What’s Your Best Worst?

I just got back from a much needed vacation – the sort of vacation you kind of think you need and then on day three of 14 hours a night of sleep you realize you really needed it really badly. We got home yesterday after a solid week off the grid and I was having trouble sleeping so I got up early to spend some quality time with my computer.

In the middle of a bunch of email I came across a gem from Elke Govertsen, the CEO of Mamalode. I met Elke in 2012 the weekend I was in Missoula to run the Missoula Marathon. She, along with some of her colleagues, were awesome hosts and while our relationship has been email only since then, I always smile when I get something from her.

The gem of an email was a link to a TEDxWhitefish talk that Elke just gave. Her note said is was on “self esteem, perspective and some of my struggles and solutions.” I fired it up and sat back to watch.

Fifteen minutes later I felt I needed to share it with you. Elke starts off strong and asserts that 85% of the world at any given moment is struggling with low self-esteem. Whether you agree with the 85% number of not, she analyzes self-esteem in a unique way. And then goes on to tell an extremely poignant story. Her story which includes a really shitty 2013, during which she completely wore herself out and then almost destroyed herself. During this time, she had to slow down, lie really still, and think a lot.

She came up with tiny little trick. Rather than try to “fix” your worst, she started to think about worst and best as a circle of goodness. Your best is your worst, and your worst is also your best. Instead of focusing only on your best, or trying to project a world to others that is your best, be authentic and actually explore both your best and your worst.

A line at 10:45 that I loved was “At a dinner party, instead of asking ‘what do you do’ ask what’s your best quality and how at some point has that been your worst?”

Elke continues to make the circle between best and worst, rather than have them on a line from best to worst. She has some powerful moments near then end, where she suggests we all “forgive and believe” and “live in the inverses where your best is your worst and your worst is your best.”

Enjoy 15 minutes of Sunday inspiration which will make you think a little differently today. Elke – thanks for sharing this with us.

  • Thank you for sharing this Feld. And, I love your line ” some quality time with my computer.” 🙂

    • Yeah – still spending quality time there – it’s dark out and Amy is still asleep.

  • Love the advice not to prejudge others. I find that when we do, it is most often more about a preventative reaction to protect ourselves and less about the other person.

    • It’s one of the biggest barriers to critical thinking. You put up a barrier by pre-judging the other person, or a situation, and immediately bias yourself against the person / situation / idea before collecting any data. Understanding this is really helpful to slowing down in the early part of any decision. And, it gets rid of a lot of conflict that was unintended / unnecessary.

  • Leandro Rosa

    Thanks for sharing! Food for brain on a Sunday morning in Brazil.

    • Where in Brazil? Hope it’s a lovely day.

      • Leandro Rosa

        From beautiful Rio.
        Loved your talk at GEC last year, great advice, since I’m trying to build a community at my home region.

  • Coincidentally I had breakfast last week with a fellow CEO and we talked about how 2013 sucked for us both; net positive for growth but we agreed we were shadowboxing our way through it. My worst revealed itself on stage in front of 1000+, gassed with nothing left in the tank. I bombed. My supposed best, being able to continue on when others can’t, had become a stubborn unwillingness to listen to others recommending slowing down, taking time to rest (14 hours of sleep…sounds good). My worst in full view, bringing my team and org along for the ride.

    I strive for and preach balance, but I’m more than capable of finding my way as far from a balanced life as anyone! #bestworst

    Thanks for sharing Brad.

    • Elke Govertsen

      Seems like 2013 was a tough one for a lot of folks— balance is a bear.

      Thanks Toma

  • WoodrowAWalters

    She has some powerful moments near then end, where she suggests we all “forgive and believe” and “live in the inverses where your best is your worst and your worst is your best.” http://qr.net/rzFQ

    • Elke Govertsen

      Thank you Woodrow!

  • JLM

    In 33 years of CEOing and a few years in the Army before that I have learned that what we think in the moment is not how we will view things in the long run. I remember with great clarity the notion that the Viet Nam was a worthy endeavor while in my 20’s and becoming a complete cynic in my 40’s. For their times, both were right. Today it seems shamefully obvious that any war is an expression of failure and stupidity.

    This does not mean the men who fought and sacrificed were not noble, our leaders failed those men as surely as our current President is failing America today. He’s had a pretty miserable 6 years.

    I have also learned all the things your Momma told you were true.

    Life is very easy if you can be real and nice.


      • JLM

        Great read and thanks for the point in that direction.

        Yes, things are really that easy, aren’t they?

        I went to VMI which has a wickedly easy honor code: “VMI cadets do not lie, cheat, steal or tolerate those who do.”

        In the Army I served with elite units wherein officers must tell the truth because men’s lives depend upon them. I remember many times in which telling the truth meant my personal lot in life was made infinitely more difficult but my conscience was always clear. Truth of the matter, I was never even tempted to lie.

        It is refreshing and comforting to know that others feel the same. As you get older, it is also pragmatic and practical because you cannot remember what the Hell you said in the first place but you can likely remember the truth.


    • Elke Govertsen

      “I have also learned all the things your Momma told you were true.

      Life is very easy if you can be real and nice.”

      True that…

      Thanks JLM

      • JLM

        I was getting out of the Army MBA in hand and getting ready to go to work directly for the CEO of a Fortune 5 company. I needed some suits.

        My Mother, who I miss terribly. used to tell me to “dress like the dummies.” The dummies being the manikins in the Brooks Brothers and Bonds mens’ store windows. She said their outfits had been designed by professional designers who knew their craft.

        I followed her advice.

        One time we were going to church and I was all suited and cuff linked up and she said proudly: “You look so handsome. Just like a dummy.”


        • Elke Govertsen

          love that story

  • Sheila Lamont

    Wonderful insight when she recommends…”…those facades that we build so that people will like us…we acknowledge those actually keep us truly and utterly alone.” Thanks for sharing this!

    • Elke Govertsen

      Thank you Sheila.

  • One of the great things to happen over the last few decades is the redefinition of the term “failure”. Read about “failure” in the history books and you’ll see examples of people shamed by banks and credit agencies as “good for nothings” (a term actually coined by the credit agencies). Today, failure means that you took on a challenge and sharpened your skills. The opposite of winning is not failing, but rather not trying at all.

    PS the speaker badly misuses the bell curve. If 85% of people struggle with low self esteem that than that area is captured by the center mass of the curve not its low mass tails. That said, she is no failure for trying.

    • I had the same observation on the bell curve, basically “that’s not right, but it doesn’t matter because it’s not really a bell curve that she’s describing, aha – there’s the circle – I like that metaphor a lot!…”

      • Elke Govertsen

        Yes I should have said “arc” or “spectrum”– it isn’t a bell curve. If there is a next time I will rephrase.

        Thanks to both of you for sticking with the broader idea.

  • Wayne Sellers

    Wow! Thanks Brad, and welcome back from a week of r and r. Surprised that I did not see this on the TED app.

    • I don’t think it’s made the TED app yet since it’s a TEDx talk.

      • Elke Govertsen

        True. I’m not sure how TED integrates the TEDx talks over time. Probably comes down to numbers.

  • Glad you had another great off-the-grid quarterly vacation! So you know, I’m now starting your 5th book, and yes, I now keep my emails really short 😉 — I’m referring to the first one I ever sent you — Thanks for all the insights.

    • My pleasure – psyched you are reading it – hope you enjoy it.

      • Also… my wife and I are listening to the audio format of Startup Life … together. It’s definitely helping our already functional relationship.

        • Super. It was fun to do the audio version. Harder than I thought.

          • I bet. I could’t see myself doing one, (as I have a French-Canadian accent), but the one you did personally is by far the best of all your other books I have listened to so far.

  • Jeremy Seth Davis

    This was spectacular. Thank so much for sharing!

    My best trait is (I prefer the term “superpower”) is being an expansive thinker. As soon as I meet people, I start to see opportunities for how they can grow, who they should meet, and how I can help.

    Worst trait: same thing. I’ve had to work hard to create systems to ensure that I don’t constantly jumping from one opportunity to another. Following through is the supreme test of anything I do. Great to hear Elke’s thoughts on how these two traits fit together.

    • Great superpower. My favorite personal superpower is my ability to sleep on airplanes from wheels up to wheels down. But your linkage of best/worst is super.

      • Elke Govertsen

        Superpower is a perfect word and that’s a stellar connection.

        And what I wouldn’t give to sleep on airplanes.

        • Thanks so much for these kind comments, Brad and Elka. I’m touched.

          Brad- I love your superpower, too. You also have one more: Boundless patience when asked to roam through Newark corridors. That ranks high in my book.

          Loved this post!


          • Hah – good reminder. I am a good wandered.

  • Elke Govertsen

    Thank you so much for this post Brad– I’m honored and humbled and excited.

    It is a small idea– but the conversations I’ve had since the video went live are huge. People are really sharing themselves.

    Thank you for being a trailblazer in the conversation about being real and authentic and successful at the same time.


  • This is such a fantastic reconfiguration of how we view ourselves. My superpower is enthusiasm and passion. Mania. i live with bipolar disorder. One December about ten years ago, I walked into my startup’s holiday party and proceeded to get loaded (anxiety). It was my first tech job. Soon after I encountered a colleague that none of us particularly cared for. I decided it was my duty to let him know this. Surrounded by coworkers, I loudly pronounced: “Andrew, we don’t hate you because you’re Jewish; we hate you because you’re an asshole”. And then I promptly exited stage left into some shrubbery. Superpower (admittedly soused) used for evil. Ironically, that same night (in spite of myself) I was named Employee of the Year for directly making the company 6m in revenue that year. This was a result of my tireless, resilient style of conducting business in a sector that was still figuring itself out. Superpower used for good. I have been called “a force of nature’ in an interview. I thought that was a positive thing, right? Guess not. The eight calls I made to the CTO following the interview were not well-received. 😉