In our world today, emotional intelligence has become more and more important in how we perceive, understand, and manage our emotions. Joining Patrick Veroneau on today’s show is Dr. Ben Palmer, the Chief Executive Officer of Genos International, a business that specializes in the assessment and development of emotional intelligence, employee engagement, and motivation. Dr. Palmer talks about the impact of EI, particularly in the workplace, and the powerful leadership approaches they have identified and developed, which are vital for leading in today’s challenging times.
Listen to the podcast here:
The Impact Of EI With Dr. Ben Palmer – Episode 109
On our episode, I’m going to interview Dr. Ben Palmer, who is the CEO of Genos International. He is the Developer and Creator of a Genos model of Emotional Intelligence. It’s a model that I’ve used for over a decade now. In terms of some of the companies that have utilized this model, Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, Walmart, Genentech, Pfizer, Qantas, Commonwealth Bank, and many more. I was reading a feed of an organization that put out projections as to emotional intelligence being utilized in the workplace. They suggested that there will be a huge increase in its utilization between now and 2026. I’m not sure why 2026 was the date, but I would agree with the headline of that. Emotional intelligence becomes more and more important in our world around perceiving, understanding and managing emotions, either mine or someone else’s. You’ll hear many pearls that you can draw off from the conversation that I have with Dr. Ben Palmer of how important developing this skill of emotional intelligence is and we all have the ability to do it. With that said, let’s get into it.
Ben, I want to thank you for being on the show. I have been looking forward to this as somebody that practices the Genos model of Emotional Intelligence to be able to get you on the show and talk about it especially in this time that we’re in. Could you give us a little background in terms of how your interesting emotional intelligence first started to form, why this model, and then go into how does this impact us now and going forward?
Firstly, thank you for having me on. It’s a real pleasure to be here. All your readers will enjoy this segment on emotional intelligence. My interest and work began with me as a PhD student not knowing what I wanted to do, and this was 1996. Dan Goleman’s book lands of my table, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, which incidentally is the most widely read social science book in the world and I fell in love with the concept. I was also doing my PhD in a neuropsychology laboratory with Professor Con Stough, who had an assessment background.
He encouraged me to start looking at the different models and measures of emotional intelligence that were around at that time. The book had become popular and there had been a bit of an explosion of different models and measures. I became interested in doing analysis inside of the market. I’ve looked at all these different instruments and which one I think is the best. That led to my own model. I was not impressed to say the least with what was available at that time both from an academic point of view in terms of the instruments not doing what they should have been doing at that time from a psychometric point of view, but also from a model point of view.
I always wanted to do applied work post my PhD. I was interested in helping people be more emotionally intelligent at work. A lot of the models at that time were in my opinion to be 15, 16 different variables in them. Imagine an emotional intelligence model that has self-awareness, self-actualization, optimism, happiness and the list goes on. If you’re looking to the history of psychology, models that are sticky, accessible, and practically useful. They’re usually four quadrant, small number of things and that’s what gives people the language of what it is you’re trying to help them improve. That was the past of the Genos model.
In regards to doing the assessment, it’s a quick assessment, relatively speaking to do that you don’t get fatigued when you do it. I remember that always being one of the things that interest me or that I enjoyed in the feedback that I was getting from people that have taken it. It’s not this exhaustive process.
If you look into the history of Organizational Psychology and instruments that organizations pick up and use, they’re often short, not long because people don’t have the time to fill out a 150-item survey. It’s a questionnaire. Ours is 42. As you point, it’s relatively quick to do, but quick doesn’t mean poor quality. Quick means some ways mean better quality because people can see. Particularly when they’re doing it online, they can see the length of the instrument. They can see how they’re progressing through it. That helps people slow down and consider their instance.
In looking at your history, you mentioned something as you looked at emotional intelligence and found it interesting. I did the same thing when I was going through my training as a coach through iPEC back in 2008. That’s when I was first introduced to the Genos model. I hadn’t heard of emotional intelligence. I didn’t know about Dan Goleman at that point. My background was in the biotech industry in sales and training. As I read this brochure around the Genos model, I thought, “This is a sales model. This is perceiving, understanding, and managing emotions or reading people and myself.”
This seems like common sense. That’s what drew me to it. What was interesting about that is after I had gone off on my own, I had been in the industry, I went to a large biotech company that I had worked for. I went to the sales director to go back in and do some training for them. The first thing he said to me at that point was, “You can come in here and do trainings on all the things that you want except for that emotional intelligence BS.” It’s what he said. That point was the resistance that I was running into with emotional intelligence that seemed weak, fluffy, and there wasn’t a lot to it but those that understood it realize that it’s the opposite and the strongest.Our feelings are so fundamental to who we are. Click To Tweet
It’s bringing strength and compassion together and using the pathway. The New Zealand Prime Minister does this exceptionally well. She’s an exceptional role model at doing it. Her popularity is through the roof. She has banished Coronavirus from her country. Emotional intelligence is about being angry but it’s about being angry in the right way, to the right degree, at the right time, in the right context, in a way that gets engagement not defensiveness.
Emotional intelligence is not just being angry, it’s being happy, optimistic, smart with feelings. If you think about feelings, they are fundamental to who we are. The first thing that happens biologically when something in our environment occurs is an emotion. That emotion starts to prevail and influence the way we think, behave, and perform. Being smart with feelings is an incredible skillset to have. It’s the difference between stimulus and reaction to stimulus-response, considered intelligent response. We need that in this environment that we’re in it at the moment.
I love those three things that you mentioned. The emotions are in the center of this but the behaviors, decisions, and performance. We can all think of, “If I’m angry, how do I perform? How do I behave? What choices will I make are not going to be generally the same as I’m in a place where I’m content, happy or satisfied?” Understanding that is important.
We’re not using emotional intelligence in the workplace to create some type of utopian environment where all everyone ever feels is happy, optimistic, satisfied, and valued. What we’re creating is a workplace that intelligently responds and uses emotion to make sure that the decisions, the behavior and the performance of the organization is optimized.
Ben, as we think about that now, we’re in this world where there’s much more of a remote setting in terms of the work that’s being done. How does developing this skillset play into that where you have more people working remotely? It impacts it.
We have more loneliness, anxiety, fear, and concern about job loss. As Josh Bronson said, quoting the CEO of Disney, “Leaders need to be the Chief Wellbeing Officers of organizations.” Now more than ever, we need emotionally-intelligent leadership because we’re having to firstly lead through a medium like you and I are discovering and talking with each other. Secondly, we’ve not only got to do that. We’ve got to lead through this medium of remote working where there is heightened anxiety, fear, concern, job insecurity, and that feeds into people’s decisions. Think about the way you think when you feel overly-stressed or concerned versus how you tend to think when you feel relaxed, content, and engaged for work. It’s a no-brainer.
In this environment, there’s an enormous need for leaders to be self-aware, empathetic, aware of others, and not only purposefully invest in their own wellbeing so that they show up, being able to project calm and confidence by way of example. Also, be able to see that a staff member is stressed or is concerned and help to best up whatever maybe the right intelligent choices around that stress and concern. It’s not about making them go from concerned to happy, although that might be one of the things that comes as an outcome, it’s about helping them make the right intelligent responses for that concern.
It takes much more effort if it’s through Zoom or over the phone where I’m not in-person with that person to try and do that.
One of the research studies that struck me in 2019 was on the extent to which emotional intelligence may be heritable or indeed developed with the environment. This research study looked at gene analysis and so on and came up with a conclusion. There were 46,000 people that they had in this study. It’s a massive sample. Ninety percent of our emotional intelligence is developed and about 10% of it is heritable. I am saying this to you and your audience in the context of think about that in terms of the opportunity it presents for you to develop your own emotional intelligence. It’s huge. Think about what it might mean even to be 2% or 3% more emotionally-intelligent. What would it mean to you to have a 2% or 3% uplift in your mood? What would it mean to you to get up out of bed in the morning and feel 2% or 3% better at jumping into work?
What would it mean to a basketball team, to an NRL team, to a football team to be 2% or 3% better at managing their anxiety in a close match? It’s the difference between finishing somewhere in the middle of the latitude, winning the grand final or finishing on top. The fact that it’s malleable and influenceable that we can develop that within our self. Research suggests on average at the moment in good emotional intelligence programs and improving it by 17% points, not 2% or 3% which I’m talking about. I wanted to put that figure into perspective. That’s what that could mean for people. It’s an incredible life journey.
There’s one study that I’ve used often. I had an affinity to it because it was from the pharmaceutical industry. It was done with Sanofi-Aventis that you were part of with Sue Jennings. I remember that study was around teaching these behaviors and these skills to managers who then had to teach it to those people that reported to them. The impact that they saw in regards to increase in sales was about 12%.
It was at that time when Sanofi had acquired Aventis. They were integrating. Sales were on the downward slope a little bit because of that integration. We focused on developing the sales manager’s emotional intelligence and got them also focused on developing their own people’s emotional intelligence. It improved revenue by 13%. I want to pick up on something you said that when you were showing or looking at the model, you thought it was a sales model. It is in some ways and it’s not in others.
When Sanofi were looking for a provider, they went through a procurement process and we were one of many people who applied to work with them. I’ll never forget sitting across from Sue Jennings and saying, “What we have to bring to your RFQ is not a sales program. It’s a personal development program based on emotional intelligence. My hypothesis is if we make people more personally effective, more self-aware, more empathetic, better at managing their emotions that their sales will improve as a result.”
She took a leap of faith and saw the sense in that. We improved revenue by 13%. Not only did we do it though, we improved it in comparison to a control group to make sure that it wasn’t the market or it wasn’t the fact that the integration was going better. In fact, if you asked her at the time of the integration, it was making things worse. The control group not only stayed flat but rebounded and Abbott came up. That was a groundbreaking study. That’s the thing about emotional intelligence. It’s role level and function diagnostic. What I mean by that is it’s relevant to any particular job that has an interpersonal component to it.
Having been in that industry for so long with many challenges that industry faces in regards to access with offices and healthcare providers. If I look back to my success in being able to navigate all those changes, it was because of this skillset of being able to navigate that environment. Being able to perceive what was going on around me. It’s not just in myself, but being able to see what was going on, and pick up on the cues around me. That is huge especially in this environment.
You were talking about this person that you were showing the model to. You can come in and do any training but not this emotional intelligence set. We don’t come up against that as much but we still do every now and then, although the world’s understanding of it has dramatically shifted. The World Economic Forum lists it as number 6 out of their top 10 job skills for 2020 and beyond. The big consulting firm, Capgemini, did a scan of the market, and 1,500 leaders at Fortune 500 companies asked them, “How relevant do you see emotional intelligence for the next few years?” They came to the conclusion through that research study that they did. They see demand for emotional intelligence increasing six-fold on average across industries. In some industries, eight-fold over the next eight years and this is what industry leaders are saying.
They’re seeing the world of artificial intelligence and automation are starting to take over a lot of the thinking component of jobs. What’s going to be left if is the human element, social persuasion, understanding how to engage in a motivated team. People are not going to be replaced. We’re always going to be there, but the people side of leadership is going to improve and increase so dramatically. They’re going to become the prize skills. What I do find in some organizations, not necessarily Sanofi per se, but there are a lot of organizations like Sanofi, BMW, Walmart, the list goes on, that did a lot of work with emotional intelligence in what I call its infancy in 2000s, by way of example. Let’s say from 2000 up until the global financial crisis of 2008.
The new pushback that I see is that BS, “We’ve done emotional intelligence. We did that in the 2000s.” I’m saying to organizations, “Have you replaced your car since the 2000s? If you haven’t, what would it be like to drive?” I use that as a metaphor to say, if you did emotional intelligence years ago, think about where it is now in comparison. The concept now has been around and it’s in its 3rd or 4th decade. Every 4 or 5 years, how we develop it, how we assess it, what we do with it is improving exponentially. Inside the organizations, if you’ve tried it a few years ago, come back and try it again because the efficacy of it, how is it sensed, developed, and brought into organizations now is much better than what it was back in those days.Being smart with feelings is an incredible skill set to have. Click To Tweet
That’s such a great point along those lines. When I do the workshops on it, not just on emotional intelligence, but most of the things I talk about is like reading about pushups and doing pushups. Intellectually, people say, “I get it. It makes perfect sense.” You’re not going to get any stronger intellectually knowing about this. It’s doing the work that you need to do this and practice this continually.
This is the essence of a good developmental program whether it be one-on-one coaching or a group workshop. There should be some content that should be about 10% of your program. There should be some discussion that should be about 20%. Seventy percent of what you’re doing should be the actual practicing of stuff. In my own coaching work, which I don’t get the chance to do as much as I’d like to anymore, but I do a lot of role plays. We’re going to talk to that person about such and such. I’m going to be that person now, let’s have the discussion. I’d encourage coaches to do a lot of roleplaying and reduce the coaching conversation down a bit and make it. Let’s have a conversation, let’s practice it out, let’s think about how you go out.
When you say that, I immediately think too of what’s coming with AI. That’s the perfect scenario of how to strengthen this muscle through AI. If we’re in scenarios roleplaying where we have to respond to a situation that has happened, that helps to build that muscle. It seems like a perfect environment for us when we talk about evolution of this. How do we get stronger at it?
AI is going to have an increasingly large role in helping to assess and develop our emotional intelligence. However, the thing about feelings is a lot of them are neurochemistry-based. That comes from interacting with other human beings or indeed other animals, like a lot of nursing homes have cats and dogs and things like that because they make people feel better. It’s a chemical interaction. While we might be able to go into a virtual world and interact, there may be some feelings that come with that. I don’t think it’s ever going to be the same as roleplaying with a real person, practicing with your colleagues. I don’t think that will ever be replaced. I see this lovely complementary world coming together in that sense.
There’s an enormous amount of money and research being poured into at the moment. Our understanding of discrete emotions, deep-diving down on specific feelings. Let’s take the feeling of concern by way of example. What does it sound like? What does it look like? What does it do in the body? How does it express itself? The reason for that is business wants to teach machines how to read feelings. Once machines can read feelings, there’s a whole range of different things they can do in terms of feedback, coaching, and so on.
At the moment already, there are listening devices in contact centers who are listening to a call between a customer service representative, let’s say at American Airlines, and a customer who’s rang up about an issue with their airline ticket or whatever. What that machine is doing is it’s listening to the emotional tone of the conversation. When that emotional tone starts to go the wrong way, it’s flashing up messages to the customer service rep to let them know the customer is getting frustrated.
Their frustration is elevated, we needed to change the script. It’s bringing up on-screen different options that the customer service rep can call on to change the tact of the conversation and de-escalate the situation. Some customer service reps don’t need that technology at all. They’re good at reading it and picking up on it but we’ve all been at the receiving end of one who hasn’t. Imagine the benefits that technology is bringing in terms of helping that particular person pick up on the emotional and change track a little bit. This is this lovely integration and what this world that we’re going to be going into is going to look like.
The extension of this is in the future and it’s already been written up and talked about. We say expanse of what technology in cars now that can read the emotional tone of the passengers. If you’re an Uber driver and you’re in a Mercedes Benz, it can tell you on your dashboard, “Your customer is not feeling comfortable with you driving. You need to pull it down a little bit and slow down or ask the customer if they’re okay.” This is an enormously wonderful world that’s coming in terms of this stuff. I don’t know about the ethics of it. I hope it catches up and we have the right policies around it. It’s an interesting world ahead of us.
I read a few different articles around the elevation of oxytocin around empathy. Do you have any thoughts in that in particular? The only time I had heard about oxytocin before was when my wife was pregnant. Her levels of oxytocin went up and it seemed interesting. This looked at how to artificially raise somebody’s level of empathy through a nasal spray of oxytocin.
There are things like that coming out. There’s a great Facebook post going around about all sorts of hacks that you can do more naturally to bring out the different neurochemicals of wellbeing, contentment, satisfaction, empathy and so on. There are two points that I would make here. Firstly, we’ve all got the biology for empathy. We’ve all got the mirror neurons and all the bits and pieces we need to be empathetic. What gets in the way of empathy a lot of the time is the context where in, time pressure, concern, being in a rush, overworked, and underpaid, the list goes on. All those things that are going around in our environment reduce our natural empathetic response.
If people want to be more empathetic, you can go grab the nasal spray or you can practice mindful listening. You can take six deep breaths before you meet with someone. If you sit there and take six deep breaths one minute before you meet with the person you’re about to meet with, you will be more empathetic, but there’s a real method to the breathing. You’ve got to exhale for twice as long as you inhale. It’s like yoga. Purse your lips, imagine yourself blowing through a straw, if you suck in for 2, you’ve got to blow out for 4 seconds and some version thereof. A minute of nice, big breathing like that engages your parasympathetic nervous system, biology for empathy, and sets you up to be empathetic.
Once you’re having a conversation with someone, if you remind yourself to steal your own thoughts and judgments, to be mindful, and to be focused on what’s being said. To be thinking about the next question, how you’re going to add to the conversation, or which parts of it you don’t like. Steal that a little bit and focusing on the listening. Your natural empathy will come out. One thing I would like people to do. Go into YouTube and put into Google four-minute eye experiment Amnesty International and watch that five-minute clip. Amnesty International did this wonderful experiment of bringing people together to sit opposite each other. They said, “We don’t want you to do anything other than sit opposite of each other.”
If you watch it, what you will see is what I’m talking about in action that when you bring a couple of people together who are complete strangers with different backgrounds. Ask them to sit opposite each other for four minutes, look at each other, and be there, their natural empathetic response immediately starts to come out. You will find it hard not to watch that without a dry eye. It will move you emotionally. It’s a great illustration of our natural biology for empathy and use it as a metaphor to think about how can you put yourself into the context for empathy because your empathy is already there, you just need to bring the right context in.
I will say the breathing is something that I’m familiar with, but not the 2:1 ratio.
Imagine blowing out through a straw. That helps with that 2:1 ratio.
Four-minute eye experiment?
Amnesty International, it goes for about five minutes. It’s an experiment that Amnesty did in Europe during the time when a lot of the conflict was happening in Syria and some of those countries. There was a flood of refugees across borders. They did it to help people connect with refugees and their situation. Not through talking but through empathy. Empathy is not something you say, empathy is something you feel and do naturally and unconsciously. That’s what that experiment shows.
Along those lines, Ben, is there a piece of research that excites you or helps to advance where this is going that you see?To develop emotional intelligence, you need to engage in activities that bring about emotions. Click To Tweet
The heritability is one. Secondly, now that AI can be developed, there are good analytical studies on that. The piece of research that’s struck me is not contemporary. It’s one of the first articles on emotional intelligence. In Peter Salovey and Jack Mayer’s seminal article on emotional intelligence, they did talk briefly about how you can develop it. One of the things that they talked about is you need to engage in activities that bring about emotions. They talked about how physical education in schools, arts, and dramas with these classes that gave that to people. You talked a little bit before when we were talking about artificial intelligence about your emotional muscle. I’d like you to think about if you want to develop your ability to perceive, understand, and regulate your emotions, then what they were saying is you need to engage in activities that make you emotional and engage your emotional system.
I am a bit of a fanatic of talent shows like America’s Got Talent because they move me emotionally. There’s something about young and old people getting up on stage and having to go. Sometimes, the authenticity of those stories is moving. In the 2020 AGT, Archie Williams, the person who was incarcerated for some 30 years incorrectly, a DNA analysis helped him get out of prison. If you haven’t, Archie Williams go and watch that particular performance. It was by no means technically the best performance of the season. It wasn’t a great technical performance from a singing point of view but from an emotional point of view and perspective in terms of how he connected with the crowd, not only on the night. It’s gone viral so it had 8 million or 9 million views on YouTube. Emotions serve to connect us.
That’s what you get in that particular example. Ask yourself the question, what moves you emotionally? I encourage people not only to engage in things that might move them in a positive direction like America’s Got Talent does for me, but that also moves you in a negative or an unpleasant direction as well. We’ve got to go through those range of things like I’m quite progressive in my politics but I don’t hide that to anyone. I love to listen to right-wing shock jocks and right-wing commentators. Steve Bannon comes to mind as a way of getting frustrated, moving my emotional muscle. That helps me. I like having that perspective, for one. It helps me appreciate the other side of the fence better. I don’t agree with it but I liked method, perspective, and having those emotional responses that are both good, the bad, and the ugly. All of those are important. That’s what moving that emotional muscle is all about.
That seems to be a mindful approach to two different viewpoints as you embrace it.
Perspective is one of the things that we’ve lost through our politics and we need it. Let’s take the news by way of example. Even if you watch a fairly reputable news channel, 80% of it is negative, anxiety-provoking, fear-creating, and stressful. To get a balance of perspective, I recommended people tune into the good news network. It’s a news channel totally devoted to good news. Why? To have that perspective as a reminder of all the wonderful things that are also going on in our world all the time. It’s a way of also going, “The world is not as bad as the news would have us believe.” There’s a lot of good going on as well. That helps to bring down that fear, anxiety and stress. It’s important to have balance, perspective, to be moving, and working your emotional muscles as a way of developing your emotional intelligence.
I’d love to get the citation on that heritability one because that helps us all to be able to suffocate that excuse that we can’t do it.
I like to be a realist. We all have limitations. I am never going to be the sooner I’ve learned so to speak with my emotional intelligence, that New Zealand prime minister I was talking about. I have developed my emotional intelligence out considerably but I also know my limits. I’m not going to be the next star performer from an AI perspective. The point is that as I was making it the outset almost of our conversation, that 2% or 3% off with, it’s life-changing for people and it can be game-changing for business. That’s the tagline of our business. A tagline is real. I love this work. I love it when I’m working with business leaders who I say, “How’s it going?” The morale of the team is better and the sales are up and good.
My relationship with my fifteen-year-old daughter or son, my wife and I are getting along better. That’s when I get people think. When you hear that life-changing for people part coming to life. For business, it’s such a holistic thing to do. You’re not only helping people be their best self at work, you’re helping them be more of their best self socially, romantically, and with their family more broadly. It’s a holistic thing to do. People who are better at home are better at work. People who are better on medically are better at work. It’s no doubt about that because you’re not bringing that baggage in with you as you come into work in the morning.
I love the way you say that because it is something that when I’m out there with organizations especially with the individuals in those organizations saying that this set of skills that you can develop is not something that benefits you while you’re here. This goes everywhere with you. It impacts every part of your life if you embrace it. That helps to get people to buy-in because what’s in it for me, I could say, I’m fine at work but my home life is horrible. If this is a way to improve that then I’m interested.
I like to get people to draw a circle or a pie that represents 100% of themselves and then get them to think about what percentage of that pie would you say is when you’re being your best self in life? Is that 50% of the time? Is it 100% of the time? Ask people to think about what do they like when they’re in their worst-self and to define that a bit. At what percentage of the pie would you say in a week you’ve turned up as your worst-self? For a lot of people, sometimes that ratio, their worst self is 50/50. Sometimes it’s 90/10 or 99/1. Even for those people who say 99/1, they’ll also say it’s the 1% of the time that brings you undone.
I was with the school principal and their school leader who was saying to me they had a perfect year. The school was going well. On one day of the year when they were a bit stressed and tired, they had a bit of an altercation with a parent. That one day, that one 10-minute interaction brought the whole year undone for them. That’s the point I like to make for this that there’s no end to finessing up your emotional intelligence. If it saves you from that one day, that one hour, that 110 minutes that you’re in your worst self is enormous in terms of its potential impact for you in that year.
I have appreciated this conversation. There are many different things here that are valued that readers can draw from. I can’t say enough of how honored and thankful I am that you were able to do this. With that said, what’s the best way for people to hear more about the Genos model and in the work that you’re doing?
We have a Facebook page, a LinkedIn group. We have our own webpage and we have a YouTube channel. Google and search Genos International, look at our LinkedIn group, webpage and so on. That’s the best way for people to connect and know more.
Thank you for your time.
It’s been an absolute pleasure. Thank you for having me. I’m humbled to be invited on your show. Thank you.
- Genos International
- Emotional Intelligence Model
- Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ
- Four-minute eye experiment Amnesty International – YouTube
- Facebook – Genos International
- LinkedIn – Genos International
- YouTube – Genos International
About Dr. Ben Palmer
Dr. Ben Palmer, OD is a Optometrist in Nipomo, CA and has over 11 years of experience in the medical field. He graduated from Pacific University College Of Optometry medical school in 2009.
He is accepting new patients. Be sure to call ahead with Dr. Palmer to book an appointment.
We are always told to learn to adapt to change, but what if the kind of change that happens is too overwhelming. How can we keep ourselves from being paralyzed and move together with it? In this episode, Patrick Veroneau invites someone who is perfectly qualified to give you the answer. He sits down with Mitch Russo, a successful entrepreneur who went from starting his first company in 1985, sold it, worked with Tony Robbins and Chet Holmes, became the CEO for Business Breakthroughs International, and now, the CEO of Mindful Guidance LLC. Throughout his extensive experience of starting and growing businesses again and again, Mitch has the expert knowledge to help us navigate these uncertain remote times and find the opportunities that come with it. He shares with us some important steps that will allow us to rediscover the assets we have in this quarantine period to see things through better than we came into it.
Listen to the podcast here:
Navigating Changes And Finding Opportunities With Mitch Russo
My guest is Mitch Russo, a successful entrepreneur who started his first company back in 1985, a software business called Timeslips Corp, which he then sold at the age of 42 and became independently wealthy. From there, if that wasn’t enough, he then went on to partner in a business with both Tony Robbins and the late Chet Holmes who are both legends in both marketing, sales and personal development. He was the CEO for that company, Business Breakthroughs International, and also went on to set up a successful partnership with Kevin Harrington. On top of that, he also has two successful books out, one called Power Tribes: How Certification Can Explode Your Business and the other called The Invisible Organization: How Ingenious CEOs Are Creating Thriving, Virtual Companies. This episode is packed with so much value. Let’s get into it.
Mitch, I want to thank you for taking the time to be on the show. A good friend of both of ours, Susan Ibitz, was the one that introduced us. I’m glad we had an opportunity to connect. Your background is inspiring in terms of what you’ve done in starting out your own company back in the ‘80s, the software company and then being able to retire from that independently and do a bunch of other things where your focus was on taking the abundance that you experienced, and then paying it forward to other people to help them out. In the environment that we’re in, I had an opportunity to do a workshop around helping people navigate job career changes. There are a lot of people out there that are thinking, “What do I want to do these days?” With all of the changes that have gone on and people being remote now, based on your background and the books that you’ve written, maybe that was an opportunity for you to help the readers. How do you navigate that?
I’m going to approach it from two different angles because I think there are people who are creators and those of us who have intellectual property that we’ve built and created over the years. Those of us who literally were doing great stuff in our lives, but never built the intellectual property that some others have. From each perspective, there’s a seismic shift that’s happened already, as we all know, but there’s opportunity now that never existed before. That’s why you should never waste a good catastrophe and here we have an excellent catastrophe not to waste.
The first idea is that if you are a business owner, a coach, a consultant, a trainer, a leader and you have intellectual property that you have deployed that has helped others and you have spent much of your business life on stage, talking to people about their mission and how that moment in time might affect them for the rest of their lives, this intellectual property that you’ve created is very valuable. Most people found that using it on stage is great, but beyond that, they aren’t quite sure how to, and that’s what I’ve helped many clients resolve and move into the digital world, move into the virtual world and more importantly, move into the world of building teams, cultures and tribes.
We don’t hear many people talking about the environment we’re in as an opportunity. That’s such an important thing that you said there. In this challenge that’s all around us, if we focus on the negatives, we miss real opportunities like you’re saying about what the opportunities are here.
I want to tell you my reaction. When I realized that we were about to be quarantined, that the economy was about to shut down, I got a little scared. I was like, “What does this mean? Am I going to get sick?” but then I thought to myself, “I’ve got to get into action because this is all going to be over before I know it and then I will have done nothing but watch Netflix. I’ll be so mad at myself.” That’s when I went into creativity mode and I started building, writing and recording stuff. It’s turned into a whirlwind of activity for me. To answer your question, let’s take a look at what most people have. The opportunities here are vast. Clearly, no one gets this opportunity in terms of time, space and getting a lot of good sleep. Let’s use all of those things. The good sleep to power us, the time to give us the space to create and the fear to motivate us.
I get motivated when I get nervous. If I get too comfortable, complacent and rest on my laurels, I don’t go into creative mode as easily, at least not in these topics, but I found that the environment was motivating to me. Let’s take a look at some of the opportunities. The first opportunity is what is it that you do? Let’s take an example. You speak from stage. You have this incredible program. You’ve written some books. You have some content. Why don’t we take that content and turn it into a learning management system? Why don’t we embed it into a course? Why don’t we sell that course? Why don’t we give away the first lesson of that course for free? Why don’t we go on Facebook Live and talk about that course and get people to take it for free and improve their lives, or at least part of it? Let’s use this opportunity to lead. Let’s be a leader. You don’t need a title. You don’t need to be anointed the king. You’ve got to go. Get in gear and lead. That’s my first thought.You should never waste a good catastrophe. Click To Tweet
I can hear people already saying, “Mitch, that’s great for you. You were successful early on. I can’t do that.”
Why can’t you do that? I have an idea of why, but tell me why?
What you hear is it is people’s false beliefs of what they can’t do. They look at, “It’s somebody else that’s going to be able to do it, but not me for whatever reason. I can’t get over that hurdle.” That’s a real struggle for people. If somebody else can do it, it’s doable. It’s helping people. How do you help people get over that where they might be saying, “I don’t know that I can do this, Mitch?”
In my own emotional makeup, when I hit barriers like that, I like to break things down into very small and simple steps. I remember looking at writing a book for the first time and I thought, “I’m not an author. I can’t write. How am I supposed to write a book? Here’s what I’m going to do. I probably won’t accomplish my goal. That’s fine. I’m going to make an outline. I’m going to name the 10 or 12 chapters of a book I might someday possibly feel like writing.” I wrote the outline and then I said, “I got the outline. Maybe what I’ll do is write 1 or 2 paragraphs about each chapter to see what would go in that chapter if I were to write this book.” I get a few paragraphs done and I noticed I get hooked in one thing and I keep writing. I said, “I move on and write a few more paragraphs.”
My process is all about breaking things down into small chunks and then accomplishing little things on a daily basis. My background, I’ve been educated as an electrical engineer and my systems thinking is a way of chunking down tasks into very small processes that I already know how to do. If I hit a part where I don’t know how to do it, then I ask around. I don’t necessarily hire a coach immediately. I might at some point, but what I do is I ask around. I said, “Is there somebody who’s done this before who’s in my network who I can maybe spend a half hour on the phone with, or on Zoom and ask a few questions?” I get over that hurdle and then I take the next one. For me, it’s eating the elephant one bite at a time. It’s how I’ve always looked at getting about anything done.
It can look so daunting on the frontend, but once you break this thing down, you’re right into doable pieces. You realize, “Maybe I can do this small piece.”
I remember the first time I had to stand up in front of an audience in a professional way. My parents used to force me to stand on the chair and sing at Passover, but at least I got a quarter for that, so it was okay. Other than that, in terms of public speaking, I remember that I turned down the first several opportunities to speak in public because I was too afraid. At that point, I was invited to a very small event and I said, “If I’m going to embarrass myself and only be in front of twelve people, so I’ll do it.” It was a lot of fun and all of the fear for me evaporated the minute I opened my mouth. I was terrified walking up to the microphone. I was terrified saying, “Thank you for inviting me.” I was terrified to the point where I looked around and saw the whole audience and then I opened my mouth and that was it. The fear was gone. I began talking. I never do have a script for when I talk, when I speak. I remember a story and I tell stories. To me, storytelling is my way of communicating because it’s natural for me.
That is how we learn best is by listening stories.
The process for most people is if I was to help somebody, my first question would be, “Where are you at right now? Let’s take stock of the assets that you have.” Not everybody thinks they do, but everybody has assets. If you were to do nothing more than make a list of all the things that you have as assets in your life, all the abilities, all the skills, all the creative things you’ve done, all the content that you’ve written, recorded, built, created, and put them on a single sheet of paper, you might surprise yourself. You probably have more than you think you do. The next question is, “Is there a pattern here? Is there something I can string together and turn into something valuable process, course, program that others would enjoy and get benefit from?”
If the answer there is, “Yes, but it’s missing some pieces,” make a list of the pieces that you’re missing. Write that down, take the outline approach and start creating those pieces. From there, see what else you’re missing until you have something that’s workable. Never ever go for perfection, that never works. Besides, the price of perfection is bankruptcy across the board anyway as we know. Instead, go for workability and then try it out. We have this universe called Facebook or LinkedIn where you can get on live for free. At least on Facebook, most people can. You could tell your story and you could let people react and you could ask questions, “What did you think of what I said? I’m going to take you through this process. Can you tell me if it works or not?”
Don’t be upset if you don’t get good feedback. Use that feedback to improve your process. When I first started Timeslips Corporation, what I did was I went on to CompuServe. It was before AOL. It was where I connected with a group of lawyers who happened to be a little bit more technology savvy than the rest of them. It was there that I started floating these ideas and sending out demo disks and beta versions of our software. It turned out to be the key in effect for me building the product that we ended up building that took our legal software world by storm many years ago. Every single thing I’ve described is simple, small, doable and generally accomplishable in a 1 or 2 days.
In the time that we’re in, you mentioned a great point that you thought about yourself like, “I’ve got to get busy in this time to make use of it.” There are many people like, “When are we ever going to have this time again like this to be able to sit down and take inventory, take a piece of paper and write down?”
This is going to go against what a lot of people are feeling. We’re in a huge seismic shift. The world is shifting in a very positive way. There’s a lot of pain, negativity, upheaval, illness and death, but I think that as they say, “This too shall pass.” Maybe this is my overly optimistic attitude, but we will reach a place where we can say, “This is now a better world.” It’s a world where we have transitioned to working in a different way. It’s a world where we have a better healthcare system. It’s a world where people are treated more fairly, no matter what their race, creed or color. It’s a world where we are more open to understanding one another and their plight than we were before. My viewpoint is that this is all coming. It doesn’t mean it’ll be here by Thursday, but it will. Mark my words on this show, I predict that this will be a better world.
To me, a lot of this seems to be a dress rehearsal.If we focus on just the negatives, we miss the real opportunities. Click To Tweet
What is the dress rehearsal for in your case?
For what can be if we take advantage of this. Also, how do we deal with challenges going forward that could be bigger than the things that we’re dealing with? How are we going to be most effective? It was interesting. I read an article and the writer of this article said, “If you look at the first quarter of 2020, we have experienced an impeachment process, a pandemic, a financial crisis, and racial unrest all in the same year.” 1968 was racial unrest, Nixon’s impeachment, the pandemic of 1918 and the financial crisis of 2008. We’ve taken all of these things and condense them into one quarter of the first year of 2020.
The article wasn’t about this, but I thought the opportunity to me is to say, “How do we want our politicians to behave? What do we want from them? How do we want our healthcare system and how do we treat our own health to change because of this? How do we want our behaviors and interactions with other people to change because of this? What do we need to do financially to create our own security so that when things like this happen, we’re not at the mercy of everybody else?”
We thought we were secure. We thought we were healthy. We thought our political situation was somewhat stable and all of these things turned out to not be true. Aren’t we lucky, we get to solve all these problems at once instead of having to drag them out over 10 or 20 years? To me, that’s the opportunity of a generation. I look at my daughter, she’s 26 years old. I think to myself on one level, it’s unfortunate that she has to inherit this world that we left her or that we’re leaving her, a world filled with dead, a world filled with strife. On the other hand, we were left with the same kind of world when we were 26 years old. That was the era when everyone was building a bomb shelters in their backyard because they were afraid we were going to get nuked by Russia.
All of this upheaval is generational and this is their generation’s upheaval. For us, our job is to remember who we are and not get caught up in the fear or in the stories of what people tell us. The stories are the most damaging and destructive element of our existence and it’s been proven over and over again. Why would you tune into a news channel whose only objective is to make more money by making sure that you pay attention to every word they say 24/7 so that they could sell you more canned goods? What is the point of this? How does this work for you and your life? I look at my mom who’s glued to CNN and I say to her, “No wonder you’re upset. No wonder you’re in a bad mood. No wonder you feel the way you do. Stop it. You’re not benefiting yourself. Those newscasts are not for you. They’re for them. Get focused on what’s for you.”
I practice that for the most part. I’ve been a professional options trader before and trading is in my blood. I trade almost every day. I looked at this whole financial crisis and thought to myself, instead of being afraid, which I was, I asked myself, “What opportunities do I have here? I could buy puts. When the market goes down, I could make money. I could hedge my portfolio.” I know how to do these things. It’s not that I did them a lot before, because I never was in this environment this way before. You have to take stock of who you are, what you have, what your assets are and ask yourself, “What can I do now other than sit around and feel sorry for myself?”
You have a quite a history too in terms of some of the work that you’ve done, creating virtual teams that you were successful on your own and then you went off and started a partnership with two other fairly heavy hitters, two that are favorites of mine. One unfortunately is no longer with us, Chet Holmes, but Tony Robbins as well. That speaks to your level of success that you’re in a partnership with these two. What was that like?
Some readers may not know who Chet Holmes was. He died in 2012. Chet and I were best friends for decades before we worked together. Working with my friend was an amazing experience, but what I never experienced was the type of mentorship that I got from Tony Robbins. That to me was an incredible gift, shock, surprise, delight. I learned so much from Tony. I would tell myself that every day is a gift that I get to spend working with Tony and Chet. I absorbed it all. I made notes and wrote things down. I went out of my way to make sure that they knew that I appreciated them and what we were doing together. In partnership, we had created something very powerful. We went from almost nothing to a close to a $30 million organization in less than five years. We were able to harness the energy and the talent and the creativity of the three of us put together and each of our respective abilities and build something amazing.
Which you have almost proven going forward in terms of these virtual teams and being able to build out a successful business on your own.
That was the first book, The Invisible Organization. That book turned out to be a blueprint book. It was how to transition from a brick and mortar company to a virtual organization. That book has some obsolete or no longer relevant info, which are the technology parts of the book, but the parts of the book that are not are the mindset of the CEO discussion, the leadership discussion, the management process, and some of the marketing superpowers that virtual organizations acquire when they move from atoms to electrons. Once they make that transition, worlds can change rapidly.
If you were to put a percentage on it from a standpoint of skillset versus attitude in this environment that we’re in, how would you mix that up?
It’s 90/10, 90% mindset and attitude, and 10% skills. Here’s why. Most skills can be learned for free. You can go on YouTube and learn. I can’t imagine what you can’t learn on YouTube these days. More importantly, you can also find people in your network to work one-on-one with you. Get an accountability partner. I built accountability partnership software for people to do that. Get an accountability partner in your life and together, hold each other up, hold each other accountable, make sure you’re reaching your goals. That’s all part of how we support a strong framework for a great attitude and making sure that we keep our mental space clear and wholesome.
Along those lines, taking a step back, you mentioned mentorship and Tony, and what you learned from him. I’ve had them myself, how important they’ve been in terms of with all the negativity that’s going around is latching onto those people that are likeminded or that support where you’re going, as opposed to tell you why you can’t get there.
Mentorship is as much about a transfer of skill as it is about a transfer of mindset. I’ve had mentors and coaches all throughout my life and when I work with the people I coach, I tell them to do one thing for me, “If we’re going to work together, when I ask you to do something, I want you to do it. I don’t want you to question it. I want you to execute the things I tell you to do. If you have questions about how, let’s talk. If you have questions about how you feel, let’s talk. If you’re not going to do what your mentor or coach tells you what to do, what’s the point? Don’t bother. Go back to watching Netflix. It’s frankly more fun.”The price of perfection is bankruptcy across the board. Click To Tweet
Those are difficult conversations at times, maybe not for you to tell somebody, but to hear somebody say, “You’ve got to do this. You need to step up.”
It’s all a matter of perspective. I was told those things when I was a young man. When I was going through this, I had people say to me, “If you’re not going to listen to me, there’s no point in us talking anymore.” I had to shut down my ego, open up and hear what they had to say. I had a guy who literally saved my company by talking to me that way many years ago when he was trying to impress upon me that my approach at building a particular piece of software was simply never going to work. A quick example, we were trying to convert a DaaS program to Windows, and we were told that’s the only pathway to go. He said, “Shut that down now. You’ve already wasted eighteen months. Let’s do it the right way.” I could have defended myself even further, but I had no reason to that because he had already done it five times. I listened, did it and he saved my company.
Along those lines, generationally, do you think there’s a difference in terms of receptivity?
People are people. Mindset issues have plagued us all from the beginning of time to now. I remember when Chet and I used to travel together. Chet used to take medication before going on stage because he had to control his nerves and yet he was one of the most dynamic stage presenters I’d ever known. Mindset stuff is part of all of us. It’s not even our fault. If you go back far enough, you could find out where a lot of this stuff originates. My preference is to ignore where it originates and simply overcome it because it doesn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter if you had a bad childhood. It’s a shame. I’m sorry for you, but we’ve got work to do here. It’s a pandemic. We have an opportunity. Let’s use this time and you can get therapy later. Right now, we’ll go into the jungle and take ayahuasca. I heard that works. I’ve never tried it, but more importantly, we’ve got work to do. We have a career to build. We have an opportunity to take advantage of. We have people waiting to be led by us. Let’s lead them. Let’s snap into action here and take the bull by the horn and move forward. The issue is generational? I don’t think so. I’ve seen people at every level, at every age deal with almost the exact same issues when it comes to mindset and attitude.
What about the person that maybe is older as well? They’re in their 50s. That seems to be the number of, “I’m too late. It’s too late to do something different.” I’ve got to find a way to ride this out. Those are some of the things that I hear from people that I know that are still in the corporate world.
I call BS on that because anybody has the same opportunities as anybody else at any age. In fact, if you’re 50 or 60 or 66, you have experience where the others don’t. You also have the combined fears of failure that you’ve had all throughout your life to overcome, but get a coach and get over it because you could do it. It’s in your DNA. What’s built into us by our creator is the quest to survive. Survival is the most natural element of every single thing and every single living thing on the planet. Isn’t being successful an element of survival?
I sold my software company. I earned out a small fortune for myself and my partner. I accomplished 500% growth in two years and I decided to move back to Boston after working in Dallas with the new company. I thought to myself, “What am I going to do now? I’m going to go help a couple of VCs, maybe get some of their portfolio companies to level up so that they can get some value from them and help those entrepreneurs achieve their dreams too.” I wrote a letter to about a dozen VC firms and included my resume, which I thought was absolutely impeccable because I did what all of their portfolio companies are trying to do. I sent these letters out and I waited. I sent out another batch of letters. Now, I’m going outside the Boston area and I’m sending them to Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. I’m not getting a response.
Finally, I call up, one of the VC firms in Boston that I had sent my resume to. I said, “Is there an associate I could talk with about an opportunity?” If you said, “I’m calling to follow up on my resume,” I already tried that, that didn’t work. “Can I speak to one of your associates about an opportunity? It might be a value.” I get this guy on the phone and I said to him, “I don’t know if you’ve seen what I sent you. It was a couple of weeks ago. My name is Mitch Russo.” He goes, “We saw your resume. We were thinking about it, but we decided it wasn’t going to be a fit for us.” I said, “Would you mind telling me why?” He had to get up and close the door to his office before he did. He comes back to the phone and he says, “Mitch, you did an amazing thing and we appreciate that. Frankly, you’re too old.” I said, “What do you mean? I’m 44 years old. How could I be too old?”
He goes, “When we’re raising money, VCs like to see 26 and 27-year-old leaders. That’s the problem. You’re too old.” I said, “I would be able to advise those 26- and 27-year-old leaders on where to go next and where to take what they’ve done, where to create that vision so that it becomes bigger and faster.” He says, “I know but it’s not a fit for us. Thanks, anyway.” I said, “I got it. I understand.” I re-strategized at that point. I realized that for that world in that moment, at that time, I was too old but I didn’t let it stop me. I pivoted. What I did instead was I started investing myself in individual companies. Eventually, I built a small portfolio of investments. I called it Assist Ventures because if you took my money, you had to take my advice at the same time. It was a tradeoff.
If you don’t want to work with me, then forget it. I’m not going to invest. If I’m going to invest, you’re going to get my advice too. I built a very nice strong portfolio of client companies. All of a sudden, it was interesting that now, VCs were calling me and asking if I would help them with their client companies. The lesson for me was I’m not waiting around for the approval of others. I’m going to do what I need to do. Any of us who wrote a book knows what rejection feels like. Send your book out to a publisher and ask for an advance, see how many cheques come in after you do that and let me know.
You reinforce a theme that I continue to hear over and over again in terms of there are resources and there is resourcefulness. In resources, there’s always going to be a gap, a lack of something, “My age. I don’t have enough education. I’m not tall enough. I’m too tall,” whatever it might be. We all have equal access to resourcefulness and that’s what you’ve demonstrated. It is your ability to say, “I’m going to re-evaluate what I need to do next to be able to overcome this.”
Even the resources in many cases is an illusion. It’s self-imposed. If someone says you’re too short, you’re not going to be able to quite fix that. If you’re going from modeling job and they need a tall person, they’re certainly not going to hire me. Not that I’d ever modeled. The bottom line is that there are certain things that are not necessarily caught up in our emotional state, our mental state, our attitudinal state. It’s physical limitations. If you’re trying to hire a woman for a part in a movie, there’s no point in you and I applying. We’d look terrible in high heels, so what’s the point?
There’s a woman named Byron Katie, and she has this very beautiful process where when people are feeling bad, she set of questions to ask themselves. One of the questions is, “Is that true?” No matter what the answer, the second question is, “Is that really true?” If someone says to you, “You’re are not smart enough,” you ask yourself the question, “Is that true?” You might even come back with, “Maybe I’m not.” The second question is, “Is that really true?” Most of the time, when you ask the second question, your universal intelligence answers for you.Mentorship is as much about a transfer of skill as it is about a transfer of mindset. Click To Tweet
One funny side story dealing with Chet Holmes in terms of how he used to scream for sales reps, that he would talk about somebody that says, “We need superstars,” and the person would start talking on the phone and say, “I’m not hearing superstar in you, Mitch,” and would wait to see what they did next. That wasn’t the person he was looking for. He wanted the person that was more resourceful or more able to say, “What exactly are you looking for? This is what I’ve done,” and not just taking that.
What you are referring to is that balance between ego strength and empathy. What we always looked for when we hire people was whether or not they had the proper balance for the position we were hiring. We hired a lot of one call closers. We didn’t care that they had a lot of empathy, but they needed to have some, but they sure needed the ego strength because they were unable. They’d never be able to stick with a client and close. Particularly, on an inbound phone call first time ever, we gave them a script. They had sixteen minutes to close a sale. If they didn’t close the sale in sixteen minutes, odds are, they’d never close it. We also knew that follow-up was important, but ultimately the majority of our sales were closed on that first call.
It was super important that we did two things well. We made sure that the individual we were hiring had both the balance of ego strength and empathy to take that call, sit in that seat and be rejected 9 out of 10 times and had the capacity to be trained and accept the training and integrate it. That was a big problem. A lot of people were either “too lazy or too smart” to follow the rules. Our best people were the ones who learn the script cold, learned the objections cold, read the script, followed the instructions and right down the line, closed.
It’s the same story, “This is what you do. If you do this, you’ll be successful.”
What I’m asking your readers to do is to do a quick self-assessment. Sit alone with a pad of paper, write down your assets, make sure that you’re not skipping anything, even things you don’t think are relevant. If you’re going to do this, get quiet for 5, 10 or 15 minutes first. I like to meditate before I do exercises like this because what I’m doing is I’m calling on my higher self to help me answer these questions. I’m asking you to do the same thing. Call your yourself, get some answers to these questions, do this little self-assessment and then string these pieces together and see what it looks like and what’s missing.
What’s the best way for people to get ahold of you if they wanted to reach out to you directly?
Simply go to MitchRusso.com. There is everything about me and ways to get ahold of me. I have 200 audio interviews on my podcast and another 150 written interviews, another 80 personally written blog posts. I have a lot of content on MitchRusso.com. A lot of interesting and relevant stories are there too. There are some from me, but the stories of my listeners, the stories of my guests and the people I’ve interviewed, they are so motivating to me. It’s why I podcast as much as I do. I love the experience.
I had the good fortune of being introduced to you. I will say already how inspired I become because of the things that you have done. It’s been an honor for me to get connected with you.
I love what you’ve done. I love what you’re doing. I look forward to your leadership in this world, which is desperately needed.
Thank you for that. I appreciate it. Take care.
- Power Tribes: How Certification Can Explode Your Business
- The Invisible Organization: How Ingenious CEOs Are Creating Thriving, Virtual Companies
About Mitch Russo
As a CEO Advisor to several companies at the same time, I participated in many different business types, solving many diverse types of problems in sales organizations, marketing, technology, systems and HR.
I later became interested in options trading and mentored with a floor trader at The Chicago Board of Options Exchange.
I made it through the 2008 stock market crash unscathed while helping Chet Holmes build his now-legendary coach and training business.
That lead to a 3-way partnership between myself, Tony Robbins and Chet Holmes.
Being a leader has its perks, but when faced with a situation that puts your leadership to the test, you better be steadfast. Brigadier General (Ret.) Becky Halstead joins this episode to share her story about how she got into the military and her ideas about equality. She talks about why you should make your choices based on your strengths and why you should never apologize for being excellent. Learn how she views opportunities whenever it arises and understands what the three-second rule is and its effects on how you communicate and connect with others. Know the importance of discipline as she explains the role it plays in decision making, and why you need to be more selfless the higher you are on the ladder.
Listen to the podcast here:
Brigadier General (Ret.) Becky Halstead Speaks About The Importance Of Being STEADFAST In Leadership
My guest is Becky Halstead. She is a retired Brigadier General from the US Army. What’s also interesting about her background is that she was the 2nd class of women to be enrolled at West Point. I enjoyed our conversation so much as she talked about many things that are relevant in regards to leading and reimagining what it means for us to lead. It’s an episode you’re going to want to read. Let’s get into it.
Becky, thank you so much for being on the show. I appreciate it. In this environment that we’re in right now, you bring so much perspective in terms of your experience. I would love to provide the opportunity. First, can you to talk about how did you navigate your career in the armed services and then how does it relate to what you’re doing?
I love the question about how did I navigate my career because most of us in the military do not feel like we navigate a thing. We take the oath and in my case, the army, 27 years where the army sends me and we have a saying that, “Home is where the army sends me.” I did go to West point in 1977 and 1981. I was in the 2nd class of women to be accepted into the Military Academy. That’s always a fun factoid for people because it’s not too hard to figure out. That probably wasn’t a lot of fun. First of all, your first year at any Academy isn’t a lot of fun, male or female, but when you’re the new ingredient, let’s say to the formula, it can be exciting.
I grew up in Upstate New York, a small country town with no traffic lights. I played a lot of sports and I wanted to go to college to be a physical education teacher. I did tease it when I went to West Point. I was 6’ tall and now I’m 5’1/2”. When you grow up in a town with no traffic lights, it’s easy to be a stud or stud at because if you show up, you’re going to be on the team because there’s only so many of us. I thought I was a good athlete and that’s why I wanted to do that. I loved coaching. I knew very young that I loved being part of a team. I loved leading and figuring out how to work together to make something happen.
I love the win. I love working through the loss. How do I control my attitude and how do I get the team to put that aside, rework it and get to the next one? My mother was reading that they were letting women go into the academy and that was in 1976. She said, “This sounds like you.” I’m like, “What? Me?” There’s no other you in the room. “What do you mean me?” I’m like, “I don’t want to go to an Academy. I know nothing about the military.” My dad was an IBM engineer and my mom was a dental hygienist. I said, “If you help me with the letters of recommendation and the whole process, I’ll try.” Sure enough, I made a deal and we tried. For some reason, I got accepted, which is still unknown to me at this point because when I look at my classmates and when I got to West Point, 4.0 GPAs. They graduated 1st and 2nd in their class. I was at the top fifteen but I came from a town with no traffic lights. There wasn’t that many that graduated.When it gets hard, rule number one is don't quit. Rule number two, refer back to rule number one. Click To Tweet
My mom helped. My very strong family values and community went off to West Point. At West Point, as far as navigating my career, I learned don’t quit when it gets hard. There are two rules. Rule number one is don’t quit. Rule number two, refer back to rule number one. The military ended up being perfect for me because we do have this keep it simple soldier. Our leadership model is Be, Know, Do. It isn’t rocket science but it takes a great deal of discipline to be a strong leader. You got to choose the harder right over the easier wrong and to maintain your character, your integrity, and to learn every day and improve your competence. The military worked for me. It was tactical, operational, and strategic.
I loved soldiering, being a soldier, and leading soldiers. I love the whole human dimension. I was a logistician so I get a lot of opportunities to speak to the supply chain management side of the world now about leading in that arena, which you can imagine is very chaotic. When you hear all about the distribution of everything from toilet paper to vaccines, In my 27 years after I graduated in 1981, I became a logistician and I served 27 years in the military. I moved eighteen times. I served in Afghanistan and Iraq. A lot of people say, “What’s that like to be a woman leading a military in those countries?”
I’m like, “They didn’t have any women in their military but there was always an expectation of respect. I always received respect.” Sometimes I tease a little bit. I felt our coalition forces were more respectful than some of the men on my own side or the same team. It’s taken our military a long time to integrate women into all sources fully, all branches and all subject matter skills. As I navigated through my military career, I made the best choices that I thought for me based on my DNA, my strengths, and I wouldn’t change very much of that. It worked out well but I also saw the need that we need to open everything to women. If women can do as well or better, then they had to have the same opportunity.
It’s always been about standards. If I meet the standard, don’t exclude me because I’m a woman. That was one of the hardest parts of navigating through the military. There sometimes wasn’t the same opportunity for a logistician, supply chain manager, or for a woman in that course. Having to navigate makes it part of the challenge. It makes it part of the fun. It makes it part of the, “We were innovative and we did that. We were successful and help others be that way.” I do a lot of coaching now for other people coming into the military, men and women.
The thing that I was thinking about as you were telling that story is that it seems as though your need for the team was satisfied in the environment you were in that you were talking about before you went into West Point. Also, what I hear and what’s interesting with West Point is now they talk about grit and you demonstrated that through your own perseverance.The acronym JOY means, Jesus first, Others second, Yourself next. That’s the perfect model. Click To Tweet
The grit factor is something that a lot of people talk about. Another person you might want to get on here sometimes is Shannon Polson. She’s written the book The Grit Factor. I don’t know how many women are involved with it but there’s a lot of women from a lot of industries and military service that was part of her book and now we were part of the NBC series on TV. I love the way she has captured what is grit. It’s a little bit different in all of us. At the end of the day, it’s a real strong determination to help others realize their full potential not to be successful but to be successful and then to be significant, to understand the value of your life and that you have a purpose.
I do believe there’s a big difference because there’s a lot of people out there who are very successful but they’re willing to enjoy their success for themselves and they don’t share it. That’s beyond me. My dad taught us a long time ago because I wasn’t sure about this whole concept of making money. You don’t make a lot of money in the military but you don’t go poorly, don’t get me wrong. You have benefits and everything else but it’s not like you joined the military to become rich in terms of money. You join the military to become rich inside because you have such a purpose. When we leave the military and we retired from the military, we have new opportunities that now bring on a different financial opportunity. My dad always said, “Don’t apologize for being excellent. Don’t apologize for making more money than something that makes you feel comfortable because the more you make, the more you can give.” I love that.
It’s very interesting too when you talk about happiness versus purpose. They’re not the same thing. I’ll be getting on a webinar to talk about specifically that. In research that’s been done when they looked at people that were happy, the happiness came from stuff that you received. Purpose and meaning were what you did for others. What they found was those that were about others tended to rate themselves as happier.
The way I equate that is joy. You hardly ever hear me say I’m happy. I‘m happy is not a word I use. Joy to me is definitely in the same bucket as purpose. I tell people that the greatest joy of leading is leaving a legacy. That is about to teach, coach, and mentor others. When you see them do wonderful things and even surpass you, I always talk about this one. A gentleman that I grew up in the army with and it happened that in Iraq, he was one of my brigade commanders. I was a General, he was a Colonel but we’d grown up his peers. It happened that that was the timing of things and he was a little bit younger than me. There was always so much respect and admiration for each other and not just for him for me because I was the General.
After I retired, he made General and I was like, “I couldn’t be happier if I was his mother.” He then made two stars. He ended up making four stars and he runs all the logistics for the army. He’s famous because he is the four-star General Gus Perna that they chose to be the one that navigates and does the logistics with the vaccine once it’s out there and everything else. I go like, “That’s my brother.” It’s joy and I’m very faith-based. That’s very personal. I share it when I speak on leadership because it is part of who I am. It’s part of my DNA. It’s part of what I rely on. I had a Sunday school teacher who once said the acronym JOY. It’s Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself next. Isn’t that the perfect model?
As you were talking about the challenges, I have found in my experience when I interview people that have been successful in a wide range of areas. It often comes down to when we talk about the challenges that they’ve had to deal with at some point that helped shape who they become. I would say our past is our power. I’m wondering from your own experience as you look back, what is one of those challenges that you look at now and think, “This helped define or shape who I’ve become?”
It’s always hard for me to choose. I do this one day workshop on personal leadership. What is your personal leadership and how did you get there? It’s a journey. It happens over time. I tell people, put above the line those things that powerfully impacted you. There still could have been a challenge but it was a positive challenge. Those things below the line that what you would put as a downer or a negative challenge and how those shaped you. I put 6 to 8 things on that chart. I have other people do it and then everybody shares a story. The nice thing about that is everybody that starts on the team gets to know each other.
If I think about my mental chart, below the line, the first and most significant event of my life that truly has shaped my path was, I told you I was very much into sports and I want to be a physical education teacher. The reason why was because I loved spending time in the gym. I played nine varsity sports in high school. Again, you can be on nine varsity teams when you come from a town with no traffic lights. When you come from a small town, you have only 2 or 3 coaches. I had the same coach for basketball as I did in softball for several years. In my junior year, my best coach also loved parachuting and she was doing a twelve-person parachute jump. When they all break away from the formation, someone broke away, pulled their chute too early, came up before she even could pull her chute, and knocked her unconscious. She didn’t ever pull the chute and she died. She went through the top of her fiancé’s parachute.
It was a very significant traumatic event. For me, it turned my life switch off. I didn’t even want to live, function, go to school, and go to college. Because I came from a small community, those teachers wrapped their arms around me. Again, team and they go like, “You’d be letting your coach down if she could see how you’re responding to this.” She would expect you to be a leader in this group, pull the rest of the kids together, and say, “Let’s keep winning. Let’s do this.” We started wearing black ribbons on our arms and things like that.
I had already applied to West Point. It was either 11 or 12 days before her death, she wrote a letter of recommendation for me. When I went to the Senator’s office in New York for my interview, he said, “You’re from that town where a high school teacher was killed.” I said, “Yes, she was killed parachuting. As a matter of fact, there shouldn’t be a letter of recommendation in my file.” I don’t know how many days later, a week, two weeks later, his office sent me my entire packet and in there was her handwritten because we didn’t have computers then. It was typewriters or handwriting. It was a handwritten letter from her letter of recommendation for me to go to West Point.
There were so many things I learned about that. Number one, she was saying things about me that I didn’t even know she felt or that she saw. She was seeing my potential. Immediately as a young person you go, “I need to see the potential in other people.” When I read that letter, the light switch went back on. In the letter, she said, “I’m having the opportunity to do things that were not even dreamt up for her in her time. She’s about 8 to 10 years older than me. Every decade, more opportunity arises. What are we going to do with that? How are we going to embrace that and help others embrace that? Anyhow, before that was then I developed a very strong relationship with her mother. I was as tough as she was. I played golf with her into her 80s. She gave me not one benefit. If I went into the water, she’d come over later. She’ll lay her golf club down.”The whole purpose of communication is to connect. Click To Tweet
I stayed in touch with her forever. When I wrote my book on leadership, In my book, I don’t put names of people. That’s not the type of book I write. It’s about leadership, leadership principles, things I learned, stories from my military career. I don’t put any names in the book but I want to talk about my coach because she had such a powerful impact on me for leading myself and others to be part of a team. When I truly felt the full impact of that, it was almost 30 years later in Iraq. In Iraq when I would go to the hospital and I would visit my wounded soldiers and they would already be in that PTSD or post-traumatic stress of why did my buddy die and I live?
I can remember the first time I had that conversation, it was the experience of having gone through that as a teenager asking why of my coach and not wanting to go on myself that I could understand what my soldier was going through. I can remember saying, “None of us will ever know why, ever but what I do is this. Living your life honoring that person you thought so much of. Honor them by living your life with the way they saw you as a friend, as a subordinate, or as a peer. Live out your full potential.” Who would know that that would happen?
That was the whole purpose, for me, of that situation to learn that. I’m not going to lie to you. There were a lot of peaks and valleys but when you can go back now and reflect over all that time, that’s the goodness that you see on such a tragic event. We both know there are so many people who are suffering from isolation and losing loved ones who they can’t even hold their hand and they can’t have a funeral. We can be such a voice of encouragement. It doesn’t matter when that event happened to us, we have to be able to articulate it so we can help people.
Two things that I think about when I hear that, one is empathy. The strong demonstration of empathy there is so apparent. When I think about the letter that you got to see these things that were said about you, it reminds me of the responsibility that we have in terms of what we set for expectations for others. How powerful that is that if we don’t expect much of other people, then oftentimes they will deliver not much, but the opposite is also true that if we hold people to higher standards of, you can do this and you’re better than this. There’s a drive that we have inside of us. I will jokingly say when I speak and I talk about the Pygmalion effect. I will say, “There were teachers that I had that didn’t expect a lot from me and there were others that expected a great deal for me. I didn’t seem to disappoint on either side of that.” The power that it has that we have over other people.
It also taught me the power of a handwritten note. The power of letting people know how you feel like, “Don’t wait.” Throughout my entire career, I was known as someone who wrote a lot of notes and a lot of letters because what was very apparent to me is that there are a lot of people who are not blessed with having a wonderful family as I had. My parents are still living. They’re in their 80s. They’re vibrant. They’re still big cheerleaders. If they could put an email with feedback when I go to speak or somebody read my book, that’s on the refrigerator with a gold star and I’m 61 years old.
Not everybody had that joy. I also always looked at my organization. I would look for those who maybe were sitting alone, walking alone, or falling out of a run in the morning. Why are they falling out? It isn’t because they’re not in shape. This is something that’s up here in the heart that’s causing them to feel defeated or whatever. I was never a yeller or a screamer. You would see sometimes leaders yelling and screaming at people to get back in formation. I never ran faster because someone yelled at me. Instead, even though as a leader, the expectations that the leaders upfront when you’re doing all the running, I started out up front and then I fall back to the wayside and I talked to people and I’d be like, “Can you believe they pay us to do this?”
I have to go back to the back and I’d run. I’d always look for the people that fell out because I want to know why and you found out so many interesting things about people and simple things like sending Christmas cards. I had a whole battalion deployed to Kosovo when I was stationed at Fort Drum. I could not be in Kosovo with them because it was one of my many units but I can reach out to them. I did a Christmas card to every soldier and then I put a red, white, and blue tacky candy in the envelope. I admit I had my driver and my secretary help me lick all those envelopes and get them all boxed up. I signed all of them and then get the candy put it in there.
I can’t remember how many. It was about 400. It’s not like I got 400 responses going, “Thank you, Ma’am.” I probably got four responses but one response is what counted. This young kid sent me a note and he said, “It’s the only Christmas card I received.” It makes you emotional because of how sad that is. On the other hand, you go, “I’m so glad I sent 400 even though only one was this powerful.” You don’t do it to get 400 thank yous. You do it because of your heart and your mind, which I believe that’s what leadership is. It’s the fusion of those two things. That one kid was worth 4,000 cards.
It’s interesting when you tell that story. I think about behaviors and the research that I look at in terms of what are the behaviors that create leaders. One of the things that often comes up is around belongingness. The research that’s out there on belongingness is we’re wired for connection. To me, as leaders, it’s our responsibility to bring people inside the group and not make them feel isolated. When we do that, people want to do more. They’re inspired to do that and you’ll feel like you’ve made them feel part of what’s going on as opposed to you’re on the outside.
When I speak on leadership, I have one slide that I like to show. I’m on the border of Syria and I’m out there talking to some of my soldiers that were one of the bases but I’m also talking to the leaders who were responsible for the physical security of that base. The title is very simple. It says, Circulate, Communicate and Connect. That’s the whole purpose of the communication. I tease and I say I’m 5’1/2”. When soldiers stand in front of you, they stand in attention. They look straight out, which means they’re looking straight over my head. I said, “No, look down here, look me in the eye.” I would tell them that when I look you in the eye, I can see your soul. I can feel your soul and I want to connect. I can also tell, are you nervous? Are you confident? Are you scared? All those things. That is the whole purpose of communication is to connect.If we all pause for three seconds before talking, we'll be a lot happier with what we say. Click To Tweet
When you’re with your eyes, you’re listening with a different sense of reading. It’s an awareness of others that certainly you speak to.
It is. You shake somebody’s hand, is it cold? Is it sweaty? I was known as the Colonel or the General that hugged too because I’m just going to do it. I had 30,000 people in my command, we operate out of 55 different bases, and we did all the logistics for Iraq. There’s no way I could go to all 55 bases and say goodbye to everybody and thank everybody. It’s an impossibility but where I could go, I did and when I could, I did. I don’t even know how many that was but we did send a lot of people home right out of the base where I lived which was Balad.
I told my Sergeant Major, “I don’t care what time of night it is, what time of day it is if we’re available, we’re going to go out onto the tarmac. We’re going to say thank you and put their tired butts in a seat on a plane and let them go home.” There are a couple of pictures of me embracing them. We got all of our gear on. Let me tell you what. When you slap about 300 people in the back with that IVA, it was like your hands bruised by then at the end of the day. I embrace, encourage, and thank people. I went back to my headquarters and a young major who had been a little bit of a thorn in my side. I felt that he was there illegally. It was crazy. He stayed for the whole year. We made him work.
He wasn’t real happy about it but we have disgruntled people sometimes in our organizations. He came to me and he approached me and said, “I know you’re going out and you’re thanking everybody before you put them on the plane. How do you know that all of them deserve a thank you?” If you have not read the book Three Seconds, you need to read it because the whole thesis is, “If we all pause for three seconds, we’ll be a lot happier with what we say.” My mother gave it to me. That’s telling. I was pressing the three-second rule because inside my head, I’m going, “You are exactly the person I would have a hard time saying thank you to.”
I know that you have to give credit where credit is due and where you need to deliver consequences, you deliver consequences. I paused and I said, “I don’t know every individual that I said thank you to, slap them on the back, shook their hand, and put them on the plane. I don’t know every single one of them. I don’t know if they’ve been a great performer, a good performer. I don’t know but here’s what I do know. I am thanking them for their service. They left their families, their homes, they volunteered to be in this military and they were gone for a year in combat. That alone deserves a thank you. Thank you for your service.” He didn’t say anything else which I’m so glad he didn’t say anything else. You don’t want to be rewarding, awarding, and recognizing people for things that are inflated because then it doesn’t have meaning. A simple thank is appropriate for almost everybody.
You thank them for the service which they did do. It wasn’t telling everybody you did the best. It was sincere in that regard.
I was very clear, that was for their service. That was for leaving their families, being dedicated to their country, coming into combat, and I’ll thank you for that. Put your tired butt on that seat, go back home and do great things. When you do an award like a Legion of Merit or a Bronze Star or any of those things, there has to be credibility to that. That has to be researched. You need to know that if I’m coming and putting a Bronze Star on your uniform, you’re going to be sure that my signature means that I agree that you earned it.
As we’ve been having this conversation, Becky, I had STEADFAST up and I’ve been looking at the acronym. As you’ve been going through telling your stories and examples, you’ve hit on about every one of these from selfless, trust, courage, attitude, discipline, family, friends, faith, accountability, standard setter, and teamwork. As we think about that from a standpoint of the environment that we’re in, steadfast obviously is very important to you. Is there one on there that you think is most important at this point?
For me, the most important one is the D, discipline. The reason why is because it takes a great deal of discipline to choose the harder right over the easier wrong. It takes a great deal of discipline to make sure you’re constantly thinking and deliberately thinking or my priorities in the right place. Some days, your family comes first. Some days, your job comes first. When you look at what’s going on, our first responders that are in the hospitals and they’re sleeping in a tent or sleeping at a hotel so they don’t infect their families, they’re putting their job and their family first but their job is first. They’re trying to save lives and they’re taking care of their family by not being there and infecting them.
Now, a family member might think, “You’re not putting me first. You’re putting your job first because you’re not home.” Eventually, they mature and understand. I was putting you first because my job is important because it’s about people. It’s about feeling. The D is for discipline because it’s for the simplest things. It’s for the most profound. Simple like being on time for a meeting, getting your work done on time, or helping a peer when it’s very inconvenient because it’s never convenient when somebody wants help.
That’s about being for others. That’s back to that meaning. It’s the purpose of, it’s not about ourselves. When we’re about other people, there is much more value to it. You also have a book that I would love to have an opportunity now to go back and read that book and have you on again to talk about that. I can have this in the show notes, I’d love for you to tell the audience, what is the book? Where can they get it?It takes a great deal of discipline to choose the harder right over the easier wrong. Click To Tweet
It’s 24/7: The First Person You Must Lead Is You. I put my dog tags on it because dog tags are very important to us in the military. We put those over our head and neck every day. We commit ourselves to being the best soldier that we can be. The best leader we can be for those that we lead. It has nothing to do with rank. It has to do with service. I put a star in the O in you because I believe everybody out there has star potential. A lot of people think because I was a General, that’s the catch like a good country-western song. You want to catch everybody. Everybody has star potential and that’s part of our leadership responsibility.
It is 30 leadership principles. It’s a quick read. It’s a fast read. It’s mostly storytelling. I give a principle and I tell stories as to how I either lived that out successfully or failed. It’s also about failure. Again, there are no names in it because it wasn’t about naming a bad boss or any of that. It was about situations from being a young Lieutenant to being a General. Where I got it right, where I got it wrong. It seems I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback from people on how it’s helped them to lead themselves better.
The reason why I say the first person you must lead in you is because sometimes we get caught up in the “I’m a leader, I’m in a leadership position. I get to tell everybody what to do, but I don’t have to follow the rules myself.” I could not agree with that at all. When I first started out in the army, I always had that rank has its privileges. You always wanted to get to the next rank. As I grew up I went, “Rank has its privileges. I hate that saying.” I think it should have been, “Rank has its responsibilities and the higher you go, the more selfless you better be.” That’s the book. It’s on my website, BeckyHalstead.com. Keep it simple, soldier.
That’s our hook to get you on the show again to be able to talk about the book. I’m looking forward to reading that. I really appreciate your time and certainly your service to our country.
Thank you so much. I love your questions and I’m going to go back and try to catch up on all your episodes.
Thank you. Becky’s story, her background is so inspiring. If you listen to the things that she had to say, there’s something that you can take away and apply it in your own life in terms of how you behave and how you lead those around you. I am so looking forward to having her on again to discuss her book 24/7: The First Person You Must Lead Is You. I’m sure it’s going to be phenomenal. I can’t wait to finish reading it. If you know somebody that would benefit from reading this blog, I would ask that you forward it to them. If you haven’t subscribed, please subscribe to the show. It would mean the world to me as always if you would leave a rating or a comment on this or any other episode because that’s how this message continues to get out there about re-imagining leadership. Do we need it more than ever? Until our next episode, I hope you’re able to go out there and rise above your best. Peace.
- Becky Halstead
- The Grit Factor
- Three Seconds
- 24/7: The First Person You Must Lead Is You
A lot of people think that big organizations thought up a unique idea that’s why they’re successful, but in reality, what they have are amazing systems that guarantee their success. Scotty Schindler, the founder of System 1357™, had proven this when what he thought was normal was seen as an out-of-the-box solution. In this episode, Scotty talks about what a system truly is when it comes to running your business and explains why you badly need it if you don’t have one in place yet. He also touches on self-leadership and why you have to look at yourself first before you can lead others effectively. Listen in and learn what he has to say about the different self-leadership principles and self-leadership diseases you might encounter along the way.
Listen to the podcast here:
Scotty Schindler Discusses The System That Creates Amazing Success
I am all about finding a better way to lead. That’s based on the behaviors that will inspire, empower, and compel others to want to follow where you want to go. My guest is Scotty Schindler. He is a successful businessman out of Australia, as well as a surfer. Having spent a semester way back when in college in Australia, it’s a country that I certainly love. The conversation that I had with Scotty is certainly one that I love as well. He talks about his System 1357 and how it created such success in his own life and how he has taken this as an opportunity to help other people succeed. That to me is the theme of this episode. Scotty is talking about how he is empowering other people to reach their own high levels of success. If that’s of interest to you, this is an episode you’re going to want to read. Let’s get into it.
Scotty, I thought it would be a great opportunity for us to get on this. You have been so successful in Australia, in both of your businesses from a real estate perspective, but also where you took this in terms of I think helping people to take the process that made you successful. You’re trying to do that to help other people. We’re in such a unique period of time right now. I’d love your perspective. How do you help people to navigate this based on your own experiences?
Thanks for having me. It’s good to be here, Patrick, across the world. How do we help people in this environment? It’s a unique environment. No one knows. No one can say, “This is what we did in the last pandemic.” No one can do that at the moment, but what we all can do is we can all be supportive and be there for everyone. That’s one thing that we know we can do. That’s one thing we can control. We can’t control everything, but we can’t control our emotions and we can control that decision making. As far as being able to help other people come in, that’s how I ran sales teams in the ‘90s. I got good at running sales teams and that was through helping other people achieve their goals, what they needed to do to make money as far as the sales team went.
If I helped enough people achieve their goals as a sales team, we achieved what we need to achieve. I did exactly the same thing through growing a company. Once I established myself in the real estate industry, I helped real estate agents have good businesses that kept on using the software. That’s what I did. What’s changing right now is for me, not much at all. How do I help? I’m helping other people grow their businesses. It’s all I’ve ever done. It’s that method of, “If I help enough other people achieve what they want to achieve, I’ll achieve what I want to achieve.” It’s interesting. You say you saw that because that’s a methodology that I’ve had forever. I got taught that though when I went from being a salesperson to a sales manager. They didn’t teach me how to be a manager, but I called on to that philosophy of helping other people achieve their goals so I could achieve mine.
I adapt to that very fast and it makes sense that together as a team, we achieve so much more than what I could on my own. As far as helping people goes, it’s so good. When you have someone write back to you and say, “I’ve changed my business model because of the conversation we’ve had. I had this epiphany moment.” You know they’re doing things smarter and better than they were before. I love that light bulb moment. It’s almost like a drug or addiction.
What I tend to find in terms of when I meet people that have been very successful in whatever area that they’re in, oftentimes there’s a story behind that in terms of, as I would call it, your past is your power. Oftentimes there were struggles or challenges that help them to get where they are. I’m wondering from your own perspective, if you look back on your success and how you help people, are there any of those challenges that you look back and say, those are things that shaped you?
The disadvantages that have the seeds of advantages and your real character building comes from those downtimes and the disadvantages and the things you didn’t want to go through. He didn’t say I cheated. It’s not uncommon to have a poor upbringing or multiple dads and single moms. That’s common. I had that and I wasn’t very well educated. On the wall, I had my school report cards up because it shows how much I failed. My baseline was very low. I already came from a position of disadvantage. Everything for me was outside. I always had nothing to lose by having a go. When it came for downturns and times and periods that I didn’t like, it was still way better than where I started. Even though I learned from those and I didn’t want to go through those, I wanted to be smarter and better than being in a position I was in. My upside, whenever you have a downtime or a bad period, if that’s as low as it’s going to go, it’s still not too bad. You can still bounce out of that. I started like that. For a sense, it was like cheating. Now I look back, I was so lucky that I started with such a low base. Everything was upside.
Let me ask you a question along those lines. Who was the first person that you can think back to that said you’re meant to do more? Generally, there’s one of those people minimum that somebody said they saw something in you that they said you’re meant to do more.Help other people achieve their goals so you can achieve yours. Click To Tweet
I’m not sure who that was. I know in the insurance game I was getting paid to do it and he practiced what he preached. He was teaching me to be a better manager because they helped me be a better manager and helped him achieve his goals. That succession planning came down. That was a guy who taught me a lot. A lot of the things I talk about because of what I learned from him, but I’m not sure he said those exact words to me. Nonetheless, his actions and what he did for me, was he as a leader or a mentor of mine? He helped me get through a lot of the struggles I was going through. Whether that be real struggles or team management struggles or leadership struggles, he helped me get through a lot of things.
He told me the term called mental judo, which I then rephrased into business judo. He taught me the term mental judo and I’ve never forgotten some of these things that he taught me as a mentor. From 2002 until 2019, we hadn’t spoken to each other that whole time. In 2019, he reached out because of LinkedIn and all of a sudden we’re in conversations. I go, “Do you remember teaching me that?” He goes, “No.” “I remember.” He probably tried to teach it to 10 or 20 other people, but I got it. Other people probably got other things, but he had a profound effect on me. I can’t even tell you when that was, what day it was, what year it was, but I do remember learning lots of things off that one person. I’m not sure he said anything to me in the effect that you said, but he certainly did believe in me.
He did believe in me enough that I managed to create enough belief in myself to be able to go forward and having people like that in your life. Sometimes it’s from some weird people. I’ll give you a brief story about how I started the company ReNet. I got introduced to Amway as everyone does. I was out seeing friends. This is 1999. I was out seeing friends going, “Join up with Amway, do your own shopping and create a network.” This guy is an accountant. He was someone I looked up to and he said to me, “Scotty, what you should do is start your own.” I went, “That’s a much better idea.”
I wasn’t ever going to start an Amway or a multilevel networking marketing or whatever you want to call these products or services, but I realized, “I could probably create a system and a business and sell it to people for a reason and trying to get people to book do their own shopping,” so I did. I then went on that journey in 2000 of creating my own systems and my own product and company, if that makes any sense. One person came in with one thing and it might’ve been a throwaway comment to him, but it’s amazing I picked up on that one comment and years later, I ran with that comment. He probably should’ve done the same, by the way. That’s another story. I took his advice. He should have taken it because he’s still working. The point is that it’s amazing where you can get this advice and motivation and mentorship from if you’re willing enough and open-minded enough to learn from other people.
I will often use the line, “I think leaders are learners,” and I think leadership is in many different ways. I believe that when we’re open to those things, we’re in a situation right now, where we’re in that same thing. There’s a lot of struggle out there. Their resources can be scarce for individuals, but resourcefulness is something that we all have equal access to. I think that’s what will make the differences. You decide what you are going to do with what you have no more than you saying, “I’ve got my report cards framed. This is what I had to work with.” Your resourcefulness allowed you to work around whatever stuff wasn’t there or you didn’t think was there. Part of your background is very interesting to me because I started out in firefighting going through the academy. I noticed when I went on your site, that’s something that you still stay active in. I’d love to hear, from that perspective, how you think that training plays into other aspects of your life.
It was about 2003 and it was this massive bushfire. I thought, “I should volunteer because I can.” I’m working from home. I went down to the fire station because I grew up in the fire station down the road. I said, “I’m happy to come and volunteer.” They said, “No, you can’t volunteer anymore. It’s a paid job.” I went, “I don’t want that job.” I did nothing with it. I knew guys from the fire station. I was in the surf club, Surf Lifesaving Club, and things like that. I wasn’t enjoying that as much as I should, so I got out of that. The guys from the fire station said, “Come and join. Come and work.” In the end, I did. I get paid $30 a week to be on call and we get $30 a call, but what is good at that? He said, “It’s a profession.” They give us training and we turn up because we’re obliged to. I liked the business side of it. It’s not volunteer and it’s not full-time. It’s somewhere in the middle. We’re on demand. To be honest, when I first did it, it was like a release. I could go from when I walk in the office to all these questions and all this responsibility as the company owner to going to the fire station because of a bushfire and someone else telling me what to do.
“Scott, can you put some water on the hot stuff over there?” “Yes, sir. No worries.” Off I go. I didn’t have to think. I can be helpful. I can give back to my community. I can do all these good things. It was like a release. I put a different hat on. I learned so much about that mindset in a completely different field to what I was doing as far as an entrepreneurial guy or a business owner. It’s a completely different mindset when you work for a government organization. It’s almost paramilitary organization because it’s all about how long you’ve been there for, you’re senior already and all these weird things I never had in private enterprise. In private enterprise, you work as a team. In fact, the people sometimes below you are more empowered than you are in certain situations. That doesn’t happen like that in paramilitary drop.
Everyone is in a pecking order and it goes from the top down. It was good to have that experience and exposure. I learned a lot of things about leadership and a lot of ways things work completely different in private enterprise to say the public service sector or that paramilitary. One, it was good to give back. Somehow, they are putting path fires, house fires, bush fires, ambulance assists. I was getting a lot more back with knowledge and leadership skills and training and some of the things I do completely different to what happens in private enterprise. It was good fun. I still enjoy that. I’m still in it. I still do it. That’s good.
I noticed that. I saw the picture and I was like, “He’s still doing it. That’s great.”
In a sense, it’s a side hustle. It’s something I don’t have to attend to. If I’ve got work on or gone on holidays, it’s not my job. It’s just the side hustle. It’s like being in the Surf Lifesaving Club. It doesn’t run your life. It’s a part of your life and something that you’re into. It is good in the way that they have all their training and their organization skills. If things aren’t done right in the fire brigade, people lose their life. Things have to be done in an orderly fashion. Whether you like it or not, if the boss says to you you’re doing it this way, it’s because if you don’t, it could harm someone. Someone could lose their life. A completely different mindset with leadership in that organization as to in private enterprise when the boss says, “You need to do it this way,” you can question it. In the fire brigade, when the boss says do it that way and there’s a house on fire, you do it that way.
I think about it in terms of from a team perspective. You have each other’s back. You rely on each other. There’s a huge amount of trust that you develop as a group.
It’s important people understand that teamwork. You never go out on your own. You always go with someone else. That might be so I can support them or it might be the reverse. It might be me they’re supporting. If I’m in a smoky environment and I sprained my ankle and the fire is getting close, I need someone to drag me out. I’m going to do the same thing for my team. You’ve got to pass the baton and communicate. I’m going to go over here ten meters and look at something. If he doesn’t come back, you know where he is. This renegade thing and going off and doing your own thing, it doesn’t work in that environment. In fact, it’s life-threatening in some situations. You can’t do it. In private enterprise, people can tend to want to do things like that. Whereas in the fire brigade, you can’t. You have to work with teams and you have to communicate or else there are repercussions and way worse than just, “You didn’t tell me that.”
It doesn’t work that way. It’s proper teamwork and proper leadership skills and getting along with each other. In the heat of the moment, knowing that we’re not going to talk lovely, jubbly talk. We’re going to tell each other facts and get on with it, so we get out of this cycle. Then we can all do lovely jubbly, have a beer or a coffee or whatever. In the heat of the moment, let’s do the right things. Let’s work together as a team. Let’s back each other up and let’s get this situation dealt with as quick as possible.
It’s interesting as we transition over, that was one system for success in that environment. You have a whole other system that you said you took it from somebody else, but I think it sounds like you brought this to life for more people to be able to benefit from. I was wondering, could you speak to that model so that people can understand the power that’s in there?
I never planned on retiring. That was never part of my mindset, but when I sold the business, I did it so we could expand and grow aggressively and de-risk. Not because I wanted to retire, but I didn’t see eye to eye with the new owners. Long story short was I didn’t see eye to eye. I decided I’m finished. I’m out. I’m going to be financially independent. I never need to work. I don’t need to deal with this new owner. What started happening was people started asking me to share the story and teach them stuff. The reality was for the first few months, I was lying in bed in the mornings because it was weird when I had this business, now I’d sleep until 9:00 in the morning.
I never used to sleep through the night, let alone through the morning. I was lying at bed going, “What’s weird is that I had these specific business goals I wanted to achieve, these systems I wanted to create with the company. I didn’t even have a product, but I had the systems.” I didn’t know it was going to be a real estate software company, but it had to ring true with these systems. I went, “That’s amazing I managed to pull it off.” When I retired, people started asking, “What were the systems? What was it that you did?” I went, “Here are my Scotty-isms.” I thought everybody knew these techniques and these philosophies. It turns out they didn’t. I thought, “I’ve got to trademark this.”When you work with a team, you need to learn how to communicate, or there will be repercussions. Click To Tweet
I went through the process of registering some business judo, leveraging and collaborating and dealing with adversity in a win-win situation. That’s a business mindset. Time duplication was another one. Time duplication is the one thing that every successful business person understands. Whether that’s through leadership, through product, through wealth creation, time duplication is something that every successful person understands. There was the rule of 100. I understood this methodology of products and staff and clients go through this rule of 100 principles. There are the first 100 seconds. The first 100 minutes, the first 100 hours, the first 100 days, the first 100 weeks, and the first 100 months. Everything goes through these checkpoints and it’s perfectly normal for someone after 3 or 4 months, 100 days to pivot and change. You go, “That didn’t work. I’m going to change.”
That happens in staff. It happens with clients. It happens with the products. Everything goes through that 100 seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years. Not 100 years. I don’t think I’ll live long enough to see that one. That’s the point. Everything goes through these pivot points, but I knew all this before I started reading it. I knew all this before I decided to leave and start a company. These are all things that I understood and sugar and creams and other good ones. Sugar and cream, I can chase all the creamy staff or you can go and chase all the creamy clients or you can find all of the staff that are sugary and the clients that are sugary. A little bit of stirring, a little bit of knowledge, and all of a sudden they become good staff. They become good clients. They just needed a little bit of stirring.
A lot of people go looking for the cream when there are many good people out there and many good businesses and many good staffs you can employ that aren’t the creamy ones at the top. It’s people looking for that opportunity or that next thing. I always went with the sugar and cream model. The last one was the business. I understood that 1 in 3 years wasn’t going to be good. I understood that 1 in 3 products wasn’t going to work. I understood that 1 of the 3 sales wasn’t going to come along. I understood all these things with the business at thirds model, that there was going to be a third of the things that were always going to work out well.
I couldn’t predict those. It was going to be 30 things that were never going to work. There was a whole bunch of opportunities in the middle third, which went either way, depending on how I handled the situation. That could be staff, product, profits, and everything. Business of thirds, those are the five philosophies that I now teach people in more than 30 seconds each about how to grow their businesses. These aren’t things for, “Here’s your 100-day ClickFunnel.” These are the things they’re putting in place for 2021, 2022, right up to 2030. If you follow these five things for your leadership, for your sales, for your business model, you can’t help but have success.
The one thing that I’m thinking about right now, I’d asked you, who was it that said you’re better than this? You were doing that with the sugar and cream. It sounds like you’re finding people that you believe in them and you’re saying you can do this and riles people up.
It’s a conscious decision. It wasn’t until I retired that I can look back and go, “Those business philosophies, they worked.” I knew they’re working because I was using them, but it wasn’t until you stopped the end of a football season and look back at the football season and go, “What worked and what didn’t work.” I got to finish a career and look back on that business journey. I went, “Here I am. I’m sitting now with a journey that’s ended at 46 years old. I’m happy that all that stuff worked.” I don’t even know if it would, but that was a philosophy as how I built the company. I didn’t have a product, by the way. I had to find a product.
I took six goes. The sixth attempt. Five failed, sixth worked. That was ReNet in 2002. I went 2000, 2001 trying to find it. In 2002, I had to establish it. It wasn’t until the end of 2003 that I started knocking on doors trying to sell it. Nearly four years that journey took, but I had the systems. I just needed to create the product and find the clients for that product and have the systems work. It was no overnight success. These systems are things to put into place for longevity, not for this 100-day ClickFunnels thing you might see somewhere to make $100,000. Maybe you can, but that’s not the point of what I’m doing. The point of what I teach people now is the systems in your business work. You can rely upon your systems in uptimes and downtimes.
I think what’s interesting about that is we live in a world where things get photo-shopped so much and it’s six filters before we put a picture out on Instagram or whatever. It’s not the real thing. I think it sends the wrong message to people thinking, “Scotty did it. It’s got to be easy.” The first time it doesn’t work in our favor, we’re like, “That doesn’t work.” It works. It’s just you didn’t give it the time it needed to work.
That’s where the rule of 100 comes into it. You talk about the real thing. I started doing videos because when people started asking me to talk and I got asked to speak the Google Startup Grind. All of a sudden, people are going to start asking me to do booking. I started doing videos, so people knew who I was, so people understood how I spoke and what I believed in. I started doing all these videos for that reason because I didn’t want to turn up and have this, “Scotty is such a good entrepreneur,” and turn up and go, “I didn’t realize he had no hair. I didn’t realize he had an Aussie accent.” I do. I’ve got all those things. I started doing videos for those reasons. People can get the real thing. To be honest with you, the other reason why I do videos a lot in written material is because I’m not very good at English. My school report card, like I said, I’ve got it on the wall behind me. Out of 71 students, I got 70th. I’d beat one kid in my highest school certificate. It’s funny, I was on a podcast and someone wrote to me and said, “What happened to the kid that got last?” I said, “I don’t know. He’s probably in jail.” The quality of the kids in that class, there were about a dozen of us, it wasn’t very high. I was one of them.
It doesn’t matter what you know, it matters more where you want to go. If you’re one of the sugary people, you look at all these creamy people think, “They’re so wonderful. They’re so good.” Now you become the sugar. Find that bit of stirring. Listen to a podcast, watch a few videos. There’s Tony Robbins’ CD set that I listened to in the ‘90s. I went and paid $400 for that thing in the ‘90s because I wanted to improve and you can too. Become the sugar yourself. Become that bit that stirs you up and gets you going to the next level. A lot of people get disorientated because of the creamy people or the appearance of creamy people. They look like they’re having all this success, but you can do that too. You can be a normal person and have above normal success. There’s no doubt about that.
I think also you can find out that some of the creamy people, it’s not that flavorful in terms of their cream. My oldest son, who’s graduating from college, I said, “Once you’re out of school, nobody walks around with their diploma saying, ‘This is what I’m worth. Pay me this.’ It’s irrelevant.” At that point, you decide what you’re going to do in terms of success. That’s not going to earn it.
You’ve got to be the sugar. That will stir you up and willingness to learn and open up and not be the cream sitting on the top, thinking you own the world. It might be an element of that. To tell you the truth, the sugary people are the ones that succeed.
To me, that’s around emotional intelligence. I would take emotional intelligence over IQ any day in terms of being able to connect with people. If I do that in the right way, I will find people that want to help me out as opposed to me saying, “I’m the smartest one in here. I’ll figure it out on my own.” I’ve never been that person, so I wouldn’t know what that feels like.
Patrick, I can introduce you to two new terms that you’ve never heard before. What was the topic of this show, by the way?
The podcast itself is re-imagining leadership.
This fits into it. Two terms that you will have never heard before. One is RPD and one is CPD. RPD is what people get in the business world and CPD is what people get in the sports world. Let’s imagine here’s Johnny. He’s gone through his sporting life as a teenager and his student years. He’s top of the sports and everything else. He gets to 18, 19, 20 years old, whatever it is, and he started at a thing called CDP, which is Car Park Disease. He’s top of the game. He’s on top of the world and everyone’s patting him on the shoulder saying, “You’re so good. You’re awesome.” He spends more time in the car park talking to everybody talking about how good he is. That could be the car park talk.It doesn't matter what you know. What matters is where you want to go. Click To Tweet
Instead of doing all the things that got him to where he was, all that natural talent is now no longer. He’s becoming the cream. Here’s this other kid. Johnny was that guy, but here comes Paul. Paul, who has that grip and that determination and never gives up. He was never in the newspaper like the other guy. He was never on top of the podium like the other guy, but all of a sudden, he’s 23, 24. He makes the main game because of determination, because of the fact he became the sugar. He didn’t get Car Park Disease. He kept that grit and determination going. That is self-leadership, that is being able to be self-led through all the trouble times and having to watch other people up in lights, knowing you’re as good as them. You just need that lucky break. That is self-leadership.
The other thing in the business world is we tend to get this thing called RPD, which is almost the same, but it’s in business. What’s RPD? I’m glad you asked. It’s called Rich Person’s Disease. In other words, the same thing happens. They go out and get a little bit of success in business. Let’s use real estate as an example, because I came from that industry after twenty years. They go out and they’ve had a bit of success. They’re selling a few properties and all of a sudden they go out and buy the Mercedes Benz or the luxury car. They stopped going out and talking to people every day, which is how they got the success in the first place.
Driving around them and he’s been stopping at the coffee shop, stopping at the car parks, talking to everybody or buying his or her Merc’s and a boat. They’re getting a bit thing called Rich Person’s Disease. They’re not doing what they did to get them to where they are or to continue that momentum. They’ve stopped being sugary themselves. That self-leadership, like I said, it is a disease and it’s called Rich Person’s Disease. It’s better to have those Mercedes Benz is if you like. I have nothing against Mercedes, by the way. What I’m talking about goals. Those goals should stay in front of you at all times to keep you driving and keep you sugary so you can keep stirring yourself out and driving towards success instead of arriving at success.
The worst one isn’t Rich Person’s Disease. The worst one is ARPD, which is Almost Rich Person’s Disease. You’re almost thinking rich and you’re spending money you don’t have. You’re spending next year’s money this year. You’re spending future money you haven’t even made yet. You’re not doing the actions that got you to where you were. There’s self-leadership principles and self-leadership diseases. Car Park Disease and Rich Person’s Disease. It’s the same disease, but one’s in sport and one’s in business. I know you haven’t heard those before. It’s important for that grit and determination to stay there. It is important to have that for yourself. You don’t all of a sudden float to the top and become the cream. You keep that drive and that ambition to keep going.
As a real-life example of that, I lived in the house I bought in 1994, which was the same little, three-bedroom fishing village house, all the way through buying investment properties and everything else. All our friends who were renovating and doing improvements and buying bigger houses. I said to my wife, “There’s no way I’m going to be paying for this house twice. I worked hard to pay for the first time. I’m going to invest so someone else pays for my house the second time.” I invested the whole time while everyone else was going out and buying things. I’m not saying I had Rich Person’s Disease, but what I’m saying is I stayed focused on keeping things real. I still had grit and determination and goals in front of me. I can turn up to work every day and still have a future to look forward to and goals to achieve rather than getting Car Park Disease myself or Rich Person’s Disease myself. It’s a self-leadership thing rather than anything else.
I’ve seen that the same things around the funnels and some people that might work, but what you’re talking about is about earning the slow growth over time of how you build that momentum. I think that in the long run is a much healthier way to do it. When I hear people say, “That person is self-made,” none of us are self-made. Self-motivated, yes, but not self-made. We need other people. We can’t do it alone. You couldn’t have run your successful businesses without other people helping you along the way. We’re not self-made, but self-motivated. It’s something that I think is the separator.
The techniques of how you keep yourself self-motivated. That’s that self-leadership that I’m talking about. Before you can lead others, you need to have that self-leadership. Self-leadership is so critical to the actual component. I have System 1357 and one is about you. You need to be the best you can be or else you can’t lead other people. You can’t help people achieve their goals unless you know what yours are. You can’t do anything unless you’re here and you’re in the right mindset and frame set yourself. Being the best you that you can be is critical to leadership of other people.
That’s your system. System 1357, that’s your thing. As I’m thinking about people that are struggling out there, I immediately think of that. Thinking that that’s an opportunity for people. A proven roadmap for people to say, “I look at this from a standpoint of there might be many people out there that don’t know what they want to do next or are saying I want more but what I’ve been doing isn’t working.” It’s an opportunity to take a look at what you’ve put together and say, “What if I implement this? What if I do this? If I have that self-leadership to be able to do it, where can I go?” It’s almost like hitting the reset button for people.
System 1357 isn’t like, “Here’s a blueprint and here’s a ClickFunnel process.” It’s not any of that. In fact, I probably can’t help people start a business in a sense like a friend that said to me, “You should start your own.” He didn’t say you should go and start ReNet. What he said was, “You should get these systems and create your own.” I had that epiphany moment. It took a few years for it to come through. System 1357 is about those systems that can help you create whatever it is. You can be in the hospitality industry. You can be in the entertainment industry. You can be in the car industry. You can be in any industry you like and you can still implement these systems to grow your business and achieve your goals. That’s what it’s about.
My point to that though is that this isn’t a get rich quick or here’s the quick take on this. To me, this is about somebody that says, “Foundationally, maybe I can rebuild something that is durable here.” As I look at your system, that is something that it provides.
The reality is a lot of people like what I teach around the sales and getting some business. A lot of people respond to that, which I enjoy because I can have a profound effect on people tomorrow from what I teach now. I also am very aware that we’ve got to have the ten-year goal. Part of the seven is about time management. Where do you want to be in 2030? What business, family, lifestyle? What does ten years look like for you? Let’s go back ten years ago. How much money have you made in the last ten years? What do you have for that? If you’ve made $1 million in the last ten years, what do you have? If you made $100,000 a year for ten years, what do you have?
If you’re going to do the same thing in the next ten, what are you going to have? It’s important to have that long-term as well as the short-term. “I need some business tomorrow.” Yes, correct. You want some people saying yes to your products or services so you can achieve your goals. People respond to the techniques I teach around sales, but long-term, who do you want to be and how are you going to get there? What’s the vehicle and its systems? Systems you implement in your business that make the biggest difference. The best system company in the world is McDonald’s. They don’t sell hamburgers. They have a system which is people get to buy the hamburgers and that’s how they make their money. Their systems for training, teaching, serving, delivery, and marketing. They have the best systems in the world. Arguably, someone else could probably bring up another person. Amazon’s got some of the best systems in the world nowadays. Systems work.
I have appreciated this conversation, especially around that. I think it’s a great way to segue into if people want to reach out to you and learn more about this system and get involved in it, how do they do that?
System1357.com or you can follow me on LinkedIn as well. I put up a lot of free content. I share a lot of information, a lot of experiences, but if you want to get it now, you can go and subscribe to System1357.com as well.
Thank you so much for that. I started to go on it. I had registered for it. There’s so much information on there that it’s well done. You’ve done it, so it works. Thank you so much. I’m wishing you all the best. I appreciate your time. I’m glad we were able to connect.
Thanks for the readers. This is self-leadership opportunities so, well done.
Scotty has such a great background. I love his System 1357. I think it does provide so much power and ease of following for so many people that are looking for ways to elevate themselves. The fact that he talks so much about helping other people to get what they want that in the end, when we do that, we do get the things that we need by helping other people to get what they need. If somebody you think would benefit from this episode, I ask you to forward it to them. If you haven’t subscribed yet, it would mean the world to me if you would subscribe and also leave a rating or a comment on this or any other episode. That’s how this message around re-imagining leadership and finding a better way continues to get out there. Until our next episode, I hope you’re able to rise above your best. Peace.
Words have weight in regards to what is said and when it’s said. In this episode, Patrick Veroneau is joined by Dr. Andy Young of the Lubbock Texas Police Department as they talk about Dr. Andy’s second book, When Every Word Counts. They discuss the challenges police officers face and the tools and skills necessary to address these issues. Learn the importance of listening as Dr. Andy gives an overview of the training he provides for the officers within his department. Get a deeper look into the area of crisis negotiation and the value of every word when handling a crisis.
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Lubbock Police Officer Dr. Andy Young And When Every Word Counts
My guest is Dr. Andy Young. He is a police officer for the Lubbock Texas Police Department. He’s also the author of two books, Fight or Flight and When Every Word Counts. His last book, When Every Word Counts, is the book that I interviewed him on this show about. What’s interesting about this is that this interview is prior to the unrest that’s going on as it relates to George Floyd, who was murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis. What is interesting about this episode is that it provides another face in regards to the challenges that police officers face and also the tools and skills that are necessary. If we are going to address this continuing crisis, it is about developing a better skillset. In this case, it’s around listening and how important that is. What you’re going to know in this show is Dr. Andy Young talks about the focus that he puts on the training that he provides the officers within his department. I know you’ll find it valuable so let’s get into it.
Andy, thank you for taking the time to be on the show, reimagining leadership. I happened to get a post of your book that’s come out and thought it was such a great opportunity to have you on. A lot of your work is in the area of negotiation and conflict. We’re certainly in a place of crisis for many people. I thought it would be a great opportunity to have you to come on, talk a little bit about your background, how you ended up where you are, and then go into your book.
I appreciate you having me. I’m happy to share a little bit. My background is in counseling. I went to school to become a mental health professional and do counseling in an office. One day I was minding my own business, going to church and the chief of police secretary came to me and said, “Andy, I hear you’re working on your counseling license. How would you like to join the Patrol Division of the Lubbock Police Department and help officers with domestic dispute calls that they’re going through? The chief is sick of sending his officers to these domestic disputes over and over again. He wants to get your mental-health types in there so he can get his officers back in service and do what they’re trained to do. Would you like to become part of the Patrol Division of the police department?” I thought that was the coolest thing I’ve ever heard. I was like, “Sign me up.”
That was back a little before 2000?
It was the summer of 2000.
I will say that your chief, that’s pretty forward-thinking to come up with that idea.
It was born out of frustration more than anything. He only had so many guys and they can’t arrest people for what was going on at these calls. In a moment of desperation, he’s like, “Let’s get some counselor people in there so my cops can do what they were supposed to do.”
How did that go?
It’s going well. The program’s still going. I have about 35 mental health professionals who will respond to calls and requests from police officers to show up at their scenes. We probably have 200 calls for service a year. It’s not medic disputes. It could be domestic violence. It could be a death, any call where an officer thinks, “Having a mental health professional or a grief counselor here that might be helpful.”
In your line of work, I know you do work with the fire department as well. Years ago, I was a firefighter first starting out. I remember if there were events that could be very traumatic having to have an outlet to be able to deal with those things.
I was at the Lubbock Police Department for less than a year. We had an officer killed in the line of duty at a SWAT call-out where one officer accidentally shot and killed another one. It devastated the department. At that time, we were then trying to put together mental health services for police officers, especially after a traumatic event. It was trial by fire.
I can only imagine. Many of my good friends are part of the Portland Police Department, where I am here. They deal with a lot. There’s a lot of traumatic incidents that go into suicides, drug overdoses, domestic violence, or seeing kids that are abused. It’s tough.
Law enforcement see that 1% of society that most people don’t believe exists and they see it over and over again, it takes its toll.You have your work, you have your friends at work, but you also got to have a normal life. Click To Tweet
This brings me to a question in terms of that, I imagine much of your work is around that. How do you help to separate that? I see that 1%, but I don’t become jaded that everybody’s like that?
I get to speak at our Police Academy to the new officers and families coming out on the street. My advice to them is you have your work. You have your friends at work, but you also got to have a normal life. You have got to mitigate that 1% with being at home with your kids, doing normal things, going out and not being on duty, not being on guard, but you’ve got to fight to be a normal person because you get enough of that in the work.
I was a volunteer for a group up here called The Center for Grieving Children, which was all around families that had lost a loved one, not children, but it could be adults that lost a spouse. The whole point of that was the importance of being able to talk about it.
Cops are not inherently open. When I started, walking around the police department, everybody knew, “There’s the mental health guy,” and the nonverbals were outstanding. They would rather I be somewhere else. Showing up at these calls, showing up at SWAT call-outs, and doing the same work that they’re doing, that opened the door. They’re like, “This guy knows what we go through. If I need to talk to somebody, I’ll sit down in his office and talk to him. I don’t have to get him up to speed on what we’ve been going through.”
It’s amazing to me. In this observation that I’ve seen is much more and I do a lot of work within organizations around emotional intelligence that there’s more openness to emotional intelligence and understanding self-awareness and awareness of others. One thing that stands out when you talk about being able to discuss these things is, we know so much more about the research now in terms of the impact that has when we’re able to verbalize things. It reduces our level of stress.
I had an officer who was in a traumatic incident right after I started. He came and sat down in my office eighteen years later. He said, “Andy, I knew I needed to talk to you way back then, but rah-rah I can get through it.” When he came in and finally talked it all out, it was amazing to watch how curative that was.
Do you have many females that are part of the department? Is it easier for them to come and have those conversations?
Not necessarily because sometimes we eat our own, sometimes there’s that personal friendly fire, and being a female in law enforcement has its added layers to it. I would say that they’re on guard as well.
You then became an author. This is your second book. The first is Fight or Flight. Now this one, When Every Word Counts and the subtitle is An Insider’s View of Crisis Negotiation. What prompted you to start writing in the first place?
I’m going to these calls and for my own personal benefit, I started writing them down because it was traumatic stuff. After a number of years, I had a big old stack of stories and I’m a teacher at heart. That’s my day job. I thought, “It’s been therapeutic for me to write these down. It might be helpful for other people to hear these stories too. They might learn something about law enforcement and what goes on behind the yellow tape. They might even learn some things that be helpful in their own life, be it like crisis intervention or grief or whatever.”
That first book was born out of my own therapeutic effort to write the stories down and then the teaching effort to, “Maybe this will help other people, let me write it down and let me publish it and see what happens.” The second book, our negotiating team has been busy since the first book came out and I’m like, “I got to write these stories down.” Some of this stuff you can’t believe and I’ve been speaking a lot of negotiator conferences. To be able to put something in their hands that they can take home and hopefully use on their calls. That’s where the books came from.
I love the title of it, When Every Word Counts because so much of my work is around that too of words have weight in some regards of what is said and when it said. I would imagine it means a little more in your line of work, in terms of the difference between a success and further crisis.
Patrol officers have their mentality about how to control a situation, fix the thing and command presence and all that stuff, which is the opposite of my training, which is listening, empathy, and tree-hugging. For an officer to shift gears from one to the other when it’s needed, that’s where it starts. An officer will come in and say, “I need you to put your hands behind your back,” and to switch from that to, “Maybe we can sort this out together.” Two different ways of trying to get to the same thing so there you have the title.
I will relate this back to an office setting where you might have a manager that has the authority to tell somebody what to do. There’s also a skillset to get somebody to want to do what you’re asking them to do. You’re going to end up in the same place, but if you can get them to want to do it, it’s going to be a lot easier on everybody.
Can I tell a story from parenting that makes the point?
My wife has the command presence thing. She says to my 8-year-old and 5-year-old, “Get your stuff, we’re going to go to the park. Get your shoes on, we’re going to have a good time, go get in the car.” My 8-year-old and my 5-year-old lose their mind. They throw a fit and they run off crying. She looks at me and she’s all frustrated, “I’m trying to help. I want everyone to have a good time. I’m trying to be good.” I’m a jerk. I turned to her and I winked. I said, “Watch this.” I yell across the house to my eight-year-old and I say, “Ella, what do you think about going to the park today so you can do what you want to do like go ride your bike?” The crying stops. She says, “That’s a great idea, Dad.” She runs and gets her shoes on. My wife looks at me like, “I’m going to stab you.” I winked at her again. Jonathan loves a good time and he wants to be with other people. I said, “Jonathan, Ella is going to go to the park. I bet she’s going to have a good time. Do you want to go with her?” He’s like, “Yes, I want to go have a good time too.” My wife almost killed me.
Along those lines when you’re out there now and helping other people in this area, what’s the most important thing?
A few things come to mind so if I could give you a few important things. It starts internally when I show up to a crisis, if I’m freaking out and in crisis too, that’s not going to help anybody. Calm is contagious. If I’m cool, then maybe that’ll affect everybody else. It’s not about talking. It’s about listening. If people believe that I understand them, if people believe that I have empathy, if I don’t have an ulterior motive other than to be here with you to help, that sets the stage for trying to sort our way through something.
When you talk about showing up and I can’t be panicked or agitated myself because that’s going to come out, I will often hear people speaking in ways that if somebody is in an agitated state trying to talk slower and softer to try and bring them down as well.
We like using the phrase, “The late-night DJ voice.” To have a tone of voice that’s a sedative might start getting things going in the right direction.
It’s not going to work every time.
If you’re absurd about it, people will catch you speaking and think you’re an idiot. You don’t want to do that either.
You’re in the wrong line of work. Maybe it should be a DJ.
It’s like, “Have you been smoking pot? What are you doing?”
You mentioned listening as well. In the work that I do, I will often say, “Listening is a superpower.” If you understand how to listen to other people, a lot of the conflict that we run into can resolve itself.Calm is contagious. If you're cool, then that'll affect everybody else. Click To Tweet
One of the first things is not to be thinking about what do I want to say in response, but how do I understand what is being said and say it back to somebody so they know I understand too.
You hit on such an important point. If you can, why is that so important to not be thinking about what am I going to say next?
You’re already talking to somebody who has something to say and is thinking about what they want to say next. If we have two people doing the same thing, we’ll probably end up missing each other. As a marriage and family therapist, I see that all the time. You have two people who are emotional, who want to be heard and they yell louder.
That’s where I’m in full agreement that oftentimes hearing somebody and listening to somebody is not the same thing. If we’re suspending what we want to say next and trying to listen to somebody else, you’re probably hearing some things that you would have missed.
People notice when you are suspending your agenda and your needs in order to listen to them so you’ve already given them something.
It lowers it. I know my own experience, you can generally tell when somebody is listening to you or they’re not listening or they’re humoring you listening to you. It’s not the same thing. Oftentimes it amps it.
When a cop shows up to a call and he wants to get the information so they can write a report and go onto the next thing, you wonder why he’s getting in a fistfight.
The person saying, “You’re not appreciating my side of this, what I’m going through right now.”
I’m afraid. I’m hurt. I’m angry. I don’t want to go to jail. It’s a quick way to get everybody amped up.
How do you work with the people within your department to help them develop these skills? You could have people out there saying, “I can’t do that. I don’t have the skillset to do that. Where do we even start with that?”
I get to teach our 40-hour mental health police officers certification course. Those officers who want to do that will come and sit down for 40 hours and learn these things. I ask them, “Try this on your calls. Try this with your wife. Try this with your kids. Experiment, come back and tell me what happens.” When they give it a test drive, they come back and they’re like, “My fifteen-year-old said, ‘I’m sorry.’ What is this wizardry?” That’s where it starts, experiment with it. I’m not trying to change your mind. I’m trying to give you tools for your toolbox.
Which that in and of itself disarms individuals because it’s not you trying to force, you have to do this. This is the way to go. It’s to say, “Here’s an opportunity to improve what’s in your toolbox now.” If there was a better solution to this, wouldn’t you want to know it?
Of course, the problem is there are people in my field who come in and like, “I’m Dr. So-and-So and I have the authority to tell you what to do.” That’s the quickest way to shut down a cop. They don’t want to hear that.
No more than your line of work or my line of work, you can run into people that think, “I don’t need this. I’ve been doing this long enough. I get by the way I am right now.”
Keep what you got and let me know when it breaks down.
In the book, you talked about stories. Is there one that stands out for you that you’re looking is maybe most gratifying for you in terms of a situation that you dealt with?
There’ve been a number of cases of talking to somebody who is suicidal and contemplating their death in an immediate fashion, be it jumping off a bridge or something like that. Some of those conversations, one lasted two hours, one lasted seven hours, for those to be so close to death and then for that person to make the decision to come down. We continue to talk to them. I’ve talked to them after the fact. There’s the immediate gratification of, “I’m so glad they didn’t make that decision.” Over the long-term, you get to see people change their course and many times improve their lives. This is tremendously honoring to be a part of that.
If you look at those things on those people that didn’t make the decision that was going to go against what you were there to do, is there a theme that you would think flows through in terms of what made it successful?
It’s exactly what we’re talking about here. They can’t see beyond their pain. Somebody shows up and gives them something that the other people in their lives should have been able to give them, respect, understanding, time, patience, and caring. We show up and do that because we indeed do care and that starts to cure things. It’s quite simple. In our society, when things get horrible, those are some of the first things to go.
Specifically, talking about listening, are there certain things that you work with those individuals to help people to understand? How do you build this muscle? I believe listening is a muscle. How do you help people to strengthen this?
There’s the practice and having the right mentality going into it. Another key point, especially assisting officers with this, is to listen for emotion. Police officers aren’t typically listening for emotion, but when I come at you and I say, “I can’t believe this was going on.” I’ve shared my emotions with you. For me, to get out my finger and say, “I need you to back up.” That’s the exact opposite of what’s going to settle this down. If I say in a nice, calm manner, “I see that you’re very angry. Can you tell me what’s going?” It’s a different approach if somebody’s coming at me in anger. People respond in kind, “I’m angry because so and so.” Now we’re grooving.
There are so many parallels between in your world or in an office setting where you might be dealing with an employee that’s completely agitated, upset or angry about a situation and to have a manager or somebody say to them, “With what you know or with what this situation is, I’d be upset myself,” or “I can see why you’re upset.”
That manager has a choice at that moment. I can be here for the job or the institution or whatever. I can be here for this person who is in front of me and try to navigate it from there.
It’s a great point too, if you think about this. We’re all in this together. We have different roles that we play, but in a sense, we’re all human beings trying to figure this thing out.
I may work for a company and go, “Yes, I can see why this rule makes you mad, but here’s the other side of the coin as well.” That’s sorting it out thing as opposed to authoritarian. You need to suck it up and smile.
Another thing in terms of what I hear you saying and it probably doesn’t happen the same way, but on some levels is asking people their thought. You did it with your kids. If you were in my shoes, how would you want to be addressed? What would you do about this?Negotiation is not about talking, it's about listening. Click To Tweet
Respect and honoring people’s autonomy don’t cost us anything. To recognize that and respect it, that is such a great starting place if you’re trying to assist somebody who’s having a tough day.
One last thing, in terms of challenges that you run into, what’s the biggest challenge for you in terms of the line of work that you’re doing?
It’s people who are in extreme psychiatric distress. You have somebody who is homeless or they have troubles going on at home. They have a diagnosed condition like bipolar disorder, major depression, or a psychotic disorder. They’re on drugs. They have schizophrenia, they have an alcohol problem or a drug problem. It’s not that it’s easier, but when you have multiple layers of difficulties to sort through that’s many times why it takes seven hours to have a conversation.
You hit on something would be important in terms of awareness of others and teaching that is because how do you help people to understand or be able to decipher what’s going on here? Is this person having a psychotic episode? Are they diabetic and they’re having a diabetic incident? They have low blood sugar. That is in different situations.
It reminds me of a story if that’s all right. State troopers had a driver pulled over on the highway and they’re yelling at the driver, “Get out of your car.” The driver is not getting out. They’re like, “This is a tactical situation.” They call in more people. It’s amping up. The driver is sitting in the driver’s seat, hand on the steering wheel, eyes forward, not moving. They’re thinking, “This guy’s disobeying. Maybe we need to go on hard and fast. Maybe we should send in the dog.” We’re like, “Let’s slow this down.” They walk some people out behind ballistic shields and they try to talk to the person. The person is a stone, looking straight forward, hands on the steering wheel. They hold up a dry erase board and they write on it, “Please talk to us. Please come out.” The person slowly turns their head. They read it and they do sign language. The person is deaf. That is why they’re non-responsive. They’re scared. We knew what was going on. It wasn’t my story. Once they knew what was going on, “This person is deaf.” It changed everything.
One of the things that you said in there was let’s slow things down. You need to do that. There’s reacting and then there’s responding, which takes that what else might be going on here, which to me is part of listening? It’s not with our ears, but it is a form of listening where we’re listening besides what our gut is.
The difficulty in law enforcement is what situation do I have here? Is this lethal and I’m about to get killed or do I have the latitude to slow it down and talk?
To me, that was the question on that is to say, “That can be difficult.” Who’s to say which way this is going to go to be able to work that muscle? How do you develop that?
You’re looking for opportunities that are clearly safe to do so. You gain your experience and you get better at-risk assessment, then you know when you need a hammer and when you need to listen.
Andy, I’ve enjoyed this so much. What you’re doing is important. If people want to reach out to you certainly get your book, what’s the best way to do that?
I have a website for my book and it is DrAndyYoung.com. I’d be happy to sign a book for you.
I appreciate all that you’re doing. Especially in the times that we’re in when we talk about stress and crisis, I’m sure your skillset is even more needed.
I am very busy. I still enjoy the work after many years. ER docs are the same way. I love being an ER doc, but I wish I didn’t have to do this.
Thank you for your time. Wishing you all the best. Have great success with the book.
Thank you very much. It’s been a pleasure being here.
We are certainly in such high-tension times. Dr. Andy Young outlined some very important things around how we listened to other people. He speaks about it from the standpoint of professionally his career in trying to reduce the anxiety and high tension that they might be experiencing and how to do that. I truly believe if more people were to develop these skills, a lot of the conflict that we experience would resolve itself. I don’t think that’s a Pollyanna approach either because what tends to happen and as he said in his conversations, is that oftentimes people need to feel heard. When that doesn’t happen, oftentimes bad things come from that. If you know somebody that you think would benefit from this show, I would ask you to forward it on to them. If you haven’t subscribed yet, please go ahead and subscribe. It would mean the world to me if you would leave a rating or a comment regarding this or any other episode. Until that next episode, I hope you were able to go out there and rise above your best. Peace.
About Dr. Andy Young
Andy Young received a bachelor’s degree in Bible from Lubbock Christian University in 1993, a masters degree in Youth and Family Ministry from Abilene Christian University in 1995, a masters in Community Counseling from Texas Tech University in 1999, and a doctorate in Counselor Education from Texas Tech University in 2003. He has been a professor at Lubbock Christian University since 1996 and currently teaches in the undergraduate Behavioral Sciences Department and graduate Nursing department. He has also taught in the graduate Counseling and undergraduate Bible departments. He has worked with the Lubbock Police Department since 2000 and the Lubbock County Sheriff’s Office since 2008 and currently serves on the negotiating teams for both agencies. He also serves as a clinical director for the Critical Incident Stress Management Teams for the South Plains Regional Response Team, the Lubbock Police Department, and the Lubbock Fire Department. Dr. Young is a founding member and current coordinator for the Lubbock Police Department’s Victim Services Crisis Team, which has now grown to 40 members. He has many published academic articles and speaks frequently on crisis intervention, and has spoken at many state association of hostage negotiator conferences. He married his wife, Stacy, in 1995 and they have two young children.
Finding the right balance between having a powerful and demanding career and a great private or personal life is challenging on different fronts. Sabrina Runbeck works with professionals with demanding careers like healthcare to overcome stress and feel powerful and passionate again. In this episode, she discusses with Patrick Veroneau the effects of the pandemic and working from home in both our performance at work and at home. Sabrina also touches on what it’s like to be a Millennial and clears up the misconception that most have towards them regarding how they view their respective professions. Listen in for some great tips and strategies on developing habits and learn all about the key components of life.
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Sabrina Runbeck Discusses How To Balance A Powerful Career And A Great Life – Episode 102
My focus is on finding a better way to lead. That’s by helping individuals develop the behaviors that will inspire, empower, and compel others to follow where you’re asking them to go. If you’ve been struggling at all with how to balance a powerful career with a powerful life outside of your career, then you’re going to want to know my guest, Sabrina Runbeck. She is a healthcare practitioner. She’s also a speaker and a peak performance coach. Her sole focus is around this mission of trying to create an environment where people, especially healthcare professionals learn to love their career, but also have a powerful life outside of that career. Why don’t we jump into it?
Sabrina, I want to thank you for being on the show. Your background is varied and important for the environment we’re in. I was looking forward to having you on. You’re an advanced practitioner in cardiothoracic surgery, but you’re also a peak performance coach. Both of those in terms of your focus is with professional Millennials and trying to create balance, especially for healthcare individuals and females in healthcare. The balance between having a vibrant career, but also a balance between life outside of that. I think that’s important. I was wondering if you could talk to that.
Thanks for having me on the show, Patrick. Years ago, I was the typical person who’s always on. One day I was operating with a 101 fever. I wondered how could my childhood passion of working in medicine and living this American dream has turned into such an unhealthy reality. To tap that off, when I called in sick the next morning, my manager made me feel like I was inconveniencing him. Fast forward a few weeks, I treat a young man in his early 30s. He has two kids and a wife, and he required his fourth open-heart surgery. He had failed to report some new symptoms that he thought were small and insignificant. That’s when I realized that I had these small and insignificant things in my own life that I need to address before I too become a patient. At that time, I was in the mindset of “I have to say yes.” That becomes a default mode, “I got this, I can do it.”
When we say yes to many things that do not align with our core values, who we are, who we want to be, and how we want to show up for people, then we become resentful. We’re unable to deliver quality results or keep our promises with our family, friends, or even everyone who we want to work with. I believe that many young professionals who are working in areas that they are passionate about just like me, share similar struggles. I then dive, head in and went back to my roots of neuroscience and public health, and learning from other peak performance and personal development coaches on how can we turn this thing around. We all worked so hard to get to where we are now. We didn’t do it just to hate every moment. We simply give up and jump ship to something else. That’s when I came up with a simple three-step system to say no to stress and say yes to stamina.
Is that the quiz?
I have a free three-minute quiz and that focuses on the ten different components that are important in life. I totally believe that for you to have a life full of heck yes, we need to be more conscious about our strengths and weaknesses, then we can remove these hidden roadblocks and excel in life.
How did you come up with that?We need to be more conscious about our strengths and weaknesses, so we can remove hidden roadblocks and excel in life. Click To Tweet
There are many different studies on what are the important things that people have in life. This wheel or a circle of life that people divide to either four components all the way to twelve components. For me, the key ten components are lifestyle, how do we want to live and what do we possess? Personal mission, what are your true purpose and value in this big wide world? How do you want to serve and show up? We have love and relationship, the most connections and the drive. Someone we rely on and someone relying on us. Social support, people who are not your family but simply trust you, believe in you, and you can also do the same for others. The next is career development. For some people that become the number one or the only thing they focus on.
You have financial intelligence, which has nothing to do with your career development. We can do things that we love to do that make zero money but give us satisfaction versus you can pick the career that can make you stable but you have a lack of fulfillment. You have spirituality. It doesn’t mean it has to be religious, but it can just be knowing the energy, how you’re drawing and manifesting from everything around you. There’s health and fitness, and that includes nutrition. Lastly is the mental wellbeing. What I believe is that if we only pick 1 or 2 of these key components, and then we dive deep into that, and somehow unintentionally ignored everything else, that’s when things wobble.
I don’t truly believe that we can create balance for everything, but we can create harmony that elevates every single aspect of life because they’re so intertwined. If you don’t feel good physically, especially in this critical time with the Coronavirus, then you had to pull yourself out of work for two weeks. During those two weeks, you’re isolated. People might want to speak to you or they’re connecting with you, but how many people are proactive about doing that? Talking about physical distancing, we do have to increase our virtual connectivity in some other way so the social support or family support still feels like it’s there for you so you’re not alone or sick and bored out of your mind. That also comes into the personal character development part. If we’re not growing every day, that’s when you feel dissatisfied and bored at the end of the day.
You bring up such an important point, especially as we talked about the virus and social distancing. Social distancing benefits us for our physical health, but it is a liability for every other component of our health, mental, emotional, and spiritual. We need that connection. We’re pack animals. There’s a belongingness that we need to be connected. Even if you’re an introvert, you still need connection. When we don’t have that, it messes with people in a lot of different ways.
I don’t like the word social distancing because if you think about socializing, it means you’re here. You’re packed. You come together. It’s just a physical thing. You can still be in the same room 6 feet apart. If we couldn’t do it, think about how many of us healthcare professionals. What are we going to do? The people who are in the emergency room, urgent care, critical care were completely ganged up. You’ve worn your cap, your eye shield, your mask, your gown, even shoe cover and gloves. Just having all this doesn’t mean it protects you. You need to take all that out before you walk out of that room. One of my friends sent me a joke that says, “If you drive around seeing people stripping, that means the healthcare professionals are trying to protect themselves.” I’m like, “I guess that’s somewhat true.”
At the same time, we need to be smart about staying home if you don’t feel well. If your job allows you to work from home, which most of us are mandate to do that now then yes. Figure out a better schedule. What people are missing nowadays is when you go to work, they know what they need to do because someone else is also doing the work. You feel like you have to work and now you have a schedule. There’s a meeting. It’s lunchtime and we have to do X, Y, and Z. When they’re home, time goes wrong together because at least some people were not trained on how to plan out their day.
Some of the simple activity that I do with some of my clients is a visualization activity either in the morning or at nighttime. Allow yourself to imagine this perfect day that you’re going to have. What are you going to have for breakfast? Are you going to work out in the morning? When you show up for your meeting, how do you want to present yourself? Is that the enthusiasm you want to bring or the knowledge? You play around your whole day until the moment you go to sleep. You’re already allowing yourself to have a planning session without writing everything down. You preset your mind to this positive realm of things instead of sitting in there questioning, “What the heck am I doing?”
A time that is unstructured is a liability for a lot of people especially in this environment. I have often said that if you’re at home, get dressed just like you would if you’re going to work. Everything down to putting your shoes on, because if you don’t, you lose that sense of structure. We go to dark places oftentimes when we have too much time to think about the negative of what’s going on.
When you plan things out, it doesn’t have to be minute by minute. You can also plan out the intentional breaks. Part of the way that I train people is that we should allow ourselves to even take a 2 or 5-minute break. Those 2 or 5-minute breaks can be very intentional as well. I call them the stamina reboot session. That will allow us to subside the mental chatter and refocus and bring us back to the present. You can completely reset your energy so you can be more intentional about your life.
Are there any tools, apps, or anything that you use in regards to chunking that time? There’s one that I’m familiar with that I’ve used periodically called the Pomodoro Timer.
For us, every time you sit down, you set a timer for fifteen minutes. Our phone is super easy to use. The other thing I used to do before the Coronavirus is that I knew where my schedule allows me to take that 2 or 3 times of a mini-mental break throughout the day. First thing in the morning before I go into the operating room, right after I come out, I’ll do one exercise. Before I leave work, I’ll do one, and then right after dinner, I’ll do one. I’m more intentional in associating the habit with the existing activity. Now I can trigger myself, “Two minutes, that’s it. Let’s reset so I can be doing these things.” For people who haven’t developed this activity, you can preprogram the timer into your phone. When the timer goes off, especially if you’re not on a call or a meeting, drop it. Allow yourself and give yourself grace and empathy for that moment.
You’re talking about it from the standpoint of what you’re doing is you’re developing habits though to do that. Part of our conversation is that we all have the ability to develop these habits. What I’ve found interesting is I’ve interviewed people from different professions. A couple that I have found important, and I’d love your perspective on this. One was a fighter pilot that was talking about stress, crisis, and training for the habit, so that when you’re in that situation, that doesn’t hijack you. The other was somebody from the armed services in the Army. It’s that same thing. He was on the front lines of saying, “We practiced and practiced so that when we were in these situations, we were able to still operate.” I think of you and you must be in that same space. I think you can provide a lot of value to people of saying, “How do you deal with stress so that it becomes a challenge and not an overwhelming burden?”
When we talk about stress, that initial sensation with stress is healthy because they alert us. It becomes unhealthy if we hold on to that emotion of frustration, anger, pessimist, whatever comes with it. When your emotion starts to replay itself, then we get trapped into that negativity. However, if you have learned to reprogram yourself, once you notice and you recognize it, it’s almost like you recognized it from a third-person perspective. Now you can do something about it. That trigger becomes healthy for us. Let’s say, simple things, you’re at home with your kids. The kids are running around when you’re trying to run a meeting. That irritation starts to come up. Before you react to speak to your kids about “Stay in your room, do your homework,” or whatnot, and even your dog. My dog is running around while I’m recording sometimes.
Instead of getting irritated right away, you recognize that irritation, and you start shifting yourself out. What my coach trained us to do is positive intelligent reps. These simple activities can use all your five senses. Visual is the hardest to train because we are so distracted by the things that we see. One of the easiest things for most people that I teach about is tactile or the touch sensation. You can also do smell, hearing, and vibration. In this simple activity, you recognize something that is not working for you, then you allow it to quickly shift into something positive to reprogram your neurocircuitry. You immediately bring yourself back in the center. Forgive yourself when you’re doing these quick exercises. If there are still other thoughts coming at you, it’s okay. Let them pass. The more that we practice these exercises, it’s easier to shift our mind right away, calm ourselves down, and then do something about that.When you say yes to so many things that do not align with your core values, then you become resentful. Click To Tweet
It sounds like a lot around mindfulness of embracing and being in the moment for it in some regards.
It is hard when you’re angry or upset. If you recognize that, then you can say, “I understand that my dog is nudging on me. She wants attention. It’s not that she’s trying to destroy my career.” What we can do is close our eyes. Tactile is very simple, and then you start doing your deep breathing. Count it in your head, almost like you’re entering that meditation state. We’re not doing a 10, 20 minutes. We’re just doing a quick break. Once you start doing a couple of central channel breathing, what I ask people is to start feeling their thumb with each fingertip and start feeling the texture, the temperature, the smoothness or roughness.
Focus on the sensation itself and bring your entire thought to this sensation, and allow yourself to drop everything. The thoughts that are not related to what you’re touching and feeling, let it pass. Some other ones, if you add on to the massage pressure point, you can simply comb through your hair because we have many meridians on top of our hair. You can do that if that becomes easier to bring into yourself or bring into the present. Once you do 1 or 2 minutes of that, before you open your eyes, set the intention on what do you want to do next, then give yourself a direction.
There’s a theme that I continue to hear. It’s this idea of setting habits when we’re doing this. A lot of what you’re talking about to me is around self-awareness too. You need to know that it’s coming. Just like if you were in the OR. If you’re on a procedure and something starts to go in a direction that probably wasn’t normal, there’s no panic in a sense. We know that this is what we need to do next, but that comes out of the habit of being in that situation.
What’s funny is that I brought that into my life as well. If something bad happened, I’m super calm. I dive directly thinking into solutions. I see the problem. I see what are all the possibilities, we can solve this. When things are small and if you let them go, then small things compound to bigger issues. What I tend to do is if I recognize something small, I nip them in the bud. What I also learned from myself is sabotager like, “Bring myself back to the positive state. Don’t get irritated by the small things,” because we can address small things so much easier than big things. If something frustrated you and then somehow, I ended up not reacting.
If I say you drop your phone from the second floor to the first floor. That initial shock is like, “My whole life is on there. I need to get this phone back and reprogram it.” That happened to me and my initial shock was nothing. I didn’t even react. I walked down and picked it up like, “The whole thing is shattered. Let me use someone else’s phone and try to get a screen replacer come to my house.” Maybe it’s weird because throughout the years I learned. In medicine at least at my specialty, things can happen like this a heart or lung surgery. If the surgery goes well, great. The recovery takes a lot more time and a lot more energy to get people off the vent, the machine that help people to breathe, and off the drips, all this medication to help your heart pumping.
Even if you can be off of all these supports, people still have to do the rehabilitation. There are also studies that have been found depression associated with open-heart surgery. You felt like your body is completely changing. Your mindset is you have to rely on people instead of how independent you were. That’s something I talk to people beforehand to address a lot of that. We can offer you surgery. We can offer you services like anything in our service industry, but what do you want out of this experience? Knowing everything has consequences and you have to work towards that, how do you imagine life being better? You won’t have a heart attack. We gave you an additional blood supply to your heart. Allow them to visualize that, and then it becomes more real. People can work towards that.
I had seen some research, especially around cardiac issues with patients, that those that were in support groups tended to be more adherent to following through after the fact. Are you familiar with that?
I believe so. I haven’t seen exactly all the studies, but anything in life, we talk about accountability partners. If you’re in the same boat, you feel like you’re not alone anymore. Accountability is not exactly that you hold someone accountable. It’s a relationship you have built to almost holding each other’s hands and make sure we’re all doing what we’re supposed to do, so then we can elevate each other.
It is true because when you hear the word ‘accountability,’ people tend to think of it as not a positive thing. It’s punitive if there’s going to be accountability. For me, it’s almost related more towards ownership. That’s what we’re talking about. It is about ownership. We’re all going to take ownership of our health or of where we’re going to go as a team, whatever it might be. To me, that’s how I look at accountability.
I think it’s true. It is a positive way. When we have a coach, that’s someone who’s accountable for you, whether it’s in sport, in life, in work, in business, or whatever we’re doing. It’s someone who’s also there to challenge you because they know you have that strength within you that you might not see it yourself. That’s also what true leaders are. They can bring out that energy and that skill within someone that they thought it was easy coming to them. All of us think this way, “How could you not know how to do this?” That shock is your jam. That’s the crystal that somehow you got and no one else got. Recognizing that that’s your strength and people rely on you to do that. That gave us more of that confidence to go into the next task instead of thinking, “Everyone wants a piece of me.”
You mentioned leadership and leaders doing that. The direction that leadership is going, there’s more and more of that. An old-style of what was seen as a leader was more about command and control, and not thinking about. It’s interesting because especially as a Millennial, we always hear this, “Millennials don’t want to work.” I can’t tell you how many individuals and family members for me that are in that state. I don’t know any that aren’t working hard and don’t want to do a good job and aren’t proud of what they do, no more than a Boomer or a Gen X or in that same group. It’s more of an indictment on leadership and lack of positive behaviors for leaders and not as much on the Millennial or any generation.
I totally agree with you because there are multiple studies out there that Millennials just like Baby Boomers and Gen Xers want to show up as an expert in our field. They want to bring positivity to the organization. What’s different is our tendency is different. Our personality is a little different. If you talk about personality studies, Gretchen Rubin has this great book called The Four Tendencies. I believe that a lot us are in that questionnaire tendency where externally, we need to question the reason, the purpose, the idea of why we’re doing something. It’s not to challenge the norm, but to simply understand it better. At the end of the day, if I’m the leader and I can be super clear about my purpose, then people will agree with me and more likely to help me to achieve that purpose. It’s like Start With Why by Simon Sinek. It’s the same thing. It’s purpose. If we don’t even know where we want to go, then who’s going to follow us? You will become someone who has no knowledge. It doesn’t matter if you have the title. If you don’t have a clear direction or idea, then people don’t even know what to expect or how they’re supposed to drive to that end goal.
I’m a Gen Xer and I jokingly will say at times that I was born in the wrong generation. It was always my downfall because I would be the one that would be like, “Why are we doing it this way?” Because they say that’s the way we’re going to do it. Even if that was the right way to do it, if somebody just explained to me like, “This is why we need to do it in this way.” Even if I didn’t go along with it or agree completely, at least I knew that I was part of this. There was, “This is why we need to go in this direction,” as opposed to, “You’re going to do it because I say you’re going to do it, because I have the title and I’m the leader.” I don’t think it worked then, it definitely doesn’t work now.You can actually address small things much easier than big things. If something really frustrates you, somehow you end up not reacting. Click To Tweet
I believe the questionnaire tendency, if you bring it to internal, we’re good about keeping ourselves on track. If we believe in something, we’re very good at getting things done. You don’t need to push us over and over again once you set that clarity. When people don’t do it, it is because they have no clarity in what they want or how they set their own expectations. Sometimes the hardest thing for anybody is they don’t know. What they’re clear on is what they don’t like, but they’re not sure what they truly want to do, like to do, or how they want their life mission.
There’s a quote by John Quincy Adams that I often use. He said, “If your actions inspire somebody to do more, dream more, learn more or become more, you’re a leader.” There’s no title. It’s just about actions inspiring other people. To me, that’s what it’s about. That’s what leadership is. It’s not that there’s only one type or only one person who can be the leader. It’s to simply say that there are many ways to do this.
I’m not sure if you read the book Multipliers. I love that one. It talks about the six different diminishers and things that sometimes we don’t even think about. If you are someone who always wants to solve a problem for everybody else, they’re not going to think for themselves. If you’re someone who has to micromanage, then people feel like they have no freedom to even show up and be the best person they want. Also, the people who said, “I have run ten meetings today. I got all those things done. How about you guys?” You feel almost fearful that you’re never going to catch up. These things happen over and over again in life and I felt like it is such a crucial topic to even notice.
I believe she has that quiz about what is your accidental diminisher. When I’ve taken those a while back and also matching what I’m trained to build passive intelligence, it’s recognizing the self-sabotagers. You can bring that out on a surface and truly recognizing how you’re being triggered. What’s the emotion affecting you? Now let’s shift into this exercise to reprogram your brain. As we talk about in the beginning, if you have something that upset you, that’s fine. You recognize that. You do this quick activity to bring yourself back to the center and in the present, then you can address the issue.
If we look at the work by Gallup around employee engagement whether it’s healthcare or outside of healthcare, about 2/3 of employees would say that they’re disengaged from the work that they were in. This can provide an opportunity for many people to recalibrate, “Where do I want to go?” If somebody were to come to you and say, “I’m not happy with where I am.” What’s the first thing that you would recommend to them?
I would recommend to write down three different columns. Get a blank piece of paper and create three columns. Number one, what was the initial interest that you have in whatever you’re doing now? That initial excitement and drive. That initial interest. In the second column, what are the things that you completely disagree on that does not align with who you are? The third column, even if it’s outside of your job description or how you think this thing should be, what can bring you more joy if you allow yourself to add an extra component into it? When you have three columns, how can you bring yourself back to that initial excitement? Now that you know what you don’t like, can you address it with people’s things or yourself to eliminate these things? How can you add additional things to allow yourself to feel better?
For me, when I was burning out and switching things up, I know I love to speak. I pick up to become a speaker and learn about how to become a proper public speaker. That third column is to learn from people who are on stages. I also know I love to teach. The speaking part aligns and I also love to teach students. I set up with three different universities to have students come to me for surgical rotation. It is on hold due to Coronavirus. I had medical, PA and PE student leading up to that point. Part of my public health background is research so I became the lead PA in my team to do research. We look at surgical result outcomes and additional ways to better educate patients, maybe a free activity so then they can reduce rehospitalizations.
You become more proactive about what can bring you joy and think about what got you into it. I got into medicine because I feel like a human body is super intriguing. There are many different ways that we can fix things, not just the Western medicine. There are also these other ways that we have done thousands of years. How can we integrate everything? The things that I’m not liking, it is what it is but how can I reduce that? Whether it’s the scheduling, whether to make sure everyone cares their own way, whether it’s, “When do you go into the OR versus other different components of your job?” It becomes more tangible and not like, “I’m not happy about it.”
It’s back in your control. We talked about this in terms of resources, you might not have the time now or whatever it might be, but you do have the resourcefulness to be able to figure out, “How can I work around that?”
Sometimes you just have to ask. If you have the idea, write down one sentence purpose statement so you’re clear about it. Whenever you talk to people, they will trust you. You become more fluent about your messaging. Share these messages. Someone is going to be aligned with your message, who you wanted to be, and how you wanted to bring this to the surface. People will help you. When you don’t ask, people don’t even know you have this idea. It would become something out of nowhere and then you probably have this thought. It could be great, but it won’t come to reality.
I love the three questions in terms of lining that out. That’s a great way to start. What’s the best way for people to get in touch with you if they want to work with you or learn more about you?
I’m very active on Instagram. Please send me a private message and also, on LinkedIn. Those are my two major platforms. For the free quiz, I’m generating three graphic analysis. I will also send you a voice message with the analysis on Instagram, private message, or LinkedIn. I’m the type who loves to talk. I think the best way to communicate is through a voice memo. Somehow, I hate reading text messages so that’s how I’m doing this.
That’s a great way to do it. I like that. Your list, there’s so much there in terms of helping people understand what component of this would be most valuable for me to work on.We need to question the reason, purpose, and idea of why we're doing something, not to challenge the norm, but to understand better. Click To Tweet
Thanks, Patrick, for having me. Thanks, everyone, for reading.
Sabrina had some great strategies and approaches to how you can have both a rewarding career and also a rewarding, gratifying and powerful life. If you know somebody that would benefit from this episode, I would ask you to forward it to them. If you haven’t subscribed, go ahead and subscribe. It would mean the world to me if you would leave a rating or a comment regarding this or any other episode because that’s how this message, re-imagining leadership and finding a better way, continues to get out there. Until the next episode. I hope you’re able to go out there and rise above your best. Peace.
- The Four Tendencies
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Asking questions is a natural part of life and learning, and in this episode, Mark Victor Hansen and Crystal Dwyer Hansen explains why this is the key to success. They discuss their new book, Ask! The Bridge from Your Dreams to Your Destiny, to raise awareness about the power of asking, especially during this pandemic. They also talk about the ripple effect a question has on people’s lives, especially with the learning aspect. Learn how answering questions honestly can show you the inner strength that will change your life. They also give an overview of the roadblocks of asking and how practicing gratitude daily can show you the things you’ve been missing that’s just in front of you.
Listen to the podcast here:
Why Asking Is The Key To Success With Mark Victor Hansen And Crystal Dwyer Hansen
Our guests are Mark Victor Hansen and Crystal Dwyer Hansen. They wrote a new book, Ask! The Bridge from Your Dreams to Your Destiny. Both of these individuals have been incredibly successful throughout their careers. Mark Victor Hansen is the co-author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series that has over 254 different books in print. He’s also written dozens of other books coupled to note here, The One Minute Millionaire, as well as Cracking the Millionaire Code. Crystal Dwyer Hansen has written several books, herself, Skinny Life: The Secret to Spiritual, Physical, and Emotional Fitness and Pure Thoughts for Pure Results: How Messy Thinking Can Make Or Break Your Life.
What’s important about this book that we’re going to talk about is, we’re in a state in terms of a pandemic or crisis or however you want to look at this and that the ability to ask good questions of ourselves is the way that we positively find a solution to the challenges that we’re dealing with whether it’s the stress, the finances, the fear or whatever that might be. The better we are at understanding how to ask questions, the more equipped we’re going to be for navigating this challenge that we’re experiencing successfully. That’s what this book is going to talk about. Let’s get into it.
Mark and Crystal, thank you for being on the show. I’ve already had the opportunity to read your book, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Knowing both of you and how successful you’ve been in terms of the number of books that you’ve written, I couldn’t list them all, or we wouldn’t be able to do the show. From that standpoint, why this book and why now?
What happens is, Crystal and I have traveled everywhere. We’ve been to 80 countries. What we discovered was we’ve met a lot of wonderful people. They’re talented, educated and likable, but what we looked at and discerned was there’s a big difference between those who are little successful and those that are vastly successful. Those who are vastly successful have one skill level. They have learned how to be what we call master askers. We want everyone to understand that you could ask because success comes out of the progressive realization of a worthwhile goal. Learn to ask so you can get to your destiny.
Wasn’t it one of your grandchildren that started out with the idea of the question?
Yes, little Everett. We had kicked around the idea. We started mulling over this book that as we started to ponder the power of asking, particularly in our own lives, we started thinking back about how it’s influenced us and gotten us through a personal crisis and things like that. We had started forming our ideas for the book and we’d gone to Hawaii on vacation. Everett, who had gotten a GizmoWatch for Christmas and he only had five people in the watch that he could call. It’s his grandparents and his parents. It’s for his safety, but he thought it was cool. All of a sudden, Mark gets a call on his cell phone and it’s Everett’s GizmoWatch coming up. He’s like, “How are you doing?” He’s like, “I’m good Grampy. Can I talk to you about something important?” “Yeah, buddy. Where are you?” He’s like, “I’ve gone into the closet.” It’s noisy out there because everyone was celebrating for Christmas. He said, “You know those Chicken Soup books that you’ve been writing?” Mark said, “Yeah, of course, I do.” He goes, “I liked those, Grampy.” He’s like, “I didn’t know that.”
We thought he was too young to be reading the Chicken Soup books. We’ve never had this conversation and he goes, “Grampy, can I ask you a question?” He’s like, “Sure. You can ask me anything always.” He said, “Are you and Mimi going to write any more books?” He said, “Yeah, we’re in the middle of writing one now. We’re thinking of a book called Ask!” He goes, “Okay. Can I write that book with you?” We’re like, “Was this the perfect story?” No shame, no fear. He was serious. He had strong conviction, a lot of confidence, not entitled, but sincere about, “Could I do this with you?” It’s a great idea. It got us thinking and then we started doing more research about why our children are unafraid to ask. It’s because we all come into this world, Patrick, with that natural human spirit. We want to know what, when, where, and we want more and more, and we keep asking for it. It’s a beautiful thing and then over time with life, that gets crushed out of us.
We go to school. You’re told to zip it up by the teachers in charge. Don’t ask unless you’re called on. You go out in the world or you share your ideas or you ask for things and maybe you get rejected, embarrassed or shut down. With jobs, a lot of employers who are open to taking feedback or if you have too many questions, they are like, “Do what you’re told,” whether it’s your job or military. Over time, people lose their confidence in asking. They lose their ability to ask and it becomes crushed. We talk a little bit more about that in the book, in The 7 Roadblocks to Asking.
We do get it squeezed out of us. We hear many times about what we can’t do, “That’s a silly thought. Stop daydreaming,” or whatever it might be. I certainly remember that. When I think of this book as I was reading it and the stories were fabulous and to me, it’s a combination as I was writing down a Swiss Army knife, a blueprint, and an owner’s manual. What I mean by that is, it’s a Swiss Army knife in terms of asking. It gives you all of the different ways that you can ask. Anything that you need to ask for. To me, the blueprint of that is I made some notes is, whether it’s personal, purpose, relationship or health, those are the blueprints. The owner’s manual to me, was what gets in the way. Those seven things that you’ve listed, it’s almost like any appliance that you buy or whatever. You go to the back of it and say, “If I’m not getting what I need or this isn’t doing what it needs to do, what are the recommendations?” Those 7 Roadblocks do that. What’s getting in the way of me asking good questions?He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes. He who doesn't remain a fool forever. Click To Tweet
I love every one of those little things that you hit, the Swiss Army knife, because what happens is all of us know the line, “Ask and you shall receive,” but nowhere ever has anyone written the book on ask. We were a little dumbfounded that we could get that title and take ownership of it and then we did this subtitle, The Bridge from Your Dreams to Your Destiny because we’re saying, “Patrick, if you’re alive, you have a destiny.” It’s probably not fulfilled and you’ve been incarcerated a little bit, which is government-imposed but when that release is, we’re saying, “What more important things to do is there than ask?” We’ve got Socrates and Socrates says, “The unexamined life is not worth living and the unexamined leadership was not worth having.” Leadership starts from top-down and inside out. It’s got to be self-leadership. You got to ask yourself, “What kind of leader am I going to be? What kind of person am I going to be? How am I going to take leadership in our family, business, life, spiritual and charitable role?” All of which we looked at and we said the few that make it our master askers.
You do outline that. One of the quotes that I had written down that I loved was, “He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes. He who doesn’t remain a fool forever,” the Chinese Proverb. To me, that speaks to this.
Isn’t that true? It’s funny because we did a lot of research for this book and the studies show when it comes to asking others for things, help, insight or whatever you’re asking for, people are scared. The research shows that you’re 80% likely to get your request granted if you ask but we’re frightened of this. That’s why we need to study those roadblocks and identify which one or ones we have, which ones we’re carrying around because most of us have at least one or more of those. We use some beautiful stories, even in those roadblocks, examples of people’s personal journeys, because stories are powerful. They’ve become metaphors for our own lives. A metaphor is a pattern for our brains to follow. Our brain works in patterns. When we can experience something through someone else’s story, we immediately experience that metaphor in that pattern. We learn much more quickly through stories and the emotions of the stories too.
Everything we learn with the emotion create much stronger memory in our mind, but also stronger memory in our body. As a transformational life coach and hypnotherapist, I do this mind-stuff a lot, and it’s a real thing. We felt like it was important to include all these stories. We did 26 interviews for the book and a lot of research. It’s fun. The other thing we discovered about asking others and being a good question asker is those people who are better askers, in other words, in a business setting and they even did it in a dating setting are perceived to be more likable and intelligent. A better partner in general.
I love that when you were talking about the research that you’ve done for this because that was one of the things that I had written down was the Harvard study on asking and liking. How when we ask better questions of individuals, it creates an environment of liking. I do a lot of work in leadership and team development for organizations. That’s one of the things that we will talk about in terms of, we know from brain scans and images that people like to talk about themselves. The pleasure part of our brain lights up when we are asked questions to talk about ourselves. It falls in line in that research. I hadn’t seen that study either and I love that.
It’s important in that they also talk about listening to the responses when you’re asking questions and go deeper into that conversation. Instead of, “Patrick, where you’re from?” “I’m from Wisconsin.” “Where in Wisconsin? How many people are in your family?” Instead of going, “Where are you from?” “Wisconsin.” “What do you do for a living?” You want to go deeper into people’s answers. People feel that connection and trust much faster. That’s part of the whole asking journey. It’s opening up to one another more and being more curious about each other. In some ways, we talk about too isolated to ask and social media has us all superficially connected, but isolated with so much about, “Am I being seen or heard.” Not working on creating those bonds with other people that you create through asking and even granting other people’s wishes.
There were three things that you mentioned in terms of asking around clear communication, commitment to what you want, and then detachment from the outcome. I was wondering if you could speak to that because I think those three are important.
The three things are you got to ask yourself, ask others, and then ask God. What happened is when I went bankrupt in 1974, I hang out. I was sleeping in a sleeping bag in front of another guy’s room for six months and going, “I felt myself worth, my net worth with the shame and hiding undercover.” Finally, I figured out and I asked myself, “What do I want to do? I want to be a speaker.” I get to my three roommates in Hicksville, Long Island, New York. I say, “Any of you know somebody that young that’s not a doctor, a lawyer, a famous person, a celebrity that is making money?” “Yeah, he’s a few years older than you are. He’s in Long Island, New York. He’s talking. Here’s my ticket. You go and sit in my place. Tell him you’re me.”
I go out there and I go up to him. I asked him, I say, “Can I take you to lunch?” He said, “I love somebody to buy me lunch.” I said, “Can I ask you how to do this business?” He said, “You can, but you’re not going to make it. One in a thousand makes it. This is a tough business, kid.” I said, “Let me worry about that.” He said, “You stay out of real estate because I own this market in the five boroughs in New York. You do life insurance. I’ll tell you what to do, what to say.” I asked him and I wrote everything. I memorized it the next day I go out. Long story short, the first three years I did 1,000 talks a year because if you’re going to ask, the second thing is you got to take massive action, which is what you’re doing. Only Tony Robbins and I, as far as I know, ever did 1,000 talks a year. I do them at 6:00 in the morning, 10:00 in the morning, 2:00 and 9:00 at night. Whatever they wanted, I’d do it and then I sell in between and more talks.
I was alone. I had nothing else to do and I knew I wanted to do it. All of a sudden, I said, “They all say they want this story in a book.” I did my first book by asking fourteen people to cooperate with me called Stand Up, Speak Out, and Win! It went like a rocket. We sold 20,000 copies at $10 each. I made $200,000 in 1974. I thought I had the ride, Patrick, died and gone to heaven because they’re asking for my autograph. I said, “This is my bestseller.” It’s not the bestseller.” They all laughed and said, “What are you doing?” I said, “I’m asking you to buy one.” The first time I ever showed the book, I sold 37 out of 37 people in the room. I thought, “This is good.”
I wanted to follow up on that. That commitment and detachment and Mark has exemplified that in his asking journey to be an author because they did get rejected for the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, 144 times. You’re going to get a rejection. You need to understand that. You need to commit to what you want, to the asking journey, to yourself that you’re going to move forward and expect some rejection. We have a great story in the book of a guy named Charlie Green, who submitted it. He said that he saw Mark speak at a church in the Midwest. He said Mark gave this amazing talk and everyone was astounded.
He stands up after he waves this manuscript in the air and he said, “I’m asking you to pray for me that this book will get made.” He said, “We’re looking for a publisher. I’d like to ask for your prayers and I’d also like to ask you to fill out this order form and put your credit card down and I promise you when it gets published, I will send you the book.” Charlie said, “I was amazed that every single one of us did what Mark asked.” He said, “He was committed to getting what he wanted. We felt his passion, we felt his purpose and so we did it.” At the same time, you realize Mark had to be detached from the answers he was getting because with all those rejections, you have to detach. You have to say, “Keep moving, next.”
My background growing up, I was in sales. I was in biotech sales. Being the youngest of ten, hearing no was not a big deal. That’s something you deal with. It goes right off the other side of it and you keep moving, “Next,” and move on. I do think that’s a real struggle for a lot of individuals, one, asking a good question. What do you want? I know it’s been a struggle for me at times when I haven’t been clear in terms of what I want. Being able to ask a well-structured question in terms of what is it that I want?
It’s important to spend time with yourself. That’s why we say the first part of the asking journey is spending time with yourself, asking yourself, because you’d need to become clear. We all start thundering through our lives and we’re doing our routine day after day. Life’s coming out of us and we’re trying to keep all the balls in the air, but we’re not taking that personal time to ask ourselves. To do that deep reflection and ask those reflective questions that will reveal much to us about ourselves. The other research we did is, when you ask yourself questions, a different part of your brain lights up, and it’s a part of your brain that does critical thinking. Your brain goes to work for you when you start to ask questions. Question by question, answer by the answer, you’ll start to come up with a plan or an illumination or a solution will come to you, or a new idea that you hadn’t thought of before. That doesn’t happen if you keep powering through your life, doing what you’re doing and not being satisfied with it, you have to stop. You have to sit down and take those fifteen minutes minimum with yourself every single day.
We like the morning. We do this prayer and meditation time. We try to do an hour, but at the very least, if we’re incredibly busy, we get at least fifteen minutes and we’ll get up earlier to make sure we get that in because it’s that important. We ask each other question. We ask ourselves questions and we then contemplate and reflect and check-in with ourselves. We adjust. You have to adjust your course. The easiest way to do that is to ask questions. What’s working? What’s not working? Are we liking this? Is this relationship good? How would we improve it? What are the goals we’re trying to achieve this week? Are we even in touch with them? Asking those questions pulls you back into the plan.
People reading say, “Mark and Crystal can do it. They’re super successful, but I can’t do it.” Not realizing that most of the successful people that I’ve interviewed and talked to all have a similar story that they started out with some tremendous challenges that they overcame. I’m wondering for both of you, would you share one of those challenges for you that helps people recognize like, “You’re like we were. We can do that?”
It’s true, Patrick. It’s easy because we do think that we think when someone was successful, we look at them and go, “They had it easy. I wish I was like them. They don’t have the problems I have.” We’ve had tremendous challenges individually and together through things that we’ve had to work through. For me, one of the biggest personal challenges I ever experienced was when I was young. I was 21 years old. I was one of those kids who found high school to be easy. I accelerated my curriculum and graduated at age sixteen and married my boyfriend, who was five years older. It was not a great plan. Two and a half years later, I’m alone in a new city, divorced, with a baby on my hip, no job, no family or friends, and no idea what I was going to do next. It was a bad time for me. I came from this big pioneering family that is like, “You make your bed, figure out how to sleep in it.” I didn’t even think to ask my parents, come home and be all victimized. The only thing I could do was to think of getting food stamps.
I applied for food stamps and the day that I showed up at the grocery store for the first time when I received those food stamps, I was standing in the grocery store line, ready to turn those over and all of a sudden I had this huge epiphany and this question dropped in my mind and it said, “How did I get here?” Followed by a second question that said, “Are you doing everything you can to get out of this or are you taking the easy way out?” The minute that question came in my mind, I knew the answer. I wasn’t doing everything I could to get myself out of this. All of a sudden, I felt this intense conviction. I almost felt like this light was shining on me.If you can get real with yourself, you'll find a new strength inside of you that you didn't know before. Click To Tweet
As I was handing the food stamps over, I said, “This will not be my future.” I’m saying that to myself. I still remember that moment looking at the woman, thinking to myself, “This will not be my future,” as I hand those over to her. I went back to my tiny little apartment, where I was getting eviction notices every month. I started asking myself, “How can I work tomorrow? Where can I go to work tomorrow and start earning money?” I’d heard on the radio temporary service agencies like Kelly Services. I called them, they said, “Fill out these applications.” I did. They said, “We’ll send you job opportunities every day. You can say yes or no.”
I started getting some opportunities, then I realized there were two more temp service agencies that I could apply to. I did that because I figured I’d get a better selection of jobs to choose from. I started taking those jobs and I was working, filling in an attorney’s offices or setting up booths and malls or working in sales at conventions that would come into town. I started to learn something about myself. I learned that I liked business and I liked sales. I was good at it. I liked people and it was fun to be a part of a team or work with people. I love it. I decided to put myself through real estate school. By then, I saved enough money. I went to real estate school. In the meantime, I’ve been approached a couple of times by people who said, “You should go model.” I approached the modeling agencies and asked them if they signed me. Fortunately, the larger one in our valley said yes. I did a couple of television commercials and fortunately, they went national so I started getting residuals. After that time where I was turning over those food stamps, I was working for the biggest home builder in our valley and I became the number one realtor and I was getting my residuals.
I had to join the Screen Actors Guild because they made you do that. If you are making a certain amount of money in residuals, you joined the union, but they pay great benefits. My little boy and I got amazing insurance benefits. I reflect back on that time in my life. I did again and again. It would have been easy for me, Patrick, to cave into my misery because it was bad. I was crying on my pillow every night. As easy as this process sounds now, it was not easy. It was tough and scary and it would have been easy to cave in. That’s what I’m telling everybody out there. We can’t cave in to it when he’s there. It’s easy to cave in to. I know it’s hard, but I’m telling you to start asking yourself those questions. I’m thankful I asked myself the tough questions, “Was I doing the best I could?” No, I wasn’t. I knew it. I’m thankful that I was able to answer them honestly. Part of the question process is to answer the questions honestly when they come out and get real with yourself. If you can do that, your life will change. You’ll find a new strength inside of you that you didn’t know before.
One of the things that you mentioned in the book, and it might be the preface to it, but it says that, “The ability to ask questions, it’s the only language to which the universe can deliver a solution, understanding illumination or a plan.” It is what happened.
You’re reiterating that exactly. When I was nine years old, I didn’t quite understand that my lovely blue-collar parents, my daddy, and mommy owned a little bakery, but you don’t make any money selling rolls at $0.5. It isn’t in the cards. I wanted this little handlebar racing bicycles. They weren’t in the US yet, but now, a Trek bike is at $4,000 to $7,000. It depends on what you want and I wanted mine tricked out. My dad couldn’t afford it. I didn’t understand that and I kept asking and asking. He said, “When you’re 21, boy.” I got them down to sixteen and it wasn’t working. I thought, “I’m a Boy Scout and it says in the back of Boy Scout’s magazine, I can sell greeting cards in consignment. I can afford that.” They gave it to me, I sell them, send half the money and I’m home. I asked my dad, “Can I have it if I earn it myself?” He said, “Free enterprise, it means the more enterprising you are, the freer you are, son.” Never thinking that I could turn around that money.
I start selling and not far from you and the snow was deep that year outside of Chicago. The snow’s deep. I go up to my neighbors. I got a big fur mitt and a cold red face. I go wiping my nose and seeing this lovely neighbor lady, “I’m earning my bicycle by selling these Christmas cards. Do you like 1 or 2 boxes?” Most of them took two for $4. They were like, “I got to help the kid out. It’s Christmas time.” I sold 376 boxes of Christmas cards in one month. Did I want to sell Christmas cards? No. All I wanted was that bicycle and I got it. Dad took half that money and like, “Here, son.” I just graduated. I had to put it in my college fund because he couldn’t see how he was going to pay for it. He said, “You’re going to learn how to pay for it yourself.” I am thankful for those early sales lessons where my mom said, “Smile big and ask and you will get the business.”
It’s two examples of how this does work from an early age.
Let me underwrite what you’re saying though. It works for everybody who will work at it but nobody has ever written a book that we know of to inspire people, to use the only methodology that works. You start with no money. You don’t have to start with any skill. You don’t have to have any particular talent. You don’t have to graduate from college, but you have to learn this skill. Whether you’re educated or uneducated, whether they’re skilled or unskilled, talented or untalented, this will take you to wherever you want to go.
It is amazing as you read through this too, thinking of the environment that we’re in, this book couldn’t come out at a better time in regard to how people are experiencing things. I will tell you it doesn’t take much to turn on the news or read anything that’s been printed. The questions that are being asked are not good questions in terms of creating a positive environment.
We got this story in here by Jim Stovall. Stovall is nineteen years old and he spent his whole life running, exercising, getting bigger, strong and fast. He wants to be an NFL player. Sure enough, he gets recruited. He goes to the medical and the doctor comes back, shaking his head. Jim goes, “This isn’t going to be good.” He said, “Six months from now, you’re going to be permanently and forever blind.” Talk about crushing the kid’s spirit. You’re self-incarcerated in a little 9×12 room with only three things, a radio, television, and telephone complaining and moaning and his mommy says, “Jimmy, go to the blind meeting. Maybe they can help you.” It’s an echo chamber of negativity.
Fortuitously, he sets to a woman named Kathy, who is a blind stenographer for a legal court and they’re starting to chat. He says, “I used to love to watch somebody throw a right hook but I can’t see it anymore. I wish somebody would do something like that.” She elbows him and this is the lever for everybody reading. He says, “You all do what he and she did.” He said, “We’re somebody. Why can’t we fix this?” All of a sudden, the light bulbs went in at his head and he said, “Yeah.”
Long story short, they created Narrative Television. We don’t see it but fourteen million people pay $10 a month for a streaming service called Narrative TV. He then writes a book and that’s when I get introduced to him and I was amazed. I was selling 50 million books a year. I didn’t have time to look at somebody else, but I read it. I look forward and the backward and said, “This book is clear. It has to be a movie.” He said if he lives 100 years, he can’t thank me enough for writing that because it became a movie. It made $100 million.
We interviewed him for the book and he said the two last lines. He’s the wisest. I’ve never physically met him. I’ve never talked to him. He says, “I now write books that I can’t read and I now make movies that I can’t see.” If you take that and look at Joseph and the many-colored coat story in the Bible, it says, “What somebody else meant for your harm, God meant for your good.” Nobody wants to be blind, but he has made it an asset and a resource to his asset. We’re saying, all of us take crisis because eight billion of us are in crisis mode and turn it into a great opportunity like the yin and yang says. If you get the biggest crisis, you got to ask yourself, “How am I going to take advantage of this biggest opportunity and serve and fix something that needs to get fixed and get paid substantially for it?”
Do you think not enough people look at it in terms of practicing gratitude? Do you have something that you do in the morning in terms of your routines that you do?
You’re right, Patrick, and that’s what we do. When things are out of whack and we will do it even if we’re having a bad day, we’re like, “Things are getting off-kilter.” Our brains, especially in an environment like this, we have all this negativity. Everything’s bad. The news, the media won’t tell us anything but negative news and people are tuning in way too much because we’re all home listening. When we do that, it starts to shut us down. It is feeding our brains in a way that is the opposite of how we need our brains to be fed. When you want something in life and I know this as an expert in this area because I’ve studied the brain for a decade and a half. You need to tune your brain into what you want. You need to think of those thoughts every day. You need to envision a perfect outcome for yourself. You need to ask for what you want, but we’re seeing this negative, “This is bad and this is bad,” so people start like jam, hearing the echo chamber. “We don’t want this. We don’t have that.” You are inputting the opposite of what you want in life.
One of the quickest ways to change that is to go take some time, that quiet time and start giving thanks for every little thing you have. I am thankful I have a vision so I can see. I’m not blind. I have two hands, two arms and two legs. There are plenty of people out there who don’t. I have a great mind, I can think. I’m living in this country where we have freedom. I can create whatever I want. I can be whatever I want to be. Again and again, your family, your kids, and your friends. There is much to be thankful for because we start missing all that. The more we miss it, we’re like a magnet for what we have in life. We are the attractor field.
If you can’t even see what you already have, how is more going to come to you? You could get much more than you have right now and you still won’t see it if you don’t practice gratitude. The acknowledgment gratitude is the acknowledgment of every single thing you have. If we start with that, you start off by feeling rich then you can ask for more riches in your life. There’s nothing wrong with asking for riches. There’s nothing wrong with asking for abundance. It’s what children do. It’s what we were born to do with that human spirit that’s gotten squelched out of us. We need to focus on all the richness that we have so we become a great magnet to the things we want.
It feels like a dance at times where the expectation is, “I want more,” but gratitude is, “I’m happy for the journey and where I am in the moment.” It’s not comparing myself to somebody else, but it’s saying, “I want more things.” I’ll be motivated maybe to chase somebody else. I’m a runner. If I see somebody out there, I will try and catch them but I don’t go home deflated if I didn’t because it was like a rabbit for me. There’s a dance to it. There’s an expectation but there’s gratitude.You could get so much more than you have right now, and you still won't see it if you don't practice gratitude. Click To Tweet
We’re going to request everybody to shut down negative news to fifteen minutes a day. You got to know it, but the average American is listening 2.5 hours a day. The thing is when I went bankrupt and was upside down in 1974, fortuitously, I stopped reading the New York Times because I live in New York. All the bad news to the truth. All the things that are going wrong because news intrinsically, it’s got to be a crisis. If you start studying positive stuff, listening to tapes, watching art stuff on YouTube, all that stuff, listening to podcast, it gives you what Zig Ziglar used to call a checkup from the neck up.
One last thing is that there is not one crisis, but three. There’s a physical crisis. There are some ways out of that. There’s the fear crisis, which is what we’re trying to cover here and then the third crisis, the economic crisis. If you cover your fears, you’ll make them disappear. Like Napoleon Hill wrote on the Fireside chats, “You have nothing to fear, but fear itself.” He wrote it for FDR. If you confront your fears, you make it disappear. The only way we think it works is if you ask, so may I ask you boldly? We want to ask every one of your people to get a copy of Ask! The only bookstore that’s open more or less is Amazon and then sends a receipt to MarkVictorHansen.com, to Reception@MarkVictorHansen.com.
We’re going to have the biggest book club discussion ever. We thought that would be much fun because we love to get together. We want you to read this book and then we’re going to do a big private group, a big private Facebook group and invite everybody in. We will have this discussion and see how this applies in your life. We think that it helps people move forward and feel better. We’re trying to contribute as much as we can to help people move forward after this crisis and become the best they can be.
As you said, Patrick, we’re thankful our book came out of this time. It’s funny because a lot of publishers started postponing the release of all their books and we did have that discussion because ours was to release on April 28th. Right in the middle of the pandemic and we said, “What are we going to do? Are we going to postpone?” He said, “No. The horse has left the gate already. We’re going to plow forward,” not knowing. We swear, that’s the way God wanted it because we have done many podcasts. The feedback we’re getting from people is much gratitude for having this message.
I told you before we started this, that you were kind enough to send me a PDF copy of it to read prior to this. I bought the book and my son graduated this year from college and I’m given the copy to him. He had four years of formal education. This to me is a life education. When you’re talking about the pandemic and not potentially bringing this book out at this point, I think the opposite. This to me is a treatment. It’s like a therapy for what’s more damaging to us as a society. It’s what mentally is going on with us and emotionally and this book addresses that.
Thank you for mentioning that and we’re thankful. Honestly, I don’t know why ours came out, but we are giving thanks that it did because it’s the most important time it could ever have come out. Thank you for that.
Let me make your thought and macro-wise it or make it bigger if you don’t mind me to say that what’s true is that everyone should get all the academic education they’ve gotten. Otherwise, you got a good one and got to spend time in graduate school, the smartest, Buckminster Fuller or Einstein’s Best Students who read 40 books in geodesic domes and inventions. He was the Leonardo da Vinci of our time and said, “Let’s make the world work for 100% humanity.” That is academic education. What you said though, is it everyone’s got to have a self help action education so they become self-determining because 30 million Americans are not going to have a job when this is over.
I’m telling you that there’s a book that we’ll give you a free. If they go to MarkVictorHansen.com, we’ll have it up called How to be Up in Down Times. I teach seven businesses that are going to do $50 trillion in this decade. One of which we’re advisors to called a QCI in Michigan. The guy spent $300 million in twenty years figuring out how to take all garbage turned into a resource. He needs to hire 22 million people once Michigan’s governor releases people back to freedom.
It’s amazing because all of us create bipods of garbage a day, whether you want to or not. It’s what is. Every 10,000 landfills in America are full. We can’t ship it anywhere anymore. What he figured out, how to do is with every molecule, every atom turned metal back to metal, glass back to the glass, plastic back to plastic, and water back to the water. It’s exciting if you’re awake and the people have got to say, “I did that, but you might have to pivot. You might have to reinvent yourself.” You got to ask yourself, “How am I going to reengineer myself and revitalize myself to new leadership?”
You have to ask new questions.
I will say one last thing that reminds me of how do you take this and put it into action is I know that myself, I don’t want to be Peter Smith.
Isn’t that the most tragic? The brilliant genius guy. None of us wants to be Peter Smith.
That practiced and practice and had all the preparation, but never did anything.
All the education and the smartest guy in the world.
There are a lot of those.
Zig Ziglar used to say exactly at that point, “Someday I’m going to do.” There is no someday. There’s Monday, Tuesday, and there’s today.
I don’t know who said this, but I remember somebody else saying, “That person has a lot of potentials, which means they haven’t done anything yet.”
By the way, hitchhiking on that with your permission is that, nobody should be buried with their potential in them, their music, their books, their invention, their thinking in them and their love of their life and all that. It’s critical.Everything we learn with emotion creates a much stronger memory in our minds and our bodies. Click To Tweet
Like Rita Davenport says in one of the other stories in the book, which I love her story, “Get Your Ask in Gear!”
I want to thank you both for taking the time to speak about such an important book. I have appreciated reading it, having a conversation with you, and I’m certainly looking forward to sharing it with my oldest son too.
Thank you, Patrick. It’s wonderful to be with you.
Mark and Crystal have put together an incredibly valuable book. As I had mentioned, to me, it feels like a Swiss Army knife, a blueprint, and an owner’s manual for how you ask effective questions. That is going to be the key to getting out of this or to whatever challenge comes up, whether it’s now, in two years or in five years, it is about asking better questions. We all have the ability to do that and this book provides a structure to how you do that most effectively. If you know somebody that would benefit from reading this episode, I’d asked you to forward it to them. If you haven’t subscribed yet, please subscribe. It would mean the world to me if you would leave a rating or a comment on this or any other episode, and until our next episode, I hope you’re able to rise above your best. Peace.
- Ask! The Bridge from Your Dreams to Your Destiny
- Chicken Soup for the Soul
- The One Minute Millionaire
- Cracking the Millionaire Code
- Skinny Life: The Secret to Spiritual, Physical, and Emotional Fitness
- Pure Thoughts for Pure Results: How Messy Thinking Can Make Or Break Your Life
- Mark Victor Hansen
- Crystal Dwyer Hansen
- Stand Up, Speak Out, and Win!
- How to be Up in Down Times
Leadership is about inspiring, empowering, and guiding people. In this episode, Jim Bouchard, founder of The Sensei Leader Movement, joins Patrick Veroneau as they talk about reimagining leadership through a black belt’s approach. Jim shares his journey throughout the years and the lessons he learned in the school of hard knocks that transformed him from loser to leader. Jim and Patrick discuss the knocks that most entrepreneurs endure and the importance of resiliency that superstars in the space possess. Learn how Jim trained himself to be grateful and share his struggles to help his clients absorb what he went through and be inspired by his failures.
Listen to the podcast here:
Jim Bouchard Shares A Black Belt’s Approach To Leadership
My guest is Jim Bouchard, who aside from being an executive coach with his company called The Sensei Leader. He also runs Black Belt Mindset Productions, and has been inducted into The Martial Arts Hall of Fame. Jim knocked it out of the park on this conversation where we did explore what it means to reimagine leadership. Let’s get into it.
Jim, welcome to the show. I appreciate you taking the time and as I was going through your bio and your site, one of the things that stood out to me was this tagline that you had in there, “From loser to leader” and talking about your own story. I think it resonated so much with me and I was wondering if we could maybe start there and see where this goes in regards to leadership.
The whole adventure leadership started when I was a drug addict. It was in my early twenties. I was living in one of those old 1950s style trailers you see around once in a while with the heavy louvered glass windows and all that stuff, and a beautiful little plywood bumps out on the front duct tape to hold the windows together. That was a dark part of my life. I was up to about eight bong hits a day. For people who don’t know what that is, it’s a water pipe that you fill up with marijuana and the only cool way to do it is to smoke it right down, keep it yourself.
Then all the other drugs to keep the party going and to slow the party down. It was intense for a while. One particular night somebody passed me a joint. I didn’t smoke joints at the time because I couldn’t get high on that. It took a lot more than that to get me high. I bogarted and I took the whole thing for myself. I was always mellow when I got high usually, but something kicked in this particular night. I started running around the trailer, I guess I tried to dive out through the louvered glass windows and fortunately my friends got me tackled and calmed down a little bit.
Long story short, I woke up in the morning and looked in the mirror and it looked like I went through three rounds with Mike Tyson. I had made a mess of myself and that was the day I said, “That’s it. I can’t keep going like this.” It was a good thing we found out later on that that joint was laced with angel dust. It’s a blessing that I wasn’t dead or in jail so many times. Most of my friends were betting that I wouldn’t live past 30. I used to think that that was a lousy resume for somebody that worked in leadership and train leaders but I came to realize how useful it was because I’m sure you’ll agree.
The most powerful leadership we can argue with all the different styles and techniques are and whatnot, but it all boils down to a couple of things and transformation is one of the most powerful. I know they’ve coined that into transformational leadership, nothing new. Lao-Tzu talked about that 2,500 years ago. Who’s better to talk about transformation than somebody that had to learn it in order to survive? All the lessons that I learned along the way have a lot of resonance with people in leadership positions. The best leaders are transformational leaders. In fact, the best leaders are the ones that make change happen.
I’m sure for you that the decision was made then, but I’m sure it wasn’t a smooth trajectory up to success.
You might say that. There’s always ups and downs. If you want to make the dragon laugh, tell him your plans for tomorrow for one thing and we’re all feeling a little bit of that. I think part of the worst words we could ever say in our life is things couldn’t get any worse because as soon as you say that, it’s a good chance something else will come along that’s even worse. The trick is how do you keep pulling yourself back out of the fire. In martial arts, we had a saying, “Knocked down seven times, get up eight.” Sometimes I share that at conferences and people will say, “What happens if you get down knocked down nine?” I said, “Then you get up ten.” That’s what we need to do and sometimes it takes these hard knocks for us to learn that lesson. This is where we learned those lessons.
I think when we look back on these things, if you ask the most successful individuals, there were struggles. Those are the things that they often point to you to say, “Those were the turning points for me. It wasn’t everything going well. That’s how I got to where I am.” It generally is the things that weren’t going well that somehow you said, “This was the lesson I needed.”The best leaders are the ones that make change happen. Click To Tweet
I wish I could remember this study to share the attribute of it, but it was a study done some time ago of the highest performing entrepreneurs in the world. The central question was, how many times did you fail? We’re talking catastrophic failures, bankruptcies, living in a car, and these types of stories. Surprisingly, most of the top entrepreneurs in the world, the people that have built the biggest companies have had at least 4 or 5 major failures before they found the success that moved them forward. We hear the stories a lot about the people who were born with silver spoons in their mouths, but the superstars in the entrepreneurial world are the ones who took the knocks and kept coming back.
The other part of your story that you talk about is a two-time college dropout, which I think is interesting. You were an overachiever there.
It takes practice. I didn’t do it right the first time, so I decided I’d do it again.
You’ve written multiple books. You were inducted into the Martial Arts Hall of Fame in 2004. As we’re sitting here in this crisis, we have unemployment that is going to be at levels that we have never seen in our lifetime and it makes me think too, how many people think they are that loser for whatever reason that they’re spiraling down? To me, I think your story is important for people to say, “Here’s somebody that dealt with many challenges. You can do it too.” As you work with your clients and individuals and speak all over the world, how do you do that? What are some of the things that you would be telling somebody right now that’s in this space they’re struggling?
I always appreciate it when someone says, “Thanks for sharing that story. I’m glad you put some humor in it and you’re comfortable with it.” If they catch me after the presentation, I have to come clean. I say, “I’m not comfortable with it at all.” I said, “I’m ashamed of it.” Nobody wants to go through life with that label of a drug addict. The true regret of having lost about three years of my life to that episode is that I wasted how many years trying to repair the damage. I trained myself to share it with some degree of comfort and humor so people would be able to do absorb it, but we all got that inner loser in us.
There’re interesting studies that show some of the highest performing leaders, the best leaders are people who have a healthy sense of humility, and a healthy sense of vulnerability, uncertainty, personal uncertainty, internal uncertainty. It’s not to push that loser side of us or that loser feeling aside, it’s to pay attention to it. Shake hands with that loser side but we can’t get stuck there. That’s the problem. If we get stuck there, if we allow ourselves to get stuck there for too long, then we slip into a state of clinical depression. That’s how that happens. It’s a matter of taking stock of what we’ve got and that’s another part of the reason I share that story too, that I started to learn to be grateful at the worst part of my life and to be grateful for what little I had.
I remember one distinct time that I looked around, I didn’t know if I could feed myself that week and I said, “My poverty was self-imposed so I’m not looking for anybody to feel sorry.” Poverty is poverty. I looked and said, “Thank goodness, I have a place to live.” I had some people that were looking out for me. It started from there because wherever we’re going to go now, if you’re feeling like a loser right now, I understand. Believe me I have my moments. You and I were talking about this before we went on. A lot of our friends in the speaking world looked up and all of a sudden, their entire year was gone as far as work goes.
Even though it wasn’t our fault, you can’t help but say, “What the hell is wrong with me? How do I get started again?” One of the other things that I learned to help manage through a situation like this is that gratitude practice to take stock of what we have no matter how little it is, emotionally, spiritually, and materially, and then decide what’s the first step. What am I going to do from here? There’re so many opportunities in this. I’m talking about from living in a van and not knowing what I was going to eat that day to say, “What can I do with what I have and the talents I have and the skills that I have? How can I reapply them?” I think that’s important right now. There’s a lot of people that are looking at, “How do I repurpose the skills and talents I’ve had over the years.”
I’m not diminishing the pain. I understand it. I feel it. I’ve been through it before. Particularly people my age and older, you don’t want to start over again at 60, 70 years old but if that’s what we’ve got to do, then let’s look at the opportunities. Here’s another way to say it. I had asked the question, I’m sure you’ve asked this question too, “Who do you want to be in 5 years or 10 years, 20 years?” I remember this one woman caught me on that and she said, “Jim, you’ve been asking us. Where do you want to be in twenty years?” I said, “I have no idea but I can guarantee you that I don’t want to be the same person I am right now.” Let’s always be learning, growing, and changing. That’s one of the great lessons I learned from my martial arts masters. That was powerful.
There’s a quote that I have been using for about a decade and it’s by a gentleman named Eric Hoffer who was around in the ‘50s. The is, “In times of change, learners inherit the earth while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to inherit a world that no longer exists.” It is soulful because it speaks to what you said that leaders are learners. If we’re not learning, then we’re not growing. If ever there was a time we’re in change, this is it. If you’re not figuring out what things are going to look like going forward. Hearing your story, I think of resources and resourcefulness and that we all lack resources. We don’t have enough money. We don’t have enough time. We don’t have the right education, but we all have equal access to resourcefulness regardless of where we are.
That’s part of managing the uncertainty too. The world is changing. That’s what it is. Sometimes when things are going smoothly, we don’t notice it as much. We have this illusion of the status quo. Things are always changing and that’s why transformational leadership is so important as individuals and as leaders of organizations. If you’re not changing, you’re dying. That’s the way it is and a crisis like this brings it out.
You said something interesting in terms of shaking hands with it. When I think of that, I think of mindfulness. Being present and with stress to is almost sitting with it and getting comfortable in that space. I believe that’s what you’re saying, your training is probably all based around that. You face it. Gratitude for challenges. It puts the power back in you.
I caution people not to worry too much about the mysticism behind it because people can get caught up in the mysticism of these things. I was blessed to learn such practical philosophies through 30, 35 years in counting in martial arts. I was blessed to be exposed to some of the greatest living philosophers we have on the planet and amazing people. How not to be pollyannish and mystical about it? Take the gratitude thing because that’s one that people can dive into deeply philosophically. Think about it this way.
It is such a practical thing. What it is, is an inventory if you want to put it in the most tangible terms. You’re taking a look at what you have no matter how little it is because that’s what you’ve got to work with right now. It shifts your focus from what you talked about because we can obsess over what we don’t have, especially in times like this. I’m preaching from the gully, not from the mountain. Part of the blessing of this life is that as I’m sharing these ideas with people, I have to revisit them too and it helps remind me of what should I be doing and practice what I preach. This time challenges. I’m not lying. I’ve been joking with people because they’ll say, “Jim, don’t you ever get down?” I said, “I pitch some fit. I go behind the curtain so you can’t see it,” and I try to come back with a smile. I think that’s a good path for a lot of people in leadership, especially if you’re responsible for a lot of other people.
You said that wonderfully in terms of what we do if we talk about even going back to thousands of years, mindfulness has its origins I believe out of Buddhism.
I think all the great philosophies had it. They call it by different names. That was the path that I ended up embracing for a number of reasons. Part of the reason is because the teachers I had approached it from such a practical point of view. They didn’t trout it in mysticism. One of my favorite teachers, Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming. He said they weren’t trying to be mysterious. They were trying to figure it all out. He explained why a lot of these Asian philosophies in particular. It depends on the way people translate these things. They can sound so grand and so mystical and elite.
Dr. Yang explained from Asia, a lot of that has to do with the way we translate it because the language was poetic. It was lyric because they didn’t write things down. Most people couldn’t read or write. They were saying these things or they and recited them as poems. When we embrace it that way, it can get spooky. That’s how Yoshi says it, “Jim not trying to be spooky.” He’s right about that. All they were trying to do is figure it out and make sure that people could remember it. We’ve got to get past the poetry and look at the real heart of it, which is practical.
I’d appreciate your perspective on this. I think based on what you said, I’ve got a good idea where this is going but isn’t that the case with leadership in general? It’s that we’ve overcomplicated this. It’s not about the course on decisiveness and delegation because when we do that, I see it from a standpoint of organizations. When we make it, “This is complicated stuff,” it gives people an out to say, “That’s why you can’t do it. That’s why people don’t.”Get knocked down seven times and get up eight. Click To Tweet
That’s why we make that distinction between management and leadership. I always quote, Admiral Grace Hopper. She’s one of the brilliant philosophers we’ve had. She’s an amazing woman. She was the first woman who was an Admiral in our service in our Navy and she’s known. She invented most of the high-level computer technology or languages and stuff. The processes that we use now have evolved from her work. She said, “You manage things, you lead people and for too long, we went overboard on management.” She said that a while ago, but that’s still true. We still go overboard on management. Management is complex. Management is about dealing with complexity. Leadership should be painfully simple.
Those three keywords that we carefully picked as our flagship words, what does a leader do? I don’t care what your rank, what your title is because it has nothing to do with authority. You’ve got great leaders on your front lines. They have little or no authority at all. Let’s face it, in a crisis like this has exposed some. I’m not picking on anybody. I’m not waxing political, but there are plenty of people with a lot of power and authority that are lousy leaders. It’s about inspiring, empowering, and guiding people. You can do that no matter who you are. You do that with the person next to you, the person below you, the person above you, it doesn’t matter. That’s what it’s all about. That’s what a sensei does. That’s why we continued that iconic symbolism of that.
There is a quote that has been attributed to both John Quincy Adams and Dolly Parton. “If your actions inspire others to do more, learn more, become more or dream more then you’re a learner.” We’re back to actions that inspire.
In the spirit of full disclosure, in one of my past lives, I was full-time in the music business and I got to play with Dolly Parton. She is a wonderful person and a tremendous leader. Only a couple of years because I’d been quoting that for years as John Quincy Adams and then we found out that it was Dolly Parton and I’ve been saying, “It’s as good coming from her because she is a brilliant leader and a human-centric leader.” She’s a caring and loving person. Every everything you see about her is the way she is.
That to me is simplicity. Actions inspire.
There was this huge study done probably by Stanford University. Leaders are supposed to help people perform at their best. That’s what we do at the core. People perform at their best when, and only when they know their leaders care about them. Why we needed a couple of $100,000 study to come up with this? I don’t know. People have been saying it and the best leaders like that, “That’s all it’s about.” When you show people caring, the technical terms, when you develop emotional intelligence consistently you practice good interpersonal skills. Don’t be an undercover boss. I hate that show. Management by walking around is nothing new. It’s been around forever, but it’s hard to practice it and I understand the barriers. That’s what we try to overcome. That’s what we help leaders overcome.
My background prior to doing this full-time was I was in the biotech industry and everything was based around what’s the research that backs up why a physician should take this approach. To me, I translated that or transferred that same skillset of questioning by saying, “Where’s the research? What’s the data that says that these behaviors make a difference?” I will jokingly say that in the work that I do now, it’s about bringing in research to validate common sense.
A friend of mine calls it phew research. It happens in a lot of workshops that we do at all levels. It’s interesting because sometimes in the executive workshops that we do. I’m in a room with fantastic leaders. These guys are tremendous leaders. I don’t know how you feel about it but I prefer to work with good people and good organizations. I think we can bring more value there. We can help the strong be even better. It’s hard to fix bad in this field. We’ll be talking about some of the research and some of the data. I get wound up at it sometimes too, but there are quite a few times when I’ve stopped the whole session and said, “Here’s something you have to understand. We’re the people those guys are studying.”
They’re coming up with all these facts and figures. Why? To figure out how we inspire people, how we’re able to empower people, how do we guide people because it does come down to that level. According to John Maxwell, leadership is about influence. How do we influence people? How do we bring out the best in them? Managers will meet expectations. That’s what management’s designed to do. Leaders blow expectations out of the water because we connect on a human level and an emotional level. I look at those guys and say, “You’re the people they’re studying. They’re trying to figure out what you do right so let’s figure out how to keep doing it and do more of it.”
As I was hearing you talk that I wanted to come back, especially as I think it relates to inspiring other people that I’m sure in your own life where you had that a-ha moment where you said, “I can’t do this anymore.” I’m guessing that there were some people along the way that were in your corner that was saying, “Jim, you can do this. You’re better than this.”
Some of them for minutes. One of the big questions we’ve been getting from leaders when stuff is getting tough is how do I inspire people? Long story short with most of the people that we’re asking it, they were asking sincerely and I said, “You’re looking for the grand speech. That’s not what inspiration is about.” It’s about the little things you do. It’s about picking up that phone or connecting with your people on a Zoom meeting and asking them, “Are you okay? What can I do to help you? How is your family? Are you still getting the work done?” That shouldn’t be the first question. Those are the things that are inspirational. There’s nothing more inspirational than your example.
There are a lot of people in my life that they came along, roll the dice sometimes at the right moment or I’d notice them at the right moment. When you’re ready, the master will appear. That’s one of those things that gets translated poorly through the poetry. It sounds nicer that way but what they’re trying to say is if you stick your head in the sand, you’re not going to see anything. In fact, the ostrich sticks his head in the sand, his rear-end is still hanging in there ready to get kicked. We’ve got to get up and take a look around, have our hearts and minds open. That’s when we noticed those people. I was blessed with quite a few people like that.
The other piece is in the gratitude piece. If you look in terms of rituals or things that you do, where does that fit?
Mine’s simple. I know people that practice a little fancier technique and that’s okay. That’s cool. Whatever works for you. I spend at least a couple of times a week to look around and say, “Thank you.” I express those words because that means something because it helps anchor it for me. I try to do it when I catch myself sinking. You mentioned, how do we get out of that loser mentality? It does always work but I don’t always do it but I try when I catch myself sinking. That’s the time when I pull that out and look around and say, “Thank you.” There are so many people that are in worse situations. What it does is it’s a practical inventory. I start looking around, I say, “I have a home. I’ve got plenty of food. I’ve got supportive friends around.” Sometimes it’s been down to just what do I have left? I’ve got some talents and abilities and we all do. Now, let’s figure out what to do with them and get to work.
If I’m reading to this, I have a group that reports to me, what do you think is different now than it was a couple of months ago in regards to leading a group?
It’s probably the remote phenomenon that we’re doing a lot. A lot of people are able to work remotely for the first time. Some of us have been doing that for a long time through this technology. We’ve done a lot of our work this way, but even then, it’s been a shift. I’d say that the biggest issues are people’s fear and trying to manage that uncertainty. We don’t know what’s happening and it’s difficult. This is a difficult situation. I did a little video on this about now is not the time to blame. There’s a lot of blame going out. A lot of anger and a lot of frustration. I understand it. I’m not judging, but I’m saying it’s more useful that we put that aside, especially a lot of our political leaders, it looks like they’re lying.
Most of them haven’t been. If they’re giving you the best information they have now and six hours later, it’s different. We have to accept some of that. There’s a certain bravado and that’s where I’ve been working with some leaders to caution them about that. Not to pick on the political leaders per se, but we can learn lessons from some of the mistakes they’re making. That’s not being judgmental. I understand the pressure. We would all be making mistakes in that position but having said that, let’s learn from those mistakes. I started something different.
Be transparent. If you’re worried, tell your people. You don’t have to come out in tears necessarily. A little couple of tears doesn’t hurt once in a while. Be confident as much as you can, but come out strong and say, “I’m worried too but let’s put our heads together and involve people from all levels.” Especially when you’re disconnected physically, people don’t realize how much happens non-verbally and socially in an office, that’s gone right now. Through this distance technology that we have, we’ve got to make sure that we’re open to that to spend some social time online with your people and to make sure that you’re reaching out. Don’t assume that people are okay because you don’t hear from them. You’re not seeing them every day so you don’t have any other cues.Always be learning, growing, and changing. If you're not changing, you die. Click To Tweet
Jim, you bring up some great points in that as well. I’ll go back to the tears. That’s not bad every so often. It speaks to vulnerability and this is coming from somebody that is in the hall of fame for martial arts, not something that you would normally think of.
Because martial arts was part of my recovery from such a horrible thing, I saw a different side of that than a lot of people do. The masters that I admire all came through some sort of hardship like that too. Not necessarily drugs, but something like an illness, a lack of confidence, and people picking on them for being small. People that were bullied and they’ve overcome these things. It takes a lot of strength to be vulnerable.
To be intentionally vulnerable is the highest form of courage you can exhibit because to me it says, “I’m not confident in who I am that I’m willing to expose myself to you because I care about you.”
I’m a person who always struggled with self-confidence and I always will. I don’t have enough time left in my life to fix it entirely. I won’t go into all the reasons behind it but that’s part of the reason I became a drug addict. The conditions were wired. Having said that, sometimes I’ll say to people, “I’m not a confident person. I’ve learned to manage it. I’ve learned the process to increase it. I’ve learned that the confidence that I do embrace is based on training and preparation, not unsurety of an outcome. That helps me a lot but I’m more courageous than I am confident.”
The absence of fear is stupidity. Nelson Mandela said that same thing. Courage is not the absence of fear, it’s facing your fears, embracing your fears, and doing what you need to do in spite of them. That’s what it’s all about. If you’re feeling a lack of confidence at any given time, I don’t like to fake it until you make it thing. Just walk forward. That’s what courage is. If there weren’t any fear and danger and risk, there isn’t any courage. That’s what defines courage. I think too many times people look at heroic courage as an example and there’s nothing wrong with that, but that’s the simplest kind.
You can see it. I like people to examine their own courage. Are you doing what you need to do to feed your family? Are you doing your best to take care of your employees? Are you putting one foot in front of the other right now? If you’re doing that, that takes tremendous courage. Once in a while, we got to give ourselves credit for it. We’ve got to acknowledge it in ourselves. That’s tricky, especially if you’re a humble person.
When we think about this as we’re talking about this from the standpoint of leadership and your action’s inspiring. This is whether it’s in a personal or professional setting that to be able to speak exactly how you did to say, “There are times where I’m not confident. I battle with that too.” When I’m around people in a group and I can say that generally, everybody gets to go, “Thank you, Jim.” Now I don’t have to feel like every time I’m around Jim, “Jim’s always on and I’m afraid I can’t say what I’d like to say to him because what’s he going to think of me?” If I’m a leader that always has the answer when we know nobody always has the answer, but what it does is it makes people fearful of, “I can’t say that I don’t know what’s going on right now because they’re going to look at me.”
That’s the worst kind of leader. There’s been a lot of studies done. We do a lot of work in uncertainty, internal and external uncertainty. External uncertainty is what we’re dealing with the crisis. We don’t know when these things, but one of our key strategies around here is to be flexible, adaptable, and comfortable with uncertainty. It takes a while to unpack that. How do you become comfortable with uncertainty? We’re doing it right now. You’re training right now. You have to expose people to it in order for them to develop some comfort with it. We need to think that as we’re training young leaders. We can’t keep young people safe from everything. We have to manage the risk and expose it, but to have to be exposed to real risk and uncertainty in order to grow.
The internal uncertainty is exactly that. It’s not being so sure of yourself that you’re not willing to. There was a great study done that showed that leaders who were more uncertain to question their own decisions, questioned their own strategies, questioned their own thinking were the highest performers, they were the most effective. If you show a little vulnerability, you let people in on that process a little bit, they’ll trust you more. Leaders are not supposed to know all the answers. Leaders are supposed to know how to formulate the right questions and that’s a much higher art than knowing all the answers.
Anybody who does know all the answers, that to me is a person that you shouldn’t trust.
Don’t trust them because they’re going to lead you down the wrong path.
We talked about working with the incarcerated kids and they come up with some of the most incredible things. I always joke with them because we do a session. I said, “I’m going to steal that and use it at the conference next week.” One remarkable young man who I’m sure is doing well. We talked about that one time and we were trying to define arrogance and he said, “That’s the person that can never admit that he’s wrong about anything.” I said, “There it is.” That’s exactly the opposite of what you talked about that. People that know that all the answers are spooky people.
Jim, I’ve appreciated this conversation so much in regards to people being able to contact you, what are the best ways to do it as well as listening to your podcast as well which I’m looking forward to?
It’s Walking the Walk podcast. You can find all of that at TheSenseiLeader.com. We have our Sensei Leader Movement Membership, which is the White Belt Level. It’s always free and always will be. When you come there, there’ll be a button you can sign up and join. That’s how you get into it and you become part of our network and we’ve got people from all over the world that are part of this and it’s special. Our Black Belt membership is free too. That’s usually $29 a month. Take advantage of that because that’s the one that has a monthly live call and we have a good discussion every month with the people from all over the place.
I’m happy that we had the opportunity to finally connect living thirty minutes apart. I’m sure this is just the beginning. I appreciated this so much.It takes a lot of strength to be vulnerable. Click To Tweet
I look forward to when you’re going to Walking the Walk. That’s going to be special.
Thanks, take care.
This conversation with Jim was one that was inspiring and enlightening. He has so much experience and background. I think his practice in martial arts has provided such an impact in regards to how do we inspire, empower, and compel others. His approach certainly does that. If you know somebody that would benefit from this episode, I’d ask you to forward it to them. If you haven’t subscribed yet, go ahead and please subscribe to the show. It would mean the world to me if you would leave a rating or a comment on this or any other episode because that’s how this message about reimagining leadership continues to get out there. Until the next episode, I hope we’re able to go out there and rise above your best. Peace.
About Jim Bouchard
Jim is a 2004 inductee to the U.S. Martial Arts Hall of Fame and was twice featured in “Inside Kung Fu” magazine. He has been teaching and practicing martial arts for more than 30 years.
Jim is a volunteer mentor for incarcerated youth, an obsessive golfer and surf guitar player. In 2016 Jim was nominated and rand for Congress.
Jim lives in Brunswick, Maine with his wife and business partner, Alex.
It’s often frightening to show people your vulnerable side because of the lack of trust or a traumatic experience. Tommy Dahlborg, the host of Stronger Thru Vulnerability, believes that you can become stronger by being vulnerable. In this episode, he talks about being vulnerable around the people you can trust, and you’re sure loves you. Tommy goes into the details of the impact having someone actually listen to you can have and ultimately give you a sense of belongingness. Learn and understand as he explains why you don’t need to don a mask just to feel like you belong.
Listen to the podcast here:
How Vulnerability Made Tommy Dahlborg Stronger
My guest is Tommy Dahlborg. He is wise beyond his years. He has a podcast himself called Strength Thru Vulnerability. In this episode, he speaks about his own journey and the power that vulnerability had. It, being one of his greatest strengths. Let’s get into it.
Tommy, thanks for being on. I have been looking forward to our meeting. Your dad made the introduction to us based on an article that I had written in your podcast, which is Strength Thru Vulnerability. He said, “You two need to get together.” Once I saw that I was like, “This is going to happen.” I love your enthusiasm in terms of us talking about that. I’d love for you to talk about how did you decide to create that podcast as a name and what do you hope to have other people gain from it?
First off, Patrick, thank you so much for having me on the show. I’m excited to be here. I’m very happy my dad made the connection between us. The Strength Thru Vulnerability Podcast has been an absolute blast making. It’s a long story to say the least about what led me towards making that podcast. I’ll start with, I have grown up dealing with anxiety for my entire life. I didn’t know it and I couldn’t put a name to it until when I was in 7th grade or so. At that point, there are still so few people talking about mental health stuff. There wasn’t as much information accessible, especially for my parents. A lot of parents aren’t equipped for their child coming up to them saying, “I’m struggling with feeling anxious. What should I do about that?”
I continued dealing with it, struggling, being in an internal pain from it. As I get into college, that stuff heightened because there’s so much more going on. Everything is set to a higher level. The highest level I’ve ever been at. It wasn’t until my senior year, I’m in a relationship with this girl. It was a toxic relationship, unfortunately, but she led me towards seeking the help of a psychiatrist. It wouldn’t have been unless I had gone through pain by myself for so long that I would have been willing to give this a shot. Finally, I was like, “This is so awful. I need to see somebody.” I took her advice. I found a psychiatrist. I went to see him, and he was phenomenal.
He helped me so much. He was an amazing listener. If you go into a counseling session, you realized they say a lot less and listen to me talk the whole time. When you’re like, “Please tell me something.” When that happened, I continued learning how to deal with my anxiety. I came across the fact that I struggle with OCD, which was something that my parents wouldn’t have known. I had no idea until I did my own research and talked a little bit more with professionals about it. As I learned and I unpacked more and more of that, I started growing this feeling of I want to share how important it is to talk about these things because when I was dealing with these things on my own, I felt like I couldn’t tell anybody about them.
I felt like I would be judged and to be able to sit in the room with somebody who understood what I was going through and could have empathy towards me was so powerful. After years of wanting to make a podcast and not knowing what I would want to talk about on it, it occurred to me, “Talk about the stuff you deal with every single day and the stuff that you’re passionate about.” That led me to do the podcast as a place where I can share my story and my vulnerability. Allowing other people to know that whatever they’re struggling with, maybe I haven’t gone through but they’re not alone because there’s a bunch of other people who were dealing with the same things. It’s been a real blessing because I’ve had friends and people, I don’t even know that well who reach out to me to be on the show and they come on. They share their stories in a safe place. It’s been a blast and it’s evolving all the time.Real belongingness happens when we can add that emotional element, be vulnerable, and share who we are. Click To Tweet
Your ability to be vulnerable yourself, I’m guessing people that thought they knew you well when they hear you talk more about that struggle, it’s like a sigh of relief for them too. They’ll go like, “I’ve got issues too that I have bottled up and haven’t talked to other people because I was afraid.” You provide inspiration for them to be able to have those conversations.
I appreciate that Patrick. That’s definitely my hope. I’ve even seen that with people myself so far where there was this girl who I grew up without knowing her. It wasn’t until I started putting out this content and connecting with her that we realized we both struggle with OCD, all these intrusive thoughts, and all this stuff. Now, we have that connection where we get each other. We’re not alone, and there’s so much strength in that. It’s been so cool.
As I hear you talk about that, making those connections, and we were talking earlier about this whole social distancing and isolation how damaging that is. It speaks again to belongingness. We need each other. We’re packed animals and I think this could be an event that has people recognize how much we do need each other to get through the challenges that we’re faced with. We can’t do it alone.
We totally can’t. From an emotional perspective and physical perspective like you’re saying too, it’s one thing to be in the room with somebody, which is obviously something that we’re all missing greatly right now. When we can add those emotional elements too, be vulnerable and share who we are, that’s when real belongingness happens. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Brene Brown’s work. I’m her biggest fanboy. She’s so good. I forget exactly how she puts but she says a lot of us are taught. We’re taught to fit in. To put a mask on is never belonging. It’s not until we’re vulnerable that we can belong. You’re totally right that this is the time where we know that we’ve taken for granted so many of the small things. I wish I can wait an hour in a coffee shop line right now. We miss that and to be able to be back in that situation and share our hearts more is going to be incredible. People are seeing the importance of that.
This is not meant to be patronizing on your age but you were so far ahead of the game being at your age because it was much later in my life that I was able to become more authentic. At times, it’s still difficult and I came from a very loving and caring environment. My parents were very much around the image. What are other people going to think? It was always about how you dressed, is your hair cut right, all of these things. It was like a mask all the time. It was feeling of am I authentic to who I am or am I doing it to be accepted by everybody else? If you’re only going to accept me if I stay in this mold if you know what’s going on in here, maybe you won’t.
That’s the most terrifying thing ever. That’s where I say to the people who come on my podcast, it’s not easy to share who you are and what you struggle with. The people who have come on, they’ve done their work. They’ve gone to therapy. They’ve dealt with these things for so long that they’re at that point where they’re confident enough in themselves that they can share this message. There are so many people who are in the trenches of that stuff. It’s incredibly difficult. Obviously, you’re not alone in the fact that I know a lot of people, a lot of my friends, my generation who have been brought up the same way where it’s all about image. I feel like a lot of times too. Our culture almost put so much emphasis on, what have you done?
What are your accomplishments? If I don’t have this degree, am I lesser then? Am I not going to be accepted because I didn’t go to college? There are so many different things. To feel like you can’t fully be yourself is one of the most detrimental things to who we are and yet, that’s all around us and rambling a little bit. I think that we all have a bit of impostor syndrome too. I share this message of strength thru vulnerability. I try to share my stories and my struggles but there are so many times I’m in a room with people that I don’t know well. I find myself thinking like, “Am I being me or who is this guy? He’s hilarious but who is he?” We all have a sense of that no matter how vulnerable and real we’re being, but it’s hard.
You bring up a great point on that in terms of this impostor syndrome because I would say the same thing. I put out a lot of content around positive behaviors, positive attitudes, mindset, and vulnerability. I remember I did a post on it. It was saying that I put these out as much for other people as to hold myself accountable as a reminder to what I need to continue to do myself. It’s not as though I’ve already arrived and here’s what everybody else should be doing. It’s that I struggle with the same things and here are the things that I’m doing on a daily basis to try and remind me of the path I want to walk on.
That’s so real and it’s completely relevant to me. I’m laying on my couch trying to find some stillness even though I’m always inside, it’s hard to find stillness. I’m always watching YouTube, Netflix, working, or something. I was chilling out and I was thinking to myself, I share this message of strength thru vulnerability. I have some things in my heart right now. I don’t feel sharing them. They’re causing some stress and some anxiety. I have a little sister right here who I could talk to but I don’t want to. I was like, “Tommy, you got to do what you say. You got to do what you preach.” I ended up talking to my little sister. I shared some difficult things I was going through. Of course, she’s my sister so she’s going to accept me anyway. I knew it was a safe environment but it was still so helpful despite how difficult it was or how much I didn’t want to share those things I needed to. I felt more free after.
As I mentioned, I’ve been doing podcasts or webinars. One of the ones that I did before we got on this show was with a group around emotional intelligence. One of the articles, I still have it in front of me here was on emotional agility. It was a Harvard Business Review article I was talking about. It was about the importance of naming what we’re feeling and not to dismiss that it’s not there. I drew off of this. There are fMRI studies that have been done where they have people that sit in functional magnetic resonance imaging machine and they will ask them to talk about certain feelings and that part of their brain lights up. They were talking about this in terms of the importance of being able to talk about how we’re feeling can help lower that level of stress or whatever that feeling is that being able to talk about it is so important to get it out.
I completely agree with that message and to have science back that up is awesome. I mentioned something earlier where I said I knew I was in a safe place with my little sister. I knew I wouldn’t be judged by her. That’s also a message that I share a lot on my podcast too is that you don’t go and be vulnerable by posting all your feelings on Facebook. You find somebody who you love, who you know loves you, and who you know you can trust. Those are the three biggest things. Whether that’s parent, sibling, best friend, or mental health professional, or whatever it is, find that person. That’s the one that you want to share these things with because not everybody deserves to hear your story either. That’s important to share.
Are you familiar with a book called Radical Candor?Fitting in by putting a mask on is never actually belonging. It's not until we're vulnerable, that we can actually belong. Click To Tweet
Radical Candor is not Brene Brown. It’s in a different way though. It’s more of what is still relevant here. It talks about how we need to be able to be candid with each other but I can only be candid with you if there’s a sense of trust and that I care about you as a person. If not, if I’m going to critique you to make either myself feel better or you look worse, it doesn’t work. I’m not trying to make you better by telling you these things, but it’s almost positioned in a way to say that it’s an obligation that we have. If we really care for somebody else and we want to see them get better, improve, or hear our point of view, then we need to have honest conversations with them and be transparent with each other. Oftentimes we’re not. I don’t want to say something to you because either I’m afraid I’m going to be uncomfortable about talking to you about it or I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable yet that maybe what needs to happen. We need to have an honest conversation and it comes from a place of love, not a place of I’m doing this to make myself look better than you.
I totally agree. That’s a great point. You see both ends of that all the time and with all the work you do in leadership, you see it all the time as well where you can separate the good bosses from the bad bosses mainly with that. I’ve had a few incredible bosses and the biggest thing that stuck out about them was that they could have those difficult conversations with me because they cared. I knew that I was protected and trusted and they were being real with me. They knew that I was doing the same with them because your people are going to reciprocate what you show them. I’ve had a few bad bosses who were completely in it for themselves. They didn’t care about Tommy Dahlborg. You can absolutely see that. That’s why people leave those jobs.
My experience has been, more often than not, that is an individual that’s either unhappy with who they are or insecure with themselves. That’s why they treat somebody else poorly. It’s less about you and more about themselves. That’s why the name of your podcast could be a subtitle for leadership because it is to me. One of the definitions that I will often draw off of is if your actions inspire somebody to dream more, learn more, do more, or become more, you’re a leader, nothing in there about a title. It’s about actions that inspire. Part of that is demonstrating vulnerability. We need that. We’re certainly going to see more of that in the environment that we’re in. I believe that it’s going to be more necessary to see that people can demonstrate that.
We jokingly said before we started here that that doesn’t go to say that I’m not going to follow the person that every day says, “I don’t know what I’m doing again. I’m afraid. Where are we going?” You want to know that that’s in that person’s capacity to be able to do that because you trust them. If I’m reporting to you and you tell me I’d made mistake the other day, I don’t know the answer to this, or whatever, it gives me permission to be able to do the same thing. If Tommy can say it, then I guess I can say when I don’t know the answer to it too. Wouldn’t it be better?
There’s so much to be said about that. In my short experience in the real working world, my first professional boss is somebody who is incredible at being vulnerable and connecting with his people. Throughout this process of COVID-19, this whole pandemic, there’s so much power in somebody being able to say like, “I don’t know what’s going on. I’m a little nervous.” It’s weird to think that the person leading you telling you that they’re a little nervous makes you feel better but it does. You’re like, “I’m not the only one who’s nervous about this. We’re in this together.” I totally agree with that. I love that.
Generationally, you’re on the fringe. Are you considered Millennial still?
That’s a great question. It depends on who you ask.
Generationally, there can be a bias that the younger generation doesn’t want to work. They don’t care as much about doing good work which bores me to know when I hear somebody say that because I’ve got twenty nieces and nephews that are all in that range. All of them are in the positions that they’ve worked very hard wherever they are. I don’t know anybody that’s sitting around binge-watching on anything all day long and they don’t want to work. It’s more an indictment on poor leadership and on the individual. Your generation has done a much better job of saying, “We’re not doing this. We want more.”To feel like you can't fully be yourself is one of the most detrimental things to who we are, and yet, that's all around us. Click To Tweet
From a leadership perspective, it brings out the importance of being able to adapt. My generation is clearly different from the generation before in a lot of different ways. I know what a lot of my friends’ value and what I value is why are we doing this? I love asking the question of why not just like, “Give me this sheet of numbers. Let me plug in these.” That’s not fulfilling to me but if I know, the end result is to help a family buy a home from a banking perspective. Giving us that why helps motivate us. It helps motivate me. When you see these companies take advantage of their people or take advantage of their customers, my generation has been great about speaking up on that and making sure that people know that we don’t want to work for that. We don’t want to stand for that. The why is so important to us and I’m happy about that. From a leadership perspective, leaders need to know that. They need to be able to adapt and be like, “These kids care about this value.”
It’s going to take some time but I completely agree with what you’re saying. I would say the generation before you thought that they were questioning in their head, why and they were saying this is ridiculous. This is a dumb idea. If somebody didn’t say, you’re going to do it because I’m your boss and I tell you you’re going to do it. If there was more of this is why we’re doing this, you could still disagree with it to some extent but at least, you felt part of it. You were involved in the why. It seems so simple but it’s so powerful on that. As it relates to your podcast, where can somebody go to listen to it?
Is it once a week?
Once a week. Every single Saturday, there’s an episode. As a little note, it’s Strength Thru Vulnerability. I spell thru because that looks better.
Tommy, I love what you’re doing. I have great respect for you just in this conversation that we’ve had in terms of hearing your story and where you want to go with. I’m sure you’re going to be successful.
Patrick, that really means a lot. I appreciate you having me on the show. All the work you’re doing is amazing, too. I hope you keep it up and I’ll be watching it.
This has been my honor.
If you haven’t had an opportunity to listen to Tommy’s podcast, I highly encourage you to do that. You can tell by the conversation that we had when we’re talking about actions that inspire, empower, and compel others to want to follow our lead, Tommy is on the right track. If you know somebody you think would benefit from this podcast, I’d ask you to forward it onto them. If you haven’t subscribed yet, please subscribe. It would mean the world to me if you would leave rating or comment because that is how this message about re-imagining leadership will continue to get out there. Until the next episode, I hope you’re able to go out there and rise above your best.
- Strength Thru Vulnerability
- Radical Candor
- Apple Podcast – Strength Thru Vulnerability
- Spotify – Strength Thru Vulnerability
This episode, Patrick Veroneau talks about his insights on why he thinks that more employees will quit during and after the pandemic than before and not in a conventional way. He explains why and how the pandemic can cause people to be disengaged from their work and the role that leaders and organizations’ behaviors play in it. Patrick emphasizes the dangers of having disengaged employees and provides strategies for avoiding it by being ahead of the curve in developing better behaviors. Learn and understand why you need to start identifying the challenges involved in the current work setting and provide ample care your people need.
Listen to the podcast here:
Why Many More Employees Will Quit Today Than Before The Pandemic
I want to talk about organizations at risk of having their employees quit at higher levels than they have ever seen. I know that sounds crazy in a time where we’re seeing 20% unemployment rates, who are going to quit their job when unemployment is at 20%? I will tell you, there are many people and it’s not what you think. Stay tuned and let’s get into it.
As I mentioned, unemployment is at about 20%, maybe a little more. It’s at the highest rates we’ve ever seen in our lifetimes for the most part. What is interesting about that is that we knew prior to COVID in regards to organizations for a few decades that the level of disengagement within companies about two-thirds of employees within an organization are disengaged. That has not gone away. It’s going to get worse. What I mean by that is how organizations and individuals within organizations that may be in leadership roles decide to behave toward those people that are working within the organization will make a big difference.
If there is a mentality out there of people should be happy that they have a job. It’s business as usual. You are going to see more people quit. The difference is that they will stay. They will not be leaving the organization, which is far more damaging to an organization than those people that quit and did go somewhere else. These are people that are almost like ghosts roaming the halls. They’re there, but they’re really not there. In this time, that’s what will happen more than likely. We saw this back in 2008 during the last crisis, this same process. If organizations don’t behave in ways that take into consideration what many people are dealing with, it is going to be catastrophic on a different level in terms of productivity within organizations. There are a couple of different things that I wanted to touch on here. One is we know in regards to the situation that we’re in, the level of stress that this has created for individuals is immense.
I had presented some data on a navigating stress workshop that I was doing for leaders. What I did was I cited some of the data that was out there from Express Scripts over increases from mid-February to mid-March 2020, as it related to antidepressants, antianxiety meds, and insomnia medications. All of those had incredible jumps. Antianxiety meds increased by about 37% in terms of the number of prescriptions that were filled. As it related to antidepressants, it was about 18%. In insomnia drugs, it was about 14%. What that says is how much stress individuals are dealing with?
bctt tweet=”In person, we oftentimes are more productive than when we’re isolated. ” username=”coachpatrickv”]
If we combine that with isolation, which many of us are feeling, and I know that there is so much talk about the impact or the benefit of having people work remotely, this is going to provide many opportunities going forward. I don’t deny that. However, what we know about research around belongingness is that we’re like pack animals. We need each other. There’s also research that shows that in-person we oftentimes are more productive than when we’re isolated. That’s not to say that there are benefits to this because they’re truly are. It is going to be important for organizations and individuals to understand and appreciate that decentralizing a team or isolation can also provide or present its own challenges if we don’t understand that and appreciate what is happening.
The other end of this is we think about it from the standpoint of burnout. Burnout is not new. It was in existence prior to COVID, but you’re going to see it even more in many different scenarios where you have smaller workforces yet more work that needs to be done. A lot of the work that I do in the healthcare industry, I was already seeing that. There was already a high level of burnout where many providers were feeling that they didn’t have enough time. They were overworked. What’s important here going forward is to say, “How do we deal with those things that we need to appreciate the situation that we’re in?” This is important. One of the things that I had listed here was empathy.
I’ll talk about it from two different points. One is a story that I heard of an individual, an executive that was leaving an organization. They were reducing their workforce and he was one of the individuals that were going to be leaving. The organization talked about the need for them to demonstrate empathy over the next six weeks, to be able to navigate this situation with their employees at home. It was as though this was something that they had to turn on for six weeks. After six weeks, we’ll go back to what we were doing before.
We won’t focus on empathy. To me, when I think of that, if we use this as a tool to how do we get people to go where we want them to go, not thinking about what the real impact or importance of having empathy is, then it’s going to backfire. What do you think’s going to happen to those people that all of a sudden on week seven, they’re like, “You don’t seem to care anymore? What’s going on?” I’m not saying that there’s going to be a switch there, but again, this is simply the conversation that happened with this individual.
There are ways that we can avoid this happening in terms of this feeling of employees being burnt out, being isolated, feeling more stress, feeling less appreciation within organizations, and feeling as though maybe they’re being taken advantage of because of the situation. Those things will backfire on an organization. You will have people that will quit and stay. The behaviors that I will often talk about in this are about building relationships. The behaviors that build better relationships. This is exactly what is needed at this time and at all times. It needs to be even more focused on at this point.
If we do this, organizations will be in a much better position with the employees that they have to probably solve many of the problems that they’re going to face in a much better way. The first thing that I would talk about is creating an environment where you’re a learner. There’s a quote that I’ve used in the past with Eric Hoffer that says, “In times of change, learners inherit the earth while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped for a world that no longer exists.” I don’t think there’s a person out there that wouldn’t disagree that we are in a time of incredible change and the way you lead pre-COVID and the way that you are going to need to lead going forward from here. The behaviors that you will need to model are going to be different and quite honestly better in terms of getting people to feel inspired, empowered and compelled to want to go where you’re asking them to go.
Of those, we think about congruence. Remember to walk the talk. When your words don’t match your actions, there is a lack of integrity. You will build a sense of distrust within the organization if what you say and what you do are not the same things. Most organizations in their mission or in their company description say that their employees are their most valuable asset. If you don’t demonstrate that through this, if you treat people as though you should be lucky to have a job in this environment, then you will have already started down that path of people quitting but staying. Next is around appreciation. This is about recognizing the impact that isolation and restrictions have had on individuals. This is incredible in terms of the environment we’ve been placed in, where you have maybe two parents, both on their jobs, working out of home, you’ve got kids working out of a home or the opposite of this.
You have somebody that lives alone. That’s been in complete isolation. That even if there were an introvert have lost out because they haven’t been able to interact with other people. The way that we are meant to, which brings me to the next point in regards to, as we work remotely. The challenge from the standpoint of belongingness is, we need to be much more appreciative of how do we bring people together. We know through all the research around belongingness that we are pack animals, we need each other. If people feel as though they are not connected to the mission or the group or the individual, if they feel isolated, then the impact is going to be negative.Learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped for a world that no longer exists. Click To Tweet
It’s going to provide an opportunity or the need for those that manage teams to find ways to connect more often with individuals without seeming as though I’m micromanaging somebody, but there is importance there. The next is around listening and I’ve often talked about listening in four different ways, listening with our ears, tone of voice, the words that somebody is saying, listening with our eyes, body language and facial expressions. That’s important. Next is listening with our minds. When we hear somebody say something, it’s listening in the way of trying to be curious as to is what they said and what I’ve heard what they’ve meant.
The only way we find that out is by clarifying simply by even saying, “What I heard you say is, is that correct? What I think you’re saying to me is this, am I right?” Lastly is listening with empathy. It’s about putting yourself in the other person’s place and saying, “How would I want them to listen to me?” If I was on the other side of that, how would I want them to listen to me of all of those? Listening with ears, mind, and heart are probably most important, especially if we’re on calls with individuals that we’re trying to listen to. What are the words? What are the tones that they’re putting out there?
If we’re on Zoom or some other online platform, that’s video, looking at their body language, what are they doing when we’re having these conversations? These are important to be listening to those people around us. The next is around empathy is demonstrating empathy for those people that are isolated, trying to understand what’s it like to be where they are in the environment that they’re in. That requires us to suspend our own judgment of what we think is going on but trying to be there for them. I was speaking with somebody, in the organization that I’m doing an online workshop with one of the directors of this group was saying that one of their managers was having a difficult time remotely.
This was somebody, as this director said, was somebody more of a hands-on manager. What that meant was they were more of a micromanager and were having a difficult time because they had employees that work remotely and they weren’t quite as compliant as they had been in the office. To me, this is an opportunity for this manager to recognize the challenges somebody else is going through, the distractions that they’re dealing with, rather than, how do I control you? How do I gain control? The harder they try and control, the more difficult it’s going to be. Lastly, it’s around making sure that we set clear expectations and hold each other to ownership of those.
We’re an environment that things are moving all the time. We don’t know what’s expected. The more ambiguous things are, the more challenging they are for individuals. The more likely people are to quit and stay. This is a time where people need to understand what do we need from each other? Maybe not what’s our function going to look like, but how are we going to communicate with each other? What can we expect from each other? What do we need from each other during this period of time? Those are things that are important that we need to recognize.
If we demonstrate those behaviors, when we look at the challenges we’re faced with, the root cause of all of our challenges are around behaviors. When we understand that and work to identify and develop better behaviors, we will build the strongest relationships we can. This is a bridge that we will travel continually, whether it’s personal, professional or in the community, these relationships that we’re building through these behaviors will get us through whatever challenge that’s coming our way. It will also reduce the likelihood that people will quit and stay.
I hope you found this helpful. There’s so much opportunity here in terms of, where we go from here from a growth perspective? That won’t happen without the right behaviors. If you know somebody you think would benefit from hearing this episode or any other, I’d ask that you forward it on. It would mean the world to me if you would leave a rating or a comment on this or any other episode because that’s how this message of reimagining leadership and finding a better way, continues to get out there. Until the next episode, I hope you’re able to go out there and rise above your best.