Why this book?
As public schools have declined and the number of private, charter, and homeschooling continues to increase, the lack of confidence seems to be increasing in school cultures. I have previously posted a book summary of Marshall’s book (2007) What got you here won’t get you there. The title intrigued me and I believe this is true. What you currently have in knowledge and skills probably won’t be enough for future challenges. Think about education in the future. We are getting better. We are not getting better fast enough to keep pace with the demands of a changing world. See one of my New Rules: Choose Your VUCA.

Goldsmith, M. (2009). Mojo. New York: Hyperion.

Marshall Goldsmith is one of the premier business coaches in American. His clients are CEOs and C-suite leaders. There is a growing number of business and educators getting trained to use his process. I am one of them.

When I was asked several years ago to do keynotes and seminars on how to keep hope alive in the school, Mojo was one of the resources I use for ideas to share with other educators. “Mojo is that positive spirit toward what we are doing now that starts from the inside and radiates to the outside.” People go into education, overwhelmingly, because they want to make a difference. Trust me, it is not test scores, money, prestige, etc.

The following are four elements Goldsmith identifies that contribute to having Mojo.
1. Identity – What do you think you are? I didn’t ask you to analyze how you think other people see you. I want to know who you think you are? Without a firm handle on our identity, we may never be able to understand why we gain or lose our Mojo.
2. Achievement – What have you done lately? These are accomplishments that have meaning and impact. We will look at achievements from two perspectives; a) What we bring to the tasks and b) what the task gives to us.
3. Reputation – Who do other people think you are? What do other people think you’ve done latterly? Reputation is the scoreboard kept by others.
4. Acceptance – What can you change, and what is beyond your control? Acceptance is being realistic about what we can and cannot change in our lives and accommodating ourselves to those facts.
Question: What is the one quality that differentiates truly successful people from everyone else? The Short Answer is: Truly successful people spend a large part of their lives engaging in activities that simultaneously provide meaning and happiness. Truly successful people have Mojo.

As educators are continually asked to do more, I heard this analogy from Art Costa, ‘Schools are like cemeteries.’ We keep adding things and nothing ever leaves. In the end, people finally can’t take the overload and seeing their efforts showing little or no results. People leave the profession. As the attrition continues, I ask, “what then?” Don’t tell me we don’t have enough teachers. We do. They are choosing not to teach. The question to answer is, ‘why are teachers choosing not to teach?’. One part of this is lack of mojo. Other reasons include the culture of schools, lack of resources, diminishing public support, and the list goes on. The four attributes above are a good guideline to follow.

The good news is that nearly all of the challenges we’ll deal with here have simple, not easy, solutions. There is a difference between simple and easy. Positive Spirit is unambiguous. It is a feeling of optimism and satisfaction. It conveys both happiness and meaning.

There is an opposite of Mojo. Goldsmith calls is NOJO. It is a negative spirit that kills motivation and willingness. He also mentions another aspect. It is for those of us, me included, who want to get into action perhaps too quickly. He calls is GOJO.

There are two forms of Mojo in most of our lives.
1. Professional Mojo which is a measure of the skills and attitudes we bring to any activity
2. Personal Mojo which is measured by the benefits that a particular activity gives back to us

Below are examples of what Goldsmith writes about the difference between MOJO and NOJO.
Take responsibility Play the victim
Move forward March in place
Run the extra mile Satisfied with the bare minimum
Love doing it Feel obligated to do it
Appreciate opportunities Tolerate requirements
Make the best of it Endure it
Inspirational Painful to be around
Grateful Resentful
Caring Indifferent
Zest for Life Zombie-like
Awake Asleep

The following are five elements that most of us want to bring to work and home. Being able to demonstrate these five helps us be a positive force in the world.
1. Motivation
2. Knowledge
3. Ability
4. Confidence
5. Authenticity

Here are the benefits of being able to access the resources noted above. Many of these are found in other resources. I would suggest the educators, parents, students, and community all want these five.
1. Happiness
2. Reward
3. Meaning
4. Learning
5. Gratitude

Being a leadership coach I was struck by the following. How many facilitators, colleges, seminar leaders can answer this question, “Does anyone who goes to these leadership sessions every really change?”

Marshall said The answer is “I don’t know.” We did a study with 86,000 respondents. Conclusion: Very few people achieve positive, lasting change without ongoing follow-up. Unless they know at the end of the week, month, etc., that someone is going to measure if they’re doing what they promised to do, most people fall prey to inertia. They continue doing what they were doing.

One thing I have learned from my experience as a principal, leadership coach, teacher, and professional development leader is without follow-up, there is very little chance of sustainable change. Actually, this was one of our basic tenets at the National Staff Development Council, now called Learning Forward. Dennis Sparks and Stephanie Hirsh were strong advocates for ongoing follow up. Joyce and Showers (2002) in their 3rd edition provide research that gives strong support for this concept.

One of the greatest obstacles to changing our Mojo is the paralysis we create with self-limiting definitions of who we are.
Professional Mojo is what we bring to the job. If we have the motivation, ability (or skill) understanding (or knowledge), confidence, and authenticity needed to excel, we will be “winners” in terms of achieving goals.
Personal Mojo is what the job brings to us. If we find happiness, meaning, reward, learning, and gratitude in what we are doing, we will define ourselves as “winners.”

Teachers, police officers, firefighters, and social workers are not different. They don’t go into these jobs for the money. They don’t do it for the glory and applause. Their self-assessment of how well they do the job is more meaningful to these people than what their superiors think. They are performers. To them, acting is its own reward.

Mojo Dilemma – the mismatch between what people are giving to the job and what the job was giving to them.

Would you rather be smart or effective? One of the most pernicious impulses among successful people is our overwhelming need to prove how smart we are. It is drilled into us. It’s pernicious because the need to be the “smartest person in the room” often leads to some incredibly stupid behavior. It leads to dumb arguments, in which we fight to prove that we’re right and someone else is wrong. I will always vote for effective. If I cannot help someone change, I will walk away.

Reputation Questionnaire

1. Name six “great” personal moments in the last 12 months in your world. You can consult your calendar but not your colleagues.
2. What made these moments “great?” Did it make you look good, add to your reputation, benefit the organization?
3. In what way, if any, did these moments resemble one another?
4. Can you identify the personal quality embodied in that resemblance?
5. On a scale of 1-10 how well known are these “great” moments to people you work with?
6. On a scale of 1-10, how much would the people you work with agree with the personal qualities described in your answer to question #4?
7. Name six “bad” personal moments in the last 12 months.
8. What made these moments “bad?”
9. What did they have in common?
10. Can you identify the personal quality they and in common?
11. On a scale of 1-10 how well known are these “bad” moments to other people, you work with?
12. On a scale of 1-10, how much would the people you work with agree with the personal qualities described in your answer to question #10?
13. Which answer, to question #4 or #10 is most likely your current reputation? Or is it both?
What are you going to do about it?

Great Western Disease – anyone who says or thinks the phrase, “I’ll be happy when…” and then fills in the blank. Usually, the answer is something external. Maybe start with yourself and see how the world around you changes.

Mojo Killers: What kills Mojo in a career?
· Missing the big opportunity
· Getting passed over for a promotion
· Getting demoted
· Losing a lot of money
· Getting fired
· Going bankrupt

Here are some of the ways people go from Mojo to Nojo:

1. Over-Committing – this trap is that everybody wants to rub up against you in some way. They want you in their meeting; they seek out your opinion of an idea; they ask you to run a project for them. People with high Mojo tend to be assaulted with opportunities. So you say, “yes” to everything. Take some unbooked days for reading, writing or simply chilling out. These days are very valuable.
2. Waiting of the Facts to Change – In the training of lawyers, we were to respond to a set of circumstances. At no point in these classroom exercises did any of my classmates say, “I’m going to wait until the situation changes.” They sit and say, “I’ll be ok when the economy changes.” That is the opposite of what they were trained to do in law school. They are waiting for the facts to change back to something they can understand, something more palatable. They are denying the evidence right in front of them.
3. Looking for Logic in All the Wrong Places. The world is not a particularly rational place. Humans are profoundly illogical. Yet we devote many of our waking hours to trying to find logic in situations where no logic exists. I was a math major. Once we “logical thinkers” make peace with the fact that all decisions are made by real people, not logical computers, life gets easier, we make more of a positive difference, and we are happier.
4. Bashing the Boss. A company named DDI did some research that showed the average American spends 15 hours a month criticizing or complaining about their boss. I did a study of 200 people and found they were correct. Maybe our real national pastime is boss bashing, not baseball. Trashing the boss when he or she is not in the room makes the most eloquent shiner appear small and cowardly. They may also wonder what you are saying about them out of earshot. (Bill’s note: I have been guilty of this and I commit to changing that unproductive behavior. If you can’t speak to the boss directly, to deal with the issue, it probably will never get better).
5. Refusing to Change Because of “Sunk Costs,” A sunk cost is a cost that cannot be recovered once incurred. You write a check for $200 for tickets to a play only to find out the understudy is performing. You already paid. You have to decide whether or not to go. $200.00 is gone.

Here is a time waster and Mojo Killer – It’s about pointless arguments.
Four Pointless Arguments. It is worth arguing over true injustices in the workplace and in the world. Pyrrhic victories that are not worth the cost of engagement cost time, money, and energy.
1. Let Me Keep Talking. It is hard for smart, committed people (more so for stubborn) to just “let it go.” “Be Quiet Already” comes in many forms for “Shut Up” to “I appreciate your input.” These include decision-makers cutting you off in mid-sentence and asking, “Anything else on your mind?” A great slogan is “Challenge UP and support DOWN.”
2. I Had it Rougher than You. It is pointless, almost perverse bragging. What does the winner of these arguments win? You end up glorifying your past for all its deficiencies and all the suffering it brought upon you.
3. Why Did You Do That? People do things that annoy or enrage us, and it’s almost impossible to get to the bottom of why they did them, yet we waste hours trying. In almost all cases, negative attributions are met with hostility. You can never “prove” the other person had ill intent.
4. It’s Not Fair. Are you kidding me? Not so long ago we fought the civil war with half the people thinking slavery was a good thing. We used to have sweatshops. Most companies believe workers have some right and treat people with respect.

These four ‘losing’ arguments have the same end result. We don’t change the outcome. We don’t help our organizations or our families. We don’t help ourselves. We only lower our Mojo.

Goldsmith identifies several strategies called a Mojo Toolkit. Here are some of them. A more complete list is in the book. Read it.
• Establish Criteria That Matter to You. Once I said, “If you don’t know what’s making you unhappy, why don’t you tell me what would make you happy.” My job is understanding interpersonal behavior, so talking to new people is a good way of getting fresh material. If someone is going to make me smarter, I’ve got all the time in the world for them. Worst case, it won’t make me dumber.
• Take Away One thing. Most of us don’t employ the power of subtraction in our lives at least until it is too late. Most of us don’t change unless we are compelled to change. The world is normally set up for addition, adding things like money, friends, productivity, etc.
• Rebuild One Brick at a Time. Anne Lamont, Bird by Bird, The toughest part of any creative endeavor is to begin. Any major change is 12-18 months. “It’s not about you. They need 12 – 18 months to accept that you have changed.”
• Live Your Mission in the Small Moments Too. Drucker’s five questions. Number one was: “What is your mission?” If you cannot figure out where you are going or how to get there it doesn’t matter what you do. You don’t write a mission statement. You live it and breathe it. Most organizations don’t do that.
• Swim in the Blue Water. Blue Ocean Strategy (Kim and Mauborgne) divided the marketing universe into Red Oceans, where companies outperform rivals by grabbing a greater share of existing demand, and Blue Oceans (unknown marketplace) untainted by competition where demand is created rather than fought over and the growth potential is limited only by one’s imagination.
• Reduce This Number – how much of our interpersonal communication is spend on pointless nonproductive topics? What percent of all interpersonal communication time is spent on:
· People talking about how smart, special or wonderful they are, or listening while someone else does this
· People talking about how stupid, inept, or bad someone else is or listening while someone else does.
Add up the percentage, Then ask:
· Add up the percentage that’s spent on boasting, criticizing, or listening to this.
There is no correct answer. I’m just looking for peoples subjective guesses about the nature of communicating that goes on around them or that they participate in.
• Influence Up as Well as Down – Knowledge workers are people who, because of their years of education and training know more about what they’re doing than their managers do. They don’t like feeling unappreciated by people who are generalists.
• Name It, Frame It, Claim It – Blame storming is everyone ducking responsibility for a mistake. As parents when we see our kids going to our spouse seeking permission for something that we have already denied, we have a name for that tactic: “divide and conquer.” It reminds us not to fall for this trap and that a united front will stop it cold.

Coda: You Go First
Every parent when asked, “when my children grow up, I want them to be… Happy. How about parents going first. Show kids what you have.
I find joy in my life when I am with you. Being with you – in this home or in this workplace – matters to me. You are important and what I am doing with you is important.

There are many additional great ideas in this book to Keep Hope Alive. Part of a leader’s responsibility is to keep positive energy in the system. You can’t give kids what you don’t have as a teacher. You can’t give teachers what you don’t have as a principal. You can’t give to principals and schools what you don’t have a superintendent.

As Angeles Arrien said years ago, “If your job is waking up the dead, get up, today is a workday.”


Goldsmith, M. (2007). What got you here won’t get you there.
New York: Hyperion

Joyce, B. & Showers, B. (2002). Student achievement through staff development. (3rd ed.) Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Kim, W.C. & Mauborgne, R. (2005). Blue ocean strategy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press