Josh Dix

/ creatives / entrepreneurs / leaders / students /


We welcome Josh Dix who shares hard-won wisdom from his kitchen conversations, career twists-and-turns, and backroad motorcycle rides through Missouri wine country and the California coast. We discuss his journey in prototyping and leadership thoughts to weather the COVID storm.


Transcript

Simon Yost
Well, Josh welcome.

Josh Dix
Thanks for having me.

Simon Yost
Well, the show that we've been working on, and this is one of the early episodes, but it's all about zooming past archetypes to find your prototype. I just wondered, as you've heard this, I mean, you're kind of as new to this as everybody else, so you might be listening to this and be like, "I have no clue what he's talking about," but as you hear this idea about prototyping yourself, is that something you've ever tried before? Has this, does any of this resonate?

Josh Dix
Yeah, for sure. Yeah. Life for me is like one big prototype. I think getting to this place is why, that's what I'm trying to help other people with in their life and in leadership, because ultimately that's where I've been and what I can speak from. I think the hard part about it is really taking a disciplined approach. I think it's easy to feel stuck or overwhelmed. That's why design, prototyping approach can be so helpful because the essence of it is don't get stuck, just reframe the problem, find something new, but it's just a mindset thing really is kind of what I'm getting at.

Simon Yost
You talked about that it's taken you some time to get comfortable with this idea. What are some of the successes you've had that have taken you over that hump, so to speak, or what's made you more comfortable with it?

Josh Dix
Well, I mean, I think first of all, I had to meet and talk to some folks who gave me permission and I don't think everybody feels like they need that permission, but it was important for me to hear somebody say like, "Oh yeah, be creative. You can, life is not this linear path and you're not on this track to this destination and this finished product." For me, that was a huge thing that helped. I think the other thing is a healthy amount of frustration, or maybe not so healthy, but when you're trying to prototype and find your way, and I know you've been in this as well. We've had these conversations over the years. Part of the reason that we're talking about this right now is because we've had enough frustration in our lives to say like, "Okay, this archetype shit.

Josh Dix
This thing is not working for me." We've got, the boxes that the world is giving me is, they're not fitting right now. I think what I've learned more recently is that that's sort of my problem. That's a Josh thing and I have to quit bitching about the archetypes that, for instance, big corporate America gives me, of course that's what they're giving me, is these categories. They live and die in these categories. What I'm trying to get to, and trying to help other people get to, is more of a sense of saying, "Here's what I want to offer the world." If I don't talk about that, and if I don't lead out from a sense of self that, I can't expect anybody to ask anything differently of me. Does that make sense?

Simon Yost
Yeah. When you're out there prototyping and you adjust, that's a big part of prototyping, as you mentioned, is making an adjustment. How have you seen people react? Good, bad, or how have people responded to this?

Josh Dix
Yeah. I mean, I start thinking, honestly, just about a lot of the conversations that have happened in our kitchen and Josh's life prototyping has been maybe one of the most dominant conversations in the kitchen at home. I think it also starts in the mirror, and with yourself and saying, okay, what am I striving towards? Who do I want to be? Then next is with the people you love and the people who love you. That conversation happens a lot in my kitchen with Miranda, but I think the hard part has, for others has been the why. Why are you making an adjustment? What's driving this? That's why I come back to the mirror and say like, "I really have to come out of a sense of self and what I'm driving towards."

Josh Dix
Once I'm able to do that and do that hard work, then the conversations about iterations on my prototype are much more constructive. I'm so much clearer about the what's and the why's of it. Maybe not as much as, I'll speak right now, we're not really sure about the how in my next iteration, that's totally an exploration, but that's why it's a prototype and not a finished product. This is part of what we're iterating through. Yeah. I think back to, I remember when I was going to move out of being a leader in a financial services firm. I was in analytics and I was going to make this next move. I remember thinking I have to explain to folks what I'm looking for. Otherwise, they don't know how to help me in this next iteration. I just made a bulleted list of four things, and I basically said, and it was, I hate the term elevator speech, but that's sort of what it was.

Josh Dix
It was like my sticky note that I could kind of explain to anybody to help them in this conversation of like, "Josh, what are you trying to do?" I just told people, "Listen, I want to do strategic and creative work. I don't care as much about what the topic is. I want to be led by good leaders. I want to be rewarded for good leadership, not pumping out widgets. I don't want to be so niched in my next role that I can't move out to anything else." I still remember these four things, that was two years ago. I still remember those things, because I did that work and I was able to, and the first person I talked to said, "Oh, I think I have something like that and let's talk." Again, those are the kinds of things I'm trying to help people with now is just say, like, "It's hard to be disciplined.

Josh Dix
It's hard to be intentional. Let's use a design approach and some tried and true methods to help you on what you're iterating towards, either in life and leadership." I'm winding my way back to your question, so that people know how to receive that. People do think in the archetypes and they think in the personality profiles that they've taken or the roles that they understand, and they're trying to fit you into one of those. Even if you bring somebody your next iteration, their thought is, "Oh, what box do I have that might sync up with that?" I think this is the big learning in my life has just been, the more I explore the boxes, the fewer I find that fit and that I may need to go out and create my own space for me to offer what I want to the world. Really what I'm driving towards, is I want the world to ask that back from me. That's what I'm saying.

Josh Dix
This is, I can't be frustrated when any job or boss or company is asking something from me that the archetype or the role is designed to ask. I think the exploration of my own life has been like, "Well, what do I want the world to ask from me, and ask of me?" That's the real question of archetypes and prototypes. What do I want the world to ask of me so that I am fulfilled in being able to give that back and meet that. That just takes a lot of work and a lot of thinking and a lot of exploration, and you might reach a point where you say, "Yeah, actually nobody's really asking for that," you've found a new space to explore.

Simon Yost
As we transition to archetypes, you mentioned that it's just really important to understand these archetypes. I can't help from knowing what I know about your background, that you have a few archetypes-

Josh Dix
Yeah.

Simon Yost
In your closet, so to speak. You've done a little grad school. You've been around the block with some archetypes. When you look back at some of those, how do you process some of that? Your experiences in school, how that kind of teed you up?

Josh Dix
Yeah. I think school was super hard for me. I was a musician and I talked to Berkeley and Boston and I was looking at some other music programs. I remember thinking I've got a couple options here. The archetype seemed really strong. They're like, you can go perform, in which case the education is not super, didn't seem really relevant at the time and then, or you can stay in school and become a music teacher. Well, I mean, just logically speaking, and this was my own 18 year old brain, but if only music teachers are going into music, people are going to become music teachers, if they're the only ones going into the music program, then it's just music teachers teaching these future music teachers and there's, and I've learned since people go out to get music degrees and they can do all kinds of great stuff, like music business and music therapy.

Josh Dix
Some of them take that right onto stage and do all kinds of stuff. For me, talking about archetypes, that was kind of what was in my mind. I tried the music school thing for like a second and it just, it wasn't a fit. I mean, ironically now I'm in school and I'm in grad school again, and I'm studying clinical psychology and counseling because there are ways in which I need, I'm studying these things because the learnings I'm going to get are additive to my prototype. I may not take these things directly in to some archetypal role, like of being a therapist or whatever. I don't know what that's going to look like. I just know that I want this thing. Even the credentials along with it and the licensure and the discipline that that requires is going to be important for me. There have been other cases where I don't think that happens as much.

Josh Dix
I do, I teach at a university and I think schools are coming to a real crossroads, because we're training kids and college students for jobs that aren't going to exist in 30 years. Like with the fourth industrial revolution. It's here and we're at this knee bend in the river and things are going to change faster than the big institutions are going to be able to keep up with. All these categories and archetypes are going to be changing and the futurist in me studies this and can see this space between the archetypes. That's where the future careers are going to emerge. It's going to be in the space between disciplines. I worry about what education will do because I, and how quickly they will be able to meet that demand. I worry for it because I love the classroom and I love the environment that it can create when it's meaningful. I think we're still creating degrees and programs and archetypes that are ancient.

Simon Yost
Yeah. Yeah. Well, that's a good word for it. I mean, some of them are, some of them got valuable because they were ancient. That's interesting. I never thought about it that way. Look in your rear view mirror a little bit about this stuff, and you remember a time that you were zooming past an archetype. Talk about what that felt like, because it's, maybe it's easy to romance those things in conversation or even in memory, but they might feel a little bit more prickly at the time.

Josh Dix
Yeah. If I think about your question about zooming past an archetype or maybe I was in an archetype and I'm trying to elbow my way out of it to be myself. I go back a couple of years ago, and this is similar to what I was saying before, of realizing that some of these things are a Josh problem, it's not an organization problem. Yeah, to your point, it's prickly, it's hard, but I remember looking at this organization I was in and people are just eating each other alive. Just really, it's really toxic. At least to me it was, and it just hit me one day that I was playing the wrong sport. In any profession or any archetype, there are these measurements of success. By all of those measures, I was having success. I was getting promotions. I was getting more money, and I was miserable. I think when I started to deconstruct that and say, "Well, why am I miserable? Oh, it's because these rewards that we get, that's not how I want to measure success.

Josh Dix
It doesn't jibe with my values." It's kind of like I was on a football field playing football, and they're measuring first downs and people are getting tackled. I was like, "Oh, wait a second. For me, I think about basketball and motion offense, and setting backdoor screens and doing some of these other more finesse things", or just playing a different sport. I'm expecting rewards and feedback based on a different set of values and a different set of rules. That's not their problem. That's my problem, because everybody on the football field has already agreed that these are the rules. This is how we play and you get first downs, you tackle each other, you throw the ball, you catch the ball, you run the ball, and score touchdowns. I think I just had to get to a point where I said, "Yeah, I can switch roles a hundred times over. This is not the sport for me. I want to get rewarded for other things."

Simon Yost
You talked about a through line, sometimes there's this tension between, am I Jenny from the block, so to speak, am I who I grew up to be, or am I this archetype? Or these different archetypes. Finding this through line is the privilege or the, it's a very, I'm grateful when I start to feel like maybe I touched on that through line. I just wondered, do you have support systems in your life or people in your life that have helped you stay calm and confident while you're waiting for that through line to emerge?

Josh Dix
Do I say no? I think clearly, Miranda is my partner in life and she has been a rock, and been so supportive and helpful. Other than that, I think it's been difficult for people to figure out what is this cat doing? I even remember this recruiter one time looked at my resume. This was like 10 years ago, and she said like, "So what do you want to be when you grow up?" 10 years later now, I'm kind of like, "You know what? Screw you." This is my path. There's not a what do you want to be when you grow up? I mean, it's just such a messed up question. I'm going to kind of pivot this and say, I haven't had a ton of support.

Josh Dix
It's one of the reasons I'm doing what I'm doing, is so that I can help normalize it for other folks. It's just, it's too hard. You need folks there to just give, like I said this in the very beginning, once I felt permission sort of like, "Okay, I'm just not crazy. This is not just me wandering in the world. This is actually part of a really fruitful and fulfilling life to continue to iterate and prototype and think about this creatively." That's actually a really good thing. It's not a career failure. It's not a failure to launch. Once I felt that permission, that was so powerful. Now that's certainly what I want to do for other people and help them on their way.

Simon Yost
Yeah. You mentioned Miranda, I'm just surprised we've made it this far in the podcast without a Miranda quote or story, so we might need to get-

Josh Dix
Well, I will. I mean, she's brilliant. I think what, she's a brilliant educator. I think her approach with me is something that I try to work with other people, and offer to other people, which is she often says like, "I'm not the keeper of all the knowledge as a teacher. You, the students have all kinds of prior knowledge that they're bringing to this. Then my job is to, as new knowledge is introduced, help them make connections between that and debrief." I think that's the approach that she's taken in supporting me through some of my prototyping, is not this expert of like, "Well, Josh, you are going from A to B," not that she's the keeper of the knowledge, but that she's been more of a facilitator helping me make connections in the things that I'm learning along the way. Again, like most things that I do and spin up and try to offer other people, they actually just come from our kitchen.

Simon Yost
Which is beautiful. We've talked a lot about how we prototype professionally and what the implications of that are, how we feel about that or what that looks like practically. Do you feel like that has any kind of ripple effects or ramifications outside of work?

Josh Dix
For sure. I mean, I think specifically, and I talked a little bit about we have a lot of conversations in our kitchen and my spouse is helpful and we're iterating through life and it has I mean, a lot of ramifications with a family. I think we have to be first, comfortable with the cost of that. To our time, to our wallet and just be, people who have helped me, therapists have just said you've got to get a plan. Just make a plan. Then execute it together. In that way it's become kind of an adventure for us. We try to frame it that way. Like, we're going on an adventure together in this next season or whatever it is. I'm not talking about this mix of life and work.

Josh Dix
I think work/life balance is horse shit and not a real thing. Balance is a Western thought. I tend to think more about wholeness and integration. If I work 70 hours a week this week and I take 70 hours off next week, life is not suddenly balanced. I'm trying to look at aspects of my life and saying are they whole? Are they integrated in a way that creates a meaningful whole? One of the things that's really influenced me has been attachment theory. It's changed my thinking forever in relationship to this idea of wholeness and integration. It's something that I bring into leadership theory because it's so core to relationships and then therefore, it's core to my role as a parent and husband. The attachment theory is really about how we attach and connect to others. Dr. Dan Siegel is the father of this stuff. He's written so much.

Josh Dix
I read everything that he writes, but if you get this idea of integration, of how to be connected, but distinct. Integrated, but differentiated, I think is what he says. What does it mean to be connected to my son, but also be my own person? I think a lot of parents struggle with this, how to, their kids are their entire world, or they're distant. It's like where, what does it look like for me to be connected to him, but we're not enmeshed? Just because he has big emotions doesn't mean I have to have big emotions and vice versa, or what if I'm too disconnected? I'm not connected to him and his emotions so that he feels seen and secure and safe and he can be soothed when he needs it. My point is, these categories of attachment, they're more on a spectrum and you're iterating through what it means to be more connected or more differentiated. He has to have his own emotions and this, and now that's where I'm always prototyping.

Simon Yost
Yeah. As a dad, I mean, that's-

Josh Dix
[crosstalk 00:22:04] There's no other space that I'm trying to figure out what that prototype looks like more than with him. Part of that is just, like I said, firecrackers, it's like our personalities sort of force this to the surface. My relationship with him is just sort of unique that way. It's great, because I think without that, I just wouldn't be learning and growing as a human and as a man and a father. Then in the rest of my relationships, to look at how am I sort of integrating in all my relationships? How am I staying connected to people, but distinct? That's just been a big deal.

Simon Yost
I was just saying maybe with your son staying connected might be like-

Josh Dix
I know.

Simon Yost
You're carrying a live animal in your pocket. I mean, I know he loves [crosstalk 00:23:00]-

Josh Dix
He does, man. That kid is, he actually has this crazy rash right now because he let this caterpillar crawl all over his stomach. Apparently the caterpillar hairs have these little proteins in them and he just, I mean, he's just covered in it, but to him, I'm sure it was worth it.

Simon Yost
This is kind of switching gears, many graduates from 2020 in the midst of this COVID thing are launching into a large amount of uncertainty. That might be a perfect climate for prototyping, but it's scary as all get out. From your perspective, and thinking back to when you were launching out of that as a graduate, what advice would you give to them about prototyping and all of this uncertainty and chaos [crosstalk 00:23:45] that the find themselves in?

Josh Dix
Yeah, it's a great question. I mean, a few things come to mind. I mean, first, take a step, don't try to get the product perfect right off the gate. You got to manage your own expectations. That's super key, but just take a step and start thinking about what you want to offer to the world or what you want the world to ask from you. Then secondly, pay attention. Spend 30 minutes. I did this a lot when you and I worked together 10, 12, 13 years ago. I would spend 30 minutes at the end of each week writing or journaling about what I was learning. Just real quick. What did I learn? I learned, I don't like spreadsheets. Or I learned this conversation is really hard for me to have. Just spend time each week writing, journaling about what's working.

Josh Dix
I think the third thing is be bold and don't be afraid. Especially that early in your career. I mean, gosh, I look back to some of the decisions that I made out of just playing it safe. There was never a time to be riskier or flounder. Like I said, I'm 41 and I'm probably going to work till I'm 70. I mean, just because that's something I want to do in some capacity, stay active, contribute, and I'll still have things that interest me. I mean, that means really, dude, most of my career is still ahead of me. When I was 23, I thought like, "Well, gosh, by the time I'm 41, I'll probably be planning my retirement and beginning to think about sunset," but now I'm thinking just about a relaunch. What's given me, what that perspective has given me is the freedom to continue prototyping and not think I have just one career. That I have careers, plural. My encouragement to folks is just to have courage and start early prototyping and never stop, because it's a long road.

Simon Yost
Yeah. I know you do the leadership XD stuff. There's a lot of leaders that have a lot of wiggle room and they really have a great greenfield place to stretch their legs. There's other leaders though that might find themselves in the middle manager position. They might not have a lot of possibility right now during COVID, or just because of the organizations that they're in. Restated, are they really as stuck as they might feel? How do you explore that prototyping sense without just quitting your job or-

Josh Dix
Yeah. I just fundamentally believe that no one is stuck and that's really the essence of design. We just need to reframe the problem, do some reorienting and for middle managers, I mean, my first thought is I want to help you, if that's you, because some of this is just about looking critically at what's on your plate and finding ways to trade tasks so that you can create space for more meaningful leadership. I think a lot of leaders and middle management they're in this rub of, they're trying to lead, they're also being asked to do a lot. I mean, that was a real eyeopener for me in corporate America.

Josh Dix
Was even though we would talk aspirationally about leadership, actually, what it was, was just be the lead doer. There's a way to wiggle out of that. It's about task trading, and ultimately a lot of it comes down to is you're going to have to make an upfront investment in your time to get yourself out of that, so that you can start to look at what kind of things can be abandoned or made more efficient. How you can use that space to create more meaningful leadership tasks and then delegate on so that other people, they get the lead doer work and on and on and on. You can kind of like rising tide lifts all boats. You have to get critical about what the work is. That takes, yeah, that takes some investigation. It takes its own sort of prototyping, but it's super possible.

Simon Yost
Next question, and this is something I've been really excited to ask you about. We had this big transition with COVID where it just light switch flip, and everybody was pure remote, as far as in our worlds, not everything, but in our world everything was pure remote. Some people might use the word, it accelerated our economy. Some people like me felt like, "Hey, this, some of these aspects of what I've been waiting for my whole life." Other people cowered in fear. It just, there was this whole gamut. For leaders that are learning how to do this and make space for their team and make space for their prototype, what advice would you give to leaders that are in this point of keeping their team productive, creating space?

Josh Dix
Yeah. I question if it matters, or if it's just more of the same with a new canvas to prototype on. If leadership is really all about relationships, if it's a dynamic that people operate in, then you'd think that the situation we're in with just give leaders the opportunity to say, how has that dynamic changed and how can I adjust my approach? Let's be honest, I think a lot of folks in leadership aren't even thinking about their approach in the first place. Again, that's why I'm doing what I'm doing. To say, listen, I'm reading this Harvard article or this Medium article on the four steps to leadership. That isn't going to cut it. I always talk about this like the way that I cook. I can learn new recipes and pump out some bad imitations, but I'm not able to get creative because I actually don't know chemistry and the elements of good cooking. I don't know heat, salt, fat and acid in the way that my wife does. She's a fantastic chef. Leadership, and maybe any discipline is, music or something, it's the same thing.

Josh Dix
You have to get down to what the thing really is, the dynamic. Then you can create and not just copy. In that way, COVID or no COVID, the work is to get down to the thing and understand that thing. Then the rest of this is just channels. It's just different ways to express that. Now, all that said, it is hard, and a lot of these, the disconnect, I mean, for me, being in a room with somebody, being able to pick up on non-verbals, those things are hard. Again, I have to just come back to the fundamentals of what is this leadership dynamic? This is a relationship that's built on trust. Okay, in what ways can I build trust? I used to be able to do that even somewhat in my posture and just being approachable in the room with somebody. Okay, I've got to figure out new ways to build trust. You have to know, again, you have to get back to what the thing is, and that trust is fundamental to that. Then you can develop and prototype new ways to build trust with people.

Author Bio

Josh Dix
Josh Dix

Coach at Leadershipxd.com
Read more...