At the start of his career, author and hotelier Chip Conley thought that in order to become a successful CEO he’d have to become superhuman. But, after 24 years as the CEO of Joie de Vivre Hospitality, he realized that the best business leaders aren’t superhuman, they’re simply super humans. These leaders have become their own CEOs, chief emotions officers. In this essay, the founder of the second largest boutique hotelier in the world tells how he got there—and how you can, too.
I use multiple metaphors in my new book, Emotional Equations, to describe how emotions work in our lives. The one that feels most familiar to me is “baggage.” It's an apt metaphor for a hotelier.
Countless times, I’ve seen people show up at our front desks with all kinds of baggage—and only some of it is Samsonite. Most of our emotional baggage is invisible to the untrained eye and to ourselves.
But we see the results of lugging it around for years in how we show up at the front desk of life. A chief emotions officer is more aware than most of us of the bags they’re carrying. They know how to open them up and make sense of what’s inside.
Emotional Equations offers a new logic for how to pack and unpack your bags. An easy way to understand is to think of it as adult finger-painting. Red plus blue equals purple, right?
Emotions have primary and secondary components, too. Disappointment plus a sense of responsibility equals regret. Once you understand the emotional building blocks of regret, you can turn it from a downer into a lesson.
- Regret teaches.
- Fear protects.
- Sadness releases.
- Joy uplifts.
- Empathy unites.
Let’s unpack one that we can all relate to: anxiety. Anxiety equals uncertainty multiplied by powerlessness.
The causes of anxiety—probably 95 percent of them—can be distilled down to what we don’t know and what we can’t control.
If we know that the combustible product of uncertainty and powerlessness creates anxiety, we can create what I call an Anxiety Balance Sheet to turn this around.
- Create four columns on a piece of paper.
- Think of something that's making you anxious.
- Head the first column: “What do I know?” about this issue.
- Head the second column: “What don’t I know?”
- Head the third column: “What can I influence?”
- Head the fourth column: “What Can’t I Influence?”
- Enter at least one item per column (you may find a half-dozen candidates for some).
About 80 percent of people I’ve worked through this with are surprised that they have more items listed in Columns 1 and 3 (the “good” columns) than they do in Columns 2 and 4.
The reality is that when something is making us anxious, we tend to fixate on those elements that feel mysterious (what we don’t know) or uncontrollable (what we can’t influence). So, there’s some liberation in just outlining what’s making you crazy and realizing that there may be many balancing positives to those issues that are vexing you.
Now, review the items in Column 2 (what you don’t know). Is there someone you trust who can help you gather information that will move this item from Column 2 to Column 1? Maybe you can do a Google search or talk with your boss or spouse.
Look at Column 4 and ask yourself, “Am I completely powerless about the items on this list?” I’ve found that having a friend sit with me can sometimes help me uncover ways to move items from Column 4 to Column 3.
Just the act of unpacking your anxiety bag and knowing what’s inside can have a profound effect on reducing your fear of the future.
The more the external world becomes chaotic, the more we rely upon internal logic. Emotional Equations helps you to unpack happiness, despair, curiosity and much more. Plus, it shows you how to create your own equations and become the chief emotions officer of your own life.
Read a free chapter of Conley’s book, Emotional Equations: Simple Truths for Creating Happiness + Success on his website.