Jason Treu is a top business and executive coach. He’s a leading expert on human behavior, influence, sales, networking and leadership. Treu is the host of the podcast Executive Breakthroughs.

Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like?

I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. My childhood was pretty normal, other than my parents getting divorced. I went to a college prep high school and was very involved in and out of school – I was definitely extroverted. I have a lot of memories from high school.

Our motto was “being a man for others.” Serving and helping people is something I was indoctrinated in from a very early age. I did a lot of work with underprivileged kids – it was actually a requirement for school. But when you start to serve others and help them, it becomes a part of you. It propelled me to where I am today.

What advice would you give to your 20-year old self?

I would say, “Stop trying to fit in, and belong to yourself first. Then the path is much clearer.” That’s the challenge for most people, because we are always trying to get other people’s approval. You have to realize that the first person’s approval that you need is your own.

It sounds so easy, but it’s difficult to be there because that requires you to stand all alone in doing things that people will call you crazy for. But being able to stand alone, that’s the only way you know that you truly belong to yourself.

What are the biggest wastes of time for the novice in your field?

Not going the extra mile. I used to over-service my early clients to evolve my business. Recently I went back and surveyed or spoke to all of my clients, current and past. I needed to know what was working and what wasn’t because I wanted to speed up the success curve.

Many people don’t do that. You have to be able to engage with people and continually look at your business model and say, “what else do I need to learn?” Not a lot of people invest in themselves.

By that I don’t mean reading books or listening to podcasts because that’s not necessarily going to change anything the way that hands-on learning does.

Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?

When I was starting out with my coaching business, I was working with a very good friend and business partner, and we had a pretty significant falling out. I was stuck in a full-time job that I didn’t absolutely love, and I didn’t know what to do next.

It’s a hard place to be in – thinking you are in business with someone else and you’re ready to keep going but to all of a sudden have such a rude awakening. In my personal life, I was also in a place where I wasn’t happy.

My father had passed away not long before and I was already managing all of that craziness. I had been dating someone for a long time who was struggling with mental health problems, and I was helping with it while not fully understanding it. My 14-year-old dog who moved with me from San Francisco had also just passed away recently.

In times like that, you just have to be consistent and determined to move forward. As difficult as it is, you have to put one foot in front of the other and keep moving ahead and don’t be afraid to seek out help when you need it.

Everyone’s journey is different, but we all deal with hard times. Most people stop trying right before they hit a breakthrough, and that is really the biggest problem. You have to realize that the situation you are in did not happen overnight, so the solution won’t either.

It will take as long as it takes, and you have to be prepared to do whatever it takes to overcome it.

People don’t want to do that because we don’t like being uncomfortable. We all want comfort and certainty. But the challenge of this lifestyle – when you’re an entrepreneur and want to start a business, or even if you just want to be happy and fulfilled – is that you have to be able to sit through discomfort and uncertainty.

[clickToTweet tweet=”‘Everyone’s journey is different, but we all deal with hard times. Most people stop trying right before they hit a breakthrough, and that is really the biggest problem.'” quote=”‘Everyone’s journey is different, but we all deal with hard times. Most people stop trying right before they hit a breakthrough, and that is really the biggest problem.'”]

You have to take leaps of faith. You have to roll up your sleeves and do a lot of hard work, and most of the time it will be messy. It’s not the ESPN highlight reel or your Facebook news feed – that’s not real life. That’s not how people make it to success.

What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?

I spent a lot of time trying to understand what other people are doing, trying to understand why people have the problems they having. It helped me figure out what service I needed to provide to make maximum impact.

Most people do the opposite – they do the sexy things like teaching people how to be better leaders. But I address the deeper, more meaningful changes people can make. I look for blind spots and help people work on things from the inside out.

What is your morning routine?

I don’t really have much of a routine because every day is a little bit different. The one thing I tell myself every day is this is going to be a great day. I do it to put myself in a mindset that’s good. I have a grateful list, and I pick three things every day that I am grateful for.

And that’s really it. Some days I exercise in the morning if my schedule allows for it. I drink water and eat some food, I take supplements, and drink a protein shake in the morning – things like that.

What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?

I really love using Google calendar to help me organize and block out my schedule. Once its set, people can add to it and I can keep checking it to know what’s coming next. I also take breaks during the day depending on what the work level is – if it’s a lot of writing then I do it all in one big block without taking a break.

But if I’m working with a lot of clients that day, I have to take a break at some point because my brain gets foggy from all the intensive thinking. So you just have to find ways to do what makes sense in a day.

But you need to find time for yourself. That’s why I like planning things out in advance with the calendar. Because then I know what I need to get done and once those things are done, I have all this time for other things. 

What book(s) have influenced your life the most?

I love Brené Brown because of how she talks about vulnerability, belonging, connecting, trust, and courage. Her new book, Braving the Wilderness is excellent.

Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?

“Leading with generosity.” It often pops in my head because I find that when you start something with a mindset of helping and giving, then good things emanate from you. You also tend to look for the good in a situation rather than jumping to a negative conclusion. To me that really makes a big impact.

There’s another one by Maya Angelou that goes something like, “you belong nowhere, and you belong everywhere” [“You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all.”]

You have to belong to yourself. I keep asking myself if I am on the path that gets me to where I need to be, not where other people believe I should be. I make sure to keep myself on track and not let something else control me.