Episode 412 – Success Frames with Rob Hatch

Rob Hatch‘We can’t really understand what failure teaches us until we achieve success after failure. So it’s the success actually, that is more instructive.’

If you’re navigating business or personal growth challenges, this episode could be a game-changer.

Rob Hatch challenges the widely accepted narrative that failure is our greatest teacher. Instead, he argues, the most useful lessons come from our successes. Instead of studying what to avoid, let’s try to better understand what to repeat.

If you’re curious about the underlying forces that drive success, or if repeated advice about learning from failures doesn’t resonate with you, this fresh perspective on ‘learning from success’, together with his simple, practical ideas for how to start, might be just what you need.



Rob’s site: https://robhatch.com/

Rob on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rob-hatch/

Alison on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/the-alison-jones/

The 10-day Business Book Proposal Challenge: http://proposalchallenge.com/

The Extraordinary Business Book Club on Substack: https://extraordinarybusinessbooks.substack.com/

The Extraordinary Business Book Club on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1447064765612358/

Alison Jones: I’m here today with Rob Hatch, who coaches business owners, executives, and teams, guiding them through critical transitions in their organization. And he brings a unique blend of knowledge and background in human development and experience as a successful business leader himself.

His newsletter, which is weekly, is read by tens of thousands worldwide. He’s the best selling author of Attention: The power of simple decisions in a distracted world, and his new book, is called Success Frames: Why learning from success is the key to understanding what motivates and inspires us.

So first of all, welcome back. Rob, this is not your first rodeo.

Rob Hatch: No, it is not. Thanks for having me again. I appreciate it.

Alison Jones: Well, I mean, you write another book. I want to hear about it. And the premise behind Success Frames is really interesting because there is, I think, a very widely accepted narrative, isn’t there, that failure, yes, it’s amazing, this is how we learn. Tell us why that’s maybe not the whole truth.

Rob Hatch: Well, I’ve always had this sense that failure was never a great teacher for me. I don’t like working with my back up against the wall. I’m not a person who thrives on being put in precarious positions, right? I want to find, I think we all want to find some piece of ground that we can stand on and then take steps forward. Failure has for so long been touted as this wonderful teacher, but again, I’ve always had this sense that the lessons of failure, I could never really access them. It was more a story that I think we’ve told ourselves that we can’t really understand what failure teaches us until we achieve success after failure. So it’s the success actually, that is more instructive.

Success teaches us how we do, you know, what we do well. What choices we made, what actions we took, what resources we lean on. So it’s the how really, how did we manage to achieve success? Yes, we were once further behind. You know, maybe we failed at an attempt, but I’m not mining those lessons for anything that would tell me what to do. It just tells me what not to do.

Alison Jones: Not to do, right. And there is something powerful about that. There is that, I sometimes think perhaps one of the reasons that we’ve got to where we are is that the opposite mistake almost is to not tolerate failure, which is equally unhelpful.

Rob Hatch: I agree. I agree. And again, I’m not saying there aren’t any lessons in failure or that it doesn’t have something to teach us. I just think success in any form, you know it doesn’t have to be some big grand accomplishment or achievement. We can have small successes all day long but it’s far more instructive to, particularly as an individual, particularly in terms of what we need in order to be successful, what supports us, who are the people that we reach out to? What books do we read? What, you know, how do we get there? And, how do we put this information together?

When I think about, if someone, for example, is attempting an exercise regimen, right? And they’ve set out to run every single day. And they, make it, you know, 30 days in and then they miss one. There’s this tendency, I think, to think that we failed at that goal that we set out to do, which was it every day. So, I’m also not a fan of every day, setting something to do every single day because stuff comes up. But there’s not, I don’t think there’s much of a lesson in that 30th day, the day that we missed or the 31st day that we missed.

I want to know, how did you manage to do this for 30 days. What kept you going? And all the things that enabled that are far more interesting and appealing to me to understand how you do what you do. How did you manage to set yourself up that way?

Alison Jones: And it reminds me as well of appreciative inquiry, that inquiry, I think you’d say, which is that sense that when you’re asking questions of people in coaching, you’re focusing on what’s working and helping them not just understand it better, but actually see it in the first place sometimes.

Rob Hatch: I think that’s true because we do tend to go to that place of feeling one, that we’ve failed, that we’re not good enough. People talk all the time about imposter syndrome and all sorts of things that play with our mind to set us back. And honestly, with success, helping someone to identify what worked, no matter how big or how small, again, it gives you that little piece of ground.

It restores the locus of control, the personal agency that we need to say, yes, I’ve been here before. I’ve been in a pinch and I’ve navigated my way through it. And so my role as a coach would be help me understand what you did the last time you faced this. I use some examples in the book where, we’ve gotten a job, we got into college, things that we just think we’re supposed to do, but the how you got the job. How did you study consistently enough to get the grades required to go on to the college that you most wanted to get into? All of those things. There’s a story there. I think it’s far more powerful individually than somehow looking at why you failed right now, why you lost the most recent job.

Alison Jones: I remember when you and I were talking about this concept and I had a real kind of, but of course, but of course that’s more powerful. Why haven’t we seen this? What I really love about what you’ve done as well is to say, and this is how you do that.

So just tell us a little bit about what you mean by success frames and that process of interrogating the success.

Rob Hatch: Sure.

Well, I think it starts with being someone who is willing to be reflective about what went on in a situation. So reflective practice is something that was introduced by a man named Daniel Schon, a long time ago, but he just kind of came up with the words of looking back intentionally on, what you do and how you do it and trying to sort of find the threads so that you can improve.

So it starts for me with looking back and leveraging any success that I can grasp onto. Again, it, it could be, you know, that I made it two weeks of a diet, and losing weight. And I want to know, all right, how did I manage to do that? How did I manage to eat consistently and exercise consistently? Looking back at what you did and then thinking about it in terms of the broader actions, I know that, well, the most easy example for me, one of my success frames, I talked extensively about in Attention with put success in your way. I know that willpower is limited. I know that decisions, too many decisions, will distract me.

And I also know that habits are really powerful neurobiological forces. And so, if I look at those three things, I think about what do I need to prepare myself to do this thing. What do I need to have to be able to get myself out the door for that run? What do I need to, if it’s a big presentation that’s coming up, what do I need to do to be successful? How can I tap into a previous experience?

Not a failure, but a previous experience where I was successful and say, that felt good. How did I do that? How did I… did I talk to people? Did I do research? Did I rehearse? So then it becomes this very broad, I do better when I prepare. Well, what does preparation look like for you?

Preparation looks like me spending time rehearsing. It looks like me doing online research, but also talking with some people. It looks like, you know, whatever those things might be. And trying to identify them. It’s not always an easy thing, especially if we get a little mired in our head about not having done well.

Alison Jones: Yes, and I think that’s part of the magic of this, isn’t it? When we are focusing on failure, there’s a sort of, there’s a certain energy, a certain state of mind associated with that, which is not always the most helpful. When we are, it’s almost visualization, isn’t it? And all the kind of positive stuff around that, that when we’re focusing on what we do well, when we’re focusing on when we’re at our best, there’s a neurological state associated with that, that is perhaps more helpful because habits are formed by positive emotion, right?

Rob Hatch: Yes, and…

…if I can tap into and there’s so many examples of this in my own life. We tolerate frustration and pain in our lives so often. Little things, like even the way that our houses are set up or, our office or whatever, little piles of things, we tolerate it for whatever reason, like, well, you know, I’ll fix that. I’ll get to that.

But when finally, I hear just, this is the silliest example, but people often struggle with like, you know, trying to get out the door in the morning and they can’t find the keys to their car, right. And they’ll search the whole house and where did I leave them? Did I leave them in my pocket? Did I leave them? And did you have them, you know, and they’re blaming spouses and any other driver.

So there’s a…

Alison Jones: …our house. This is quite encouraging.

Rob Hatch: And, you know, so you go through that and there’s this pain, like that you’re willing to endure and it happens time and time and time again. And then one day, like, you know how to solve this problem, right?

It’s just like, let’s all put them in this little bowl.

Alison Jones: It’s really not a hard problem.

Rob Hatch: It’s not a hard problem to fix, but we endure, we still don’t fix it. The pain isn’t enough. If however, we think, all right. Let’s do this. Let’s commit to putting them in the bowl and everyone does it.

The feeling of having them ready over and over and over again, that success, that good emotion, that is what fuels your ability to keep doing it over and over again, because you’re so grateful. And this, you know, one of my books that I love is Emotional Success by David DeSteno. And he talks about the power of gratitude, and compassion as well. So if I have compassion for my future self, in this case, you know, maybe I don’t want to go through that pain, but also there is this, I know that that person is going to be so, future me, will be so grateful to have the keys right there.

And then it fuels you know, this… one of the things that he points out in his book is it actually fuels willpower. Once you start to experience that gratitude and the feeling of success, basically, it fuels your desire to want to repeat it.

Alison Jones: It changes your sense of who you are as well, doesn’t it? Suddenly I’m the kind of person who always knows where their car keys are. That’s an identity.

Rob Hatch: And what a weird thing to hang your hat on, but it’s a pretty great thing. Because, and that’s what I mean by small successes too, because it doesn’t have to be this massive success. You figured that out, like, great, you know how to organize certain aspects of your life.

So if that’s all I, that’s the only scrap I’ve got. I want to work with you to build on that.

Alison Jones: That’s so cool. And I want to talk to you about writing as well, Rob, because I’m always really interested when somebody’s written their second book, suddenly you’ve got a comparison point, right? What was it like? Did you go into writing the second book in a different state to going into writing the first?

What did you learn? What did you apply?

 There’s a whole Success Frames conversation around writing books here, isn’t there?

Rob Hatch: There is, there is, and there were many things that I did similarly. I really thought about how I wrote the first one. I structured my thinking in a similar way, you know, I like to start with kind of the, well, as you’ve you know, laid out in the business book challenge.

 Having those, having the chapters laid out for me is really helpful with little blurbs. It’s always been helpful. And just having those sort of key points. Like I know, essentially what I’m going to write in each chapter and that clarity helps me to just sit down and write.

But also, as you know, with this second book, the first time I handed it over to you, it did not hit the mark. But let’s even go back a step further was, I was feeling a little, maybe a little cocky, let’s just say. That, you know, when I reached out to you and said, I’m ready, you said, your first response was you need to do the challenge again. And at first I kind of balked at that, but I was so grateful for that advice because you know, there was, you know, that is a success frame having gone through that structure. One, it helped me, it was such a much better book coming out of that challenge. And then I wrote, and honestly, you know, I wrote through a period of time that was, there was a lot of grief and upheaval in my life. And so things got a little, it became a little harder to navigate.

But when I turned it into you and you, you paused, like only someone writing back an email can pause, you know, for like a little, couple of days longer than I expected. And I thought,

Alison Jones: Oh.

Rob Hatch: I knew it. I knew it right off. I was like, Oh, this is, and she’s struggling with what to say to me right now.

But you gave me some really excellent feedback. And what it allowed me to do was to go back to the point of the book, because I feel like you know, I ended up getting a little lost. And so I went back to what makes this work, what made Attention work, go back to the structure to try and tell the story to… basically you had let me know that I hadn’t quite landed the plane in terms of communicating the fullness of the idea.

Lots of great stuff, but it hadn’t quite landed it.

Alison Jones: And just to chip in from my perspective as well, I mean, that’s kind of the summary, lots of great stuff, but it didn’t quite hang together. And it’s so interesting when you see that, you’re like, but it’s really good, each individual bit’s really good. And it’s about trying to help somebody see that this, the energy, the trajectory, the sort of the golden thread of the thing has got lost in the individual stories.

And there’s a real energy about a business book and it’s a slow burn energy. It’s not like, you know, we’re used to reading these quick things and you write newsletters and you write LinkedIn posts and a book is different because each one has to build and it has to create this slower, more thoughtful, but no less coherent kind of energy.

And I think, I’m a big fan of writing books episodically because I don’t see how you can do them any other way when you have a day job. But the danger of that is that they read episodically. And that’s the big challenge, I think, for most business book writers.

And you absolutely rose to it. And the finished thing has got that build through it. It has got that coherence and energy. So, you know, you took it on the chin and you rose to the challenge.

Rob Hatch: Well, you know, as I’ve shared with you before, like I, of course, we all have egos and stuff, but that’s why I like working with you. I want that perspective. You’re so, I mean, you’re so experienced and knowledgeable. Your insights have been invaluable. So when I think about one of the components of a success frame, you know, of my success frame for writing, for writing a business book, it starts with, you know, it starts with you and going to using that structure that you helped me find in taking that business book challenge.

I had the idea, but I didn’t have it all threaded together in either book, really.

Alison Jones: And that is the challenge, isn’t it?

You’ve got to take that kind of insight, that one big idea, and pull it into the book. But what’s really interesting, and I think you did this as well, is often when I do those kinds of bits of feedback, you know, this is great, this is great, this is great, and here’s what I see as the issue.

Nine times out of, maybe nine and a half times out of ten, somebody will come back and go, I knew you were going to say that.

Rob Hatch: Yes.

Alison Jones: Because I’ve been thinking, how am I going to tell them this? How am I going to, and they know, they know, they just needed somebody to articulate it to them.

It’s really interesting.

Rob Hatch: And I think, you know, this is where, let’s look at this in terms of success frames and failure. One might argue that here was a failure point, right? That you gave me feedback, this is not working and that I learned from it. However, what it did was pointed to the problem. It gave me sort of a guardrail to say, it’s not doing this thing. That doesn’t teach me how to fix the problem. It just points out the problem. And that’s where success, like, leaning on past success, I know how to thread a story. I know how to round this out in a way and make sure that things are landing the way that they should. I’ve done that before.

I know how to do that just generally as a writer. I didn’t do it in the first draft. So I needed to go back to my prior success. I went back and reread the proposal from the challenge and looked at all the promises that I felt like I made. And was I delivering on those promises?

Alison Jones: That’s a great reason for doing a proposal, isn’t it? It becomes your North Star.

And without that, it’s so easy to get lost.

Rob Hatch: You know, obviously I’ve loved that process and I’ve recommended it to as many people as I can because…

Alison Jones: Stopping strangers on the street.

Rob Hatch: Anyone who even whispers at writing a book, it is, let me tell you how, you know, how to do this. Not me, but let me point you in the right direction because Alison will help you do this.

 It really is invaluable.

Alison Jones: Yes, I think it’s a great process. And, you know, I didn’t invent the proposal document, but I think that the questions that a publisher needs to know, to know if this book is going to be a commercial proposition, are the same questions that you need to be asking yourself, you know, however you plan to write this book or publish it.

Rob Hatch: And so there’s a good point. You could ask those, you know, you could look at a proposal and try to ask those questions, but the support that you give in that process of really asking those questions, of reviewing each section thoughtfully, of pushing back on someone to look for comparables and you know, just the statement for each chapter, all of those little things, it’s a refining process.

And so to have that feedback, that’s the gold stuff for me.

Alison Jones: It is, it’s hard to do it alone, isn’t it? You sort of need a sparring partner and somebody to bounce ideas off.

Well, as you know, I’m not going to do it again because I’ve already done it to once. I’m going to ask you for your best tip. Let’s take do the proposal challenge as standard.

What else would you tell somebody who’s about to write a business book?

Rob Hatch: Be patient with yourself honestly, patience and identifying the conditions under which you do your best writing. You know, finding ways to set yourself, to put success in your way, set yourself up so that whether, I don’t care if you write it by hand, I don’t care what program you use, if you need to use, you know, I do a lot of morning journaling using something called OmmWriter. You could do it in Google Docs. The tools don’t matter to me, I don’t think it would, but I think it’s worth thinking about what’s going to work for you and figuring out the conditions under which you do your best work.

Alison Jones: And that’s such a great point, that’s kind of part of the success frames we didn’t really touch on, is that you become, it’s a reflective practice and it’s taking action, but there’s a sort of experimentation phase in there as well, isn’t it? Well, what does work? Let me try something. And if it doesn’t work, that’s information, but if it does work, let’s double down on that.

Rob Hatch: Yes. I mean, in every aspect of you know, aside from writing, I think about, I like to think about how do I want to wake up in the morning? Like, what do I want around me? You know, what do I want that experience to be like when I go to bed? When I wake up from my day, do I want to grab my phone?

Do I want to, you know, wake up to quiet music or sunlight? Or you know, how do I want… and we get to shape that. I don’t think that’s that sort of locus of control, as I think sometimes we forget that we have from the moment we wake up, there are places where we have control over what that looks like and what works best for us.

And it can change over time, but I like to think about giving people that control, reminding them at least that they have that control.

Alison Jones: And that it can start really small, like, where you put your keys. All of that, Yes, which has disproportionate impact on your quality of life.

What book would you recommend us, Rob?

Rob Hatch: So I already mentioned the David DeSteno book, which I love. And you know, we were joking about this before that my go to business book is always Switch by Chip and Dan Heath. But the book that I’m…

Alison Jones: We have to have another one, come on.

Rob Hatch: We always have to have that but really the book I was going to recommend is When by Dan Pink.

Alison Jones: Yes

Rob Hatch: And there’s so many books that, you know, the three books I mentioned that I feel like I just, you know, I take these big or sometimes simple, ideas from. And rather than just thinking of them as a business book, I think of them as, books that address the human condition on some level and emotionally how we think, how we feel the value of our emotions, the value of our energy in terms of Dan Pink and understanding, when we, you know, when is the best time for us to be doing certain things?

 I’m now a frequent napper because, an almost everyday napper because of that. And it’s changed my whole structure of energy throughout the day, because I take time to step away and give myself a break.

So it’s books like that, that help explain our behavior, that then can be translated to effective action inside an organization.

 I think most organizations now, employees in organizations, are looking to be, as always, they always have, but more so now than ever, are looking to be seen. For who they are, to be understood, to have some freedom, to have some flexibility, to have someone who helps kind of tease out their strengths, their past success.

And that to me was part of the goal here was to think about how can organizations move from just managing people to coaching people to their strengths, to their personal strengths, not necessarily strengths that you would score in an evaluation. But helping people understand what they need to do their best work and how can we provide it for them?

Alison Jones: Yes, yes, it’s a really interesting matrix of organisational strengths and personal strengths and organisational goals and personal goals, isn’t it? There’s something really fascinating about that, Yes.

But When is a terrific book and it also, incidentally, helped me understand my teenage children better as well, so if nothing else, worth reading for that.

Rob Hatch: Parenting, I think is one of the best, with other parents, it’s a wonderful reference point because so often when I’m talking to people, I’ll use a parenting reference. And every time, it’s such a hook, it helps them understand themselves better, their teenager better, because we’re stopping and thinking, oh my gosh, right, like, I would never have wanted my parents to do this, you know, or that, and it helps me to help slow things down.

So I love parenting references. Anything that hints at that, because it’s all human development, that’s what we’re talking about again, it’s comes down to personal and professional development and you can’t separate the two. The professional is always going to be personal.

Alison Jones: It’s also a really good micro space in which to try out interactions because you see results so quickly with kids, don’t you? It’s really interesting. Yes.

Rob Hatch: Absolutely.

Alison Jones: Rob, if people want to find out more about you, more about Attention and Success Frames, but also your newsletter and all the work that you do, where should they go?

Rob Hatch: You can just go to robhatch.com. That’s the easiest place to connect with me.

You can email me, rob@robhatch.com. I actually like people emailing. So anytime anyone has a question about something in the book and I think I put that in the book. So in both books, actually, like shoot me an email. I’d love to hear from people.

So, that’s the best way to connect. You can sign up for my newsletter there as well. A nice little, the pop up that people hate will be there, so you can sign up for the newsletter and connect.

Alison Jones: Amazing. And it’s not often actually people say, yes, just email me, email me. I’d love to hear from you. So that’s a really generous, generous way to end. Thank you.

Rob Hatch: You’re welcome. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

Alison Jones: It’s been such fun. Thanks so much.

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