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Atomic Actions: Small Steps, Big Results

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Show Notes

Welcome to the Executive Connect Podcast, where we delve into the minds of modern leaders striving for success and personal growth. In this episode Melissa Aarskaug spoke with Michael Pedersen, a peak performance coach, business strategist, and author of “Atomic Actions: Experience Transformative Breakthroughs And Unstoppable Momentum”.

Topics included:

  • Perception of Fear: Fear is often a perception rather than a reality. Michael emphasized the importance of distinguishing between genuine life-threatening fear and fictitious fear that inhibits progress.
  • Micro Actions Overwhelm: Overwhelm often stems from focusing on the big picture rather than taking small, manageable actions. By breaking down tasks into atomic actions, you can combat overwhelm and build momentum towards your goals.
  • Triggers and Reflection: Triggers from past experiences can hinder progress. Through reflection and seeking advice from those who have walked a similar path, you can gain confidence and clarity in pursuing new roles or opportunities.
  • Reframing and Language: Language shapes mindset. By reframing thoughts and language from words like “wish,” “hope,” and “try” to action-oriented phrases, you can instill conviction and determination in your pursuits.
  • Ownership and Growth: Taking ownership of outcomes and embracing humility are crucial for personal growth. Rather than viewing setbacks as failures, they should be seen as lessons learned, propelling you forward on your journey to success.

Fear may seem insurmountable, but with the right mindset and approach, you can overcome it and take decisive actions towards your goals. By reframing language, reflecting on triggers, and embracing ownership, you can navigate challenges and unlock your full potential. As Michael’s insights show, it’s not about the end result, but the progress made along the way that leads to lasting success and fulfillment.

Thank you for joining us on the Executive Connect Podcast, where powerful stories shape meaningful connections!

If you have any questions about today’s show or have a topic you’d like us to cover, reach out to me at executiveconnectpodcast@gmail.com.

Please subscribe so you can catch all our future episodes.

About today’s guest:

Michael Pedersen excels as both a peak performance coach and business strategist, guiding business owners, entrepreneurs, and coaches toward unmatched personal and professional growth. As the author of Dominate Your Market and Atomic Actions, his unique blend of elite athleticism and entrepreneurial success in launching two seven-figure businesses demonstrates a profound ability to transform ambition into tangible achievements. Beyond his professional achievements, Michael’s enthusiasm for hiking, fitness, and travel showcases his dedication to maintaining a balanced and adventurous lifestyle.

About me:

I’m an energetic executive with 15+ years of experience steering companies to new heights of growth and scale. An engineer at heart (I started my career as an engineering manager on one of the world’s largest concrete bridges), I’ve become a trusted leader and business builder in the technology and cybersecurity space.


Narrator 00:08
Welcome to the Executive Connect Podcast, a show for the new generation of leaders. Join Melissa Aarskaug as she speaks to a wide variety of guests that bring new insights into leadership, prosperity, and personal growth. While no one has all the answers, by building a community of open minded and engaged leaders, we hope to give you the tools you need to help you find your own path to success.

Melissa Aarskaug 00:38
Welcome to the Executive Connect Podcast. I’m so excited to have Michael Pedersen here with us today to talk about fear. Michael is a peak performance coach, a business strategist and author of two books: Dominate Your Market and Atomic Actions. His unique blend of elite athleticism and entrepreneur success has helped him launch two successful seven figure businesses. Welcome, Michael.

Michael Pedersen 01:08
Melissa, thank you so much for having me on. I’m very, very excited.

Melissa Aarskaug 01:12
And I’m excited today to talk about fear. I think fear plays a very important role in people’s day to day lives, and whether people are able to make decisive decisions on their life, whether what they’re eating, what they’re doing, where they’re working. So from your perspective, talk to me about fear and how it plays a role in people’s lives, and how they’re able to overcome certain fears and take action.

Michael Pedersen 01:41
Well, you know, fear is interesting, because the way I look at fear is it’s a perception. It’s not real, it may feel real, but it’s not real, you know, and so we’ve got to be really good at staying in the moment very present. And we’ve got to be able to assess, is it life threatening? Because human beings by nature, we’re wired for survival. Okay. So when we sense fear, is it real fear? Like, is my life in danger? Is my family in danger? Because that’s real fear, right. That’s real. Anything outside of that, in my humble opinion, is fictitious fear. It’s just what’s what’s the definition? Fear is false. What’s that? What’s that? That acronym? Gosh, darn evidence appearing? Real? Gosh, I’m blanking right now. Yes. So there. I mean, that’s the definition of fear right there. You know. So I think a lot of people, they live their life in fear. Because if they feel like they make any decision at all, it’s going to be this life threatening, dramatic result. And so it’s better to stay in their comfort zones, and make no choice at all. And let’s just stay comfortable. But what hurt what really gets me and why I wrote this book is we we have opportunities around us all day, every day. We have thoughts, ideas and opportunities that come through our brains 1000s of times every day. Well, because we go in our subconscious brain 95% of the day, we are missing out on all these opportunities. And I think a lot of people, everybody has a good idea. Everybody has a thought that’s like, wow, that’s kind of interesting. And then they just let it go. And for me, I’ve lived my life, basically pulling the trigger, pardon the pun, immediately, truly immediately. So if I get a thought or idea, I’ll assess it very quickly. Fear does not even come into my brain. It really doesn’t. And what I don’t say that to make it sound like I’m some Superman, but it’s it’s a trained situation, right? Where you repetitively over time, when you think of a thought you might have fear creep in, and then you say, you assess is it real or not? From there can you create a tiny action you can do literally right now. And I mean, right now, if you can do the smallest of action, I don’t care if it’s writing something in a notebook, it’s sending an email, it’s what it’s getting out of your chair and doing something that’s going to trigger something in your brain to go I can do this, like, this is not that big a deal. And the whole idea is you need to compound successes over and over and over. But success to me are the small micro actions we take that get us closer towards how we want to live our lives. And I think so many people get overwhelmed with the vastness of it the bigness of it, right? Like, oh my god, I can’t do this. Well, when you feel overwhelmed, that’s where you need to stop yourself number one and say, Why do I feel overwhelmed because I feel overwhelmed a lot. Why am I feeling you’ve got to get in touch with your emotions. When you have this fear kick in. You’ve got to stop yourself and literally have this reflection going on? And literally talk to yourself and say, Is this really scary? Is this really a scary thing? Or is it something that I’m fabricating in my mind? And I’m just going to let it go by like I’ve done every single time?

Melissa Aarskaug 05:15
Absolutely, I think fear can be so crippling it could it we put these things in our brains that, like you said, false evidence appearing real. And we might miss out, like you mentioned on really big things in our life, or job opportunities or relationships for people and I look at them like, opportunities, like you mentioned, you have trained that muscle in your brain to to push through and persevere through struggles. By just training your brain like a muscle, right? I think of like the saying yes to things and not being so scared is a trained muscle just like lifting a weight and stepping up your weights. Let’s talk a little bit about a lot of times. I think in my world, very C suite, VP executives are like, you know, I, I can’t I don’t have experience in this area. I’ve only been working for 20-30 years in this space. I don’t know how to do this role. Let’s talk a little bit about techniques that people can use to overcome fear. Like in this example, somebody has been working as in I don’t know, HR, and they have the opportunity to move into more of an COO role, but they’re like, oh, I don’t know how to run a P&L. And, you know, let’s talk about techniques that they can use to overcome procrastination to increase their productivity and an opportunity to make decisions.

Michael Pedersen 06:47
That’s and I love that topic. So I believe in we live our lives surrounded by triggers. And I did a whole chapter in my book on triggers, right? Because triggers fascinate me, you know, why does it trigger happen? And then why do we respond typically, and not a good way this moves forward in our lives, right? Triggers come from our past, they come from previous experiences. And I think when somebody’s thinking about a new job role, you know, we live in a world that I think is it, we’ve got this sense of perfectionism, right? Like, we have to do things perfect, we have to be on on all the time, we’ve got to nail it every time. And that’s not realistic. And that’s paralyzing, that’s paralyzing in our personal life. And it’s paralyzing in business, that sense of perfectionism. And I think when somebody’s considering a new role, one of the first steps you’ve got to do is speak to somebody that’s already in the role, whether it’s in your company, or in another company, right? LinkedIn is a phenomenal platform for that. You could literally on your own, your company doesn’t even need to know. And that’s not to sound sneaky. But you can literally seek out people in that role, and see if they’d be willing to spend 10 or 15 minutes with you, and ask them pertinent questions. So that you’re arming yourself with, okay, this isn’t what I thought it was, I was so fearful of this. I didn’t think I could do it. But gosh, I’ve talked to a few people now in that role. Okay, I can do this. So you know, you’re building up self confidence. Because I think everybody in life, including me, although I come across as I don’t have a lack of self confidence, but we all have it right? Imposter syndrome, whatever you want to call it. But the only way to build your confidence is to surround yourself with people that you aspire to be. And that could be in the next position you’re looking for. It could be in a full blown career transition, right? That could be where I’m done with this, this line of work, I can’t do it anymore. I’m not passionate about it, I’m not fulfilled, that’s when you need to seek outside advice to do that. So I would strongly recommend anybody in that situation, first and foremost, to seek out somebody in that role. And you know, if you if you make an attempt to connect with somebody, and let’s say they’re in that role, but maybe they’re not nice people, and they don’t want to give you their time, will go to the next one and go to the next one. And that’s what I call that relentless persistence, relentless persistence, persistence, because a lot of us have this quit mentality, right? And, you know, the quiet quitting going on and all the companies right, but quitting to me, it’s not an option. I’ve never lived my life to quit anything. Now, is there a point in times where you have to pivot like you’ve it’s run its course, whatever you’re doing, it’s run its course and you really realize I’ve exhausted everything. This isn’t gonna go any more than yes, you need to pivot but as that quitting, no, that’s not quitting. That’s just pivoting. That’s being present in the moment to realize this isn’t getting me where I got want to go. It’s time to make a move in a different direction.

Melissa Aarskaug 10:01
What well said and I like one really important point I think you you hit on is job shadowing. So if you’re looking at another job, and getting on LinkedIn finding somebody else that has, you know, that role, you know, finding information about the role understanding the positives and the negatives in, you know, job shadowing. I know, when I was early in my career, I was deciding if I wanted to be an attorney, and I job shadowed an attorney, and I’m like, absolutely not, I don’t want to be an attorney. And so you nailed it, I think, you know, getting out and trying the shoe on, I always joke because I’m a shoe person, you know, trying a pair of shoes on. And if you don’t like the way they look, and they don’t fit, put another pair on. And I think to your point, the relentless determination, of making decisions and not giving up is super key to anybody in their lives, whether it’s a job or a spouse, or sports, it’s all similar. It’s all tied together. And I think, you know, you mentioned just a number of great points, but that’s really key is, is getting out there and trying it on. And if you’re not a math person, don’t go in math roles, right. And if you’re not an extrovert, don’t go an extrovert roles, but try it on and see if it might fit. And I think, to your point, so for giving advice to the listeners who are struggling with making decisions, are there any practical tips that that you can share with them on how they might be able to practice this if they are currently paralyzed by fear in any decision right now?

Michael Pedersen 11:43
What you know, I write a lot about this, and I call it micro actions, right? It’s taking the smallest action in the moment. So, you know, for example, you know, New Year’s resolutions, and I used to be a fitness trainer, right? So I know all the excuses. I know all the BS. And I’m sorry, that sounds so harsh. But, you know, it is what it is, right? So when people say I need to lose 30 pounds, and they look at the big end goal of losing 30 pounds, right? And they think, oh my God, that’s just never going to happen. Right? Well, you shouldn’t be looking. So that’s, that’s, that’s an example of yes, that’s your long term goal. But you gotta gap where you’re currently at and where you want to be. Right. That’s a gap. And what people don’t realize is that, as human beings, we don’t take action, typically, until we feel a sense of urgency. Okay. urgency, and urgency in sales and marketing. We know that works, right? When you create urgency. People are like, Oh, my gosh, you know, this thing’s available for one more day. I want to get it right. Well, same thing in our lives, we need to almost factor we need to create urgency. If it’s not there, create it, right. And you can create it in such a way that like, let’s go back to the weight loss. So I want to lose 30 pounds, it looks overwhelming. Oh my gosh, I’ve got all this work ahead of me. I gotta change my eating, I got to start working. I got all these things. Well, how about just the very next morning, put shoes and a workout outfit at the foot of your bed the night before? That’s an action. It’s a very small action, it’s all it’s doing is taking your clothes and putting them in a spot, right? You put them there. When you swing your legs off the bed, your feet are literally landing in your shoes. Bingo, there they are right there. Well shoot. If I’ve just landed on my shoes, and they’re my workout shoes, I got no excuse, right? Here we go. I’m off and running. And you go do a 10 minute walk or you go. But it’s people need to understand that the overwhelm of our life, all the noise that’s happening out there, all the competition, a lack of loyalty and companies, you know, charlatans, all these the bad people, the good people, we can’t focus on that we have to, we have to get all that out of our minds, and focus on what’s important to us internally inside. And I think we’ve spent our lives through the social narrative. And I write about this often. We’ve been fed a social narrative that I think’s wrong, and I think a lot of people are finally waking up to it. Right. And I think part of that is we were looking for satisfaction happiness outside of us. The BMW, the Rolex, the new job, the house to this to that right. And I think a lot of people realizing even when they get that they’re still not happy. They’re still not happy. Well, why is that? Because I didn’t do it internally. We have to make we have to take actions in our life that are aligned with what we want inside. Not outside. Super, super important.

Melissa Aarskaug 14:41
Yeah, I love what you said two pieces. I think you know, going back to the weight loss piece, if you don’t see yourself 30 pounds lighter. You need to pick something that a that you believe in, start at five pounds. Start that you’re exercising one day a week. Put your shoes at the foot of the bed like you mentioned I think it’s, it’s small actions and small turns to achieving whatever you’re you’re wanting to achieve. And if you can’t put the shoes by your bed and you can’t remember to lay your clothes out, you need to find other ways like an accountability partner or paying a trainer. If you’re paying a trainer 200 bucks, it’s more likely you’re going to show up, because you’re paying for it, then oh, you know, it’s raining outside, it’s cold, I’m tired. I didn’t sleep last night, we all can make excuses. You know, we have 1000 reasons why we can’t do things. And I think, to your book, exactly what your book talks about is it’s tiny actions, it’s tiny things that we can do on our day to day to move the needle. And I think you nailed it by putting the shoes out. And that’s one step. And then if you put the shoes out, and you step over the shoes, you need to try on a different action the next day, and so you can develop a routine and a rhythm with what you’re trying to accomplish.

Michael Pedersen 16:05
Now, let me ask you that if you step over your shoes, and don’t put those shoes on, you need to stop and reflect and ask yourself right now as honestly as you can, why am I not putting those shoes on? Why so you know, it’s so interesting, because even in like the medical system, right? We we get prescribed drugs that don’t prevent the situation. It’s just treating the symptoms, right? And I’m all about prevention. So when it comes to your mindset, when it comes to business growth, personal growth, whatever it is, you’ve got to find out why you keep repeating these patterns over and over and over again. Because the definition of insanity, as we know, is doing the same thing over and over and over expecting a different result. Well, if we keep doing that every day, if we don’t make a change, the smallest of changes, we are going to get the same life we get day in and day out. And I call that mediocrity. You know, I’m a pretty hard hitting guy, I am who I am. I can’t change who I am. And I don’t know if anybody really wants to be mediocre at anything. Right? And if you do want to be mediocre, then okay, I go live that life, I guess. But you know, if you live a life of mediocrity, here’s how I look at this. And I wrote about this at the end of my book. So here’s that here’s a trailer, or what’s that call a spoiler alert? I call it the deathbed regrets. Okay. So I heard a phrase yesterday that I thought was really cool. Regret minimization, Regret minimization I thought wow. Now I’m gonna look into that one. So I can’t tell you a lot about it, because I just heard it. But I loved it. Because the question you need to ask yourself is when you get a thought, or an idea, or an opportunity presented to yourself, which happens multiple times a day, if you did not take a little action on any of those? Would you regret it on your deathbed? Would you regret it? Right? Because if you can stop yourself and be present, and ask that question, would I regret if I didn’t do anything about this, that’s, that’s a strategy and a tactic to stop yourself in the moment and say, you know, I better stop and take a little bit longer look at this. And maybe you take an extra two minutes, an extra five minutes, right? You take a little extra length of time to then decide should I take an action or not? Right. So that is so critical. I think there’s not a lot of instruction or guidance. There’s a lot of memes out there. And there’s a lot of fluffy stuff out there. That I mean, people jump on the bandwagon, but yet after they’re done reading it, they don’t do anything about it which is just taking action, and then they’re still living the same life they’ve lived for years.

Melissa Aarskaug 18:45
Yeah, I agree. I think, you know, it’s a lifestyle change, right, where no matter what your goals are, if it’s health and wellness, unfortunately, a lot of times you have to get the bad doctor reports to take action. And in some cases we’ve seen during the pandemic, you can’t undo 20 years of not taking care of yourself it takes time there’s no magic pill, no matter what we see online, it’s it’s a lifestyle change for yourself. And that includes not just health and wellness, who you associate what your goals are, and even if you’re comfortable being you know, mediocre but what does that look like for you? Where are you happy? Well, I want to you know, do this thing and and but you still got to set goals to achieve these things and push yourself out of your comfort zone no matter what it is that you’re looking to do with your life and I think you nailed on it. You know, I hear a lot. I wish I would have done this or I would have finished my degree or I would have had this call or I would have oh I couldn’t because of these people. And and I think we got to lead ourselves right? We have to lead ourselves through our life and we can’t blame the pandemic or the politics or the weather or whatever is happening in our lives, you have to take accountability for what you have and where you are in your life. And if you don’t have the skills and the tools, similar to what your book is about, we need to create actions and lead ourself to where we want to go. And your I love that, that saying, and I got to, it’s a great saying, because I don’t want to live a life where I look back and have 80 regrets personally, either I want to live a life that says I tried, I failed. And I pivoted, or I retried and I got better at something. And now I’m happy where I am. And I think you nailed that point is, is making decisions. And decisions lead to habits and they’re presented to us every single day. And I forget the the the number, but we have like 200 choices a week on decisions, and most of which is about what we eat, and when we eat and how we eat and how much we eat. And so those tiny little decisions, you know, not putting a gallon of ice cream in the fridge or the freezer. If it’s not fair, you’re not going to eat it, right? If we can make the effort to go to the store to get the ice cream, we can make the effort to get to the gym.

Michael Pedersen 21:26
It’s the smallest decisions. This is not it’s not rocket science, you know, but I think we as human beings, we tend to make things more difficult. We think that the more difficult it is, the better it’s going to be or the more impressive the result is going to be. And that’s, you know, I’m all about, you know, I turned 60, about six months ago, and it was a big deal for me, right? So, but because of that I’ve done a lot of reflecting on my life, right? You know, I’m a single man, again, travel is huge on my list. Now I want to travel the world and do all these things. But you have to make decisions that are aligned with your core values, your vision and your purpose, core values, vision and purpose. So when I coach clients, and I work with a lot of CEOs and executives, we let we lay that out immediately. What are your core values? What is your vision? And what is your purpose? Right? And you hear that a lot in leadership, but I’m talking about it for the individual. What are your because, you know, it really comes down to this. So it might sound selfish, but it’s true. If you don’t get yourself right, you can’t make anybody else right. You can’t make a company, right? You can’t make a spouse, right? You got to get yourself right first. And that you know, that’s self care. That’s whatever you want to call it. But you know, I want to I want to circle back on something that you said that I don’t want to forget because I’ll forget it. Because my mind goes 100 miles an hour. So you said thing. You said the word wish and could whatever. Here’s six words, I want the listeners to remove out off the out of their mind their dictionary everything, which could should try hope. Hope, I hope try which could should? What was the other one? There’s six of them? Gosh, no, I can’t to get to. But you get my point, right? Because when you catch yourself saying phrases that start with I wish, I hope I could I should I’ll try. Those are not words of conviction. Those are words that really say I’m going I’m going for it right? And when I say I’m going for it, it goes back to the micro actions not going for it meaning yes, you’re going to make some life changing decision that alters your family and alters everything you do. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the micro actions that lead to the bigger outcomes. Right. So those those mental words of should could woulda try wish and hope. There you go. There’s your six right there. I hate those words. Now hope hope can be reframed. And can people say oh, well, if you don’t have hope, you know, you don’t have anything. What I’m talking about here? Is that, that weak mindset of well, I hope things work out. Well, golly, gee, were you given the control? Because you just given it all up? You don’t have any control when you say I hope things work out. Right. So hope is a word that some people will argue with me on and push back on that? No, no, no, I think hope is important. Yes, in certain scenarios, but when you when you make it the way I just said it, which I hope things work out. I hope I get that job. I hope I get that. You’re not going to get it because there’s no conviction there.

Melissa Aarskaug 24:37
Well said. I guess it brings me back to something my dad used to tell us growing up we weren’t allowed to say can’t like I can’t ride my bike or I can’t pick up my tracks. I love your dad. Like we weren’t allowed to say can’t and every time we did that, and I think to your point. When you’re used to saying with those words, you don’t even realize that you’re saying them. So I challenge the listeners to find an accountability partner, not just themselves, but others. And anytime they say should have or can’t, or won’t, to be aware of what you’re saying, because it’s directing your life, a direction that you may not want. And I realize that bad things do happen to people, I’ve had bad things in my life. And we’ve all been through tough things. But it doesn’t dictate who we are, we dictate who we are, it’s our life and, and we have to accept the bad things that happen, learn from them, forgive the people and move on with our life. Otherwise, you’re gonna spend your life in overthinking fear, struggling, indecisive, and you’re just going to be kind of stuck is the word I think of is just stuck in the place that you don’t want to be. And so I absolutely agree with the six words that we shouldn’t be using them. And, and process the difficult things that go that are happening to you. Sometimes it takes a year, sometimes two years, sometimes 10 years, you have to spend 10 years rebuilding your health because you’ve gone through cancer and chemo and other things. But to your point and your book, atomic habits, it’s one little habit and those habits build on top of habits, and then they become normal, they become just like shampooing your hair before you condition it. It’s it’s something that’s just automatic that we do naturally.

Michael Pedersen 26:33
Well you know, I want to say one thing number one is atomic actions, not habits. So I think a lot of it, but I think a lot of people do that, right? But I want to talk about habits for a minute. So James Clear’s book is phenomenal. And my book has no crossover to his whatsoever. If anything at the beginning the book, I gave him a little bit of a, you know, pump up or whatever, like great book, great book, whatever. My book has nothing to do with your book. But what I will say is this so much, you know, his book has sold 10 million copies and still selling nine years later. Awesome, right? He’s got a newsletter listof I don’t know, a million people, whatever. But here’s what I’m gonna say to this. You don’t have a habit without action. It takes action to create the habit. So when everybody keeps talking about oh, I need to change my habits. It’s all about habits, habits, habits, habits. Yes. In the end, you can create habits, but it’s from consistent actions that creates the habit. Therefore, actions are the precursor to habits, right. So theoretically, Mr. Clear, if you’re listening right now, everybody should buy my book, first read my book, then get your book. And then we got a we got a great situation. So and that’s no knock on his book as I read his book three times. But when I wrote my book, I took my mind completely off his book, like, I don’t think I said the word habit three times in 376 pages. So it’s not about the habit. It’s about the action first, right.

Melissa Aarskaug 28:02
And yeah, and that’s a good point. I think if you’re not comfortable taking action, you got to practice it, you know, you got to build that muscle. You got to build that muscle. If you’re an introverted person, and you’re, I can’t do this, I’m introverted. I can’t present in front of a room. You got to try it and fail, and then redo it and fail again, and then fail again. And the more that you fail, the more that you learn, and the better you become. And you strengthen that that muscle through like you mentioned, action, repetitive.

Michael Pedersen 28:36
I will say this to me personally, me personally, I hate the word fail. I hate that word. Because it’s lessons learned. It’s not fail, right? You don’t, it’s not failure until you quit. If you did something and truly just said, I’m out, I quit. And you really should have stuck with it a little longer. That’s failure then yes, that was failure. But in my mind, we need to live our life like this. So I love the idea of reframing right? Reframing thoughts, reframing words, reframing everything. So when you think of the word, the tactic and strategy of reframing, you’ll, I can’t do something, I will do something. Right. I’m not confident I would, right. I mean, when you when you reframe things in the moment, literally, and and when I work with the CEOs, and I coach them, we talk a lot about this, right? Because, you know, I’ve had the pleasure even in my previous life, I was a private fitness trainer in the home with these high powered male CEOs. I told you about that on one of our previous calls. And, you know, these guys, really successful men, I mean, you know, worth $100 million $80 million, you know, sold companies for 10 figures and I would go in their home when the door shuts and I would see the real deal. And I was like, oh my god, like, you know, one client of mine. So long ago, you might not be around anymore. But he sold his company for $125 million. And you know, people might say, well, that’s a small business. Well, I don’t know, if you got $125 million handed you that pretty good, I don’t know. So he sold it. He was on the front page of the newspaper up in Oregon, where I’m from. And he hired he heard about me from one of his CEO buddies, and I went to his home like, a week later. And I was a little intimidated $5 million dollar home underwater and blah, blah, blah, and up in Washington. But what I realized when he shut the door was number one, he’s a human being like everybody else. And I love that right. And I didn’t treat him any different than a treat the guy down the street. And what he did from that is he said he will the first thing he said to me is Who the hell are you? Because nobody had talked to him like that, right. But what I say to all that is that no matter how successful you are, no matter where you are in your life, we all have things to work on. And if you’re if you if people get delusional with their ego, and they live their life based on ego, you’re going to hurt a lot of people along the way. And most importantly, you’re going to hurt yourself along the way. So there is a point in time. And unfortunately, for a lot of us, we don’t get it until later in life, where we become more humble. We the humility kicks in. And we might reflect back on previous years and go, wow, I was a real, I was a real dick back then. Right? You know, and I think if you can take ownership in those things, there’s a phrase I use a lot, and I call it own your outcome. And it’s written in both my books, both of these books, right? Own your outcome. And I put it in all caps, because I tell my kids, this is not going to come to you, you gotta go get it. It’s not going to come to you, you got to go get it. I say that to them all the time. I chose my adult children. So anybody in life, if you’re not happy, you have a choice to make it better. You have the choice. It’s not up to anybody else. Your spouse, your boss, your children, your friends, whoever you hang out with, it’s up to you to make the choice to become happier.

Melissa Aarskaug 32:19
Absolutely, absolutely. I well said well said all around. In closing a couple final questions, actually, really just one final question for you. Top three takeaways for our listeners on fear. I know we’ve talked on if you anything else that you can think of that you want to leave with our listeners before we close?

Michael Pedersen 32:42
Well just remember, this fear is made up in our mind. People need to realize fear is fictitious. It’s not real, unless it’s life threatening. And people say, Well, you don’t know that’s not true. You know, I’m driving in the car, and I got in a car wreck last week. So I’m fearful this week? Well, gosh, if you live your life like that, and I understand there’s PTSD and all of that. So I don’t want to downplay that. But I do want to say that we have control over our thoughts in our mind, if we don’t have control over our thoughts or our mind. Who does, right? So when it comes to fear, you got to realize, find out right away, it’s not it’s not truly fear. It’s not life threatening. Once you realize it’s not life threatening. What minor action can you take right now, right now, to overcome that perceived, I’ll say the word perceived fear. What action can you take now, with no delay, literally no delay. This should be should be something within 60 seconds to two minutes that you decide, well, if I do this little thing right here, that’s going to move me forward and get me past that fear, it’s going to break through that wall of fear, it might not completely eliminate the fear. But you’ll start making progress, right? Because I totally believe that it’s never the outcome. It’s the progress towards the outcome. Right? We all have to have a vision. But if that vision is so far out, you know, and you know, for leaders, it could be I want to double the revenues of my company from 100 million to 200 million. Okay, well, you got to reverse engineer that. You got to reverse engineer, year by year by year, month, by month by month, day by day by day, and then create all the actions that are lined up with that new vision. So I think when you when it comes to fear, people need to really stop and reflect on why do I feel it? Why am I feeling this fear? And typically, it doesn’t take a lot of deep reflection to realize, gosh, I shouldn’t be afraid of this. This is a joke. This is ridiculous, right? This is self talk, by the way. So I think people look at it that way. But the only way to combat fear is you have to be in the moment. You have to be present and you have to reflect on why do I I feel this fear right now. And what can I do to overcome this fear? Right now? I’m all about decisiveness. And that’s why I wrote the dang book. Right. And, you know, I was fortunate enough that my ex wife who we get along with fantastic when she read the book, she wanted to read it right? She said, Give it to me, give it to me, give it to me. And she said, Can I write a letter in the front of this book? And I thought, what? And she goes, You are this book, I got goosebumps, all of my arms right? Now. She goes, You are this book. And I thought go for it. And she wrote a very amazing letter at the front of this book. So I don’t know how many authors have their ex spouses write a positive letter in a book that’s seen by 1000s and 10,000 people I don’t know. But that was pretty cool.

Melissa Aarskaug 35:48
Oh, yeah, I think that’s really it’s a testament to your character and knowledge as a person. And I thank you so much for being here and sharing sharing your information with our listeners, tell us how we can connect with you and get your book.

Michael Pedersen 36:04
Well, thank you so much. This was amazing. You and I are so aligned in so many ways. I mean, I, I feel like I’ve met a new friend with you. And I hope we stay in contact forever. But and I appreciate that. But you know, atomic actions, actions, not habits, atomic actions is on Audible. It’s on Amazon, you can go get it just type in the phrase atomic actions. There it is. I also put together I do a lot of coaching with people that are not happy in their current role in their job, or they’re considering leaving their role. And so I do what I call a clarity breakthrough session. It’s a full blown 90 minute zoom call. I go deep into barriers and overcoming the barriers that I come up with an action plan after the call that we do a 30 day call afterwards. But people a lot of the people weren’t ready for this commitment yet, because it’s a commitment. Right? So I put together a free assessment a 60 second assessment. I would like to send your listeners to this assessment and the assessments at mikepeterson.com/clarity/ and Pedersen spelled P e d e r s e n. If people listening because they’re gonna probably go a PE T ers o n. So let me spell it one more time. MikeP E d, e r s e n.com/clarity. Go take that free assessment.

Melissa Aarskaug 37:30
Thank you so much. Go do it. Take the assessment. Take action so you can live your best life. That’s all for us today. Thank you so much for joining the Executive Connect Podcast.

Narrator 37:44
You’ve been listening to the Executive Connect Podcast. If you have questions or ideas on how to bring leadership to the next level, email us at executiveconnectpodcast@gmail.com And don’t forget to subscribe so you can catch every new episode. Until next time

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Bryan Hancock Headshot — Founder of Integrity Development

Bryan Hancock

Founder of Integrity Development

Integrity Development

Executive Biography

Bryan Hancock has been managing real estate investments—and overseeing development and construction projects—for nearly two decades. He has deep roots in Austin, Texas, and comprehensive knowledge of the opportunities and challenges in this fast-growing market.

Through his development and syndication companies, which he built from the ground up, Bryan has developed 50+ urban infill projects and managed $25M in real estate sales with approximately 35% return on investment at the project level. He also co-founded two private equity funds.

Bryan brings in-depth industry awareness, sharp business acumen, and extensive in-the-trenches experience to his work as co-founder and principal of Integrity Development. He partners with a team of professionals and industry experts (many have been involved in Austin real estate for 40+ years) to identify value-added and opportunistic investments that protect capital and reduce risk for lenders—while delivering outsized returns for investors.

Earlier, Bryan founded and directed Inner 10 Development, a residential development firm focused on Austin’s top zip codes and surrounding communities, and H2i, LLC, a real estate syndication company. He steered these organizations for 17+ years, overseeing the acquisition, buildout, and sale of single-family and multifamily properties, including a 350-unit urban infill joint-venture project.

Bryan was successful in delivering strong returns while minimizing risk for bankers and investors by taking a targeted, data-driven approach to opportunity analysis, due diligence, and strategic decision-making. He zeroed in on potential risks and developed proactive mitigation strategies to protect and grow investments.

Concurrent with his work at Inner 10 Development and H2i, Bryan established Gentry Lending Group, a private-equity debt fund. He also served on the board of Bullseye Capital Real Property Opportunity Fund. These experiences provided Bryan with a grasp of both investor and banker viewpoints, including an understanding of risk and liability on the lending side. This aspect of his background continues to shape his real estate decisions to this day.

There is another unique aspect to Bryan’s career—a corporate history that differentiates him from other investors and developers in this field. Bryan has built organizations, controlled multimillion-dollar projects, and supported billion-dollar programs for some of the world’s largest companies: Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, Dell, CACI, and Charles Schwab. He managed teams and vendors in the US, China, France, and India, and often balanced up to 10 projects at a time. He was trusted with a Top Secret Security Clearance from the United States government.

A business-savvy leader and lifelong learner, Bryan holds an MBA in Finance and Entrepreneurship from Texas Christian University and a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.

Bryan founded the Wealth Investment Network, co-founded RealStarter (a crowdfunding platform for real estate investors), and was a member of the Urban Land Institute and Central Texas Angel Network. He has been a guest speaker at 20+ national events, including conferences and meetups through the Information Management Network (IMN), SXSW, Rice University, Bay Area Real Estate Summit, Soho Loft Conference, Texas Entrepreneur Network, and many others.

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Melissa Aarskaug Headshot — Founder of Executive Connect

Melissa Aarskaug

Founder of Executive Connect

Senior Executive, Board Member & Advisor

Vice President of Business Development
Bulletproof, a GLI company

Executive Biography

Melissa Aarskaug is a global executive and business leader at the forefront of the technology/cybersecurity industry. She shapes strategy, leads teams, and partners with Fortune 500 companies and other enterprise clients to protect their organizations from risk and noncompliance—while improving operations and accelerating growth.

For 15+ years, Melissa has taken the reins to propel organizations to the next level of performance. By combining business acumen and revenue optimization with the sharp mind of an engineer, she uncovers and seizes opportunities for profitable growth in the US and around the world.

Melissa has established a distinguished career with Gaming Laboratories International (GLI), where she is a key member of the senior executive team. Throughout her tenure, she has assembled teams, developed new markets, and influenced P&L impact, ultimately positioning GLI as the #1 provider of testing, certification, and cybersecurity services to the global gaming and lottery space.

After achieving this feat—a big win for GLI and game-changer for clients worldwide—Melissa steered both GLI and Bulletproof (acquired by GLI in 2016) into untapped verticals: finance, government, healthcare, higher education, hospitality, and retail. An enthusiastic, knowledgeable growth driver who cultivates partnerships and rallies teams, she led GLI/Bulletproof to dominate these markets as well.

Before joining GLI, Melissa shaped and executed strategy as Vice President of Business Operations for LV Investments, where she built and optimized a portfolio of commercial and industrial properties. Earlier, in a very different role as Project Engineering Manager for Fisher Industries, she directed and mobilized a team of 550 employees and contractors to develop the world’s largest concrete bridge. Previously, she headed a major engineering project for Pacific Mechanical Corporation.

A curious, lifelong learner, Melissa holds dual Bachelor of Science degrees in Civil and Environmental Engineering with minors including Business and Mathematics. She is a Karrass Master Negotiator and C4 Executive Coach who actively pursues ongoing education and inspiration as a member of Chief, Austin Technology Council, Austin Women in Technology, and Toastmasters International. In addition to her own personal and professional development, Melissa is committed to helping other people thrive both inside and outside of the workplace. She actively mentors and empowers team members at GLI/Bulletproof, and is an executive leader and coach for Global Gaming Women. She founded Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN) Austin and is a current or past board member of many organizations, including Emerging Leaders in Gaming, Ballet Austin, Texas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired, the Society of Women Engineers, and the American Society of Civil Engineers. She has been a Junior League volunteer in Austin, Las Vegas, and Reno for 15+ years.

Throughout her career, Melissa has inspired individuals, teams, and entire organizations to think differently about innovation, cybersecurity, leadership, and business development. She was honored as one of the “Emerging Leaders in Gaming: 40 Under 40” and she continues to share her ideas and expertise through publications, podcasts, webinars, and presentations.

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This is the Executive Connect

A show for the new generation of leaders. Join us as we discover unconventional leadership strategies not traditionally associated with executive roles. Our guests include upper-level C-Suite executives charting new ways to grow their organizations, successful entrepreneurs changing the way the world does business, and experts and thought leaders from fields outside of Corporate America that can bring new insights into leadership, prosperity, and personal growth – all while connecting on a human level. No one has all the answers – but by building a community of open-minded and engaged leaders we hope to give you the tools you need to help you find your own path to success.