Lauren Handel Zander has helped motivate thousands of people to drop their excuses, dream big, and live into those dreams. In today’s episode, Lauren talks about how loving, radical self-honesty might also be the secret to lifelong happiness.
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Jeff: So radical candor.
Jeff: Is honesty always good? Is it always a good thing?
Lauren: I think self love is nothing to hide about yourself. Like if you love yourself, if you respect yourself, or even if there's things you don't love or respect about yourself, but you're being true to yourself. Which is self love. You'll tell all. There's nothing you have to hide. Right? If I can't tell something to someone that obviously that means I can't do it. Right? If I wouldn't tell my kid, even my 10 year-old. I'm not proud of it, or I wouldn't want her to do it. Like anything I do or I have to be willing to tell the truth about. And that's my indicator if I'm really okay with it.
Jeff: Would you say that honesty and candor is a bedrock of the method?
Lauren: 100%. It really is the secret sauce. Right? The secret sauce is people don't really tell the truth. And they're afraid to tell the full truth about who they are, what they've done, what they think. And it isn't that what you think is so genius, it's that if you can't say it you can't even hear how you really think about it. Right? So it's in the truth you figure yourself out.
Jeff: So how did you get this going? How did you start with this thing?
Lauren: I think I started in my family at a very early age. And I was raised, honestly an orthodox Jew. And if you saw my siblings before me, they all lied. And my father, who was the keeper of the orthodox, he had to know that everybody was lying. Right? Like he kind of knew there was like a wink, wink in the back of it all. Like there was this illusion that everyone was honoring my father by lying. And funny enough there was the moment when I was 13 years-old that ... I was coming to my dad and really telling my lie like, "I'm going to Leslie's."
And guess what, I was going to sleep at her house, bring the bag, everybody had like the method for getting out of dealing with my father and Shabbos. Yeah. So my dad looked me in the eye and he's like, "Okay kiddo." And I looked at him and I made a face at him for the first time ever like, "Are you fucking kidding me?" Right like, "Dad." And he was like, he really ... Like the moment of, "What?"
And I was like, "Do you really want to know what I'm doing?" And was like literally I broke the matrix. Right? And he was like, "Yeah. I want to know what you're doing." And I'm like, "Only if you don't stop me from doing it." 13 years-old. I went to The Cure concert, honest to God, with my friend Susan Ross and her dad was driving us. It was like the most, I was being a good girl. Right? I had all the right plans, and he let me go. And it was like I changed the family in that moment by being, like I wasn't willing to be a liar.
Jeff: So that was a watershed moment?
Jeff: For the relationship between you and your dad but-
Lauren: It actually changed-
Jeff: Beyond that.
Lauren: The whole family. It was over. The game was over. The whole thing was over.
Jeff: That was the springboard for you at a young age to then evolve into helping people to dream big, and to manifest those big dreams?
Lauren: There's a difference between being true to yourself. Right? So being true to yourself and not having to lie for anyone was like very much a long road.
But in regards to impacting the world, and wanting to have an impact in the world, that was just. That was my heart. Like what I studied in school was I was an environmental studies major. I was like truly, how come people aren't taking of my planet? How come people like my planet. What is up with this world? Where's the love? Right? It was a little Elvis Costello. And I was going to be an evangelist. I really was. I was a crazy evangelist from a very little age. I was just full of shit for a long time.
Jeff: So you were on the soapbox.
Lauren: I really was.
Jeff: You were on the-
Lauren: I was so annoying.
Jeff: So when did it shift from annoying, or just scattered ideas-
Jeff: To a more codified method? Or was there a moment where you're like, "Okay. Wait a minute. This isn't just who I am. This is also a career."
Lauren: It was at 28, 29 years-old. I had already fallen in love with David, so I was with the man I was going to end up with. And I was also poor enough I didn't need a lot of money. So the idea of like striking out on my own, based on my like, "Already only making $45,000 a year." It wasn't like a real hard jump to go, "Let me try to build something myself."
I started in 1998 as a life coach. And no one was a life coach.
No one heard the name. My joke I say now is I not only had to invent a new industry, I then eventually had to compete in it.
Lauren: And then I had to survive that people still think the concept life coach sounds ridiculous. Like, "Can't you come up with a better name for it?" Right?
Lauren: I'm still asked that question. Right? How about life consultant. Right? Like can't you come up with something sexier? And I'm like, "I think I'm actually a life coach."
Jeff: When you were first starting, how did you get people to trust you?
Jeff: Like how did they look at Lauren and say, "I'm going to sit here in this chair and I'm going to get super vulnerable and I'm going to trust her and I'm going to follow her.
Lauren: Yeah. I have always been infectious. I would say one of my super powers is how in love with people I am. I really honest to God want to hear what happened.
Who are you? Where did you come from? And how can I help you? Like, is this your best? I give a shit. I always have. Most people don't meet people that want to hear everything about them. It's not actually that popular to be wildly interested in someone else. Which is a little frightening. I recommend it to anyone listening, go for it. Be wildly interested in someone else and ask them a million and two questions about who they are and how they got to where they got and that is the experience of love. That's how you love someone. You care about their lives. I'm pretty much a junkie and I love listening. Then over enough time, I love telling people what to do. So, the combo.
Jeff: You're just interested in people. That's a gift.
Lauren: Like, I really care. I literally, I think a human story, like their story and their parents story and how they tell the story of their lives is the most spiritual thing I can listen to.
Jeff: I'm super interested in terms of actually how you developed the method but I want to ask you this. Do you think that great life coaches and now they're many. There is so many that it might not be a viable career path again because it's so viable. Do you think you need to not be self absorbed in the sense of like, you need to be interested in the welfare of other people?
Lauren: I pray to be Jesus that people who are life coaching others love to fall in love and care about the other person's life. I consider myself someone who holds people's life contracts. Like, I get you to make your contracts and I hold you to your contracts and I think anyone who is a life coach should be doing exactly that. Find out everything you need to know about that person's aspirations, dreams and who they want to be and hold them accountable to that. Pretty much, that's the job of a life coach.
Jeff: Got it. So there is a step one for you when you're sitting down with a new client.
Jeff: Is discovery.
Lauren: No. I make them do my homework assignment.
I break life out into 12 different areas. I ask a person to write a vision in each of the 12. So, it gets someone to separate out every area of life and I ask for their vision. So, finally I get to hear what their vision is. What they care about most and then I ask them to rate their current life against that vision and explain why they gave it that rating, why they think they can or can't have what they want and what's between them and succeeding at that?
So, what I get when I read that first section. This is just section one. Is that I get really how they see the world and all those 12 different areas are like the vantage of how I can see into, how they talk and the way they language everything. It's really pretty awesome.
Then you go, what are you paying me for? You're paying me for what I hear you're not saying. Trust me. You say what you say and I hear everything that you're not saying in every word you pick which is really fun. If you ever watch me read something and go, what did you get? And you're like, what did you really learn? You'd be more interested in my notes about the human than what you heard yourself. So, that's the fun of section one.
Section two is parent traits. I ask a person for every positive and negative trait of their parents. Like, give a word and a description. Like, my father is stubborn and he does think he's smarter than everybody else in the room. Lovely. And then I ask you to go, how does that live in you? Yeah. Me, too and then explain it. So then you have to start to deal with pinning the tail on your own donkey. Then I ask for your parents marriage traits, positive and negative and I don't care how many marriages they've had and I want to know how you are, like how you have that trait too. Like, is it the same, the opposite or a reaction to it in some shape or form.
Then the final section is I ask you for your haunting memories. For all the memories you could have, you don't and the ones you kept, people don't investigate why you think you held onto that one and so when I put the twelve areas of life, the traits and the haunting memories together, I really get a download and I train my coaches to get that same full mapping of what ... and I call that whole scene a default mission and then it literally sets the coach up to get that person to fulfill on their dreams.
Jeff: Got it. I've heard you describe yourself as in sort of being on this three legged race.
Jeff: As a person.
Lauren: Yes. I love three legged races.
Jeff: Yeah, I always enjoyed them as a kid. I was born a collaborator but that doesn't always flow like water.
Lauren: It fucking sucks. Who are you kidding? Get me off your goddamned leg. You don't want me running with you.
Jeff: And that's the point.
Lauren: The whole point is to get rid of me.
Jeff: Is to make yourself dispensable.
Lauren: Once I get you in- what I say is that there is a period of time you need me and then there is a period of time you really don't need me anymore and it's just fun to run together.
Lauren: It's not like, then I'm just a luxury.
Lauren: It's a fun luxury. But the truth is I have clients that I've known for 15 years and they can call me and it's not like they're very different now, so I know exactly where they are, I can hear two sentences and be like, uh oh.
Jeff: How many people have you guys coached now, just as a group?
Lauren: Hundreds of thousands. We're like around a hundred thousand, maybe, maybe less.
Jeff: I want to effect a billion people. That's on my tombstone. Is there something like that as you think about your legacy, your ongoing legacy? Does that play into it at all?
Lauren: I'm in a lot of trouble in my legacy. I really have my moment when I die and in my mind I say, like the moment I die, I go, I did it. Like, I did it. I did what? Except my dream is so fucking huge like the world shifted, the tide shifted and people are like what are you out to stomp on? World peace would be freaking great but I'm going for the end of lying. I really am, I'm going for the end of lying.
Jeff: Maybe it's the same thing.
Lauren: I think world peace has better odds.
Jeff: The way that you help people, there is a variety of different ways, some of it's one on one and very, very intimate and then some of it's kind of digital media, very scaled.
Jeff: How much time, do you because there is only one of you-
Jeff: As far as I can see.
Jeff: That's a lot of work. Just to maintain the energy and the relationship with a good amount of people.
Lauren: No. It's real easy for me.
Lauren: First of all we have at least 25 full time working coaches. We have a corporate division and we have a life coaching division and most people don't even know I exist. They've heard of me but they don't find me. No one is really selling me. I work in corporations. I work with CEOs. I get deployed and I'm odd. Everyone knows I'm a little odd. Then I get deployed to work with CEOs and I'm much more of a teacher of how to be a leader and be a bit spiritual no matter what company you're leading. So, that's my jam.
Jeff: How does that work? What does that process look like and what are you trying to achieve?
Lauren: I don't need to reach hundreds of millions of people. I need to reach the right hundred and get to the good guys who are running good money.
So, if you go, who is that? And I go, wow, you should see my list of CEOs. You're like, do you work with anyone and I'm like, un uh, not unless I think they're epic and have the soul of someone I would love to ride with, roll with.
Jeff: In essence you are affecting hundreds of millions of people by going and affecting the people that then-
Jeff: Can make systematic change in their corporations or in the environment or with their products.
Jeff: But what are you finding? What is leadership thirst for you?
Lauren: So I work with a leader, female or male, to first become their best self, as hokey as that sounds, but really be true to themselves. They all have funky lists. I mean, odd ducks, right? Really odd ducks. Humans are odd ducks.
And so we straighten out the odd ducks. We get them free about themselves, tell the truth about everything, get them to the dentist. As silly as "When was the last time you went to the dentist?" "Nine years ago."
So you get a human to totally love themselves, deal with personal things, their life things, their family things, and then, at the same time, who they want to be with their executive team, their board, and then what they want to do with the money and how they want to run the company.
And then we really get brought in, and if you hear what I do, I'm not just trying to make more money. I'm trying to get happy people. And then, if you really watch what happens when Handel comes in, is we have to come up in at the top because we're so weird and get everybody telling the truth. We really do. And then what happens is is then the teams start to really work because they're really not hiding their lives anymore. So it really changes a culture to be honest, right?
And then you'd be amazed at how much more money a company makes when people are actually happy to come to work, when work isn't that compartmentalized lie, where people are faking their corporate. Like you, right? You're running a business, but it's great to be here. People don't feel like they're going to their office. That's not how my company feels either. So it's kind of like the secret sauce for the future is people loving doing what they're doing.
Jeff: And that comes from fixing human relationship?
Lauren: I mean, I literally went into Def Jam. Def Jam, it's not ... they're working on themselves.
Lauren: So they had no idea that I'm coming in to get them to be honest about what they think about their bosses, what they think about themselves, and what they wish they were changing in their own lives, like "Are we allowed to talk about this here?" Right? Body promises, meditation promises, dating promises. Literally, we're having a meeting. It's going to change the entire culture, and that girl's got to get on a dating app because she's 36, and she's devastated that she's not going to get married and have children. And it's really okay that we all care about that for her.
And you're like, "Does that make her a better employee?" Yes. Is that the secret sauce to actually having people love each other and care about and want to come to work? Yes. Is that common? No.
Jeff: What is the spiritual element in your work?
Lauren: Here's my line that I freakin' love. "What are you doing for a living, Lauren?" I am rebranding, repackaging, and remarketing the soul to itself. Doesn't quite get it there, needs a little wake-up, and then it needs dusting off, and then it needs to figure out it's really into itself because it's really the best thing going. So I believe in whatever anyone's into spiritually speaking. I believe in it. I don't really care. I have mine, and I'll demand you to have yours.
And so I don't really care. I just care that they have to care for themselves. "How many people do you make get spiritual?" I'm like, "Every last one of them." Truly.
Jeff: So you've devoted your life to helping other people be happy. Are you happy?
Lauren: I should be illegal how happy I am. I think it's illegal.
Jeff: And do you think that's true because you have devoted yourself to helping others? Is that the key to happiness on some level is to give? I mean, you obviously take incredible enjoyment. You are so gratified by someone else finding their happiness and pursuing their dream and getting over whatever was holding them back.
Jeff: That makes you happy. That's a beautiful, beautiful thing.
Lauren: I think I understand how to be happy in life. I actually think I'm having a ball, and I think I was born an old soul. I think I was. I think my challenge in life was not was I really going to figure this out for myself, but was I going to be able to give it away. So I really do think I'm on a mission, and I think my mission is what can I leave behind on Earth as a representation of what's possible for every individual.
I just want people to invent what their list is, their bucket list, and be in love with doing it. And I don't care what the hell's on your bucket list, so I don't have to care about that. Is service my dope? Yeah.
Jeff: Do you think you're successful in doing what you do because you challenge people? I mean, I feel challenged by you.
Lauren: I know, I'm a little scary.
Jeff: No, but I mean not honestly in a negative way at all.
Jeff: But I do feel challenged, like you are you going to push me.
Jeff: And continue to push me.
Jeff: Until you see ... I mean, not see a result per se, but until I react, until there is some sort of catalytic response.
Jeff: You challenge people.
Jeff: Is that conscious, or is that just who you are?
Lauren: I don't have a choice about that. It's a little like sleeping and peeing for me. It's like can I help it? The answer is it's kind of like a "Fuck, no." I don't have any option. I don't have any option. I don't even seem to care if you're like eight years old. I'm coming for you too.
Lauren: Yeah, come on over here. Let's talk about this.
Jeff: So last thing: You've been working today.
Jeff: Since...I think I saw you at maybe 7 a.m.
Lauren: I was up...
Jeff: And you were probably up earlier than that.
Jeff: And you filmed all day.
Jeff: With not really any break. I mean, you had lunch for like five minutes.
Lauren: No, they didn't even let me, no.
Jeff: And here we are, and the sun has set.
Jeff: You still have a vibrancy and an energy. How is that possible?
Lauren: I think you have to be in love with your purpose, right? Life is such a verb. People want love to be like a chair. "I love you." It doesn't mean I need to feel it, show it, express it in this moment. And I think I'm very clear that that's a crock of shit. Nothing just is. It's always expressing right now, and I really am in love with being alive. I really am. I really think life is such fun. You're fun, this is fun. I'm never ... I'll be sad to go. I'll be sad to go, right?
So what would I recommend? I recommend that an individual has rituals up the yin-yang that they're in love with, and they need to be simple, like that cup of coffee, the way to go to bed at night, the people you love. More simple and lots of love, right? And then make sure it's not a vice, okay? Vices down to like, you know, an eighth of your day, and then the rest of your day needs to be things you're in love with. And then, if you're not in love with, then you're doing something wrong. If life isn't fun, you're doing something wrong. But if you're not in love with things, the people in your life, the moments in your life, I swear to God, it's your fault. Sorry, it's true.
And you really have the capacity ... every human being has the capacity to be in love with life. It's not that tricky. I'm sorry, it's really not. You got a body. Put cream on it. Enjoy yourself. Figure it out. Get in the hot tub. Okay, you don't have a hot tub? You can't afford one? How about a hot bath? Put some bubbles in it. Put the music on.
I took a CEO, and she was so stressed out, and I was like, "Listen, we're going to do one new rule a day. We're going to literally...I'm going to work on you, and we're going to put in rituals because you suck at being happy. You're a workaholic, and there's no fun in your life." "I can't, it's this." And I'm like, "Okay, we're going to start with something very simple: a bath." She's like, "What?" I'm like, "Ten o'clock, you fucking know a bath." I'm like, "Dim the lights. I want a candle. I want music. You like music?" And she's like literally, I could get her on right now, and she's like, "The greatest thing that ever happened to me is Lauren made me start taking baths."
Jeff: Oh, man. Well, you've won me over. I'll give you that.
God bless you. I love you.
Lauren: Thank you. I love you too.
Jeff: Lauren’s method has inspired so many people all around the world to make room for joy and honesty in their lives. While we might not all be CEO’s at Fortune 500 companies, I’d be willing to bet that all of us could benefit from a little more honesty, a lot more empathy, and perhaps a bubble bath or two.
Thanks for listening to The Commune Podcast! I’m Jeff Krasno, and I’ll see you next time.