“Focus on what you want, not what you don’t want”, Mike Goldman and Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated

Focus on what you want, not what you don’t want. If you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, frustrated, I can guarantee you I know what you’re focused on — you’re focused on what you don’t want. The guaranteed cure for that overwhelm, and a source of consistent motivation, is to focus on what you want. It sounds simple and […]

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Focus on what you want, not what you don’t want. If you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, frustrated, I can guarantee you I know what you’re focused on — you’re focused on what you don’t want. The guaranteed cure for that overwhelm, and a source of consistent motivation, is to focus on what you want. It sounds simple and it is. If you’re focused on what you don’t want, flip that switch and focus on what you do want. What’s that better vision of the future, or better vision of the day?

As a part of our series about “Optimal Performance Before High Pressure Moments”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mike Goldman.

Mike Goldman is an award-winning leadership team coach and the #1 Amazon bestselling author of two books, Breakthrough Leadership Team and Performance Breakthrough. He speaks internationally to groups of business leaders, such as the Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and the Entrepreneur’s Organization (EO). During his 30+ year coaching and consulting career he has worked with clients including Disney, Verizon, CHANEL and Polo Ralph Lauren. His insights have been featured in Forbes, Fast Company and Chief Executive Magazine and he is widely regarded by CEO’s as the expert on building great leadership teams. As both coach and speaker, Mike is on a mission to help CEO’s grow their business and have more impact while creating a more engaging, fulfilling environment for their team using his Breakthrough Leadership Team approach. Mike is a life-long learner. In fact, he often tells his clients that he if he’s gone ninety minutes without recommending a book, they should dial 911 because he might be having a stroke.

He’s is a certified Gravitas Impact, Five Dysfunctions of a Team and 3HAG coach, as well as an NLP Master Practitioner and Master Hypnotherapist.

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?

Iwas born in The Bronx, New York. I sometimes slept with my baseball glove, dreaming I would one day play shortstop for the New York Yankees. My family never had much money, but my parents gave my brother and I a great childhood.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career as an entrepreneur or business leader? We’d love to hear the story.

I spent the first half of my career working at large consulting firms for Fortune 500 clients. Starting my own business was the furthest thing from my mind. At 39 years old, I found myself tired of the travel and the type of work I was doing. For the first time in my life, I didn’t know what was next for me. My wife and I had just refinanced our house and pulled some money out to do some major renovation work on our home. Before starting the work, we went away for the weekend and spent the entire time brainstorming and planning our future. We decided together that now was the time to take a risk. We could invest that money in our home or take a shot to really change our lives. It was then I decided to start my first business.

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?

My first seven years as an entrepreneur was a real struggle. My first business, a staffing firm, failed after three years and my second business struggled for four years after that. We struggled to pay the bills as my businesses dug a deep financial hole for my family. There were three times along the way I was ready to quit. All three times it was my wife Angela that pulled me back from the brink. She encouraged me and somehow always figured out how we could make the finances work. She believed in me when I didn’t and, if it wasn’t for her, I would have quit too soon and missed out on the incredibly rewarding business I have today.

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?

About 5 years I took a standup comedy course. At the end of the course we did a 7-minute set on stage at The Comedy Cellar in the Village in NYC. I put a video of my set and put it on YouTube so I could share it with friends and family that couldn’t make the show. Not thinking that it would also be there for anyone to view. A few months later I was meeting with a prospective client who said, “I saw your video on YouTube yesterday”. I said “Which one was it? The one where I talk about goal setting? The one where I describe a great planning process?”. He said “No, it was the one where you talk about your gray pubic hair”. I quickly took the video down. But, by the way, they became a client and are still my client 5 years later.

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?

So many people tell young people to follow their passion. It sounds like great advice until you realize that most young people don’t know what they’re passionate about. My advice is to get a good job and work your butt off. Working hard will allow you to build skills that you can leverage down the road. Have patience. You may not love your job day one, but remember, doing the hard things in the short term will drive greater success in the long term.

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?

Leadership and Self Deception by The Arbinger Institute. This book caused me to look at all my work and interpersonal relationships in a different light. It helped me to realize that we all act in ways that are contrary to what we know is right. This book made me stop and think about whether I viewed other people as people or objects.

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

You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with — Jim Rohn. I love this quote because I’ve seen it work in my life. As I scale my business and level up my capabilities, I’ve needed to surround myself with people who I aspire to be. Spending time with such incredibly talented people can be a needed kick to the ego when I start to believe I’m the “expert”. I have a coach and am a member of two mastermind groups that are great at patting me on the back and kicking me in the butt when I need it.

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

I realized about a year and a half ago that, while there are hundreds of leadership books and team building books, there we no books that specifically focused on how to create a great leadership team. So I made it my mission to create a book that helped leaders structure their leadership team, find the right people, build the right culture, executive with discipline and continue to learn and grow as a leadership team. The response has been amazing, so I decided to create an online course focused on many of the same tactics. The course is scheduled to launch sometime in October or November.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. As a business leader, you likely often face high stakes situations that involve a lot of pressure. Most of us tend to wither in the face of such pressure and stress. Can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to cope with the burden of stress?

Focus on What You Want

Focus on what you want, not what you don’t want. If you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, frustrated, I can guarantee you I know what you’re focused on — you’re focused on what you don’t want. The guaranteed cure for that overwhelm, and a source of consistent motivation, is to focus on what you want. It sounds simple and it is. If you’re focused on what you don’t want, flip that switch and focus on what you do want. What’s that better vision of the future, or better vision of the day?

Focus on What You Can Control

Locus is just a fancy word for “center”. When confronted with a challenge, you can have either and internal or external locus of control. If you have an internal locus of control, you make things happen. If you have an external locus of control, things happen to you. It’s the difference between being a creator in your life, or a victim. When you’re dealing with a challenge, you need to evaluate where our locus of control is. With an external Locus of Control, the problem is “out there”. If you have an external Locus of Control, you say something like, “Why do my people keep coming back to me with the same questions over and over again?” They’re to blame. With an internal Locus of Control, I own it. I’m responsible. Instead of saying “Why does my team keep asking me the same question over and over again?”, I might say, “How can I better communicate with my team, so they understand it the first time?” With an internal Locus of Control, you actually have a chance of solving the problem.

Do The Next Right Thing

When you live your life off of a to-do list of a hundred and seventy-five different things, you cant’ help but feel overwhelmed. You need to narrow your focus and think of one thing at a time. Stop all the multitasking and just do the next right thing. Many successful leaders follow this advice by journaling every day. In that journal they list the two to four most important outcomes for that day — not the seventy-five things they need to do, but the most important outcomes.

Aside from being able to deal with the burden of stress, can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to optimize your mind for peak performance before high pressure, high stress situations?

I try to keep my focus on the bigger picture. What’s my core purpose? What’s my 3-year vision? It’s easy to feel stressed when you’re looking down at all of the work you need to do. Sometimes you’ve got to pick your head up and remember you’re working towards a larger purpose and larger vision.

Do you use any special or particular breathing techniques, meditations or visualizations to help optimize yourself? If you do, we’d love to hear about it.

Do you have a special technique to develop a strong focus, and clear away distractions?

Every morning, I wake up about 90 minutes before my first meeting or call and take a 4-mile walk. I think best when I move so on these walks, I typically record 10–15 new ideas on my phone by the time I get back home. Once I get home, typically feeling 10x more energetic than when I started, I journal. In my journal I decide what outcomes I’m committed to achieve that day. Not “to do’s” but specific outcomes., keeping me focused on what’s most important. In that same journal, I add any good news or wins throughout the day, keeping me focused on the positive.

We all know the importance of good habits. How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?

Other than my daily walking, mentioned above, I’m an avid reader and a self-development junkie. I average about a book a week and am obsessed with business and self-development podcasts.

What is the best way to develop great habits for optimal performance? How can one stop bad habits?

As a business 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?

We achieve flow by focusing on something at the intersection of our natural talent and our passion. On top of that, we achieve flow by focusing on something that is difficult enough to challenge us. By challenging us it causes us to focus our attention and tune everything else out. That’s why, to achieve flow more often, we need to learn and grow, finding more challenging activities along the way.

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.

My life’s purpose is to impact as many people as I can to feel more fulfilled by their business or their work. I’ve seen too many people work their whole lives at something they hate, waiting for that magical day they can retire. I think that’s a tragic way to live your life.

My wish is for more people to feel incredibly fulfilled by their business and the impact it’s having on their team, their clients and their community. My wish is for them to have more money, more freedom and more impact than they’ve ever dreamt of

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 🙂

I’d love to meet Simon Sinek. I’ve seen him speak and loved his book, The Infinite Game. I use his 5 tests of a “just cause” with my clients.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

They can follow me at or on LinkedIn at

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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