Kate Vitasek is an author, educator, and architect of the Vested business model. She is the founder of Vested Outsourcing, a mindset, methodology, business model, and movement for highly collaborative, win-win relationships. Kate is also a popular keynote speaker, an executive trainer/coach in the art and science of developing strategic partnerships, and a faculty member of the Graduate and Executive Education Department at the University of Tennessee.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
I grew up in Dallas Texas in a lower-middle-class family. I began to work at the age of 15 and it was easy to see how a positive attitude, hard work, and perseverance can significantly impact the outcomes one achieves.
I am a fan of the 1998 movie Sliding Doors which shows how circumstances and decisions can make a huge difference in the path you find yourself in. One of the sliding door moments in my life was to transfer to the University of Tennessee because I had met a guy from Knoxville, Tennessee and I thought it would be fun to try something new. I have worked for the University of Tennessee since 2003 and I can definitely say if I had not walked through that door I would have a very different life.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
It relates to the Sliding Door movie. When something did not work out the way I wanted I would be disappointed and perhaps frustrated and let us get it to get to me. Now I just say to myself “Things happen for a reason and I was supposed to go through this door”. I believe in doing a good assessment of what went wrong, but I have definitely learned it is so much better to have a positive attitude than to dwell on what went wrong. I remember hearing a story about when Thomas Edison’s factory burned to the ground in 1914. He has one-of-kind prototypes that went up and flames and he responded. “Thank goodness all our mistakes were burned up. Now we can start fresh again.”
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
There is a famous saying “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” The problem is people take this axiom too far and get stuck in measurement minutia. When you are spending energy measuring how things work today to chase the “green scorecard” you all too often don’t realize how easy it is to get stuck in the status quo. I have found when looking at metrics to measure success two things that make all the difference. First, less is more. Measure only the critical few. All else just becomes “data” for doing analysis. Second, at least half of the things you measure should be what are you trying to do in the future. If you measure progress on where you a going vs performance against today it totally changes your viewpoint. Bottom line – don’t be afraid of a red scorecard that is measuring your progress to where you are going.
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?
I have been fairly fortunate, I have not had anything exceptionally dark occur in my life. But that is not to say I have not had setbacks. Same answer as #2.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
Definitely a positive attitude, hard work, and perseverance. But if I had to pick just one – I would say a positive attitude.
What is your morning routine?
I don’t really have a routine because every day is different. Pre-Covid I traveled about 80% and had tons of variety in my work and the locations of where I was working. For example, one day I might be keynoting a conference, another day teaching our Executive Education courses on campus in Knoxville, and the third day doing a private workshop or webinar sharing my research around the Vested model for a highly collaborative business relationship. With Covid, I have the same type of work – but nowadays everything is virtual on Zoom or Teams. I don’t have a set wake-up time – but typically I am up no later than 7 am and if I sleep at 8 am. I do a lot of work with organizations in Europe so some days I might be starting a private workshop at 5 am. It’s not my favorite thing to do, but it is awesome to see just how effective teams can be virtual.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
I used to feel pressured to eat everything on my plate when I went out to eat because I was wasting money/food. But I learned in my first job after college when I began to travel for work that philosophy is not good for your waistline! I told myself it is better to waste food than to end up being 100 pounds overweight!” It has worked for me ever since and I am still wearing the same size I wore in college.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
I have three tricks. First, I always reflect at the end of the day (or the beginning of the day) what are the most important things I need to accomplish for the day. Second, I find it is much more productive to only check email twice a day. It is amazing how many things solve themselves and then you can consolidate how you work through emails. Third, I never pay for the internet on the plane when I am traveling. Rather I save that “quiet time” for my most important thinking time. One of my most popular “plane time” activities is writing or creating new content such as editing a chapter in my latest book or writing an article for my Forbes column.
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
I love all of the books related to behavioral economics. It is such a powerful way to look at how people are motivated and how easy it is to create perverse incentives. Dan Ariely’s book The Honest Truth About Dishonesty is great and while a long read I think everyone should read Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
Mark Twain – always do the right thing. It will gratify some and astonish the rest.
Winston Churchill – Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.
Althea Gibson –No matter what accomplishments you make, somebody helped you.
I find if you live by these simple words of wisdom you will almost always find yourself in a better place.