Finding Faith, Courage and Confidence as a Secret Agent—Michele Rigby Assad's Pivot from CIA to Author

Finding Faith, Courage and Confidence as a Secret Agent—Michele Rigby Assad's Pivot from CIA to Author

"Was it hard to be a CIA officer with all of the challenges and change that entailed? Yes. Scary? Of course. But if I was going to fulfill my life mission, I had to conquer my instinctual tendency to freeze in place. Fear would get me nowhere. Faith, however, would take me to places I could never have imagined."

—Michele Rigby Assad, Breaking Cover: My secret life in the CIA and what it taught me about what's worth fighting for

Grab a cup of coffee or tea and settle in, because this weeks guest is a fascinating one, a one-of-a-kind woman I'm lucky to call a friend. Michele Assad was a self-described "sweet, faith-based southern girl" in high school, the last you'd expect to become an international undercover agent for the CIA, interrogating terrorists while stationed at war zones across the Middle East. But that's exactly what she did for ten years with her husband in a real-life Mr. and Mrs. Smith situation.

In this conversation we dive into what it was like to work as a woman in interrogation rooms even when everyone told her she'd only succeed behind the scenes doing paperwork; the role of faith in Michele's career, how she honed her skills around intuition and reading body language, and what it's like for her to "come out" and try to build a public-facing platform after so many years of being required to keep her entire life secret. 

Build a Referral Engine with John Jantsch

Build a Referral Engine with John Jantsch

"It's not enough to have a good solution. Buzzed-about businesses have a good solution draped in a total experience that excites, delights and surprises the customer." —John Jantsch

There a few classic books—and business concepts—that I declare must-reads for every solopreneur and side-hustler I work with, and The Referral Engine is one of them. Especially if you're someone who bristles at so much of the online marketing tactics out there like I do, referrals are one of the best ways to get new clients. There is already a foundation of trust established with the incoming client, and it means that you exceeded expectations enough for the referring client to authentically spread the word about your services. In this week's show, business master-thinker John Jantsch and I dive into exactly how to create delightful experiences and systems that will make referrals a key part of your business, not just a happy accident.  

Worrier's Guide to the End of the World with Torre DeRoche

Worrier's Guide to the End of the World with Torre DeRoche

Contrary to what she'd probably tell you herself, Torre DeRoche is one of the bravest people I know. When we first encountered each other online, she had just finished sailing the world for two years with her boyfriend at the time. Just the two of them . . . on the open seas . . . despite her deathly fear of sharks. I've been captivated by her story and her writing, under the moniker Fearful Adventurer, ever since, and I had the pleasure of meeting her in person for a meal in Chiang Mai when we crossed paths there in 2013. 

Fast forward a few years after that, and Torre found herself in a deep state of grief and loss. Her dad was dying of cancer, and her relationship of ten years was dissolving because of it. Her new book is the story of finding her way back to life — and this time without the worry that had plagued her since she was a child.

On the self-help taboo of staying inside your comfort zone—when and how to reach with Andy Molinsky

As Andy Molinksy writes in Reach, chances are if you've ever been interested in the topic of personal growth as it relates to risk, you've heard tropes like "life begins at the end of your comfort zone" and have encountered this meme-of-all-memes: 


He says, "And then of course, there are the stories—successful and confident people who had the courage to go for it, and are now spokespeople for Comfort Zone, Inc., imploring us to do the same: Take the leap! Go for it! The only thing to fear is fear itself!" 

But what if, as someone asked me recently at the end of one of my keynotes, you're actually (gasp!) happy in your comfort zone? Do you always have to reach? I'm excited to unpack this question in this week's episode—Andy and I talk about when to reach outside of your comfort zone, how to build a risk portfolio, and common pitfalls that get in the way such as fear of what others will think, insecurities about our own competence, and resentment, or "Why do I have to do this in the first place?"

More About Andy Molinsky


Andy Molinsky is a Professor at Brandeis University’s International Business School. Andy helps people develop the insights and courage necessary to act outside their personal and cultural comfort zones when doing important, but challenging, tasks in work and life. His work has been featured in HBR, the Financial Times, the Boston Globe, NPR and Voice of America. Andy is the author of Reach: A New Strategy to Help You Step Outside Your Comfort Zone, Rise to the Challenge, and Build Confidence and Global Dexterity: How to Adapt Your Behavior Across Cultures and Not Lose Yourself in the Process

Topics We Cover

  • When is it okay to stay inside your comfort zone?

  • Managing your comfort vs. risk portfolio: when to reach and when to adjust so you don't enter your panic zone

  • Authenticity and remaining joyful in stepping outside our comfort zone

  • The vicious cycle of avoidance

  • The three C's to successful reaches: conviction, customization, and clarity

  • We tend to catastrophize stepping outside our comfort zone. Clarity helps ground our perspective

  • No matter the reach or their outcome, it is all a learning experience

  • Our reaches are also the ways we support people

Podcast: On the self-help taboo of staying inside your comfort zone—when and how to reach with Andy Molinsky

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Check out other episodes of the Pivot Podcast here. Be sure to subscribe via iTunesAndroid or SoundCloud, and if you enjoy the show I would be very grateful for a rating and/or review! Sign-up for my weekly #PivotList newsletter to receive curated round-ups of what I'm reading, watching, listening to, and new tools I'm geeking out on.

What Does Your Soul Know? Flow and Transparency with Penney Peirce

What Does Your Soul Know? Flow and Transparency with Penney Peirce

“To know yourself as a soul . . . you must dissolve everything in the way. The clutter composed of fear, fixed beliefs, and unconsciously ingrained habits."

—Penney Peirce, Transparency: Seeing Through to Our Expanded Human Capacity

What does it mean to make enlightenment normal? How do you remove the filters that dim your soul's wisdom? How can you feel into what wants to happen and find greater flow in life and work? What does it mean to be so authentic and transparent that we live as truth with nothing to hide? Penney and I dive into these questions and many more on this week's show as we discuss her new book, Transparency: Seeing Through to Our Expanded Human Capacity, which I was incredibly honored to write the foreword for. 

Create Multiple Streams of Income with Dorie Clark

Create Multiple Streams of Income with Dorie Clark

Self-employed for eleven years, Dorie interviewed over 50 entrepreneurs, several who earn multiple six figures each month, to understand what specific tactics it takes to sustain a successful business. In her new book and on this episode, Dorie shares this gold mine of sage advice with us. We talk about how to build the courage and savvy to monetize your expertise and create multiple streams of income so that no matter what happens—the market shifts or you lose your biggest client—you can and will bounce back, and create your ideal lifestyle business in the process.  

Artist as CEO — with Jenny Blake, Michel Karsouny & Kerri Lowe

Artist as CEO — with Jenny Blake, Michel Karsouny & Kerri Lowe

This is a special episode on Artist as CEO, featuring my guy, Michel Karsouny. My longtime blog friend Kerri Lowe, who helps produce a narrative podcast called ArtistCEO, came over to our studio apartment to facilitate a free-flowing conversation about all things art and business. Michel and I met over a year ago walking in opposite directions down a New York City sidewalk — how's that for the magic of serendipity?! Find out how we navigate the highs and lows of creative living, moving beyond burnout, and balancing the business side of art-making with opening up space for the unknown. 

Real Artists Don't Starve with Jeff Goins

Real Artists Don't Starve with Jeff Goins

"Being a starving artist is a choice, not a necessary condition of doing creative work."

—Jeff Goins, Real Artists Don't Starve

Is it possible to do creative work and make a living? What does it take to thrive, not just survive? This week on the Pivot Podcast I'm thrilled to chat with bestselling author, keynote speaker, and popular blogger Jeff Goins. Listen on as we bust the myth behind the "starving artist," the return to creative patronage (and how you can become your own best patron), and why "exposure gigs" are out and charging for your work is in.