1 Big Idea to Think About

  • The power of celebrating small wins is real. When we recognize small wins in our families, teams, and relationships, we capitalize on positive momentum and reinforce good behavior allowing us to achieve better relationships and better outcomes.

2 Ways You Can Apply This

  • Catch someone doing something good and acknowledge them. Compliment a partner or child. Start a work meeting by celebrating something that is going right.
  • Spend 10 minutes of one-on-one time with someone important to you. A microburst of effort will go a long way.

3 Questions to Ask

  • Do I spend more time correcting others instead of celebrating and recognizing their achievements?
  • Which relationship(s) would benefit most by celebrating small wins?
  • What small, achievable goal can I set to recognize someone important in my life?

Key Moments from the Show 

  • Catching and rewarding people amid small wins (5:00)
  • Changing culture to reward positive behavior (8:33)
  • The star chart system: Catching others doing the right thing (15:11)
  • Reinforcing good behavior at home (18:15)
  • Avoiding the temptation to only see what someone is doing wrong (21:56)
  • The importance of spending one-on-one time with those we love (24:19)
  • How a microburst of effort can result in big changes (29:47)
  • Our universal desire to be recognized and appreciated (32:27)

Links You’ll Love From the Episode

One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees? By Frederick Herzberg

Connect with Greg McKeown

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Greg McKeown  0:05  

Come with me on an exploration of self discovery. On this podcast, we decipher what really matters. As we unravel the chaos of day to day work, to learn how to build an essential life Welcome to the world’s essential podcast, I am your fully British, mostly essentialist host, Greg McKeown. And it’s really a delight to have you here. Thank you for spending a moment with me and my guests every week to reflect on really what matters most. If your life is anything like mine, you’ve probably got far more problems to handle than you possibly can in a day. And the temptation with that is to, to try and overdo it get overwhelmed by all the challenges around you. You can even quite easily, especially in today’s environment, get a little negative with yourself, with the people around you. In fact, almost always, it’s with the people who are most essential to you. We often show up worse with them than anyone else. We get overwhelmed by the task, even though it’s the most important relationships in our lives. In today’s episode, you’re going to learn how to make this a lot easier to be able to make progress by rediscovering the importance and power of small wins of catching people doing the right thing. And I’m Frank to say that I struggle with this sometimes in my own family. And so for that, and many other reasons, I have invited Anna McHugh and my wife to be on the show again today. She’s wicked smart. She’s seriously wise. And you have asked for more of her on this show. So we’re going to do that at least, let’s say once a month together. So with that, Anna, welcome back to the what’s the central podcast.


Anna McKeown  2:13  

Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.


Greg McKeown  2:15  

Is it a pleasure to be here?


Anna McKeown  2:16  

Yes, I get a little bit more time with my amazing, handsome, talented husband.


Greg McKeown  2:21  

That’s why all of this is a facade. It’s just so that I can hear such affirming things from you. That’s why we’re doing this. Okay, so this type of episode, we’ve come up with a name together. Can’t tell whether this is clever, cute, or sort of bad. Tell us about the name that we came up with




That feels very underwhelming. Now that we got into it better. Right.


Anna McKeown  2:49  

You built it quite.


Greg McKeown  2:51  

That’s that was my fault. So q&a, right. So of course, it’s a q&a because it’s question and answer. But also, why else?


Anna McKeown  2:57  

Well, when I first met you my love, you went by the nickname of Q, because your last name MacEwan. So I called you Q for probably the first year of our marriage. I don’t even know when we shifted from shifted to Greg, but But yeah, you are Q


Greg McKeown  3:14  

that and even when you say it reminds me of that time, it was so magical. So I kind of like that anyway. But and then of course, your honor. So it’s that q&a. It’s you two, it’s as two together doing this. That’s why these are the q&a episodes. All right. That’s enough. No one needed any more from that. So today, this idea of progress of catching people doing the right things. I want to get into this by thinking of the last time that you were pulled over by the police. Not trying to make this awkward. But let’s go.


Anna McKeown  3:48  

Oh, you know what? I remember the last time I was pulled over, it was probably, I don’t know, five or more years ago. What were you doing? Really? I was in stop and go traffic in like, the town. I wasn’t on the highway or anything. And I was trying to find some directions. And I had my phone in my hand. No. And a cop was on a motorbike and just strolled up on his bike next to me because I think my car was stopped and knocked on my window and smiled at me while you’re still holding the phone. Yeah, of course. Well, I saw him there. And I was like, Oh, he’s like, yep, you know, pointed at the phone. And


Greg McKeown  4:34  

he points at the phone. He says to go down. What are you thinking about moment now? He’s pulling you over? Oh,


Anna McKeown  4:41  

I’ve been caught. And I was trying to be good. I wasn’t trying to break the law. But I had and he’d caught me and


Greg McKeown  4:50  

there was no way out and you’re wondering if he’s going to walk?


Anna McKeown  4:53  

Give me a ticket or a warning?


Greg McKeown  4:56  

Yeah, that’s the question, isn’t it? A warning for a ticket? You didn’t think, of course you didn’t think nobody thinks, is this going to be a good ticket or a bad ticket? No way. Yeah. That’s the thing, right? We all know that you’re thinking, is this going to be a good ticket or a negative one? Because why?


Anna McKeown  5:19  

Well, I certainly have never had a good ticket. Right.


Greg McKeown  5:23  

But what Clapham, a police chief in Richmond, Canada, question that assumption that we all hold tell us about him.


Anna McKeown  5:31  

Well, there is a well established approach to cracking down on crime and that’s to pass new and harsher laws set stronger sentencing, or initiate zero tolerance initiatives. In other words, to do more of what we already do only more forcefully. And for years, the Richmond Police Department follow these core and long held practices of police systems everywhere and experience the typical results, recidivism rates at 65% and spiraling youth crime. That is until a young forward thinking new superintendent Ward Clapham challenged them why he asked to all of our policing efforts have to be so reactive, so negative and so after the fact, what if instead of just focusing on catching criminals and serving up ever harder punishments after they committed the crime, the police devoted significant resources and effort to eliminating criminal behavior before it happens. Out of these questions came the novel idea for positive tickets, a program whereby police instead of focusing on catching young people perpetrating crimes would focus on catching youth doing something good, something as simple as throwing literal way in a bin rather than on the ground, wearing a helmet while riding their bike skateboarding in the designated area or getting to school on time, and would give them a ticket for positive behavior.


Greg McKeown  6:52  

That’s such a game changer. I mean, just think about how different that is and how timely that conversation is, given the whole raging topic that we have in society around police it and crime and I suppose this false dichotomy between you can either just be brutally hard, or you have this sort of other extreme on the other end of okay, defund police. And here you have this third alternative. This Ward Clapham saying, well, it’s not about being tough versus not tough. It’s just about finding smarter ways to fulfill a different essential intent. His essential intent wasn’t law enforcement, his essential intent was to end crime. It’s not to say that there isn’t crime, it’s to say, how can you try to change the conversation, catch people doing the right thing. And the results of it were unbelievable. reduced recidivism rates from 65%, down to about 8%. In youth, what an amazing thing that is. Think of all those lives changed just from that single statistic. He took the overall crime rate down by 40%, over a 10 year period, and the overall youth crime rate cut in half what Clapham gave out 30,000 Positive tickets a year, that’s three times more positive tickets than negative tickets. And that’s what changed the culture and brought about these tremendous results. So the question I have, and it is, how can we apply this to everyday life? I was thinking about one way that you introduced into our family, a similar type of system, and it had to do with making a trade off not between crime and, and good behavior. But between screen time and reading. Tell us about that.


Anna McKeown  9:00  

I wish I could claim that I came up with it. I read it in a parenting book and just try to apply it to our family. And essentially, you create a token system and it can be just pieces of paper with your signature on it something so that it can’t be duplicated by the kids. 


Greg McKeown  9:20  

And we need no false currency, my family right now no inflation of the monetary system.


Anna McKeown  9:26  

Indeed. So we were trying to regulate screentime a little bit better and not have it feel so reactive or, you know, just for the kids would ask constantly to watch it until they were you down those kinds of things. So the token system meant that the children got a certain number of tokens, and each token was worth like a half hour of screen time. They all got 10 If I remember right. Yeah, I believe so. So that equaled five hours of screen time for the week. And they could redeem those at various times, if there was any correlation, then the screen went off, and they lost that time. And if they use it all up, then there were ways that they could gain more tokens they could read, and reading was equal to screen time, like 30 minutes of reading you to get a token for 30 minutes of screen time. And if you had any tokens at the end of the week, you could redeem it for money.


Greg McKeown  10:27  

50 cents per token, if I remember, right,


Anna McKeown  10:29  

yeah, that sounds right. So that that was big bucks back then for our little ones, although they didn’t really redeem that much in the end. But it’s a good motivator. And we were happy to redeem them if they ever turned them in,


Greg McKeown  10:44  

well established that there was an actual value to the token.


Anna McKeown  10:49  

Yes. And what happened was screen time started to go down, and readings started to increase, because by just opening a book for 30 minutes, if it was a good book, if it was interesting, then they naturally wanted to keep reading. And they weren’t always keeping track of that time, to be honest. So reading went up significantly, and they still definitely spent time on screens at various times during the week. It’s not like that disappeared. But the hassle or the, the demands for it. Were tempered by the question of like, we’ll have do you have any tokens Javea Have you read at all today? Often, they couldn’t redeem those tokens till they gotten certain things done anyway, it wasn’t like you could redeem a token anytime, day or night. And so yeah, it brought a certain kind of order. And it definitely brought a positivity to screentime and reading, and just created kind of a system that was not strained. Not unpleasant for everyone, not win lose, but a positive culture around those things. 


Greg McKeown  11:53  

Well, I remember that before the system, there was just this, no downside to tapping you or me for more screentime? Yeah, every time they have the thought of a screen, they just come and tap you. And so you’re constantly having to say no, not yet not yet pushing back, the token system, put the decision making more in their hands, where they had to think about the trade offs involved themselves, and not just at no cost to themselves come and tap about it. Well, it’s


Anna McKeown  12:23  

simplified things for me as a mom, because you’re trying to be creative with your children and get them involved in things. You know, why don’t you go play with blocks? Or why don’t you put a puzzle together? Why don’t you go outside, you know, and it’s all on you try and think of things for them, or they’re gonna just whine. And so this simplified things where they could either read, or they could come up with something else. But reading was the thing to do instead.


Greg McKeown  12:52  

What is your recollection of what happened immediately when this started?


Anna McKeown  12:57  

Well, it’s simplified things for you. And I, because the rules were set up, and the kids understood them. So you just had to refer back to that. So that took off a lot of stress and strain around trying to manage screen time. So that was a big win in that negativity went down simply by creating the system.


Greg McKeown  13:17  

Yeah, it helped them to just have, it was more self-empowered. The decision-making had been pushed down to the children. Because there was an agreement that was set up a high trust agreement had been set up.


Anna McKeown  13:31  

Yeah. And they bought in thankfully.


Greg McKeown  13:34  

I think that was an important part of the process. What has the result been, from your point of view? From a long term perspective, like over the last 10 years?


Anna McKeown  13:45  

Well, there there are numerous things that have contributed to this. But our children increased reading, they are avid readers. They’ve read so many books, and numerous books numerous times. And I’d say this was one of the things that got that culture to begin to be part of our family culture, a culture of reading.


Greg McKeown  14:04  

Yeah, pretty much I think you created a monster. That’s what I think this all comes down to. Because, like, definitely top 10 challenge of my life is getting the children to stop reading at night. Maybe top five. And this is this is just bringing this to you. It’s your fault. And it began, of course, as you say, not the only thing but it began with this item at first.


Anna McKeown  14:34  

Yeah, definitely the token system and reading to the children at night.


Greg McKeown  14:38  

So, you know, just connecting the dots back to the positive tickets. The idea was that there was a reward for reading. It wasn’t just bemoaning get off your screens stop doing that, you know, that sort of negativity. That’s the one version of policing that we’ve been talking about. It’s this you know, there was a system that was Built in, that there was a positive reinforcement for the making a trade off between reading and screentime. That’s what’s so great about that system, I think. But that makes me think of one other tool that has been well, I think really useful for us. But maybe tell us about this. This is catching the children doing the right thing using the star chart system. Tell us about that. 


Anna McKeown  15:24  

Yeah, I mean, the star chart system. We’ve talked about that in numerous times, numerous places. So apologies if you’ve heard this before, but it has been a fundamental part of the culture of our home in turning things to become more positive. And it’s really simple. It’s just a piece of paper with a bunch of boxes on it bunch of squares that we draw in stars, if you have stickers, great do stickers. For us, it’s just easier to just draw them in and they’ve become quite pretty over time. And I went with certain graphics and things that you guys will draw on them.


Greg McKeown  15:59  

Yeah, I did what I did a spider man once like a like a color, what would they be called the color the combined number. What’s that paint by number like always the paint by number type thing. And it was a big spider man chart. And it took them so long to finish that chart, it was almost impossible. They did not appreciate that they liked it at first because it looked great. But over time, they didn’t love it because it was almost impossible for them to get the reward. But but that’s the idea right? That you don’t have to start complex like that. You probably shouldn’t do it as complicated as that but you have a reward when everybody has filled in this chart.


Anna McKeown  16:42  

You all get to what kind of things have been done movie nights out at the theater when we know movies coming out and we want to take everyone to go see it.


Greg McKeown  16:47  

That’s why we had Spider Man on the thing it was to go and see the new Spider Man movie.


Anna McKeown  16:50  

Yeah, it’s opening. Well, I think you did a gauntlet once where obviously Marvel fans so you, you did the did the fish they did the the so yeah, we had the Thanos gauntlet as one of them when we wanted to go see endgame. And, but it could be anything. It could be just time together. It could be an outing, it could be camping, that’s been one of ours, or trips somewhere. Depending how big you want to make the star chart. It could be for something smaller like a popcorn movie at home night or dinner out as a family


Greg McKeown  17:22  

Choose something you do it together. Everybody knows what it is. This isn’t like a little star chart for one person. This is a this is reward that everybody gets. How does it work? 


Anna McKeown  17:35  

How do you get to color one in order to draw anytime you catch anyone doing anything? Right? Basically?


Greg McKeown  17:38  

What happens then? Then you give them a star? And they get to go run over there? Cullerton


Anna McKeown  17:43  

Yep, absolutely. And I don’t remember when we started the star chart. But the whole principle of trying to catch your kids doing something right, was something that I’d I’d read about and really bore fruit immediately upon trying to implement that in our home. I mean, I was amazed at the positive effects that had I mean, it really is like the idea of positive tickets. We all just want to know we’re doing good. We all just want someone to say hey, well done good job. And with my kids, I remember reading this and I don’t remember what book. But it said, When you see your kids playing together nicely, the last thing you feel like doing is interrupting that, to tell them they’re playing nicely. You’re like, oh, yeah, we have a moment of peace and harmony in our home. I am not interrupting that for the world, you know, right. And, and this suggested that you absolutely interrupt it, you absolutely go in there and you praise them and tell them how wonderful it is that they’re playing nicely together and how what a nice feeling there is and look at you doing this together and Oh, I love how you’re building that or coloring that or whatever or how you’ve created this house with your dolls or built this thing with your Legos, whatever that thing is. And I remember reading that and being having a paradigm shift because I didn’t want to do that when things were going well it was enough of a shock to my system reading that that I’m like okay, I’m gonna try this and it was amazing. I mean, my kids glowed they glowed and then they wanted to continue doing the thing that was great you know doing the thing that was good and I look for little things It didn’t have to be anything monumental or and I didn’t have to withhold my praise waiting for them to do that good thing you know, it’s like okay, what what are you doing right right now? Oh, look, you put that sock on good job you know, I mean, we’re talking about really little kids but still you’re like Wow, you got your shoes on all by yourself. Wow. You know, making such a big deal about those things again and again and any behavior that you would like to encourage you know, kindness to each other hygiene, whatever. 


Greg McKeown  19:57  

You know if you have teenagers


Anna McKeown  19:59  

Oh, hygiene is a is a forever battle, isn’t it? You know, you know when they’re little too, but it just brings such a lovely feeling in into the home and, and, and instantly.


Greg McKeown  20:09  

So that’s interesting, but you said that you were shocked? At the effect of it? Yes. Yeah. What was shocking to you about that?


Anna McKeown  20:21  

How it made my children glow? How happy they were and how like they would light up their faces would light up, just from me telling them that I thought they did something good. I mean, it’s, it’s really touching as a parent really to think of the influence that you have for good. I think we sometimes forget it. Because we’re with each other all the time, you know?


Greg McKeown  20:42  

Yes. And you’re describing something, I think that’s like, on the edge of magic, that you can do a tiny thing and pretty confidently imagine a positive reaction from the other person. But let me just explore one more thing with you. When you read it, it really surprised you. And hearing you say that now actually surprises me that it surprised you.


Anna McKeown  21:06  

They were really little when I read it. Does it surprise you because it’s been a part of our family made her so long?


Greg McKeown  21:14  

Maybe. But that’s what I’m trying to get back to is is what it was about that moment that? I mean, you must have been thinking something else previously for it to surprise you in that moment.


Anna McKeown  21:25  

Yeah. And it was peace and quiet. You know how how rare those moments were? And how much I didn’t want to interrupt that.


Greg McKeown  21:31  

I see. So it’s specifically to do with the idea of interrupting someone doing something, right by telling them yes, that was what surprised? Yes, yes. Because you’re making a trade off you would never normally make or they’re doing it right. Leave them alone. Right. But then how do they know? Yep, exactly. This is good. This is right. And you’re getting it right. Yeah. And the temptation as a person to see what someone else is doing wrong, is so strong. You know, of course, it’s true as a parent walk into the room.


Anna McKeown  22:07  

We’re trying to teach our children so much over the course of their lives with us, you know, so there’s so much that you can potentially correct and we can just become correction heavy.


Greg McKeown  22:16  

We can become the the old style police officer, right. always pulling them over for the thing they’re doing wrong.


Anna McKeown  22:24  

Villain. You know, have you ever I know in our home, it’s happened where you walk in a room and the children leave.


Greg McKeown  22:35  

That happened to me this week. I know that why you’re talking about it. Maybe literally, I’ve seen one of our daughters. Like, if I walk into the room, she does it in quite a cute way. But she will literally slink off. Like, and I know exactly why she’s doing it. But she’s not doing it because I’m going to tell her off for something. But because I’m going to ask her to do something because we’re, you know, we’ve been doing this


Anna McKeown  23:01  

But yeah, when every interaction becomes a request or a correction, you can start feeling that vibe in the home and the kids don’t want him to hear.


Greg McKeown  23:09  

No, literally, they can feel the vibe. It’s like in the air. I can hold on. Wait a second. I can sense he’s here. He’s coming into the room. No, this is this is.


Anna McKeown  23:19  

Right. So Greg, what would you do? Based on what we’re talking about? If you were walking in that room right now?


Greg McKeown  23:26  

No, you cannot be really live coaching me for what we need to do differently. Right now.


Anna McKeown  23:33  

I still can. What would you do?


Greg McKeown  23:35  

Well, I mean, of course, what was that? You know? 


Anna McKeown  23:38  

Do you remember what that child was doing when you walked in?


Greg McKeown  23:42  

You thinking of something very particular?


Anna McKeown  23:44  

No. But I can I can imagine because every time I walk in the room with one of our kids. They’ve got a book.


Greg McKeown  23:55  

It was our youngest.


Anna McKeown  23:57  

I was thinking of so was she listening to a book?


Greg McKeown  23:59  

No, she just was she just was in the room. She was already in motion. But me moving into it. She definitely just like, quietly quickly exited. She just wanted not to be given a job in that moment.


Anna McKeown  24:12  

Oh, yeah. She’s Olympic-level at flying under the radar. 


Greg McKeown  24:15  

She’s the Olympic level that that’s exactly what it is. But still, I mean, I’ll tell you what I have been doing this week with amazing results. And I barely done it and barely done it. Well, but is this idea of trying to spend 10 minutes one on one with each of our children each day?


Anna McKeown  24:41  

Yeah, I walked in on you doing that the other night. I was like, Huh. And there was such a good feeling. There was such a good feeling.


Greg McKeown  24:49  

That moment was a little like heaven on earth. You know, this idea that the when there’s happiness at home, it’s a quote by somebody. When there’s happiness at home. It’s like You’re glimpsing heaven here. That was like that. Yeah, you know, she got all of the Christmas lights strung around her bed. There’s a full of light. And I started off just with her 10 minutes, one on one. Did you know what was amazing? The first observation I had was how easy it was compared to the same intent within me when I’m trying to talk to all of them at once. Because when I’m trying to sort of coach all of them together, which now in hindsight, is completely not going to work. You’ve always got some side conversation and something that’s interesting, and I’m trying to sort of herd them together. Once it was one on one, all of that distraction was gone. And it was just this positive, completely. I don’t know, I couldn’t believe how easy it was that. I don’t know what else to say about it. But she was so open and she was glowing. Yeah. And, and even, you know, we got laughing about how I’ve been unintentionally over the last, let’s say, a couple of weeks, where I will be walking past people, what are you doing right, I’ll come and help with this can help with that. Yeah. And that becomes the interaction. And I was I was completely admitting that to her. And she laughed about it and agreed with it. And it meant that the next day, when I’d done it, again, not all day long, but I had done it at one time, she raised it with me again, when we did our one on one interaction. Nice. This feels like we’re moving into sort of a third specific thing people can do, to apply essentialism. And this is based on a family counselor that I’ve actually invited to be on the podcast, maybe we’ll be able to get together and interview her and get a bit more about the background of why it works and how to do it. But the simple idea that take away 10 minutes, one on one time with each of your children, whatever the agenda, but I guess to connect the dots back to the beginning, if you have the assumption, you’re going to be there to talk about what they’re doing. Right, right.


Anna McKeown  27:11  

I mean, I this is something that I feel like I’ve, I felt like I should do and have felt like, at the end of the day, you know, just true confessions about where I’m at by the end of the day. But so I feel immense guilt about not having done this better. We get a lot of FaceTime in our family, a lot of FaceTime, but one on one time, not so much. And it’s kind of shocking to me when I think about how little one on one time I get with each of the kids. So I’ll try and grab one, if I’m going to run an errand. Sometimes I want to go run an errand alone, just to have some alone time. But I have certain kids who really love to come with me on errands. Yeah, it’s just I think, I think you’ve hit on something super important. And I love that you’re doing it. The question is like, do we both need to do that? I’d like to ask that. Counselor, if that’s something that we both should be doing every day. Or if we can tag team it or, you know,


Greg McKeown  28:20  

Tag team, it feels more realistic to me right now, based on my experiments with this over the last just even literally two or three days. Because, you know, even just for extra one on one time, things to do every day is a bit tricky. And I certainly think it counts to have somebody if you’re dropping somebody off one on one. Or if they’re running an errand with you, as you say, I mean, it doesn’t have to be let’s call it super high quality.


Anna McKeown  28:49  

Well, there doesn’t need to be an agenda that doesn’t have a conversation. Yeah, it’s just that it’s one on one. Yeah. And asking them about what they’re interested in, or what happened that day or whatever it is they like to shoot the breeze about.


Greg McKeown  29:05  

It feels like to me right now anyway, that this idea of the 10 minutes. One on One is like the compound interest of successful parenting.


Anna McKeown  29:20  

Fun, we have one child in particular who will who will ask for it. She’ll be like, Oh, can we talk? And it’s always at 1130 at night? Yes, later. I know. And when we get on top of it, which is rare. That definitely decreases doesn’t it? Am I Am I right and remembering that like when we do take time to talk to her regularly on a regular basis?


Greg McKeown  29:44  

Absolutely. And, and I think that’s exactly the idea here. I mean, just using essentialist language for a second a non essentialist tends to try and solve any problem by going big. Okay, we need we’ve got to spend time with that. Children, one on one, okay, we’ve got to really solve everything, three hours a half day a whole day type thinking. And that’s so overwhelming. If you try to do it, you may be managed one day of it. But more often than not, you’re overwhelmed by the thought of it. And so you never get to it. And that’s why I like this idea of the sort of microburst one on one, when you say, it’s 10 minutes, and here’s what I’ve noticed, just in these first few days is that by day two, and three, you’re already so much more in sync.


Anna McKeown  30:37  

And I’m just thinking about like, Okay, if I were listening to this podcast, what would my takeaway be? Like? How would I try and apply this, and what I and I think I could manage, is starting with one kid, you know, just starting there, and going, Okay, I’m going to get just 10 minutes with one of the kids today, and maybe I’ll catch it during the day, but but my safety net will be a bad time, when everyone’s winding down, I will go in and chat with one of the kids for 10 minutes. And if I can, if I’ve got the stamina to do more than one, great. But my goal, my little small win would be to just see one of the kids cuz I think I can do that. That’s something I can do.


Greg McKeown  31:24  

Well, I love that. It actually reminds me, I hadn’t really thought about this, but that last week, I had ended up doing that with one of the children. So it hasn’t just been two or three days it was a whole week was one of them last week, in that this week, I moved into trying to do other children. 


Anna McKeown  31:41  

And what were the results of that like of doing that for that week with that kid?


Greg McKeown  31:45  

Well, we made real I mean, it’s perfect, because this whole theme is progress. But we made real progress on actually starting to design, you know, a new routine for him. I mean, I literally have sat down with Jack and looked at the calendar and started to design okay, what what things do you want on here? And what sports are you wanting to pursue for this next few months? And in taking him to them and talking through them there and back? That was my one on one time. And so within a week, I felt like yes, we’ve made actual progress.


Anna McKeown  32:22  

That’s so great. Yeah, I’ve seen that happening.


Greg McKeown  32:26  

Let me just draw the connection between what we’ve been talking about here and a parenting format, just to the idea that this is about people, you know, big people to one of my favorite old articles from Harvard Business Review. In 1968, it was called one more time. How do you motivate employees? And I always thought that was an interesting title one more time. You know, like, hey, we know this, or this has been established in the data many times over, but Okay, one more time. What do you have to do? It was from Frederick Hertzberg, who of course is, you know, he has revealed all sorts of studies around human motivation, but the two primary internal motivators for people is achievement and recognition for achievement.


Anna McKeown  33:23  

Yeah, we just want to be appreciated. Right?


Greg McKeown  33:28  

Napoleon, apparently, by the way, I don’t know that this is good at this juncture. But he said, My life changed the day I realized the man would die for a blue ribbon.


Anna McKeown  33:39  

No, I mean, it shows the power of affirmation. Well, that’s tough competition, you know?


Greg McKeown  33:44  

Well, yes, I suppose that’s true. But it’s, it’s the hunger to be recognized, to be seen, to be heard.


Anna McKeown  33:52  

I think about it in our relationship. You know, we’ve been talking about the kids. But both of us are hungry for positive feedback from the other. We love it. I mean, we’ve talked about this. When I’ll give you positive feedback, you’ll be like, Oh, yes, that is what I needed to hear, which is so nice to hear from you. I mean, you’re giving me positive feedback for giving you positive feedback. It’s a virtuous cycle. But yeah, it motivates me to do that more often. That’s for sure.


Greg McKeown  34:24  

I think I feel desperate for it at times. And that doesn’t mean that it’s not ever happening. I just mean, when you’re intensely pursuing what you think matters when you’re trying, as you are, as I am, who are the witnesses? That the most important moments I mean, in complete contradiction of Napoleon for a second write it, it’s not the one dramatic moment. It’s all that all the stuff in between. It’s all the norm daily work and nobody sees that almost nobody does. And it certainly can feel that nobody sees us. Yeah. You’ve said that to me before, and you need someone to say that what you’re doing matters. Thank you for doing that. In someone new, I see you, in the middle of doing the thing. It’s like exactly what you said about with the children, when they’re doing the right thing. Don’t assume they know that.


Anna McKeown  35:27  

Yeah, if you come up to me and give me a big hug while I’m doing something for the family, say, making dinner, and you wrap your arms around me and say, Wow, thank you for making this. It smells so good. And we’re all so hungry. Ah, that’s just so motivating to me makes me feel like my contribution is appreciated. And, like, I’ve done something good for my family. And they love that and appreciate that thing. 


Greg McKeown  35:58  

Yeah. Just as an example, there’s, there’s a specificity here that I think is is helpful. You don’t have to just say, on our anniversary, you’re really good husband, you’re really good wife, you’re some general can feel throw away. It’s in the moment, in the small moments.


Anna McKeown  36:15  

Yeah. I mean, if I, if I go back to that moment where the children are playing, right, and I can walk in and see them playing nicely, I could give them the generic feedback. Hey, nice job, guys. Which is great. You know, it’s not nothing. It’s something the more specific I get, the more powerful the moment of that person feeling seen of that person feeling known. And also just a feedback going. Yeah, this is really great that that you’re being so gentle with, with your sister, or your you’re handling that thing so carefully. Wow, good job, you know, or I love how you’ve put those colors together. I can tell you really thought about putting that pattern that way, you know, that kind of specific feedback, the more specific you get, the more I think the more valuable


Greg McKeown  37:00  

We’re the more clear they are. About what it is that they’re doing. Right. Yeah, the more clear the praise is to me in our marriage, the more


Anna McKeown  37:12  

Yeah, if you tell me I’m back. Nice. Versus I love it when you wear that dress or that top? Oh, he likes that top. I look good in this top. Okay,


Greg McKeown  37:24  

Do you remember? Yeah. Yeah, the specificity I think is really important. And, and so whether this is family relationships, personal relationships, or even work relationships, the same idea stance? Yeah, I think that you can have a standing norm. In every work meeting, were the first even if it’s literally one minute of gratitude, you start with the question what’s going right? with it? Because people want to do I think the vast majority of people want to do the right thing. And we should never assume that they know what that right thing is, from our points of view, how would they know when we have to give that feedback and this positive feedback as a way to do this? This is positive tickets. This is the idea of the power of small wins. This I think is the way to get progress in the things that matter most. Anna, thank you for being on the what’s essential podcast.


Anna McKeown  38:30  

Thank you for inviting me on the podcast, it has been very enjoyable. I love your question. I enjoy your insights. And I really enjoy this time that we get to spend together it is very valuable to me.


Greg McKeown  38:46  

I love hearing you go back and remember specific parts of our lives together. And the natural spontaneous excitement that comes up as you do that as you re live them and remember them and the energy that comes with that it just it is always thrilling to be I mean I’ve always felt this that your your smile can sort of light up the whole room and and and and as you do that you’re a bit like that. Like the literal star you know like the in what’s the what’s the movie Come on. It’s a weird movie but star does. 


Anna McKeown  39:26  

Stardust Yeah, well, I love we enjoy that movie. It’s it’s silly, but it’s fun. 


Greg McKeown  39:32  

But the particular thing about how that star glows. Under certain circumstances, I almost literally see you doing that even now in the studio. When you reflect and remember and recall those stories. I love watching you do that. So thank you. Thank you. Well, we’ve come to that time again the end of the show. And very sincerely thank you for listening listening for, for tuning in and allowing us to be a part of your day to day. You know, wherever you are, in the middle of all the things that you have grappling for your attention. You’ve invested some of your precious life with us. That says the beautiful thing to me and if you have found this conversation useful if you found something in it that’s valuable to you. I’d like to ask you to do a favor to go on to Apple podcasts and write a review. And as a thank you to the first five people who write a review of this episode. I’m sending a copy of effortless, make it easier to do what matters most. So all you have to do is your take a photograph of your review, and send it to info at Greg mcewen.com That I N fo at GRE G MC K EOW n.com. Have a marvelous week, catch people doing the right things. And progress awaits. We’ll see you next week on the Watson central podcast.


Transcribed by https://otter.ai


Greg McKeown


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