Laura Vaughn: The Gift of Stuck

Laura Vaughan: The Gift of Stuck

In this episode, Laura shares an interesting way to look at how we tend to feel stuck, as well as some practical ways to approach each level so that you can find the gift, then get unstuck and move forward.

In this episode, you’ll learn more about:

  • The 4 levels of feeling stuck
  • Ways to diagnose which type of stuck you’re experiencing
  • Getting to the root of the stuck through questions
  • A great cooking metaphor to help distinguish your level of stuck
  • Embracing stuck as a gift

Listen to the Podcast Now

Guest bio:

Laura brings 20 years of business leadership experience into the realm of training and consulting in carrythe3 inc. Laura earned her leadership stripes during her 7 years running a $30m business with her Dad and her husband (you can ask her what that was like over a coffee).

Laura has a CPA designation, a degree in Music Performance from the University of Western Ontario and a Masters in Management and Professional Accounting from the University of Toronto. She has filled a variety of senior leadership roles, from General Manager to COO and CEO.

Today, Laura stays inspired by coaching and training Managers, and carrying

high-stakes consulting projects for CEOs. She is on a personal mission to expunge the words unprecedented, pivot and new normal from our current vocabularies




Intro (00:00):

Welcome to Seniors' Care Matters, part of the Qod Pod network. Each week, Seniors' Care Matters provides inspiring interviews and insights to help you lead, connect and engage with your teams and your residents' families. We focus on ways to enhance your leadership approach and presence with practical tips to build a relational culture and create breakthrough results. And now here's your host for Seniors' Care Matters Deborah Bakti.

Deb (00:30):

Have you ever felt stuck? Well, yes, of course you probably have once or twice, maybe even just in the past week or the past day. I think we're all very familiar with that angsty feeling of being stuck. Perhaps our self limiting beliefs that are rearing their ugly head, or we may be lacking the tools needed to get the job done. Or maybe we just don't feel like working on a project or we just don't know why we're stuck or how to get unstuck. Recently. I was feeling stuck with a writing project that I'd been working on for months and just didn't know what the problem was. Why was I feeling so stuck with it? And how was I going to get well, unstuck and writing again? I happened upon an article that today's guest Laura Vaughn wrote called "What kind of stuck are you?" And there it was in black and white - what kind of stuck I was mired in, which then gave me the awareness that I needed to then decide if I wanted to keep working on this project. And if so, what I needed to get back to the keyboard and writing. When we have clarity with what's behind the stuck, we can then make better decisions about what needs to happen to get unstuck. And this conversation will provide some great insights that I hope will help you feel some freedom and options with whatever it is you're feeling stuck with right now. Let me introduce Laura to you. Laura Vaughn is a business leadership consultant through her company, Carry the 3. Her company helps leaders leverage their teams, helps carry their high stakes projects and inspires progress in three areas, strategy, teams and finance. Laura has 20 years of business leadership experience, including seven years running a $30 million business with her dad and her husband. You can ask her what that was like over coffee. Laura has a CPA designation, a degree in music performance from the university of Western Ontario and a Masters in management and professional accounting from the university of Toronto. She has filled a variety of senior leadership roles from General Manager to COO and CEO. Laura is on a personal mission to expunge the words, unprecedented pivot and new normal from our current vocabularies. I hope you enjoy this conversation.

Break (03:01):

When you need podcasts that inspire you, podcasts that help you live your best life podcasts that speak to you, podcasts that are easy to listen to. You'll find them on the Qod Pod network coming soon.

Deb (03:16):

Hi, Laura, welcome to Seniors' Care Matters. I'm so looking forward to this conversation today.

Laura (03:22):

Me too, Deb, it's nice to be here. Thank you for having me.

Laura (03:25):

Yeah, well, as I understand you work a lot with managers and we had a conversation a few weeks back and you shared this framework that you've created around this idea of when we get stuck and how we can get ourselves unstuck. And we are going to dive into that because I found it really useful and a really interesting perspective. And what I'm finding with talking to my seniors' care clients, typically administrators, directors of care, other people in management, there is this feeling of overwhelm feeling stuck, sometimes even having a hard time making decisions. And I think a lot of it is just this crazy environment that we're in this year in 2020.

Laura (04:10):

I think we're all experiencing new feelings of stuck right now. I think though that the fundamentals of how and why we get stuck on things are universal to circumstance. I think the circumstances can exacerbate. There are more opportunities for us to get stuck on things that maybe we hadn't encountered before, but whether we're in pandemic phase or we're just in normal day to day, life making normal day to day decisions, we still encounter, we still encounter stuck.

Deb (04:43):

Well, it'd be great if you can walk us through the four different types of stuck. And I think the listeners will be able to, as you walk through them, identify with maybe one, maybe all, maybe some, and then after the break, we'll get into some ways to get unstuck.

Laura (04:59):

Yeah. Perfect. So the first kind of stuck is the easiest one to solve and that's smart stuck. Smart stuck is legitimately knowing what to do. I mean, we all have probably heard this story. If my child doesn't know how to bake a cake, sitting back and asking them well how do you think we should bake the cake, doesn't work. We need the core knowledge before we can move anything. And just to preface it, I look at the four kinds of stuck kind of like an iceberg. So there's one stuck that is above the surface and the other three are sort of beneath and I move progressively deeper in my conversations with people. So smart stuck is the one that is above the surface. Smart stuck is my son saying, I don't know how to multiply a whole number by a fraction. By just, I just don't know how or a manager says to me, I don't actually know how to do a one on one meeting with my staff in an effective way. I don't actually know what good looks like. We have to start with a little bit of knowledge. And so because it's so easy to solve, right? This is where we, we bought the book. We go to the course, we call someone who knows something we don't. I think as leaders and parents or spouses, whatever role, wherever we're playing a leadership role, we often rush to that and we make an assumption that smart stuck is the problem because it's so easy to solve. And we're so wonderful at giving advice and solutions. This is like, it's so fulfilling. So smart stuck is the first kind of stuck. And, it's really easy to often it's easy to spot and it's easy to solve. The problem is a lot of times we misdiagnose it. So my son might say to me, I'm stuck on multiplying my whole numbers by fractions, but what actually happened when we sat down to start doing the work, as soon as I started teaching, because I thought he was smart stuck, he's like pulling out the answers left, right and center. Seven questions later, he's got six of them right. Smiling ear to ear. He didn't need my knowledge. He needed something else.

Laura (07:22):

In that situation, he wasn't actually smart stuck. He was bored stuck. Bored stuck is a second kind of stuck and bored stuck happens for one of two reasons. Either we've been working the problem for so long that we're actually we're bored. We have completely lost interest. Like I can't look at that material anymore. It just makes me sick to my stomach if I have to read that report one more time. We're sick of it. The other way it can happen is if we've overworked the problem. So you might expect if you do puzzles. So if you're a puzzle doer, you know that sometimes you sit and you work on and you're looking for that one piece you get up and you walk away. And the moment you sit back down in the chair, it's there right in front of you, right? So that happens to us all the time. And so bored stuck that's also a version of bored stuck is just, we've been trying to brute force our way through the problem. And really, we just need to give our conscious mind a break, walk away, let our subconscious mind do some work for us and come back. Walking away from a problem is not the same as, as running away from a problem. Walking is temporary.

Laura (08:37):

The third kind of stuck another layer deeper is motivation stuck. So this is where if I go back to my son's math problem, like he knows what to do. He just, he just doesn't get why, like why, why do I gotta be able to multiply a whole number by a fraction? Do I really need this? This is where we get stuck on our exercise routines or we get stuck on managing our finances. My garage right now is an example of motivation stuck. It's full and messy and it needs a cleanout. So, these are small examples, but it could also be, you know, a motivation stuck is often why we don't have that difficult conversation with an important person in our lives. Could be a spouse, could be a parent, could be a child. We haven't found a compelling reason to do the thing. There's a phrase I heard years and years ago that I've held on to. And it's this it's "turn all conviction into conduct". Turn all conviction into conduct. So when we believe something is important and we've decided something is important, act on it.

Deb (09:48):

Right. And I could see this in the motivation stuck is where procrastination probably lives and thrives.

Laura (09:55):

Yeah. And just, you know, it's one thing, if I say exercise is important because I want to have a long life with my family and I want to de-stress or I want additional creativity, whatever, but then I don't do the thing. I'm motivation stuck. I haven't tapped into a compelling enough reason. Now that's not the same as saying, there were periods in my life where I said, I am actually, exercise is not important to me right now. My children are young. My what's important is the quality of time I spend with them. And my own exercise routine is going to take a back seat for now. That was an intentional choice. It's not stuck. But a lot of us go through life thinking about the things that are important and not turning it into conduct. That's motivation stuck.

Deb (10:47):

Yeah. And you're able to readjust the priorities. And I think sometimes when we get stuck, we think that all the things are priorities. And then that's when it's that binary, I need to do it all or I'm just not going to do anything.

Laura (11:02):

Yes. And that's why one of the reasons like you've really hit on the main reason why motivation stock is so tricky because we can't do all the things. We have to make trade offs. So we're going to get into how to deal with the stucks on a little later, but just in the context of motivation stuck, one of the ways of dealing with it is really getting honest about what is important and the things that we're convicted are about being important. Let them go because there are other things that we want to change, you know, convert to conduct.

Laura (11:36):

So the fourth stuck is mindset stuck. And again, remember where we're going a little bit deeper with each version of these stuck. They're a little bit more hidden inside us. Mindset stuck is when we lack the belief in our ability to move forward. We really aren't sure we can do the thing. We're afraid of failing, or there's a limiting belief that comes from years back in our childhood, there's something inside us that is preventing us. We're telling ourselves a story that is preventing us from moving forward and getting unstuck. And oftentimes the reason I think of it in layers is because oftentimes we'll start a conversation as though it's a smart stuck problem. But when we the deeper we go, we realize you got everything you need. You're just afraid you're going to look like an idiot. And so how do we get over that? Or you're just afraid somebody's going to laugh. Or, you know, you just feel like your dad told you your entire life, this isn't who you are. So that's where the conversations obviously get really rich and deep, but they don't all go that far down.

Deb (12:44):

Yeah. So that's what I find so interesting. And I love the metaphor you used with the iceberg that starting with smart stock. And then the next level is the bored stock motivation stock,and mindset stock. So we're going to talk about some ways to be able to get unstuck in each of those four areas.

Deb (13:08):

You continue to adapt and adjust with all the pandemic policies and protocols with admitting and moving in new residents. You're dealing with limitations in building a connection and relationships with your new residents' families. If you're looking for powerful ways to connect and build trust with your new families during COVID-19, please head over to my website at Or click the link in the show notes. And I'll send you 10 great ideas that you can implement immediately to create trust and connection with your families.

Break (13:41):

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Deb (14:11):

Okay. Let's start with the first one, the smart stuck, the easiest stuck. How do we get unstuck in the smart stuck?

Laura (14:19):

Yes. So this is the easy one. Again, this is, in smart stuck, if you've got people in your life who are smart stuck, really you're trying to diagnose what is it that they need? So really our job when somebody is smart stuck is either to share what we know if we have expertise. So in my world, if I'm coaching a manager and I realize they're smart stuck, I know this is my time to teach. The key is to diagnose exactly what they need and figure out who can provide it, if not me. And if it is me, what's the right format and the right timing, bringing on all the different tools based on how people learn, that sort of thing.

Deb (14:58):

How do you go about clarifying that it is a smart stuck to be able to provide the right resources?

Laura (15:05):

Yeah. So I start with, when somebody initially says, even my son, I don't know how to multiply a whole number by a fraction. Well, tell me what you do know already. Or if a manager says, I really don't know how to have a good one on one meeting. Okay. But you've been doing them. What do you know,? What has worked? Probe a little deeper because sometimes people know more than they think. And again, we're going for depth. We want to make sure we stop at the right stuck. And so we don't want to spend too much time on smart stuck if that's not legitimately the problem. So often I spend a lot of time saying, tell me what you do know and what else do you know and what else do you know? And what else do you have to work with? Like what, sometimes we have more tools and knowledge around us than we realize. So what do you already have that you can get started and then identify the gap. What do you feel you still need to know? What's missing in your knowledge set? And sometimes it's sort of like well, I don't know what I don't know. And then other times it's like, you know what? Yeah, I do actually have a pretty good handle on this. Oh, that's interesting. But you're still not doing it. So let's talk about that. What else is at play here? What else is at play? So if we can get them to explore what is there for them then that oftentimes a whole bunch of stuff comes out onto the table and we're like, yeah, this isn't the issue.

Deb (16:38):

And then that's where you're getting below the surface of the iceberg into it's potentially three other types of stuck that may be getting in the way.

Laura (16:47):

Right. And so then I start asking questions about tell me about the problem. Tell me about your perspective toward this thing. How long have you been working it? How intensely have you been working on it? So, this is really easy to look at it in the context of my math example. Nathan had been trying to do this multiplication module for two weeks straight and he kept getting things wrong and he kept, he was just, he was honestly just bored of the material. He needed to go back and rewatch the videos and relearn some of this stuff, but he was so sick of it. He's like, I'm, I'm just, I'm bored.

Laura (17:29):

So if I know somebody's been working a problem or an opportunity or a goal for a really long time, and then, I start asking questions about, well, why, why are you working it? What was interesting about it in the first place? Like what intrigued you about it? What got you started down this path, trying to help them see the problem in a new way. What, who else is this important to? Like, there's a reason you started this in the first place. And sometimes, if somebody's just been working the problem for so long, really intensely, then the best thing I can do for them is make them walk away. You need to set this down for a week.

Deb (18:14):

Sometimes if we're not able to find someone who can coach us through that, the questions that you went through, you can self diagnose and self determine if you're feeling these types of stuck. So let's talk about, I think the motivation stuck may be the gnarliest of them perhaps.

Laura (18:35):

I like that word gnarly. Yeah. It's a tricky one because we do have to make this distinction between, is it important really? Part of the reason motivation stuck happens is oftentimes we just sort of lost our way a little bit, and we've lost sight of where we're really trying to get to, what kind of life we really want to live or how we really want to show up. This is a conversation I have often with managers. How do you want to show up in the world? How do you want to show up in your workplace? So, they've lost the, they don't want to do the thing that their boss wants them to do. Or there's a co manager who expects them to do things in a very particular way. And they're like, this is stupid. Why do I gotta do it this way? I ask for permission before I talked to your people. Like, I just don't get it. And so I try and take them back to, well, what do you want to be known for in your work? How do you want to show up? And then we can get clear on what the situation requires and it's not, it, we sort of disconnect it from desire, right? You don't have to necessarily want to do the thing in order to do the thing. And so sometimes we need to uncouple what we want and like, and then are passionate about from what the situation requires. If we can get clear, but we can only answer that question if we're clear about where we're trying to go.

Deb (20:12):

And I like how you said, I mean, it's somewhat uncoupling. I mean, wouldn't it be great if we could do only the things that we love to do a hundred percent of the time. I try to use the rule of thumb. If you can get to that 70 to 80% of your job overall, knowing that there are still going to be other things that you may not love, you may not be the best at, but they are part of your job without having to white knuckle it, you can manage that. But if you get to the point where you're at the 50 50, and there's more things that are draining you versus energizing you, then to look at that, what is still motivating me here. And maybe it's time to make a career choice decision to get better aligned with that.

Laura (20:57):

You have to connect it somehow to something bigger, right? So what's waiting for that. What's waiting for me on the other side of this thing that I don't really want to do. Like there has to be a reason to do the thing that maybe we don't expect to enjoy, but we are convinced it is right and important. And so we have to, if we focus on the thing that we're not going to enjoy, we're never going to do it. But if we can get past the thing to where we're trying to get to, which could be just simply a physical, if we're talking about exercise a state of mind, or this is the state of mind I want to have, or it could be a promotion, or it could just simply be, this is how I want to show up in the world. If we can stop fixating our gaze on the unpleasantry of the difficult conversation or the exercise, or the cleaning out the garage and focus on the thing that's on the other side that is really important to us, then we can get through it.

Deb (22:06):

So let's talk about how you deal with mindset stuck.

Laura (22:10):

Yeah. So it's very easy to mistake a motivation stuck with a mindset stuck. Motivation stuck really is just purely I know I need to have that conversation and I just don't feel like doing it. I'm not, not afraid of it. I just, you know, I just don't feel like doing it. Whereas mindset stuck is when we're thinking through all the things that are gonna go wrong and we are afraid of it that are, like you say, it's always gone wrong in the past. And we assume before we even try the thing, we're already filled with assumptions about how my mother's going to respond, how my boss is going to respond, how my kids are going to respond. And so a mindset stuck, we really have to explore... Is that true? Like, do you really know? I was working with a manager a couple of weeks ago and she, there was conversations she knew she needed to have with her boss about her staff. She was really afraid that it would make her look weak, that he would assume she didn't have things under control that she would look like she hadn't made progress. And so in mindset stuck people often need two things from us. They need us to remind them of all the good work they've done. All the things. Because sometimes we can't see it in ourselves, right. But somebody close to us can hold up a mirror and say, do you remember, do you remember where we actually were? Do you remember what conversations we were having two months ago? Like, can you see how much you've already accomplished? Can you see? And we need to show them. And I honestly, I think as leaders being a mirror for the people around us is one of the most important roles we fill. People need that from us so much because so many people we all so often create our identity based on the feedback of the people around us. We have a responsibility to reflect back and help people figure out all the good in them because we just often don't see it in ourselves. So that's the first thing. And then the second thing is a little more tangible. How can we go there with them?

Laura (24:24):

How can we do it with them? So sometimes that's just a role play and I will do this with managers all the time. They're dreading having a conversation with an employee. And so tell me what you really want to say. Like, you don't have to watch it just tell me what you really want to say, and they'll say it and it'll start out, you know, all callous and then all of a sudden it morphs into something really actually articulate and true and not offensive at all. And so if we can just take all those barriers away for people and let them play and explore, then a lot of times the mindset stuff will start to disappear. So if we can de-risk the trying by coming alongside them, then that is usually where, how we can tackle mindset stuff. In addition to reminding them of how capable they are.

Deb (25:14):

Yes. And I think those, how do you know this to be true? Because we get caught up in our own assumptions and our negativity bias and the stories that we make up. And we are hardwired to consider the absolute worst case scenario, which gets in there, gets in that way. And that's where I can see where you've identified, where you've got the motivation stuck, That's a bit gnarly. You've got the mindset stock. That is very, I look at it as a bit more deep and complex.

Laura (25:42):

Yes, these are much rich. Yeah. These are much longer conversations. They take time. These are, I often say to people that there are, there are microwave issues and then there are crockpot issues. You know, smart stock is a microwave issue. We can get in and we can get out good and fast. Mindset has to go in the crockpot. We need to let it simmer and then take the lid off and explore, and then put that lid back on and let it simmer again. They're much deeper issues. And we have to allow people the space to really do that self awareness, that self reflection piece so that we can help them in a meaningful way.

Deb (26:29):

Yeah. And I think with what you've shared today, Laura, it's really great tools for leaders in working with their team. But as leaders themselves feel stuck and deal with that, what I call lead fatigue. And they really want someone to tell them what to do or take a bit of the load. But these are tools that you've provided that we can utilize for ourselves as well as, as a leader for our team.

Laura (26:58):

I really believe that the, when stuck happens, it's a gift for us. We hate the feeling for ourselves. We hate seeing it happen to the people we love or need or both. But it's a gift because it's an opportunity. And the biggest privilege of my career journey has been the opportunity to come alongside people who are stuck and be a part of their story. And it helps me when I am stuck, helps me ask for what I need when I think of it as a gift. Because what I'm creating is the opportunity for somebody else to journey with me through my story and experience, and when my son got through his math and had this huge smile ear to ear, totally proud of himself. And it's like, my day is made baby. That was, that was rock solid. So that's what makes life rich. And so I really have started to think about stuck as a gift and an opportunity and how do I leverage that opportunity. Open the gift.

Deb (28:05):

Love that reframe. So Laura, where can people find you?

Laura (28:09):

Yeah, well, you can find me on social. LinkedIn, Laura Vaughn, and, uh, my carry the three page on Facebook. My website is

Deb (28:22):

And I'll make sure that all of your social links are in the show notes. Thank you so much, Laura. Laura (28:28):

Thank you very much, Deb. It's been a pleasure.

Deb (28:35):

Thanks so much for listening to Seniors' Care Matters, part of the Qod Pod network. For more information on today's episode, please check out our show notes and visit Join us next week for another great episode of Seniors' Care Matters.

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