The Microstress Effect: How To Work Smarter, Get Ahead, And Restore Your Well-Being With Rob Cross
Success in a hyper-connected world requires not just strong individual performance, but also the ability to leverage the power of networks. By understanding the dynamics of collaboration and managing the impact of daily stressors, we can build resilience and thrive in our interconnected world. For today’s episode, we're joined by Rob Cross, Co-Founder and Director of the Connected Commons and Edward A. Madden Professor of Global Leadership at Babson College. Rob dives into his latest book, "The Microstress Effect: How Little Things Pile Up and Create Big Problems--and What to Do about It.” He explores the impact of daily stressors on our well-being and productivity. Rob shares practical strategies for managing microstress and building resilience in the face of constant demands. Along the way, Rob shares his personal journey and the flash points that ignited his passion for network research and practice. From his love of cycling to his recent foray into learning guitar, Rob teaches a whole new approach to leadership and collaboration. Tune in now.
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The Microstress Effect: How To Work Smarter, Get Ahead, And Restore Your Well-Being With Rob Cross
It is my honor to introduce you to my guest, Rob Cross. Rob has studied the underlying network dynamics of effective organizations in the collaborative practice of high-performers for more than twenty years, through research and writing, speaking and consulting, and courses and tools. Rob's network strategies are transforming the way people lead, work, and live in a hyper-connected world.
He is the Edward A. Madden Professor of Global Leadership at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. He is also the Cofounder and Director of the Connected Commons, a consortium of over 100 leading organizations accelerating network research and practice. He has authored and co-authored a number of books, including Beyond Collaboration Overload: How to Work Smarter, Get Ahead, and Restore Your Well-Being and The Microstress Effect: How Little Things Pile Up and Create Big Problems--and What to Do about It with the amazing Karen Dillon.
Rob is an avid cyclist, logging 100 to 150 miles a week with a group of similarly crazy old guys. He enjoys playing tennis, fishing, and skiing with friends and family. He is active in his church. Always willing to try new things. He recently began learning to play guitar. We won't ask you to play guitar. It is truly my honor and pleasure to welcome you to show, Rob.
Thank you so much. It's a huge treat to be here.
I'm looking forward to getting a feel for, how did you get to this place where you made such a great impact? I'm also intrigued to learn more about your book. I ordered it. I haven't read it yet. I can't wait to tap into it. It's a topic that is so present for many of us. On the show, what we often do is take people on a journey of understanding what the flashpoints were that have ignited their gifts into the world. We are going to do that in a moment. I'm going to turn it over to you. I will have you start to share some of those moments along the way that has made you into who you are now. We will pause along the way and see what's showing up. I'm excited because the work you are doing in the world is powerful, and it's necessary to understand where people are being challenged. Rob, please take it away.
I have been interested throughout my career in doing work that had an impact on organizations in different ways. If I pick some flashpoints in my life, I think one of the things that are interested me is networks and understanding how connections have an impact on our well-being like a product of our last book has been. I ended up moving around a tremendous amount. As I grew up, my stepfather was subject to transfer, and so I was constantly over a year or two moving into a different context.
That created an ability to build connections very quickly, but also leaving connections in the dust from one move to another especially at those points in time when we didn't have social media or other things to maintain contact as well. In general, I have had a broad interest in relationships and connectivity for both reasons. Understanding what's left and also the abilities that I have developed over time and leaning into different communities and networks very quickly to make a transition in life successful. I think that's a piece of what has had me interested in connections that's coming from my background.
Moving from one place to another creates an ability to build connections very quickly, but also leaving connections in the dust.
The broader things over the past years for me have been, there's a real push in academics. I think it's unfortunate to write ultimately for each other, for other academics at the heart of it. That's not the intent of it. On the basis of it, it's trying to follow a scientific method and advance what we know about science. The product of doing this for 50, 60, and 70 years is that the findings to be able to be published to become so narrow, so small, and so exclusively oriented to a very small domain that it's pushed the academic pursuit, especially in business. Not so much in life sciences but in social sciences in many ways. It's pushed it away from pragmatics. That was always not my interest.
Some people would get these atrial publications, high fives in the hallway, and all this other stuff. I just felt a sense of relief it was over. For me, when I got something into Harvard Business Review or I saw people's reactions in an audience where they were saying, "I can put this into play in my life where I get the emails I do, especially." This work around well-being lit me up very differently. That's been foundational to how I have pursued the last book, and then this book that is coming out to give you a little sense of the background.
A couple of things I will react to, it does start with this early experience, this sense of wanting to understand how networks and connections work early on. I love how you reflected on this sense of, it's not about putting out data that is scientifically sound or is academically good, but you want to make sure it connects with people and they can action it. Knowledge without action is not enough. You need that action. You need to be able to make it something that's going to have an impact on people and how they can use it.
That's been a big guide for me. Quantitatively, what I focus on is mapping patterns of connectivity in large groups in hundreds of organizations now. What we found in that is, very interestingly, the metrics that people use to study networks in sociology, social psychology, and business settings are increasingly. Those metrics and ways of looking at and quantifying patterns of connectivity were very good for scientific pursuits, but they didn't necessarily provide insights that leaders could take action on. That's been quantitatively a big emphasis for myself and my team. The consortia over the years is cultivating insights that way to understand, "How do we need to represent this information back to leaders? How do they take action on it?" It had been a big part of my career and what we have done in the consortia.
I need to dig in and find out more about what was the early part of your career. You didn't just jump into this space. What was your first foray into the corporate world or the world of work?
I came out and I went to the University of Virginia's undergrad business school, which is perennially top five or something like that in the country. I was the most quantified of quantified people or quant jocks, whatever you want to call it. I was sure that I was going to study finance and go to Wall Street. I did all that, I got there, and I was bored out of my mind, for me. I know some people wake up and live and breathe the market, and that's great for them.
For me, this happened to be in one of the recessionary periods and I was seeing these organizations as we were going through debt restructuring work that had no hope of pulling out of the tailspin they were in, managed to do things about it, thrive through the context, and others that had all sorts of resources. It should have been a very simple restructuring effort that couldn't pull out.
It got me focused not on the numbers, which ultimately are the outcome of things that people are doing, and more on what's making these organizations work and thrive. I then spent some time consulting. I didn't like that because you are always overselling in consulting, and that was not who I wanted to be. I found my way into network analytics as a way of being able to develop unique insights into how work is getting done in organizations and pursue that path from a research and academic standpoint. That was the basis of it.
What's cool about this is that you have those experiences along the way and you start saying like, "This isn't it yet. I want to do something that's more uniquely me." I think the great thing is you start to turn over those rocks and start saying, "Maybe not this." Eventually, you start to find that you strike gold and you start to say, "This is closer to whom I want to be."
It's what wakes you up in the morning. It's such a great way of putting it. I have two immediate reactions. One is my students. I tend to be one of the faculty members because of all the companies I interact with where the students are at my door a lot asking about life. They are sure when they hit their senior year that this next step is going off a cliff. It's going to dictate. Most of my job is saying, "It's just another step forward." It feels like it because society delineates this point, but it's another step.
I was reflecting when you said that on that end of the spectrum, and then I will flash forward to the other end of the age spectrum to the group that we are in the 65-ish range that I interviewed. I will tell you some of the saddest stories were people that never turned over those rocks. They got locked in. They financially locked themselves into a situation. They spun a narrative in their head that being a good provider means, "I have to get the best house in the best neighborhood. My kids are in the best district."
It's a form of materialism that ratcheted them up. The stories I would hear were horrendous. You'd be talking to these conventionally very successful people. Great organizations and financially successful beyond measure. They'd be telling stories of children that didn't speak to them, several divorces, friends they didn't have anymore, and health issues that were irreparable. Yet, they would say at the end of the day, "It's been hard, but I would do it over again." I remember listening back going, "Really?"
The key nugget that you put your finger on is they never turned over any rocks to see what else could be. They locked themselves in certain ways, and it's sad. I see that way more than I would hope to see it because we have more ability to shape what we do and whom we do it with. As humans, we give that away, unfortunately, too quickly in our lives.
I love what you are sharing. It sounds like the work that you started to tap into is the continuation of Clay Christensen's How Will You Measure Your Life? Which is that beautiful article that then turned into a book. It's a sense of people sitting around and saying, "I haven't lived fully because I have had the wrong measure of success.
His co-author was Karen Dillon, my co-author in the next book. It was funny because the backstory of this is, I approached Karen on this because that book is something that had an impact on me, and then I brought it into my classes with my undergrad. I teach network analytics, but I have them through the semester doing a project that's about, "How do you live your life? How do you think about and use these and other ideas around creating a trajectory that's healthy?" It took me 3 coffees and 3 trips to Brooklyn, but I finally convinced her. This was a worthy effort. I have been blessed throughout it all with everything that she brings into it knowing and thinking about these ideas to a great degree.
This book was written during the pandemic I assume, or was it started well before it?
It started way back, to be honest with you. With my consortia, I have been doing things where we are mapping analytics, and then looking at what high performers do. The prior book a few years ago called Beyond Collaboration Overload. That was a study of high performers using analytics to see who are those people that get and stay in the top quartile performance category in organizations. What were they doing that enabled them to be successful? We learned a tremendous amount about how and what distinguished these high performers.
The members of the consortia loved it. They were building it into their talent programs, their onboarding processes, and all these other ways of getting leverage on these analytic insights. We clearly saw that it wasn't a big network that predicted the high performers. There's a lot more nuance behind it, but I was lucky enough a few years ago, I remember this meeting we had with 200 companies in the room. The feedback was, "Rob, we love the work you are doing on high performers in this track, but we'd also like you to broaden your definition of success. Think about people that are happier, thriving, or resilient in their careers and what they are doing."
That started this process of analytically looking at these people, but then doing ultimately 600 interviews over a 5-year period roughly. It's been a blessing because, at that point, well-being and burnout were not being talked about. Now, it's become very present on everybody's radar screening. It gave me a good runway of 5 or 6 years to do all this work and understand what's happening with these people that are thriving in this context. I was lucky that I was nudged by the consortia members at that point to do that.
I love the bridge you are making here, the gap that you are taking from the last book to this book in the sense of how that becomes the bridge from one to the other. Six hundred interviews are quite a lot. I was thinking about it. I have done 200-plus interviews here on this show, and I did that over two and a half years. That was a pretty amazing feat. I feel like that's remarkable, but 600 interviews is a massive amount of interviews.
I started doing this several years ago. I moved from quantitative analytics to qualitative. I so wish I'd done that earlier in my career. The reason we do that volume is I have a team setting these things up, and then I do them and we process them. The time commitment is extensive. We calculated at one point. It's 5 to 6 hours for every interview you are doing to move it from doing the interview to insight to code it and get the ideas that are relevant. What you get out of that is you get these central experiences that people are having. You start saying, "Have you had this happen?" Everybody's like, "You have read my calendar."
Oddly enough, that was the important part of it. It allowed me to get to these central experiences that everybody's having and what they are doing about it. Not just to say that people are burning out or say, "You need two best friends," but to understand the nuance of how happy your people are living. The odd thing is the 600th interview on this one. It was 300 that came from a prior effort, and 300 specifically for this book. I remember telling this person, "This is the last one." We were chuckling about it. These are 90-minute interviews. I felt a sense of loss when it was done. I felt like I'd lost a friend because again, I'm so used to being in this level of conversation that you probably only have with 4 or 5 people in your life.
It's a special thing. This is something that is near and dear to people's hearts when you think about it. The time that they spend trying to become the people they are, and then connecting to these conversations around, "What is happiness and how do I create that happiness in my life?" I know that the conversation was probably deeper than that. On that surface of trying to connect people to those topics, it's not easy to get people to open up on that, I'm sure.
That's very true. I had to learn that. That was as important as writing a very detailed interview protocol, making sure you are asking the same questions, and they are all informed by different bodies of literature. A heck of a lot of it came down to the cadence of the discussion and how you share a little bit about yourself and get people comfortable quickly because they were in-depth.
I would say 10% of the audience or not that much. There was a significant part of the audience that would traditionally happen. These were all very successful people. Top performers at the world's best organizations. The first ten minutes of every interview were rainbows and lollipops. Everything was great. You get down to 30 minutes and it's like cracks are starting to come in at 45 and 60. Some ended up choking up at different points talking about how they were barely holding it together in terms of the demands both professionally and personally.
It's not the job that's ratcheted up, but it's on a personal level. The things that we feel we have to do and be as a significant other, as a parent, and as a child. It's expanded in so many different ways that for a lot of people, they were drowning. That's what touched my soul going through this. It was to see how much people were struggling in ways that we don't see with each other. We are taught to maintain this facade in different ways.
The one thing that is interesting about this, I often say that nothing is as it seems on the surface. These people you interviewed, I'm sure that they are the type of people who on the surface, they put on an amazing face that says, "I'm strong, I'm confident, and I'm not going to show you the kinks that I have under the surface." The reality is there's so much pain underneath that people hold back.
For us, the thing that was interesting is that it wasn't the big moments that were causing that. That's what led me to ultimately what got titled The Microstress Effect. I was focusing not on that when I started the interviews, but rather on what are the ways that relationships have a positive impact on our well-being. We studied all the work on well-being because everybody says that. There are studies out that show that you live longer if you have quality ties. If you don't have them and you are clinically lonely, the mortality rates are the equivalent of smoking fifteen cigarettes a day.
It's crazy that we don't have more intentionality to the quality of the relationships around us, but a lot of it comes back to all these books that are coming out. Their best solution is to say, "You need a couple of close connections." It's like saying, "Go make friends." It's not all that helpful. You don't know what people are doing and how they are managing all this.
That was our focal point. It was to come in and say, "How do relationships have an impact on our physical health? How we grow in and out of work, our sense of resilience, and our sense of purpose.” As we went into the very first interview, what was clear to me is that people were getting stuck in life in ways that nobody had talked about. It wasn't the big demanding client or the toxic boss. Those events happen to people.
What was catching people was this slow accumulation of small moments of stress day in and day out. It would take the form of sensing misalignment with a colleague and knowing you have got to solve that in the next week or so and wondering about it in the back of your mind. Seeing a team member that needs to be coached for the third time and wondering, "When am I going to get the space to do that?" Getting a text from a child and you can't tell if it's something where they are over it in ten seconds or you worry about it for three hours.
None of those in isolation are big deals. The problem is, we are getting hit with 30 or more of them each day. Our minds don't register it in the sense of a fight or flight issue, but our bodies absorb it. We end up exhausted. We can't quite put a finger on what's happening. It is very actionable when you start to look at it the way we did. There are things you can do about it, but conventionally, how organizations are thinking about well-being or people are taking charge of their well-being. They weren't getting that issue. They weren't seeing stress in that way. It led us to write this book on this and what the happier people were doing.
When we’re getting hit with 30 or more isolation moments each day, our minds don't register it in the sense of a fight or flight issue. But our bodies absorb it, and we end up exhausted.
It's amazing, this concept that you bring in. It even gets further from that in the sense that environmentally, when we are getting a lot of the news externally about mass shootings and the things that are happening societally in our world, that also adds to the stress. It gets us thinking, "What is happening? Are we safe? What can we do about the external factors that are happening around us? Even if we don't necessarily internalize, I need to do something about that." It's still in the back of our minds taking up space.
People will ask that a lot. "What about macro stress? What about general stress that's coming from the war, the economy, shootings, or things like that?" That's certainly going on. I'm amazed at all these social media channels that I see, the neighborhood group. For the life of me, I can't figure out why it's always negative, the stuff that people post. It's always that. "I can't believe this dog left a doo-doo in my yard." I have written it a couple of times in some of these things. I said, "Has anybody done anything right?" Why is it? I could go down the list of things that are in my mind of why we always see the negative when there's positive all around us, too, and that gets propagated.
I think that's a big problem, but I do think one of the big things with the micro stresses is they are coming at us through relationships in our lives. It's more than just generalized stress. If I get hit with somebody, with a colleague that's constantly dropping the ball, or a boss that's a little bit short with me and doesn't value what I do, and that comes at me through that relationship, then it's magnified. It's more than generalized stress. The impact on me is personal. I feel it because I'm upset with that person.
Equally important and what very few people think about is, if I get something from somebody that I love and I'm worried about an aging parent, child, or friend that's going through a hard time. That's just as stressful. It's causing me a degree of anxiety. They are not toxic, but it's the interactions themselves that are happening. We found that people that were better at adjusting those interactions and finding ways to shift that do much better.
It's this contextual aspect of how the stress is coming at you that makes all the difference. Maybe there's a distance effect of that. How close is that relationship to you? It makes an impact on you.
One example I use a lot is I'm very close to my daughter. She was a high-end tennis player growing up, and we traveled the country together. I know nothing about tennis. I was just trying to figure out how to help her do whatever she wanted to do with it. As a product of that, we were coming from Charlottesville, a small market. She didn't have the academies initially that other kids did to spend time with each other. We would go around the country and she would be relying on me a lot to talk about this loss that happened or whatever that's out there.
What was interesting is that became entrenched in our pattern of interaction. Anytime anything went wrong, she would write, "Baldy, what do I do about this?" Her nickname for me, and she got everybody else to call me Baldy, which of course I don't understand. For those of you who can't see me, I don't have too much hair on my head.
She persisted with us until she was applying for medical school recently. I would get notes constantly about different things that weren't working well. What we found out over a glass of wine is that was a knee-jerk reaction for her to pass this on. Half these things, she didn't even expect to be positive, but she was passing them on his news. It was hitting me in 3 to 4-hour bouts of worry in the back of my mind.
I was like, "Rachel, cut it out. You are killing me." We came to that quick conclusion that when it's a big deal, she is going to come to me and I will be there in a heartbeat for her as I always have. She could filter a little bit of what she was doing to stop what I call secondhand stress contagion. That's one of the fourteen micro stressors in the book.
If you start looking at things that way, and not that, "This child is never going to be successful," or, "This friend is always going to let me down." If you start looking at the interactions in the nature of what's happening there and shaping them. We live in a sea of these opportunities to shape our lives. It can have an impact material on our well-being by thinking about it that way versus the relationship itself.
We live in a sea of these opportunities to shape our lives. It has an impact material on our well-being by thinking about it that way versus the relationship itself.
Do you feel as though certain people have maybe a genetic predisposition for being able to handle stress better than others? Do you feel as though we can all learn to handle stress better no matter who we are?
The truthful answer is I don't know. What we do know is those research on happiness shows that roughly half of the people that are happier, there's a genetic set point. Half of that is, is a product of who we are. About 10% of our conditions and 40% is how we choose to live life and perceive it, so we can control 40% roughly of that. I would bet that there's a similar corollary to this idea.
Fundamentally, there are a lot of things people can do around finding ways to drop stress. We know all the work right now in terms of meditation, mindfulness, gratitude, journaling, yoga, and physical exercise that has a physiological impact. Those are all great things for sure that people can do to take control of situations.
What we are introducing here is that you can do all those things, but if you continue to persist in a system that you have let build around you, then you are leaving some of the highest impact potentials to improve your happiness on the table. What we know from psychology is about, that negative interactions have about 3 to 5 times the impact of the positive in our lives. If you persist, you can do that. Things will help you persist. If you do things that shape those interactions and take the negative away, it's your higher leverage opportunity versus reaching to something new.
That's unfortunate because everybody I speak to about this was wired to say, "I got to reach to something new." Whereas I can tell you that that change with my daughter has had a material impact on my life. I haven't sat back and quantified it, but I know it's big. Just from that one adjustment to how we were interacting. I do think people can control a tremendous amount about the context that they are in to have a pretty big effect on how they are experiencing it.
I'm fascinated by this subject. I can't wait to read the book. I want to ask one more question about the book in general. What is one thing you want people to know about the book that we haven't already touched on?
Two things I think I would say. One is that these ideas, what we do with the first half of the book is talk about fourteen of these micro stresses. A set of them that drain our capacity or ability to get done what we have to get done in a given day. A set of them that hit us emotionally. Again, that's not just the negative interactions with people we care about and love. A set that creates stress because there are interactions that are pushing us away for whom we wanted to be, to begin with. Overly aggressive sales targets, or I could go down a whole list of things that are slowly positioning you away.
In the middle of the book, what we are doing is making a pivot from having people recognize these things in their lives, too. Saying what you do about it. What we found is the happiest people. What they tend to do, there's a table in the book that has people looking at the micro stresses and where they are coming from. We have people go through it in three ways.
One is to say, where are 3 or 4 of these that are systemic enough in your life that you should be doing something about like with my daughter Rachel? Where are 3 or 4 of these that you are causing others in a different pass-through? That always gets people's attention, but inevitably the stress we create boomerangs back on us. Where are 3 or 4 of these that you are down in the minutiae? If you back up a little bit and say what matters in life, you have gotten down into the weeds too much, and it's not that big a deal. That would be the first thing I would say is that there are very concrete things you can do about this when you start to see it and think about it that way.
The second thing I would say is whereas 90% of the population that we interviewed is struggling, about 10% weren’t and they were living life on their terms more. That's where the second half of the book goes. I would say maybe one quick tip from that group of people. They universally had at least 2 and usually 3 groups they were an authentic part of the outside of their profession. What that did is that created dimensionality in their lives. When people lost that dimensionality and everything became about work and direct family, stories were never good a lot of times. Stress builds up.
There are a lot of ways. If you have fallen out of groups, reach back to passions from the past and use that to slingshot you into a new group or do other things that recreate that dimensionality. Again, I would emphasize that that's very actionable. People can do very specific things about that. That's different from saying you need two more good friends in your life. It's a very targeted way of thinking about things.
This is at the core of everything that I believe so deeply about. I'm all about deeper connections. One of the things that you hit on is a sense of, it's not just a nice thing, it's how we survive and how we thrive by having a deeper connection with people around us. It helps us to live better lives and feel more satisfied in our lives that we are having. That's what I'm hearing from you. I think it's coming through your book.
There's a lot of evidence coming out now more recently that's showing that. For example, in Robin Dunbar's number, people are used to this idea of 150. It goes from 100 to 250, but they are like, "The internet's blowing that up." Not at all, as a matter of fact. It turns out to be very hardwired into where our brains work to the amount of time we have to put into relationships and the structure of those networks that form. That hasn't changed that much.
There are some very enduring things about these relationships that we know are hardwired in our brains. Matthew Lieberman's work showed that we are social beings. That's where our brain defaults to when we are not thinking about other things. It has a huge effect on so many levels on our health, and mental well-being, you name it. It's a big deal to be paying attention to.
I have a question that's more about you than the book. What are the things you have learned about yourself on your journey in life that you want to share with people? It could just be simple things, but whatever you feel would be powerful to share at this moment.
I think the things that I'm thinking about now with these ideas. One is to not persist through moments. Just like every successful person out there, you were taught that you just overcome. There's an element of that, that's true. That is resilience at some level. There's also an element that we have the ability to shape these interactions like the example I made earlier. That's a very valuable use of time because what happens is, it's like an anaconda. These things build up around you and they slowly chip away at you over time. It's worthwhile. I'm thinking about it more. Everybody I speak to comes back to me and says, "I'm starting to see this differently." They are more thoughtful about what they need to shift from. Also, what they need to stop causing so that it doesn't come back to them.
I'd say the second thing that has become a real mantra for me is this idea of dimensionality in life. I step back and think about where and how I want to put my anchors in terms of physically how I'm showing up. I'm a very active part of the tennis and cycling community. Spiritually, I'm a part of my church, but that can take all sorts of walks for people. I did start playing guitar. I backed away and I said, "Artistically, I don't have anything. Intellectually great, but not necessarily artistically."
I have used that to not do things on my own. That's the key thing. Each of these things I'm mentioning, you are doing with other people. It's the activity that starts to create identity, but then having the connections around that and getting the friendships and the diversity of thought into your life. I'm spending time with a mailman or an IT executive.
That's what matters. To pull us out of the minutiae when we feel like we are overwhelmed with micro stresses. What I would say is the most important thing for people to take away from this is to do that. Most people have lost that through COVID. The social distancing took them out of the groups that were keeping them old, and it's critical to find ways back into that thinking anyway.
We need to have something to pull us out of the minutiae when we feel like we're overwhelmed with micro stresses.
First of all, not to take away from what you shared, but I will say, especially as adults, we have this sense of, it's hard to make new friends when you are an adult, but we have to be more intentional with doing that. I think that is where we are going to get the most value out of our time as adults. One last question I ask every guest. What are 1 or 2 books that have an impact on you and why?
I would of course say the Bible. Something that I do, there's a men's group I'm a part of once a week. It's a guidepost to living for me. Thinking about what are 1 or 2 ideas I want to take away? Week-to-week, I shape how I think about what I'm doing and how I'm showing up. That would be one. I think that can come from all sorts of spiritual texts. I don't think that's the one right answer per se. I have my own opinions and beliefs. I think the more important thing is the discussion with other people that you are saying, "What are the principles? How does this affect how I'm showing up in different ways?"
Two books I have gotten a lot out of. One is called Together, and it's Vivek Murthy's book on loneliness, the epidemic. He's a surgeon in general. He focused on loneliness as being a core impact on people. The other is a book called The Good Life, which is the study of Harvard and Boston understudy students that looked over about 80 years. What struck me between those books and a lot of studies they were citing was that I went out and got and read those studies and derivative studies. It's the degree to which it's crazy that we are not paying more attention to the quality of our connections.
It's crazy how we're not paying more attention to the quality of our connections.
You see all these studies that are showing mortality rates are 26% higher if you are clinically lonely. Fifteen packs of cigarettes a day is equivalent to depression, anxiety, and high blood pressure. What amazed me, and I don't know why, because I have been studying this for 23 to 24 years. Going through those books and studies, I stepped back and went, "Why don't we pay attention to this?"
We will chase blood pressure medicine, cholesterol medicine, or all these other medications down. Yet, we have got the same problem level with the quality of connections in our lives. Most people are letting them disappear falling into other people's expectations. Those to me were profound in the sense of saying, "We need to take this as seriously as we do blood pressure or other things and focus on it.”
It's time for a movement. There's a climate movement. We need to have a movement around connection and getting people to be more out there doing this. Maybe it's time for us to start that, I don't know. I love what you are sharing. It's powerful. Thank you for sharing those insights on the books. That's great.
Thank you so much for having me here.
It’s such a pleasure. Thank you so much. Before I let you go, I want to make sure that the audience knows where to find out more about you.
My website is RobCross.org. The book that's coming out is called The Microstress Effect. It's profiled there along with videos. We even did an app that people can download for free from the app store called The Microstress Effect app. Please do check that out as well as a way to make these ideas actionable for you.
I just downloaded it. I can't wait to check it out. Rob, I can't thank you again enough for coming to the show. This was such an enjoyable conversation and so many great insights. Thanks to readers for coming on the journey. I know you are leaving with so many great things to take into your life. Go grab the book and reach out to Rob if you want to learn more. Thank you.
Good deal. Thank you so much.
- Rob Cross
- Connected Commons
- Beyond Collaboration Overload: How to Work Smarter, Get Ahead, and Restore Your Well-Being
- The Microstress Effect: How Little Things Pile Up and Create Big Problems--and What to Do about It
- How Will You Measure Your Life?
- The Good Life
- The Microstress Effect app
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