to his life. And then, and I didn’t have any idea what was going on. Here’s one of the biggest benefits from working with Steve Chandler, he said, I told him what was going on and said, you know, Todd, I just, you know, I have something to share, because I’ve had a distressed child too. And he said, I learned something: no one ever got a feeling wrong. And I said, Well, what do you mean? He said, I mean, no one ever got a feeling wrong, Todd, how can anybody ever get a feeling wrong? Mike, huh? Okay. And then he said, let me take a stab at something. He said, Every time your son comes home, and he’s, he’s off, you try to change his feelings, don’t you? I’m like, Oh, my God, are you in my living room, my bedroom. That’s exactly what I’ve been doing. In other words, every time my son showed up, and he was sad or off, I tried to show him all the reasons he had to be happy in his life and all the great things he had going on from his life. But the problem was, every time I did that, I made his feelings wrong. And so when I realized what was going on, out of that conversation with Steve, I came home and it wasn’t maybe four days later, my son came home from school, and he was, he was off, but on that day, I didn’t, I didn’t try to change his feelings. I just got curious about him. And I kept asking the most powerful question I know to ask the human being — what else? I think I asked him like three times in a very brief conversation. And after about 20 minutes, out the door, he went to play with his buddies, whereas before, that would have been a two or three day dramafest, you try to pull them out of that. And so I learned something, that very, very brief moment was that no one ever got a feeling wrong, it’s not our job to change somebody else’s feelings. That’s their job. Our job is just to hold a loving space and give them the experience of being heard and understood. That’s the best gift we can give them. And by the way, I’ve so far never met one person ever who successfully changed another person’s feelings ever. Never. Not once.

Mike Malatesta  54:28

Have you ever met a person who’s given another person purpose?

Todd Musselman  54:34

Yeah, that’s a great question. Well, I mean, I guess the birth of your children gives you purpose, unwilling or not, but there’s a choice in having them, right. No, I don’t know. I would say no, I don’t think anybody’s ever given another person purpose. I think that’s up to us too. And, you know, one of the things that I hear a lot is I gotta find my purpose, and I get that, but in my mind, it’s not something you find, it’s omething you create, through experimentation,  It’s the action, yes, it’s the action. It’s not something you find, you know, you can’t find time, you cannot find purpose, you cannot find a relationship, you create all those things. They’re not something you find, they’re creations. And at least to me, I think purpose is one of those things that, you know, if you’re not really cognizant of what your purpose is, or more importantly, if you’re not living it, which I didn’t for only about 49 years, it’s kind of a mess. I mean, the problem for me, and I get a lot of people listening, is they literally might not know what the purpose is. I knew what my purpose was, I just didn’t have the courage to step into it. So it was almost worse. I mean, I have a lot of compassion. If you don’t actually really know, I don’t know what my purpose is, like, I get that. But it’s almost more of a nightmare when you know what it is, and you don’t have this the courage to take the leap to go for it. That was horrible.

Mike Malatesta  56:05

Yeah, it’s like fear manifested. Right? That’s all fear.

Todd Musselman  56:14

100%, 100%. So yeah. I love that note that if no one ever got feeling wrong, it really literally transformed not only their relationship with my son, but I employ that every day as a coach as a husband as, as best I can. I’m not perfect at it. I do fall into the temptation, specifically with my wife, since I’ve tried to change her feelings. That’s usually met with dad coming back at me, by the way. Well, yeah.

Mike Malatesta  56:45

So Todd, where I want to end with you is this other amazing thing that you said, which was very paraphrasing, but there’s very little capital T truth in the world. And again, my notes might be a little sloppy on that. But what is that?

Todd Musselman  57:06

Well, so what I start every talk by just owning that I don’t have the truth, because I don’t; not one thing I’ve said today is the truth other than the stories I’ve told. And I say that for a very specific reason, because, you know, in my experience, if you did a root cause analysis, the last time you got a conflict in your life, either personally or professionally, what you most likely find is the root cause of that conflict is one or both of you thought you had the truth around something, as if it can only be this way. And the moment I walk into a meeting with my direct reports are my coworkers, or into my bedroom or my kitchen, and I vomit the truth, the truth on someone, something very predictable happens, a wall gets established, and all the love and affinity and conversation goes right out the door. And it’s usually backed up by resentment or resistance. That’s the impact that the truth has on a conversation. And, you know, as you might remember, in my experience, there’s almost no capital T truth. I’m not saying there’s not any, I’m just saying there’s very little. Now there are millions of facts, there bazillions of facts, but there’s very little capital T truth, in my experience anyway. And, you know, it’s likely that some people on this on this call might consistently believe that they have the truth in their life. They’re what I call truth seekers. And they go around in their life and everywhere they go, they have the truth, doesn’t matter what topic it is. It doesn’t matter. And there’s so hard to be around, because you know, the problem with having the truth, Mike, is you cannot have an open heart and an open mind and have the truth at the same time. They don’t coexist. And I’ve never known of a bad outcome ever in my life, and any reaction I’ve ever had in my life, I’ve never known a bad outcome when I come with an open heart and an open mind. But man, if I believe I have the truth, holy cow, watch what happens. You know, you shut people down. And so you know, a good question for everybody on this phone call, at least for me is Am I that person? Do I believe I have the truth around almost everything? And who would I be if I didn’t come with it. It’s exhausting to have the truth. It’s exhausting to always be right. And it’s a fool’s errand. Unless you like resentment and resistance. And, you know, I’ll lighten it up a little bit and give you an example how funny this can be like, you know? So I live in Steamboat, I have three young adult children, and you might remember this story, but they’re all in their early 20s, but seven years ago, they were all teenagers, which was a really experience that only those with teenagers can embrace, and in the middle of that experience of having three teenagers at home, we had a pretty big tragedy hit our household. Our dishwasher broke, which is a pretty big deal. three teenagers. So, my wife and I live in, you know, in Steamboat, but it’s three hours north of Denver. So it took us two weeks to get that dishwasher in. And it was really exciting when we got it. And I mean really exciting. So exciting, in fact that my wife and I, we got a bottle of wine out, and we christened the damn thing. It was so exciting. We didn’t break the bottle. We got so excited. And it was exciting, Mike, right up to the third night when I was loading it. And my wife came in and she’s a beautiful, amazing human being, but she shared with me that I wasn’t doing it correctly. Apparently, there’s a truth around how to load a dishwasher. And so as you might imagine, I wasn’t too excited for her feedback that night. I didn’t say Thanks, honey. That’s not how that went. I think I remember doing this, something like this is the last time. I mean, I do loads of dishes, but I you know, I do chuckle. Some of the people on this on this phone call right now are saying, you know, I was with him up to that point. But you know, dude, there really is the truth around how to load a dishwasher. There’s not.

Mike Malatesta  1:01:13

That came up at my uncle’s funeral actually, something similar about how there was a way to load a dishwasher, his way?

Todd Musselman  1:01:25

His way or the highway, right?

Mike Malatesta  1:01:31

Well, that’s a great place to leave off. There’s very little capital T truth that really stuck with me. And I think, and even though I know that, I still get sucked into thinking I know the truth sometimes, Todd, and my wife usually calls me on it, and then I go because, you know, I want to be right sometimes.

Todd Musselman  1:01:53

It’s the big drug for humans. Yeah.

Mike Malatesta  1:01:55

Yeah. So listen, everybody, you’ve gotten a sense of the power that Todd has as a as a speaker as a coach. I mean, the stories that he tells, you know, there’s no beating your chest. There’s no raising your voice. There’s none of that stuff. It’s just so easy to listen to, but not just listen to. It’s so easy to grab great stuff from that I. Well, you can tell by that I’ve kept, you know, ever over this year, and I will keep forever because it just makes me a better person, a better leader, maybe even a better podcaster? I don’t know. Todd, thank you so much for being on the show. Is there anything you want to leave us with that? Before we hit the outro?

Todd Musselman  1:02:49

Oh, gosh. I think the thing I would leave everybody with is the invitation to take stock of the difference that they make in other people’s lives. Take one day and just notice all the people you touch in one day. And you know, my experience is a lot of us spend most of our day focused on what isn’t working and how we’re not enough. And I don’t know about you, Mike, but I one of the gifts that Steve Chandler gave me is the idea to create a folder where I keep emails and you know, texts from people that I’ve had some degree of impact on, and I have a folder of those. And whenever that little voice shows up, the one that says I’m not good enough, I pull that folder out and I’m like, hold on a minute, that isn’t true. I have a little evidence that I could have had an impact, and so I would welcome everybody, if you’ve never created a folder like that, maybe today is the day to do that, and really just slow down and get what a difference you make, in the smile here, a gesture there, just a loving way of being, and I guess my final charge again is what if we chose love or fear 10% more often, who would you be then.

Mike Malatesta  1:04:11

Thank you for leaving that with us, Todd. It’s been a pleasure having you on, thank you so much.

Todd Musselman  1:04:17

Thanks for having me, Mike.

Mike Malatesta

Mike Malatesta

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