E-Notes: On Wonder, Deserving to Succeed, and Scaling Kindness

The other night I was working on this week’s E-Notes and I felt like a DJ. That’s how it feels to bring ideas together. It’s like pulling up songs from new and old albums, mixing them together, connecting a beat or certain melody from one song and blending it into the next. It is as energizing and uplifting as I imagine it is to creatively weave beats together in your own artistic style. 

That’s what I hope to accomplish with E-Notes. The things I share are sometimes several years old but the ideas are still relevant…in some cases even more so now. Other items will be less than a week old. If I do my job right, you should be able to find threads or beats that bind the pieces while also appreciating the newly created collective.


After listening to his interview on The Good Life Project, I am looking forward to reading Tracking Wonder: Reclaiming a Life of Meaning and Possibility in a World Obsessed with Productivity by Jeffrey Davis. Below are some highlights (and timestamp links) worth sharing from the episode “A Wonder-Full Life”.

“Wonder physiologically doesn’t draw us toward the stimulus nor does it repel us. Love will draw us toward the stimulus. Fear will repel us away. Wonder pauses that response and just holds us in this beautiful receptivity and sometimes we can take stock of what’s really real and what’s really important.”

Jeffrey Davis, The Good Life Project
A picture of yellow fall leaves both on the trees and the ground so the entire photo is yellow.
This spot on our local trails is one of the places where I experience wonder. In this case, specifically when the leaves have turned in October with the sunshine filtering through, surrounding you in a yellow glow, with leaves fluttering in the breeze overhead, gently raining down on you, and rustling softly underfoot. I could spend all day here. (Photo Credit: Erin Shaw)

In his book, Jeffrey Davis shares the 6 Facets of Wonder that emerged from his research. The facets are discussed as pairs. I found Jeffrey’s conversation with Jonathan Fields very interesting as they delved into each pairing.

Jeffrey’s definition of Admiration:

“A surprising love we experience for someone’s excellence in character or craft and when we witness somebody being full force in who they are, or doing something virtuous, or just being so skilled at what they do and how they do it, we can feel this sort of love and it awakens, I think, something in us, perhaps to be just a little better at what we do and how we do it or who we are.”

Jeffrey Davis, “A Wonder-Full Life” episode on The Good Life Project

Wonder as a Possible Evolutionary Advantage and the “Hard Work” Bias Against Wonder

Finally, host Jonathan Fields shares Jeffrey’s DOSE acronym as an incredibly powerful lens that anyone can bring to everything they do:

Detect default pattern or downer reactions

Open up (pause, feel)

Seek out wonder

Extend the wonder (reflect, make meaning, let it linger, let it grow)

In what ways do you bring Wonder into your life? If you feel like you are constantly rushing around to get everything done between work, family, school, life, etc., what steps could you take this week to create a space for wonder? Even if it is only the briefest pause.

Until next Wednesday, I challenge you to slow down enough to notice the glint of sunshine on the windowsill, the delicateness of a flower emerging from the ground, the heady, earthy aroma of the spring thaw, a warm breeze on your face, or the calm, steady breath of the pet or child snuggling against you. Allow in the curiosity and openness, explore the bewilderment and hope, and feel the connection and admiration.

Deserving to Succeed

If you find any interview with Randall Stutman, make the time to listen to it. His interview on “The Essence of Leadership” on The Knowledge Project, and the focus of today’s post, on “Becoming a Life-long Student of Leadership” on the Daily Stoic podcast are some of the only podcast episodes that I have listened to numerous times.

As you can see from the notes and quotes I’ve shared below, he has worthwhile things to say. Although he’d be the first person to tell you not to place him or any other leader on a pedestal. Instead he’d say to focus on the actions and behaviors of great leaders, not the fallible person.

Check out his company Admired Leadership too. You can sign up for daily “Field Notes” and if you complete the free sign up for more information about Admired Leadership, you get access to five free videos.

Notes and quotes from Randall Stutman’s interview on the Daily Stoic podcast:

“Leadership is about other people…It’s about how you engage other people. It’s not about you.”

“No surgeon can operate on themselves. No leader can really assess themselves and understand everything that’s going on without some help.”

“The very nature of feedback is a direction and it comes from a place of power….The very nature of using the word feedback suggests this is a directive action that I’m doing, hopefully, with good intentions to improve your performance….I’m telling you directively, this is something you need to do. And it’s coming from a place of my experience and expertise but it’s also coming from a place of power….How you couch what you say is either going to create more resistance or more acceptance just in the very descriptor of the words.”

Strategies for Giving Effective Feedback:

  • Couch your thoughts in terms that will create more acceptance
    • Ex: Can I give offer you a suggestion or advice instead of feedback?
  • Ask for help as the leader
    • Share the following with the employee – “I’m trying to build a team where everyone does xyz, I need your help to get this done. Can you help me by doing xyz? What gets us there? How can you encourage the other members of the team?” (Insert suggestion for how they could improve their performance.) Give up some power and admit as the leader you are probably guilty of the behavior too. Ask if the employee would be willing to work on that behavior and help in that way.
  • Use Data
    • Maybe the employee isn’t remedying the behavior or listening to your feedback because of you. Ask the person to gather input of their team members’ thoughts on xyz. Or share what others have told you so that it is more than only your opinion but do so in a way that doesn’t feel like everyone is ganging up on this person.
  • Make It About You
    • You’ve asked the employee to do xyz but they are continuing to not improve. Put it on you as the leader. What haven’t you been clear about? What resource/explanation/help does the employee need? Focus on being effective, not on being right.
  • Walk in My Shoes
    • The employee’s behavior is still not improving after repeated conversations. Ask them to pretend they are the leader, “What would you do if you were in my shoes?” Or say “I have another employee who isn’t receiving feedback and acting on it. What would you say to them? What would you say to somebody else?”

Goal: Trying to open the dialogue and create a relational, supportive way by which we can explore what’s going on.

“You have to give up power to keep power. You have to give up power to maintain power….if you hold it too closely, you actually have less of it.”

“The best leaders, the people that are wise, realize this isn’t about me in control or me directing things. This is about me making it your idea and creating a context for a relationship where we trust each other, we respect each other, and you’ll do this for me because you know I would do it for you. And that changes everything.”

Idea of “Fanness” – the foundation of motivation and inspiration. (FYI, you get a nine-page guide on the concept of Fanness if you sign up for Admired Leadership’s Field Notes)

Host Ryan Holiday asked this question, “What do you do when you are a fan of someone, you do want them to be successful, you are rooting for them, but they seem to be stuck in some sort of trap of self-doubt or fear or laziness or entitlement…How do you get people to rise to their level of potential or excellence?”

Randall’s answer, “You shake ’em up but shaking them up isn’t necessarily a negative, right? There’s lots of ways of shaking people up. Like sometimes it’s about putting them in the right context so they are able to succeed at a higher level.”

After sharing this story about one of his employees he said, “At the end of the day, you gotta shake people up because you can’t let them stay in this place where they are underperforming based on what they’re capable of, because they simply lack a view, or a perspective, or a context by which they can assess themselves more objectively.”

One of Randall’s thoughts on what life’s about, “This idea of instead of trying to succeed, working really hard to deserve to succeed. When you deserve to succeed, trust me it’ll happen. The score will take care of itself, the victories will come, whatever the success is will happen. But most of us don’t work hard enough on us to deserve to succeed. Do you really deserve it? And that’s all about you, it’s all about your character, it’s about your behaviors, it’s about the choices you make, do you deserve to succeed?”

Randall said it best, folks. Wow! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Scaling Kindness

Kindness Scales

It scales better than competitiveness, frustration, pettiness, regret, revenge, merit (whatever that means) or apathy.

Kindness ratchets up. It leads to more kindness. It can create trust and openness and truth and enthusiasm and patience and possibility.

Kindness, in one word, is a business model, an approach to strangers and a platform for growth.

It might take more effort than you were hoping it would, but it’s worth it.

Seth Godin, Seth’s Blog

Thank you for taking time to read this week’s post. It means so much! You’ve got some homework…pause long enough in the hustle of the next week to let Wonder into your life. And if you want to scale some kindness, drop a comment below. We’d all love to hear your thoughts.

10 thoughts on “E-Notes: On Wonder, Deserving to Succeed, and Scaling Kindness

    1. Right?! Thanks for reading and for being one of the people who helps me assess and evaluate my leadership and thinking.


  1. We are living in a time where kindness, thoughtfulness and self-control seem to be sliding down a slippery slope. There is a general lack of decency and respect, decorum if you will. Partially it is because of the availability of immediate (anonymous) communication with no repercussions (ie. social media) partly due to media and political leadership who seem to have no filters. Bambi’s Mom was right….”if you can’t say something nice, say nothing!” And as for Wonder…yes! It is Spring and time to smell the roses, watch little plants emerge, sit and feel the warm sun and gentle wind on your face…and marvel in the silence that surrounds the beauty. We must slow down and consider the sensory richness that surrounds us, and through the slowing also expand our appreciation of people and events that are farther afield. Wonder Daily, and let it inform your actions, Please Be Kind.


  2. Love this whole post but especially the section on “wonder”! It made me think about what causes me to pause and appreciate the beauty of a moment. I think the top three things are travel, the changing seasons, and having fun with our kids. All these beautiful things feel fleeting, and I think that fleeting nature causes me to feel wonder. Thanks for sharing these wonderful and inspirational thoughts, Erin!


    1. Love this part, and it’s a reminder that paying attention to our senses is a good way to experience wonder: “ Until next Wednesday, I challenge you to slow down enough to notice the glint of sunshine on the windowsill, the delicateness of a flower emerging from the ground, the heady, earthy aroma of the spring thaw, a warm breeze on your face, or the calm, steady breath of the pet or child snuggling against you. ”


      1. Pliny was clearly helping me write this week’s blog. He purrs in agreement with your comments!


  3. Wonderful blog post! I’m really into Ryan Holiday as well. I just read Stillness is the Key from the DPL. Thank you so much for alerting me to the work of Jeffrey Davis. I’ve downloaded a couple of his interviews for podcast listening now:) Have a great day!


    1. Thank you, Michelle! I get Ryan Holiday’s Daily Stoic emails and have read Ego is the Enemy but not his other three books yet. I’ve enjoyed checking out Jeffrey Davis. He brings the same childlike wonder and spirit that he describes in writing, to his voice and presence when speaking. Happy listening!


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