Apr 4, 2023
The Business of Meetings – Episode 160 – Wonderhell with Laura Gassner Otting
We are delighted to be speaking with Laura Gassner Otting today! Laura is an amazing entrepreneur, executive coach, and writer who has helped people in politics and often appeared on TV!
Laura's life is rich and diverse! She joins us to share her story and discuss her new book, Wonderhell.
Laura’s secret superpower is seeing your greatness and reflecting it back to you so that you can get “unstuck” and achieve extraordinary results.
A frequent contributor to Good Morning America, the TODAY Show, Harvard Business Review, and Oprah Daily, Laura’s 30-year resume is defined by her entrepreneurial edge. She served as a Presidential Appointee in Bill Clinton’s White House, helping shape AmeriCorps; left a leadership role at a respected national search firm to expand a tech start-up; and founded, ran, and sold her own global search firm, partnering with the full gamut of mission-driven corporate and nonprofit executives.
Laura is turned on by the audacity of The Big Idea and that larger-than-life goal you just can’t seem to shake. She’s an instigator, motivator, and provocateur, and she’s never met a revolution she didn’t like. Just ask her enduringly patient husband, two almost-grown sons, and two troublesome pups with whom she lives just outside of Boston, MA.
Laura has had a long journey of accidental successes. She did many interesting things with interesting people and many interesting opportunities arose along her path. She dropped out of law school to join the Presidential campaign of an unknown Southern governor who offered a policy solution of community service in exchange for a college education. She ended up in the White House and helped build AmeriCorps. Four years later, she wanted to get onto the campaign trail again but was too old. She took a job with her mentor as a head hunter. After five years, she left, started her own firm, grew it, and sold it fifteen years later to the women who helped her build it. She started blogging and was asked to do TEDx talk. The talk got people’s attention, and she began receiving offers to speak for money. That prompted her to write a book. She is now five years into her speaking career and is about to launch her second book, Wonderhell.
Wonderhell is based on the concept of an amusement park that is divided into three sections, Impostor Town, Doubtsville, and Burnout City. Each section contains five “rides” that mimic the emotions people go through along the journey to becoming successful.
Figuring out who you are
The first “ride” is figuring out who you are and what you are capable of. Doubt (the trapeze) tends to creep in when you want to try something new, which can be scary. That's why you have to appreciate whatever you did to get you to where you are today because it created a foundation for you to grow and build from, even though it may not get you through the next thing. In other words, you can borrow the confidence you gained in one place and use it in another until you have firmer ground to stand on.
The loop de loop
The loop de loop is the ride where you keep going back to the beginning, over and over again. That is where people start self-sabotaging and have to adopt a beginner’s mindset. It is essential to notice when you get bored or complacent, stop caring about outcomes, and are no longer bringing your best to your work.
The discomfort of not knowing
Laura has never known exactly what she wants to do next, and she thinks that happens to many others, too. She advises anyone leaving a job to spend time sitting with the discomfort of not knowing before starting something new.
Success does not make things any easier
An idea that emerged in Wonderhell is that we tend to think things will get easier when we attain success. They will not! Things generally get even harder when we become successful.
Everything we do in life helps us continue with the process of evolving and becoming. The idea behind Wonderhell is that when we have one foot in yesterday and the other in tomorrow, it keeps us in the process of becoming.
The tunnel of love
Being an entrepreneur can be lonely. If you have someone at your level you respect and admire going through the tunnel of love (the process) with you, it will keep you in check and help you avoid settling for mediocracy.
Overcoming impostor syndrome
So many capable and successful people still have impostor syndrome when they embark on something they have never done before. Having a mentee or teaching something that comes to you naturally is the best way to get yourself to feel that you know something. It will also build your confidence moving forward. Overcoming impostor syndrome involves renegotiating our emotions around the doors we are walking through.
Advice for women applying for positions
Twenty years of executive search experience taught Laura that there are no perfect candidates and that anything people bring to the table counts, even if it is not on the list. She advises women to keep their resumes and cover letters current and apply with abandon. Even if they don’t get the jobs, they will gain experience in the interview and job application process.
Make your own luck
Being in the space where you put yourself in the deal flow makes you luckier! (There is a chapter in Wonderhell called The Fortune Teller, which is about how you make your own luck.)
Rather than trying to find mentors, Laura prefers to look for mentoring moments. She is also happy to offer mentoring moments to advise anyone who asks to pick her brain or needs her help to work through something specific.
How Wonderhell came about
Laura did not intend to write Wonderhell. It happened after a series of events that began when she wrote a blog post while on a redeye flight home after appearing on the Today Show, where she described the space she was in as Wonderhell.
Connect with Eric
Connect with Laura Gassner Otting
On her website
On all social media platforms @heylgo
Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg