Find Your Weirdness And Live Your Weird Out Loud With Hayden Lee
If we want to be successful, we must start with developing ourselves. We have different skillsets and talents that we could nurture and offer to the world, no matter how weird they are. Hayden Lee joins Tony Martignetti for a conversation about how we have a specific weirdness and why it’s one of the best traits of being human. Hayden is an Executive Leadership Coach who helps high-potential individuals through self-awareness and goal finding for their personal and professional lives. He holds the title of Master Certified Coach, the highest credential possible in the coaching industry. He was awarded one of the Top 20 Best Life Coaches in Los Angeles for three consecutive years by Expertise.com. In this episode, he explains how different it was to be raised by an Asian family and why he chose not to meet their expectations. He discusses how he transitioned from educating teens to business professionals and their similarities and contrasts. Hayden also shares the powerful concept of being happy and how it all ties with success.
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Find Your Weirdness And Live Your Weird Out Loud With Hayden Lee
It is my honor to introduce you to my guest, Hayden Lee. He is a Master Certified Executive Life and Leadership Coach holding the highest credential possible in professional coaching. He works with motivated high-achieving executives, leaders, entrepreneurs and coaches who are ready for exponential growth in all areas of their lives. He's the Author of Executive Life Coach 1.0 Training Guide and the forthcoming book tentatively titled Mic Drops and Truth Bombs: The Surprising Truth Behind Why Most Coaches Will Fail. Welcome to the show, Hayden.
Thank you, Tony. What a great introduction. It's almost as if I wrote it.
I'm so thrilled to have you on this show. It's going to be so much fun to play around with you and share your story. When we have people on the show, it's great to be able to have these amazing people who have done amazing things in the world but continue to push the envelope in their areas of expertise. You are no exception to that.
Thank you. I'm excited to be here. I've been reading your blog on my walks around the neighborhood and it's inspiring. I get new insights and ideas, at the same time though, I can resonate with many of your guests because I think the same way, I'm going through a lot of the same things and have gone through a lot of the same things that they talk about. It’s exciting to be a part of this.
I'm looking forward to it. As you already know but I'll share for the sake of the rest of our readers here. What we do here is uncover what is called flashpoints in people's lives. Moments that have truly ignited your gifts to the world. We do this in a way that we let you share what you're called to share and you can start wherever you'd like. Along the way, we'll have little touch points where we can talk about what this all means and how this all comes together. With that being said, I want to leave the floor to you and let you start where you like.
If you have a mission or a dream, it has to be more important than the rejection, ridicule, and the no's you will get.
I knew this question was coming about flashpoints because I've read quite a few of these blogs by now. I've been trying to identify a specific flashpoint. I don't know if I can. Some of your other guests can easily identify a specific time when something happened in their personal life or professional life. Honestly, for me, I don't have a specific point. The reason why I say that is because how I show up in the world now is a lot of energy. I encourage people to follow their dreams. I'm a natural leader. I step up to the plate. I call people out on their BS. I'm quirky and funny yet I'm super smart. I have pretty much been that my whole life. I'm thinking about even as a kid in elementary school how I always wanted to win the multiplication table contest. I was involved in student government in 4th grade, 5th grade and 6th grade. I was student body president of the whole school. In high school, I was editor-in-chief of the yearbook.
There are so many things that I've always wanted to aspire and inspire. If I had to identify a flashpoint, maybe it would be in college and undergraduate. I was going to do pre-med and I started out doing pre-med my first two years of college. I was like, “I don't want to do this anymore.” I dropped pre-med and started taking more acting classes and theater classes, I've always had a background in that. Maybe that was a flashpoint. The decision is that I'm going to take life by the reins and I'm in control of my life. I have double-majored in Theater and in Psychology. I moved to Los Angeles and I worked as a professional actor for many years. I still am a professional actor, I still have a manager. If I had to identify flashpoints, it may have been that was a crossroads in my life where I'm like, “Am I going to go to medical school?” Knowing I didn't want to do it or create my own path.
I want to add though that maybe I don't see it as a flashpoint because I have an assumption that a flashpoint needs to be a huge epiphany or needs to be traumatic in some way. Mine wasn't. It was exciting and there was no trauma involved, which I realized is another recurring theme I've had in my life. I've been very fortunate and blessed to have a great life. I have pretty much accomplished and achieved anything I set my mind to. I have great parents and friends and I've gone on journeys where I'm like, “Let me try to find bad things in my life,” I have a hard time finding them.” Sometimes I'm like, “Is it a blind spot of mine that my life is bad that I don't know it? Is it that I truly genuinely loved my life?” That's what happens when you're a coach. You're super hyper-aware of things that you start analyzing your awareness of things.
Hearing your story is amazing because of the way that you approached all those little points in your life that there are pivot points. They're not necessarily things that were so dire or traumatic that you were like, “Now, I've got to be a different person.” You just pass over them like they're nothing. It is because you have this general feeling of like, “I'm ready for what's next.” It happens next. Think about that shifting from being in a space of going into becoming a doctor or should be in the medical field and going into acting and psychology. That's a big shift. It's almost like you've made the decision at that point that you're not following the conventions of what people may be laid out for you. The decision to go into the medical field, was that something that you decided for yourself or something that you felt like you were programmed for?
It was a combination of societal factors, cultural factors and family factors. As an Asian-American, there's a joke. You have four choices. You can be a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer or a disgrace to your parents. I clearly chose option four. As a kid, I remember in sixth grade I did my career report on being a pediatric surgeon. At the time, I don't think it was inauthentic. I was a very academic kid. I got straight-A's and I liked school, learning, and science. To answer your question with a short answer, it’s yes. The programming, that's the way it's supposed to be or that's how it should be. I was good at school.
Upon reflection, I cannot talk about anything without mentioning the Enneagram. I'm an Enneagram Specialist, accredited in Enneagram, I teach Enneagram. I'm in an Enneagram 3. Enneagram 3 is a competitive achiever, which I've already made that known that I've always been competitive, always wanted to be the top of the class, which most of the time I can but there's a darker side to success. There's a darker side to the type three achiever, which is a little bit of sadness around self-worth. I don't think, as a kid, I'm sitting around thinking about what my worthiness is how worthy am I as a sixth-grader. There is this underlying sadness that 3s have that they want to prove something or that their worth comes from achievement. With that said, I'm aware of that. I've worked hard to put that to rest and accept that I am worthy and lovable for who I am not what I achieve. Perhaps, the status of being doctors in society, it's huge. My parents are immigrants from Hong Kong so they're not too familiar with being, “What is an executive life?” They probably still don't know.
This idea is easy for especially immigrants to our country to identify with the top worthy jobs, doctor, lawyer, engineer. Those are steady, provides security and a good income. That's what my parents knew and that's what a lot of children of immigrants especially Asian-American kids, that's how it is. My point being though is I now know that my worth is who I am and who I am is someone who creates his own path. I am someone who encourages and inspires others to create his or her own path but that still drive that I wanted to prove myself that I could have been an awesome doctor. I have no doubt whatsoever that if I would have chosen that path, I would have been a great doctor. I probably would have won an award for being the best doctor in California.
It’s the same thing if I had chosen to be a lawyer, I have no doubt that I would've been on the cover of Lawyer magazine because I still have that drive in me. I would know, no matter what I choose to do. I remember when I decided in my second year in college and undergraduate. I'm like, “I'm not going to be a doctor. I don't want to do pre-med. However, I want to prove to myself that if I had chosen that path, I would have rocked it.” I took the hardest medical class there was at that time, it was a Biology class and it was the class that you had to take to continue the pre-med track.
I had already decided I was not going to go down that track but I still wanted to prove to myself that if I had chosen to, I would have rocked it. I took this class, it’s Biology for pre-med students. There are 300 students in it. I remember I set the curve for the final. I got the highest grade in the class of 300 students. I was like, “This is awesome.” I don't know if the word is affirmation, confirmation or both to myself that I'm like, “I'm choosing my own path. If I had chosen this path, I would have rocked it.” That was important to me, too, as a three as well. That me not going into medicine was not because I would not have been capable, smart and competent, it's because I simply did not want to. That was very powerful.
I love that you chose this particular part of your story to tell because we talked initially about how does this trauma envy, which sometimes people have like rising up from the ashes and creating this amazing story from the ashes. That doesn't mean that every story of greatness comes from that. Sometimes it's a simple shift of perspective. Your moment was in this element of like, “I could have been an amazing doctor.” You know you would have knocked it right out of the park because you're such a strong three but at the end of the day, your empowerment of who you're going to be was a decision to become the best coach that you could be. Realizing that coaching is not for the faint of heart and it's not a path of guaranteed success but you chose the point to go into this field. You knew you were going to be like, “I'm going to be the best coach that I could be.”
Align your choices in your decisions in life. Encourage people to follow their dreams because that’s what drives them to live their purpose.
It's about making decisions in one's life. There's such power in decision-making. This came up in my group call with some of my coaches in my group. The distinction between choosing and deciding. This idea that we have multiple choices every day. Choices are important. I could choose to eat the Doritos, go to the networking event or go to a party. The decision is making the decision on the type of person you want to be. It’s making a decision on the type of life you want, the type of business you want. As I reflect on my life, I'm fortunate that I was twenty, I decided I'm going to create the life I want. I'm very fortunate that I made that decision early because I've been creating the life that I've wanted my whole adult life. It's been awesome.
That's what it is because sometimes I rack my brain trying to find the trauma in my life, which I can't seem to find. Not to say I haven't had sad things happen. A loss of my best friend at a young age, loss of my grandma's I was close to. All those things are sad and hard, we all have those. I truly believe I have the characteristic that I've developed at a young age is grit and resilience. As I get older, I'm realizing I have naturally been gifted that. Both as a gift from God and the universe and inherited from my parents. It's been this natural gift of grit and resilience I have. I also know that grit and resilience are skillsets that you can build. I was born with quite a big dose maybe more than most people just like some people are blessed with more athletic prowess than others. That doesn't mean they don't have to work on it and continue to build that skill, it's a biological fact that some people in their DNA have more of a skillset than others. You continue to build on that skillset. Grit and resilience are skill sets that you need to learn, you need to continue to grow and work on every day. That's probably part of the reason that's led to my success.
One of my coach mentors used a word to describe me as unflappable and that stuck with me. This was years ago he was like, “Hayden, you're unflappable.” I didn't know how to take it at the time because I'm like, “What does that mean?” I do take it as a compliment and a gift that I have and that I want others to work on as a skillset. I've had many shares of rejections but you’re like, “Accept it, learn from it, allow yourself to be disappointed and move on and you do better next time.”
I love that you brought up this topic of grit because whenever I think of you, I think of this element of strong grit and it's such great quality. Tell me more about the early days of your journey into coaching because I feel like we jumped right into it but we didn't talk about what was it like in these first few years for you to build your practice.
Many years ago when I started my coaching journey and I was young and working as an SAT tutor, having professional acting gigs and going to big auditions for shows on ABC, NBC, all that stuff, I was in it. Like any actor, you're a professional auditioner, which you don't get paid for and you got to have other survival jobs. I was working as an SAT tutor and also waiting tables. You're going to go to LA, it's the only place where the waiters and bartenders have Master’s and PhDs. No joke but it's true. All of my bartending and server friends have multiple degrees. That's so funny but welcome to LA.
I liked working as an SAT tutor, working with these youth. It's a great gig. It's very lucrative especially in Los Angeles where parents who are affluent will pay a premium to get their kids into a good college. I don't want to go into the college admissions scandal but it's true. People will pay a high premium to get their kids the help they need. I didn't do anything unethical by any means whatsoever, I did help kids on their SATs but my point being that parents will do almost anything to get their kids to succeed. I was making pretty good money as SAT tutor but I realized as I was interested and more curious about these kids and asking them deeper questions like, “What are your passions? What are your dreams? Why are you working this hard? What do you want to do with your life?” They had no idea.
They didn't know. Yet they were so stressed out, their parents are investing thousands of dollars on them on the stupid SAT, yet they didn't know why they were doing it. That bothered me. I remembered there were cases of kids literally getting sick. They were so stressed out to get good grades and test scores that they would be hospitalized. It's still an epidemic in our country. I don't want to go down this rabbit hole either but the term at-risk youth has many different meanings. There is the traditional definition of at-risk youth, which is students who may be from a lower socioeconomic status or they may be in an underfunded school. They are at-risk youth. They may be from an affluent background but they are stressed and driven to succeed that they are literally taking pills and getting hospitalized.
That's a whole epidemic that we often don't talk about because we think, “They come from a family of money so they don't have any problems.” In some ways, they have more problems than most, to be honest with you. I don’t want to bring that up but that's what drew me to these bright, intelligent teens in private schools, the best education, and very stable families with great financial backgrounds. They were so lost in the world. They had no idea who they are, what they wanted to do and didn't even know why they were working so hard. It bothered me that these kids were working so hard and didn't know why. I came across an article on Yahoo about academic life coaching, which is getting trained as a life coach for teens to help them find their purpose and fulfillment in school. I'm like, “This is awesome.” I contacted the founder of that program who ended up being a good friend of mine who is still a good friend of mine. He ended up being one of my coach mentors.
I learned everything I could. He trained me and I got certified in academic life coaching, which was helping teenagers find their purpose, enjoy their life and enjoy school. It wasn't tutoring. I wasn't cracking open any textbook but as helping the students find the real answers, which is within themselves. All of a sudden, these kids’ grades are getting better, test scores are getting better yet I'm not even cracking open a book. I'm helping them crack open their insights, helping them look into their heart and soul. All of a sudden, they love their life, they are happier and they are more passionate about school. What a concept. Oftentimes in society, we think if we get good grades, we'll be happy but when we're happy, we get better grades. That's where I was coming in. I was successful at that because there still aren't many people trained specifically to help teenagers find their purpose, which will help them succeed in school.
I was doing workshops around town and I became known for that here in Southern California. The parents were noticing such transformation in their kids. They noticed their kids were taking more initiative, they’re becoming leaders, more motivated and they’re more interested and passionate about life. The parents were like, “What are you doing to my kids? What is happening?” All of a sudden, the conversations around the dinner table weren't about grades and, “Did you do your homework?” It was more about life and passions. The parents were asking if I work with adults, executives, teams and with leaders because they were surprised. They saw that if I could help change the attitude of a sixteen-year-old kid, which is the hardest demographic to change a mindset. They’re like, “Imagine what if the mindset of my sales team and leadership team at my work changed.”
When you’re a leadership coach, you are extra aware of things. As a result, you start analyzing your awareness of things.
I said, “I work with teams, corporates and executives,” but I didn't. As a three, I always say yes to opportunity if it's going to help me and other people be more successful. I got further training in executive coaching and the school I got trained at hired me to train others and create an executive life coaching program, which is the book I wrote. I got further training in professional assessments, a 360 profile and I got trained in the Enneagram. That's where it led me to where I am now. I slowly made the transition from working with teens to work with these high-achieving executives, leaders, entrepreneurs and also now, coaches. The fascinating thing is the coaching skillset is the same. Whether I'm working with a fifteen-year-old lacrosse student who is trying to step it up in his school and sports or a 55-year-old CEO, I now can proudly say I have the experience of both to be coaching both the teenager and the CEO of a multimillion-dollar company.
My mind is blown because what I'm hearing in this is this element of how badly we need to have coaching at that earlier stage and how people realize that the more you can connect with being who you want to be in being happy first and not be driven by this achieve. Having that connection to, “How can I be happy?” That will lead to success. I keep on thinking of the Shawn Achor book called The Happiness Advantage. There's something about it that is so powerful and it's badly needed now is connecting earlier with people through the power of coaching. I would love to shift gears a little bit into all of your journey from the early days of being in pre-med student to becoming the coach you are now. What are the 2 to 3 lessons that you feel you want to make sure people hear?
The first thing that comes to mind as simple and cliche as it is, is don't quit. Having worked with thousands of people by now, the only common factor for people who are successful at achieving what they want is that they didn't quit. That is the only commonality. Everyone's path to success is different. What I didn't share about my early days as a coach is that first, no one understood what I was doing. I got tons of rejections, I reached out to lots of schools and school counselors. People said no, people rejected me, hung up on me and didn't return my calls. Even close family and friends would say things like, “What do you know? Why would anyone listen to you? You're a waiter.” If you have a mission or a dream that is important to you, it has to be more important than the rejection, the ridicule and the noes that you will get.
The don't quit, it's simple but it's not easy. It's a very simple concept. If you want to finish the marathon, finish the marathon. If you want to have a successful business, work hard until you have a successful business. If you want to whip your team into shape so that your company's culture is one of learning, growth, motivation and inspiration, don't quit until your company culture is that way. I say it's simple but it's not easy because in concept it's simple, if you want to achieve something, don't quit until you get there. Why are the majority of people in our world still unfulfilled, have many dreams that have gone unfulfilled and many goals that have gone unaccomplished? It’s not because they don’t want to or they don't know what they need to do, it's because they're unwilling to do it.
I appreciate that. Anything else that you wanted to share before we go on to the next question?
As an offshoot of that, people often get stuck because they don't know what the next step is or they think they need to know the how. You don't need to know the how until you need to know your why. Simon Sinek starts with why. Most people jump to action steps without even slowing down to realize why is this important to you. Why are you doing this? It goes back to what I said. Before you embark on your journey or even if you've already started on your journey, you need to stop and make the decision on who you want to be to follow this through. In coaching, we talk about being more than doing. The concept of being, once again, it's simple but it's not easy. Being who do you want to be, who do you need to be to achieve what you want and how can you be that person now? Decide to be that person. Ask yourself, “Are my choices aligning with my decision?” Decide to be courageous. “How can I make my choices align with my decision to be courageous?”
I feel like this is the masterclass. I'm taking this all in and enjoying all of the insights. One last question. What is one book that has changed the way you think or has had an impact on your life?
The first thing I want to say is if I’m going to be completely authentic and honest, I am not a huge reader, which I know is a faux pas for someone who's in the professional development arena. Not to say I don't like to read but to be totally honest, I'm not an avid voracious reader. Not to say I don't love knowledge. I do like to read, I just don't find myself doing it often. I felt good to say that because sometimes people think, “You're a coach, you must read all the time.” I consume knowledge and information in different ways but my go-to is not reading and it is something that I want to get better at.
With that said, two books stand out. Mindset by Carol Dweck. It's very common, a lot of people know about it. The idea of the growth mindset is that you can achieve anything if you choose to. You can change your mindset if you believe that if you put effort and learning and do it, you can do it. That's been a game-changer in how I lead my life and how I coach. I have some background now in neuroscience. I’m working with two neuroscientists. I created a neuroscience of coaching course, the book Mindset and there's the neuroscience behind the brain. The brain is indefatigably plastic. It is endlessly and infinitely able to change and grow. That goes hand in hand with the book Mindset, that if you choose to put intention in wanting to improve in something, you will build neural pathways for that area. It will make that skill easier to do the more you practice it, which is summing up the Mindset book. You can either have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.
The fixed mindset, “That's hard. I can't do it,” but the growth mindset is, “That's hard but if I put effort into it, it's going to get easier. I'm going to get better at it.” What I loved about mindset, it's not about hard skills. If you have a growth mindset towards hard skills like dribbling a basketball, learning how to code and fix a leaky pipe, those are hard skillsets that with a growth mindset, you will get better at those skills. Even the soft skills, your personality is not fixed either. If you know you’re an impatient person or a stubborn person, with intention and effort you can be less stubborn, more open-minded if you choose to. That's the thing. The power is all within us.
Even within the Enneagram. The belief that I have is that even our motivation type or Enneagram type is something we're born with, where the type itself does not change. We have the power to become the best of our type, which is integrating and learning, avoiding our blind spots, avoiding the fixations that we have. That is all growth mindset. That's been the game-changer. The second book is Drive by Daniel H. Pink. That's another favorite of mine. It's a staple for many personal growth junkies. To sum that up, Daniel H. Pink says that what drives us as human beings is there are three factors. Find what you love to do, do it well and do it for a cause greater than yourself.
Often in society, we think if we get good grades, we'll be happy, but when we're happy, we get better grades.
I summarized the book. As a three, I'm very efficient. That's why I like to summarize and be efficient. That is so simple yet profound at the same time. Find what you love to do. That could be a journey in itself. Once again, luckily, I knew by age twenty, I wanted to create my own life and do what I wanted to do. Some people may not even have that epiphany until they're 50. Until they realize, “I've lived someone else's life for 50 years. I want to live my own life.” That's the first step. Find what you love to do. Do it well, that's another step. In terms of coaching, I found coaching years ago but I was committed to do it well. I was not going to be someone who hangs the shingle out on my door, I am committed.
I wanted to learn the skillset. I got my Master Coach certification, which is thousands of hours of experience and hundreds of hours of coach-specific training. Do it well is very important to me too. Daniel H. Pink, “It's not just about finding what you love to do, put it in the hours to do it well.” The third step, do it for a cause greater than yourself. That's super important too. It starts with you. You got to work on yourself and do something that you love but the second step is to make sure you're doing it that it changes other people's lives too because we don't live in silos and bubbles. That's important too. Even something as simple as we joke like underwater basket weaving. Let's say you are passionate about underwater basket weaving and you have the courage to pursue that as a career. Do it well and do it for a cause greater than yourself and you find the other weirdo underwater basket weavers out in the world. You can charge a lot for it. You can make a business out of it and impact other people's lives.
This is not part of the book Drive what I'm about to say, finding the courage to be weird. That's a huge thing. Whatever it is, when you find what you love to do, it might be a little bit weird, you got to have the courage to stand up for it and fight for your weirdness, find your weirdness and live your weird out loud. That's another thing, too. Weird is great, what makes you weird is what makes you great. We're all weird. Humans are weirdly beautiful complex creatures. When we find what makes us weird and live that out loud, that's where your power is. That's how you inspire others to find their weird. Imagine a life where everyone is the same, how boring is that? Let's create a world where all of us are so different and so amazingly weird and complex that we all talk about what makes us weird. Wouldn’t that be amazing?
That's the best place for us to end because this topic is around weirdness and embracing your redness and it inspires others. Every time I hear this concept I'm empowered to go out and be more me, be more weird. Hayden, this was fantastic. Your story, your insights, your energy, it's what people need. I thank you for sharing this.
You are so welcome. This is fun. You're a weirdo just like me, Tony, and that is the biggest compliment that I can get.
Thank you. Before we wrap, I wanted to make sure that we give people a chance to find out where to find you.
You can go to my website, HaydenLee.com. You can join my newsletter there for weekly updates on my weird happenings. If you are a coach who wants to learn the truth behind what it takes to be a successful coach, I encourage you to join my Facebook group, which is the Mic Drops and Truth Bombs for Coaches. I'll gladly accept you in that group for you to learn what it takes to be successful as a coach.
I also want to thank the readers for coming along the journey with us. I'm glad that you were able to read this amazing story and all these great insights. Thank you, Hayden.
Thank you, Tony, and readers.
- Hayden Lee
- Executive Life Coach 1.0 Training Guide
- The Happiness Advantage
- Mic Drops and Truth Bombs for Coaches – Facebook group
About Hayden Lee
I helped a member of Tony Robbin’s financial planning team increase her portfolio from $50M to $100M.
I helped a top Hollywood talent agent transform his team in order to land some of the biggest A-list clients in the world.
I helped a millionaire business owner inspire and motivate his team to successfully navigate the business during a pandemic.
I helped an entrepreneur earn $300k in revenue within his first 8 months of launching his business.
I helped a successful attorney at one of the world’s top law firms create her own one-of-a-kind legal department from scratch.
I work with HIGH ACHIEVING, HIGHLY MOTIVATED and HIGHLY COMMITTED executives, professionals, entrepreneurs, leaders, and teams with a proven track record of success WHO ARE READY TO PLAY FULL OUT. They are both terrified and excited to take things to the NEXT LEVEL by embracing who they truly are, quirks and all.