Finding Your Edge with Laura Huang

Laura Huang is a researcher and professor at Harvard Business School. She researches and teaches on concepts of perception and bias in work and business.

Her work has been featured in all kinds of impressive places: The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and a whole bunch of others.

Through her work Laura helps people come to understand how others see them, take control of that narrative, and use it to their advantage.

In our interview we talk about how what she is advocating is an empowering bottom-up approach to the systemic change that a lot people talk about today.

This conversation was a blast. We talk about why “soft-skills” matter so much, how much fun footnotes are, and lots of other great things.

More than anything, Laura’s a fantastic conversation partner with so much to offer anyone thinking deeply about who they are, where they’re going, and what skills and steps may be needed to get there.


Listen in here:

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In this episode you’ll learn:

  • What Laura does
  • How she followed her curiosity to her current work
  • How to empower individuals facing adversity to create their own edge
  • Why hard work and grit leave us frustrated
  • Did Laura always hope and plan on being a researcher?
  • Why following someone else’s path will produce different results
  • What is the meaning of “Finding Your Edge”?
  • What are “Soft Skills” and how can we develop and leverage them?
  • How to improve in self awareness
  • What is the difference between self awareness and understanding someone else’s perception of you

Resources Mentioned:

Laura’s website

Laura’s Twitter

Laura’s Instagram

Edge: Turning Adversity into Advantage by Laura Huang

Software Generated Transcription:

Dan

Laura, thank you so much for joining me. Welcome to the podcast.

Laura

Thank you. It’s great to be here with you.

Dan

Yes, this has been a long time coming, so I’m just so thrilled to have this chance to connect with you. The question I’d like to start with is how do you begin to talk about the work that you do?

Laura

You know, it’s funny because it comes from lots of different places. I mean, there’s definitely, you know, the I always I always think about it as like, does it start from my head or does it start from my heart? Right. And so sometimes when I talk about my work from the head, it’s like very logical. It’s like for the last decade or so, I’ve been studying perceptions and disparities in the workplace and disadvantages that people and individuals might face both in the workplace and in their lives.

But when I think about where this ultimately originated from, it’s really from that heart piece. Right. And so, you know, it’s everything from experiences that I had growing up and seeing how, you know, for example, my mother and my father, who were immigrants when I  was a child, I would see that they were getting turned down for promotion after promotion, after promotion. And I remember during one of these promotions, one of these turned down promotions, that the person who became my father’s boss, the person he ended up reporting to, that my father was actually doing that person’s job because everyone in the organization knew that my father is actually more qualified and was the one who was going to be doing that work.

And and I remember asking my father, like, why is it that you think that you didn’t get that promotion? And he said, Oh, I don’t know. It is probably because of my accent or the way I communicate or something like that. And these are sort of the stories that I always remember. And I think about when I when I do the work that I do, which is primarily around research and also teaching. And it’s about these people issues and these subtle signals and cues that dictate who gets the advantages and who succeeds in life.

Dan

Hmm.

I love it. I love it. I think that’s an interesting question for me as well. So what do you do with that? What are the different manifestations of this curiosity for you in the world?

Laura

Yeah, I mean, I think what I started researching was really all of the different ways. So so I did start with actually communication and accent. So, for example, I said, well, I mean, my my father’s perceptions were that it was because of his accent and because of how he communicates. And so I wanted to see, well, could it be that based on someone’s accent, that they would be less likely to get a raise or a promotion or get hired into a top management team or get funding for their ventures?

And so I would like control for all the other factors and find that, yes, actually based on someone’s accent, they would face all sorts of negative outcomes. I mean, it wasn’t just that then. I was like, OK, well, what else? Right. So it was definitely all of the typical cast of characters, things like gender, race, ethnicity, religion, class, sexual orientation. But it went beyond that, too, right?

I was able to take, you know, people who seemingly had all of the privilege. Right, like white, cis, male, privileged individuals. And there I would still be able to manipulate certain perceptions or signals or subtle cues such that that person would be at a disadvantage. And so what I started doing was presenting this research and people would come to me afterwards and they would say, wow, well, this is really depressing.

Like, what can we do about this? Right. So exactly your question. Like, what can we do about this? Are there ways that we can either level the playing field or do something about these perceptions and these subtle things that are that are leading to these negative outcomes? And what was interesting was that I found that so many of the solutions that were out there. Right, so many of the ways that people were attacking this were from almost like a system level or a structural level.

Right. What I mean by that is sort of like outside in. So an organization structurally should think about how they can do hiring in a more equitable fashion. Right. And so it’s everything from trying to be more equitable or having checklists or even having algorithms to help them do hiring. Or it would be like, OK, well, let’s try and get more diversity in our top management teams or, you know, addressing the leaky pipeline. And these are all things in the these are all steps in the right direction.

Right? They’re definitely steps in the right direction. But what I also found in my research was that, ironically, it was leaving individuals even more frustrated. As we were talking about these structural solutions, there were a lot of people who are even more frustrated. Because it was it was almost like we were saying to them, yes, we know that there’s this myth of meritocracy. We know that it’s not fair that the system is imperfect. But just wait, wait, wait while we try and fix things.

But there was nothing really from the inside out that individuals could be doing to sort of turn things or impact things.

And and so the my research the last couple of years has all been all been been focused on how do individuals from the inside, how do we empower individuals to be able to take these perceptions or these adversities or these constraints or even these stereotypes and slip them in their favor so that they can create their own advantage or create their own edge for themselves, and that even within an imperfect system, that there are strategies and ways in which they can impact their own careers and their own outcomes.

Dan

I love it. It is so cool. And I think I don’t know, I feel like in many ways, like there is the narrative that we’re all familiar with, that, you know, people should be able to excel and succeed if they just pull themselves up by their bootstraps and like it’s the American way. And, you know, as your research has shown, like, that’s pretty quickly you find that’s not actually true. It doesn’t work like that.

Laura

Yeah.

I mean, that American way is totally like you just work hard, right? Putting twice the amount of hard work, even if it’s for half the amount of benefits. Right. Just work hard, like be gritty and and we have such a love affair now nowadays with like hard work and grit.

And the problem is that, I mean, even thoughhard work and grit are critical, I would never say that they’re not critical. They also leave us frustrated because we’ve all experienced those times when we’ve put in the hard work or we put in just as much, if not more hard work. But the outcomes in the success. Go to go. Go to someone else.

Dan

Yeah, I love it. I love it. So just to maybe zoom out because we’re going to dove deep on all of this, I have lots, lots of questions.

But just to zoom out for just a minute, likedid you always hope and plan on being a researcher? And this would be like, was this your goal for your career from early on? How did you end up here?

Laura

So actually, not at all. Quite honestly, not at all. I mean, I have never been one of those people who knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. In fact, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

Dan

I love that there’s good company.

Laura

There’s like there’s people who, like from a really young age are like, oh, I want to be a veterinarian or Oh, I want to be a biologist. Or and I would sort of always do this thing where, like, people would say, like, what do you want to be when you grow up? And I would say, like, I would kind of like, look at that. And I’d be like, oh, they’re a doctor.

So I’m going to say, yeah, maybe a doctor. They’d be like a lawyer, maybe a lawyer. But I never knew.

And I think that’s one of the reasons why I’ve actually had so many careers and which on the one hand makes me look super scattered. But on the other hand, I think I have appreciated I think I’ve come to appreciate I mean, I I was an engineer by training. I was a high school math teacher.

I was an R&D engineer. I worked in consulting. I worked in finance and an investment bank. I worked in general marketing. I did general management where in a marketing role I went back to school, got my Ph.D., then went into academia and research and became a professor.

So I’ve had like so many different careers, which again, like in some ways I’m like, wow, I wasted so much time.

But in other ways I like, you know, some of the most fun and cool people are people who just don’t know what they want to be. So maybe someday I’m going to be like, I don’t want to be a professor anymore. What’s next? So that also would be, I think, funding in a strange way.

Dan

I love it. And I just definitely I mean, it resonates with me in so many ways, both in that my own career path has been so non-linear. But also I think that’s one of the common misconceptions about career that I am always hoping to highlight in people’s stories. Is that, like, it’s it’s rarely a very linear path. You know, maybe for some, you know, particular professions, it’s more more common than others. But for the average person does not have a linear, straightforward career path.

And so I just love I love that you’ve that you have such a breadth of experience. And it seems like what you’ve done really beautifully is found ways to weave that experience into a well honed expertize that kind of drives you forward.

Laura

Yeah, I feel like even when we do try to have that linear experience, it’s not necessarily the way to think about careers. So, like, you know, like imagine. You take someone who is like the CEO of a company, right, and if I were to say to them, like, oh, man, I really want to be where you are someday, like, how did you get to where you are? And maybe they would say something like, well, first day, like, I worked in this role and then I went to get an MBA and then I did a stint in sales.

And then like, I could follow that exact same path and one hundred percent, I would not get to where that person got right. I would get somewhere else and maybe I would be just as successful, but I would not get there because I’m a different person with different strengths and different values and different behaviors in different ways. I make decisions. And so, you know, I always tell especially students like students who come to me for career advice.

I always tell them, I say, you know, like, you don’t want to be so explicit where you’re like, I’m right now at point A and I want to be at point B, I mean, that actually, even though it seems like it’s a great plan, it actually ends up limiting you. And so I tell them, just go for directionality, right? Like go in the general direction. Right. If you think about, you know, like four quadrants, you know, you know, you don’t want to go behind where you are, right.

You know, you’re not going in that direction, but just go in the general direction because that’s what allows you to maybe end up there, but also end up in lots of different places that your strengths and your individual like assets would allow you to discover.

Dan

I love it. Yeah, it just resonates again so deeply because we don’t know what opportunities. We don’t even know what doors are on the other side of the door, right in front of us. Right. And so, like, we take two steps forward and we might be in a completely different place with completely like things that we couldn’t even imagine as a possibility and to remain open and use, you know, your you whether it’s a sense of meaning or purpose or calling to guide you in a direction of impact and then you find different outlets for it, I think is a really just a beautiful way to go about navigating these kind of big career questions.

Laura

Yeah, I mean, I think like and I and I really I like that perspective, too, because it builds in this room for the fact that we do have passions and we do have callings and we do have things that we’re maybe motivated to pursue. But we also have responsibilities. Right? Maybe it’s like paying off student loans. And so there’s things that we want to be doing. But yet we also have responsibilities because we need to be paying off those loans.

Yes. And so I always also say it’s totally OK to wait. Right. We have reasons for waiting. We have reasons for needing to do certain things. Just make sure you don’t wait too long. So make sure that you’re sort of considering both pieces of that. Yeah.

And that’s where a lot of people get stuck. And a lot of people that I talked to reach out to me, listen to the podcast where they they have something that they they want to do. But it’s really hard to get clear on how to pursue it because of the responsibilities. And so then we have these competing priorities where I think you Google career advice, you quickly find these questions like what would you do if you could do anything?

Like if you had no limitations, which is just not at all yet valid because we have limitations?

Yeah, we do have limitations. And the part that’s around, like, not waiting too long, you know, it’s about building in mechanisms for yourself  make you stay on then make you not wait too long. Right. And so what do I mean this but like so when I was talking about like maybe you have responsibilities towards paying off student loans, actually that was me. Right. So when I finished my MBA program, I, I had tons of student loans that I had to pay off.

Right. So I had not only student loans that I had accumulated through my MBA program, I still had student loans that I hadn’t paid off from my undergraduate years. And so even though I was like, oh, well, maybe I want to do research, maybe I want to get a Ph.D. I knew that I couldn’t because a PhD would just put me further into debt. And so I remember like asking all of my friends in the MBA program, you know, what’s the quickest way to pay off student loans with the quickest way to pay off student loans?

And everyone was like, go into go into banking, go into investment banking, they go into investment banking. And I had never worked in financial services before and I wasn’t actually sure that I was going to like it. But I did manage to get a job in investment banking. And when I saw what I did was I knew that I probably wasn’t going to want to be an investment banker for life, that this was like, I want I needed to pay off student loans.

And so I actually wrote myself like a short little note around, like why I took this job, what I thought that I was. To do later on life, all these sort of things, and what I did was I actually put it in my Outlook calendar on the one year anniversary of joining the bank.

Right. So of that, I was using this outlook calendar. And so when I had been at the bank for one year, it was like in my Outlook calendar, this note to myself. And I read it because and so I sort of like, you know, it was like, oh, OK, all right. That’s what I’m trying to do. And I had actually also put it in my outlook calendar on the two year anniversary of my starting at the bank.

But there I had also attached a resignation letter and the two year anniversary I submitted my resignation letter.

And the reason why I did this and the reason why it worked for me was because I knew that I was going to get pulled into like, oh, maybe there’s like some things vesting or maybe there’s a project that I can’t leave or there’s something that’s going to cause me to sort of be like, OK, maybe another another month or maybe another couple of months. And then it becomes like years where you’re sort of stuck in something that you didn’t intend to be to be stuck in.

But if I had actually put these these things in place for myself and the reason why I also did it and the one year mark was because I wanted to be open to the possibility that maybe I would love what I was doing, maybe I would want to change directions.

Right. So it was like, here’s what you’re thinking. And maybe I would change that, change my mind and change my direction. But as long as I still was thinking that, you know, on that two year mark, I had sort of committed to myself, I’ll do this for two years and then let me go and do what I think I want to do.

And so that’s what I mean by sort ofbuilding in ways for for you to wait but not wait too long.

Dan

Man, that is just so, such a cool process. I one of the most popular blog posts on my blog is a post. It’s called something like Stop, stop being let’s stop being ashamed of our jobs. It’s about how a lot of people are in jobs where they’re there for reasons like you’re describing, where you have to pay off these student loans. And it’s not it’s not what you want to be doing ultimately is not the you know, the legacy that you want to leave with your with your life, but you’ve got responsibilities.

And I think that that really resonates with the people, with a lot of people, like there’s a lot of people who are in those kinds of positions. But there aren’t very many examples like what you just gave of people who are who are accepting like this is what I’m doing for a time. It’s not my goal in life or my calling or passion. And yet it’s an important step in my process. And I think what you just offered is like a really good framework for here’s how you can be in this space and accept that you’re in that space and embrace it.

And also remind yourself that it’s you know, that you’re going to move on and you’re going to keep keep moving forward. So thank you for that, because I know that that’s really going to resonate with people I love.

Laura

It helps us not have to feel like we have to be apologetic about something or justify something while still being able to enjoy it, enjoy it for that season that we’re going to be doing it. And but also, again, like not waiting too long.

Dan

Yeah, I love it. It’s it’s yeah. Just a great a great, great framework.

So I we’re already talking about, you know, this expertize of your book that, that captures some of I think probably just scratches the surface I imagine of your expertize came out over a year ago. We’re just now finally getting a chance to talk about it. But that’s called Edge turning adversity into an advantage. And I think, you know, just talk about constraints. I know you have a chapter about, know, embracing, embracing your constraints and even valuing your constraints.

Maybe just to jump into just the the premise of the book.

How do you begin to talk about finding your edge and what that means, especially for people who are listening and thinking about career?

Laura

Yeah, so so it’s funny because when I was sort of speaking before around turning and flipping these perceptions and these attributions and these stereotypes in your favor so that you can create an advantage or create an edge for yourself.

Right. That is that’s like one of the main premises of the book. Right. How do we do that? How do we actually take the constraints and the obstacles and the adversity and actually turn them and redirect them to our advantage?

But I think one of the ways that I can sort of reveal is, is that right?

The title of the book is Edge, but Edge actually stands for the parts of the book or the components of this framework that I have been studying for the last couple of years. And my research is based on where the E the D.

The G and the E stand for the components of this framework, so the first E stands for Enrich and it’s about sort of knowing how you enrich and provide value in any sort of context. Right. So there’s a couple of pieces to this. Right. There’s the piece where we know our right, the self awareness piece, knowing the value we provide or the strengths, the weaknesses, the underestimated strands, our superpowers, all of those things. But it’s also understanding that this is it’s it’s also based on perceptions.

Right. So we can have these ways in which we enrich, but others might not see that. And you can be indifferent. You change one variable, right? You change the industry that you’re operating in or you change the mix of people that you’re interacting with.

And those perceptions of how you enrich and provide value are drastically going to be different. So that this is all to say that we can hone our ability to understand how others perceive us.

And we can especially do that when we understand what our superpowers are and what our strengths are. And so it’s this like dual process where it’s really important to sort of build this intuition about knowing how others see the ways in which we enrich. And so the first section of the book is around enrich that first E the second section of the book is around D, which is delite. And that is to say that a lot of times we do face adversity and constraints and doors are closed to us and doors are closed to us to the extent that we don’t have the opportunities to show others how we enrich and provide value because we either don’t belong to the right networks or we don’t belong to the right groups, or we don’t have the chances to we don’t have the opportunities.

And so I talk about how we personally, each of us has this capacity to delight, delight our counterparts, delight our customers, delight ourselves, delight in a variety of different ways.

And that actually is the way that we crack open the door where if we’re able to delight our counterpart and I talk about how we do that. Right. But when we’re able to delight our counterpart, that’s the equivalent of cracking that door open a little bit so that we have the opportunity to show them how we enrich and provide value. And that can happen regardless of whether it’s someone you just met or someone you’ve known for years.

It’s basically having your counterpart sort of stop for a second and consider you in a slightly different way so that you have that opportunity. The G stands for guide, which is to say we have to constantly be guiding the perceptions that others have about us, not not in an impression management or strategic kind of way, but redirecting them to who we authentically are and the value we provide in the ways in which we enrich. So the third section of the book is all around all of the different ways that we take these perceptions and signals and cues that we can be guiding and redirecting them to who we are and who we authentically are.

And then the final E stands for effort and hard work, which is sort of what I alluded to before, which is to say that we have this like love affair with hard work. Right. We even from a young age, we’re taught that like, hey, work hard if you work hard, that’s like the secret to success. Like, you will be successful if you work hard.

And yet we’re frustrated because deep down, we know that again, even though hard work is critical, hard work alone is not enough. Right. If hard work doesn’t always speak for itself. And so we can’t put hard work first. And so I actually put hard work and effort last in this framework because it is critical.

It’s one of the four components of my book that I talk about. But when we know how we enrich and delight and guide, that’s when our effort and hard work actually work harder for us. That’s when we get the tailwinds. That’s when we get, you know, putting in twice the amount of hard work for twice the amount of benefits, not twice the amount of hard work for half the amount of benefits. And that’s what happens when you reconceptualize this is coming last in this framework, because you already have thought about how you enrich and delight and guide.

So, you know, hopefully that wasn’t too long of an explanation. I know it’s a beautiful rise to something pages of a book.

Dan

I know, right?

So just give us the audio book now so we don’t have to read it. It’s like an impossible question.

Laura

I was sort of going into a lot of descriptions there. So thanks for hanging with me for that.

Dan

I love it. I mean, it’s just such an important premise. And just the way that you’ve written it, it was just really fun to read. I wanted to mention how much fun your footnotes are.

I don’t know how often people come. I’ve done that to you, but I you know, often when I read it, I don’t necessarily follow the footnotes, but I was reading on Kindle and click through the first one. From then on, I was hooked.

I was like, I need to know what all of these footnotes are

Laura

I love it you did even on Kindle, because, I mean, honestly, the footnotes are my favorite part of the book, too. So, yes, I feel like this footnote is where, like the real, like, flavor of my sarcasm or I like sense of humor kind of comes out. So I’m glad that even on Kindle you like to clickthrough, because sometimes on Kindle it’s hard to like, save them all to the end.

Dan

Totally. And then sometimes I get lost and have to spend two minutes finding where.

Laura

Yeah.

Dan

They were so delightful. And you carry the reader so well with so many just anecdotes and stories and then also your other commentary thrown and it’s just such a such a fun, fun read.

Laura

Oh I appreciate it. Thank you.

Dan

Thank you.

It’s just such such good work that you’re doing. One of the things that you talk about early in the book, and it’s kind of like the centerpiece of the whole thing, is this idea of soft skills that you kind of reframe as quote unquote, core skills, which in one of your favorites, I think you named it that, which I love that.

So in addition to the podcast and what I’m doing with the meaning movement, I run a small software company. Right now, we’re about 15 people. My business partner and I, he calls this Danification. So like when there’s people stuff like I’m the people guy and when there’s a delicate conversation that needs to happen, he’s like, can you just I need to send this message. Can you Danify this for me?

Laura

Yeah. Yeah. That’s a great skill.

Dan

Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s something that I you know, I’ve spent a lot of time honing and developing, but it’s also so hard to represent that. And, you know, especially thinking about people who are listening, who may have, you know, a lot of people skills, these softer skills. And I guess maybe the question is, how do you define how do you think about soft skills?

Let’s start there. And then I think I have a couple of follow up questions on that.

Laura

Yeah. I mean, look, I think like there’s definitely this aspect of like we are constantly pitting, you know, quantitative hard skills against soft skills and things that are more qualitative.

And, you know, I think the way that I sort of think about this is that sometimes the reason why I call these soft skills, sort of core skills or even power skills is because, you know, this myth of meritocracy, this these inequalities or these disparities are sometimes thought about in terms of like, oh, it’s because of these decisions being made, not using hard data. Right? It’s these decisions are being made based on but based on soft data and like non quantitative data.

But the thing is that if all of the decisions were made based on hard data and quantitative data, then they would be done.

There’s no sort of room for variance, right? It’s everything is just based on a cut off or a number or something quantitative. The fact that there are disparities and there is disadvantage because decisions are made based on perceptions and signals and cues and these soft factors. Yes, it’s the poison, but it’s also the antidote. Right. It’s part of the cure as well, because  if it was all based on this hard data, we wouldn’t be able to do things like flipping these perceptions in our favor and redirecting people to who we are and influencing and guiding right would just be like, how do you enrich in a quantitative way?

But we have so much more nuance. And we’re if we’re able to learn that and learn how people perceive us and manage that nuance and make it work for us, then it actually can be an edge. So that’s how I kind of think about this difference between like the soft and the hard.

Dan

Yeah, I love that. It’s so much about self awareness. And obviously the answer to this question is going to be read the book. But besides that, like what are some practical or it could you give some practical steps of like someone who is like, I want to grow and my self awareness so that I can really, you know, enhance these soft skills or core skills, power skills in my life. Are there any suggestions, steps that you would advise people who are, you know, wanting to improve in this area, take in improving self-awareness?

Laura

There are tons of different like exercises and thought experiments and questions that I actually do with my students. Right. So in sort of discovering not just like self-awareness about yourself, but also like honing your ability to understand the perceptions that others have about you. So, for example, like when I talk about like thought experiments and questions like early on, I’ll ask them things like like we’ll have discussions. I’ll say, like, what’s the very first memory you have?

Like what’s the very first memory you have in your life? And we don’t talk about that memory, persay, but I ask the. I say, well, what’s the emotion, if you had to name one emotion that was associated with that, what would that be? Was it anger, frustration, fear, happiness, excitement? What was the emotion that you sort of felt? And then I’ll say, like, what’s the second time you remember. Now your second memory, but what’s the second time you remember feeling that same emotion?

And we sort of start to map out what I call life rhymes, right? Life rhymes. And so if you can start to map out these kind of different experiences that that rhyme, you start to develop this sort of self-awareness. And we and I walk them through how this kind of works. But then I pair it with actual practical exercises. So, for example, I have them do like one assignment, which is called the Ten No’s excitement.

So no, like, yes, no. So the goal of this is like over the course of a week, they have to get ten people to say no to them. So 10 different people in ten different contexts. And they have to write a short paragraph about each of those notes and then they have to come ready to present one of those notes to the entire class. And what we sort of discover is so interesting, right? Like the students, kind of like I, I don’t tell them this, but they kind of come to these conclusions on their own.

Like, they’ll start saying things like, yeah, and it’s like, you know, this person they like it was like they used a different tone and different body language and they were sort of like perceiving and attributing me in a different way. Right. And then like because here’s the thing, right. In our lives, we’re so used to wanting people to say yes to us, like our entire lives. It’s around wanting to convince people of our point of view or wanting people to agree with us, wanting people to like us, wanting people to say yes to us.

So nearly all of our interactions or the interactions that we’re targeting are around like getting to. Yes. And getting them to like us and getting them to agree with us and see our point of view.

And so the tone, the language, the style, the way in which they interact with us, like that’s the muscle that we’re building. That’s what we see. But now when you change it and this assignment is like you have to get ten people to say no to you, otherwise you don’t finish the assignment. You start to notice different ways in which people perceive you, like you start to see like, hey, why did this person actually react to me in this way?

And now and you start to build this new intuition around the actual underlying ways that people are perceiving you or drawing from certain cues about you and so on and so forth. So like a series of these these different types of exercise, we do tons of these exercises that in in, you know, in the aggregate help people understand how they enrich, how they provide value, how others see them.

Dan

I love it. It’s such a cool exercise and like it’s such a skill that is I think so lacking in I think education in general typically focuses on the hard skills that the things that can be measured on the test, you know, whatever you can put on a scantron or whatever it might be. And so I love that you’re teaching this. And just like I want that in my education, I want that in my kids education, just really, really refreshing.

You know, one of the things I was going to ask, but I think that you kind of answered it there is like where is the line between self awareness? Like saying, OK, like I’m good at this, this, this and understanding someone else’s perception of you. But really, it’s kind of two sides of the same coin. Correct. Is that how you see it?

Laura

Yeah.

Yeah, absolutely. Like I mean, we can understand ourselves, but it’s far more effective and far more real when we understand that vis a vis how others see us and vice versa.

Dan

Yeah.

Yeah. I just think what the book does and the work that you’re doing to understand that and then understand how you can influence it, it’s just I think that’s the piece that takes it just to the next level that I found to be I. I didn’t know what to expect when I opened the book and just started reading, but it’s just like, oh, this is like this is a whole nother whole nother level where it’s not like, OK, so here’s how you can understand your you know, how people see you or whatever.

But like here’s here are some tools. Here are some ways that you can really affect their perceptions of change that. And it’s not just understanding but going, going that that next year, that next mile I guess you could say, which is yeah. It’s a very cool, very cool process and framework. So I know that you’re working on a nonprofit that’s related to all of this.

I would love to just have a little bit about Project Amplify and what you’re doing there.

Laura

Yeah. Yeah. It relates back to a lot of what we’ve talked about in terms of soft skills and hard skills and Project Amplify is nonprofit, this foundation that is for underprivileged and underserved communities. So high school, college, early employees to bridge the gap between what is taught in school. Right. Sort of this hard work kind of aspect and what skills are actually needed to be successful and thrive in organization or in the workplace.

And so we provide to these communities and these sort of underserved, underprivileged high schoolers, college students and early employees. We have a mentoring program. We have free education and workshops, and we have a book matching program to sort of help develop some of these core skills. And it builds on some of my research in my work. And also we’ve been doing more recently around the pandemic and this big divide that some students are learning tremendous amounts in other communities and other students are really missing out on a lot of these skills and things that they really need to be successful.

So that’s what that’s what the nonprofit does. And we work with lots of immigrant communities and a variety of different partners throughout throughout throughout the U.S. and actually in a couple of other countries as well. So projectamplify.org check it out. And yeah. Yeah. So it’s been it’s been really rewarding to be able to share this with students that I’m sort of teaching. And I love to be able to go out into communities and share this as well.

Dan

I love it.

I think it’s the two things that stand out to me the most about is, is that teaching these skills to underprivileged populations is doing two things. One is that like the more privileged populations who have, you know, people who have like the support systems and the tutors in the schools and the, you know, the good schools and all those other things, like they have more resources to already learn these skills, but also the people who don’t have access to all those resources by default have more to overcome.

And so it’s even more important.

Laura

Yeah.

Dan

To be able to overcome those biases and everything like that.

Laura

I mean, I think everyone needs this right. But some are able to pick it up or pick aspects of it up more intuitively. Yeah, but I do think that it’s something that this is anyone who sort of feels like they’ve been hitting the same wall over and over and over again or like can’t figure out why they have certain aspirations, but just keep getting knocked down every time they’re trying to reach those aspirations. I truly believe this applies and there’s ways to think about this for everyone.

But, yeah, I do think that there are some people who like intuitively can start to pick up some of it at least. And then there are others where the mentoring and the workshops can can really like introduce this perspective in a different way.

Dan

Yeah, it’s fantastic. Well, I’m just such a huge fan of what you’re doing, everything you do.

Laura

Thank you.

Dan

So I just I just love it so much because as we move towards wrapping up, I know there’s a lot of people who are listening and who are in places where they’re considering transitions, feeling stuck, overwhelmed by maybe how much they have to overcome to get to where they want to go. I’m curious if you have any just your practical thoughts or even words of encouragement that you’d like to share with listeners who might be one of those kinds of spaces?

Laura

Yeah, I mean, I think it goes back to like, you know, you can do this, right? Like you can empower yourself to really face. I mean, there are still going to be failures. There are still going to be draw downs. There are still going to be periods.

And so this is not like a like a cure. All right. But the more that you can embrace this, it’s a perspective that does allow you to flip things in your favor and create advantages where you might have seen constraints and adversity before. So it’s really just didn’t I want people to to really leave with the takeaway that they can do it right. There are ways and the more personal, the more you make it you the more you you think about your own strengths in the way that you enrich, the more personal and unique that you make it to you, the more you’re going to have your unique edge.

Dan

Yes.

Yeah, I find the message to be so, so empowering and just love just how much it’s about like embracing who you are and not trying to be someone else to fit some other mold, but to lean deeper into what you bring to the table, even when it’s not the typical or even when it’s not when you don’t fit the mold. I guess it’s just a really empowering message. So I think people find it incredibly helpful for people who want to follow along more with the work that you’re doing.

Is there anything specific that you’d like to invite? People, too?

Laura

If you want to learn more, I’m on you know, I’m probably on more social than I should be. All right, LauraHuangLA. Also on my website, laurahuang.net. There’s more resources on there, right? I have a monthly newsletter. There’s a quiz where you can actually take the quiz to see how equipped you are, how equipped you already are for finding your edge.

So it tells you sort of where you score in terms of the enrich, the delight, the guide and the effort. Are you already really good at delighting others? But yet you need to work a little bit more on, like, thinking about how you guide perception. So there’s a quiz there that you can take that kind of tells you a little bit where you are on each of those pieces. And then there’s also a place where you can download more of these like tips and exercises, sort of like the ones that we talked about today.

Dan

I love it.

I love it. And if you like books, I definitely recommend you check out and you can get it wherever books are sold. I’ve really loved it and it’s just been such a fun conversation. Laura, thank you so much for your time. I’ll make sure to link up to everything your social, your website and everything in the show notes that everyone can click through and and just follow along. Thank you for the work you’re doing and thanks for this conversation.

Laura

Sure. Of course. Thank you.

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