254: Swipe: The Science Behind Why We Don’t Finish What We Start, With Tracy Maylett

March 13, 2023

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Dr. Pelè (00:00):

Hello, happy people. Welcome to the Profitable Happiness Podcast. Hello

Dr. Pelè (00:08):

Everyone. This is Dr. Pelè with the Profitable Happiness Podcast, and today it is my pleasure to introduce to you today the c e o of decision wise and the author of the upcoming book, swipe. Oh my goodness, we are gonna learn so much from someone who is in the trenches making it happen through powerful leadership. Tracy, how are you doing today,

Tracy Maylett (00:31):

Dr. Pelè, it's such a pleasure. I'm doing well. It's a wonderful day. I'm out here in the Rocky Mountains and we have snow like you would not believe so. Oh, <laugh>, I'm not complaining at all. It's beautiful

Dr. Pelè (00:41):

<laugh>. Well, uh, I'm sorry, but I'm not gonna, um, join you to celebrate the, uh, the the weather because, you know, I'm here at Austin, Texas, and it's a beautiful day. <laugh>, yeah.

Tracy Maylett (00:50):

To eat his own That's,

Dr. Pelè (00:52):

Yeah. To eat his own. Oh, boy. So, Tracy, you know, let's start from the beginning. Let's, let's go way back to, you know, sort of the context of our conversation, and that is, what problems are you solving in the world, not only as c e o of decision-wise, but also with this book that you're about to put out into the world. I'm excited for it. And I'd love to know the central problem that you're addressing in this book.

Tracy Maylett (01:16):

Uh, you know, I'm, I'm an organizational psychologist. I'd study the way people behave in organizations and what causes someone to want to dedicate who they are to, to what's in front of them. And we really started with a different problem than what we actually ended up solving. The original problem was to look at what's causing this massive disengagement in organizations today. People don't join organizations thinking, I sure hope to go into my job today, and it sucks the life out of me. You don't, it's not, that's not who we are, yet something happens that's changed the way we view things. So we approach this from what's causing the huge amount of employee disengagement that we're experiencing organizations today, and why the massive resignation that we're experiencing as we got into this. And by the way, this is based on a research database of 50 million employee survey responses.

Wow. So this is a small database. Yeah. We looked at it and there were some common themes, but what was most interesting is these themes, these things that cause us to disengage at work. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> also cause us to disengage and become very unhappy in life as well. There's that commonality that exists. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So we started out to solve an organizational problem, disengagement. We ended up understanding that really what we're solving for is our own personal engagement. Engagement is a 50 50 proposition. The organization owns part of it. They can set the tone, but we as individuals have to choose to engage. Why are we disengaging in what's so important to us? And that's the basis of what's in what's in front of us.

Dr. Pelè (02:46):

Wow. You know, I so love the idea that you started out with one, you know, research proposition, maybe even a set of ideas and theories, but you've went where the data, uh, uh, took you and ended up with this idea of the science behind why we don't finish, uh, what we start, you know, as an industrial psychologist yourself, I, I would love to know kind of what brought you here. What's your story personally that got you to this point of following the data, uh, and, and, and discovering the power of swipe?

Tracy Maylett (03:17):

You know, you and I had a brief conversation I never intended to start out as, as a C E O. Um, fortunately, it's, it's happened. We have a wonderful organization. I'm proud of it. I'm proud of the people that work here. Uh, I never intended to be a C e O. Uh, you, you and I have a similar background in the music's very important to us. I, my wife and I were music majors. That's how we met. Uh, I loved music. That was part of what made me who I was. And as I was going through school, and that's what I studied, that was my undergraduate work, and I realized that was really important to me. But I also realized that this was so important, that it was a, i I couldn't make it my living. I didn't wanna make it my living. I wanted to use this as my relief and what I really enjoyed.

And I, I got into business and I realized in business what really made, it's, it's great to understand supply chain, it's great to understand operations. I teach that stuff mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but, but what I really loved was what is the people component? How do we take these individuals who are so important to running our organization and create that level of engagement and excitement? And as I was doing that, I realized, you know, there's, there's really a business here. It's more than just my own interest. This is, we can create something that can cause organizations to be great and therefore cause people to be great in those organizations. And that, that's kind of where I came from. And so I went back and got additional education along those lines. And, uh, it's what I've been doing for the last 25 years.

Dr. Pelè (04:40):

You know, I, I am just so, uh, in awe, and I totally respect anyone who shows up in this world using who they truly are and what real experiences they've had as the way they help other people. And I think you and I, uh, uh, share that, especially with the whole music and, and jazz, uh, thing. I'd love to learn more about that, by the way. But you know what, let's, let's get into this word. You've used this word a couple of times and it's, it's the big word, engagement. I have to be honest. A lot of people use it, but I sense that you don't just use it <laugh>. You teach it. You, you twist it, you blow it up. You, you throw it at companies. Tell us more about this issue of employee engagement.

Tracy Maylett (05:22):

You know, it's, it's funny because, you know, we have this marketing team and the marketing team tries to, to hit SEO words on engagement and things like that. And one of the things I've learned over the last couple years is every product that's out there is they're using usurping, that term engagement. You know, e engagement could be all the way from fitness devices to rewards to what we do, which is how do we create an environment in which people can choose to dedicate themselves to that. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and I, I've realized over a period of time that engagement has lots of different meanings to lots of different people. So our definition of engagement is that it's an emotional in which people choose to dedicate their hearts, spirits, minds, and hands in what they do. The hearts being that love they have for the job, the spirit being the passion that's there, that, that flame, the, the hands being the actual physical work piece of this. And the minds being, I, I'm thinking about this. This is part of me, this is part of what I want to do. Hmm. And, and that's really the basis behind our concept of engagement. How do we, how do we create environments in which people can choose to engage in what they do?

Dr. Pelè (06:26):

Wow. You know, I, I, I swear you could change a few words, and that's how I would describe what I call profitable happiness. Sure. You know, you know, tell me, if you could a little bit more about how jazz, you know, we talked about this a little bit, uh, before we started this conversation, but how jazz and music in your life has sort of helped you understand engagement more in the way you describe it. Because, you know, I have to tell you that that state of being a creative, engaged person is probably the best and most powerful way to create performance in organizations. I mean, I'm sure you would agree, but how would you explain that from your experience musically?

Tracy Maylett (07:04):

Uh, you know, it's, it's, it's fun to talk to you because you understand this concept. You, you get it when we talk about it. My, my co-author is also a jazz musician. He's a Tim Van Dehi. He's a, he's a singer, and he's, oh, wow,

Dr. Pelè (07:15):

Dude, we have a band here. Do you know this? We

Tracy Maylett (07:17):

Need to, we need to get the band up and going again, don't we? Yeah. That's, it's, uh, it's fun. It really is. But it's, it's kind of served as a metaphor for me in a lot of different areas. And engagement is one of those. Uh, when we talk about, when we talk about an organization's responsibility for engagement and an employee's responsibility, one of the things that we've realized, and we spend lots and lots of money on the organizational side saying, how do we engage our employees? And the reality is, is we can't, we as an organization, can't cause someone to be happy or to engage in what they do. What we can do is plant the seeds until the soil so that they can choose to make that happen. So the the metaphor that I love here is the music metaphor, which says that, you know, music is about, there are certain rules, and those rules could be, you know, we talked a little bit about this in jazz.

We're playing 12 bars. It is a, a certain key signature and time signature that we're operating within. And within that we do anything we want to do, but we need to understand the framework first. So the organization does a good job of establishing that framework. And then, as you and I talked about afterwards, the beauty comes with operating within that, but then also changing some of those rules. And to have an organization that will allow you to change those rules and have that level of autonomy. Um, autonomy is, we say that there are five keys to engagement. Um, they're identified by the acronym magic, M A G I C. The second one is autonomy. And autonomy is the ability to shape my environment in a way that I use who I am and my skills and talents to, to succeed. And that's one of the keys. And so, you know, music has always been a, a, a key analogy that we use, or key metaphor as we, we follow this.

Dr. Pelè (09:02):

Yeah. You know, um, a lot of people, uh, don't realize that, um, you know, creating a, a acronyms like magic, uh, is just one of the most powerful ways of teaching, scientifically proven, by the way. So I'm so enamored by your use of M A G I C. Um, I, I would love for you to, to share what that is. But before we do that, um, let's start to look at how, you know, how, how exactly do you, through your work or through the book that you're writing, swipe, how do you solve some of these engagement problems and help companies increase performance? Uh, performance? By the way, is it magic <laugh>?

Tracy Maylett (09:41):

It it is magic. Yeah.

It's, uh, you know, we, we found that, that term, uh, that acronym and we realize, okay, this is kind of corny. And then we realize, no, this is not corny. This is real research in science. Yeah. But it's also easy to remember. Yes. So let's, let's use that for just a second and we'll riff off of it, and just think about that for just a second. So, one of the things we discovered through this database, and remember, the database applies not only in organizations, but to our own lives, to our families, to what's in front of us, what's important. That acronym is magic, M A G I C. And when we found that, uh, an individual possesses these five items, five items, they will engage in whatever's in front of them. So engage in their work, engage in their family, engage in their hobbies. Uh, the first one is, is the m which is meaning.

Dr. Pelè (10:28):


Tracy Maylett (10:28):

But I find that there is purpose in what I do beyond just the job itself. I will get excited about it as, as you look at your podcast. Um, again, I appreciated just the brief conversation we had before this, which tells me that y your heart's in this, you, you love this. You do it for more than just the fact that you've, you have an hour long podcast. There's a reason, there's a purpose. So if we can find purpose in what's in front of us, we will not swipe. We will engage, we will, we will tackle what's in front of us. The next one is autonomy. And I explained that just briefly. That's the, the power to shape your world in front of you in a way that's going to, uh, to allow you to use your skills, abilities, talents, to, to succeed. That autonomy, that the a is not anarchy.

Doesn't mean we have complete freedom in, in what we do. Yeah. We have to follow some rules, but to shape those rules is really valuable. The GE is growth. We have to always be growing. And if I'm approaching a hobby or a, a marriage or a, a business, and I'm not growing, I'm stagnating. And I will not engage in what's in front of me. By the way, uh, statistics show us pretty clearly that this generation, uh, millennials down to this generation, that we're now entering the workforce, that they will leave an organization for growth opportunities faster than anything else, including compensation. The, the next piece is the I, which is impact when I feel like what I'm doing actually makes a difference. Uh, as you and I talked about, also what you're doing makes a difference. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, there's a reason for this. So the m is the purpose.

The I is, I see the results of that effort. And then finally, the last one is C, which is connection. That is a, a, uh, belong, a sense of belonging to something beyond myself. Mm-hmm. So I find connection with the people that I work with. I find connection to the task that I'm doing. And there's, there's a reason why I'm a part of this. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, when those five keys are present, we will engage in the organization. Um, so if I'm a boss and I want to see why people aren't engaging, they're missing one of those keys, I need to figure out what that is. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, if I am disengage in a marriage, in a relationship, and I swipe past it, it's because one of those five element elements are not present. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. Let's figure it out.

Dr. Pelè (12:39):

You know, I, I have to say that, um, I, I also love the marketing angle on, on your book, the, the, the idea of swipe in our attention economy that we live in. Right. You know, if I'm not engaged, but what am I doing? I'm swiping past, I'm getting sure. I'm moving on to the next shiny object. So I, I just, I think that's powerful. I'd love to learn more about the subtitle, though. You know, you talk about this idea of the science behind why we don't finish what we start, connect the dots for me between that and engagement and, and, and things like that.

Tracy Maylett (13:10):

Yeah. You know, I'm, I'm a researcher. We are researchers. My, my co-author is a journalist. He's written more than 60 books. Wow. All kinds. All the way from musicians to athletes to movie stars, to, you know, the, the works. Yeah. And as we've had a chance to go through here, we based this on research. So again, this is based on 50 million employee survey responses, but it's also based on the concepts of business or neuropsychology. Mm-hmm. So the swipe actually e even though it's a neat marketing term, and you, you got that, you, it's the, the, the value we look at that and say, oh, yeah, I know how to swipe, is, um, one of the things that we found pretty clearly is we've actually been preconditioned to swipe in this environment that we live in today, the technology. And of course it takes its name from technology, you know, uh, dating apps and all the other kinds of things.

It was, it was funny. We, we, we have, I, we have four boys, my wife and I mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and we saw one of our, one of our teens, and he had a whole bunch of, of guys who was, who was with him. And, um, they were, they were looking at a dating app, and it was in a matter of a fraction of a second, they were saying, it's swipe, swipe, swipe. You know? And, and it was interesting because what was happening is anytime they did not register with what was in front of 'em, the immediate reaction, they'd been conditioned to move forward. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And, you know, uh, from a, from a guy who's the father saying, you can't make that judgment within just a fraction of a second. What are you doing? It's, it's interesting. The research really supports that. So what's happened is that our brains have now become so conditioned that rather than relying and stopping and thinking on something, you know, evaluating, we swipe past what's in front of us.

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, there's some interesting research that's been done by scientists. Daniel Kahneman, um, just a, if you ever get a chance to look at his work, wonderful. That he describes that we have basically two minds, two, two parts, two systems in our brain. One is system one, one is system two, system one is that reactionary system. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, it's, it's very, very quick. Uh, it's what protects us from danger. What it's, what causes to move, you know, when a car is approaching us or to, to escape. Um, and, and, and it's a very valuable system. And that system is very reactionary, very reflexive. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, the other system is system too. That system takes a lot more brain power. It's a lot harder. It's, um, we have to stop and sort through something. And system two becomes very lazy over a period of time. I mean, just is because when System One can solve something, we let that happen.

And so this, this book is very similar to that. When we face difficulties or something uncomfortable, the definition of the swipe is moving past the uncomfortable present to hope of something better in the future. Future. So whether it's that brief dating app swipe, or we're looking at a job and saying, you know, this is not really exciting, or that 10% of our job that really is mundane, uh, even in, in the podcasting world, you know, there's still the scheduling and all this stuff. That's not all that exciting. Yeah. But we have to do it. Yeah. And the great resignation says that so many of us are swiping past what we have today. In fact, latest statistics show that within 90 days of leaving an organization, that same person who was disengaged in organization A will disengage in organization B. And, and, and to quote the, the greats, um, know, wherever you go, there you are.

Dr. Pelè (16:31):


Tracy Maylett (16:31):

That's, so we become masters not of what's in front of us. You know, if we, if we use the 10,000 rule, which has been 10,000 hours rule, which has been debated, and I wanna play jazz guitar, I better practice. Yeah. And, and if I'm swiping past the difficulty, and all of a sudden my fingers are getting burns and, you know, stuff like that, and it's difficult to do, I'm swiping past it. The only thing I become a master of is the swipe. Mm-hmm. So really what this comes back to is what we've mastered is not what we hope to master. Mm-hmm. You know, the job, the relationship, my children playing the piano, it's, we've become masters of the swipe. We've mastered moving on past that difficulty.

Dr. Pelè (17:12):

Wow. You know, first of all, I could tell you, uh, I could be a member of the choir that you are the leading singer in, because I am just like sitting here going, wow. In fact, I'll show you something.

Tracy Maylett (17:21):


Dr. Pelè (17:22):

You see this right here? Yeah. This is a model that I made of the human brain describing exactly what you've just talked about. Oh, system, system one, system two, uh, conscious mind, very small, big, powerful subc. You got it. The various inputs and the fact that practice and pushing that data down into the subconscious mind, which is not swiping right, that is really deliberately doing things over and over. They sometimes they're not comfortable, is truly the key to success. And so, you, you can probably tell that, uh, I, I'm, I'm just like ready to spend five hours here with you today just listening to you because it's so true. Tell us more about the idea of practice and this idea of, you know, doing what's uncomfortable. I think musicians, uh, have to be, you know, given some credit for the fact that they've learned intuitively or or otherwise, that repetition and just doing things, even if you don't like to do it, leads to a success down the road. Tell us about being uncomfortable.

Tracy Maylett (18:23):

Yeah, it really does. Um, you know, there was an Adam Sandler movie that was released a number of years ago back in the eighties, and do not go see the movie. It wasn't a great movie. I'm not advocating for it, but had an interesting concept or principle behind it. And that was, the movie was called Click. And in Click, he had a remote control where he could fast forward past those uncomfortable parts of his life. Ooh. Again, the movie was not great, but the concept was interesting because what happened is he would swipe past those times when he'd be sitting in a doctor's office. He swiped past the times where his, his father was going under undergoing difficult treatment. Pa fast forward past those talks with the kids that were difficult and things like that. And he realized at the end of his life, you get to the end of his life, and I'm not gonna spoil it for anyone, because again, it's not a great movie.

Dr. Pelè (19:06):


Tracy Maylett (19:06):

Uh, he swipes past that and realize that those opportunities, these swipe past were what really could have made him who he was. Mm. That difficulty in dealing with that child, that difficulty in that relationship, that hard job that he had. Those things really make us who we are. You know, I'm in the HR world and, and those things that have made me who I am in the HR world are because maybe an employee was disgruntled and I had to, I had to deal with that and understand it. Or maybe there was a, a, a legal lawsuit in, in some area that I had to be a part of that. And those difficult situations are really what caused you to stretch and grow. The swipe doesn't allow you to get there. Mm. Um, if you swiping past a difficult conversation with a spouse or a child or a boss, you never address what you're after. You just swipe past it, and that's gonna come back. Or even worse, it won't come back in the form of growth.

Dr. Pelè (20:03):

You know, a lot of people talk about, um, wanting to, to feel happy in organizations, and I think it's gotten a bad rep because it's almost like we're not here for fun in games, <laugh>. But, but we, you and I know from, from studying and research that there's another kind of happiness that is more closely related to engagement and, and things like flow and, you know, yeah. Purposeful, uh, activity and things like that. And it's that kind of happiness that we're all looking for. But I think as, as you're describing here, it's not something you wait to feel and just sort of swipe through life. You have to actually do happiness. Just like you have to do engagement. You can't just hope and, and feel that it's going to show up for you. You have to actually do it. Tell us about this proactive idea of focusing on, on what's important, not swiping past difficult and uncomfortable things, and how that is really a search for happiness, uh, among employees in your opinion.

Tracy Maylett (21:00):

Yeah. You know, my, my co-author Tim, he has, uses an interesting ana analogy because he does a lot of ghost writing as well, and he deals with a lot of authors would be authors that, uh, how many people do you know are, are just waiting to finish their novel or write their book, or I, I want to get my master's degree, or whatever that is. You know, I want to run my marathon. And, and they call it mine, you know, my degree, my book. Yet it, it's, for some reason, it's not theirs. They don't have that behind them. They, they've quit before they moved on my marriage, my whatever. And it's, what's most interesting about that is that, uh, Tim calls that page one energy

Dr. Pelè (21:40):

In, in

Tracy Maylett (21:41):

Writing, you know, uh, page one, you get really excited. You have all these ideas you're gonna put down on your book, and page two becomes a little harder, but then you get into chapter two and three, and all of a sudden it's, it's, this is work <laugh>. You know, you decide you wanna run your marathon, and, uh, you know, you get out there and you realize that that mild's kind of hard, let alone that 26.2 of those things. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So one of the things that, that we have to understand is that we often set real unrealistic expectations. The, the current me, today's me, today's today's Tracy is really good at designing goals for the future, Tracy Yeah. To fulfill. And one of the things we have to really understand is, okay, why is that important to us? Why is this relationship important to us? Why is this job important to us?

I was on a five hour flight from Boston yesterday, and, you know, it was the end of the day, and I get back about midnight. And during that trip, I was not engaged in my job. I was not excited about being there on that five hour flight. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But I realized the why behind that. The why is because there's something greater here. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, why is because I, I, I, I do a job that I love, and yeah, 10% of that's gonna be the travel that I don't love to do. 10% of my relationship with my kids is going to be grounding them and taking away their cell phones. And, and when I understand the why, the purpose behind it, it makes a big difference. So when you apply that to an organization, a job, why is it you're here at the job? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, what was it that attracted you to do this job? What attracted you to, uh, health goals? What attracted you to finishing that? And being able to really understand that makes a big difference because it's gonna hit you and it's gonna be hard.

Dr. Pelè (23:25):

Wow. Amen. Uh, it's, it's so true that you have to focus on what's hard. In fact, I think I, we, I mentioned earlier about acronyms. Um, I actually use the acronym of happy, uh, in my book, uh, profitable Happiness, and I love acronyms. In fact, um, there's one that, um, I like to use which says, you know, everyone says life hard in a negative way, but I think that actually life is H A R D, how adversity reveals Destiny. Oh,

Tracy Maylett (23:53):

Beautiful. Beautiful.

Dr. Pelè (23:55):

Yeah. So, so, so when you can sort of reframe, I think what you're saying is you gotta reframe these things that are hard, don't swipe past them, recognize cognize that within those hard things, focusing on those things, you could actually release, uh, the engagement that creates the future. Absolutely.

Tracy Maylett (24:12):

Absolutely. That's it.

Dr. Pelè (24:13):

Yeah. Powerful stuff. You know, you can see I'm a student of yours, my friend. I'm, I'm like soaking it in. I'm

Tracy Maylett (24:19):

Right there with you. I appreciate

Dr. Pelè (24:20):

It. So I'm gonna be, I'm gonna be in the line to buy your book. People can pre-order it right now. Tell us when it's coming out, what you're excited about, and obviously we'll talk about how people can get ahold of you.

Tracy Maylett (24:32):

Thank you. You know, it comes out March 21st, so we've got another week or so. Um, not a whole lot. I'm really excited for this. This is actually our third book, third book I've written with Tim, and he calls it the Trilogy, although I wouldn't say that's the case. Really what this is about is our first book was really about how does an organization create an environment. The second book was really about how do managers make that happen? And then this one was really about, all right, but I, as an employee have to own some of this, which causes to move into the rest of that. So, um, books will be available then on the 21st, and we're very excited for that release.

Dr. Pelè (25:09):

Well sign me up to get a copy and if, if I can help promote it in any way. By the way, you talk about things being hard, uh, writing can be fun. Uh, the marketing is gonna be a whole different activity.

Tracy Maylett (25:20):

Isn't that true? That's exactly right. You don't realize that on page one, do you? You don't stop. Think about how am I going to, uh, get this into other people's hands?

Dr. Pelè (25:28):

Yeah. We, we, we tend to love the writing and swipe on the marketing. Right. <laugh>, we gotta switch it and, and

Tracy Maylett (25:33):

<laugh>, you got it. That's it.

Dr. Pelè (25:35):

All right. Well, you know, Tracy, it has been such a pleasure for me to, to learn from you, uh, and, and to just connect with you. Tell us more about exactly where people can find you online, social media, and so on.

Tracy Maylett (25:48):

Love to have people find me on LinkedIn. My name is, is Dr. Tracy Maylett, t r a c y m a y l e t t. Uh, the company that I work with, that I'm c e o of a company called Decision Wise, you can find us there. Um, please order the book. The Bo book is called Swipe the Science Behind Why We Don't Finish What We Start, be Available on Barnes and Noble. And then also there's a, a webpage swipe the book.com, and you can find our contact information there too. But I'd just love to bounce ideas back and forth with people. Um, love to have you by the book, but that doesn't mean you have to do that in order to talk to us. So love to just talk about ideas, and this has been a pleasurable conversation too.

Dr. Pelè (26:26):

Well, thank you Dr. Tracy. I, I want you to know that I'm a fan. I'm gonna be picking up that book, and I'd love to have you back maybe after a while when you've been out there implementing the book and organization.

Tracy Maylett (26:36):

Oh, let's do it. We'd love to do it.

Dr. Pelè (26:38):

Uh, awesome. Well, have an awesome day. Thank you.

Tracy Maylett (26:41):

Thanks so much.

Dr. Pelè (26:43):

Thanks for tuning in to the Profitable Happiness Podcast. For more episodes, visit dr pa.com. And remember, get happy first and success will follow.