How to Reverse Engineer Your Success + Decode Greatness with Dr. Ron Friedman

Episode Number: 223

Episode 223- How to Reverse Engineer Your Success + Decode Greatness with Dr. Ron Friedman

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Jamila Souffrant 0:00

You're listening to the journey to launch podcast, how to reverse engineer your success, decode greatness and reach your financial and life dreams.

Intro 0:13

Welcome to the Journey to Launch Podcast with your host Jamila Souffrant. As a money expert who walks her talk, she helps brave Journeyers like you get out of debt, save, invest and build real wealth. Join her on the Journey to Launch to financial freedom in

Unknown Speaker 0:33

three to one.

Jamila Souffrant 0:37

Hey, hey, hey, Journeyers. Welcome to another episode of the Journey to Launch Podcast. I'm so happy you can join me again this week. Hopefully you're joining me again. And if you are brand new, sit back, buckle up-- we are taking off. On this week's podcast episode I have on Ron Friedman. Ron is an award winning psychologist who has served on the faculty of several prestigious colleges in the United States and has consulted for political leaders, nonprofits, and many of the world's most recognized brands. He is also the writer of the new book 'Decoding Greatness: How the Best in the World Reverse Engineer Success. And we will be talking about that today. I got to say I said it in the interview with Ron, but I got this sent to me from Ron's publisher the book to read. I typically like to read books before I interview the author that way I know what I'm talking about. I know what I can ask them that will be unique to what I want you guys to learn from it and what I'm learning from it. And can I tell you that my husband took the book before I could finish it, and he really enjoyed it? And so this episode is different, but you know, I like different different meaning. Yeah, it's not about budgeting and investing. But it's about habits, mindset. It's about what it really takes to reach the life that you want all the things you want, and whether that is something with a goal in terms of money, or with your job or a project. Whatever that is, you can actually decode greatness, you can reverse engineer your success and guarantee more success by looking at what other successful people have done. So I'm really excited for you guys to get into this episode.

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If you want the episode show notes for this episode, go to journeytolaunch com, or click the description of wherever you're listening to this episode. In the show notes, you'll get the transcribed version of the conversation, the links that we mentioned, and so much more. Also, whether you are in OG Journeyer or are brand new to the podcast, I've created a free jumpstart guide to help you on your financial freedom journey. It includes the top episodes to listen to stages to go through to reach financial freedom, resources, and so much more. You can go to to get your guide right now. Okay, let's hop into the episode. Hey Journeyers, so I have a I think what will be a very enlightening conversation for us all. I'm so excited to talk to this week's guest, Ron Friedman, who just wrote the book, 'Decoding Greatness'. Well, you didn't just write it, you just released it. I know, writing a book, like write it like it is finished. But then you got to like launch it. But, 'Decoding Greatness, How the Best in the World Reverse Engineer Success'. So welcome to the podcast, Ron Friedman.

Ron Friedman 4:24

Thanks so much.

Jamila Souffrant 4:26

So I got your pre-released, or advanced proof, of the book. I started to read it, my husband saw it, and took it, and actually he finished it and read it before I could. Um, so that's how interesting, one I think your book is and he actually finished it. And I was like, "Well send me some questions that you want me to ask Ro," and I'll add it to my questions. So when I got like this synopsis or summary of this book, I was like, you know, this has everything to do with personal finance and financial independence and just life. I talk about money and freedom. But to do those things, you you know typically people are The journey to be better at something you know, whether that's their career figuring out like, their money, and the fact that like you are talking about reverse engineering and looking at people who've done the things that we want to do, and like kind of figuring out how we can apply it. I was like this. This is gold, we got to have Ron on the podcast. So Ron, thank you. And I just want to hop right in. Let's talk about what reverse engineering is, before we get into like the juicy stuff.

Ron Friedman 5:21

Absolutely. So. Let me give you some context. So that the stories that we've been told about success are wrong. That's the big idea for this book. So all of us have been taught two big stories about how success happens. The first story is that success comes from talent. This is the idea that we're all born with certain inner strengths. And that the key to finding your greatness is finding the right field that allows your inner strength to shine. The second story is that greatness comes from practice. This is the idea that if you just do something long enough, and practice at it, and get feedback that eventually you get good. And that's how greatness happens. And some people have talked about it being 10 years, 10,000 hours, whatever the case may be, practice, practice, practice, eventually, you'll get to Carnegie Hall, right? But there's a third story. And this is what I discovered in writing the book, 'Decoding Greatness,' which is that, that third path, which is turns out to be remarkably common amongst entrepreneurs, and creative professionals, is reverse engineering. So reverse engineering simply means finding the best in the field, and then working backward to figure out how they did it. So in Silicon Valley, there's a long history of reverse engineering. This is how we got the personal computer and the laptop, the mouse, the iPhone, all comes through reverse engineering. But reverse engineering also explains how writers like Malcolm Gladwell and Stephen King learned to write and how painters like Claude Monet and Pablo Picasso learn to paint and even how Judd Apatow became the comedy legend. He reverse engineered other comedians, and it's a process that is powerful, and simple to use, once you know how to do it, and we can all apply it to every aspect of our life to uplevel our skills.

Jamila Souffrant 6:55

And that's what I loved about the book. And you know, I talked about Yeah, the big level things, you know, if you want it to be like a pro tennis player, or even if you just are just want to get better at tennis like you can apply what the pros do to what you do, or running, it like literally applies to any aspect of your life, any domain.

Ron Friedman 7:11

Yeah, it would it comes down to is just simply figuring out how they did it, and how you can apply it to your field. And there are a wide range of strategies, and all depends on what field we're talking about. So just to give you a few examples, chefs often will order a dish to go, take an intricate sauce, and then spread it out across a wide plate to parse out the ingredients, a photographer might look at a photo now when I look at a photo, I look at the person in the photo, right because I'm a novice, but a professional knows to look at other aspects of the photo to unearth clues like looking at the eye of the person in the picture. And in that eye, you can see the reflection of the light source, you can also identify what time of day the shot was taken by the length of the shadows. So the all of these examples illustrate that it's about looking for clues that are hidden in plain sight that that tell you how an object was created that then offer you clues about how you can recreate that object and perhaps evolve it in a different direction.

Jamila Souffrant 8:13

Yeah, so in practical use for someone who's listening, and this is all different ways, because there's so many ways you can reverse engineer something but or, or a topic, but let's just say they are looking to start a business. And I'll use me as an example, right? Well, I'm already I already have my business. But before I started my business, I was listening to a lot of podcasts, and you referenced this, you consume content. And I didn't know I was doing this at the time. But because I was listening to so much podcasts and reading blogs, I kind of knew what I liked. And I kind of knew what kind of struck chords with me. And so when it came time to start my own thing, I didn't purposely like sit down and deconstruct it the way he talked about in the book, which I want to get to. But, I obviously took elements from each thing and created my own, which I feel like made it popular. So can we talk about like what that looks like a practical example that someone is reverse engineering something?

Ron Friedman 9:03

Yeah, so so number one, I want to congratulate you on doing this instinctively. And I have to tell you that as I was writing this book, I talked to a lot of my friends who are creative professionals, whether they work in ad agencies, or they're entrepreneurs. And invariably, I would get the response of "Man, I've been doing that all my life. And I've never read a book about it," and it's so interesting that people who are top performers just instinctively do this. And if you look at over the course of history, people like Andy Warhol or Julia Child, they instinctively were collectors before they were producers. And that's what you did you collected different podcasts. And that collection allows you to look at examples that stood out for you, and then figure out what is it that makes this different, relative to something that I don't consider particularly extraordinary, right? So it's comparing the ordinary to the extraordinary by having a collection and then parsing out what are the ingredients here that make this unique, and that allows you to create your own unique combination of ingredients. So it's like a remix, right? And I think that so many of us have been taught that we shouldn't study other people's work too closely, because then we'll be plagiarists. And that's the wrong attitude to have, because creativity is about blending ideas. It's not about like working in isolation, and then bam, an apple falls on your head, you have a great idea. That's not how it works. It works through remixing elements that work in other fields. And in fact, one of the studies that I talked about in 'Decoding Greatness', and this was kind of like the "aha moment" that was like, wow, okay, this explains everything. There's research showing that if you take the time to study someone else's, work closely, and even copy it privately, not release it as your own, putting your name on it, but just like, copy it, for the sake of learning, that will elevate your creativity later on. And so just to tell you a little bit more about this study, this is research out of the University of Tokyo by creativity experts. And what they did was they had novice artists, amateur artists come in and into the lab, they divided them up into two groups over the course of three days. And over those three days, one group was told, we want you to create original artwork. The second group, however, they were asked to create original artwork on the first day, on the second day, they were given the task of copying a professional artists work. And then on the third day, they had to resume their original artwork, then they brought in professional artists to rate the creativity of the two groups based on what they produced on the final day. And what they found is that the group that had paused to copy the work of an established artist actually produced more creative work. And it wasn't by mimicking what they saw on the established artists, it was by going off in completely different directions. And the reason that happens is because when you are pausing to look at the choices of a master and comparing them against your instinctive choices, that opens you up to completely new ideas that you hadn't considered that were hidden in your work the entire time. And so I just think that we need to dismiss this myth that copying is wrong. And we should use it as a tool for enhancing our learning.

Jamila Souffrant 12:04

It feels, at first counterintuitive, like when you first hear it, because it's like, well, you don't want to like be like anyone else. But you know, even talk about how some people are like trying to be so original and creative, that it's actually the people are not ready for that. Right. Can you talk about that part of it?

Ron Friedman 12:18

Yeah. So we like to think that the more original we are, the better. But in fact, there's research showing that if your too original, people will reject your work, and I give the example of Radiohead. In my book, The story of how Radiohead, they had 'Ok Computer". And then they went off and wrote Kit A and "Kid A" was a little bit of a disaster in terms of popular appeal. There are those who love it. And it was very successful because they had that inherent following, but compared to their earlier work, "Kid A" was a little bit of a disaster. And that's an example of music that was ahead of its time. And the same is true in the world of business where we think about for example, the Apple Watch. I have an apple smartwatch, I love it. But it's not a unique invention. In fact, the original smartwatch was introduced 20 years ago, and it had many of the same features that make Apple Smartwatch so popular. So it had traffic information. It had sports in real-time, it had the weather, and it was Seiko who produced it. And then later on Microsoft introduced the Microsoft Spot Watch, that too was a disaster. Cosmo is an example of a service that does basically what Amazon does. 20 years ago, disaster. Didn't work out. Folded. Amazon's a huge success. So what that tells us is that sometimes, being too original, and an introducing your work to a world where the audience isn't ready for it, isn't going to be the path of success. So, Ironically, the counterintuitive truth about being successful and being creative is don't try to be a complete original, rather study what's working for other people and then put your own unique twist on it.

Jamila Souffrant 13:54

Yeah, because there's that that's that timing thing. Like, right, it was too early. It was too early of an innovator. And it's not to say like you said, like the concept wouldn't work. It just doesn't work at that particular moment. And you also talk about, you know, we can often be blinded by our own, like, because a lot of the talk is look within, that's where you get your inspiration, which is can be true and is true. But I find even in my own work, like you know, I'll be stuck, like, I'll have blinders on about what's possible, until I kind of see something else. I'm like, even in another industry, there's actually personal finance. As a business owner. I'm like, wow, that's interesting. How can I apply it to what I'm doing? So can you talk a little bit about that?

Ron Friedman 14:31

Yeah. A great example of this in the book is the story of Barack Obama. So not a lot of people know this. I didn't know this before I wrote the book, which is that Barack Obama used to be a terrible speaker. And he in fact, he got trounced his first race for Congress, he lost by margin more than two to one. And the issue was that he was used to lecturing students, because he was a law school professor and voters don't appreciate being lectured to, and they let him know at the ballot box, he got killed. And so he thought about leaving politics and then one of his advisors said, you know, you really should check out what pastors are doing in the church. And he started studying them. And what he found was that they were using storytelling and they were modulating their tone, they were using pauses, and he came back. And his speaking style was completely transformed. And what I love about that story is that it shows the power of looking outside your industry, and finding ideas that work. So that's what the power of reverse engineering is all about, which is figure out what are the unique ingredients? And how can I apply these to my field? So it's all about thinking in a very curious way, and then consuming just freely, you know, the other thing that's nice about this is that it gives you license to just enjoy your guilty pleasure. Whatever your guilty pleasure is, there's value in that, so long as you're adopting a mindset of curiosity and asking yourself, why is this working? What can I learn from this? How do I apply this to my field?

Jamila Souffrant 15:50

Yeah, and the thing about it is the idea or the concept, and actually putting it into use, like reverse engineering, it can apply to anything. But when you look at people who are successful, whether it's a person, a business, a politician, like there are commonalities, right, like and so the idea here is that whatever it is that you're looking to reverse engineer, or figure out, you collect, or you research and identify elements in those things that you can then apply to what you're doing.

Ron Friedman 16:18

Yeah, that's, that's a great place to start. So starting a collection is the first step. And when I talk about collection, what I mean is like having a place, a resource, that you can go to have examples of things that have stood out for you. So when we think about collections, it's very tempting to think about physical objects like shoes, or stamps, or wines. But collections are a way of just gathering examples that you can look at. So I can tell you that the designers that I know, they collect logos, and they collect websites. Copywriters, who I know, collect headlines. Presenters collect presentation decks. So it's just a matter of either bookmarking them, or putting them in a Google doc, or using Pinterest, so that when it's time for you to create whatever it is you're creating, you have examples to look at. So I'm a writer. And I can tell you, I collect opening sentences. I collect conclusions. I collect transmissions. I collect words that really, kind of, cause me to pause and stand up and pay attention. And having that resource is a great place to go to for inspiration. But also just to remind myself to think big, as I'm doing my own writing. And it's not about copying those examples. But it's just giving yourself a prompt, so that you're not staring at a blank page.

Jamila Souffrant 17:27

Yeah, and I think what I want people also to get is like the awareness. Because I think if you're already kind of maybe an entrepreneur and someone who's already conditioned to see some of this stuff, it may be kind of obvious, like, of course, if you see something you like, you know, now you can apply it maybe to what you can do, but I think, because some of the people who listen, the Journeyers, that listen to the show, like they could be just in nine to fives, they can, but they have a passion or they want to do a side hustle, they want to reach financial freedom. And it might not be as obvious. Like, they may see something and it could be, like, their favorite brands, or you know, their favorite sneaker brand or favorite restaurant, and they just like it, right? But their, but to think about why do you like it? What is that thing? What is... what's that thing they do that kind of like gives you excitement, or makes you feel at ease? And whatever it is that you're choosing to do in your life and want to improve upon-- what is that element that you can apply to what you're doing? It's like, what I want people to start being aware of in their day-to-day lives.

Ron Friedman 18:17

Exactly. And, I would add to that, that people don't realize it sometimes. But the people who are really successful entrepreneurs, they just have a knack for finding patterns. And this is one of the research studies that I talked about in 'Decoding Greatness', it's research out of the Harvard Business School. And what they found by looking at wildly successful entrepreneurs, is that they're not necessarily more creative, or smarter, more intelligent or even more resilient. They're just more curious and ask more questions. And in that process, identify, are better at identifying patterns. And so an interesting example of of a pattern that you might find in some of your favorite restaurants, as you point out restaurants, right? So, Chipotle, Chipotle, the story of Chipotle, and how Chipotle came about is that Steve Ells who is the founder of Chipotle, was living in San Francisco, and he noticed this boom of taco taquerias. So, he didn't want to open up a taqueria in San Francisco where there was huge competition. Instead, he took the idea, and he moved it out to Denver. And there were no taquerias in Denver, and it exploded, and it became a chain. Now the same. It's a similar story of for Starbucks. Where, in the case of Starbucks, Howard Schultz traveled out to Italy, saw espresso bars were wildly popular, there was nothing like that in the US, he brought them into Seattle. And so, both of those stories have a shared pattern. And you wouldn't find that unless you were looking to reverse engineer it. And what you find when you look at those two stories, is that the underlying pattern is find something that's popular somewhere else, and bring it into your hometown. And you can also do the reverse by asking yourself, "Hey, what is something that's popular near me that other places don't have and can I import or export that somewhere else?" And that's just in one example of a pattern that you can find when you're studying businesses in a way that looks to reverse engineer them.

Jamila Souffrant 20:08

Yes, yes.

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The other thing you brought up when I got a chance to read this part, because this always stood out for me, um Ira Glass is part, it's on page 83 in your book, and he has this like whole thing I don't know. I think I will read it because I think it's very poignant. speaks to how a lot of people feel. So okay, this is what he says from Ira Glass, the creator of This American Life. He says, "What nobody tells people who are beginners, and I really wish someone had told me this, is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it, because we have good taste. But there's a gap. For the first couple of years you make stuff. And it's just not that good. It's trying to be good. It has potential, but it's not. But your taste, the thing that you got into this game, it's still a killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit." And I related that to creating anything like a business or product and the financial freedom journey. Because you have a vision for your life, you have these things that you want, and then you recognize where you are and the gap between it. And so you address this as a vision ability gap. And I want to talk about that. Because there's a lot of things that you're feeling we are feeling now. And we want to get to that next level. But we don't want to quit. So how do we not quit? How do we make this more enjoyable when we do recognize something that we like, but we can't get to right away?

Ron Friedman 22:55

Yeah, so this is the second half of the book. So the first half of the book is all about how do you reverse engineer? How do you find formulas? And then also, how do you recreate them yourself and evolve them? The second half of the book is about what you just described, the Vision Ability Gap. So, even though you may have a formula that you want to now execute against, you're probably not gonna be very good at it, at least not right out of the gate. So the question is, how do you get better at it? And so the second half of the book offers a range of strategies. And I want to start with one that I think is powerful not just to improving your skills, but is just fundamental to improving at anything, and that's creating a scoreboard. So I call this "The Scoreboard Principle". And The Scoreboard Principle, essentially says that anything that you measure, you are likely to improve on. And the reason for that is because when you track your behaviors, or track the outcomes you're trying to get good at, you instinctively pay them more attention. But also, as you see your numbers going up, that gives you an emotional boost, that leads you to be more motivated to pursue it in the future and persist. Whereas if your numbers are sinking, you can't help but feel ashamed. And that also provides you with an emotional boost to a certain extent. So obviously, when you get to a point where you're just terrible at it for a few days in a row, you might give up. But it's better to have that metric than to not have that metric, because you pay it more attention when you have this is, by the way is why app creators include scores. Even when the score has nothing to do with the app, right? So so many of the apps that we download, give us a score. Why do they do that? Because they know we're going to try to optimize for that score. And there are all kinds of evolutionary reasons for why we pay attention to numbers. But the point is that you can harness this by identifying the specific behaviors that you want to execute against. And so there's research showing that just tracking will lead to improvement. And there's that one of the fascinating studies that I found while doing the research for the book is that dieters who keep a food diary end up losing more weight than dieters who share the same diet, but don't track their food consumption. And again, it's for all the reasons that we mentioned. It's the emotional boost that it gives you, but it also makes you more mindful of the choices that you make. So if you for example, track how you spend your time over the course of the work day, if you're tempted to go and look on YouTube, for, you know, 20 minutes, you might do that if you're not tracking it, but if you are tracking your time, there's a little bit of something, the bell goes off in the back of your head that you're gonna have to put that on a timesheet, and you're a little embarrassed to do that's, you're less likely to actually go on YouTube for 20 minutes. So the point is, is that we all need a scoreboard for the behaviors and outcomes we're trying to achieve. Because that clarity that we get by tracking our behavior, improves our skills. And so you can use it to whatever towards whatever and whatever skill you're trying to build, like, write better memos, create better websites, whatever the case may be, but also just keeps you on point for how you spend your time over the course of the workday.

Jamila Souffrant 25:45

And it's also right about like, picking the right things to track. One of the things you talk about is like the leading indicators, and then like the lagging indicators. So what is your desired result, and we can literally we can make that like a micro goal of something in a day that you're trying to accomplish. Like maybe, like you said, write this email, or write these outreach emails to people this number, or like, literally, like a more macro-goal of your life, like save $20,000 for a house down payment, right? So like, figuring out what the lagging indicator is, what the goal is, but then what is actually leading up to help you get to that goal, and then tracking that. Let's talk about that.

Ron Friedman 26:23

Yeah, so okay, so first, the definition. What is, what is a leading indicator? What's a lagging indicator? So, at first, this seems like seem like intimidating terms, but they're actually really useful. So let me start with a lagging indicator. The Lagging Indicator is the thing you're trying to achieve. So let's say you're trying to save $20,000 for a house, that's your Lagging Indicator. Your Leading Indicator is the thing that predicts how well you're going to do at the Lagging Indicator in advance. So it might be how many times a week you eat out, right? that might be your Leading Indicator for your Lagging Indicator. What's really interesting about metrics is that the more metrics you collect, the better you get at finding your Leading Indicator. So I'll give you an example from my own life. My Lagging Indicator was productivity at work. So, how successful am I over the course of work day? And I can get into what those specifics might be, for me, maybe it's word count, if I'm in writing mode. So the Leading Indicator turned out to be and I wasn't expecting this at the time, water consumption the day before. That's crazy, right? Like, why would that impact your productivity next day, it's because water consumption ended up influencing how much deep sleep I got at night, and deep sleep affected word count the next day. And so I would never have known that if I wasn't collecting metrics. And that's the power of just collecting information about yourself, because you discover what's the thing that leads me to be to do that to do the behaviors that will help me produce the the Lagging Indicator, or the outcome I'm trying to achieve?

Jamila Souffrant 27:50

That is so fascinating, because you know, like, like you said, like water leads to your, what not even the water the day of. Water in the previous day. Now, okay, this is like, I think very illuminating. I know you're saying, like the way to find it, it's just attract everything. But how did you know to relate, or even to put that on your scoreboard? Because if I'm writing a scoreboard about productivity, it's going to be how many times I opened my, like app, or how long I spent on Instagram. That's like my guilty pleasure. It's going to be all these other things. And I would not think to go back the day before. How did you find that out?

Ron Friedman 28:21

So first of all, philosophically, I'm a big believer that how productive you are today is a function of what you did yesterday. That's it's a huge predictor. And it's because like, you know, let's take alcohol for a second, right? So alcohol makes us feel good in the moment, but it's like you're you're paying with tomorrow. You just are. And it's because it affects your sleep. And sob how does it affect your sleep? Well, yes, it'll make you sleepy and maybe help you fall asleep at night, but your level of deep sleep will suffer. And it's in the deep sleep that you're creating the energy for tomorrow. So that is, you know, if I try to think back on all the steps, I mean, there are a lot of different factors that kind of gave me clues for this. But, I discovered that water intake was important. The other thing that's really important is exercise. So on days, when I play sports for like two hours, I'll sleep like a baby. And then the next day, I'll be more productive. And so now consider exercising as part of my job, because it's an investment in tomorrow.

Jamila Souffrant 29:22

That is great. I'm so glad you said that. And I was laughing, for anyone who gets to watch this on the video, because it happens. Like, I'm like, "Oh, should I have just like a little nightcap tonight?" And in the moment it feels good, but then I'm realizing, "Yeah, it does affect the next day." It's almost like the "in moment gratification," and the Leading Indicators, like, you have to decide if it's worth the sacrifice of the Lagging Indicator. And I think this is like the whole point of the journey and those who choose to reach, or try to reach financial freedom and independence and meet their goals more aggressively. Like, you know, it might call for some sacrifice and being more intense with saving and investing, and doing all these things that, in the moment, may not feel so good. There's some upfront sacrifice, but then they get to their Lagging Indicators faster. But, for some people, they're like, well, I don't want actually I want to have that drink. So, but you have to understand the relationship here.

Ron Friedman 30:13

Yeah, and I'm not saying don't drink. I'm just saying be strategic when when you drink. right? Okay, so just start a little earlier and end earlier so that you're not impacting your sleep. One of the things that happens when you have, for example, a glass of wine or beer, is that it's a downer initially in terms of your anxiety level. But then, as it get consumed and digested, your energy level bounces up. So if you're having a drink, for example, at nine o'clock, then you're going to actually experience more energy after it's digested three hours later, which makes it harder for you to fall asleep. Now, obviously, if you have three drinks, then you're going to pass out easily, but you're not getting any of that deep sleep. So, by the way, on metrics, we could talk about how this affects financial goals, because you brought that up. So I would just say that it's so critical to just use this scoreboard to figure out what are you optimizing for, and so many of us are just we bounce around, like, you know, we'll listen to this podcast, and we'll think okay, Jamila has taught me well, I'm gonna optimize for long-term wealth, okay? So, I'm not going to eat out as much, I'm going to put that downpayment, down on my house, etc. But then, we go on Instagram, and we see that a friend of ours just got an Audi convertible. And we're like, "Oh, man, I wish I had Audi convertible," and now we're optimizing for status. And then we get a phone call from our friend, and they're like, "Hey, you want to go out to this new restaurant?" And now we're optimizing for immediate gratification. And we're bouncing around from goal to goal to goal, because we're not clear on what our scoreboard is. And if we were just had that clarity, we would just save ourselves so much disappointment, because it's in the bouncing around of what you're optimizing for that you're getting that emotional whiplash. It's like, it's you don't because you're constantly feel like you're behind on one of the goals.

Jamila Souffrant 31:57

So how does one then, because everything you said, I was like, "Well, technically, I want to do all those things." I want, I want to, I want to reach my long-term wealth goals. I want to have the nice car, and I want to go out to eat tonight, right? So, how do you then is, in your opinion, how do you optimize or not for all that same time?

Ron Friedman 32:14

Well, that's tricky, because they're they are counter to one another. So I think most financial advisors will tell you, you can have that car, but you can't have long-term financial wealth unless you're really increasing your income. You know, we can have that debate of like, Is it better to save or make more money. Everybody wants to make more money, but I don't know how many people are actually doing something about it. Particularly people who have stable jobs. It's very hard to become very wealthy. If you're working for someone else. It's just-- that's a fact. And nobody wants to hear it. But it's true. And the other part of it, we, I don't know how often you bring this up on your podcast, but it's like, people who have those nine to fives, they will persuade themselves they're doing it for stability, but the truth is, there's not a ton of stability working for someone else. Because if the business does, well, they get all the profits. If the business doesn't do well, you're gonna have to look for a new job. So I'm not sure that that is a good long-term strategy. And I think that we like to believe that if we work for someone else, then, then we're kind of stable, we're doing the "safe thing." But, there's an argument that it's actually less safe to work for someone else.

Jamila Souffrant 33:16

There's some truth in that, for sure. I think, you know, there's like that each side has its thing, each side has the hard parts of it. And this stability and stability and hard work part of it all that, going back to what you said, like I think, too, it's understanding the opportunity cost and the trade-off of whatever it is that you're doing. And so the idea is like a lot of people, some people, if you listen to this podcast, hopefully you're more aware, but some people are just making these decisions, and it's, they don't understand how it's impacting other things that they want to do. The product, right? Like this, they see something they want, the whole point about reverse engineering is to, you know, to get to this end goal of something that you want to also do. And then you're not understanding why you can get there maybe and it's like, now you're giving some help about getting the scoreboard together. So it's like having something like that and really writing it down-- it seems like writing it down is key to be able to look at, it gives you then, okay, so you want to have that drink, or and/or you want to buy that card. Just know, this is how it doesn't pact that Lagging Indicator.

Ron Friedman 34:13

Yeah. And if you just determined that, you know, you you're optimizing for long-term wealth, seeing those numbers rise will be motivating to you. That keeps you persistent, whereas there's less of a temptation to get that car, because it doesn't affect your scoreboard. So, when you have a scoreboard, not only does it motivate you to pursue your goals a little bit more clearly, it also makes it easier to shed some of those non-essential goals that pop up and it makes you just less susceptible to social influence.

Jamila Souffrant 34:42

Right, and just laughing on the scoreboard. So, for someone, and they can get the book, obviously, if they want to like get deeper into that, but if they want to create one for themselves, it's literally just picking those Leading Indicators, like writing them down vertically, and then scoring them across, like, a time period.

Ron Friedman 34:58

Yeah, I'll give you an easier way to do it. Which is just, like, think to yourself, okay, let's say you're optimizing for your work day, and you want to create a scoreboard for that. Just think to yourself, "What would make for a successful day?What are the five things I need to do to have a successful day?" And start tracking them? So, for me, I'm a writer, so I would track word count. And I also track how often I check my email, because that's a, that's a, that's a bad indicator, right? Something I'm trying to avoid. So you can, you can have some things that you don't want to do, and keep that on your scoreboard as well. Because that just makes you more mindful of the decisions that you make. Because you know, you're gonna have to report them.

Jamila Souffrant 35:33

Yes, yes. Okay. So that, I think, is some practical stuff right there anyone can use. Now, this is actually a question that came in from my husband. I told you, he stole the book and took it before I could read it. One of the questions he had said to me was, okay, so we are optimizing, or, you know, we want to, we're decoding greatness and the attempts to also be great ourselves. Does that create then a trap of being forever on this wheel of not recognizing, like, when you have accomplished something, and when something is great already, and it just puts you in this, just constant forever "greatness loop"?

Ron Friedman 36:05

Oh, man, that is a good philosophical question thrown out by your husband. You know, sometimes there's a clash between wanting to be successful and wanting to be happy. And I think that we should acknowledge that. Which isn't to suggest that you can't be a happy person and an accomplished person. But my experience has been that the most successful people are consistently unhappiness. And in fact, I'm consistently unhappy. And in fact, is research showing that if you are someone who's high on your happiness level, you're probably not going to achieve at the level of someone who's slightly dissatisfied. Slightly dissatisfied turns out to be the best indicator of someone who's highly accomplished.

Jamila Souffrant 36:45

Okay, I'm going to jump in. And, is it though because people are defining success without including happiness in that? Because, I know you did your research, you have probably studies about this. But is it because like the people who are defining success, it's more money, it has nothing to do with quality of life/balance, and that's why they're unhappy at the end of the day?

Unknown Speaker 37:02

Oh, that's interesting. I have to look at how those questions were framed. But what I can tell you is that when, this is research on how satisfied people are with their lives, and their level of financial success, and the people who have the highest level of financial success, tend to be slightly dissatisfied with their life. And I think it's probably because that dissatisfaction is being harnessed in a productive way. So there's, there's, there different reactions we can have to being dissatisfied. We can either go drinking, or we can work harder. And the people who are taking that dissatisfaction and channeling it toward working harder, tend to end up being more accomplished.

Jamila Souffrant 37:38

When you said channeling you're dissatis--, dissatisfaction that makes a lot of sense. And, you know, that kind of relates to the people who are going to work, they don't really enjoy their job, they don't maybe understand how they can get out of their job, and they have to work forever. So they're like, "Well, if I'm going to do this, like, I'm going to spend my money. Like long-term, wealth, fine, but I want to enjoy it now, because I've worked so hard." So satisfaction is almost harnessed, then turn into something else.

Ron Friedman 38:00

Yeah, and I think that, you know, a lot of folks, particularly people who are younger, have this desire for work/life balance, and I think that's, that's laudable. But, I don't think that work/life balance happens when you're 20s. It shouldn't happen. I mean, like, there's, there's an argument for investing in your future self, and reaping that reward later in life. And I just think that there are seasons in life. And when you're in your 20s, and 30s, it's okay to have a little bit of imbalance because you're investing in your future self.

Jamila Souffrant 38:29

Yeah, that's gonna be so hard for some people to hear, right? Because, because what we know, no matter how, like, old you are, when you hear this message, you heard, you know, our voices in this episode is like, if you're 20-something year old, because I have little sisters, and one of them is 25. She's gonna be 25. And if, you know, she hears this, she's like, "I deserve it now. I you know, I deserve it all now," and I get it. I get that she wants that now. And then, I think back to like, she's looking at me of how I got to where I am. And in my 20s, like, I worked, I did things I actually didn't want necessarily do to get to where I am today. But, I think the hope is that people want to find that balance, and they don't want to wait, right?

Ron Friedman 39:08

Yeah. And I also think that if you're suffering at work, that tells you something important. I'm not suggesting you suffer and you're 20 or 30. You should find something that allows you to expand your horizons, makes you feel ambitious, makes you feel excited and energized when you do that job. And so, if you have a job that depletes you, then it's time to look for something else, so that you can find something you actually want to do on a level that takes you to where you want to be financially.

Jamila Souffrant 39:38

Yeah, yeah, that's great. And, so, of all the studies that you've come across, and you know, researched, what is like that one common like thread that you found in successful companies, or people that like even when you just constructed it, it didn't matter, like the subject, or the topic like that was the thing that, or things, that help them get ahead.

Ron Friedman 39:59

Well, you know, I have to bring it back to reverse engineering, because this is something that is such a critical tool. So so many of us have been convinced that what you know, greatness is not for me, because I wasn't born talented, or I don't have 10,000 hours to get good at something. And so, I need to just take a stable job and work for the weekend, then hopefully, at some point, I can retire. And that's such a sad story. I don't want to hear that story anymore. Because I really feel like if you look at the people who are at the top of their profession, they have a system for working backwards. Look, studying the best in the field, and then shortcutting it by understanding what's the formula. So I'll give you just an example from the book, which is Kurt Vonnegut, Kurt Vonnegut: Famous writer, everyone's heard of him. And so what he would do is he would deconstruct popular stories by taking words and turning them into shapes. And here's what I mean by that. So he would take entire stories, and then just map them out on a graph. And so what he would do, is he would graph over time from beginning to end, the protagonists fortunes, in other words, what's happening to the main character? Are things going well, for them? Are things going poorly? And so he would just draw a graph, from the beginning to the end of the book. And what he found is, that when you do this, you find that all stories, whether they are in, in books, or movies, or theaters, there's just six basic stories. And we just hear the same story over and over and over again. And just to make this concrete, he compared Annie versus Cinderella. It's the same story. So, at the beginning, both protagonists are suffering, right? Annie's an orphan, Cinderella is being abused by her stepmother and stepsisters. Then, things get a little bit better. Annie gets rescued by Daddy Warbucks, Cinderella goes to the ball. Then it's back to square one. Annie gets kidnapped by people pretending to be her parents. Cinderella, the clock strikes midnight, she's back to working in the basement. And then finally, both of them get rescued and live happily ever after. So, what that tells you is that there's a basic formula for some of these stories that are successful. And it's a similar thing with Harry Potter. So, Harry Potter, you know, when you think about it, it's such a beautiful story. But then, you know, you take a step back and you think, wait a second, this isn't the first time I've heard about an orphan who's living with his aunt and uncle, who has magical powers and who has to fight an evil villain. There's another story just like that. And it's called Star Wars. So, it's all about looking for patterns. And unless you're looking for patterns in your industry, you're not going to get better. And that's what I hope with "Decoding Greatness," people have the power to do, because I've tried to provide them with a host of tools that they can use to find patterns in their industry.

Jamila Souffrant 42:27

Yeah, and, and I think that's the thing. So much of this is public too, right? Like you might say, Well, I don't have access to like, you know, the inner workings of some certain people that you may have interest in. But there are so many biographies, and public, you know, articles and just things where you can, then become your own researcher and gather the information where it's like, you can figure this out, right?

Ron Friedman 42:47

Absolutely. And the other thing, you know, in "Decoding Greatness," I talk about how you can deconstruct TED Talks to see what their hidden formula is. And I just give you a methodology that you can use to find patterns in your favorite talk. And, so, just one of the tools in there, is just to just map the emotional trajectory of what's happening in the talk. So, just like Kurt Vonnegut did that for stories, you can do that in TED Talks to see, "Hey, wait a second, they're starting really negative, but then there's a slow rise..." And so, you can use that insight to create a template for yourself to write your own TED Talk, if that's something you're interested in, or just writing better presentations. Because once you notice what the pattern is that makes that Ted Talk successful, that's a pattern that you can apply to creating other things.

Jamila Souffrant 43:28

Yeah. Now, I'm just gonna ask you, because I'm really so into books and non-fiction books, because I'm on that journey myself to write my own. What did you discover-- Because I know you had to do that when you were writing your book on this, not your first book, but, like, what were some things you discovered about best selling non-fiction books that you apply to your work?

Unknown Speaker 43:45

I have to tell you, I don't read a ton in my industry. And that's deliberate, because I'm trying to import elements of other fields and genres into my writing. So, I read a lot of novels. And that has helped me become a better storyteller. And so, as you were reading and your husband was reading through the "Decoding Greatness," I hope you noticed that there were a lot of stories and they were quick. I don't have the patience to hear your story over 20 pages. I don't want to hear it. That's how I read. I noticed with myself as I'm reading I'm just like, Okay, I got the beginning I just want to get the payoff and I'll fast forward, and I don't want the readers to have to do the same thing. So, I trust my radar, in that I don't find it interesting therefore, I don't think you're gonna find it interesting, but and so I'm just everything I just described, which is become a collector-- I'll collect from different writers different things, and then I remix them based on my personal taste

Jamila Souffrant 44:35

Such, such good advice keep that in mind myself. When it's my turn. Okay, Ron, tell everyone where they can find the book and more about you.

Ron Friedman 44:43

The best place to get the book is

If you go there, if you get a book, you will get a free course on how to apply the strategies completely free. So, You can find out more about me at Or at my company's website, which is And the reason is called Ignite80, is because we teach leaders how to create great workplaces by applying the strategies that are science based and so, over 80% of employees are not fully engaged at work. So the mission of Ignite80 is to reverse that trend, by giving leaders science-based strategies they can use.

Jamila Souffrant 45:19

All right, awesome. Thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing this information. I know it will be useful to a lot of people including myself.

Ron Friedman 45:26

Awesome. Thanks for having me.

Jamila Souffrant 45:31

All right, Journeyers. I really hope you enjoyed that episode. Not only enjoyed it, you know, I love when you enjoy the episode. That's great, but that you got something you can take away and apply to your actual life. I love when I get the comment that "Yeah, I enjoyed that. But guess what, I got a raise. I paid off debt. I put what you talked about into action." Nothing makes me happier. And so if you enjoyed this episode, if there's something that you know, you can take away from this and do, let me know! I am on Instagram @journeytolaunch, so tag that you are watching. Take a screenshot, share it on your social media, tag me-- and I just love to see it. Also, don't forget, I talked about this a little bit last week, but Apple podcast has changed things around a little bit. So, if you are currently listening to Apple Podcasts on your Apple Phone, make sure you are now following the podcast. That's right. It's no longer subscribed. Now you need to follow the podcast. So, make sure you're following it on Apple Podcasts, that way you do not miss an episode. We drop a new one every Wednesday. And it doesn't matter where you listen, make sure you are following or subscribe. So we are on Spotify, Google Podcast, Stitcher-- you name it, you can find the podcast. So just type in Journey to Launch, and then of course you can always listen on our website

Don't forget, you can get the episode show notes for this episode by going to, or click the description of wherever you're listening to this and you can still grab your Jumpstart Guide for free to help you on your journey to financial freedom by going to If you want to support me and the podcast and love the free content and information that you get here, here are four ways that you can support me in the show: One, make sure you're subscribed to the podcast wherever you listen, whether that's Apple Podcasts, that purple app on your phone, your Android device, YouTube, Spotify, wherever it is that you happen to listen, just subscribe so you are not missing an episode. And if you're happening to listen to this and Apple Podcasts, rate, review and subscribe there. I appreciate and read every single review. Number two, follow me on my social media accounts. I'm @journeytolaunch on Facebook, Instagramm, and Twitter. And I love, love, love, interacting with Journeyers there. Three, support and check out the sponsors of this show. If you hear something that interests you. Sponsors are the main ways we keep the podcast lights on here. So, show them some love for supporting your girl. Four, and last but not least, share this episode this podcast with a friend or family member or co worker, so that we can spread the message of Journey to Launch. Alright, that's it until next week. Keep on journeying Journeyers.

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Have you always wondered what the true “secret” to success was? Or why the strategies you’re using aren’t working? Then this week’s Journey to Launch Podcast episode is for you. I dive into author Ron Friedman’s latest work, “Decoding Greatness,” a guide on how to reverse engineer your success and live your best life possible.

During this episode, we explore the misconceptions and falsehoods of how success is marketed towards us. Through Ron’s unique blueprints, you can learn how to rise above the noise and collect your own data to use as leverage in building your best self in the professional, personal, and financial worlds we move through each day.

Tune in to hear all about Ron’s new book and learn practical, easy day-to-day tips on how to reach your goals and create the life you want.

In This Episode You’ll Learn:

  • How to use micro-goals to propel your macro-goals into realities 
  • Opportunity cost and why keeping a scoreboard will change all areas of your life
  • The psychology behind why reverse engineering works and how you can do it yourself in your day-to-day life
  • The harsh reality– and positives– of hustle and grind when you’re young
  • Why looking for patterns and molding them to fit your goals is imperative to success

Watch the video to this interview on YouTube here

I'm Listening to Episode 223 of the Journey to Launch Podcast, How to Reverse Engineer Your Success + Decode Greatness with Dr. Ron Friedman Share on X

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