There are many things I didn’t know about myself until I started working with a coach. Things like my unreasonable expectations towards myself as to how I handle difficult situations (such as a parent being ill) or my tendency to take on excessive responsibility for things that don’t fall within my circle of control.

One of the best parts of coaching is that you get to see your habits, behaviors, and mental patterns in a mirror. This dynamic is deeply clarifying. For example, it made me see that some bad things weren’t as dramatic as I thought. It also enabled me to better internalize the good things in my life.

Doing this over and over (along with other practical exercises such as self-reflection), I became more clear-headed. My choices improved, I became more confident in my decision-making process, and I generally found it increasingly easier to navigate uncertainty and complexity.

Today’s episode is focused on this crucial topic: our process for making decisions and how we can pick and choose ideas, experiences, and people to help us improve it so that we elevate multiple aspects of our lives.

Before you press play, start with this idea my guest, Erno Hannink, shared: don’t evaluate the result of your decisions but focus on the thought process behind it. You’ll soon understand why that makes a huge difference.

About Erno Hannink:

Erno is the kind of person who exudes optimism and he proved it once again during our conversation. Even when confronted with tough times and difficult decisions, as we all are these days, he still focuses on mind and body health.

Using his knowledge of neuroscience, Erno cultivates the deeply positive effects of self-control to make the best decisions. And this ability comes from actions, not theory. Erno stands for an active life, getting enough quality sleep, choosing fresh vegetables, and other small and consistent choices that increase your quality of life.

The best part of this episode is that you get truly helpful pieces of advice from an experienced professional.

Leveraging his business experience, Erno became a coach to help entrepreneurs make their best decisions. Whether through his sessions or on the football field, where he serves as referee, Erno knows and practices the importance of having a coach and being one to others. Using coaching to get an objective perspective, Erno became aware of some bad habits that kept him from succeeding and found the right approach to replace them with new, better ones.

I know from experience that a coach guides you to a place of clarity and self-awareness, unlocking options that get you closer to your goals. However different your context may be, I can honestly say the same principles work for everyone. In this episode, you can explore that in your own time.

A good listener, a great advisor, and a very present human-being, Erno Hannink is the coach you need for a short-term mood boost and for the long-term changes you need to achieve your business and life goals!

Listen to this episode to learn:

  • How being more present helps you make better decisions
  • How to feel better during stressful situations
  • The influence of good sleep and good nutrition for better decisions
  • Why imagining worst-case scenarios helps you get in control of your life
  • The reason we all need a coach to correct our bad habits
  • How keeping a “decision book” can guide you to make good choices

A few ideas that stuck with me:

  • The only thing you can control is your reaction to external events.
  • Focusing more on our hobbies and less on external issues helps strengthen our mind-body connection.
  • No matter what time of day you work out, it helps you get better sleep. With a rested mind, you get more clarity to make better decisions.
  • A coach observes your unconscious and damaging habits and suggests a better route to achieve your most meaningful goals.
  • Don’t evaluate the result of decisions but focus on your decision-making process. Wondering how to do that? Create a decision book to keep track of your choices. Use it to analyze the best and the worst things that can happen so you can expand your options and perspective.

Connect with Erno:

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Full episode transcript:

Andra Zaharia: My guest today is the founder of, business coach for entrepreneurs and published author. He helps other entrepreneurs make the right decisions step-by-step, so they can create a healthy growth engine and the navel, their businesses to run themselves. After building his Dutch website and blog or having that ML and a community around him, he expanded his mission internationally. Erno is a starter, a builder, a changer.
He brought a number of international events through the Netherlands, such as aboard camp and social media club. He rallied people to create change by leveling up and helping others do the same. He now works with entrepreneurs to help them make decision in their best interests, so they can immediately get more freedom. We talked about what helps people make better decisions on their own, but being refereed, taught him about making difficult choices and why you should always be close to the action and how that translates into everything you do. Plus, Erno also shared his framework for making better decisions. So, full disclosure I’ve been working with Erno for almost two months on building my goal setting muscle. I’ve seen tremendous improvement in my focus, follow through internal alignment and productivity. So, because of his continued support, I know ship faster, better work, and I enjoy it a lot more. I hope these episodes help you advance on your own self-growth path. And I can’t wait for you to discover everything that you can learn from this conversation. Erno, welcome to the “How do you know podcast”. Very thrilled about our conversation today? We’ve had many similar to them in one way or another, and I’m very curious, very excited to share your wisdom, and your incredible experience with the listeners of this book. Yes, so, welcome!

Erno Hannink: Thank you very much, Andra!

So, we’re going to jump straight into it and have a question that’s not necessarily comfortable, but hopefully we’ll get something to start with something that many people I think will resonate with. So, what would you say was the most difficult decision you’ve had to make this year?

Erno Hannink: This year? Oh my Gosh. I don’t think it was really a decision. It was more like a conversation, which wasn’t easy. As we know now, we are in the midst of the Corona. Virus situation and in March, it was the beginning of beginning in Europe. It started, I think it was like in February, maybe early January in Italy, some December in China. And, of course it feels right far away. It feels like at the other end of the world, China, and then, okay, it hits Europe and Italy. Okay. still far away. And slowly, you notice it’s coming towards the Netherlands. You see the first cases here too. Then, of course, there were conversations of lockdown, which was the situation that they enforced in China, in the area where the virus was originated. And, so they started talking about that too in Netherlands, about a possible lockdown. So that Friday night, it was actually Saturday morning, really early. I thought it was like in the middle of the night when I woke up and I started thinking about this. This idea of lockdown of what that would mean? What are the implications for me, for my family, for my business, for everything? And I also had a conversation with another entrepreneur just a couple of, I think, two weeks earlier. And we talked about a lot of things and not about the lockdown, but about drawing up a worst-case scenario. So, I thought about, so what is the worst-case scenario? For my family, if we go in and lock that. So, I painted this picture in my head and then I got out of bed because after like 45 minutes in bed and not getting back to sleep, I figured. So, let’s get this out on paper. And so, I can get it out of my hand and I started writing down. So, what happens if, for example, when everybody in my family gets sick or what if we all have a lockdown and we can’t work, so there’s no income. What does it mean if there’s no income? How much money do we have? How much money do we have in the bank? How much savings do we have? How much do I need, do we need about-ish, in a month? So, how much time do we have with the money that we have saved? How many months can we go on? And I came to the conclusion that’s okay. So I don’t have to worry right now because we can count on like a year and a half, easily when there’s no money coming in, none at all. And so, then I, the next morning and Saturday, I was like in the lunchtime, I started talking about this with my family on, on the lunch table. Cause my son was there and only he’s his own room, in another city. And so, I started asking, so what do we expect? A lockdown. Do you think that’s a real thing? Do you think that will happen? And we all agreed. Yeah. That this could be a big thing next week. That one, when they have the press conference, they would probably, they could be announcing electon. Okay. So, if this happens, what will you do, Justin? My son, will you come here? Will you stay in Mayfair? Which is the other city? No, he’s definitely going to stay at his own place. Okay… My mom, my wife was kind of sad when he said that, because I don’t know how long we are going to be in lockdown. “How long are we going to miss you?” But you know, that was his decision and it was clear that what’s a good thing it was out in the open. And then I started talking about money. So, what happens if we don’t have any money? So, everything else, what happens after the lockdown? Any money we make is like a plus from the worst situation that I could imagine. So, from then on, it actually got just easier. My wife has a job and she got more hours. Some way I lost a lot of clients. The day after the lockdown was announced, my revenue was cut like 70%, so it had a huge impact on my business. But still, we are safe. We haven’t got ill, we don’t have the virus in our family, direct family. I’m very careful with visiting my parents.
So it’s all tough decisions. And I think it’s, it’s the toughest one in this crazy year, beginning that you decide to make this worst-case scenario and think about what are the implication of this lockdown. And in the end, the lockdown was not that long, but still, it wasn’t easy. And now we are again in the new lockdown.

Andra Zaharia: I know what you mean and thank you for sharing that with us, especially because I think that so many people went or are going through or might go through again the situation and the way I think that a way that you impact this, this source of anxiety, of uncertainty, of fear for some people is a very good example that we could follow to kind of get more clarity ourselves. I found a lot of people, especially with all the pressure, all the information, everything that’s going on, I’ve seen their language that they sometimes tend to generalize or kind of have their thinking distorted by some other bias. Because I’ve been very lucky to be able to go to coaching and therapy, and I learned to unpack this anxiety and to break it down and see what’s really at the end of it, I tried to kind of help them do the same. Your example is so important because it teaches us that we can better navigate uncertainty if we’re actually realistic about what we need, what we can achieve, what our resources are and just try to figure out exactly like you said, what’s the worst thing that can happen. I think that’s basically the thing that the Stoics used to do as well. Imagine your worst-case scenario. And I know that you’re very familiar and you work with these principles, imagine your worst-case scenario and then build it up from there. And you’ll see that when that worst case scenario doesn’t necessarily happen or even if it does, you’re prepared, but then it gives you that freedom to live your life and continue to make choices and continue to just do your best day after day and, and not get stuck. Because I also see a lot of people that have gotten sock and, what I hope for them, if they’re listening to this podcast is that they keep an open mind so they can learn from you and this conversation and take what they need to kind of move forward, while accepting the reality. And I know that’s a very, very difficult thing to do this year, especially this year. So again, thank you for sharing that. That was very personal, very authentic and sincere. So, I definitely think that a lot of people will empathize with it. So, you’ve had all these things happen to you, but every time I talk to you, you’re so full of energy and optimism while still remaining pragmatic and deeply anchored into some very important values and principles. So, I wanted to understand a little bit of what makes your mindset. What built it as you progress through your various roles and through different ways of working with people. Tell me a bit about that.

Erno Hannink: Well, I think that you already mentioned, so it was this, is like the engine for me, the operating system. That’s a better word. The “operating system”. So, the operating system still is as it is. It is a ancient philosophy from 300 years before the birth of Christ. And it is, I think there are many principles in there. There are a lot of things that you can get from it but the most important thing that I get from it is that there was nothing that you can control. The only thing that you have in your control is the way you react to things. So how you respond to things. So, anything can happen. Any Corona breaks out, that’s something you can’t control. Hopefully, in the future we can get better control then because it has to do with the livestock and everything. So we need to change something there. But that takes time and it’s, and it’s, there’s a lot of things I have no control on that. That’s government things. That’s politics. I don’t control that and I can’t get upset from it. I can say “So, this is a bad thing happening and the government is causing, they don’t do anything about.” I can blame others. I can get upset, I can get frustrated angry, sad, but that doesn’t really help me. What I can control is how I respond to this kind of messages. Actually, what I also do is I don’t follow the news a lot, so I don’t watch the news on the TV. I’m listening to the news on a radio. I don’t read newspapers. I tend to avoid timelines on Twitter and LinkedIn, for example, as much as possible, in these times, because a lot of polarization, like you just said before, because it just makes you sad or frustrated or angry and, and there’s nothing you can do about it. So, what I do is just focus on the things that I can control, the things that I can do to support the things that I love doing, that I have value for me. That I offer a value for other people that I work with and things that I like to do. So, a couple of things I like to do for example, is to read, learn, have conversations with people in the podcast like you and write. Because by writing I order my thoughts on what I’ve been doing, reading of what I’ve been hearing, listening to and learning from people. And I tried to remix it to the things that how I use it or how I can use it or how I see other people using it. And that’s, I think is, the thing that I can do. I can write every day, that’s on the mat. I control it. There’s nobody that can stop me from doing that, right? So, that’s something I can do. That’s the same thing with sleep. I can go to bed on time, because sleep is very important in your health. And I can exercise whenever I want, because the exercise you could be just walking on spat, you could be running, you can do all kind of exercise where you don’t need equipment. You don’t need a school. You don’t need a teacher. You don’t need anything. You just do it right. Running or walking out in the woods, that’s just healthy. Then it’s good for your mind. It’s good for your body. And these are just very basic things that you can do to feel better, to have a basis where you can build the rest of it.

Andra Zaharia: That is so, so helpful. I can help Latino nod throughout your answer and why you were talking about these things. For such a long time I saw this in myself as I did, especially like to emphasize the part about sleep. So, every time I would have poor quality sleep because I didn’t get enough sleep or good quality sleep because I was either stressed out or ate too late or things like that, I could notice that the next day I was more irritable It was easier for someone to just step on all the buttons, step on my toes. it was the, let’s say, the defensive mechanisms and the primal brain would just shout and take control so much easier than when I’m well-rested and because we’ve been working together I just… That idea of eight hours in bed, seven hours of sleep really stayed with me so well, I’ve seen a tremendous increase in my mood, my level of energy, my ability to focus, even in my appetite, I don’t have cravings anymore. And so many other things just got self-regulated simply because I got better sleep. So that’s incredible. The things that you mentioned people might think that they know them like, “Yeah, I know I should exercise and I should sleep or I know I should do all these things”, but it doesn’t make a difference until you actually start practicing them. And when you do, and when you see the results, you’ll understand that there’s so much more to them than checking things off a checklist. And I really hope that people just try at least one of these things and just like, start with sleep. Just get better. Yeah.

Erno Hannink: Yeah. I think sleep is the most important one. Of course, there are a lot of noise in the world with entrepreneurs that want to be building like startups or, growing their business in huge businesses have venture capitalists, following them, chasing them to make more money, to get more users and everything. And they work like really hard. I just read a story about this morning on Twitter. The thing is that there’s only so much work that you can do. I know the guy that I love talking about this, is Gary Vaynerchuk. I love him. But he has a lot of focus on just working like 14 hours a day, but I don’t, I don’t believe that part for me. I mean, for him it’s okay. I don’t judge him, but for me that that doesn’t work. So, sleep is an important part of rejuvenation. So, for resetting your brain for, coping with the things that happened to you during the day. So, there’s a lot of things going on in your brain while you’re asleep. You dream, you memorize things, you clear your memory. There’s a lot of things going on and all these phases of your sleep. So, I like to get up quite early in the morning. Because for me it’s I like it when it’s quiet in the house and I can just work in my office when there’s no noises, of course in the winter, it’s more difficult because it’s dark. It’s not that it’s not good for your rhythm.

Andra Zaharia: The circadian rhythm. Yeah.

Erno Hannink: Right. So, it will be a lot better if you had a lot of light right away in the morning to wake up, but that in the winter it’s pretty difficult, but I get up like somewhere between five and six. And when you do that, that means that you have to get in bed, hopefully, get some sleep around 9:00 – 9:30 somewhere.
And that sounds to a lot of people like that’s not social, that’s, that’s not normal. It might be not so social, but tell me what you are doing in the evening. Most of them just watching TV and there’s not a lot of stuff that you learned from the TV. I’d rather read books in the morning. And nobody watches TV in the morning when they get about five. So, it’s a lot more effective when you learn in the morning. Also, when you watch TV in the evening or you start, you’re still working on your laptop and evening before you go to bed, then have troubles with the lights on your eyes. So, it takes a while before you really get into deep sleep. So, sleep is an important part and what I’m trying to say is if you want to get early and have a lot of your day just go to bed earlier. That’s an important part.

Andra Zaharia: And I think that this is kind of a very good place to start. Let’s say, experimenting with getting better sleep and sleeping more simply because there are a lot of social activities that are not happening. So, you might as well take the advantage to, let’s say of the situation of your constraints and work with them to set yourself up for success by developing these habits, which are so normal and so important to us.

Erno Hannink: And if you combine it with exercise, right? So, if you start exercising, the good thing of exercise is it makes you physically tired, so it helps you to become more tired. So, once you start doing the physical workouts and it doesn’t really matter what time of day you do that, it just means you also get better sleep. The physical workout helps you to clear your mind at that point, but also it makes your body tired, that you fall sooner into sleep and faster to sleep. And it also helps you to sleep deeper. So, these two combinations, including eating well. And eating well is easy if you had enough sleep. If you didn’t have enough sleep, your willpower is quite low, the amount of willpower that you have. So, it becomes a lot easier to grab some snacks or some fast food or whatever, to quiet down your hunger, but it really doesn’t feed your body. So, I don’t have to say you have to eat all these very difficult stuffs, but eat vegetables. Right? So, just fresh vegetables and rice or potatoes or whatever. It’s important to you. That’s a lot better than going to McDonald’s or whatever

Andra Zaharia: It absolutely is.

Erno Hannink: So, this three-food exercise, they…

Andra Zaharia: They totally are. And what’s interesting is that when you think about decision making, you don’t necessarily think about these things. But I think, from what I learned from you, from what I’ve studied myself, decisions happen when you set yourself in a context where you can make those good choices, they don’t just happen. You have to kind of internalize some things about yourself, about the world that you live in, about how you think, how other people think, to be able to make those good choices consistently. I wanted to go back in this respect and kind of dig into a factor that you mentioned earlier. So, the startup world, you work with a lot of entrepreneurs who build startups or other types of companies. And especially in the startup world, the main story is that you have to hustle, you have to grow fast, you have to like doing some checklists, like work 80 hour/weeks and put it in everything. You have to work hard, play hard, all of those cliches. That sort of people tell themselves, might lead them to make wrong choices or to act in ways that don’t align with themselves. So, I’m curious if you could share like some of the stories that you’ve seen in people, kind of operating in this context and how they manage to kind of change the story that they’re telling themselves and start making choices that are more aligned with them and not with the status quo.

Erno Hannink: I think that the problem is, of course, when you start your business and you have a sort of expertise and your business is focused around expertise. So, you offer your services, build on this expertise that you have and so the one thing that you do that you sell to customers is your expertise. So that means your hours. You have to make hours, your hours to satisfy the client, do the work and to get paid. So, your payment is in close relationship with the number of hours that you work. Then at some point, because I work a lot with people that have services and not in the software industry to deliver really services, right? So sometimes it goes well, they get more clients that they can handle on their own. So, they’re going to hire somebody else. They’re going to hire a second person that probably does about the same thing that they can do and maybe something new, but they also work an hour. They also have working hourly basis. They charge, they are the services and so this company like kind of grows in this kind of way. So, they hire similar people, they add similar services and they sell their hours. That means that the entrepreneur or the owner of the company feels that the revenue and also the profit of the company is closely related to the number of hours that they work. And, at some point they will hire like an assistant or somebody who answers the phone or somebody who’s doing the bookkeeping. So, somebody who is not involved with work that is being charged to the client. So now it all gets skewed. It all gets difficult because now you have somebody in the office that’s really else is working for to get her paid or him paid and they don’t work for the client. And the whole thing has gotten upset and difficult for them not to feel and discover how this work and the internet is just continually working more and more hours to get everything fixed and done.
The assistant is looking for help because they don’t understand everything that they know they need to do the work because the owner has been doing all this stuff before. So now I only learn how he or she can transfer a part of that work to the assistant or even better some of the work they do for clients to their colleagues.
So, they get freed up for more important stuff for the business, like thinking about new employees or new services or getting new clients. So, they have to shift to doing non-billable work, doing work and not getting paid for it, but it’s a really scary situation because that means that the human hours that they will work less. They will have less income and they don’t have trust and probably also not a very booking system at that time that they know this is affordable This can happen. So, this is when I often come in, because this is a situation where they work like 80 hours a week, the partner hates them. Not really, but now they don’t think they are doing the right thing. They missed the weekend, they, they work all the time and they don’t get enough sleep. They work a lot. They network in the evenings and then, whatever stuff wasn’t getting done in the office during the day, they do it in the evening or in the weekend at home. So, they work all the time. And, they feel it’s not right, but it’s the only way they know. They just know. I needed to put more hours in because I have like 10 colleagues. I need to support them now. And what I do then is small steps. Most of the people work on stuff that’s important, but also urgent, right? Eyes, the eyes now and matrix. And in this quadrant, most of the infamous, when they small work in everything, that’s burgeoned and important. What I want them to do is start working a little bit on important, but not urgent, so that you work ahead, so that you have things to get done before tomorrow. And then, slowly we teach them habits that they can do like starting, focusing on three tasks during the day, instead of like 15 on your to-do list because you don’t get them all done anyway. So, let’s just focus on the three most important ones so that, if you got it in a day, you are sure that you finish those three and you go happy home, and then you get more room, you get more space, more mental space, but also more time to focus on the bigger decisions. And then you also see that you don’t need to work on Saturday because you have some of the stuff already done on Thursday or Friday. And then the family sees you again and you find it good to eat together again. So then, slowly they experience. Okay, so I can do this and that. What I also try to do sometimes is when they really don’t see the beginning. I just make a small calculation with them. So, I asked them “How much is the revenue right now? So, what is the total cost of everything? So, this is your profit, right? So, if this is your profit, how much do you make?” And usually, it’s lower than the profit. So, if you don’t work, you can still lift from the profit, right? And it takes a while and they see it, but they don’t trust it yet.
But it helps them to see, okay, slowly I could do this. I could work a lot less billable hours work on the other stuff, grow the company. And still have enough money.

Andra Zaharia: It definitely is a process and I love how you emphasize building self-trust. I think that’s such an important part. You know, entrepreneurs often feel, we kind of have this myth in society, around the entrepreneurs who are very self-assured and very comfortable, very flamboyant and they’re comfortable anywhere. And they’re very kind of extroverted. So, they do very well but the thing is that there were tons of, let’s say introvert entrepreneurs or people who are very motivated to help other people in one way or another to build something. They have that instinct, but putting that instinct to work sometimes smashes into this wall of insecurity that will take away your energy. It will drain you; it will lead you to situations where you feel sucks, simply because you don’t feel yourself capable of kind of detaching a little bit from the day-to-day. And that is so important, not just for entrepreneurs, but for each of us.
If we don’t disconnect a little bit from that, day-to-day, we’re going to be so incredibly second some point because we never get to think strategically and advanced in that way. So, I’m really glad you shared this. And something else that I wanted to ask. I really believe in the incredible potential of coaching. I’m such a big believer in therapy and finding whatever works for you because a problem that I see is people have good intentions. They want to build good habits, but they like follow through and when they follow through, they pick up a habit, they can keep it in there.
Kind of every time the cycle happens, and this is something that I actually learned, in their belief in themselves will start to decay. So how do you think people can build, let’s say the ability to follow through on their decisions with taking on a new habit when they don’t have support or what do you advise them to do in this situation?

Erno Hannink: Well, first I think you’re right. Coaching is really important and I’m not saying that just because my coach, but I experienced it myself all the time. Just this week, I’m in an athletics team, right? So, I run from my cell, but I also run in ethics team and we have a coach. And the coach pays attention to the way that your time is building, how you’re doing. If you’re running on the suggested times that he proposed, you should run for this session. And this week we did like five times one K. So, a one K means two and a half rounds on a 400-meter track. And so, we have running on a track. For me it was getting difficult every time to get the next time, because every time it was, I had to run faster. And at some point, it’s becoming very difficult to run fast and faster and faster. And then, he says, well, I noticed one thing. By the way I’ve been doing it for four and a half years or so. It’s not like he sees me this first time. “You have a very particular type of your running your legs and you’re very unique in this group.” That was not meant very positively. It was different and not in a good way. So, he showed me what I was doing. I was not stretching my leg at the back long enough, so I was pulling it back forward too soon and not using the full length of the stretch.
Sounds complicated, but this is why you need a coach. A coach can see things that you can’t see because you have habits. You have things that you do with your body, with your mind, with everything that you do, which is so ingrained in your system, and even there’s running, pose it. There is no mirror. I can’t see myself running. I just run the way I think I’m supposed to run, but anything and anything that you can think of is whatever you do is there, it’s so ingrained in the system. It’s very difficult to see yourself that you’re doing it the wrong way, because it’s in your system. It goes automatically. So, a coach is really important to see the things that you’re doing, which are in the mining learning new habits or undermining a FaceTime or a mining, whatever. So, I would say, find a coach as the first thing to discover, and it doesn’t have to be expensive. You don’t have to find a one-on-one coach. You could find a buddy who’s looking at you but make sure that they see you like almost every day, because that’s important because the habits are so normally system that you do them automatically. You don’t think about it. So, you don’t see that you’re doing them wrong. Somebody else needs to say that to you and point it to you that you are doing it this way and you’re supposed to be doing it that way. And, so a solution would be that you just find a buddy, wherewith you talk to every day and you tell them what you do. Of course, it’s a very difficult thing to do over the phone or over Skype and you are a runner and they cannot see your posture while running, but everything else like in your business, you can say, I’ve been working on this today. I wanted to set these goals, but it didn’t do it. So why didn’t you do it? What happened there so that you can become more aware of and you can’t do it by your own? I also think that if you, and there’s so many theories about habits and how you, how you grow them. I think the most important ones are start small status, smallest possible. Make this, make the step so tiny, tiny habits that, it’s impossible not to do it, right? So, for example, if you want to start running, start with putting on your running shoes without going outside. If you don’t like running, if you’re not into running, but you want to start running because you need to exercise and especially now in this Corona situation, start putting on your running shoes, then there will be someday when you put, when you do the next step and as you go outside. Then another thing is you could connect these new kinds of habits. Just pick one, not three or four at the same time. Just pick one and connect it to an existing habit that you have, let’s say, for example, every morning you brush your teeth. That is a very common thing that rented us. So, when we have a new habits tea, if you can connect it to something like that. So if you have lunch, you can put it after the lunch. Cause it makes it easier. You do this thing and then they need to do the other thing as well. Another thing that you could do is reduce, not increase barriers for the things that you don’t want to do. Let’s say, for example, if you wanted to use less your mobile phone, so you don’t want to go on a Social Media, you don’t want to go on your phone, check your WhatsApp, everything, when you’re in your comfort zone or in your focus zone. So just remove the phone from your office, just put it somewhere else and where you need to just specifically go to pick it up until it takes you like a couple of minutes to get there, or you put it in your bag and you close the zipper and you make it as difficult as possible. So, there’s a lot of triggers going on before you actually get to your phone. These are, I think, three things that really help you like connected to something existing that already do make it really, really tiny so that it becomes so logical to do not to do it. And of course we talk about bad and good habits and I’m not sure if it’s the right language because habits are just habits. There is no value to it. A habit is something you do automatically. It’s decisions you make all the time without thinking about it. It’s your automatic brain system. According to economy, is he things you do automatically without actually really thinking about it. You think about it, but you don’t know it. And, so inhabited becomes a good habit when it supports your goals. A habit becomes a bad habit when it doesn’t support your goal, when it goes against your goals. So, in general, a habit is just a habit. And if you want to make sure that your small decisions, so your habits support your goals, then you have to develop those habits so that. Talking about decision-making, the first part of making better decisions is developing good habits that support your goals.

Andra Zaharia: Exactly because otherwise, so much of us, and I know you read tons about neuroscience and about what happens in the brain, what happens in the body and how they’re connected, how much of our behavior is completely automatic and we have no idea. Maybe we notice it sometimes when we were going somewhere familiar and we don’t realize how we got there. Maybe we notice it when we pick up the phone and scroll on Social Media and realize like “Hey, this is not what I wanted to do. What did I want to do with my phone when I first picked it up?” So we might notice it then, but the rest of the time, we do not notice these things. And building awareness of around them is important because it changes the course of our lives, actually, without realizing it. It’s that boiling frog situation with things kind of the water heats and you don’t realize what’s happening. And then, you’re like 10 years from now, you realize that you didn’t achieve the goal that you wanted to, and there’s all this frustration and regret. And we can definitely avoid that. We now know more about the brain and more about all these things than we had ever known, but that doesn’t do the job for us. It just knowing about them does not do the actual work for us, and I love how you talked about this. I actually wanted to ask, so we’ve talked about how habits kind of shape your context and set you up for better decisions, and how you need an accountability partner, whoever that is, to give you awareness in that area. And there’s so much more you can achieve with that, but you have to be ready willing actually do the work. I also wanted to ask a different side of your decision-making abilities and know-how because you’ve talked about your run, but I know that you’re also a football referee. And I’m very curious. To me, that’s such a fascinating area because first of all, you’re the first football referee that I know. Second, I feel like it’s a very hard pressure environment, where you have to make decisions that will most likely piss a lot of people off. So, I’m very curious to know how you make decision in that context and what you kind of learned from that.

Erno Hannink: There’s a couple of things. First of all, I think that most decisions you make only pisses half of the people on the field off, the other half are okay with it, right? So, 50% you already won. So that’s good. I’m always looking at the bright side. I think there’s a reason I don’t referee. For a long time, I really. hated football, soccer, and I’m not sure why I started it in my childhood. I wasn’t a good football player. I quit like a year and a half after I started, which when I was like 12, I’m not sure. And I was the only one on the team who got demoted once, when we won the championship. So I wasn’t good. So that’s put it lightly anyway. For the years, I didn’t like football. I didn’t see a match on TV. I didn’t watch the Dutch soccer team, anything. Then, I get a son and he’s in the beginning, all kinds of sports, he kind of need sports. He did some shooting of arrows for a while. And at some point, he got interested in soccer. So, he joined the soccer team here, close to our home. And I thought as a parent, it is normal that you support the club, whereas you playing because it’s all built upon support by parents. And that led to once they grow, they go to a bigger field and they need what we call assistant referees. So, the person who runs alongside the line and just waves the flag when they are offsite or on the way to flag when the ball goes out of their sight line and, nobody wants to do that job. Of course, not many people do that, but I did mine for me. It was a way to focus on the match and on the talk to other parents and miss goals, because that often happens. I don’t like that. If I’m there, I want to watch my son. I want to watch the team. I want to see what they’re doing, how they’re playing, if they score or not, if they lose or not. So, I thought this is a good thing to do. And so, I became an assistant referee. At the same time, I was in network events and people were saying I was wondering about presentations. People were saying “You need to take the center stage. You are always on the sideline.” I’m really good at the sideline. And they told me to take the center stage. We have something to say. If you have ideas, share them, become more centered. And this is a really great metaphor, right? So, if you are an assistant referee, you are on the sideline. Physically you are on the sideline and you wave your flag, but in the end, the referee in the center of the pitch is responsible. So they whistle. If you wave, they may whistle, they may also not whistle because they don’t agree with your decision. So, yeah, the referee is the most important part. He’s in the center of the picture and in my case, at some point, I figured, so I think it is time to move on and go from assistant referee to referee because that’s an important point. I did it for like four years. I did both fine: on Saturday I was a referee for youngsters and on Sunday I was assistant referee. And later on, I noticed, okay, I’m not that young anymore. I said maybe two matches in a weekend is a little bit too much. So then, I chose referee instead of assistant referee. I had already had a good matches champion since everything done as assistant referee and not as a referee and important things about this decision making that you were asking about as a referee. So now my background, why I choose this whole thing is, you need to know the rules. You need to know what are the rules, and I don’t always know them, but you need to know them as good as possible. And then, the second thing is you need to apply the rules in a match as good as possible. So, when you have a rule and it is a fault, you need to know, you need to give a free kick, you need to give a yellow card, you need to get a red card. So, you need to arouse pretty well to make the good decisions as good as possible. And, so if you make good decisions and you give somebody a red card, they can be upset. But if you make the right decision, people understand that you were right, they deserve the red card. They made a file, which was really serious. They need a red card. Of course, I can make mistakes. Like this weekend, I made a mistake. I thought it was just a free kick, but it was also a yellow card. I forgot the yellow card. Then the trainer of the other team complained that happens. You make mistakes but the thing is, if you make a decision, you blow your whistle. Be confident. Be confident in the decision. Make your body language with everything that you do so that this is the right decision. Even if you’re wrong, show them that you are confident about your decision and don’t go into discussion. People will discuss with you. They will try. „This is my decision; I’ve already made it. So, get off, don’t bother me in what we’re going to go continue with this way. I did decide this is it.” And that gives a lot of acceptance, like 90% of the time. So if you just are closed and that’s the last part you have to be fit, you have to be really fit. You have to be close to the situation every time when the ball goes from one side of the field to the other, or when they are running and chasing. You have to be close to the situation, close enough. So, you can really good assessment after situation. Is it a fault? Was it a good call? Was it a goal? Yes or no? Was it in the box? Was it out the box? Everything you need to be able to decide yourself. You have no assistants. The assistant referees are there, but you cannot trust them because they belong to the club, to the party that they are with. So you have to make all the decisions yourself and, so you need to be close, so that the players see that you are close. They cannot go in decision, but they know that you didn’t see it, right? They see you. “I was close. You can’t fool me.” You need to be confident. I need to run the rules. And if you do this, you will have much less discussion, much less frustration about your decisions. Of course, when you whistle for a penalty kick, people will be sad and they will be angry because they don’t feel they deserve it. I made the wrong call. I say: “It was hence” and he said “No, it wasn’t hence.” “Well, you had your arm right here and it came against your arm. That’s the rule, it’s hence. So, forget about go away. It’s a penalty kick.” But that’s all in the moment, right? So, there are emotions, a lot of emotions in a moment and accept that. That’s all fine. But once we’re done with the moment, we continue with my decision. I’m confident about my decision and we go,

Andra Zaharia: That is such a great metaphor. I absolutely love how you talked about this because those key takeaways are about, to me, about deriving that confidence for being close to the situation. And this plays into another layer, which you mentioned earlier, which was about being present in the things, in life, in general. And they feel like everything that you explained this entire process perfectly applies to doing business, running a household, having a family, cultivating relationships and everything. It’s so easy to get distracted. But about all the things our mind is constantly print-screening, you know, with the things that are pulling away at our attention. And it’s difficult to kind of get rooted in this situation and not get easily distracted, constantly like by new information and things like that. So that makes it more difficult to make a decision, to have confidence in your decisions and to follow through on them. So, they’re all tied together and I really love how you talked about it. And I wanted to emphasize this part about being present. I see people, you know… Now we’re having like 90% or a hundred percent online conversations, especially for work. If you’re not present in that hour, in that half an hour, if you don’t look at that person, if you don’t give them your energy and attention, you’re going to walk away, depleted, frustrated. You’re going to have more questions than you started initially with and basically there’s going to be this huge disconnect and I see this in an earlier podcast episode. I had Brett, who is a specialist in company culture. And we talked about what the missing things are, why people are frustrated, why they’re quitting their jobs, why they feel so disconnected from their work, why they don’t enjoy it anymore in their burnout. Because the thing is that one of the things that’s lacking in company culture is this cultivating this ability to remain aware, to remain present, to want to be there for other people like fully and not being on your phone when someone else makes a presentation. And there’s so much value in that.
So, I really love how you talked about this and how you share this. This is a fantastic metaphor for making better choices.

Erno Hannink: I have one addition, in relation to this because, being a referee is a good hobby. In weekend, you need to exercise. I need to be fit. So, I need to exercise as well during the week. So there’s a lot of reasons that drive my other habits to be a good referee. But the other thing, which you may not know, but if you are on the pitch and not just on the pitch, but also the time before the match preparation, looking at the teams and doing my warmup, everything. It is a really focused time. Like you said, you need to really, really be present. So, for me, it is like two hours on a Sunday where I can’t think about my work, when I can’t think about my business, when I can’t think about other issues. The only thing I can focus on right there is on the players, the ball and the situations that are going forward. So, it’s so much energy that it goes into that process. There was no space for anything else, which I think is a really good thing. When you have your own business, when you’re an entrepreneur, when you’re busy in your job to find a hobby that takes so much attention that you have at least a couple of hours a week, when there’s no way that you can think about the other things, just going on with your life.

Andra Zaharia: So powerful. It’s kind of a making this non-negotiable and that gives you so much freedom because that sounds off or anything else, and you don’t have to feel guilty about it. Because that feeling of guilt, I just, we keep bumping into it.

Erno Hannink: Yeah, during the breaks, it’s like when two halves of the play off the match, most people know that, but there’s a small break of 15 minutes, right? But I see young referees, picking up their phones in those 15 minutes. I never pick up my phone. I have no idea what’s going on outside the pitch at the moment, because if I do pick up the phone, I could just be looking at Twitter. I could look at WhatsApp and see what other referees are doing, but that’s just mean. I’m getting out of focus and something could be in there, which just throws me off. And my second half would just be worse because I will just have this thing going on my mind, that I just saw on Twitter or email or on my phone or whatever. I don’t want that. Ny phone stays in my bag. I don’t want to watch it during the break. I will watch it after the match is over, because then I have like 45, two times 45 full focus on the match.

Andra Zaharia: And rarely things incredibly important happen in the space of two hours. We can easily live without news for a week. Nothing fundamental is going to change even now, even with things shifting from day to day. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t be informed, but you’re drinking from a fire hose of information. Very different from seeing informed. And yes, going on this, let’s say diet, informational diet that’s a little trimmed down is so incredibly healthy. So, I’d love to keep this conversation going. There are so many more things. Maybe we can do a follow-up episode at some point. So much to offer people and so much guidance, and I can’t wait to share links to all of your resources, where people can find you and learn more from you and especially from your own podcasts as well. And before we leave, before we wrap up, I just wanted to ask: What’s one thing, like one resource that you’d really like for people to reach. Just one, a book, a podcast episode, something that you think will make a big difference for them, considering the things that we talked about, and I know it’s a difficult choice.

Erno Hannink: Yeah, Jesus, this is… You caught me up to quiet because one thing… that’s an impossible task. I will give you a method. The fun thing, especially when you’re an entrepreneur, is that first of all, entrepreneurs are really optimistic. They have maybe a little bit too much of confidence, but they are really optimistic. And the thing is that’s what we do believe at some point. If we make a couple of good decisions is that we are very good decision-makers. Most of the effect of the decisions that we make are pure luck, for example, right? So last year, my business was going really well. Then Corona happens. Like so many other entrepreneurs… It’s a lot of people. The same thing Corona happens and everything changes, whatever decision you made in December or January for 2020. At that point, there were really good decisions, but Corona changed the whole situation. That didn’t make the decision bad. It just changed the situation. So, the business has gone completely different now, and it has nothing to do with the way that you decided. So, I think, the one thing that you wanted to learn is not to evaluate the result of your decision, but evaluate the decision-making process. So, what I advise you to do is build a decision book. A decision book, you can do it on paper. I use Notion for that. So that’s an app that I use, but Notion is a great app where you have these templates that you can use. I have actually a template that you could use for this and what happens is that whenever you have a big decision, right, something that you really intentionally need to think about… So not habits, an intentional decision to think about, use one page of your decision book and write down a couple of things. So, what is the decision? And then what is my emotion with the decision that’s going on? What’s happening in my life right now? Then, what are the good things? But the decision, what can happen if the decision goes well? What could be good things to happening? What could be bad things with the decision and what is interesting around the decision? What about other things around the decision? So, if I don’t do this, what I could do then? What is it I need to do? What are the actions I need to take after I made the decision? And, then I’ve added two more things lately. I also added a pre-modern. That means that you write down the things that could go wrong with the decision after you’ve made the decision. Everything that could go wrong with a decision. Let’s say you have a partner that you want to work with, an interesting partner who wants to join your business and you want to work together. So, you write a page about this decision in your book, and then you have a section, which is called pre-mortem, which is also instilled facism, is that you write everything that could go down with this partner after you’ve decided you could you work together and what you could do with this pre-mortem is that once you’ve written down, everything go wrong is you can take precaution. Let’s say, for example, they steal your money. So, what can I do to prevent that? Let’s say they could leave you after six months. What could I do to prevent that? What can I do to change that situation? And the last thing I do is I also write down this stuff. So, what you could do is also, what I do is, after like three or six months, I put a reminder on my calendar that I look back at the decision. So, I go back to my decision book. I look at the decision and I look at what I wrote down. So, what is the situation now? How do I feel about the decision? Not about the results, right? And like I said, that’s mostly luck. So, I don’t look at the results. I look at this decision. How do I feel about decision now afterwards? Were my ideas good. Was my process good? Were my emotions correct? Yes or no? So, what happened with the pre-mortem all this stuff so I can improve my process about my decisions. So, I, the one thing I can give you, next to all kinds of books that you could read about habits and brains and all this stuff or apps to improve your habits, all this stuff. I think this is a good thing that you can do on your own. Start a decision book

Andra Zaharia: That is super helpful and I can’t wait, I will add the link to the template in the show notes to kind of try to capture all of those rich and incredibly helpful ideas that you’ve shared with me today. And with us, obviously, thank you so much, Erno! This was such a wonderful conversation, as always, and I can’t wait to continue having them in the future as well. Thank you!

Erno Hannink: My pleasure, my pleasure! It’s great to be able to share this. As you can see, I’m very filled with this topic!

Andra Zaharia: Yes, you are. You’re definitely a master of it. And the way you talk about it, I’m sure we’ll help others shave their vocabulary around it, their understanding and hopefully, their actions.

Erno Hannink: I hope so, I hope so!