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E149 | How To Reach Your Full Potential with Eric Partaker

If you feel like you need a coach to get you into peak performance, look no further than Eric Partaker. Eric was named CEO of the Year in 2019 by Business Excellence Awards; he’s been awarded top 30 entrepreneurs in the UK by Startups magazine, and the Telegraph said he was one of Britain’s most disruptive entrepreneurs. 

He was formerly with McKinsey. He was part of the early team at Skype. He was the CEO of Chilango, which sadly, like many other hospitality businesses, got wiped out by COVID. And now he works as a Peak Performance coach for other entrepreneurs and founders. 

In today’s episode, Eric teaches us that anybody can be extraordinary. Eric says we need to learn from children and their ability to adopt another identity when they role play. We just have to create our own identity, and then we can step into it. 

Eric also explains why we need to stop thinking about stress as something that’s bad – he believes stress can be, if used correctly, something that can empower us to be amazing. And lastly, it only takes a small movement or an awareness, to unlock the door to amazing change. 

We thought this was a fantastic conversation. We’re sure you’ll agree.

On today’s podcast:

  • The 3 things you need to scale to reach your fullest potential
  • Three alarms
  • Identity drives behaviour
  • Progress, not perfection
  • Coaching in relationships


Unlock Your Fullest Potential with Eric Partaker

Eric Partaker is no slouch. From strategy consultant with McKinsey, to running their sponsored nonprofit trying to stimulate new business development throughout Norway, to helping scale Skype as one of the early team members when employee numbers were around 30. He helped grow Skype to a team of 500 before the company was acquired by eBay for $2.6 billion. From there he founded Chilango, an award winning chain of Mexican restaurants. Today he works with 30 founder CEOs as a Peak Performance coach, helping them reach their fullest potential, drawing on all his experiences together with some behavioural science from Stanford University.

“I help them scale three things in parallel. Their business, that’s the hardware. And if the hardware is to operate correctly, the software needs to be coded correctly. There’s two other pillars that need to be scaled in parallel to the business and that’s the person’s leadership ability. And then last, but not least, are they operating to their fullest potential?”

What does he mean by their fullest potential? I.e are they at their best not just at work, but are they in good health? How’s their home life? 

“I work on all three of those things in tandem to help them build a better version of themselves, a better leader and a better company.”

This makes Eric incredibly well placed to talk to us about change, and how a small movement, and awareness, can unlock the door to amazing change.

“My name is Eric Partaker. I’ve done quite a few different things. I like to think of my life as the embodiment of John Lennon’s quote, ‘life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans’.”

Three Alarms

Eric’s book, Three Alarms, is about helping people achieve peak performance. He defines peak performance as not so much turning you into a Ferrari, more, helping you operate at your fullest potential, in all the domains of life that matter the most to you. 

“And what I propose in the book is that the 80/20, the 20% of things that you could focus on in terms of work or in life, for 80% of the improvement, is to focus on your health, your wealth, and your relationships.”

The question becomes then, how do you close the gap between your current and your best self in each of these domains?

“What I propose in the book is that you shorten your focus, just focus on three things: identity, productivity, and anti fragility.”

Why those three things?

  1. Because you can’t become something more if you’re always the same person. If you want to level up, it all starts with identity. 
  2. Knowledge is cheap. It used to be power, but now we have google. So you have to take action. You have to translate knowledge into action. 
  3. You can’t be fragile. As Mike Tyson said, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. Anti fragility is your suit of armour. Every blow your suit of armour takes, you get stronger. 

Identity drives behaviour

Eric gives the example of his kid dressing as Captain America. He didn’t need to explain how his child should act when wearing the costume, his son already knew that when he was dressed as Captain America, this is how he should behave. 

He just took on the identity. 

And it’s what we need to do. Your identity is the sum of whatever things you continuously repeat. You can approach it, says Eric, from two ways. You can either try to continuously do the behaviours that make you become the person you want to be. Or you can approach it from the top down and say: How would X act in this situation? 

And that’s precisely what Eric did. 

“And so what I simply did, which relates to the title of the book, The Three Alarms, is I literally grabbed my phone. And at 6:30am on the health front, I thought, well, what’s the Captain America version of me?”

Eric knows he’s not a world fitness champion, but he lets that identity guide his behaviour. It changes the way he shows up. He doesn’t back out of going to the gym, because a world fitness champion would never back out. The next alarm is at 9am. It says ‘World’s Best CEO’. 

“Am I the world’s best CEO? No. But again, that’s not the point. With the remote education, mentoring, coaching, advising business that I’m building right now. It reminds me to think through: ‘how will I show up for each and every meeting if I was operating from that vantage point, if that was my identity?’”

His final alarm goes off at 6.30pm and this is the one for health, wealth and relationships. This one says ‘World’s Best Husband and Father’. It prompts the question – how would the world’s best husband and father walk through that door right now? 

It’s not about perfection

None of this is about seeking perfection. It’s about making progress. 

“I still screw up massively, make bad business decisions, say stuff that I regret. I’ll still lose my cool with one of the boys, I’ll still grab a doughnut instead of an apple. These things still happen. But what I’ve experienced is that it’s not that you stop falling down. But when you do fall down, you’re not falling down as hard. And you’re standing back up more quickly.”

You need to have a target to aim for too. At the end of the day Eric asks himself how he’s done that day. If he wins, he puts a W on the calendar. If he feels like he lost, he puts a L for learning on the calendar. He tries not to have more than six L’s in a month, so he hits an 80% success rate. 

When you adopt an identity, and you’re doing it on a daily basis, you start to have this little voice in your head that says ‘because I have this identity, I’m definitely going to do it’. It informs your behaviour, and the more you start to behave consistently with your new identity, the easier it becomes. 

Coaching in relationships

“A lot of people when it comes to relationship improvement, think from the wrong vantage point, and don’t think of all sides of the coin.”

You need to not only look at something from your point of view, but consider it from another’s. But rather than second guess them, Eric says you need to be proactive and ask them. 

“If you want to know how you’re doing as a leader, ask those who you’re leading. If you want to know how you’re doing as a husband, or a wife, ask the person that you’re the spouse to.”

Then create a trigger list. The things that you know makes your blood boil. Once you’ve identified your triggers, you then have to develop the habit of pausing between the stimulus and your reaction. 

“This is also a way to build your anti-fragility, stress builds strength. When the thing that triggers us happens in the absence of any space, it triggers our response. And it’s often a sub optimal emotional response that we can’t even remember sometimes.”

Learn to pause, create a little bit of space, take a deep breath, walk out of the room, and ask yourself what’s the best way to respond. 

“Every single person on the planet knows the answer. You will know what’s the optimal way to respond to something versus anything less by just pausing. You might not be very good at it in the beginning, and you might pause and then still blurt something out, but you will get better.”

Book recommendations

Steven Kotler – The Art Of Impossible
Liz Wiseman – Multipliers
Mike Michalowicz – Profit First

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