“Create a Not-To-Do List” With Edward Gorbis

Create a Not-To-Do List — Write down a list of all of the things that you wish you did not indulge in. Cut out all of the things that do not serve your purpose, impact, or mission. By creating this list, you will be able to cut out all of the noise in your life and […]

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Create a Not-To-Do List — Write down a list of all of the things that you wish you did not indulge in. Cut out all of the things that do not serve your purpose, impact, or mission. By creating this list, you will be able to cut out all of the noise in your life and obtain back ~25% of your time to focus on the things that move the needle.

As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Edward Gorbis.

Edward Gorbis is a Leadership Coach, and the Founder of Career Meets World, a coaching platform focused on helping aspiring, emerging, and first-time leaders operate successfully under pressure. In addition, Edward is a podcast host of Career Meets World. Check out Career Meets World, the podcast or message Edward on LinkedIn or Instagram.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

Absolutely. I was born in Ukraine as the Soviet Union was collapsing and immigrated to the U.S. when I was just 4 years old. The immigrant hustle and mentality are in my blood and DNA. My parents came to the U.S. with $200 and a couple of suitcases. We certainly didn’t live an affluent lifestyle, but my parents taught and instilled in me discipline, a tireless work ethic, strong values, communication skills, and drive to unleash my full potential in this country. I cherish everything they have afforded me, and it’s my mission moving forward to pass this energy and momentum forward to other leaders I partner with in my practice.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

For me, coaching or teaching has been a consistent theme in my life. Like many immigrant parents, my parents recommended a healthy education and a stable corporate job. I listened to their advice and I ran. I sprinted in fact. And I did this for the last 10 years. Along the way, I also picked up a Masters at UCLA in Civil Engineering and completed an online MBA program (before the pandemic popularized online education).

That journey was certainly bumpy at times, and I was able to learn a great deal from — how to play the game of business effectively and how to break through limiting beliefs. It was a self-discovery process that had no guardrails.

And about a year ago, I was still working in my corporate job at WeWork and we just went through a major IPO collapse. During that time, I deeply reflected on everything in my career that had led up to that moment. And what I learned through that journey and experience is that I was most fulfilled by one specific aspect int hat role and all my previous roles — helping people.

Even though I am forever grateful for my parents for the opportunities they provided, I never had the true guidance or confidence until the last few years to truly persevere through any situation.

So, I have been thinking and strategizing “How do I help more people and lock arms with them to help them accelerate their leadership growth journey?” People are increasingly becoming more goal-oriented, more ambitious, and more accountable for results, and this has created a natural demand for coaches who can help them. As the world shifts, my intention going forward is to leverage and utilize everything I’ve previously learned and parlay that into coaching aspiring, emerging, and first-time leaders.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

Nobody has ever succeeded at arguably anything without a supporting cast. I have been fortunate to be surrounded with family, friends, mentors, and a wife that continuously encourage and cheerlead for me. Their collective energy propels me forward and provides me the momentum that is my oxygen.

But there is one person who truly pushed me and challenged me in ways that I am forever grateful to have in my life. My own executive coach at WeWork, Jennifer Robinson, who is still my coach to this day, has inspired and challenged me to grow, learn, and lead with more compassion, focus, and joy. She helped me lead through the darling-days of WeWork to the onslaught of daily media publications that showcased the company’s failed IPO.

It’s where I learned crisis management as a leader and experienced firsthand what resilient leadership requires. When people are there for you during tumultuous moments, you cherish that and she now is a guiding force as I continue to scale Career Meets World.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

During my tenure at WeWork, in conjunction with leading a sales team, I was extremely fortunate to manage our client relationship with SoftBank, which is also WeWork’s majority investor. For one of our deals, I traveled with the SoftBank team to Mumbai, India to negotiate a real estate deal with their Head of India. I traveled over ~10,000 miles for a 3-day business trip. When we got there and started touring the available assets, I quickly realized that the real estate assets I had identified with our team did not meet the standard for our client.

I had traveled for 24+ hours, battling jetlag, I knew within 3 hours of our first meeting that the deal was dead. I did everything I could to creatively come up with innovative solutions but there wasn’t anything left to salvage. I felt like I had wasted everyone’s precious time and money on this trip.

However, as I promote to my clients, the glass is always half full, and I knew I could find value in investing time, energy, and a week of my life to traveling around the world.

And so, as I always advocate, develop meaningful and powerful connections. I invested my time on the ground to cultivating deep relationships with the SoftBank partners. This paid dividends. The trust we developed enabled countless other deals across the world. This short escapade around the world to India created the fabric for a deep partnership with one of the most influential venture capital firms.

Every situation can have a silver lining, if we choose to find it. When everything feels like it’s going the wrong direction, I choose to focus on strengthening relationships because I have learned that long-lasting, genuine human connection will outlast any momentary discomfort.

The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

We can combine an infinite number of ingredients to create a recipe for success. People will always give you recommendations, tell you what to do, tell you what you cannot do, or tell you why it cannot be done. Remember, it’s all noise, and people who value achievement and success create their own recipe for success. Take advice from people who have done what you want to do. Emulate the people who embody the person you would like to become. And lastly, clear out all of noise in your life and align with the actions that drive impact.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

One of my favorite books is Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman. A mentor of mine gifted this book to me, and since then, I have gifted it to everyone I have ever managed or coached. It has influenced the way I operate as a leader and how others can strive to lead their teams and their communities. The premise of the book is that multipliers are leaders who are genius makers and bring out the intelligence in others. They build collective, viral intelligence in organizations.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

When I was in college, I led an engineering and leadership program at the National Student Leadership Conference at UC Berkeley and the University of Maryland. At the time, I was asked to give a presentation to 100 high school students about the value of building a network, and I did not know what message I wanted to convey. One of my mentors and a leadership coach told me to center the talk around the following: “The product of relationships is leadership.”

I did not particularly understand the immediate meaning in the moment, and since then, I have carried this message as my motto for life and leadership. Build long-lasting, impactful, meaningful relationships with as many quality people as you can. Together, you will create a unified leadership through your collective strength.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I am hyper-focused on growing the Leadership Accelerator program and the Career Meets World podcast. These two projects are intended to provide hungry first-time leaders the mental fortitude, actionable strategies, and confidence to unleash their full potential as a leader.

I’m putting all of my focus and energy into including influential leaders both in the program and the podcast. I believe that we have a responsibility to cultivate a future generation of leaders and the Leadership Accelerator program is built for aspiring, emerging, and first-time leaders who yearn to learn the required mindset, people skills, and leadership narrative to excel and differentiate themselves as leaders.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples?

According to the American Psychological Association, approximately 45% of our reported activities in a given day are habitual, performed automatically without thought. Think about everything you do from the moment you wake up to everything you do until you start your workday. How many of those actions — brushing your teeth, making breakfast, getting dressed — are habitual?

Now, it’s not about what toothpaste we use, what breakfast we eat, or what clothes we put on. It’s about how we do all of those things that make it so critical for us to surface our own awareness about our habits.

Many of us have developed habits that fundamentally do not serve us the way we want them to. We’ve potentially developed poor habits of sitting (sitting like a cashew), poor habits of eating (low nutrition foods), or poor mental habits (vices to get a quick dopamine hit). These habits limit our ability to unleash our full potential.

To share a personal story about habits, I am notorious for craving a strong cup of coffee in the morning. It historically has served as my personal light switch in the morning. What I noticed in my 20’s is I had the classic energy drop off in the middle of the day. It was a habitual action — coffee with my toothpaste (exaggeration) and a feeling of lethargy by 2PM.

I did some deep research and discovered the power of 5–10 minutes of simple stretching in the morning. Our bodies were built to move, and movement unlocks the trapped energy in the extremities of our body. This exercise gives me enough fuel to power through my day, and now, I potentially mix in a cup of coffee.

By simply shifting a basic habit of drinking coffee to mindful morning stretches, I have experienced an elevated energy state and a more productive and focused days.

When we build strong habits, we can live a more impactful, joyful, and fulfilling life.

How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?

It’s actually quite simple. Strong habits have enabled me to focus, clear out any noise in my life, and operate at a high level.

The habit I value the most is robotic sleep. We’ve all heard how important sleep is for just about everything in life. And it’s true — getting consistently good rest will improve everything from your immune system to your mood. I’ve trained my body to fall asleep at 10PM and wake up at 6AM every day. I am most proud of this habit because it allows me to think clearly every day and then build other strong habits.

And to share another habit that has had a profound impact on my life is asking for feedback. We all have weaknesses and blind spots in our lives. I certainly do, both personally and professionally. I attempt to take active steps to counteract them, and the most important of these steps is regularly asking for feedback from people I trust. This may be uncomfortable at times but this feedback provides me awareness and allows me to improve how I show up in the world for the people that I serve.

Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?

Achieving peak performance and developing good habits can without a doubt be a challenge. However, as we seek ways to overcome bad habits, we often look for humor to ease up potential frustrations, and interestingly enough, Jerry Seinfeld is also a specialist at creating positive habits and building momentum. When Jerry Seinfeld was an up-and-coming comedian, he made a commitment to write one joke a day. Not an entire routine or monologue. Just one funny line.

He had a big calendar of the whole year on a wall in his apartment. Every time he wrote a joke, he put a red X on that date. Before long he had a growing chain of red X’s on the calendar — a visual reminder of the consistent work he put in. Seinfeld once shared the story of his calendar and the chain of red X’s with a young comic. His main advice — Don’t break the chain!

Every day, do something related to your craft, no matter how small the action is. This yields peak focus, creates momentum moving forward, and form new and positive habits.

Let’s talk about creating good habits in three areas, Wellness, Performance, and Focus. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum wellness. Please share a story or example for each.

Mindfulness — If I could only recommend one habit to bolster your mental health, it might be mindfulness. It is the best way I know for us to train and control our attention. By regulating and controlling our attention, we choose what to focus on, which is arguably the most valuable skill we can develop to minimize anxiety and other mental health issues. Meditation and stillness are the best examples to practice mindfulness. There’s a powerful Buddhist saying, “If you don’t have time to meditate for 5 minutes, then meditate for an hour.” Invest in your mind and you will inherently invest in your focus and performance.

High-Intensity Exercise — Between our jobs and personal life activities, it may be difficult to get in a long workout. And in fact, exercising intensely for short amounts of time helps us stay fit and leads to high-quality sleep. These high intensity workouts can provide a sense of accomplishment and self-efficacy. And to reinforce an early sentiment, sleep is the most important habit we can form because re-energizes our body and leads to better focus.

Leave the worrying on paper — We all have moments of high anxiety or feelings of stress, so my recommendation to alleviating these feelings is write everything down on paper or even on your phone. This exercise forces us to slow down, synthesize our thoughts, and find patterns to break out of the state of anxiousness. This can take 5–10 minutes, and it’s highly effective at any time of day.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

What’s interesting is that they inherently feed into each other. High-intensity exercise reduces anxiety and cortisol levels in our body, which inherently improves our mindfulness and focus. Commit to a 4X20 routine whereby you exercise for 20-minutes a day, 4 times a week. And if you marry minimal exercise with 10 minutes of meditation in the morning or in the evening, you will see elevated levels of focus and your performance will improve dramatically. This is a total of 30 minutes that you’re committing to improving your life through strong habits.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal performance at work or sport? Please share a story or example for each.

Consume the Right Way — We are a byproduct of what we feed our mind and body. Swap out high-sugar drinks for water. Swap out habitual social media scrolling with reading or a podcast. Feed yourself food and information that makes you feel good for the long-term rather than the short-term.

Mid-day Break — Take a walk at lunchtime. This period of time doesn’t have to be just for eating, but rather an investment in your body and mind. A simple 20-minute walk can significantly improve your ability to effectively work the rest of the day.

Compliments — Reach out to 1–3 co-workers or friends a few times a week and send them a simple complimentary message. This will make them delighted, and when they respond, it will elevate your oxytocin (the feeling of belonging). Especially during pandemic days, it’s vital that we stay connected and feel a part of grander community, and by feeling included, you will feel more committed to the mission and produce significantly better results.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

It boils down to planning and scheduling. Whether you’re planning what to buy at the grocery store, scheduling your lunch break, or sending complimentary messages, make sure to map out your week and your calendar. Planning all of these activities with intention will help you form consistent habits.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal focus? Please share a story or example for each.

Create a Not-To-Do List — Write down a list of all of the things that you wish you did not indulge in. Cut out all of the things that do not serve your purpose, impact, or mission. By creating this list, you will be able to cut out all of the noise in your life and obtain back ~25% of your time to focus on the things that move the needle.

Break Down Tasks — By reducing the size of the macro tasks, we’re able to focus on singular action. This enhances focus and creates momentum to finish the larger task at hand.

Take Breaks — For every 55 minutes of work, take a 5-minute break to stretch, drink water, and rest your eyes. This will help you recharge and allow you to more intently focus on the next 55 minutes.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

These habits can be formed with awareness and intention. Make a list with two columns — everything that is serving me and everything that is not serving me. For everything on the latter list, remove some or all of it and replace it with the new habits you want to introduce into your life. Keep this list on paper and near you throughout the day so you can reference it and hold yourself accountable to the new habits that you want to form in your life.

As a leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?

To achieve flow, we will need to break down what it is so we are aligned on how to achieve true flow. Take a moment to imagine a time when you have worked in a team and felt elated, made quick progress in a dynamic, trusting, and highly productive environment. That’s a true state of flow.

Many of us our familiar with IQ and EQ, and there’s an underlying topic that empowers our ability to think and feel — physical intelligence. This area of focus evolved in the 1980’s. We have over 400 neurotransmitters and hormones in our body that dictate how we react, perceive, and feel everything external to our bodies. And now, neuroscientists have been studying how each chemical impacts all aspects of our lives, which gives us greater and more sustained control in how we can operate each day.

While adrenalin gets us going and acetylcholine (feeling of balance) enables us to recover, it is the relative levels of cortisol and DHEA that dictate how we get going and how we recover and whether we are in a state of flow.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

It’s simple — I would strive to have our government and large corporations focus on spending dollars on personal development and mental health. Our well-being is our greatest strength as individuals. To focus on our mental health is to focus on our collective happiness and joy. My vehicle for change starts with cultivating more compassionate leaders in as many organizations and communities that I can impact.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

There are so many brilliant minds that I would love to connect with and share a meal. If I had to choose just one, I would love to chat with Chamath Palihapitiya. He was an early senior executive at Facebook, a part owner of the Golden State Warriors (yes, my favorite team even before they won championships), and the CEO of Social Capital. I find him to be the most thoughtful human being, innovator, and leader of our time. He’s cultivating an investment platform to fund some of the impactful companies over the next decade. He’s a visionary, so Chamath, if you happen to read this, let’s break bread over some Italian food.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I love connecting and supporting people in their career and leadership journey. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn, follow along on Instagram, listen to the Career Meets World podcast, and subscribe to the Career Meets World newsletter to get weekly leadership tips.

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

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