Sales Talk for CEOs: From the White House to Wonderhell: Laura Gassner Otting’s Journey of Resilient Leadership (S5Ep17)

Jan 9, 2024 | Sales Talk for CEOs Podcast


Laura Gassner Otting, TEDx speaker and author of Wonderhell: Why Success Doesn’t Feel like it Should . . . and What to do About it, had an insightful conversation with Alice. Her career has spanned from a pivotal role in Bill Clinton’s White House to achieving entrepreneurial heights. Laura and Alice discussed the concept of “Wonderhell,” which most CEOs know well, it’s where the exhilaration of success is entwined with the challenges it brings and the feeling of wanting more.

This episode offers a unique opportunity to gain insights from Laura’s diverse experiences, shedding light on the complex dynamics of ambition, success, and the resilience required to thrive in leadership roles.

Exploring “Wonderhell”

Laura’s journey through the highs of achievement and the lows of pressure showcases the duality at the heart of success. “Wonderhell” is not just about reaching the peak; it’s about thriving amidst the challenges and relishing the journey.

Laura shares, “I wrote Wonderhell because I found myself in it.” She reveals, “I was filled with imposter syndrome and anxiety and uncertainty and doubt and envy and exhaustion and burnout. And I was like, it’s kind of horrible. Now, I’m stuck with the burden of my potential.”

She knew she had to figure it out and the book is the result of that.

Key Insights from this episode:

  • Embracing Ambition: Laura encourages CEOs to see ambition as a catalyst, not a flaw. It’s the fuel that drives us towards greater heights. She states, “Embrace your ambition… It’s okay for me to want more, that’s totally cool.”
  • Success Beyond Finances: Success isn’t just measured in dollars. Laura places immense value on personal relationships and internal fulfillment. She remarks, “I am proudest of the relationships that I built and deepened with my kids, my husband, and my friends.”
  • Emotional Balance: Achieving success brings a spectrum of emotions. Laura’s approach is about finding an equilibrium between excitement and the anxieties that come with leadership. She advises, “Get comfortable being uncomfortable… understand that this is not the now; it’s actually the new normal.”
  • Strategic Focus and Delegation: As a CEO, Laura highlights the importance of focusing on tasks unique to your skillset and delegating to others to enhance efficiency and satisfaction. Laura elaborates, “The highest and best use of your time is to do what only you can do.”

Embracing the Journey

Laura Gassner Otting teaches us that success is more than a destination; it’s a continuous process of growth, challenge, and self-discovery. Her journey from the White House to entrepreneurship exemplifies the nuanced nature of leadership and the importance of embracing every part of the journey.

Have you experienced your own version of “Wonderhell”?  I’d love to hear from you. Join the discussion in the comments below.

Watch below or on our YouTube channel


[08:18] – Valuing Achievements Before Chasing Next Goals

[11:47] – Shifting Leadership Mindset to Positivity

[14:47] – Leveraging Intentional Focus for Opportunities

[18:12] – Prioritizing Culture for Business Success

[22:31] – Empowering Teams with Strategic Questions

[23:57] – Scaling Insights from ’10x is Easier Than 2x’

[26:13] – Balancing CEO Ego with Effective Leadership

[30:28] – Importance of CEO-Audience Engagement

[34:07] – Embracing Ambition and Overcoming Doubts

[38:06] – Focusing on Long-term Business Trajectory

[42:57] – Balancing Business and Personal Life Priorities

About Guest

Laura’s secret superpower is seeing your greatness and reflecting it back on you, so that you can get “unstuck” — and achieve extraordinary results.

A frequent contributor to Good Morning America, the TODAY Show, Harvard Business Review, and Oprah Daily, Laura is the Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author of three books, Wonderhell, Limitless, and Mission-Driven. Laura’s 30-year resume is defined by her entrepreneurial edge.

She served as a Presidential Appointee in Bill Clinton’s White House, helping shape AmeriCorps; left a leadership role at respected national search firm to expand a tech start-up; and founded, ran, and sold her own global search firm, partnering with the full gamut of mission driven corporate and nonprofit executives.

Laura is turned on by the audacity of The Big Idea and that larger-than-life goal you just can’t seem to shake. She’s an instigator, motivator, and provocateur, and she’s never met a revolution she didn’t like. Just ask her enduringly patient husband, two almost-grown sons, and two troublesome pups with whom she lives outside of Boston, MA.

Social Links

You can learn more about and connect with Laura Gassner Otting in the links below.

Connect with Laura on LinkedIn:

(99+) Laura Gassner Otting | LinkedIn

Check out Laura’s website:

Laura Gassner Otting

You can learn more about and connect with Alice Heiman in the links below.

Laura’s TED talk:

Laura Gassner Otting: Why doesn’t success bring happiness? | TED Talk

Wonderhell and Limitless:

Books — Laura Gassner Otting

Connect with Alice on LinkedIn:

(99+) Alice Heiman | LinkedIn

Check out Alice’s website:

Alice Heiman – Alice Heiman


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