The Mid-Career GPS Podcast

218: How to Have Greater Confidence and Career Certainty with Heather Sumlin

January 25, 2024 John Neral Season 4
The Mid-Career GPS Podcast
218: How to Have Greater Confidence and Career Certainty with Heather Sumlin
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Has hard work kept you from achieving the success you desire? 

That question may seem counterintuitive to what you’ve learned and believed, but hard work doesn’t always equate to success. 

Whether you are in the corporate board room or on the athletic field, your thoughts and self-image are either helping you or holding you back. 

I am joined by Heather Sumlin. Heather is one of my coaches who has tremendously helped me in my life and career, and I’m excited to share our conversation as Heather shares her best tips to help you crush your next interview or whatever you’re facing in your career with greater confidence and certainty. 

Connect with Heather.
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John Neral:

Has hard work kept you from achieving the success you desire? That question may seem counterintuitive to what you have learned and believed, but hard work doesn't always equate to success. Whether you're in the corporate boardroom or on the athletic field, your thoughts and self-image are either helping you or holding you back. Today, I am joined by Heather Sumlin. Heather is one of my coaches who has tremendously helped me in my life and career, and I am excited to share our conversation, as Heather shares her best tips to help you crush your next interview, or whatever you're facing, with more confidence and greater certainty. Let's get started. Hello, my friends, this is the Mid-Career GPS Podcast, and I'm your host, John Neral. I help mid-career professionals find a job they love, or love the job they have, using my proven four-step formula. I've known Heather Sumlin for years. She has been my mental coach for the sport of bowling and through our work together, she has helped me on and off of the lanes. Specializing in self-image training, goal setting, interview preparation, as well as subjectively graded competitive outlets for clients competing in a variety of sports and industries, Heather helps her clients unlock their greatest potential, and her clients have won world championships, national and state-level competitions and have received international awards and global recognition in their sport or industry. Heather is a master-level certified mental management system instructor and she brings her 16 years of experience and support to help you make a huge mindset shift for your next interview, annual review meeting or anything you are facing in your life or career. It is my pleasure to introduce you to Heather Sumlin. Hey there, heather. Welcome to the podcast. I am so excited to talk to you today.

Heather Sumlin:

I'm excited to be here. I'm so glad you asked me.

John Neral:

Oh, I've been wanting to ask you for a while and to have an opportunity to sit down and talk with you. You have an amazing career story and we're going to get to that. But in large part your career story is heavily influenced by your dad, and your mom too. But your dad has some fame and notoriety that I'm not sure a lot of my listeners may know about. Would you please tell us about your dad?

Heather Sumlin:

My father is an Olympic champion and prior to becoming an Olympic champion he was well, let's go back, let's tell the story right. Okay, he was in sixth grade. He was in class and the teacher was talking about the Olympics and said somebody in this class could be an Olympic champion someday. I wonder who would have the best chance. And the kid sitting next to my dad said I don't know who'd have the best chance, but I know for sure who'd have the worst chance and pointed out my father. He was slow, short, uncoordinated, the least likely kid to actually make it on an Olympic team. He did make the Olympics because that day that dream, that Olympic dream, was born and he started researching and learning and desiring to be an Olympian. And he found a sport that would take a slow, short, uncoordinated person to the Olympics and that's rifle shooting. He became very skilled. Hard work got him to the Olympics, but hard work kept him from winning. So he's at the Olympic Games 1972, his first time out, and he over-tried in competition. He cared too much. He was technically capable of winning the gold medal because he and his teammate were training alongside each other and his teammate was the current world champion. My father was capable of beating him in practice and no one else on the planet could touch his scores. So the fact that my father had the capability was amazing and he thought well, I'm going to win the Olympics, make my 11-year-old self happy right away. And that didn't happen because he was overwhelmed by extra thoughts, added pressure that he put on himself. He just didn't have his mindset in the right spot. So he started interviewing Olympic champions to find out what they were doing differently about the mental game, created mental management based on that research, upgraded to it and in 1974, he competed in the World Championships equipped with the mental management system he created, and he dominated that competition. He won 15 medals, eight of them are gold, became the number one ranked shooter in the world, and in 1976 he won the Olympics, and then in 1978, he repeated as world champion. So he became very, very consistent. He went from not winning anything to winning everything, and it was all because he changed the way that he was thinking, and so that started. The company that he runs, the mental management system, started in 1977, and he's been teaching people across the globe ever since.

John Neral:

I am so honored and blessed that I've had an opportunity to be in the same room as your dad yes and learn from him for two days and go to lunch and get a chance to talk to him in everything, because what you all do at mental management systems and you have worked with athletes across a variety of sports my sport of choice happens to be bowling, as you know, because for many years and you still continue to be you have been my mental coach for bowling and you have helped me tremendously in that regard. The whole thought and notion about quieting your mind and being able to play at your best is something that your dad truly mastered and yet also has been able to share that with so many athletes around the globe. He and your entire family are phenomenal in that regard.

Heather Sumlin:

Thank you. Yeah, thank you, it's so much fun.

John Neral:

Oh gosh, yeah, and there's a really touching story, if you could just share, about your dad and a fellow competitor, Margaret Murdock. Could you share that story with us please?

Heather Sumlin:

Yes, in 1976, my father and Margaret had both made the Olympic team In rifle shooting. They only take two Americans to the Olympics, so it was my father and Margaret. Margaret was the only female competing and at that time the men and women competed with each other. Now it's separate, and I think Margaret had a lot to do with that. She was at the beginning of the sport where you can tell there really aren't a lot of physical advantages one way or another. But she was capable, obviously because they shot the same score. At the Olympic Games my father won the tiebreaker, which was the last 10 shots in kneeling position, and so he was just a better kneeling shooter than her. That didn't make him better, that just meant he won the tiebreaker, and so he didn't think it was fair that they didn't have a shoot off. They didn't have some way to do a duplicate gold medal. He was really frustrated that she wasn't going to get the same honor as him when she shot the same score. So he couldn't get her a medal. But what he could do is give her the opportunity to stand on the top podium with him during the national anthem. He was silver medalist in 1972. So he knows what it feels like to be below the gold medalist. He says you know, it looks on the podium like there's not much of a difference, but it feels like that gold medalist is a thousand feet higher than you and when they're playing the same anthem and it's your country's song, you notice when you're not on that top tier. And he didn't want her to experience that and so at the first beat of the national anthem he brought her up to the top podium. It was so cool and it just shows that my dad wasn't focused on himself, he was focused on I want her. I can't give her much, but I can give her this. And because this is not about me, this is about the fact that both of us shot the same score. And to this day he will tell you he would like for her I believe she's passed now but he would like for her to have that gold medal.

John Neral:

It speaks volumes to your dad's character and what he stands for. And if anybody goes and searches Lanny Basham and you read the wiki, the Wikipedia article on him, it's in that article. But to me it is one of the most amazing stories in sport that so many people don't know about.

Heather Sumlin:

Funny story too is that the media had caught wind that dad was going to do something and so they all thought he was going to deny the gold medal and refuse it, which is crazy. He was never going to refuse the gold medal, but because they all thought he was going to make some sort of big stink about it, everybody showed up, even sports illustrated. So my father was in sports illustrated because they were all there and no one shows up for the medal ceremony for rifle shooting. But it was full of people and full of media and he said it was so cool because she was able to get that experience but also get some media publicity too.

John Neral:

Nice.

Heather Sumlin:

Unintentional, but it worked.

John Neral:

Yeah Well, I remember when I was in Texas and I attended a two-day training at Metal Management Systems and we got to meet in person and got to work with your dad and everything. And I remember when I was leaving you were getting ready for a big workshop or training with the clients whom you particularly help. And I'm wondering if you can tell our listeners who are the people you particularly coach in your business right now.

Heather Sumlin:

So I work mainly in subjective graded sports and pageantry is my number one market, and then actually, pageantry and dog handling are my two biggest markets. I've been involved in pageantry the longest. I used to participate when I was younger and then became a director for a really short period of time and then came on as a sponsor for the Miss Texas Organization back in 2006. So I've been involved in coaching and developing, mentoring women who are pursuing that dream, and that's a lot of fun for me. I find it interesting enough because we're talking about career building and that kind of thing. I believe that the best thing that a young woman can do in order to prepare for career is to compete in pageantry, because the skills that you learn the networking skills, the communication skills, the interviewing skills, the discipline, the punctuality, the things that are necessary to do well are all things that are necessary to do well in the corporate field. So I think it's a great preparation for those who are interested. Obviously, not everybody's going to be interested, but if you're in high school, college and you want to have a career, you might as well develop all those skills and it's a great way to do it and you can earn scholarship money in the same time.

John Neral:

They're incredible skills that absolutely reap the benefits for one's entire life. Heather, at the time of this recording, we are talking just a few days after the Miss America pageant, which you just got back from. Tell us how that went.

Heather Sumlin:

It was really fun. I took my daughter she's 19. She's a budding photographer, and so we had a lot of fun and I had several clients competing. I work as you know. I mean I sponsored the Miss Texas Organization, and both of their title holders did really well. Natalie Paveida, who is Miss Texas Teen, placed third runner up to Miss America's Teen, and then Ellie Brough, who is Miss Texas, placed first runner up to Miss America. That's the best we've done since Shaila Phillips, who was one of my very first clients ever. She placed first runner up at Miss America in 2007. And so it is so fun to be able to be in the audience and watch girls reach their dreams and do their best. Every one of my clients performed up to their potential, which is the goal. We can't control results, but we can at least control ourselves, and that was the goal. So that's really cool, too, to be able to watch people that you have trained and that you've gotten to know perform really well on a national stage so fun.

John Neral:

I want to highlight what you just said, which is, we cannot control results, but we can control ourselves. Yes, that's something in our work rang very, very true for my performance, but talk to us a little bit more about what it means to be completely detached from the outcome and focus solely on what you, as an individual, can control in your process.

Heather Sumlin:

So I'm going to tie it to the Miss America competition for a minute, because it's the only sport I can think of. I'm going to call it a sport. Maybe some people disagree, but I'm going to call it a sport. It is the only sport that I can think of where your life changes when you win Most other sports, you continue to go back and train and do it again, go back and train, do it again, but nothing really changes, except maybe you get a higher level, maybe you get an award, maybe you win some money, and in pageantry especially Miss America your life completely changes. You have a full-time position. The woman that won Miss America won $60,000 in scholarships becomes Miss America for your travels to the nation. It changes you. So the desire for it is very, very high, and everybody wants it or I say everybody. The majority of the girls are going to want it, and so you are focused on. Outcome is probably the temptation is to focus on outcome, but that is actually going to hurt you in the end, because if you're focused on outcome, then you're going to put more pressure on yourself than what is required to do your job well, and so, therefore, we have to replace that temptation and not give it into it and replace it with something else. So we teach a mental management system what to think about before, during and after a task, and really controlling those thoughts before you walk on stage. Controlling those thoughts before you walk into an interview is very important. Controlling those thoughts during an interview or during each phase of competition is also important, and how you speak to yourself afterwards, in some cases, even more important, because that's where your self-image and your true belief in you changes the most, and so, therefore, we need to be controlled before, during and after a task, no matter what that task is, and so being really more process oriented and outcome centered. That's the goal, and I don't care what competition you're doing, whether it's a job interview, whether it's golf game, whether it's, you know, bowling, pageantry, I don't care. You need to control those thoughts so that you can actually range the outcome you desire.

John Neral:

Hey there, we'll get back to the episode in a moment, but I've got a quick question for you. Are you currently getting ready for your annual performance appraisal? These can sadly feel like a check the box kind of meeting, when in reality they are important and necessary conversations to discuss what you've done well, develop some new goals and talk about where your career is headed. But here's the thing you have to show up for these meetings prepared to talk about all of it, and you can't rely on your supervisor to know everything. After all, they're busy too. But you can help them by showing up to these meetings with more evidence and greater clarity about what you want and why you believe you are ready for your next advancement opportunity. So to help you, I've got a free guide it is called 12 Questions to Help you Prepare for your annual performance review. You can download it for free on my website at johnneral. com or check under the Resources tab, and I'll have a link for it in the show notes as well. Let me help you build your mid-career GPS and be more prepared for your upcoming performance review. Now back to the episode. One of the things I learned and I continue to hold on to very tightly about our work together was really detaching myself from the outcome. So when I'm competing in a tournament that ball's off my hand, I can't control anything that happens after that. The only thing I can control is watching it right. So it could be the best shot off my hand. I could still get nine, but it's still the best shot I executed off my hand and that's a win, right? That's an opportunity for me to reinforce what we worked on in my process and self-image in terms of implementing that system that we worked on. So let's take this a step further. For the person who's listening and they're thinking about an upcoming job interview. What advice can you give them to help them with the before, during and after that allows them to show up fully present for the job interview and focusing solely on only what they can control?

Heather Sumlin:

So you may not have time for me to go into everything, but I'm going to give some tips. Okay, before you enter the room.

John Neral:

I'm laughing because I'm sorry I've interrupted. I'm laughing because I asked that question and I was like, oh, there's no way she could answer that succinctly. It felt like I set you up to fail almost. I'm sorry about that but you're good, you'll get it.

Heather Sumlin:

Well, let's tackle what is the interview for and not for a job. It's an opportunity to connect, it's an opportunity to share, it's an opportunity to open up, and I think when people put too much pressure on themselves that they have to act a certain way, live up to a certain mold or be something that they think the interviewer wants to see, that's going to be the opposite of what you really want. So one recommendation I would have. So some of this is technical, some of it's mental, and I'm just going to throw what I feel like you know me. I'm just going to tell you what I think in the moment. When you're preparing to walk into that room, number one, you need to know what is the job you're applying for and what are the skills that you possess that make you qualified for that job. And not just what are the skills, but why do you possess them. And I would spend some time really analyzing why you're prepared, why you're ready, why you're qualified. And before you enter that room, I remind yourself now there's more to it. There's like a nine step process and there's so much that we could talk about. But I do give a free 20 minute evaluation call if anybody wants to learn more and how to apply it to themselves. But the quick tip is you've got to control your nerves, you've got to control your thoughts and you've got to walk in from a place of confidence and certainty that you belong in the room that you're entering and that you're qualified enough for the position and you're ready to share why. And I don't hear whether it is an interview for a pageant, an interview for a corporate job, an interview for McDonald's, I don't care. At the end of the day, you need to walk in confident that you are someone they should consider for the position and you can see yourself doing that job.

John Neral:

That's so helpful. Because when you talk about having that confidence and certainty, a lot of times and I see this with the people I work with is that they'll get to a first round interview and they'll almost dismiss it Like, oh, I should just get the first round in, like no, no, no, no, you got selected. There was hundreds of people that probably applied for this position and in this first round they want to talk to you. So how do you build that relationship in a way, and I always say like it gets a hiring manager more interested in who they are and what they do as opposed to finding them interesting. Right and so to have that kind of confidence in that certainty. But when you talk about calming nerves and understandably, anybody that's going for a job interview and I would offer probably 95% of them really, really want the job you know or they're in that process going yeah, this might work out kind of a thing when you think about controlling the nerves, what advice could you give someone to help them avoid being overly convincing about their abilities?

Heather Sumlin:

Overly convincing about their abilities.

John Neral:

Yeah, so like a person that feels like they have to convince that they're a hard worker, they're a great communicator, like things that are taken for granted, but they feel like they need to convince in order that they think that's going to help them move on to the next round.

Heather Sumlin:

I think when we look at the word convince, that means that the other person is not on board, right? So then you're having to almost argue your way in, and so that's a very defensive way to look at an interview. I would rather someone have the mindset I'm excited to share my experiences and make a connection. It's a different posture. It's not so forceful, it's not demanding. I also I'm a person who believes that whatever's supposed to happen is going to happen, so let's not try to control everything. But I also think that when you walk in the room and you feel like you belong in the room, you don't have to try to convince someone else that you belong in the room because you already know what you do. And if you earned the right to walk in the room because your resume got you there, you belong in the room you were invited in. And so I think having that mindset of I was chosen to participate in this next step of this interview process for this position. I don't care if you're a hundred person qualified for it or not, it doesn't matter. They invited you in the room. Your job is to answer the questions that they ask in a way that confirms that they made the right decision to invite you in the room. It doesn't. You're confirming, you're not convincing, there's a difference and anything. You have to stop trying so stinking hard and start trusting you belong in the room.

John Neral:

Yeah, you get this because it's like one of the most powerful things we do as coaches. It's like, yeah, stop trying so dead on hard, just let it happen, show up from that place and, like you said, know that you belong in the room.

Heather Sumlin:

I think also, if you're nervous to walk in, that's normal. I would think, if you don't have nerves and it's something you really care about and you don't have nerves, I would think, well, what's wrong? Then you don't really want it. So it's okay to be nervous, that's okay. It's for you to have a negative attitude about how you feel.

John Neral:

Oh, wow, you just took me back because I remember when we first started working together and out on tour we have the regional tour. We typically have an eight game qualifying block. We either cut the field to the top third or the top 16 and on Sunday we go into finals. And so I remember during our work you would ask me one time about where my nerves were and I was like, well, I feel really comfortable bowling qualifying because I've done it so much. You just haven't gotten a Sunday, a whole lot. And we were debriefing after a tournament one time and you asked me something about where were your nerves at and I was like, oh, like it got down to this final game in the match and I was so nervous and you were like you just care, you just care, it's just important to you yeah, that was it.

Heather Sumlin:

It better be, it's supposed to be, and then that's the thing for it. I think that's the one thing. That's the one thing that I'll tell people Invite the feelings in, don't fight them away. Yeah, invite it, don't fight it. If you're fighting it, they get bigger. Okay, I'm like, let's not get them bigger, invite it in, like I'm glad I feel this way. My body's releasing adrenaline. I need adrenaline. This matters to me, this is important to me. Okay, great, I'm glad that I feel differently than I do when I'm at home, because when I'm at home, I'm not getting about to do anything super exciting.

John Neral:

Yeah, yeah, and invite those feelings in and just acknowledge that they're there as part of the experience. Like you said too, don't make them bigger.

Heather Sumlin:

Yeah, but you start fighting them, they're gonna start getting bigger, don't?

John Neral:

That's kind of counterproductive.

Heather Sumlin:

That's right. Don't poke the bear.

John Neral:

Don't poke the bear Absolutely. So, keeping in mind about how people can adopt a better mindset and prepare for their interviews, what advice would you give somebody who is asked a question that they're not sure of how to answer or their mind goes blank? And I'm willing to guess probably in all of your coaching in pageantry that that's probably happened to a client somewhere along, where they got asked a question during the interview process and they were like everything just kind of went out of my head. What advice do you have to help them kind of just collect and gather their thoughts to get them back on track?

Heather Sumlin:

I think number one don't expect yourself to be anything but human, and humans lose their train of thought and humans have a misspeak, I'll say, occasionally. And so don't expect yourself to be superhuman. Expect yourself to be human. Therefore, don't get upset about not having the right words at the right time and just be honest about that. Even if you have to say and it depends on the situation, probably but even if you have to say, okay, I'm gonna have to think about this one for a minute, give me just a second. That's fair, that's honest. And don't lie, don't make something up Right, but be honest about where you are and in most cases, they're asking you questions about you and you're the world's authority on you. So stop thinking you're going to be tricked or they're going to ask something really hard. Most cases are asking your opinion on certain things, or maybe there's scenario-based questions based on your experience, but there's not right or wrong answers to people. They're just your answers. So be okay with sharing your thoughts. Nothing wrong with that.

John Neral:

And I like what you said about taking a pause to just think about that for a moment and letting them know it's a strategy that any job candidate can use to just buy them a few seconds, which will seem like minutes when you're sitting there thinking about it, but the hiring manager is probably like, okay, good, you're going to take some time to think about it, that's okay.

Heather Sumlin:

I kind of want to talk to an employee.

John Neral:

Yeah, how nice would that be. Use the time Well. It doesn't make you look like a robot?

Heather Sumlin:

Yeah, and then you're not a robot. You're an actual human being who can carry on a conversation, who has thoughtful responses, who isn't perfect, and that's fine, because we're going to mentor you and help you. It's all good.

John Neral:

Yeah, yeah, exactly. So if anybody listening has an upcoming job interview, it's okay to just pause and say that's a great question. Let me think about that for a moment. You can gather your thoughts. You're human, it's okay. Yeah, heather, I you know I could talk to you for hours, I know.

Heather Sumlin:

It'd be so fun?

John Neral:

It would. It'd be absolutely fun, but in the essence of time, we're going to start wrapping up here. So you've shared with us a lot of great tips and information about how anybody can just show up for a job interview or show up in their career, and you've used so many great examples from your background, and your dad's background as well, to help people show up very authentically and genuinely. What advice would you give someone listening today to help them build their mid-career GPS to whatever is next for them in their career?

Heather Sumlin:

One thing that we haven't talked about yet is the importance of self-image. So and I think this is vital no matter what you're wanting to do, whether this has to do with career or sport, or communication with relationships your self-image is more important than you might think, and your self-image is built up or torn down based on imprints. So the more you think about, talk about and write about the things that you focus on, the influences of others, all of that is imprints onto your self-image. So here's why it matters. My father created the mental management model, which shows that there's the conscious mind. Those are your thoughts. The subconscious mind is your skills how well you prepare, and your self-image is your habits and attitudes. You are going to perform up to your self-image, not your skill. So you can be as skilled as possible. You can have all the skills in the world, but if you don't believe you belong in the room, if you don't believe that you can do it, you're going to perform up to your belief, not your ability, and so you absolutely have to pay attention to building your self-image, not just your skill set, and that's the thing that I specialize in is helping people to be able to create a self-image that's in line with their skill and also control their thoughts at the same time. And so you have to be balanced, you have to have your thoughts controlled by you, you have to be skilled to walk in the room and you have to believe you belong there. I don't care what the interview is or what. Maybe there's a promotion that you're up for, but if you don't believe you deserve it, you don't believe you belong. You're going to perform up to that belief, and that's a disservice to you.

John Neral:

I'm going to let that sit there. That's a powerful, powerful message, and you talked earlier about belonging in the room and it just ties into that so nicely that there's a reason why you're there and you're having that conversation and having that self-image align and truly support and promote who you are and what you do. I know that was a huge part of our work together and I can never thank you enough for it. You're welcome. It's so fun too, yeah, absolutely All right. Heather, if people want to connect with you, learn more about you, work with you, I'm going to turn the mic over to you. My friend, please share us all the good things.

Heather Sumlin:

Easiest way to find me. If you're on Instagram, it's just at Heather Sommlin. If you are on LinkedIn, you can look me up Heather Sommlin. My website is Heather Sommlin, so I'm very easy to find. My company name is Sommlin Solutions. And then the podcast. I started a podcast recently called she Wins Solutions and Stories for Women my primary market. I've been working with mainly women and so that's my primary market. It doesn't mean I can't help it A man, it's just I connect really well with women and so that's my primary market at the moment. So she Wins Solutions and Stories for Women on YouTube or Spotify or Apple Podcast. And then I have a Patreon channel connected to that, so there's a membership channel and there's a women only section. I have a level for dog handlers and I have a level for pageantry and I'm excited about that because I add exclusive content every single week to help people just be able to be more balanced when they compete in whatever it is that they're doing, and it's for all women. It doesn't matter if you're competing in anything we are. Well, let's place it. We're all competing for something, even if it's attention Like we're competing for something and our kids are too. So if you're a parent, your kids are competing, and I have some books and things like that on my website, webinars every now and again, so I'd love to connect.

John Neral:

Well, I will make sure all of that is in the show notes. Heather Sumlin, I can't wait to have you back on the podcast, but thank you so much for this conversation today.

Heather Sumlin:

You're welcome. I'm happy to come back.

John Neral:

That's great, All right. Well, my friends, if there's one takeaway I want you to leave this episode with and certainly Heather gave us a ton of them it's about confidence and certainty. Think about how you show up for your next meeting, your next day at work, your next job interview, or even the job after the one you currently have. How can you show up from a place of greater confidence and certainty because you know you belong in the room? If you work on that? That's another key component to building your mid-career GPS. So until next time, my friends, remember this You'll build your mid-career GPS one mile or one step at a time, and how you show up matters. Make it a great rest of your day. Thank you for listening to the Mid-Career GPS podcast. Make sure to follow on your favorite listening platform and, if you have a moment, I'd love to hear your comments on Apple podcasts. Visit JohnNarrowcom for more information about how I can help you build your mid-career GPS or how I can help you and your organization with your next workshop or public speaking event. Don't forget to connect with me on LinkedIn and follow me on social at JohnNarrowCoaching. I look forward to being back with you next week. Until then, take care and remember how we show up matters.

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