Throwback Episode! with Laura Gassner Otting

April 25, 2024

Welcome to what I call a throwback episode of the crank up podcast. This episode was previously released a couple years ago. And since then, our guest, Laura Gassner Otting, has released yet another book.

She is a speaker. She is an author. She is an executive coach. She’s been in the nonprofit sector, in the corporate sector, in the political sector, including the White House. And when we had this conversation, she had released her book, limitless.

And since then, she has released her new book called Wonderhell, Why Success Doesn’t Feel Like It Should and What To Do About It. So I will give you today’s guest. It’s a throwback episode and one I think you’re going to enjoy just as much as the first time.

And if you haven’t listened to it previously, it’s new to you, which makes it even better. Sit back, take some notes, and get ready to crank it up. Okay. So let’s dive in. Alright, Laura. Thank you for being here so much.

I’m so glad to spend a little bit of time with you, and I will tell you that I resisted starting a podcast for so long. And once I finally dove in, I realized it’s actually a way for me to get my own personal development in, because I get to talk and hang out with the most amazing people on the planet, just simply by saying, come share your story.

And the more stories I think we share, the more we realize we’re all so much more alike than we ever think we are. So that’s kind of the catalyst for why I started it. And then selfishly, I just get to learn and grow from the cool people that I have on my podcast. You being one of them. 

Defining Success on Your Own Terms: Insights from Laura Gassner Otting on the Julie Voris Podcast

Discover the limitless possibilities of shaping your own success and happiness by breaking free from societal expectations. Join us as we delve into an enlightening conversation with Laura Gassner Otting on the Crank it Up Podcast.

Embracing Transition in Your Forties: A Call for Active Living

Life transitions offer opportunities for self-reflection and redefining personal success. Laura highlights the pivotal age of the forties as a crucial time when people decide between settling into sedentary habits or embracing a more active, healthier lifestyle. This choice significantly impacts long-term wellness into one’s fifties and beyond.

Laura [03:51]:

So or just tell people you’re writing a book and you wanna interview them, and they’ll get on the phone with you because everybody wants to write a book. It’s perfect. Yeah. So how did I get to be here?


I mean, look, I could tell the story in a way where I can connect the dots backwards that make me look like it was all a plan. It was all strategy. It all makes total sense. But the truth is, it’s completely accidental. I went to law school and realized I didn’t belong there and dropped out because I heard this man talking about this idea of community service in exchange for college tuition.

Living Limitlessly: Aligning Actions with Values

Laura’s book, Limitless, explores the significance of living a life aligned with one’s deepest values, rather than succumbing to the relentless chase of societal expectations.

This discussion revolves around the conflict between prioritizing personal desires versus being consumed by the needs of others. Laura and Julie emphasize the importance of making choices that resonate with one’s personal values for lifelong fulfillment.

Challenging the Passion Paradigm

A critical point raised by Laura questions the widespread belief in finding a singular, lifelong passion. She argues that this notion puts undue pressure on individuals, limiting their scope for growth and self-discovery. Instead, she suggests that embracing various interests at different life stages can lead to a richer, more diverse experience.

Laura [07:59]:

So I did that for 5 years, learned from the best and the brightest how to do this work, and then I had this moment of rage where I realized that the work wasn’t solving our clients problems as well as it could be. That there was actually a better way to do the work.


There’s a better way to help our clients change and to get to where they wanted to get to. And I walked into my boss’s office and I was like, here’s a better way. And he was like, there’s the door.


You can either stay and you can do things our way or you could leave and do this business plan that you’re presenting. And the problem was is that once I realized I wasn’t my client’s solution in the way that I thought I was, that left me in only one place, which was that I was kind of contributing to their problem and that was untenable for me. So I started my own business.

Reinvention in Later Years

Highlighting her personal journey, Laura talks about taking up physical activities in later life and embracing strength training at the age of 50. This narrative isn’t just about physical health but also symbolic of breaking the mold and constantly evolving, irrespective of age.

Julie [12:55]:

Oh my gosh. Okay. So I was thinking when you were talking about being in the White House and you were talking about that campaign and that sort of grassroots piece, you know, in the on the early onset of that, how you left law school.


And it’s so interesting because you left what would have been, I I have to assume, a sort of guaranteed path, a very clear cut. I’m going to go to law school. I’m going to get a job, you know, the success on the other end, not guaranteed, but the path very clear cut for something that was extremely nebulous.


You have no idea what is you’d even know who this person was before you walked into the campaign office. And yet you followed your heart, that direction.

High School Lessons: The Foundation of Personal Development

Both Julie and Laura reflect on their high school experiences, discussing how these years laid the groundwork for their development and self-discovery. They underscore the significance of pushing beyond comfort zones during adolescence, fostering resilience and self-understanding that benefit one well into adulthood.

Laura [17:05]:

But I think the other thing that happened, and I think this probably happens for a lot of the coaches that you work with, is that I already knew what plan B was. Right? Plan A was take a leave of absence, go work on this campaign, if it works out great, if it doesn’t work out great, I go back to law school. Like, I knew what plan B was.


So I could take plan b. I could put it in the drawer and not think about it anymore. But I think a lot of times what happens is that we don’t think about plan A. Like, we get we get so worried about plan B that we focus on plan B that we we never actually like, you never feel like plan B is perfect enough to, like, tie a bow in it and put it away. So then you don’t go after plan A, but plan B is never gonna be perfect.

The Double Standards in Breaking Barriers

The conversation takes a deeper dive into societal double standards, especially concerning men and women breaking professional and personal barriers. Citing examples like Roger Bannister and Steve Jobs, they discuss the different receptions and resistances encountered by women when attempting similar feats. Laura and Julie highlight the implicit biases that still pervade our professional landscapes.

Breaking Gender Barriers and Setting Ambitious Goals

Julie [22:13]:

I know. It’s it’s so that’s what’s so interesting to me, this this whole idea of evolution, this whole idea of personal growth, the whole idea of seasons. And, you know, when I talk to women, they’re like, well but how do I do this and how do I do this?


This is a season you’re in, and then you’re gonna grow to another season, and then there’s gonna be another season. And, and, you know, I was just when I was talking on this call last night, I said, well, when my parents brought me home from the hospital, we didn’t have car seats. So they just put me on the floor, and I just got rolled around as we drove home, and we hope we got home safely.


Well, guess what? We don’t do that anymore because we know better. And when you know better, you do better. We evolve.

The Late Bloomers: A Perspective on Personal Growth

Many people believe that their high school years represent their peak. They were athletic, popular, and seemingly had it all. However, peaking at such an early age may not always be desirable.

Consider those who were considered “the best” in high school, such as the cheerleading team captain or the class president. At the age of 10, they were still extraordinary; by 20, however, they began to falter, and by 30, they often found themselves unhappy. Why? Because they peaked so early, receiving constant affirmation, that they never really had to figure out who they were.

In contrast, those who may have been labeled as “freaks,” “geeks,” “nerds,” or “dweebs” had a different experience. They may not have fit in during high school, but this forced them to really understand who they were, shaping their identities on their own terms. They had to learn, grow, and adapt, often not finding their true selves until later in life.

This perspective can be seen in the story of our friend Carrie Lorenz, who became the first female F-14 fighter pilot in the Navy. Her journey was not defined by early success but by ongoing personal development and determination.

So, to all those late bloomers out there: don’t fret about not peaking in high school. Your journey is just beginning, and the best is yet to come.

Laura [24:40]:

The Pitfalls of Peaking Early: “They were told they were awesome so early that they didn’t have to figure out who they were.”

Laura [36:32]:

I wanted to be able to have that flexibility. But now as my kids are leaving the house, I don’t need the same kind of flexibility. Things have changed. And I just think, especially as women, we have so many on ramps and off ramps in life that we can take advantage of those, and the world around us changes.


So, what you wanted a year ago is gonna be different than what you want a year from now. We should allow ourselves the grace to change and evolve or you end up being that sad person at 30th high school reunion that’s like, I was cool in high school.

Setting Audaciously Ambitious Goals

One of the empowering insights from the episode is the call to set ambitious goals. Laura emphasizes that setting goals that genuinely scare you can spur unprecedented personal growth and achievement, encouraging listeners to aim not just for what seems achievable but for what seems almost out of reach.

Wonderhell, Why Success Doesn’t Feel Like It Should and What To Do About It

An exciting reveal from Laura involves her book which chronicles her dual feelings of wonder and exhaustion while training for the Boston Marathon. She describes this notion of “wonderhell”—an intriguing blend of fascination and intense challenge, which encompasses the essence of pushing one’s limits.

Laura [39:51]:

And there’s this trajectory, and I think, like, where you are in your forties, then it’s like it goes into where you are in your fifties and your sixties, and it becomes this momentum thing.


I look around at some of my friends who didn’t start doing stuff in their forties, and then are also deciding not to do things in their fifties. And I’m like, it’s gonna like, you’re gonna be the sixties seventies where, like, now I’ve got chronic pain, or now I’ve got, you know, like, you know, diabetes, or, like, you know, the kinds of diseases that we give ourselves because we’re living lives that aren’t active.


And then you end up in that place where you’re 90 and you’re like, oh, everything hurts.

The Journey is More Important than the Destination

In life, we often get caught up comparing our progress to others’. We look at those around us, whether they’re colleagues, friends, or mentors, and feel as if they’ve got it all figured out. We see their success, their confidence, and their achievements and it’s easy to believe that they’ve always been at that point, that they’ve reached their peak. But that’s rarely the truth.

Regardless of your industry or where you are in your journey, the path to success is rarely linear. Consider a new member on a team, looking up to a colleague who’s been on the team for six months – to the newcomer, it might seem like their colleague has it all together. What they don’t see is the hard work, the trial and error, and the personal growth that their colleague experienced during those six months.

Everyone’s journey is unique and filled with its own set of challenges and triumphs. And while it’s easy to focus on the end goal, it’s important to remember that the journey – the process of learning, growing, and developing – is just as important, if not more so.

Your path might not be the same as someone else’s, and that’s okay. You’re still moving forward, still gaining experience, and still growing.

Don’t fret if you feel like you’re not at the top of your game yet. Remember, you’ve already done more than you had done yesterday, and you’re doing more than those who are just beginning their journey.

Keep pushing forward, keep learning, and remember, the best is yet to come.

The Burden of Potential: Embracing the Climb

In life, we often face challenges that seem insurmountable. We climb what seems to be the highest mountain, only to reach the summit and see even higher peaks in the distance. This is a daunting moment, but it’s also one of revelation. It’s not just about the mountain we’ve already climbed, but about the ones we’re now inspired to conquer.

This is where the burden of potential walks in. It’s like a sudden visitor, prompting us to question our capabilities. It’s asking, are you going to live into this newfound potential, this higher version of yourself that you didn’t even realize yesterday you had, or are you going to let it pass you by?

But here’s the beauty of it: this burden, this ‘Wonderhell’ as we call it, only visits those who are hungry for more. Those who are excited about the future, those who, in spite of the challenges, are eager to take on the next mountain. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t even glimpse the potential that’s within your reach. So, by the time you’ve glimpsed it, you’re already on the path to greatness.

So, when you find yourself standing at the summit of a mountain, looking out at even higher peaks, remember to embrace the moment. It’s not about the view you’ve conquered, but the larger mountains you’ve yet to climb.

This is not a moment of dread, but a moment of wonder and excitement for what’s to come. Because with every new peak comes greater potential, and with every new challenge comes the opportunity for growth and personal development.

Decoding the Myth of the Magic Solution

Toward the conclusion of their talk, Laura and Julie discuss the misleading concept of overnight success. They stress the importance of acknowledging the unseen hard work behind seemingly instantaneous successes, advocating for a more realistic appreciation of what achievement demands.

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Thank you so much for listening to the Crank It Up podcast. If you know a friend who would benefit from this I mean, who wouldn’t? If you know a friend who would benefit from this episode, this conversation around personal growth, will you share this episode with them? I would appreciate it.

Let’s get the world, especially women, talking about personal growth. Let’s get the world, especially women, on an intentional personal growth journey. Let’s get the world, especially women, talking about cranking up your goals, cranking up your dreams, and cranking up your life.

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