How to Integrate Work and Life as a Visionary Creative with Jeff Goins

Episode 27 with author of Real Artists Don't Starve

Jeff Goins is the author of four books, including the national best seller, The Art of Work and his latest book, Real Artists Don’t Starve. He is also a full-time blogger, speaker, and entrepreneur.

Originally from Chicago, Goins graduated from Illinois College and spent the next year on the road with a band. After that, he moved to Nashville to chase a girl and spent the next seven years working at a nonprofit. He now writes and speaks for a living and runs an online business helping writers and creative entrepreneurs chase their dreams.

Jeff’s award-winning blog,, has been visited by over four million people from around the world. His work has been featured in the Washington Post, USA Today, Entrepreneur, Forbes, and Psychology Today. He and his wife, Ashley, live just outside of Nashville, TN with their son, daughter and dog.

Links mentioned in this episode:


Full Interview Transcript

Andrea: So Jeff Goins, welcome to the Voice of Influence podcast.

Jeff Goins: Hi, Andrea, it’s good to be here.

Andrea: Well Jeff, recently published his fifth book, is that right?

Jeff Goins: Yeah, yeah. I was right too.

Andrea: Real Artists Don’t Starve – and I’m really looking forward digging into that here in a minute. But let’s get the influencer listening a little context. I’ll tell you that I first stumbled on you, Jeff, when I started diving into podcast about three years ago, when I was just trying to grapple with my own creative life, my own creative self and what to do with that. I found that your podcast the Portfolio Life, which it explores the questions what does the creative life looks like. So Jeff, what does your creative life look like?

Jeff Goins: The term, the Portfolio Life, I found in a book by a guy named Charles Handy. And apparently in the UK, it’s widely known in this term but I never heard before it. So a friend of mine who is a poet, who has an affinity for Japanese culture and also works a fulltime job as a marketing director at a medical company. You know, it’s just a bunch of different things, right? I remember asking him few years ago as my platform was growing, my audience was growing, I was writing books, and I was also helping writers online with online courses. And I felt torn because all of my friends whose success I admired it seemed as if they were about one thing and I felt broken. I was like “Am I the author guy? Am I the speaker guy, or am I like the entrepreneur guy?”

And my friend, his name is Keith said “You could be all those things. You’re living a portfolio life and it’s not for everybody but for those who care about multiple things. You can embrace all those interests and all of those different areas of interest and make each part of the portfolio better, you know.”   “So the fact that I read poetry, I’m interested in Japanese culture influences my day job, and my understanding of marketing influences these hobbies.”

So for me, it really became a question of not being a jack of all trade or becoming a master of some. That’s something I become more and more comfortable with. So I think of Portfolio Life is like an investment portfolio. I have just not invested in one company, I’ve got a bunch of different things that I’m putting my time in, but it’s not everything. So for me, my portfolio is like one part author. I’m always working on a book, promoting a book, or talking about a I’ve recently written that’s really important to me.

I love books. I love reading them. Every book I’ve read has been a gift to me from the author and I am honored to be able to try to give gifts to my own readers but also run a business. So I’m an entrepreneur and I like that. I’m good at that and it’s fun for me. And so I wear the hat of entrepreneur-employer-boss visionary you know for a good amount of time throughout my week. I’m also a speaker and coach. I’m having conversations with people on a fairly regular basis helping them kind of breakthrough to the next level.

And you know, I also wear the hats of dad and husband. And for me, it became very important fairly early on to figure how to manage all of this. I don’t believe in work-life balance but I like what Dan Miller calls it work-life in aggression. How does my work feed my life and how does my life feed my work. And Steven King wrote in his book on writing, “I used to think that life was a support system for art and now, I realized that is the other way around.”

He tells a story about becoming an author and buying this really big desk. That was the time he made this huge, you know, expensive oak desk and he put it in the middle of the room upstairs in his attic which became his writing studio. And he shut the door and outside that door, his kids were growing up without him. He was working on the next novel. He was addicted to a multiple substances and his art had consumed his life. Eventually, he got sober. He got rid of that big desk. He opened up the attic and turned it into like a movie room for his kids, who were now teenagers and he got a smaller desk and moved it into the corner of the room.

I just love kind of that word picture of my work used to dominate my life and everybody around me just had to support me. And then I realized, “No, this isn’t how it supposed to be. Work is supposed to feed the life.” So I opened the door and made my work very interruptible by my family because this is whom I’m doing it for. I remember like I was like “Oh I love that.” And two weeks after reading that, it was a Friday afternoon and my wife was like “Hey, do you wanna take the kids to the zoo.” I was like “I can’t, I have to work.”

If you have a day job, you can’t just say, “I gotta go to the zoo.” But here I was just placing these unnecessary arbitrary boundaries around my life because I was kind of addicted to my work. You know, it made me feel good about myself and that wasn’t why I got into this.

I started writing and started a business so that I can have more freedom doing work that I love but also so that I could provide for my family and spend more time with them. So here I was spending more time on this business than I was for the reason that I was supposed to be doing it for. I think that’s a long way of saying, my portfolio it’s very important that the work fits around the life, not the other way around.

Andrea: Yeah, and you talked about wearing a bunch of different hats, I totally want to get into your book but we’re going to keep going with this for now.

Jeff Goins: Sure, yeah!

Andrea: Is it hard for you to switch hats in the midst of all of these different things that you mentioned including, you know, husband and father? Do you feel like a different person when you have a different hat on or how do you navigate that internally?

Jeff Goins: It’s not hard for me to switch hats because I have a visionary personality. I don’t mean that like a complimentary way like “Hey, look at me I’m the visionary.”   It means I’m always onto the next thing. I’m always imagining the future and struggling to stay in the present.

There’s a book called the Synergist. It’s a business book by Les McKeown and he describes the visionary personality. He basically says, in an organization there are three types of people; visionary, operator, and processor. They’re all kind of in conflict with each other. The visionary says “Let’s go do this. Let’s go climb the mountain.” The operator says “Okay, let’s start marching.” And the processor goes “Hey, what’s our plan. How are we gonna do this?” So one is always going to do work, one is always thinking about the next thing, and the other one is trying to figure out how to build a process around it. And the solution that is the synergist, one who kind of synergistically bridges all these gaps.

So I am the visionary, which means I’m always thinking about the next thing kind of ADD type of personality or I’m just “OK, I’ll do this and let’s do this.” So task switching is easy for me for the most part. I have these friends who would like sit in a locked room and write for eight hours a day and I did that because that’s what I thought a writer was supposed to do. It was actually lonely and depressing and my writing suffered as a result of it.

I am at my peak when I’m juggling a few but not too many things where every day I’m spending sometime doing what Cal Newport calls “deep work,” where I’m spending a couple of hours working on my ideas like “That’s important and I can’t neglect that.” But then another part of my day needs to be spent interacting with people so that I can get feedback on those ideas. Like even this interview was an opportunity for me sort of riff on new ideas and old ideas and work on them and get feedback and see where the conversation goes.

So that’s really important to me going out to lunch with people, talking to my team, friend, whatever, you know, getting that kind of interaction is super important to me. And I used to feel guilty about that like I felt broken. I just realized “This is my personality. I’ve got to be doing a few, but not too many things.”

For me, that breaks down into three activities that I try to compartmentalize. I always need to be doing something to build my craft and to really grow as a writer. I always need to be doing something to build my brand, reaching more people so that, you know, you can continue to grow and I need to be doing something to build my business so that I can get paid so that I can keep doing all the other stuff.

And this kind of this vicious cycle, you build your craft and more people noticed and you build your brand and you build your brand, more people will pay you so you build your business which allows you the freedom to go back to building your craft. So every day, I’m working on all three of those activities in kind of frazzled task-switching kind of way. But I would say, Andrea, that there are these challenges switching from boss/influencer/author to dad or husband.

It’s a weird thing to talk about and the best way I can describe it, you know, with that story. So there’s this documentary about U2, because usually they’re going to this like 200, 300 day tours, right? They’ll be gone from their families for most of the year and gone from home anyway. And then they’ll come back home and Bono will come back home, and it will be a reentry process. It used to be he comes back from tour and when he back to the house, he was miserable and his wife ready to have a divorce.

So what they do now is he comes back to city that he lived in and stays in a hotel for two weeks and then will get together for dinner but then the kids and the wife go home and Bono stays in a hotel. And over the course of two weeks, they spend more and more time together and then eventually gets to come back home. And the reason for this is every night for a year; Bono was standing on stage full of 10,000 people who think he’s a God. They think he’s amazing and to switch from being that a star, where everybody will do literally anything for you to being dad, just dad or the guy who takes the trash out for the family that’s a hard transition to make.

And I don’t say this and like “Oh poor Bono or poor me,” but I know what that feels like psychologically to go from whatever hosting a conference with several hundred people, you know, sending an email to a hundred thousand plus people and getting a lot of really nice thank you notes and then going home and seeing the whole other area of your life, the other part of the portfolio where you know, your wife is going “You didn’t take the trash out,” or “You said you’re going was these dishes and you didn’t do that.” Or “Daddy, can we go play soccer?”

There is this really broken part in me that goes “Wait, don’t you know that I’m important?” I’ve realized that’s not a good voice but I like the very healthy part that Bono does which is life he insisted on. It’s a reentry process. So for me in a very small way, this kind of happens on a daily basis. I used to think that it was this ingenious. Now, I just think that it’s part of the job, like you would never say to a football player, “Why don’t just be yourself out there? Why are you wearing all those pads? And why are you screaming at the top of your lungs pumped full of adrenaline?” You don’t have to be that way at the dinner table. These are different roles, right? And you don’t want whatever the quarterback of Tennessee Titans to act the way that he acts at his job at home, at the dinner table.

So there has to be sort of ramp up period of the performance whatever it is that they’re writing the podcast and then there needs to be kind of a ramp down to reenter this other part of your life. For me, it’s not about balance; it’s about integration, so “How do I be the best dad and the best husband that I can be for my family in a way that also contributes and integrates with being the best writer, best writing coach, and teacher that I can be for my readers and my audience.”

For me, there’s a necessary good tension in those activities. And best way that I know, you know, you asked about sort of switching hats, I think it’s best to think of it sort of as “I’m on one planet all day long and then I get my spaceship and I fly home.” And there’s this reentry process that happens. Reentry is not an easy process, you know, you’re re-entery matters, if you do that the wrong angle, you know, we all remembers from Apollo 13, you could burn up. So having the things that I do at the very beginning of the day to ramp up into work mode and then also having activities that I do at the end of the day to ramp down and go into another mode, super important.

Andrea:   Yes, I totally agree. I think especially for people who are thinking a lot. It can be really, really hard to switch that gear. First of all, let me ask, do you ever find yourself in work mode when you’re with your kids totally distracted and then thinking to yourself “Wait a second, I got to get back. I got to come back to this moment.” I mean, that was something I really struggled with as a mom with little kids.

Before I started writing and doing anything else was that I felt so distracted all of the time because I didn’t have an outlet. You know, I wasn’t doing a podcast. I wasn’t writing. I didn’t have that outlet at a different time a day because I was with my kids 24/7 and that’s one of the things, I think maybe especially for moms, that it would be really nice if I would have taken a little bit more time to be able to get out when I needed to get out in a different setting to be able to use my brain in that different way and then come back to my kids where I could focus. Did you ever find that part very difficult?

Jeff Goins: I do. Yes and the best explanation for this was a book that I read, it’s called 5 Gears: How to Be Present and Productive When There is Never Enough Time, by Jeremie Kubicek. The book is just super practical about how to shift up and get into fifth gear which is like a deep, focus, work mode, and then shift down into the more social interactive time and then eventually you know, solo time. It’s the best analogy with anybody struggles with being present wherever you are, I highly recommend the 5Gear by Jeremie Kubicek and Steve Cockram. A very short book too.

But here’s the thing like for me, I totally get the outlet thing and my wife is starting a business now, our kids are 5 and 18 months, and she’s always been the more career oriented between the two of us. I never really cared about success you know, We met in college and she’s very career oriented and graduated and had a job lined up because she had already done two or three internships.

I graduated and found a way to live in a house for the summer while I raised money to go, you know, do this music mission trip and skirted around the country playing music for years. So that’s kind of indication of how we do life differently. So we started having kids, you know, she was able to stay home while I was doing the writing stuff. She’s kind of eventually gotten back because I think it was really a good thing for her to have something to do, you know, have an outlet as you said.

For me and maybe this is a thing or maybe not, but for me I realized, I’ve been working all day and I was sort of addicted to that feeling of being important, people wanting things from me. And then I would be in the doldrums of daily life at home where there isn’t an immediate feedback. I write a blog post and people go “Hey good job, you’re smart.” Or you know, even in my job working for nonprofit. I have an idea, I share it with my boss or my team and they go “Good idea.” And your kids are like not impressed with your ideas, right?

Andrea: No.

Jeff Goins: It’s the opposite. It’s your job to say “That’s amazing, great picture! Good job! My son was playing with magnets and he said “Hey, what should I make?” And I said “You should make a shark.” And he made this thing and he’s like “Here look at the shark.” And I was like “Cool!” He goes “Does it really looks like a shark?’ And I could hear like that was an important moment, and he was like “Is it really good?” And I said “Yes, absolutely. It’s amazing, wild and so creative.” That could drain you as a parent.

Here’s the thing that I realized. I’d be sitting on a couch with my kids trying to be present and I would want to check my phone, “Ahh maybe they need something.” And the reality was this, in that moment that time, I felt like work was more interesting than being at home like I was bored and I was finding some way to appease my boredom. Instead of going “Let’s go do something. Let’s make this fun because this is incredible. I need to not be missing because you’re never to be like this again.” Instead I’m going “I’m kind of bored, I wanna get through this so that I’ll go back to doing the things that feel fun to me.”

I realized this is boring because I’m making it boring and I’m maybe a little bit addicted to that feeling of being important. And that book 5 Gears actually helped me and I realized if you’re going like task, task, task, task, all day long and in five minutes later you’re at home. And it’s like relationship, relationship, relationship, relationship; you’re not going to be present there because you haven’t done a good job of ramping up and ramping down from those experiences.

So having some healthy practices to kind of a immersed yourself into whatever your daily activities like even if that’s being a mom, being a dad, going to work, doing whatever; like that’s an activity where you need to be fully present. And then going back home like that’s an activity where you also need to be fully present and thinking of it sort of like entry and reentry that’s really important.

You know, I mentioned Stephen King thing where like his kids walked in where he was working on novel and he stops and he pitched with them and watches a movie. That’s really cool. I tried that, it didn’t work. It was bad for me. It was bad for my kids. It was bad for my wife and my wife, when we can afford it, said “Leave, you need an office.” And I’m really bad at this. I’m easily distracted. I don’t know that would certainly make me feel better that sort of things that I struggled with. I can’t like be in a place where stuff is happening around me and focus.

Andrea: Yes!

Jeff Goins: And so what would happen is I have my office and my home right next to our nursery when our son was a baby, and I’d like creep through there in the middle of the day to get some work done and I’d wake him up. Or I’d be working you know in the office and he’d wake up and I’d be in a podcast interview and something would be going on in the background. I’d be really distracted. Like right now, we’re talking and you know my wife texted me and I was like “Uhh.” OK, you know, it’s very hard for me to focus when other things are going on.

And if you’re at home and my kids would be knocking on the door saying “Daddy,” like they don’t understand I’m working. They just know I was behind that door, right? So what we realized is when, for the most part, like I tried to make myself interrupt the ball and I like to use the flexibility of being self employed. But for the most part when I network, I’m fully present at work because that’s important to me, that’s important to the people that I’m influencing, and it’s also important to our family for financial standpoint and when I’m at home, I’m at home.

When I was working on this thing on the side and it was a bit of a side hassle, I was working early mornings and late at night, because I had to and it was a season and it was necessary. I can’t remember today, six years later, I can’t remember the last time; I opened up my laptop after 5:00 p.m.   And it’s not because I’m a really good guy or because I have great boundaries, it’s because I have said “When I’m work, I’m fully present at work and so I’m all in.” And so at the end of the day there is no more work to do.

I mean, obviously, I could keep going but I’ve done everything that I wanted to do that day because I would force that activity to fit into a certain container, not I think it’s called Parkinson’s law where like whatever amount of time you have, you’ll find work to fill that time.

So I have intentionally decreased the size of the container as an experiment, like “Can I still get the same amount of work done in say 25 hours a week that I was doing in 50 hours a week?” And I found a way to do that, so I go home most days going “Hey, I’m done, I don’t have anything to do. I’d don’t want to be anywhere else but right here. I’m going to be as present as I possibly can be because I gave everything that I had back there, you know, five hours ago.”

That’s been helpful to me. I don’t say it’s perfect. I don’t say that when I’m in a middle of a project or something, my mind doesn’t occasionally wander, but by disciplining myself to be all in right here, right now during the day however much time that is, sometimes it’s four, five, or six hours sometimes it’s more, sometimes it’s less. Because I would do it like I would be destructed. I would work on something on the side, take notes, text, phone calls, whatever and I’d go “What did I do?” Like not much, you know, I let a few people know I was available. I didn’t accomplish much from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

When I stopped doing that and spend time with my family more and it’s still. We would do a lot. We would do a lot of fun things and create a lot of memories and so the return on investment of that time of being fully present with my family was so much greater than kind of being busy and kind of doing some work.

Andrea: Yeah, yeah. I’ve heard of like Todd Herman, he puts on glasses like he doesn’t need glasses, but he puts on glasses when he’s working.

Jeff Goins: I love that.

Andrea: It’s sort of like a uniform or a persona, really like you’re talking about you’re amping up for the performance. I like that. I think that finding tools and finding a system or a set of practices that you do to ramp up and then ramp down. I mean those are so important. I’ve often thought that somebody who is going away to work like when they come home, I live in Nebraska so where I’m at is a pretty small town it’s not very far from work to home.

And I’ve often thought, you know, somebody who is driving home like why not just go around the block two or three more times to sort of just settle in and be prepared when you walk in the door for family instead of still kind of coming down from that work day or whatever. But yeah, I love all that. It’s really interesting. You talked about a “leaky filter” in your book and you’ve mentioned before “Do I have ADHD” or whatever. Have you heard of the concept of sensitivity like neurological sensitivity?

Jeff Goins: Yeah, yeah.

Andrea: Have you heard of the concept of sensitivity? Eileen Aron has done a lot of research on that. I think that helped me to grapple with all that just realizing that I’m just taking in so much information. I’m a sponge and I have to have a way to get that stuff back out again too, which I think, again is that like creative expression. If you’re taking all of this data, this information, all these ideas, and these experiences and you’re making all these connections in your head, especially if you’re like an intuition person like I believed you’re ENTJ, if I remember.

Jeff Goins: Yeah, yeah – good job.

Andrea: I know. I know, I’m totally creepy with stuff like that but that internal intuition were constantly like putting all these ideas together in our heads and making these connections and all that building schemes and then it’s like “I gotto get it out somehow.” I’m kind of interested in hearing your take on this, but one of my struggles and especially I used to be that I felt like I had so many different points of reference in my head. All these different ideas, thoughts, and experiences, they were all connected with this. They’re just all just connected.

My struggle was, and still sometimes is, if I want to take one of those out and talk about it, it is very, very difficult because I pulled it out and outcome with a strings of other things and it’s very difficult for me to separate it from everything else unless I’m in a conversation with somebody else. If I’m in conversation then I can meet them right where they’re at with whatever I got. But if I’m trying to create a speech or write something that is totally self-directed, it’s really hard. Do you have any tips or any thoughts about that experience?

Jeff Goins: Yeah, I do relate the quote, it’s a writing quote about I don’t know anything about something until I read what I say, and I think that’s true. I think calling a verbal processor or kind of works. And there are advantages and disadvantages to that book that I mentioned, The Synergist.

Andrea: Yeah.

Jeff Goins: What you’re describing is the visionary personality. It’s somebody has a high threshold for ambiguity, lots of ideas, you can hold two opposing ideas in tension for as long possible. So you have to absolutely pick one of them. On the services, it can look like not being able to make up your mind or being flaky, and you know, there can be some of it if you’re not harnessing it. But there are some advantages to it where you can literally see solutions that other people can’t see because you can navigate the nuance and seeming contradictions of certain situations.

That’s always been surprising to me. Somebody will present a problem and they go “We don’t know what to do here. I don’t know what to do here.” And I go “Really? Just really this?” “Will that will work.” “Yes it will if you do it like this, this and this.” “What about that, I don’t know about that.” “That’s a detail but it’s okay,” like “It’s not an important one.”

The downside is when I have a conversation with my wife, I’ll see stuff like an argument that I don’t necessarily 100% mean, but I’s how I feel in the moment and she remembers all of it. And 30 minutes later, I’ll finally arrive with a thing and I was trying to say, I was like “Oh you know what, this is how I feel about this and I’m sorry about all the other stuff.” She’s “What do you mean you’re sorry about all that stuff? That hurts.”

Andrea: It still came out.

Jeff Goins: Yes, it still came out and I’m responsible for that and you know navigating that is challenging. But I’ve realized that there are some like this is how I made and I can harness this but there are some inherent advantages to being this way. I mean, that book is really interesting you know. He talks about how visionaries, basically, the traits of visionaries are they waffle from one extreme of commitments to another being super over committed to being way under committed.

And I’ll just go “Yeah, I wanna do that. Why am I doing this? Why am I doing a book signing?” “Well, because three months ago you said you wanted to do a bunch of book signing.” “When did the book came out?” And that’s what I’m excited about. And you get bored with the details. You talk to think and I think that’s an interesting way of thinking about it.

When I sit to think in a room, I kind of come up with an idea but then when I talk it out and I share and I get feedback on it that’s when I’m really forced to figure out how this works. You know visionaries also want to own what they’re working on. They don’t want to pursue somebody else’s vision, they want to do their own even if it’s not as good, the fact that they get to own it is important. They don’t like structures to kind of abhor that. Yeah, it can be a challenge, but I’m realizing there are some advantages.

So it’s like helping people that I worked with and people that love me, you know, I can harness these advantages and disadvantages and ways that better serves them. But I can also communicate with them why I am this way. I do like that concept of the leaky filter. I heard of a researcher named, _____ talked about it. And it is this idea that if you’re in hyper focused mood, you are missing other opportunities that come along. And at the same time, you could be so distracted that all of this input is coming and you’re not filtering it. So what I’m not saying is like being in a state of destruction is a good thing, it’s not. That’s no filter at all. It is good to have a filter for your inputs.

I have realized that having a Facebook app in my phone is mostly a horrible idea because it’s so much input all the time and it’s not good for me, it’s so distracting. I would spend hours on it literally doing nothing, “What am I scrolling to see? I don’t know.” And so you’ve got to have a filter but there has to be ways to penetrate. It has to be leaky and all I know is that every great opportunity that’s come my way, pretty much any significant accomplishment I can think of that was an idea that came to me while I was doing something else.

And so being open to opportunities, especially an entrepreneur is very, very important. But I’d say for any kind of creative, being open to inputs while you’re working on something else is super important. Don’t miss those opportunities, but I also think you’ve got to know what to do with it. So for me, my best ideas for my next book come when I’m working on my current book about at 51% mark of the book, right I’m over halfway through. It’s no longer fun. It’s no longer new, now it’s just work.

I mean, it’s kind of fun but it’s not as fan as it was when it was in the first 10% and this could be anything. Now, this is something. I’ve got a show up every day and now I’ve got a deadline and it’s a commitment. So I will get an idea for my next book at that point. The two extremes that I would do, “OK, forget this. Now, I wanna do this, right?” But you’re already finished anything doing that.

Andrea: Exactly.

Jeff Goins: I’m interested in finishing things including work that’s going to make an impact not just teasing the next idea but never completing anything. The other extreme would be “Nope, put your head down. Forget about everything. Shot the door or close out everything and work on this. And the work itself would suffer as a result because I was completely cutting out inputs and I was losing esteem. I was not being stimulated from other ideas.

So what I will do now is that I’ll be working on the book, I’ll get an idea. I’ll read an article. I’ll kind of tease the tangent for a few minutes and I’ll just write it down. I’ll put it in Evernote, I’ll say “Hey, I love you. I will come back.” And you know probably 90% of the time; the idea is not as good as it felt in the moment when I was simply procrastinating.

But here’s the thing, every single book that I’ve written, as you’ve mentioned I’ve written five, except for the first one obviously, but every single, you know that the next four books that idea came to me while in the middle of another book. So I would have missed that idea if I didn’t have a leaky filter and wasn’t allowing some inputs at that time when I was supposed to be hyper focusing on something. So I just let them in, I write it down, and I set them aside and I say, “I’ll come back to you later.”

Andrea: Yeah, yeah that’s so important. Do you find that it’s just more fun to think and it’s harder to finish the book because now it’s the, I don’t know…

Jeff Goins: I think it’s scary to finish. I mean, yeah it’s fun to dream up on new things but there’s also… I don’t know for me, I like committing to things. It’s easy and I’m happy to do that and then as I’m realizing the cost of that commitment, I’m going…like for example, last week I did a book signing at a local Barnes & Noble and I committed to like three months beforehand because I got a schedule and I’ve got do all that.

I wake up Monday morning and I go “Oh crap, I got a book signing today.” That means I got to get shower before my son gets up. I got to iron my shirt because I got to wear something other than a t-shirt. That’s means, I got to do this and I’ve got to get a lunch at this time and that also means that maybe nobody will show up. And I would have wasted an hour and a half of my time. That just would feel embarrassing to me and the bookstore who ordered a hundreds books. They’re going to be mad at me and I’m not really a real author; and people would probably see this on social media. It’s like I find every reason in the world to hide.

And I’m like “Well, you committed to it so here we go, get up.” So I think like how to do that because I didn’t you know, Barnes & Noble would be calling me saying “Where are you?” And I’m just going to not show up. But even though in the middle of the book projects or any kind of projects where you’re holding yourself accountable, it’s so easy to let that fear of finishing, which I think it starts like those voices get really, really loud of like that 51% mark, you are at the top of the hill and the momentum is taking over. There’s no way to escape and you’re going down the hill now.

But all the fears, like you’re on the roller coaster ride like “Wait a minute, this might right at the top.” What your brain is telling you right now is you’re going to die right now and it’s your own fault. And you’re like “What can I do to get out of here right now?” I think most creative projects are that way. You get to a point and you’re afraid of all the bad things that could happen as a result of finishing it and it’s so much easier if you just start the next thing. Because when you’re starting something, you’re not really thinking about of how you’re going to finish it. It’s just exciting.

It reminds me of that scene in Goodwill Hunting where Matt Damon was talking to Robin Williams as his therapist. And Matt Damon says “Well, I met a girl.” And therapist says “Yeah, how was that? And he says “Oh she’s great. She’s amazing.” You know and they went out one day and everything about this girl was perfect. She was awesome and he got to ask her out again. He was like “I don’t think I wanna see her again.” He was like “Why not?” He goes “Right now this girl is perfect and I don’t want to mess that up.”

You know, it’s this question of when I’m starting something, it feels perfect. It feels flawless to me and I don’t want to mess up that purity. In reality, it’s not perfect. It just feels that way. It’s just an idea like ideas don’t change the world, action does. I become less precious about my ideas over the years because the ideas don’t matter, the execution of the ideas is what actually impacts other people’s lives. But yeah, there’s this feel like I could mess this up, whereas right now, to me, it feels perfect and I just want this feeling of novelty to last because it’s really nice.

And going on a first date with somebody, you know, being head over heels is way different than being in your time of marriage and struggling with time this month to go on a date. But what would you rather have; a memory of a wonderful first date, or a lifelong partner?

Andrea: Totally, yeah. OK, so when you are in that moment of trying to decide, you’re not really trying to decide whether or not you’re going to go to Barnes & Noble, but in a sense, you are. In a sense, you’re facing that fear and whatever and I _____ before you want to outrun fear, move fast that it didn’t catch you.

Jeff Goins: Yeah.

Andrea: But besides to your commitment to the fact that you committed, what is it inside of you that makes you say “No, I’m doing this.”

Jeff Goins: Part of it is the fact that it’s public. So if I don’t do it, I’m going to embarrass myself and that’s a big deal to me. It’s not a big deal to everybody but my personality is an entertainer kind of personality, so I’m very interested in achievement, success, and the appearance of success. So there’s _____, or it would have been better that I just hide and let people think I am just an author than do the book signing and nobody show up.

So part of it makes me do it is, what I’m doing and what I try to do with all my work is I’m practicing in public. This is something I talk about in the book and it’s just an important theme that I tried to embody for the past six years. When you practice in public, you’re doing a couple of things and this is like blogging, if you’re a musician, you could be street performing. It’s simply doing your work in some public setting where a few people will see.

On one hand, if you’re a _____ musician, you don’t need to be opening for _____ right away. But you could be booking shows in local bars where 15 and 20, 30 people might see it. And what you’re trying to do is you’re trying to sort to feedback loops so that you could do your work and immediately get feedback on and then improve on it. So blogging for me was this. I was practicing with folks and speaking engagement services.

Podcasting is probably the hardest for me because there are skills that I want to get better. And yes, I could sit in a room by myself and practice, ensuring questions or practice giving a speech or whatever, but I’m actually not going to get as good at the activity unless I’m doing it in some public venue. Or if I fail, there’s a cost to it. And so I bring more of my A-game partly because I’m a verbal processor. I bring more of my A-game when I have to perform, when I have to do it in public.

So practicing in public, I think makes you better, faster, and it also has its beautiful byproduct where if you do your job well eventually, you’ll build an audience. So you don’t have to worry about getting good and then promoting your work and selling it to an audience because they’ve seen you practicing for the past few years and they know how good you’ve gotten and they’ve been following along cheering you the whole way.

And obviously the risk of that is some people may see you in the middle of that going “Well, you’re not that good.” And “That’s true but I’m going to be better tomorrow.” So I think for me what makes me follow through is there are two things. One, you give your word and this like you got to do this. Like my schedule has gotten kind of crazy and I had an appointment this morning at 9 o’clock but I’m not taking my son to school.

So yesterday, my sister reached out to a friend of mine where I’m scheduled a podcast interview with him and say “Hey, we’re doing a reschedule.” And he texted me like “You’re rescheduling me a day before?” And I was like “No, I can’t do that like I will find a way to be there.” There’s just something in me that if I commit to it, good or bad, right or wrong, I’m going to have to do it even if I don’t want to do it.

The other thing I remind myself is “When you are done with this, you feel good, right?” So every book signing and before book signing I’m like “Why am I doing a book signing. I hate book signing. This is stupid, I hate book signing. I’m never doing this. This is horrible.” And then afterwards, I’m like “This is good. I’m glad, I did this. We should more.” And to be honest podcast every week, every Thursday, I do bunch of interviews and every day I go, “Why am I doing this? This isn’t worth my time.” And afterwards I’d say “Hey, this is so good. I’m so glad I took it.” So I think it’s bad if I committed but also I understand that this is the scariest best way for me to get good at the craft that I’ve chosen.

When I was an actor in college, you know, I was acting in stage plays, you know theater, and you feel fear every time. You feel fear every time you’re performing for a live audience. But we do for weeks on them, night after night after night and we had a saying like “If you weren’t nervous something was going to go wrong, like it is good to have nerves. You’re supposed to have nerves, it gives you an edge. It gives your performance an energy. You didn’t want to be necessarily like throwing up, but you wanted to be nervous enough that you’re going to be focused and sharp.

So when I think about this, when I feel fear and anxiety before a book signing and interview, a speaking engagement, any public thing, a book launch, anything that I’m going to do where if it doesn’t go up people going to see it, I want to get out of them. I want to run. I’m afraid and I began to recognize fear, not as a signal that I should stop doing this work but as a sign that I’m on a right road headed to that familiar destination. I’m like “Remember this success that you had?” “Yup!” “Remember feeling fear right before it happened?” “Oh yeah.” And now I feel good and I go “Hey, there you are.” You know, it’s a friend now. It doesn’t look like an enemy.”

Andrea: Sure! I hesitate to do this but I want press in a little bit further on this because I know that you’re a person of faith and I have this feeling that it goes deeper than that, that you not only are wanting to succeed that the fears going to help you succeed at what you’re doing. It kind of get you to this point where you have to be willing to sacrifice the fact that you might fail in front of people in order to serve people.

Jeff Goins: Hmm

Andrea: In other words, you love people more than you fear them.

Jeff Goins: Yeah. I mean, I think I heard _____ say this one and I thought this is out. He was talking about marketing and he was talking about appealing to people’s motives. And as a marketer, you need not to be appealing to people with no blur motives and you know we were talking about nonprofits and his work for nonprofits like “We want to serve the greater good. We want to be at this mission. We want to impact people.” Those are good things but you assume that people are giving to a nonprofit because they want to be a part of that vision.

And sometimes the answer is like they want to give $30 a month to an orphan in Africa because it makes them feel a little bit less guilty about their short circumstances, which sounds horrible, right? And somebody was like “Really?” People aren’t good or not bad, people are mixed, and I think that’s true and I hope that doesn’t sound too cynical. I don’t mean for it to sound cynical, I just know myself and I know that in any situation there’s that angel on the shoulder, the devil on the shoulder.

So yeah, I go into situations and, you know, I do love people. I like being around people but I also like the feeling that I get to help somebody, like I like that feeling. And sometimes it’s an unhealthy thing; it’s a _____ of anything where I need to feel useful. And I’ve realized that in friendships, I start to feel disconnected from a friend or a peer when I feel like I’m no longer able to help them. Like now we’re just friends and healing message of the three is that you are loved of who you are and not what you do.

And I’m like “Yeah, but I should do something, right?” “You need something from me.” It’s kind of like broken unhealthy desire to perform and continue to prove your worth. I think because you’re brought up the faith thing, I love people because I know that I’m loved by God. And I also know that I didn’t really do anything to deserve that love and it’s a humbling feeling. When you are loved in a pure way by anyone or anything and you let yourself feel that love, the next response is to share that love. Not just reciprocate it and love that person back, but to spread the gift.

I mean that’s how I feel. That’s why people get married and the love each other well and then they’re like “We should have kids because we want this to grow.” Yeah, I would say, beyond the success and beyond that, the thing that I have been grappling with over the past couple of years is what does it mean to be successful? And I think this is an idea that we get wrong, particularly we think about influence like legacy is what people say about you after you’re gone.

This is such like an egotistic, like you’re still worried about what would people say about me and I don’t think that what’s true legacy is. I think true legacy is not about people caring on your work in your name or your name being on a building or something or people talking about you. I think true legacy is that the investments that you made in another people over the course of your lifetime then taking that and doing something better and more significant than you could ever do.

When I was in college, I spent two and a half years trying to create and honor code in our college, which is basically a code of conduct regulated by other students, where you know somebody’s cheating or there’s a process for how this is going to be dealt with. I got probably a hundred drafts of this 20-page document doing again and again to get everybody to like it.

And in the last day of school, basically, I am brought this before the faculty and they approved it and then I realized, all they’ve done is approve the document. Now, we have to carry this out. I can’t do the work, like I’m done. I have to leave. And so I had to pass ton on this other guy name Josh who had to actually implement these things and that was just idea. Years later I came back to my old college and I saw this thing called the “Honor Code” in every single classroom, and I was both appealing because I was a part of that and also humbling because it wasn’t just me.

And so to me legacy is about being faithful to whatever gifts you’ve been given, sharing those, investing those in the people’s lives and then knowing that they’re going to carry out that work in ways that will shadow your work. Legacy is not just about what you do, right? It’s about what you leave behind, those can either be at offices, buildings that eventually fall apart and rot and whatever or they can be seeds. I think legacy is about investing in people so that things can grow.

You know, in the Bible, Jesus tells His disciples; He says “You will do even greater things than I will do.” I was like “This is like Jesus.” They’re going to do better things that I will do? I think that’s really interesting and important and it’s true that they did. And that’s what good, healthy leadership and legacy looks like I think. It’s about investing another people, and not because you want them to say nice things about you, but because you love people, hopefully because you know that you yourself are loved and you want to invest on the projects and ideas of other people so that those things can continue without you.

By the way when I went back to college, I saw the “honor code” my name isn’t on there. There’s not like a history book that says Jeff Goins, none of that. If anything, a lot of the credit went to the guy who actually carried it out. And I just realized like in all of our striving to do great things, we all die with a little bit of the music still left in us like that’s by design. We all die right on the edge of the promise land with one more step to take, one more project to do. I think there’s this idea that we’ll be on our deathbeds going “I did all the things that I wanted to do.” That’s not the way this works.

If you did all the things that you want to do, you were thinking too small. You need to have such a big idea, such a big dream. Your calling needs to be something that requires the work of other people generations of other people that carry out. So by the time this thing is done, people have forgotten your name. And if you’re chasing something like that then you’re a part of something really big and important and purposeful.

Andrea: Amen! Alright, thank you so much, Jeff. I could sit here and chat with you all day. But you’ve been so generous with your time.   Thank you so much for sharing your insights and your experience that the influencer listening. I appreciate all that you do.

Jeff Goins: You bet, totally my pleasure. Thanks for having me, Andrea. I love your questions. You’re great on that.

Andrea: Thank you! Well, I hope that you enjoyed that as much as I did. Obviously, I really enjoy just digging in to how people think and the way that they are and what makes them tick and how to navigate this creative life which is why I’m so drawn to just podcast the Portfolio Life. I will link to that in the show notes along with some of the books that he mentioned. Most certainly, above all, his book; Real Artists don’t Starve, Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age.

So pick up your copy of Real Artists don’t Starve. Check out the show notes or list of other resources that we mentioned in the podcast and make your voice matter more!




Do you want to make a great first impression? Know what you’re going to say before someone asks, “What do you do?” Sign up for the Nail Your Elevator Pitch 5 Day Challenge today. (October 23-27, 2017)






How a Killer Elevator Pitch Could Change Everything

Voice Studio 26

4 years ago I was introduced to the concept of an “elevator pitch.” It’s a 20-30 second statement about who you are, what you offer and who you serve. The funny part was that I wrote about 15 elevator pitches for different aspects of who I am and what I could do. The hard part was that I didn’t want to be put into a box because I knew I had a lot to offer, and yet by not making one clear pitch, I was saying that I really didn’t know who I was or what I was all about. How can other people know if they want to work with me if I can’t say what I do or who I am?

A KILLER elevator pitch that intrigues and invites others to get to know you and your business better, but it also helps YOU be able to figure out who you say that you are. What if your answer could be so clear, succinct and powerfully authentic that you magnetize your ideal partners, clients and collaborators? Well, I have something that could help!

Listen to this short episode and then join me for the Nail Your Elevator Pitch 5-Day Challenge. I’ll be offering tips and feedback on your own elevator pitch in a Facebook group for 5 days. By the end of the week you’ll have a better idea of who you say that you are so you can attract the right people to you and your work.

Mentioned in this episode

Play here (the red triangle below), on iTunes, Stitcher or TuneIn Radio (Amazon Alexa) or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Are you ready to create and deliver your Killer Elevator Pitch? I’m excited to offer a FREE “Nail Your Elevator Pitch 5-Day Challenge,”October 23-27th, 2017. In just a few minutes a day we’ll take your boring answer to “what do you do?” to a wow-worthy status. I’ll be in the Facebook group every day to guide you through the process and offer strategic feedback, specific to YOU, so by the end of the week, you’ll be ready to rock your next cocktail party.

Don’t miss this free and easy opportunity to take your self-awareness and personal brand to a whole new level! Sign up today.


Earn the Right to Be Direct by Connecting First

Episode 24 with Amber Hurdle

Amber Hurdle is a teen mom turned powerhouse businesswoman who has worked with international celebrities, Fortune 500 companies, and women in business worldwide. Whether she is empowering female entrepreneurs, teaching them out of the box business strategies, or energizing and educating leadership within an organization, Amber’s straight-shooting “velvet machete” and warm personality never fail to motivate others to strategically up their game in business and in life.

Find the book and all of the amazing bonus resources at

Find Amber’s Bombshell Business Woman podcast here.

If you’re struggling to gain traction with your personal brand, cut through the creative chaos with the free Focus Your Brand DIY guide.

Play here (the red triangle below), on iTunes, Stitcher or TuneIn Radio (Amazon Alexa) or wherever you listen to podcasts.


Andrea: Well hello, Amber Hurdle, and welcome to the Voice of Influence podcast.

Amber Hurdle: Hey Andrea, thanks for having me. I’m very excited to get to chat with your today.

Andrea: Yes, I am too! And I’m really looking forward to diving into your book, your new book. It’s The Bombshell Business Woman book, and I’m really looking forward to that. But before we do that, why don’t you give the influencer listening just a snap shot of who you are and what you’re doing right now?

Amber Hurdle: OK, well I am probably like a lot of your listeners, a very busy woman, because I play a lot of roles in life. Professionally, I’m an ICF certified coach. I do brand consulting, both with Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies, looking up for brand from the inside out. And also with small businesses more of creating their visual brand or their brand messages or even rebranding so that’s the professional side.

But I’m also a mother. I have two children and a step daughter. My step daughter is married and has two children, who are my grandchildren. My husband and I are very involved. We have lots of friends. I’m one of six kids. And so I’m sure like a lot of the people who are listening, I kind of go full tilt all the time and everybody will tell you like “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Andrea: Yes, I think Bombshell is a perfect word for you and the people that you’re serving. That’s awesome!

Amber Hurdle: Well, the Bombshell phrase, you know, I made that. I redefined that term to be a Bold, Brave Female Entrepreneur because I saw a lot of women out there like me who was just going all the time and running like crazy and yet they still always felt like they weren’t great businesswomen, or they were letting their kids down.

But they always found that one thing, an area that they could pick on themselves and I thought “No, we’re changing that.” Instead of saying “Look at this one thing I can get done today.” Let’s look at all the things that you did to impact your world uniquely. And so yeah, I refined that term and I hope to embody that most days, some days better than others, right?

Andrea: I love your definition of the Bombshell. It’s like somebody that’s got all this energy and passion and drive, and at the same time a very successful maybe even. But at the same time like what did you say was like one of the examples you gave was questioning the paper plates.

Amber Hurdle: Paper plate mom?

Andrea: Yes. OK explain that real quick.

Amber Hurdle: I have found that for those have gotten the privileged copy of the book, they have been emailing me or text messaging me saying “Oh my gosh, I’m a paper plate mom.” And so I just want explain what that is real quick. So you know, you’re a woman, you’re taking care of your family, you’re taking care of your business, or your employees are counting on you. You’re providing this income for your team which then they get to go home and take care of their families and participate in their community.

You are a community participant. You’re a friend to many people and then you go to your kids’ class party for the first time in a while because of course you have to run your business during the day. And you know, Suzy’s mom comes in and she’s got like these cupcakes and it’s like on a three-tier platter and there’s like crystals and there’s the school mascot on it’s all in the school colors and then your kids signed up for the paper plates, like again.

And so in that moment you break down and you’re like “I’m not a good enough mother.” “Look at those cup cakes.” “My kid is going to be scarred for life. I’m gonna have to pay for therapy because I’m a paper plate mom.” And that’s so ridiculous. I mean your kid, I promise and especially with a boy who does not care that they brought the paper plates. Like they’re just happy that you’ve got to show up to their party and probably they’re just happy that they get to have a party and they’re not working on schoolwork and they’re not thinking about the fact that Suzy’s mom brought cupcakes and you brought paper plates.

Get over it. Think about all the amazing things that you’ve been designed to do that you get to do because of your position and because of the zest that you have for life and what did that look like to your children. They get to watch you do that. They get to watch you become be the best person of yourself through you living out these gifts and serving other people. They don’t care about paper plates.

Andrea: Such a good word. You know, it’s so tempting to do that comparison game. And really, it’s not just about comparison because we can compare all we want. The question really is are we judging each other based on our comparisons? And I think that happens a lot where we do judge ourselves or somebody else based on a comparison. And so one of the messages that I heard you talked about a lot is the importance of encouraging each other and being on the same team. Why is that so important for women in particular to have that mindset when it comes to business?

Amber Hurdle: Well, we’re a little bit behind the eight-ball as it is. I mean, statistically, we create a ton of jobs and we have a ton of businesses but unfortunately the men are the ones who are making all the money. And that could be for a variety of reasons. I mean just disparities and access to learning and education to mentorship. You know they’re different things and I was like to point out, I’m not picking on them. These is just we’re here right now and I don’t think there’s any conspiracy that men are trying to hold us down or anything. It’s just historically, we’re behind and we’re just not there yet.

So why, if you’re already in such a small percentage of women who are creating revenue and running a successful business, why would you take that little energy you have to tear somebody else down when you can in turn say “Hey, how can I help you?” Like even if you’re on the same business, what it would look like? For example, I’ve got one Bombshell who might have to many massages booked that week at her saloon and spa.

So she will call her competing spa and say “Hey, do you have any openings? I’d like to send one of my customers over to you so that they can be taken care of?” It’s in that moment that the customer comes first that there’s a camaraderie and a support system between two women who are fighting like crazy to make a way from themselves and their family and there’s no drama associated whatsoever.

They’re not looking at each other like “Oh well, she does the same thing as I do so I’m gonna talk poorly about her and hope that she fails so that I could win.” It’s like “Hey, let’s win-win together. You’re gonna make some money this week. My customers are gonna be taken care of. They’re gonna be more loyal to me because I did that.” Like what’s wrong with that situation? And I think more women need to have that mindset of looking for the abundance and the opportunity instead of like closing their hands in scarcity and looking for ways to just double down and shut people out because of fear.

Andrea: Yeah that’s really good. I know that you do a lot of work outside of targeting or encouraging Bombshell women. I know that you’re working with companies that of course have both men and women working in them and for them. Why did you decide to focus your podcast, I didn’t mention that yet that you have the Bombshell Business Women podcast, and now this book on women, why women?

Amber Hurdle: I have always had a heart for women. Probably, if I had to pinpoint to two areas; one, I was a single mom and you know just going back to my teen mom story, it’s a different experience to be a woman because while I was clawing to just find a way to provide for my daughter, it was all on me. There was nobody there to bail me out. There was no real consequence for other people who should be doing what they’re supposed to be doing but weren’t, and so it all fell on me.

You know, I was asking my mentor and actually the gentleman who wrote the foreword to my book, I asked him the other day when we’re just talking about things, “Did you ever worry if your son forgot his lunch that day or not? Was that a stress for you during the day?” And he was like “Never.”

So I think women put so much more pressure on ourselves to be everything to everybody, whereas a man can kind of compartmentalize a little bit more. I mean, it’s just how we operate differently and I’m speaking in generalities and nobody, you know, email Andrea and say “Amber is being one way or the other.” I’m just saying in general. That’s kind of how things work. So I think there’s just having a perspective of being female, being a teen mom, or being a single mom.

And then the second part is I have worked in higher education and so the gals who were in school would see me and they started reaching out to me just looking for advice and mentorship. And then eventually, when I worked at Cumberland University started the Women’s council for leadership and philanthropy. So I paired professional women in business, I’m talking about high ranking women, with female students who aspire to be in a career like them. And we had events and we had guidance and facilitation of how their mentor-mentee relationships go. Those female students are still in my life and they still stay in touch with me and I get to follow them now.

So I saw firsthand the power of a woman investing in another woman and that forever changed me. So I’ve always continued to have a student that I’ve either you know paid to be an intern or that I’ve taken into my wing to mentor and so many women have done that for me over the years. Now, I just have this huge platform. I can do it in such a greater way than one at a time.

Andrea: So let’s go into a conversation more about voice for a little bit because we actually met in a training about the Fascinate Assessment and I absolutely love the Fascinate Assessment and its ability to take the personality and describe how it’s relate your voice, how you’re expressing yourself through that. What is your Fascinate Archetype and the advantages that make that up?

Amber Hurdle: Well, I am a catalyst, so that is a combination of a primary trigger of passion and a secondary trigger of innovation. When I am communicating with other people or at my highest level of influence, the things that can help me be more powerful in that massaging is by making sincere emotional connections through that passion trigger and through thinking of out-of-the-box strategies through that innovation trigger.

Anybody who knows me would be like “Oh, Amber doesn’t even know where the box is, like she didn’t even know a box was in the equation.” So I feel like it was very spot on. I love that test because it’s not psychologically how we perceived ourselves. It’s a very good assessment of how other people see us at our greatest.

Andrea: So I know that in your book you talked about the fact that you have used this phrase or other people have used the phrase “velvet machete” about your personality. I love it and when I first heard it, I loved it. Please tell us about what it means and what this looks like in your conversations?

Amber Hurdle: Well actually, I was given that term way back in the day when I was a personal trainer for a short stint. And the person who dubbed me the “velvet machete” basically said that I said what needed to be said. I didn’t hold back but I did it from a place of love. It kind of stung a little bit but they knew that it was really because I cared about them and I wanted them to meet their goals. And so as soon as it stung, it kind of like also felt good.

So what that looks like in my coaching or my consulting or even when I’m speaking is I just shoot straight. I’m not going to sugarcoat things. I’m not going to dance around an issue. We’re going to dive right in because that’s the time. Time is money whether that’s small business or big business and we need to find solutions quickly so that we can change the trajectory of whatever problem I got brought in to solve and start making progress.

So I think not all people are for me and that’s okay. And I think that’s one of the things that Sally Hogshead talks about when she’s talking about the Fascination Advantage® Assessment, you have to find your people and my people want that. My people don’t have time for niceties and not that I’m not nice. I hope you can attest to the fact that I’m nice but a lot of people might tear around something. I’m just going to say it and then help whoever it is that I’m helping find the solution and take action towards fixing that problem. I do it out of love.

Andrea: You know, I’m thinking about how really it plays out in the structure of your book, because in chapter I, you kind of described what the Bombshell Business Woman is and say yeah, that’s me. And then you take us back in chapters II and III to your story, your story as a teen mom and the struggles that you had. So you sort of softening not in a manipulative way but to prepare us for the fact that you’re going shoot it straight through the rest of the book.

Amber Hurdle: Right.

Andrea: And I loved it. So you cover such a wide range of topics from your own story to company culture, to branding, and to how to work with vendors. Why did you write this particular book with that particular scope?

Amber Hurdle: Well, I didn’t want to do a deep dive on one topic because what I have found is that my Bombshells need a lot of help in a lot of areas to go from where they are to where they want to go. And let me explain that a little bit. My clients tend to have been in business for three to five years. They typically have at least three employees, oftentimes they can have several employees or subcontractors especially when you think about like a law firm or spa. You know, how many massage therapist and hair stylists and, you know, institutions you might have.

So what happened was they were a part of another person’s company and maybe they found out “You know, I’m really great doing hair and my book of business is full and the only way that I’m ever going to make more money doing this is to open up my own shop and to have other people underneath me.” Or maybe they just want the freedom or maybe they just have always dreamed to being a business center.

And so they left that company and started their own because they were good at their trade but they never really slowed down to lay the foundation of a healthy and successful business. They never really created a company culture. So ultimately, they struggle when they’re trying to market consistently because they can’t communicate those core pieces of their business that are so important to them that is basically left up to interpretation to every graphic designer or website designer or whoever they try to hire to help them.

And so between putting processes into place and teaching how to put together a basic business plan, goal setting, networking, and all these things that maybe they never slowed down to put a plan behind, this book is for them. Now, well I deep dive in the future? That’s left to be seen. Probably so, I definitely know I have a leadership book coming next because I have neglected my corporate clients this year in favor of really deep diving with my Bombshells. But I think you know just to address wide and tell my story first because you cannot compartmentalize business from life.

Your life is the owner of your business and so those things just merged together and we all have stories. You know, yeah I was a teen mom and now I have an amazing life. That’s the short version of it but I’m not special because I did that, like there are so many stories out there. There are so many people who have overcome many things and sometimes people use that to fuel them and to inspire them and even sometimes say like “I’ll show you world.” And other times, people allow that to drag them down or they say, “Well, I could do this if these things weren’t true.”

So I felt like it was important, just kind of part of my velvet machete that I say “OK, let’s keep it real. This is what happened.” And that was a hard story to tell. It’s been a long time since I was a teen mom. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to think about you know waking my dad up and telling him because my mom was like “I can’t know when your dad not knowing.” You know and looking my parents in the eye and explaining “Hey, I know I’m in charge of all these things at school and I’m a leader in my high school, but guess what, everything is about to change.”

And you know having to unload that on them and then also to re-experience the love and support that they returned to me. I mean, that was just very overwhelming, so I feel like it gave me a little bit of an opportunity to go back to a place that many Bombshells are right now. And it also gave me the opportunity to say, “So whatever it is that you’ve gone through or you are going through, there is no excuse. Now, let’s get to work. Here’s what you need to do. We have to work through these things. You have to find a therapist. You have to journal. You have to do whatever it is that you need to do.”

And I’m not ashamed to say, I spent seven years in my 20’s in therapy. Seven years, OK? So I didn’t do all this figuring out of life on my own and I still don’t, like I still don’t have everything figured out. It’s a journey, but it’s a journey that I’m willing to accept because I’m not going to let the actions of other people or decisions determine what my future impact on humanity in serving other people in this world is going to be.

Andrea: All right, I love it! If that’s not inspiration, I don’t know what it is. I think that one of the things is that you really accomplish in any of us. Accomplish by sharing the story of our struggle especially our struggle starting out is that it turns into a redemptive message when we’re able to do something with it and we’re able to show people that “Yeah, you know what, it doesn’t have to stay like that forever.” Just like what you’re talking about and I find that to be incredibly inspiring and powerful in bringing people out of the woods and having them look around and say, “You know what, I can make a path through this.”

You really did have me, in one page, I cried and then I laughed and then I cried again. In one page and it was the page about you telling you that. All right, so on page 21, I’m going to just quote you “Once you design your plan for your unique business, you’ve done the heavy lifting for good. From there, you can tweak the essentials as your business evolves and grows. Once, you build the foundation, everything else starts to fall into place.”

I think this is a really great point and you’ve already touched on it a little bit, but would you take us deeper into why this is so important to design a plan, to understand your company culture, and brand message and all that from the foundational start of your business?

Amber Hurdle: Well, unless you want to run around like a crazy woman for the rest of your life, you will have to at some point delegate responsibilities and tasks to other people. If you are super clear on who you are as a business, like who you serve, how you do things uniquely then you can teach other people that. So they’re very clear on that. When you know the brand essence that you have, the way that you want people to think about you, the type of experience that you want people to have when they do business with you then your employees can help you communicate that experience and create that experience to your customers and that’s going to help your customer service. And that’s going to help your repeat business and that’s going to help your word of mouth and make your marketing more clear.

And again, I touch on vendors earlier and the most recent episode of my podcast at the time of this recording is my rebrand with Renae Keller Interior Design. And I did get into a lot of these into the show notes because we had to hand off her culture and her brand messaging and her visual brand guide. We started with the graphic designer who helped us create the visual side of things but then we had to hand it off to the videographer. We had to hand it off to the website designer. We had to hand it off to the person who was helping her create marketing materials. We had to hand it off a magazine that she was being featured in all immediately.

So Renae could have started from scratch and explain what her business is all about to all of these people and hopefully set it kind of sort of the same way so that it will have a cohesive and unifying effect. Or she just did all the heavy lifting and she literally hands over all her documents and says “Make this happen.” And they get it because everybody is reading the same song with the same instructions and the same essence. And so falling down helped you enable other people to elevate your brand that it also helps keep your sanity because there’s nothing more frustrating than just trying to take stabs blindfolded at what it is that you’re supposed to be doing.

If you don’t know what goal that you’re moving towards in terms of your company mission or even your annual goals, like in 2017 what are your goals? Well, mine was to publish this book. My publisher said, “Well do you want to be in the October sales catalog?” This is in January that’s probably a bit of stretch “Or do you want it to be in the January catalog?” And I said “Well, at the end of last year, what are my Glamour Goals,” which is the process I teach in The Bombshell Business Woman, “Was that my book would be published in 2017.”

So I might die trying but let’s make it happen and it did, because next year’s goals are going to be impacted by whether or not this book is published. Last year, starting my podcast was a huge, huge goal because that enabled me to really get even further clear on the content of this book. So everything builds on each other and if you aren’t clear on your foundational elements then like what are you even doing other than going crazy.

Andrea: And probably driving everybody else crazy around you.

Amber Hurdle: Oh yeah, especially your employees, like you want to see an employee quit. And I know not all of your listeners have employees and I certainly have plenty of listeners and people who are in my audience who are thinking about starting a business or it is just them. And so these concepts are transferable.

Again, a lot of my one-on-one clients have employees and so you want to see an employee run the opposite direction from you and your brand and all the time that you’ve invested them in terms of training and all that kind of stuff. They’ll run away if you seem uncertain. Because if they don’t know where they fit into the big picture, they’re going to go find a place where they can make sense of their life.

Andrea: So how do you handle that if you’re a business and maybe you do have a business or you play a leadership role in a business, a major leadership role or some sort of an ownership or management that you know that you probably need to get more clear on some of these foundational elements. But it’s so hard to take time away from, maybe you’re super busy and you don’t even feel like you need it. I mean, why is it important to still put the time and effort into that?

Amber Hurdle: I think it’s an issue of sustainability. You might be busy and that’s typically, you know, my typical client is insanely busy and you know the very first thing that I do with them is map out their calendar for the entire year. We talked about busy season and the lighter season and when realistically you’re going to get stuff done.

But you will never be able to create the margin that you need to have a sane life and to actually next-level your business so you can create even more revenue because now you have space for creativity or to even delegate things to let you operate more as CEO or as the genuine general manager and not as the person who’s going in and delegating and popping in to fix things because nobody really knows the direction and you are personally a required element to keep things going.

And some of us want that in our business like obviously my brand is Amber Hurdle Consulting, so Amber is going to be doing a lot of the work. But if I wasn’t able to hand things off to the team members and the vendors that I have in place for me to able to do only the things that Amber can do, there’s no way. I mean, I would just hang it up. I’ll just sit by the pool every day and be thankful for the bliss life that I have. There’s no way that from a sustainability standpoint, anybody can maintain a level of joy and fulfillment from their work if all they’re ever doing is chasing their tail.

Andrea: Oh yeah and if you’re spending all of your time, if you’re spending so much of your life in that business, in that job then why wouldn’t you want that.

Amber Hurdle: Yeah and I’m just going to say like for real you can miss one episode of The Bachelor to sit down for an hour and work on some of this stuff. And it might take a few months for you to get it done but that time invested is like one minute of planning, saves 10 minutes in execution. I think it’s how that works. And I’m a psycho planner, probably too much sometimes if I was being real. I like to plan and so I understand that’s natural for me and that’s not natural for other people. But find resources like my book or find a time strategy system that works for you. Keep trying until whatever works naturally for you, a system you will actually use. And I talked about time management versus time strategies in my book as well.

I think time management is a misnomer. There’s no way you can manage time. You can only be strategic with the time that you have ahead you. Those are key things that I think in our Snapchat, microwave world, we forget that we can slow down and we can be present with a bigger picture and not just that exact moment and the selfie before us.

Andrea: Well, when it comes to you know, creating this foundation, you make a distinction between company culture and the brand. Would you share with us what distinction is and why it’s important to understand it?

Amber Hurdle:   Absolutely! So your company culture is like the family rules of your business. It’s the essence of who you are and so that would entail things like your company mission, your company vision, so like why are you a company? What do you aspire to be as a company, your value. So again, the family rules. I mean, what’s most important to you? How do you make your decisions? How do you understand how you’re going treat each other? Is that integrity? Is that an example of excellence?

I give examples; I believe American Express who I use to talk about these values and then also your service standards. Do you always expect your team members to smile? Let them know that on the front in, like that shouldn’t be a rule that should just be understood, follow up or have ownership of problems. Those are all service standards that you can establish.

So at that point, you can be consistent with your decision making whether you have to make a hard decision like letting go of an employee. You can point to “Well, you know here’s what we agreed to on the front in when you became a part of this work family. These are the ways that we live here and this is just a non-negotiable and so I’m afraid at this point, we’re gonna have to part ways because I can only have people who are going to live out this culture in my business.”

In the same way, you can praise somebody in front of everybody if that’s something that they enjoy or drop them a note if they’re more of a private person. And say “You know, in this particular situation,

you exemplified this particular value.” Or “I have yet to see anybody uphold this service basic so intentionally.” And so it gives you an opportunity to encourage and edify your employees as well and it also helps you make decisions if it’s just you. If you don’t have any employee, is this opportunity a good one for me?

You know, somebody reached out and they want strategically partner on this particular project, is this fit for me? Will you go back to your culture? Does it fit your vision? Does it fit your mission? Like what’s the expectation is that your customers have of you in your business? Is it going to distract from those things or will it strengthen those? So that’s like your ruler. That’s your company culture.
What do people believe about you? What do potential customers and customers think about you?

So when you think of Apple, what do you think of? They’re very specific of tangible things that we attached to a white apple with a bite out of it. That’s their brand but there’s a huge culture of innovation behind it. And everything that Steve Jobs created in this culture of excellence and you can’t mess with their phones. You can’t change the programming on it because they believe that simplicity is the most important thing and that will create a better end-users experience.

So because of that cultural belief, it then became a part of their brand that some people hate that. They’re like thin Android. I want to be able to do whatever I want to do with my phone. I love open source and so, good. Now, they’ve eliminated those people. They’re appealing to the people who think that elegance is simplicity and they just want their freaking phone to work or their computer to work you know. I mean, it differentiates you.

And then at the top of this business success pyramid that I talked about, you create that culture and you create the business brand that at each individual in your company, whether it’s just you or whether it’s lots of different employees or subcontractors. Everybody has a personal brand too and that’s where I know you’re an expert in. So I’ll leave that to your future episodes. But you know, what the people say about you as an individual and how does that fit into the business brand to strengthen up brand while honoring that culture.

Andrea: Thank you so much for that distinction. I really believe in that idea of understanding who you are so that you can express it accurately and I think it’s so often gets lost. We think we know who we are but can’t really quite articulate it.

Amber Hurdle: Yeah. But that’s why I test like the Fascination Advantage Assessment are so helpful because you know, we’ve lived with ourselves every single day of our entire lives, so it’s hard to see what other people find value in what it is that we do and how we interact with people on a daily basis.

Andrea: OK. So I love the red lipstick analogy in your marketing chapter. I think it’s super powerful and even if you’re a man listening right now, I think that you can get a lot out of this. So what is red lipstick marketing?

Amber Hurdle: OK, so my friends used to tease me that I would not even go out to my mailbox without a pair of big sunglasses on and some bright red lipstick, because I like to be very polished no matter who saw me when. And so I could have been like absolutely no makeup on, but I would put red lipstick on and it gave the illusion that I had pulled myself together. Not so much anymore. You will see me running all over running in Tennessee with a top knot in yoga pants and no makeup on, so like manager hopes if you ever see me _____.

But anyway, back then that matter a little bit more I guess in my 20’s. And so when I was trying to describe this to a one-on-one client a long ago, I told that story because I’m like “You’re over thinking this. Like you don’t have to put a full face and makeup on, just put on some red lipstick and do the one thing that’s gonna create the most amount of impact.” So in today’s world especially, oh my goodness, between these traditional marketing strategies that have been around for forever and then pairing it with new marketing strategies like digital media and content creation.

I mean, we weren’t thinking about producing podcast 10 years ago, like that wasn’t a thing. I mean, it was a thing but not in masses like it is now. You know, I just broke it down to three categories. So you pick just a couple of things out of your active marketing strategies, a couple items out of the passive marketing strategies and a couple items out of the keep-in-touch marketing strategies and then you do those things. And you do them well and you don’t worry about all the other things that you could be doing or everybody says you should be doing on every blog and every social media post that you’ve ever seen. Focus on these things for at least three months. You measure them. That’s very important. Is this working and how is it working?

At the end of that three-month period if it’s working, do more of it and fine tune it and get better at it. Be more strategic in how you’re doing it. And if it’s not working then ditch it and do something different. Or if it’s maybe just a onetime thing then you replace that onetime thing with maybe another flexible thing. But just put on the little red lipstick. Stop trying to like be Kim Kardashian with all of this extra shadowing and contouring and false eyelashes. It doesn’t really add any value to your business. It just keeps you busy in front of the makeup mirror all the time.

Andrea: Thank you for sharing that. I think it’s very impactful. You know, Amber, this is been such a fun discussion and you have given us so much. And yet, we barely dip our toe in all of the information that is in your book. So the influencer listening is dying to buy book now. When does it going to come out?

Amber Hurdle: Well, it launches officially on October 1st, so you can go to and there’s a link to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Books A Million or wherever it is that you like to buy your books. And you can preorder it before October 1st. But importantly go back to and then opt-in for the bonuses because for a limited time, I am also giving you a 40-page workbook that goes along with the books so that you can write all your notes and everything that I tell you to do in the book is actually going to also be in a workbook. You don’t have to write any margins in the actual book.

Remind me, Andrea, and I will send you that as well. And then there are 30-day affirmations so you can keep up your Bombshell journey with a daily positive sound bites to set your intention for the day. If you are a Christian or even not a Christian and just want to have some encouragement and something inspirational, there’s a seven-day biblical truths for Christian women in business. A seven-day devotional that are _____, just drawing on verses that have helped me remember like who God made me to be and to keep focused on that instead of beating myself up, like so many of us love to do at times.

And then we also created a book study guide. So there are two options there. If you wanted to do like a onetime meet up with a fellow fempreneurs. We described that to you and give you a facilitator’s guide. Or if you want to do a four-week weekly meet up, maybe you go to a girlfriend’s house, you meet at a coffee shop. Everybody brings their books and talks about how they’re implementing the strategies and you help each other and you mastermind. And really, I would love to see groups of women coming together to work through the Bombshell experience together because that is where the power really lies.

And so we are going to share like all different kinds of things, like what should you serve, or who’s house should be at and then we tell you if somebody’s monopolizing of the conversation, how do you handle that. So nothing has been left uncovered. So there is no reason to hesitate. You know, just go to your local Chamber of Commerce, or if you’re in an online group, you can maybe create a private Facebook group and work through this together. You can meet on Skype or Google Hangouts.

So many different online ways that you can meet in person and not physically be in person to walk through this with your fellow sisters. Women supporting women is probably one of the biggest messages that I have. And if we want to create a powerful financially sustainable business network, we have to start helping each other.

Andrea: Hmmm and all this for the price of one book.

Amber Hurdle: $14.99, I know. I tell people, I’m like “I’m giving away the farm.” This is what I feel called to do and there are not enough of us out there. I mean, there definitely other women speaking to female entrepreneurs. But in comparison to the number of men who are doing it, it’s a very small group. And so I just want to do everything I can to help people who are willing to invest in themselves and be successful.

Andrea: Awesome! OK so go to and get those bonuses, order that book, and order four or five of them because you’re going to need to do this with your friends.

Amber Hurdle: Well, I’ve got little secrets too. I mean, I called them my Bombshell boys. I have men who listen to my podcast. They take my advice. They email me and say “This is what I learned and this is how I fight it,” and they take my Bombshell Business Bootcamp. I mean, this is a book that speaks directly to women but a man can obviously find value in this. And even women or men in leadership and companies because we’re talking about hiring and firing and leadership and all different kinds of things.

Andrea: All right. Well, thank you so much for all of the value and wisdom that you brought to us today.

Amber Hurdle: Thank you, Andrea! I appreciate being a part of this and also for all that you’re doing to your listeners.






Turn Setbacks into Comebacks with Gus Gustafson

Episode 23

Gus Gustafson says he was raised in ‘Gus’ utopia’! His life had been perfect! He had great parents, great siblings and a great future. He was the biggest, fastest and strongest in his athletic family at his age. He had dreams of being the next Nebraska Cornhusker running back and then on to the NFL! That was his dream. That was his passion as a boy.

Then came a tragedy that Gus had to overcome! He suffered a horrible farm accident at the age of 9. The question was “How would he respond?” Could he turn this setback into a comeback?

His love for life, his passion for people and his determination to make a difference is evident. When you hear Gus share his funny, heart warming, challenging story of his life, you will feel invigorated and encouraged. If you are facing challenges in your life, he will help you gain real perspective and help you move through them.

Gus is not just a speaker, he has started three companies, he bought a company and turned it around and he has spent the last 23 years traveling around North America sharing his passion for people and life! He has faced so many real life challenges and business challenges, and can really engage with any audience.

Fully Armed is the title of his first book and Gus is currently working on a movie based on his life story.

Mentioned in this episode:

Play here (the red triangle below), on iTunes, Stitcher or TuneIn Radio (Amazon Alexa) or wherever you listen to podcasts.


Watch Gus tell his story here!

You can find much more on his YouTube channel.

Is the Pursuit of Justice Worth the Relational Mess?

Voice Studio 22

In this Voice Studio episode, Andrea tackles the question, “Is the pursuit of justice worth the relational mess?”

Mentioned in this episode:

Play here (the red triangle below), on iTunes, Stitcher or TuneIn Radio (Amazon Alexa) or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Bringing Hope to the Hopeless Around the Globe

Episode 22 with John Cotton Richmond of the Human Trafficking Institute

Are you overwhelmed by the problem of sex trafficking and forced labor in the world? Sometimes it feels like a hopeless reality. What can really be done to make a difference? Well, today I have a leader in the fight against human trafficking and he is on a mission to bring hope to this hopeless situation. Once you hear what he’s done for the fight in the U.S., you’ll see that with people like John at the head of the fight, it just might be possible.

John Cotton Richmond leads the Human Trafficking Institute as it works to combat slavery at its source. Numerous survivors of sex and labor trafficking have found victim-centered advocate in John. He has been named Prosecutor of the Year and expert for the United Nations and every trafficker’s worst nightmare by the head of the FBI’s human trafficking program.

Mentioned in this episode:

Play here (the red triangle below), on iTunes, Stitcher or TuneIn Radio (Amazon Alexa) or wherever you listen to podcasts.



Hey, hey! It’s Andrea and welcome to the Voice of Influence podcast. Today, I have with me John Cotton Richmond. I am really, really honored to have him on the show today because he is doing some amazing work, and has done some amazing work in the area of human trafficking and justice in general.

Aaron and I met John a couple of years ago at a workshop. I was immediately struck by, not only his authority and competency in this area but, his ability to communicate it very empathetically and truly care about the person that he’s talking to.

John leads the Human Trafficking Institute as it works to combat slavery at its source. Numerous survivors of sex and labor trafficking have found victim-centered advocate in John. He has been named Prosecutor of the Year and expert for the United Nations and every trafficker’s worst nightmare by the head of the FBI’s human trafficking program.

As you can tell, this is going to be a great interview. So let’s dive in.

Andrea: Well, John, welcome to the Voice of Influence podcast.

John:  Thank you so much! It’s great to be with you Andrea.

Andrea: Why don’t you introduce us to this idea of the Human Trafficking Institute, the human trafficking issue and why this all got started for you?

John: I think that it all starts with the realization that there are at least 20 million people in the world today who have the same problem. They don’t get to make the most basic decisions about their lives. Someone else decides when they wake up, where they work, and even who touches their bodies.   And I think it’s hard to sort of awaken ourselves to this reality that these people are trapped in modern-day slavery, and they’re trapped by a group of individuals who are traffickers, who are trying to profit by exploiting them.

As I began to be confronted with this over 15 years ago, I was in private law practice. My wife and I decided to move to India to help with International Justice Mission’s slavery work there and I got to direct their office and learned about forced labor in the Indian context and see and meet victims, see and meet traffickers and the law enforcement officers that we’re trying to intervene. And I was overwhelmed by the reality of the problem, by the scope of the problem.

And then I shifted to United States Department of Justice where I was a federal prosecutor for over a decade in a specialized human trafficking prosecution unit, and I started working sex trafficking and forced labor cases across the United States. And again, meeting with survivors every day, hearing their stories,


trying to figure out how do we bring their voice to courts so they can speak truths and let the world know what the traffickers have done to them so that we could stop and restrain them.

By doing that, I got to work with the United Nations on the human trafficking protocol and travel around the world training judges, prosecutors, and police. And through that we just begin to see these really predictable patterns and these proven strategies that can work to stop traffickers. And the Human Trafficking Institute was born out of the desire to help criminal justice systems in the developing world grow in their ability to stop traffickers and bring rescue to the victims.

Andrea: Where are you at with this Human Trafficking Institute at this point?

John: Human Trafficking Institute started just over a year and a half ago. I stepped down from the Department of Justice along with Victor Boutros, who was a federal prosecutor with me there and we’d worked cases, like we even tried a case together and Victor co-wrote The Locus Effect with Gary Haugen from International Justice Mission in which he has a ton of experience. And then we added to our team Dave Rogers who’s the former head of the FBI’s human trafficking unit out of their headquarters office. We worked together for years and we’re all in government and we come together with sort of these years of experience.

And the Human Trafficking Institute is actually going in and doing a few simple things. One is helping government establish specialized units so they can actually have people freed up to work these cases and then take them through an academy where they learn not just some sort of two or three days at a hotel conference room with Power Points but they really learn the way adults learn which is by digging into material over an extended period of time. It takes these specialized units through and advanced to county.

And the third thing is embed the inside of those units. Experienced and experts who have done these cases before who have gone to office with the specialized units and worked day in and day out with them as they work on these cases. And then wrapping around that the Human Trafficking Institute is to provide research, writing, and best practices in trying to move the thought leadership in this space towards recognizing ways that we can specifically stop this problem. We really believe that institutionalized systematic slavery can end because we’ve seen it end where it’s been attacked before and that just give us a lot of hope.

Andrea: So what is your role in the different processes that you’re talking about here?

John: Victor and I together had set out the vision for the institute and the different projects we have. And a lot of my works over the last years have been building relationships with government actors in the different countries as well as in the US on bringing people together to think about how we can identify and then use these proven strategies that actually work.

And then I also lead research efforts in terms of the type of work that we’re putting out on understanding the cases here in the United States where justice is going so that we can use these as examples in the developing world when we work with leaders.

Andrea: And I’ve also seen a number of news articles that the Human Trafficking Institute has shared that indicates that you have been at a United Nations, you’ve been at the White House, you’ve been sharing this thought leadership in these various faces what’s that been like?

John: It’s been so inspiring. There really are people of goodwill who wanted to do this work. And so yes at the United Nations, there’s amazing group of people that have been carefully thinking about this issue for a long time. We were very grateful that the White House wanted to call together leaders and just got a briefing and learn about the issue of trafficking. We were happy to participate in that and just share of what’s happening in the field and what’s actually going on the ground.

We’ve also met with prime ministers, attorneys, and generals from different countries and we just hosted two cabinet level, guests from police here in Washington D.C. One thing, Andrea, that is so important is that all of this is driven by people. There are people in government, in places of influence who have a voice on this issue and there are people who are trapped in slavery whose voice is currently being muted.

And the desire is how do we use the voice that is out there from leaders and from the general public as a springboard to un-mute that, to stop the traffickers from actually harming those victims. It’s been a great honor and privilege to have had a career building the relationships that are allowing us to do that.

Andrea: I want to come back to this idea of un-muting voices a little later, but I want to ask you how did you really get involved with human trafficking in the first place? You went to India 15 years ago, you said, and I’m curious why? What brought you to that point where you were ready to go to India and start learning about this?

John: That’s a great question. My wife and I, we’re processing it at the time with our friends and we really felt compelled to go. It was very simple and clear in so many ways. You know, I’ve been practicing law for about four years. We had worked hard and paid off all our school loans, and so we were to taking a fresh look at where do we want to be and what do we want to do. My wife was actually eight months pregnant when we left the United States to move to India.

Our second child was born in India, and she actually never even been in the country before. She went on faith and she went on a belief and a strong, clear compulsion that we could do something to stop slavery. And what was amazing is we had never met a slave before. We had never been involved in this work. I have been doing commercial litigation and employment law but it really sprung from seeing with real clarity the need that exists and then thinking how do we move to a solution. And we’ve been so up close as I began to travel in India and China and different places that there was such a need. There are people who are suffering because they don’t have food or water or shelter and there’s been a natural disaster and those people need aid and we can help them.

But then there’s this whole other set of people whose main problem isn’t that they don’t have food, shelter, or water, their main problem is that an individual is oppressing them and those people aren’t able to get the development aid that is out there. They’re not able to participate in the food program or this child’s fostership program or to go to the educational institutions that are nonprofits funded. They’re trapped.

And so how do we move in to solving that problem. We really feel like it was quite simple. There were lots of lawyers that wanted to work at my law firm. They were really smart and their resumes would flood in, but there wasn’t a whole lot of lawyers that wanted to go and say “We wanna be a part of changing this system. We wanna be a part of liberating individuals in restraining perpetrators.”

And so we thought “Let’s give that a shot.” And so it went and honestly, we built vision, we built strategy, and we built our understanding of the issue after we started. It all wasn’t clear. It was sort of like you start with a limited amount of information and as you go it becomes more clear.

Andrea: So you had this desire to change the world in a different kind of way. There’s such a tendency for people I think to get comfortable and stay where they’re at and a fear of adventure or moving fast where they are in order to be able to do some things significant. What was it about the two of you, you and your wife that made you willing, desiring to do that?

John: I think it was a couple of things. One was this understanding of the status quo not existing that there’s nothing stays the same. I think our desire to not venture out or the desire to not start something new is because we’re worried that it may not work out or that we may lose the safety security or comfort we’re currently experiencing. And the truth is it may not work out, so the risk is real in launching, in going forward. But the lie is that the status quo is real as well. There’s nothing really stays the same. If I don’t take the risk, I’m not guaranteed to have my current status quo remains. Everything is always changing.

The number one running back in the NFL this year is guaranteed not to be the number one running back in the NFL 10 years from now. Life changes: car accidents happen, unemployment, jobs shift, everything is a risk. And so once you realized that “I can’t really keep the status quo, I can’t, in the sense have an ice cream cone on a hot summer day and just hold it and expect it to stay the same. I can either enjoy the tasty treat or I can end up with a mess all over my hands,” right? The reality that if we’re not moving forward, we’re going to deteriorate. And I think that launching forward to do something really stands from the idea that we’re risking far less than we really think we are.

The other thing that motivated us, honestly was our faith, we were motivated by a really clear vision for what could be and by the sense that if I was stuck in slavery, if someone was trapping me or my family, I would want people to go and stop them. I want people to come for me. I want people to love me in a demonstrated way, not just by wearing the right color ribbon on the appropriate awareness day, but I want someone to make my pain stop. And if that’s true for me, I bet it’s true for those 20 million who are currently trapped. And believing that people have value really is a fundamental philosophical pivot point that allows us to confront evil.

Andrea: So you came back and you started working for the justice department at that point, right?

John: I sure did.

Andrea: And you started working with victims, talking to traffickers; what do you bring to those conversations? What did you get out of these conversations?

John: Oh I got so much. But what I brought honestly was time and availability. I’m going to make myself available and I’m going to spend a lot of time with the victims and hear their stories and allow them to tell their story at their pace. So it’s not rush in “Just give me all the facts.” If you ask someone to open up about some of the most traumatic abuse that they’ve ever experienced, it’s going to require a relationship. It’s going to require time of moving forward slowly to help them feel like they’re in a position where they can tell the truth they don’t want to share initially.

And with traffickers, it’s very much the same. It’s coming in and listening to their stories and hearing where they’re coming from and how they approach their crime, what they thought about and how they profit it. And understanding the crime from their perspective, add so much value as we try to stop others from committing it. But I learned a great deal about evil and trafficking and abuse from all of these conversations and then my job was to try to bring empathy.

Try to understand the situations that we could create for juries who are sitting in judgment in these cases and create empathy within them for what the victims have experienced and help them understand kind of how non-violent coercion works. How manipulation really works, how the traffickers was able to solve quickly sometimes to get the upper hand and control someone when it just doesn’t make sense to the averaged person. And so I think creating empathy for people is a real pathway for truth to be shared.

Andrea: At what point did you start thinking there’s another step beyond this one for me and my work in this particular realm and you have this friend, Victor, at what point did you guys start to dream of this Human Trafficking Institute?

John: It was in the last few years that I was at the Department of Justice. The first seven or so years was me just learning how to be an effective prosecutor and working these cases kind one after the other. In the last half of my time where I began travelling a lot internationally and I saw what we were doing to educate and help empower criminal justice systems around the world. We would go into these two or three days seminars or weeklong seminars and then we come back and work our cases and I saw very little changing. It just didn’t seem to have an impact the way we wanted it to and I worried that there was a lot of busyness but there wasn’t a lot of progress.

So we just begun to think “How could we impact this in a more substantial way?” About that time, we were ruling out a new program at the Department of Justice to improve the federal approach to prosecuting human trafficking cases and they were called the ACTeams. And the director of the Human Trafficking Prosecution unit at DOJ pioneered this and I was lucky enough to work with her. We developed the advanced curriculum and we basically created specialized units of federal agents from the FBI and Homeland Security and federal prosecutor counterpart in the region.

We took those groups to an advanced human trafficking course that I got to produce in developing and delivering. And then I would get on the plane fly to those districts and we would work cases together, either I would be on the ground doing the case with them or just advising and helping shepherd those cases and we saw dramatic results, Andrea. In two years, we had six districts that were selected. There are 94 total prosecutorial districts in the United States, six of them agreed to participate. We took them through this and create specialized unit, have significant academylike training and then we have people working cases within day in and day out.

And when we did that, we saw a 114% increase in two years in the number of traffickers charge in those six districts. The other districts saw a 12% increase. So they still improved some but the difference between a 12% increase and a 114% is tremendous. And what’s most amazing is that those six districts which represent about 5% of all the districts in America were responsible for over half of all the human trafficking convictions in those two years. 56% of all the human trafficking convictions came from those six districts alone.

And so we were like “Wow, this system really works.” And we realized there is nothing like that in the developing world where right now trafficking is exploding. Traffickers feel absolutely no risk that any law enforcement agency is going to come in and restrain them and stop them from making money by harming others. And so where traffickers seeing no risk where you are actually more likely to get struck by lightning than prosecuted for openly owning a slave, traffickers just operate with impunity. They can do whatever they want. So we thought, “we want to change that calculus. We do not want traffickers operating with impunity. We want them to feel a very real risk to engaging in their crime and we want to do it in a way that honors and values the victims at every stage of the process.”

Andrea: Wow, so at that point you guys started thinking about how do we do this? How do we turn this into a global effort?

John: Exactly!

Andrea: And how did you choose the model?

John: So we’re not for-profit organization. And we chose that I think because we wanted to work with government throughout the world. We wanted to work with the government here in the United States. And to that effectively, we thought the nonprofit model was far better than a for-profit structure. It would allow us to engage a whole community of people in this process as partners with us.

And so we are building a small army of individuals that are passionate about this issue and they want to make a difference. They’re tired of just people constantly telling them stories about injustice and then they don’t know what to do. They don’t know how to engage or how to really make a difference. There’s a lot of passion about ending human trafficking but there’s not a lot of clear structured plans about how to make that happen.

I think we just get fatigued sometimes. We experience in a very real way compassion fatigue or awareness fatigue. We feel like, “stop just making me aware and to know more stories in the sense of another 13-year old girl in a moon by brothel. Stop making me aware and making me feel like I don’t have a place to go with my awareness.” We want people to feel that there is hope because we can draw near pain if we have hope. It’s really hard to draw near the pain and have compassion if you think nothing could be done.

But I think what is animating about this is that we not left just to deal with the consequences, just to mitigate the outcomes of traffickers. So it’s not like a natural disaster where we don’t know how to stop earthquakes. So when earthquakes happen to the country, we all rush in with food and water and shelter and try to help out.

Unlike earthquakes, human trafficking is not a naturally occurring phenomenon. It’s not a weather pattern. It’s not like a tsunami or typhoon or a hurricane, it’s a choice that an individual is making, and it’s a crime and we know how to stop crime. It’s just question of are we going to do the things necessary that we know where to stop this criminal activity that is trapped in 20 million people.

Andrea: The hope that you talked about, part of it comes from this idea that we’re not victims to the idea that it’s just going to keep happening and we don’t have any control over but there is something that we can do.

John: Absolutely, and I think where there’s hope we can come up with a plan. And when we can clearly identify what the problem is and we believe that a solution is possible, we can figure this out. I think the hard part is that you see a problem, even clearly see a problem but if you think “there’s nothing I can do,” it’s not really going to make a difference. And that causes people to give up and move on to another structure or another project.

I think that people trapped in slavery are worth our consorted intentional efforts over a long period of time, or what Eugene Peterson called “A long obedience in the same direction.” Like if we have longevity in this space and we are willing to commit ourselves, we can see massive change in the next few decades.

Andrea: I’ve also heard you say before that slavery have been around forever and it’s only recent phenomena that we begin to really realize that this is wrong. Could you talk about that?

John: Absolutely! This is one of the reasons for hope. So for most of human history, slavery has been legal. It’s been on every continent, in every culture from the Mayans, the Aztecs, the Romans, and the Greeks and all over. It’s been enshrined in our own US constitution. Slavery has been assumed as something that is always there and it’s been supported even by people of faith. It wasn’t until about 250 years ago that countries began to say “Wait, we think slavery is wrong.” Not that it needs to be regulated or the impacts of it needs to be minimized but just that it is illegal and what is stunning is most of human history, thousands and thousands of years, slavery has been legal. In the last 250, we’ve seen every country in the world pass a law that says slavery is illegal.

That is why in its major pivot point, historically where at least now we have the laws that say, slavery is wrong. Now, we need to take those protections of law that are written on parchment and extend them down to the people they were intended to protect. Now we have a delivery system challenge. How do we get the legal protections that say every human being has intrinsic value and should not be owned all the way to the people that need those protections?

That’s what we get to be about. I think the historic part of that is inspiring because it shares with us that this is doable, where there’s a special place in history that there’s never been a better time to fight human trafficking. As our friend, Gary Haugen has said “It’s not a question of whether trafficking would be defeated, it’s whether this generation will be a part of sweeping it into the dustbin of history.” And I just find that concept motivating and inspiring and it makes me want to move forward.

Andrea: Oh yeah, definitely. Somebody like me who isn’t on the frontline of this is thinking about this problem and feeling guilty, feeling stuck in my own inability to make much of a difference. What kinds of things can I do to help, you know, aside from giving money to organizations such as yours, what else can I do?

John: I think there are a number of things that can be done. One is to get informed about it because there’s human trafficking happening in the United States, in Western Europe but it’s exploding throughout the world. We’ll begin the process of understanding how the problem looks and what it’s like. There’s a lot of myths about human trafficking, a lot of misunderstandings about it and so kind of deconstructing those is a fantastic use of time because it means that we’re going to be able to detect it and we’re going to be better able to understand the scope of it and what strategies would work. So getting people informed really matters.

The second thing that you can do is think about how their talents could be employed in this fight. I think a lot of people think “Well, I’m not an FBI agent and I’m not a prosecutor, how do I get involved?” Or “Maybe, I’m not a trauma certified counselor or how do I help individuals.” But the reality is if you’re a web designer or you’re an accountant, all of these skills sets need to be employed in this fight.

We need forensic accountants. We need all sorts of people who can communicate the vision clearly, who can tell the stories and who can honor these survivors. And so I think thinking through and inventory of our own skills and talents and then beginning to explore “How do I get involved?” Or “How do I encourage young people to go become FBI agents. How do I encourage young people to go and engage as a career these big, hairy global issues and take them on.” So I think that is something that individuals could do.

I think individuals can also find organizations and there are so many good ones out there who are active in this fight and come alongside and learn from them. You mentioned earlier that there’s a group of people that have been joining us as justice partners where there’s sort of a monthly communication about what’s happening around the world with trafficking. There are many organizations out there that they could connect with the local and global and I think that matters.

The other thing that I think people can do is develop a culture of justice in their own lives and in their own communities on issues that are far ranging not just limited to human trafficking. And what I mean by that is that pursuing justice, seeking justice can become a habit. When I was studying philosophy in college and when I was learning about these things, people would bend themselves into pretzels trying to understand what is justice and it’s so unhelpful.

But oh yes, justice is quite simple. Justice is making wrong things right. It seems something wrong and working to make it right; big things, little things, local things, or global things. And I think if people want to develop culture of justice, they start making wrong things right in their community. They’re identified on their street, on their neighborhood, on their school system, or on their companies and they see problems and start working to make them right. And as we build a culture of justice on the local level in the little things in our lives, we build the muscle and create a platform that allows us to seek justice and make the wrong things right on the big picture global level including trafficking in persons.

Andrea: I love this. There are a couple things that come up as questions for me as you’re talking about seeking justice in our own personal spaces. And one of those is that I see a lot of people struggling to know what to do with- recently this issue in Charlottesville, the event that took place in Charlottesville with white supremacy- and there’s a lot of angst and confusion about how to approach the subject.

And for this one thing, I might be against this other things that matters to me too and there’s so much confusion it seems about when to speak out and not to speak out, when to do something about it, and when not to. Do you have anything to say to this confusion that we feel and conflict that we feel about things that might in some ways feel wrong but then another aspect of it feels wrong too, so we’re not sure how to deal with that?

John: I would say where there is that conflict, move towards it. We move towards that conflict because it’s going help us clarify where we’re at. And I think we have to be able to embrace nuance, that there are different positions or different thoughts even within ourselves. But I think the other thing to move forward is really clearly and boldly identifying what is wrong and identifying what is right and then speaking to that. And I think that oftentimes, we don’t want it in their end because we don’t want to even admit to ourselves sometimes that these are paragraphs answers in a Twitter sort of world, right?

Andrea: Yeah.

John: These things aren’t solved with 140 characters, it takes more information and more new ones but once we process it, I think worth understanding in our own hearts that we want to move towards love. We want to move towards good and I think we go there full esteem ahead. We want to see the problems of the world and we want to bring hope by the truckload, I mean just lots of it. And where there is pain and there’s suffering, we want to push that away and resolve it.

I think that sometimes, we over complicate things. I think sometimes, we want to access that everyone on the team that there’s white hats and black hats out there, good guys and bad guys, and the reality is there’s a lot of us who are just gray hats. We’re messed up and we need to move for its clarity and truth and we’re going to address the issues in our own hearts and address these issues in our culture.

Andrea: I find that for myself it was difficult… You know, couple of years maybe when I was still trying to figure out what do I do with this voice of mine. It was difficult for me to want to identify my voice with any particular issue because I was afraid of being thrown into a box, categorical box and then I would only have a voice with those people in that particular box. So religious, political, whatever it might be but usually a combination of those two things, how do we have a voice of justice to sort of transcends these boxes so that we can actually have dialogue that’s going to move things forward?

John: Hmmm that’s a great question. I would love to learn from you as you maneuver through that. I believe that if we’re going to develop expertise, if we’re going to develop experience in a space, we have to dive in and get into the deep end of whatever pool that we’re going to swim in and figure it out and develop mastery. And so I would, in some ways, tell people don’t worry about getting in the box. Go deep into an issue. Work over the long term and really become good at it. But then find that principles that make it work because the principles out there that are going to really allow you to do well at a specific thing are going to have general impact and applicability across the board. In a sense, they’re going to work in lots to different boxes.

So the real principal behind the idea of trafficking is that people has value and that we should go love other people in a demonstrated way that we can go and actually change systems to benefit people. Well, those same principles applied to lots of things. People have value. We should go address and meet the needs in other spheres and in other topical areas. So I think diving in deep is worth because I think it builds expertise, it builds credibility, and you can have a greater impact on a specific thing, but then find those threads that are common to all and they’re always there. Speaking up close to encourage others in this big, big fight to go and seek justice around the globe.

Andrea: Yeah. You’ve mentioned before this idea of different hats that we see people wearing, these teams that we feel like we’re on and I guess that was sort of the same thing as this box that I’m picturing. But I think we’re looking for identity, wanting to identify ourselves with something that’s bigger than ourselves. And it’s tempting to have it be a pat or box rather than a principle because principles seem to be a little bit more messy. If you’re in a box, you know what the rules are and you just follow these particular set of beliefs or things that we’re supposed to do or to be and to talk about. But if you focus on a principle then you have to kind of wrestle with every issue that comes up based on that principle. It’s just more complicated it seems.

John: Right. I mean, every relationship is complicated and messy and unstructured and these principles of joy, hope, love, and truth that are going to win the day. And so I think that the great joy of life is getting in that mess of all of these principles and figuring them out in midst of all these wonderful relationships and seeing them grow and flourish. When you think about that who would want a tidy little wife inside a small box? It would be much more fun to live out our days pursuing something bigger and more joyful than that.

Andrea: Yes. And I love that you can bring the philosophical side of things but also you’re taking massive action. I don’t know, when we talk about peace, joy, love these sorts of things, it feels a little you know heady and not practical but you’re making it very practical.

John: It is in the practice. It’s in the day to day kind of ordinary moments where I think these ideas are really refined and shaped. And I think that people do want to see practical actions. People want to have concrete plans that they can take and things that they can do and they’re there. If there’s a destination that we want to get to, we can find a path to get there and it’s just going to be a question of are we going to do the hard work of finding that path or creating that path and I think it’s worth it.

Andrea: I do too. I really also appreciate the fact these threads that you said run throughout other things. They really reached to a personal level as well and so I’m curious how you and your wife’s values about the importance of human life and dignity and voice, how these things reached into your own home?

John: Hmmm. You know, it has a huge influence. In fact, the way we parent to our kids and the way we think about our marriage and the way we think about finding trafficking are so inextricably intertwined and I don’t know which feeds the other. They very much go together and our kids have lived this life with us as we have been working on these cases and travelling the world and obviously their time growing up in India has had a big impact on them.

But I think it comes in some really clear ways. We have a group of kind of family rules that apply to every phase of our lives and they really shaped how we think about each other in our marriage but they also impact how we think about work. And so like one of them is that people are more important than stuff. So we have a choice to make and it could be reduced down to whether we’re choosing people or stuff. We should almost always choose people.

And so when we think about what shall we do on this next case, how do we approach this? What’s the cause of it going to be? There’s a person at risk there and we’re going to out that person who’s a victim ahead of stuff or material interests. We also applies that at my kids when they were learning as toddlers to share, building that friendship is more important than who’s playing with that toy. Or it applies as we plan out, now that we have adolescence and two kids and high school, like how we’re dealing with the demands of their schedules and thinking about how we value people at each turn.

And so I think that these ideas of making wrong things right and honoring individuals as well as respecting systems and authority and thinking about innovation or how we want to refocused on getting things done more than the forms that we’re building. Each one of these ideas is just another step towards integration and flourishing and that’s what we want to be about. So we’re really happy to be engaged in this journey both as in the messy parts of resolving conflicts at home and loving each other well. Or the messy parts of resolving conflict at work and loving our team well but also loving survivors well and trying to demonstrate what real love looks like to traffickers.

Andrea: It’s beautiful! So what’s the future for the Human Trafficking Institute and how can we get involved or support you?

John:   Right now, we’re in the process of working with agreements with a couple of countries that are interested in building out specialized units and having them trained and having _____ and really trying to end the impunity that traffickers enjoy. So we’re very excited over the next few years to see the results that can come in the individuals that will be free but also how deterrence and ending impunity can be reflected.

We got a group of amazing law students who are joining us in the next few weeks at Douglass Fellows and Dr. Frederick Douglass, the great abolitionist who went on after he had gained his freedom and taught himself to read and write. He ended up being; I think most people don’t realize this, the chief law enforcement officer for the District of Columbia. He was a United States Marshals and he had just this amazing life. In his honor and with his family’s initiatives, with their participation, we formed the Douglass Fellowship and we got some law students who are going to be Douglass Fellows this year doing research and writing and helping us build out these practices.

I’m excited that new process and we’re excited about that new process and we’re excited for people and your listeners to join in this movement. They can join us as justice partners on our website and connect to a monthly community that is thinking about this in finding new ways and innovative ways to tackle this problem. And we’re excited for what’s going to come over the few years. We got a great lean team that we’re building. We’re developing the model that we think can have the greatest impact.

Andrea: I love it. I love every bit of it. Is there anything else that you wanted to mention before we sign off?

John: I’m just so grateful for you, Andrea, and for letting your voice into all this and encouraging people to have the influence in the communities that they’re engaged in. I think that as more and more people stepped forward and say they want to be a part of making wrong things right, the world is going to continue to become a better place.

Andrea: Well thank you so much for your time here today, John. I really appreciate the way that you’re using your voice in the world.

John: Thanks Andrea! I’m glad to be with you!




Bring this to Every Intentional Conversation

Voice Studio 21

In this Voice Studio episode, Andrea discusses the one thing you need to be sure to bring to every conversation of intentional friendship.

Mentioned in this episode:
Episode 21: How to Find People to Challenge You to be Your Best with Laurie Hock

Play here (the red triangle below), on iTunes, Stitcher or TuneIn Radio (Amazon Alexa) or wherever you listen to podcasts.

How to Find People Who Will Challenge You to be Your Best

Episode 21 with Laurie Hock

Laurie Hock’s coaching credentials through Gallup and the John Maxwell Team define her specialization of helping people stop living life, and start leading it. Through her company, Growing Points, she creates and delivers individual and group growth experiences purposed to “set the caged bird free and empower those already flying to soar higher.

Laurie is a personal friend and one of the many powerful things we discuss on this episode is how we started and developed our own friendship to challenge and encourage one another to be our best.

Find Laurie at and sign up for her monthly video series.

Play here (the red triangle below), on iTunes, Stitcher or TuneIn Radio (Amazon Alexa) or wherever you listen to podcasts.


Hey, hey! It’s Andrea and welcome to the Voice of Influence podcast. Today, I have my friend, Laurie Hock on the line. And Laurie is somebody that is really into her calling and who she is kind of continuing to grow and develop her own self as well as the offerings that she makes the to the world.


Andrea: So Laurie, I’m so thrilled to have you on the Voice of Influence podcast.

Laurie: Thank you! It’s a total joy to be here with you!

Andrea: Well, Laurie and I have been friends for a couple of years. I don’t know how long have we been friends, maybe about three or four years?

Laurie: Yeah, probably around there.

Andrea: Something like that and she lives in North Platte where I live. A few years ago, we’re in the same bible study, small group kind of thing and Laurie took off on some trip and she came back and was like ready to go with this whole new purpose in her life and it was just amazing. And since then, she has really grown and she has really inspired me to look at what I offer as something that could be done as a business. I don’t know, we just had quite a little journey together, Laurie.

Laurie: That’s right. Yeah, it’s fun to think about as each of us grew individually; we also grew together as well. What a beautiful thing.

Andrea: Yeah. So Laurie, why don’t you tell the Influencers listening what it is that you do right now?

Laurie: Right now, I have found my true sweet spots and some of these will probably be described as our conversation continues, but moving from working with people one-on-one primarily to creating growth experiences. And I’m both a coach, speaker, facilitator; I’d feel probably describes me best as I get to come alongside people in their growth journey and help them really navigate their way from where they are to where they want to be and getting in touch with the core of their true self.

Being able to celebrate what’s great about them and really creating this kind of transformation in the context of community and relationship with others, which is what I think is one of the greatest and most significant aspects and elements of any growth. So I serve people locally. I serve people in different states as well. Much of what I do can be done virtually or in person, so there’s really no geographical limits and there are needs all over the world. It’s a wonderful, wonderful exciting privilege of watching other people really come alive and step into their greatness.

Andrea: And you have a couple of credentials really behind you. That credentials and also these influences tools that these things have offered you which would be like the John Maxwell Team and the Gallup StrengthsFinder. Do you want to tell us just briefly about those?

Laurie: Sure! Yeah, I’m very privileged to be able to be connected with really some of the global experts on the planet in the field of personal development and what really started this journey for me several years ago as becoming a coach and speaker with the John Maxwell Team. John is by far and has been for years the world expert on leadership. He is the number one leadership guru and I get to be affiliated with him. He really has been on a mission in his later years of his career of wanting to leverage his name and his influence to give other speakers and coaches a platform to open opportunities for them.

So he’s been a big influence in my life. I use some of his materials in what I do and his ideas have helped me shape my own ideas around what it means to be a leader. I continue to stay connected with the team on many levels. So there’s that and then also the privilege. The experience you mentioned in the introduction was when I went to Gallup to be trained as a Certified Strengths Coach and that’s really about leveraging their Clifton Strengths Assessment. To help people identify what they do best and their innate talents and strengths that really indicates where their greatest potential lies and how they can develop that to achieve the greatest results and sense of fulfillment and satisfaction and success in their lives.

So I have some really amazing tools that both of those affiliations gave me that the true joy in finding my voice of influence has been, not just in speaking from one of those lanes or the other, but allowing them to marinate and come together within me. And then speaking my truth of how those blend and how I find my own voice and make my own ideas from that foundation of how I can best serve and support clients, friends, peers, family, and all the people in my life.

Andrea: Hmm I love that idea of wanting these other influences and letting them saturate and become like really a synthesis and I guess to come out as your own voice. Yeah, that’s really cool!

Laurie: Yeah, exactly!

Andrea: I know that I you didn’t start out your career path with this particular thing in mind. If you want take us back to what you were doing that moment that you knew that you wanted to move in this direction of finding business and developing your voice of influence in the space where you can really utilize your own strengths and offer that to other people?

Laurie: Yes. I will give you a brief insight into my life in 2007 that’s really where this revelation started and then it’s been a process over the last 10 years. Oh actually, let me go farther back even than that. In sixth grade, I really set my sight and got very clear for some specific reasons that I wanted to be a dietitian, a nutritionist in terms of how I understood it then. So I pressed on with that in pursuing all my educational requirements to be a registered dietitian. And everything that I aspired to do in that, I now see the motivation underneath that is the same thing I am doing now. It was just going to be expressed toward helping people create positive changes in their health and developing healthy lifestyles. What wasn’t correct in that fate was the specific industry that I was applying that in.

And so as passionate as I was to help other people to create positive change, I felt a lot of limitations in that particular career path of being a dietitian that wasn’t going to allow me to do that the most fully and in a way that made me feel most alive and engaged. I had great coworkers and colleagues there but it felt like it wasn’t the right fit. And I came to that revelation in 2008 or so that I needed to really be willing to lay down that part of me and being able to create and new way forward.

That was a really huge identity crisis in every sense of everything I thought I was was no more in the sense that if I lay down that career path, I knew in my heart it wasn’t the right fit anymore. It would be a disservice to stay there knowing that just because I had all my educational investment and requirements met there, it would be a disservice to not only my own destiny but to the lives that my life is purposed to speak into. There were too many limitations and restrictions in that industry for my voice to be most heard.

And so I had to find out who is Laurie Hock without that career. Who’s Laurie on her own? Who’s Laurie without any sort of work-related attachments to it? And I think that’s a question very few people ask themselves and that begin a very deep soul searching journey for me because I didn’t have the answer to that. I knew different things I enjoy and was good at but I’d never thought just who I was at the core of my identity without anything else defining that.

So it took several years to come into that but the biggest decision and that turning point was making the intentional choice to create a new way forward that I could redefine myself. I could find my deeper truth that I didn’t have to stay with what it was or who I had been to that point, but that I could define who I was going to be outside of what I did.

Andrea: Hmmm. Laurie, was there anything in particular that helped you to realize that you didn’t have to stay there, that you could be something new? Do you remember?

Laurie: You know at that point, I didn’t have a lot of community. I didn’t have a coach I was working with. I was totally unaware of this whole personal development industry and all the opportunities of working with people that are experts at this. I remember I started going to the library. We were living in San Antonio at the time and I picked up a few John Maxwell’s books actually.

And I began to feel that there was something greater within me that was begging to be awakened. And through the practice of reading some of these leadership-related materials and paired with journaling to really get in touch with the deeper things going on inside me. This restlessness, this cry for more when I could sit and really allow those feelings from within to be exposed and surfaced and expressed in the form of my nightly journaling, wow, I just heard such a longing in me. That even if I didn’t know what it was and as risky as it felt to lay that other piece down, I knew it was far riskier to stay. And so it was just this light-bulb moment. It’s a combination of all those. Does that make sense?

Andrea: Sure! So really, I mean John Maxwell has a huge impact on you from the get-go.

Laurie: Yeah. I think this is true for all of us that there are certain voices that the spirit within us just clings to and it resonates with us so richly and so deeply even if it’s far beyond that we can’t understand in the moment. It speaks to us and it awakens something inside that knows it’s going to continue to unlock more of our potential and more opportunities for what’s ahead.

Andrea: Yeah that’s cool! Okay, so what happened after you kind of had this light-bulb moment like “Wait a second; I don’t have to go down this path that I was going down. I could choose this other path.”

Laurie: Yeah, it came with a lot of tears. I’ll be honest, I feel a lot of grieving and searching and then from just the decision to find a new way to create a new way, it probably took about five years actually. My husband had a job changed. We relocated back to Nebraska. I sensed heavily then that I wasn’t to look for a position here in North Platte as dietitian. I had left that in the past life and so I had some times. We started a family. I had some years with some kids all the while doing intensive searching within me and that’s a real discipline.

It takes time to truly find who we are but in that, the fruit of that is within over that compounding effort, the voice of influence we carry becomes clear. So yeah, I encourage everyone listening to this to give yourself the space, the time, and the freedom to enjoy the process. This cannot be manufactured overnight. It’s not an overnight success. It is something that really takes consistent commitment. And I believe we find our message when we first find ourselves.

Andrea: Yeah I like that. I really like that! We find our message when we find ourselves and we have to enjoy the process and kind of let it just set it in and keep moving. I love that. Yeah, because five years that’s a long time and it’s hard when you have little kids. That was definitely a struggle for me to try to understand who I was in the middle of having kids. But you were really processing all of that in the midst of that. At what point then did you decide it was time to move forward that you found yourself, you found your message?

Laurie: Yeah, I’d say the awakening really became clear, I was in some other leadership roles in our community but was feeling like in those situations, people were looking to me for the answers and I was wondering who can I look to for the answers. I know I was too young in my journey to have all the answers. I needed someone that could lead me so that I could lead them and that came through this incredible process of then discovering that John Maxwell had a team of people he was training and equipping and credentialing to be leadership coaches and speakers.

So I joined and made the investment in myself to join his team strictly for personal growth. That was back in 2013 with no intentions of it becoming anything more than just me growing as a leader so that I could feel this bigger call in my life, this leadership mandate. Even though I had no idea what’s that look like, I could sense it that I needed to be equipped and grow as a leader to be able to carry out my life’s mission.

So I found out that you can join the Maxwell Team. I did it for personal growth. I went to my first live event in 2014 with John in Orlando and it was rather unexpected but I really looked back at that moment and now see that I received my life calling there in the middle of one particular session.

It just became incredibly clear through a lot of just emotional eruption of joy and gladness and tears and all sorts of things that God was really calling me to make a business that would empower leaders and help them understand and recognize their true potential to be alongside in this journey and developing it. To call out who they really are so they can step forward more boldly and confidently and to fulfill their life’s purpose.

And it was just very clear that this is my time. This is my time and I didn’t have a clue that business was on my radar at all. It was so clear in that moment. Of course, I said yes immediately and everything shifted in that moment. Even before going to that event, I remember sitting out by the pool before the first session and I love to journal my thoughts before going in to some experience like that and just really putting out there “I’m expecting this to change my life. I’m coming to be transformed.”

And I remember just this _____ before going into that first day was that I wrote down in my journal “Your whole life has been leading up to this moment.” So I felt then like “This is my voice” and it’s been a process in the years since of finding what it looks like to do that and to be that but that day changed everything for me.

Andrea: Yeah. I remember you coming back from that experience and coming into this little small group of a number of basically stay-at-home moms and saying “I’m supposed to start a business.” Your joy, your excitement, it was such a clear picture of how affirmed you felt in that decision, in that call.

Laurie: Yeah. It felt like everything had been leading up to that moment and what I thought was _____ so that I can grow others and it can go a pinnacle in receiving that calling and then coming home thinking “I’m doing this no matter what.” It’s so obvious to me even though it’s so unknown. It cannot be bought. It’s so clear and so unknown at the same time. I think so the big picture vision is so clear and how to get there is the unknown but we find that one day at a time.

Andrea: Yes, yes, so true! Yes, I love that because you knew it was ahead but you didn’t know exactly what steps to take, what does it mean to run a business, and all those things. But that vision you had seems to be really motivating you to be able to keep your nose to the grinding and keep figuring that out even if you don’t know what’s next.

Laurie: Because we know the why. See I got my why that day in Orlando. The how is negotiable. The how doesn’t matter in the big picture when we’re connected to that why that’s what drive us forward. That’s what’s drive our influence is the why, our why.

Andrea: Definitely! Then basically you started this business and it’s kind of turned into what it is today over the course of a few years. Do you want to say anything else about that transformation of your business?

Laurie: I think what has been really critical for me in that and this is truly a main message I would love to emphasize to your audience is that it really takes the help and support of other people for us to find our voice however that’s expressed. If it’s in terms of business or personal things in terms of your relationship and the influence you have with other people in your life. I believe we can’t find our voice on our own.

So when things begin to get really clear of what I’m best at and what my business is most effective at doing and how it can meet the needs of the people around me that my voice is called to reach. That clarity all came from the context of being in relationship and connection with other likeminded peers and experiencing the benefit of really feeling support, and I’ll define support in just a moment, for people to help me clarify my own value.

We don’t understand what we’re best at or where we really shine because it’s so familiar to us. The same work I do with strengths. People don’t recognize their strengths or that significant because they’ve always been there. They’re so normal to them. We don’t realize that it’s exceptional to others. And so in the context of me being a participant in several masterminds with my colleagues and peers that are in the same industry really allowed me to get clear on what my voice can best accomplish.

Andrea: So what is that look like for you in terms of finding those other voices, those other people in your life that could give you that kind of feedback?

Laurie: I know. Isn’t that powerful that in order to find our voice, we need the voice of others? I think that’s so perfect of how we’ve been designed to need and really have to depend on one another but it’s a _____ to depend on one another. So what is that look like to find people? I think what that’s really look like for me and what I would encourage your listeners to consider as well is really finding the people that are willing to challenge you. When I began to experience this environment of support, I discovered that supporting one another doesn’t mean agreeing with one another.

Andrea: Hmmm yes!

Laurie: When we think of “Oh I support you in that,” or when we think of people supporting us, we think of kind of people maybe standing and applauding with us or celebrating us in some way and really _____ in a way that means they’re probably agreeing with us, encouraging us, and behind us sort of thing in what we’re pursuing. But what I have found as the strongest support that I can both receive and that I can give is the support that means I stand for your best, I stand for you. I stand with you, for you, and your highest good no matter what it costs me or what it cost you and being willing to really play all in on behalf of the best interest of others.

The support that I found has been instrumental to me really owning my voice of influence is embracing my role as a challenger. I feel like that best describes it where the best way I can support others and I encourage you as you’re looking for what kind of voice that could speak into you and help you define your message and your sphere of influence and your life mission. Who’s going to be willing to disagree with you or to risk your approval to speak your higher truths and speak into you and show you your best assets, your blind spots, and some of the other things that we have to have that outside perspective to do for us.

When I began experiencing that through this peer connection, I begin to grow faster than I ever grown before. It was truly and epic exhilaration of explosive growth when I had people and it’s a handful. It’s not multitudes that are willing to speak with us and be with us in our journey like this; it’s a handful of a select few that are willing to walk that road for us.

But I think in your heart of hearts if you begin to look around and see who you’re naturally drawn to, who inspires you in some way and being able to kind of mind what it is that draws me to them and what I admire in them and show me something I need to grow in in my own life that’s what happened for me is that some people that I admired were exceptional setting boundaries and being very clear and very direct in a loving way.

But that was radically different from what I’ve experienced or really taking a strong stand in letting their voice be expressed no matter how it was received when given from that place of care. But I realized “Wow, I’m admiring that in him because I need more of that in me.”

Andrea: Yeah. This is making me think about how really when we hear, and I’ve seen this in my relationship with you and my relationship with other people but as you have expressed a certain kind of style or voice, tone, or challenge; when you see that in other people and you see that there’s something in you, it almost gives you permission or you start to realize that you can do that too.

It may not be the same as the other person but I’ve noticed that for myself for sure that as I’ve seen that in you and other people, it’s just different things, confidence, whatever it might be that “Gosh, you know what, I could step into my confidence too.” And I think that what you’re saying about being in a community like that in an environment where somebody would be willing to push you and challenge you most certainly I can see how that would help the actual leader that’s involved and that put themselves in that position that they would then get some of those attributes for themselves as well where it awaken those in them.

Laurie: Yes, exactly! I think we all have people in our lives that support us in the traditional sense of love and celebrate who we are and what we do. But the rare jewels are those that are willing to tell us what other people either can’t see or unwilling to say. Those of them are the most meaningful relationships in my life in helping shape my voice in a way that nothing else could of those ones that are really willing to say the hard things and stand with us through that.

Andrea: And you know when someone is in a position of leadership, which I know that you’re working with people who are in positions of leadership, when they’re in that position, it’s very uncommon for other people to feel like they can or want to or want to risk that idea of challenging that leader in any sort of way. I can see how that would be incredibly valuable for that person to find it outside of their normal environment. I guess, by coming to a group like yours or the sort of community that you seem to be talking about.

Laurie: Exactly. I have two distinct programs right now and that’s really the sole purpose that were gathered together to be a group for women, women rising above the lies that limits us and helping us overcome those things that are holding us back from speaking and being our true authentic self and being willing to challenge one another in that. And a group for company leaders called Catalyst where again it’s a community thing. But what I wanted to share just for a bit though is about the process.

I love how you said “we have to give ourselves permission to kind of go there with people.” And I think giving myself permission to really embrace my role as challenger took a while. That was months in the making. It just becomes really clear in the last year. It’s been unfolding over the past year actually of realizing I’d always seen myself and this relates to what I shared a few minutes ago about the traditional way where we understand support.

I’ve always seen myself as the cheerleader and this natural encourager that came so easily for me and people really seem to appreciate and be inspired by how I could really instill belief in them through the encouraging words that just very effortless for me to give but very sincere and genuine. But when I began to recognize that there was a deeper part of me that was waiting to be discovered in this challenge or piece, it felt very unsafe initially.

And I really had to wrestle through “But I’ve always been a cheerleader” like I’m not sure if it’s okay for me to really stand in that place of what seemed to me, to conflict with celebrating and honoring who they were. So I’d always limiting beliefs I had to work out which is true in most cases. That’s why I feel like I’ve gotten very good at identifying limiting beliefs in the people I work with because I’ve gone so much practice on myself. Being able to hear the ways by limiting beliefs and talking about the things that we’re believing either on the conscious or unconscious level, but how I define this are really beliefs that limit our present ability and restrict our future potential.

So this belief I had, “It’s not okay to be a challenger like I am cheerleader. I’m nice. I’m friendly. People call me smiley wherever I go and they have my whole life sort of thing.” This whole persona that I had wrapped around that but was not going to allow me to tap into this challenge or piece of me that’s really the challengers where my true voice of influence is.

Andrea: Oh Laurie that is really cool and I certainly see that. When you talk about a persona that’s the kind of thing that does not come down easily, a persona is something that you know we really construct around ourselves that is there for a reason and can often…I don’t know be really painful to let go of. Did you find that for yourself that it was hard to let go of the ones so that you could embrace the other?

Laurie: It took probably at least six months of working on myself and just a lot of reflection, a lot of writing and processing, and trying to figure out what always going within me. A lot of conversation with my peers and working with my coach, a lot of conversations and really examining how I was showing up in my life and what things indicated where limiting beliefs was hiding or holding me back. But what I realized in that was that I didn’t realize…I thought the smile was me and it is…hear me on that, it is. When I smile, it is sincere. It’s who I am. It’s the expression of my DNA and all that I am.

I didn’t realize how much I was hiding behind it as well that it was actually, yeah to some degree this a mask or this persona that there was deeper truths inside me. But because I felt I had to maintain this smiley demeanor because that was who I am, right? And that’s what people expected me to be that if not Laurie starts poking people from a place of love but still poking them in the sense of calling them to more and saying “I disagree with that. You’re making an excuse for yourself there. You’re lying to yourself. You’re putting below your means,” whatever that looks like.

Yeah, that took a lot of work, internal work I’m talking about to be able to say, you know it’s grounded in care when my voice comes from a stand of love and they can see my heart in that. I have the power. I have the authority. I have the commissioning, the call to speak into those things that my eyes have been gifted to see and call forth the things within them that they can’t see in themselves, to call out those limiting beliefs and help them discover the higher truth. To be able to identify those things and to create new life in them by challenging their perspective or their way of beings so that they can become more and who they’re designed to be.

When I began to see that my heart _____ in that of calling them to do their best and helping develop their potential, it doesn’t always look like nice. But I don’t think any of us want nice more than we want growth and to really sense that someone is willing to advocate for our best no matter what, that’s where the real value is. That’s what my clients experienced with me. They say that means more than anything else. That they don’t find that in other relationships in their lives because most people have too many insecurities to allow them to speak freely and directly and fiercely like that. But you got to hear me; it’s from the grounding of love that allows my true heart to come forth and for it to be able to be received in a place that others see as a gift not a threat.

Andrea: Yeah that’s like the surgeons’ merciful knife. It’s not malicious. It’s what the purpose of destroying of building up and yeah…

Laurie: Yeah, strengthening.

Andrea: And restoring yeah. That’s really refreshing to have somebody come in and say “Hold on a minute.

Laurie: Yes. I think we’re all starving for those voices in our lives whether we realize it or not and that’s why they were so meaningful when I begin to find a few challengers in my life to be able to really experience the value of that and that gave me the courage to really be able to take my stand and own that that’s what my voice says “I am the challenger.” And as terrifying as it felt at first, it feels so free now. I’ve never felt more at peace with myself and more powerful in the sense that this is my purpose.

Andrea: I’ve really appreciated our relationship. I feel like we should share a little bit about just the way that we have interacted a little bit because I think that it could be really beneficial to other people who are looking for other people that they could walk through this journey with. And while I think it’s really beneficial to have a coach, it’s also beneficial to have peers. And so how would you describe our relationship in the way that we have pursued this?

Laurie: You are a priceless gift to me, Andrea. You have brought so much value into my life by you being who you are and freely expressing and generously giving your gifts through our conversation has been really key to me sharpening my voice, my clarity, my stand that I wish that for everybody that they would be able to find a peer, a friend, a true support. And I believe it takes time because I’ve longed for a friendship like this for a long time and someone that could really get me and that could hold all of me.

And you’re big enough, you’re great enough, you’re grand enough and all of your power to be able to hold all of me because for all of these influencers here, man, we have a big call on our life, right? I believe everybody on the planet has unlimited potential but they’re not all accessing it. They’re not all engaging it. They’re not stepping forward in an intentional way to do something truly remarkable, globally remarkable for that matter.

But I believe that’s your thrive, Andrea. That’s the people you’re attracting of this incredible stellar global leaders and I would say, keep your eyes open and be persistent. I’ve had to try on several different relationships to explore and see what space that friendship would allow me to have and I think we all are aware that we have different levels of relationships, different flavors of relationships in our lives.

But for you and I, I think we’re we both come together anytime we’re in a conversation or in experience together. There’s just such mutual respect for one another, such clarity on the great things that are happening now and the bigger things that are to come. There’s not a sense of competition or comparison I think that can sabotage relationships very quickly, but just this expectation that both of us are creating our own unique journey. And it’s going to look so differently even though we’re called to such similar things.

The way it’s going play out, it’s going to be very unique and individualized to us being able to come together to celebrate that and to show each other what one of us can’t see. And being able to just provide both kind of equal measure encouragement and balance, I think that’s truly what makes the recipe for a very fruitful intentional friendship. And wow, being able to also stay consistently engaged with that that it not be something that we know is there but that we’re not intentionally continuing to nurture.

And as you and I tried to be as diligent with getting together and catching up and regrouping and speaking into one another on a regular basis because a lot of life happens in between a week or two or a month. And when we can lose sight on the intricacies of one another’s journey, we have less leveraged to really speak into them because we’re less aware of where they’re at. So yeah, I’ll pause here. What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear from you too.

Andrea: Yeah, that was such a great description and I want to highlight one of the things that you said the comparison and competition thing because when we first…well, first of all you were the one that initiated the relationship, I would say that. And I think what other people, an influencer listening, what you probably should take away from this is # 1 – you start out with figuring out what you have to offer somebody else because Laurie came to me and she said she had the strengths training that she was going through and she wanted to invite me to participate to take the assessment and to do a little bit of coaching with that and I was like “OK we’ll let’s try that.” So I feel like we’re really kind of started to take the turn, don’t you Laurie?

Laurie: I do and can I go back a little bit further than that?

Andrea: Sure!

Laurie: Sometimes, we really have to be diligent to pursue the people that we want bring into our life and be in relationship with. I observed you speaking at one of the Mocks meeting a few years, can you hear me?

Andrea: Yes!

Laurie: Prior to that, the message you gave spoke to me. And I thought “I need to meet this woman. She speaks my language. We are deep. We are likeminded. I could just feel, even though I probably don’t have all those words in that moment, but I just knew like “Hmm, there’s some rich connection here.” But you had a lot going on in your life and it was a matter of trying to kind of figure out, “How could I initiate some sort of friendship or some level of connection here?”

And it really required me coming to you, kind of on your terms, I guess might be the easiest way to say it. But then in the right time and in the right season, it truly blossomed. So don’t lose heart along the way. If there’s people you’re drawn to that you really feel or to be voice in your life and critical to you developing your voice, don’t lose heart. Keep engaging and yeah, I love how you said figure out what you can offer them instead of wondering what it could bring to you.

Andrea: You know, I remember you’re using that way to describe how you come into me in my terms before. You actually said that to me one time and I was like “What?” You know, I didn’t know what to do with that but basically what that meant was and practically speaking was that you joined my small group, those small groups that I was leading. And in that sense, it was like an opportunity to start cultivating that relationship and then came that moment when you were ready to offer…we had a relationship there but it just wasn’t the same as you know up to the notch, a few notches.

Laurie: Yes that’s true.

Andrea: And really, you came and started speaking into my life at the time when I really desperately needed it because I was in a frustrated mood of being because I knew and I felt that I had more to offer. But I did not know how exactly I was supposed to do that so you brought strength to me at that time and opened my eyes. Maybe the way that I thought that I was maybe wasn’t exactly who I am.

And so just as you found your challenging voice, I found my kind of strategic voice in learning about the StrengthsFinder and what I had to offer and thinking that I was supposed to be mostly empathetic and mostly helping to develop people when I started to realize that “Oh, I actually really able to see the big picture and know which way to head next. That was life changing for me and it also helped release in me the idea and challenge that limiting belief in your words that I couldn’t write. I really didn’t think I could.

You helped call that out of me and I could see that “Oh gosh, you know what, I do have what it takes to make a decision, to make a decision about what I’m going to write about and how to formulate arguments and whatever. I just need the time and space in my head to get it done.” So that was huge for me. I mean, that was the very pivotal time for me and we just kept going and going and going and going and going.

And another thing that really hit me about that was when we were first talking about this “What are we called to?” “What am I called to?” “What are you called to?” “How are we different?” Became one of the questions that I was really interested in answering because I felt like our messages were so similar, but yet I knew that we didn’t need to be competing with one another. So in my head, I knew that but at the same time there’s that like “What do we do with the fact that we’re so similar. What do we do with that?”

And so for me, one of the greatest benefits since then has been to really kind of dissect who we are and see that “Gosh, Laurie is so good at this and I’m good at that.” And the way that this message that’s very similar inside of us is coming out of us has so much to do with who we are in our gifting, in our strengths, in our personalities and that sort of thing, in our experiences and what we’re drawn to. It’s actually coming out in very different forms but yet so similar at the core so that has been super helpful for me.

Laurie: So there again in context of relationship and support of others, we get clear on who we are.

Andrea: Yes. Yes, yes, yes! OK so also practically speaking, I mean we get together maybe once every two or four weeks, I would venture to say. And when we do get together, it’s not for an hour.

Laurie: Yeah, a minimum of three hours.

Andrea: Yeah. And really, I think this is interesting too. We don’t talk a whole lot about our day-to-day lives. We don’t talk a whole lot about our families. We’re really concentrated focus on our personal growth and development of our messages, our voices, and our business which I think is interesting.

Laurie: Yes. It’s not the surface level day-to-day grind stuff. Yeah, I don’t think we really give any attention to that honestly. It’s the deeper things because that’s the rare gift we can give one another. Most other people in our lives don’t want to or unable to relate at that level.

Andrea: Uh-hmm. I think there’s so much value in both of them. I think about different people in my life who… gosh, we have such a different kind of relationship and I love them. I love them all but this is the kind of thing that when it comes to developing your voice of influence, if you’re wanting to do that, this is one of those relationships that you need to be looking for and pursuing like Laurie said and really intentionally pursuing it.

Laurie: Yeah. You can’t wait for it to happen to you. You need to go and create it.

Andrea: Yeah, so true! Do you have any other suggestions for people that are listening for how they could pursue other avenues that would give them those relationships like maybe they have a friend like you and I kind of have this relationship. Maybe they have something like that or maybe they don’t, but what other kinds of ways can people cultivate, find that support, and challenge in their lives?

Laurie: I think you need to enroll whoever is in your life currently with the fact that you want to grow and giving other people access to speak into you. If it’s a sibling, a spouse whatever that looks like or a boss for that matter, but when you can first make yourself available to being open and willing to receive that then you’re giving them permission to be their voice and inviting that to come into your freely.

As we look at our relationships, people probably, I don’t know what percentage of time there actually, honestly reflecting and expressing what’s going on inside of them with us. But if we take away those barriers of “What are they gonna think? Are they gonna upset with me?” Whatever that looks like even friends in a marriage if you’re able to say to your spouse “You know what, will help you see where I’m falling short?” Or “Will help you see the blind spot of where I can’t see that I’m getting in my own way?”

I just had an amazing conversation with my husband last night about that of sharing something I was struggling with and he said, “I tried to tell you that last week but you didn’t hear it you know.” And I said “Stay with me on this.” Sometimes, it’s such a blind spot. We can’t see it and it doesn’t resonate initially. But he persisted. He helped the course and now a week later, I had this incredible revelation that I really needed to be able to move me forward in a bigger way instead of holding myself back.

And so his persistence and then me celebrating that and saying “Keep doing this,” like even if it doesn’t seem in a moment like I get it or that I appreciate it or that it resonates. I mean that. I mean that and now I could see it. So I think we open a great door of opportunity for us and them. We’re open and willing and inviting it from whoever that looks like. Did that kind of answer your question?

Andrea: That was great! I mean, I was really expecting you to say something about finding a coach but that was so wise advice. I love it! You know, it reminded me about what you said earlier that when you went to the John Maxwell event that initial one, you were journaling ahead of time because what you like to do is you like to journal beforehand and expect something significant to happen in your life.

Really, it’s that opening up of your heart, that opening up of your spirit to say, “I’m ready to receive whatever it is that you have to offer,” and that is super powerful. Gosh, I just think that it’s a great way to wrap up what we’ve been discussing here because when you are open to receiving the challenge that somebody else has to offer, you have no idea until you experience it.

Even though it feels so terrifying because it might rock you at the core in the end, like Laurie said, she is standing more confident and free in who she is now more than ever before because she continually put herself in that position. I’m experiencing that as well. Oh man, so good. Love that. So Laurie, where can the listeners find you?

Laurie: My domain name is my name and you can find me there. I am on Facebook as well. I have real joy realizing a great platform for my voice of influence in it’s infancy stage, but it still tons of fun, is making a monthly video where I share my latest class and insights of what’s growing and challenging me. But then I releases tools to be something significant that can challenge the growth in my email communities.

So you can go to my website and if you want to be a part of receiving those monthly videos, just enter your name and email address and I’ll include you in the emails that I sent out, the challenging messages _____ that would be appropriate. Yeah, I just want to celebrate and honor everybody on the line and be able to encourage you that in time you’ll find your voice. And it’s a lifelong process of developing it. I don’t think we ever end that quest. It continues to unfold and develop layers upon layers of more richness.

Andrea: Well, thank you Laurie for being here today. I will make sure that your website is in the show notes. You kind find those at or if you’re listening on iTunes, you should be able to just click right there in the show notes on iTunes. Remember that if you’re interested in continuing to listen to this podcast, please subscribe to wherever you listen to podcast. I also have an email list and you can subscribe there at

I just want to encourage you that wherever you can find community. I tell you, I listen to podcast when I first started getting excited about growing my voice of influence. And for the past two and a half or three years that has been one of the biggest blessings for me and challenging me too. So I just encourage you to keep making your voice matter more.



How to Facilitate Transformation in Students, Organizations and Teams

Episode 20 with Doug Walters

Douglas J. Walters has over 45 years of experience as an educator, administrator and consultant. Most recently, he is the president and founding partner of Transformation Specialists LP. Prior to that he served as a teacher & administrator for the Kanawha County Board of Education, adjunct professor at Marshall University, and Dean of Students at the University of Charleston and the College of the Marshall Islands. He is a widower, father of two sons and grandfather of four. Additionally he is an author of several journal articles & co-authored a book on civic engagement/deliberation and work in higher education.

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(approximate transcript)

“Students know when you care. Students know when you are sincere. Students know if you respect them and then they will rise to the occasion if they feel those three things are in place.”

Hey, hey! It’s Andrea and welcome to the Voice of Influence podcast. I am thrilled to be on the line with Doug Walters today. He is somebody that I’ve known ever since I was in high school actually. And he was an instructor at this program called the Summer Honors Program, which was a local academic camp that I participated in and actually the place where I met my husband. So I had Doug for an instructor one year and just really enjoyed it in him and appreciated him. He did it for so many years at that program. It’s a really special thing so we’ll probably talk a little bit about that.


Andrea: But Doug, thank you so much for being here on the Voice of Influence podcast.

Doug: Well, thank you very much Andrea. I’m very glad to be with you today.

Andrea: So Doug, maybe we should start by telling the listeners just a little bit about SHP, the Summer Honors Program.

Doug: I’ll be very happy to.   Well, the program, Andrea, started in 1978 as an outgrowth of trying to provide academic stimulation for students in Nebraska especially South Central Nebraska. And I was very fortunate to have a friend of a friend who recommended me to be one of the instructors in this very intensive two-week program in 1978.

Andrea: And you weren’t living in Nebraska?

Doug: No, no. At that time in _____, at this point live in Charleston, West Virginia. So the program has grown in most tremendously over the last 40 years. In fact the summer program ended almost toward the end of June and the program celebrated its 40th anniversary, and I have been fortunate enough that my schedule and work life and family life was able to be there 33 out of the 40 years.

Andrea: Which is amazing, so you have seen a lot of life in Nebraska at this Summer Honors Program and how it changed and how students have changed over the years and all that sort of thing, which I do want to ask you about but maybe not quite yet.

Doug: OK

Andrea: So what was your role at Summer Honors Program because you retired this year is that right?

Doug: Yeah, I felt that it was time for me to sort of hang up my boots so to speak so that I will give other instructors the opportunity. I taught the social sciences, Andrea. Basically, _____ have to do primary and secondary research and the one thing that I had the great luxury with was that I was able to take and explore the various social sciences. So one year, it may focus on sociology, the next year it could have been psychology. Many times, it was on history whether it was a regional or American or world history. So I had a platform that afforded me great variety over the years. It’s a very tight as you well know having been a student in the process, a very tight two weeks of intensive academic focus.

The students are nominated and then they take entry exams to be admitted to the program. In fact, there are 10 academic areas in the entire SHP process. The number of students that I had in the program varies between about 10 to 14, which was perfect for small group discussion but yet doing teamwork. And so I was able to do that with great success in working with these wonderful, mostly rural, bright, articulate, and talented high school students. And for example this year, I focused on psychology and I like to get into that a little bit more later on in our discussion but one of the keys of the program was a very intense structure that I had students seven and half hours a day.

And for any educators, especially high school teachers that are out there listening to the podcast, you know that when we change classes every 45 to 55 minutes depending upon the type of schedule that the high school has, you have to start up and you have to _____ every day. And so once we get started in the program, we had a quality full seven to seven a half hours a day of concentrated work. So the contact hours are usually varied between 70 and 75 hours, and boy can you cover a lot of ground in that amount of time?

Andrea: And it’s so interesting because the students, and once they get there, it’s so fun. It’s a totally different kind of environment than school. I think when you pick out those kids that are really interested in digging into a topic for a while; I mean it’s a different environment.

Doug: Yes, and it’s very intense. It’s really interesting, as you well know, students could go multiple years but most students don’t go more than two years. But when you get of what we call rookie when she or he comes along and they see the amount of work that’s going to be done, they’re somewhat intimidated the first day or so. But once we get into the rhythm of the process, we found, and not just myself but over the last 40 years, all of the instructors just really developed fine academic opportunities for these students. And in many cases, we didn’t always stay in the classroom, lots of field research and lots of fieldtrips built into the entire program. And in fact, I think your brother-in-law, Chris, had the opportunity to go with me when I took a group of students to Brazil in 1999.

Andrea: Yes and why did you take them to Brazil?

Doug: Well, part of life has been filled with a great deal of travel and it was the history and cultures around the world and I’ve been involved with an organization. We have about 40 years called the Partners of the Americas and West Virginia sister state is in a small state of Espiritu Santo, which is right north of Rio de Janeiro and we made arrangements. These students were my class for two years. We made a two-year commitment and so I was able, along with another teacher and the two of us, took them down for two full weeks and it was one of the best experiences I think I ever had and I think with students also did that.

Andrea: Wow that’s amazing. I mean, it really is amazing to think of taking students to another country for two whole weeks but you also did a lot of prep work the year before so that was just a deep kind of work, deep experience that I’m sure it’s just had life changing results.

Doug: Yeah, I think so. I mean, any time that I’ve ever travelled internationally with students which has been a number of times, I have found that once they had that kind of educational experience and had interactions with people from a different culture, it really changes who they are to their very core. And I’ve had lots of follow up with some of the students that was in that class in 1998 and 1999 and they would tell me that it still remains one of the highlights of their lives.

Andrea: Oh yeah, I’m sure. Well, I would say that the Summer Honors Program for me even though I never travelled anywhere, I was there four years, and man, it had a significant impact on me. Maybe part of that had to do with just the idea that you could, first of all, be around people who are also interested in going deep into one particular topic. Aaron and I very lovingly call it “nerd camp” and then you go to this place where there’s a lot of other people that are interested in digging in like you, and all of sudden it’s just fun. There was a lot less concern about popularity and that sort of thing. I mean I say fun even though it was a lot work but it felt like fun work because it’s not the same as just kind of memorization things like that.

Doug: Right. You know, one of my personal educational philosophies is what I call, making sure the students have an opportunity to do what I call enhanced hands-on learning. And because all of these was in many cases primary research, for example one year we did an analysis of all the elections trends in Nebraska over a hundred year period. And we took students into different county courthouses and back to the primary _____ records of people in different communities and looked at through the analysis that was obviously not in the classroom. And keep in mind, Andrea, most of the time that this program has been in place at least 30 of 40 years and was without internet, was without computers. And so the methodology that is used in the program has really changed over the last 40 summers.

Andrea: You know that leads me to one of the questions that came up when I asked, we have a Summer Honors Program alumni group and I just let those people know that I was interviewing you and I asked them if they had any questions, and one of the questions that came up was how do you, over the years, structures, restructures know what to keep and what to change? So obviously, the internet had something to do with that. Have the students changed over the years?

Doug: That’s a really good question because one of the things that happened over 40 years is that the students have not changed in the sense of the quality of their ability to work hard, good work ethic, interested in learning, and fascinated by new possibilities. There has been that consistency throughout the entire program. You know, in taking back, Andrea, over the 40 summers, I don’t think there was any dramatic change other than in technology equipment that came along for some of the classes for example in the summer of 1978, there would never had an opportunity for a class in filmmaking taken place because the technology in a portable way wouldn’t allow that.

And so one, students haven’t changed. Their interests are much broader than they were 40 years ago and I think that is the because of the increase of various types of technology and media. I have found that students, first of all they want to be there. It was a competitive process and they’re interested in the subject matter in which they found themselves whether it’s in creative writing or if it’s in science or geology you know whatever happens to be. So you don’t have to worry about motivating the students and so that is a tremendous help.

One of the things that I learned very early on was that their appetite for new knowledge, new range, new strategies, new methodologies for learning just right up over this entire time period. I have found that they’ve great flexibility in the way that you approach teaching class, for example, in this year’s class, after the first year in the program teaching, I learned very, very quickly that I had to be over prepared because the very first year I was there, I thought I had enough materials to teach for two solid weeks and by Wednesday of the first week, I was out of materials.

Andrea: Oh that’s hilarious!

Doug: And so I would rush home every night no matter where I was, I would rush home, prepare research keeping in mind no internet. And so after that, I’m always being over prepared and in many times, they even push the limits under that sort of circumstances because we’re talking about such a bright young group of young men and women. And then the other thing that did change was their awareness when they came into the class of the world around them was much more propelled and deep today than it was in the 80s, simply impulsive than exposed in ways that you know students and myself included who were not exposed to in the early days of the program.

Andrea: It’s really interesting. It’s sounding to me like a lot of time you hear this “kids these days” kind of comment about the younger generation and I’m not hearing that from you at all.

Doug: No, you will never find me saying that. First of all, students know when you care. Students know when you are sincere, students know if you respect them. And if you have those three elements introduced from the very beginning of the class, and I’m talking not just in this particular program but I think it’s still true today in most high schools for all students, and then they will rise to the occasion if they feel those three things are in place. And I never doubted anytime in my teaching in Nebraska that there was ever a student that didn’t want to be there.

Now that’s not to say that once you get to know the students especially about the second week, you can tell if something happened the day before and they were not on focus. And then because the program is so all encompassing with emotional and counseling support, we were able to do some interventions over the years with some students that would have fallen through the cracks had it been a regular academic year.

Andrea: And it’s a special place, there’s no doubt about it and they’re going to miss you I’m sure. So Doug, I’m curious about what you’re doing now and how you got to where you’re at now like what is the story arc of Doug’s career?

Doug: Well, if someone had told me that when I started teaching in 1965 that I would have walked of the hallowed halls of academia from K through doctoral programs or that I would be working in the corporate world as a leadership coach, I _____ crazy. And so I have been blessed, Andrea, with my path being fairly clear through most of my life and I’ve been very fortunate in that I’ve had opportunities that afforded me some diversion from what my original academic career would have been. I think teaching is a noble profession and everything aside in my life that I’ve done from a professional standpoint, the place where I have gotten the greatest joy and the greatest amount of satisfaction has been in teaching and I’ve had at all levels that you can teach in. And I’ve been blessed with students that were receptive.

But along the way, I was a classroom teacher then I was a school administrator for a number of years, and along the way embedded in that and even when I was in the administration, I was teaching in higher ed as an adjunct professor and then lead me to the central office at a large school system here in West Virginia where I was working with teachers as well as students in making sure that they were prepared for the test of the day. I retired early because I had an opportunity to become a dean of students at the University of Charleston here in West Virginia.

It was an unusual set of circumstances that I was called, I was still a fulltime employee and the president of the university at that time said, “We need you here at your alma mater to help us move forward.” I said “OK let’s talk.” And so I made the decision and it was a very difficult decision because I love my job, what I was doing. I had great opportunities at that particular point and I was a dean at two colleges or universities over a period of a little over 10 years. One at the University of Charleston, which was an immense joy in my life and once again, I got to work directly with students but in a different way of leading and teaching.

Andrea: I’m curious, you said that they called you and said we need you, why you think and why did they say that they needed you? What did you have to bring to that situation whatever it was that they would call you?

Doug: Well, it’s very interesting about my professional career and to some degree in my personal life. I’ve always been the person that had the skills set, God-given skill set to be able to bring people together to have conversations. And so therefore, they felt that they needed someone on campus that was going to help them grow and become a residential university and also to expand the university. It got themselves into a little bit I guess trouble with the community because the university wants to expand into the neighborhood and the neighborhood thought that they were being encroached upon.

And so the president called me and said “Can you help us do this?” And so I did. I came onboard. The community protested did not want anybody to build the change in campus. They wanted to keep it the same, but we also knew that we had to build new residence halls and we’re going to expand student body and become residential.

So over a period of about nine months, I have literally, and this is no exaggeration, sat in the living room, the kitchen, or the patio of every home that bordered the university. It took me six months to do that along with everything else that I had responsibility for. So I started in September to May, at the end of the academic year, I got the approval of the neighbors, the zoning board, and the city council and there were no negative votes.

Andrea: Wow!

Doug: I don’t want to be prideful here but I’ve always been able to get people to talk and to listen and to present both sides. And so that has followed me throughout my life, not only in that city but also when I was the dean of students in the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific for a couple of years, and able to do that with some organizations in which I’ve been part of the leadership. So it’s been a very interesting journey because I had that reputation and so I was able to do that and I feel very happy about that.

Andrea: I don’t think that’s prideful at all, I think it’s being able to own who you are and communicate that clearly, and obviously, it’s a gift that you have that you’ve been able to give others. And when they know what that is then they can utilize that gift of yours and I’m really interested in this because this is the Voice of Influence podcast, right?

Doug: Right.

Andrea: This is about voice. It’s about how we communicate and what is unique about our style of communication even that makes us fit for certain things. So the fact that they looked to you for that, it just makes so much sense. You know, you took the Fascinate Assessment which I invite guests to take and it’s just an indication of what your voice is and how to categorize the way that you communicate. You came out Innovation and Alert and I know that Passion applied for you as well because passion is about relationships, so obviously that makes sense.

But then Innovation being willing to take risks and see your way around obstacles and then Alert, you know, crossing every t and dotting the i’s making sure I guess it’s preventing problems with care. And so it makes so much sense that you would be the perfect person to come in and make sure that every single one of those, you know, to sit down everyone of those porches and have these conversations and make sure that there were no ‘no’ votes. I love it. It’s brilliant!

Doug: And one of the things if I may take that as a point, I helped co-author a book several years ago about the concept of deliberation in higher education along with a few other people. And I want to talk with you about one of the things that I’ve learned in that journey working, being innovative and thinking outside the box and yes I am a risk taker. I was not surprised by the results of the Fascinate, so one of the things that I feel very passionate about is the whole concept of deliberation and civic discourse conversations.

You know, it has a variety of names and one of the things that I’ve championed in my life and work especially now in my business, Transformation Specialist, working and coaching the CEO’s, leaders across a broad spectrum in education, in government, and in business in the nonprofit world and there are four things that I think make influence more powerful if you will, Andrea.

Andrea: Oh please that’d be great!

Doug: I called these the 4Ps of Leadership. The first P is called Plants. Basically, plant the idea, the seed and you had to tend to it and nurture it as needed. In other words in the context of learning in the classroom or working with the leader whose organization is in a little bit of trouble, you can’t plant something if you don’t tend to it and you don’t nurture it. And so that’s what many leaders do I think across the whole spectrum of leadership, not only in this culture because I’ve worked in the number of countries overseas and this is true there also, so the first P is Plant. The second P is Process. You’ve got to work to process of the idea giving it time.

I have found that in the corporate world in particular, you have leaders that understand process that they don’t give it time to sort of rise. If you’re making biscuits, we have to let the dough rise before you cut them and put them in the oven. So you’ve got plants and you’ve got process. The third P is what I call, you got to tamper your leadership with Patience as the idea, the seed takes root and develop. If you don’t have patience as a leader your influence either never there or it wanes overtime.

So we’ve got Plants, Process, Patience and then fourth one which for me is the easiest because of the kind of personality and style I have and that is you’ve got to model Personal Relationship for those responsible for developing implementing the new idea in seed. So it goes back to what we were saying at the beginning of the podcast and that is when a student knows the teacher respects them, the teacher likes them, the teachers respects them that personal process is there. These are my 4P’s and so when I’m coaching and working, this is one of the things that I talk with people about.

Andrea: Oh yeah that’s really good stuff. Is that in this book that you helped to co-author?

Doug: Yes.

Andrea: And what is the name of that book?

Doug: The name of the book is called, Deliberation and the Work of Higher Education. We wrote this book with a wonderful research foundation called the Kettering Foundation out of Dayton, Ohio and it has a 2008 date. You can call the Kettering Foundation.

Andrea: Well, I will. If there’s a link to that, I will definitely link that in the show notes so that people can go get that. Yeah, those 4P’s, I mean this idea of having good conversations that could result in change, it’s a hard thing to accomplish but we need people like you out there facilitating these conversations and helping us dialogue so that we can move forward together. So I’m just really glad that you’re out there talking about this sort of thing.

Doug: Well, I appreciate that. It’s been one of the mainstays, you know, I didn’t formalize the 4P’s until we started writing the book. It has become a cornerstone of my consulting work and it also God’s have taught also.

Andrea: Yeah. The deep need that people have to know that you care and that you’re sincere and that you respect them, I mean that just opens up hearts to be able to receive whatever it is that you’re wanting to offer.

Doug: Yes, very much so, very much so.

Andrea: So let’s say, you’re in the middle of talking about your work as a dean of students to a couple of universities and then where did you go from there?

Doug: Well, I retired the second time. I have formally retired twice. I thought, I would do some traveling and just relax with my family. I was beginning to have grandchildren and three months into the process, I knew I was going to serve. I lost my wife to breast cancer during this period and I know myself well enough that I had to have a goal. I had to have something that I did each day and so to that extent, I said I can do this. Then I had a couple of friends and I said to them, “You know, let’s see if anybody wants us.”

And so what we were able to do was we formed this company called Transformation Specialists, LP so about 10 years I live and doing consulting work. The other individuals have all fulltime jobs and do their own thing and I’m sort of like have the mobility to go out. So we work in higher ed. We work for profit business. We work with nonprofit business and we’d never advertise one time, Andrea. It’s all been word of mouth and so at any one time, we can manage the complexity of maybe four to six clients and then at the same time, I went back to the University of Charleston and helped teach in their MBA program.

Andrea: With Transformation Specialists, do you have a stated mission?

Doug: Yeah, it’s a very simple phrase. It says strengths-based strategies for success. And so we take the positive approach to working with an organization. We go in and we do lots of analysis. Usually, we start off with what is called an OHA, (Organizational, Health, Appraisal, or Audit) to find out what they’re successful with and then any challenges that may exist within the organization. And so over the last almost 10 years, we gone in and worked with organizations. We’ve had you know we’re with them for six months but we’d have some clients that we’ve been with for five years.

Andrea: OK, so your organizational health analysis and then you help them move toward organizational health?

Doug: Yes. What we do is go in and we do analysis of their services or products. We go in and look at efficiencies. We look at the landscape of the actual physical layout of the facilities. We’ve worked with some organizations that have multiple facilities and so we go in and we start off with the leadership team of determining of their social styles. We’ve got some instruments that we use to look at what are their strengths. And so we always approach it upfront not from the deficit standpoint but from a strengths standpoint because most organizations you’ll find, you know what’s wrong with you, let’s take it to the doctor and give you a physical from that standpoint and so we do the reverse of that. It’s almost like a preventive care management program if our medical world looks like that.

Andrea: Uh-hmm kind of positive psychology starting with strengths instead of weaknesses.

Doug: Yeah.

Andrea: And so do you use the StrengthsFinder in your…

Doug: Yes. It’s one of the best we use. We also use David Merrill Social Styles. We also use Maslach Burnout Inventory. One of the things that we have found in many, many case is that the individuals’ maybe burnout and sometimes we’ve gone into organizations and of course, we can only make recommendations. If the organization is not willing to listen to us, we make a very quick decision and we exit almost within the first three to five weeks of working with an organization and that’s only happen to us in all these years twice.

Andrea: How can you tell?

Doug: Well, when they don’t take your suggestions and your observations and there’s always a “but you don’t understand” or “but” this calls that to take place. And so it all starts with the CEO and the management team of the organization. So what we do is that we absolutely make sure that everybody in leadership capacity and down one or two tiers in management know what their strengths are, know what their social styles is.

And so what happens is we have found that if you have an organization, let’s be hypothetical here, let’s say an organization has six managers and four people that are the CEOs, COOs and CFOs and if all of them are drivers, guess what happens? They’ll kill each other and there are arguments. They don’t get along. They can’t figure out what it is if they’re all analytical. They’re always seeking to have more data, more information before any decisions are made.

So once we identify and everybody knows everybody else’s style and their strengths, you don’t have that. In fact, we got into an organization where we post them at the entrance, and their office or their cubicle. And so you would find out very quickly that I am for example and I’m using David Merrill’s work, I am an expressive which you probably would understand that. It is you know an expressive, someone who’s intuitive, thinks outside the box, and rebels a little bit and how you consider that and how you consider this.

And if you know, you got all four quadrants and all the potential strengths out of StrengthsFinders in your organization, you can then have a balance of leadership team creating and awareness of why you don’t necessarily get along with someone would be a driver may not get along with an analytical because the driver wants to process and get things done rather quickly. Analytical doesn’t want to do that. They always want more information or data and so we massage that and work with that. As I said, we have worked with and had great opportunities even in the corporate world and of course that was an interesting experience, transitional experience for us and that sometimes the table is not necessarily set the same way as it is in education in particular. Of course you know my foundation or work is from there.

And so what happens overtime is that we find out what your strengths are and how to balance that and we’ve got several organizations to make it part of their HR process. If for example you’re looking for and you’ve got five divisions in your organization and they’re all going really well, your division head retires or moves on to another position and you want to maintain balance in the style, in strengths of that person, you then look at that as a deciding factor if everything else is equal.

Andrea: So how do we fit together and finding the right fit.

Doug: How we fit together and then because going back to the whole concept of influence is that this absolutely helps influence the direction of the organization and we have found that we can make you healthy and we have found out overtime, in fact one of my co-boards in this a gentleman by the name of Anthony J. Marchese, PhD. and he has just written a book that I used in the program in SHP this summer and it’s called Design.

It is a book that plays upon our experiences and help how it really works because the full title of the book is called Design: An Owner’s Manual for Learning, Living, and Leading with Purpose. And so we have found that we each have a unique design and so we use that to create awareness, and I was able to do that this summer I think fairly successfully with students that I had in my class in Nebraska.

Andrea: So that awareness that were uniquely designed and even I assume finding out what that is, what that design is, what is that awareness do for people in your opinion or in your experience?

Doug: Well, I mean it’s really truly and Aha moment because of course the book was written not with high school students in mind to tell you the truth. It was written for the college level and people in career work of whatever level of the field that happen to be. And so what I wanted to see if it was applicable to high school students. And guess what, Andrea that it sure was and it was one of the great a-ha moments of my 40+ years in Nebraska. It was just absolutely wonderful and I’m still hearing from the students saying that “This has changed my life.” And I don’t think that there’s anything more rewarding for a teacher than to have a student say that to you.

Andrea: Why do you think they said that?

Doug: Well you know because we go back to how much time we were able to spend together?

Andrea: Yeah.

Doug: So we had the luxury of time in dissecting this book and doing exercises in different strategies and processes in the two weeks that allowed them to look at things. For example, one of the things that we talked about is the whole concept of wonder. The literature is very specific about wonder. We lose it generally by the ages of 10 to 11. And so when I presented the very first series of exercises which dealt with wonder, they all looked at me and said “What do you mean wonder?” I mean, they know what it meant and I said what would those things that absolutely excited you when you were 4 years old or 7 or 9 years old? And they had to do some thinking about it.

But eventually, remember the 4P’s, you know, it’s about process and patience and so what happened was there was almost like an acrobatic kind of exercise, catharsis for the students in which they said, “I did lose it. I didn’t do this. I don’t do that any longer.” So that was one thing that we did and then the other one was that the book talks about birthright gifts. We’re all born with birthright gifts but we have a tendency in our culture to play them down and when we get so old, at certain age and the book details some examples of that.

And I found out that with the 13 students that I had this summer, they fell into the same category. They had forgotten about some of their birthright gifts. Now I want you to listen to this. I had one wonderful young woman in the class and so in the introductory exercises we do the first morning at the first week, she said “Well, I speak four languages.” And I looked at her so did everybody else and she has self-taught herself; Ukrainian, German, Japanese, and she’s taking Spanish academically.

Andrea: Wow, besides speaking English?

Doug: Yeah, besides speaking English. I was stupefied. It was one of the few moments in working these students that it sort of made me stop and pause that “Oh wow, I couldn’t do that.” And so she discovered that she has the birthright gift of linguistics but no one had ever actually talked to her about that and so we did some research on that for her.

Andrea: That’s awesome! That’s a good stuff. Yeah, you know, I mean I just resonate with so much of what you’re talking about and I got a chance to look at the book last night and get a really good feel for it and I loved it. I love Design that book and the things that you’re talking about. I think that that something that really drives me as well is that the desire to see people to instead of trying to figure out where they fit in, figure out how they fit together.

Doug: Right.

Andrea: I think even for myself when I was younger for sure, there’s this tension inside of younger people I think especially between trying to figure out if it’s okay to be who they are and yet wanting everybody to be like them. And so it’s hard for them to know to be able to respect the fact that somebody else is different and that’s okay and there’s a good way that we can fit together and you know that whole concept is so important in our formation of our purpose and our identity and understanding how that _____ in our lives and how we can turn that into something that comes out as a voice and then it make a difference, a voice of influence. So man, I just love all of this. I love what you’re doing. And is there anything else that you had thought about ahead of time that you want to mention today.

Doug: Well, I just think that in closing from standpoint, I believe all of us have a capacity to continue to grow and to learn. You know, culture has a way of sometimes limiting what we can do because they say, “By this age you should have done that. You stop studying, go get a job have a family and live happily ever after.” And I think that we live, Andrea, an era in which learning now and opportunities for learning is at its richest point in the history of mankind. And I believe that if we can figure out ways of capturing that and redesigning our public schools to include some of the kinds of things that we have talked about today we can really make some changes; I believe that this is going to make a huge difference.

I will tell you what I’m getting ready to do this fall, I’m working with the school system in which they listened to me, and we’ve been working on this process for several years and they finally agreed for us to go into a school system with two high schools and three middle schools to begin to introduce the concept of understanding self in design as part of the regular curriculum. And so we’ve committed ourselves to a five years research study to be able to do this in the school system and so I will start training the core group of 24 teachers in these three high schools and three middle schools.

And so we’re identifying six teachers at each of those schools to be trained in knowing about strengths, about social styles, a little basic kinds of skill set to identify issues that may impact learning in the classroom. And we’re going to start off with a control group about 90 students and follow them and see if we’ll not only can improve their ability to learn but also enhancing decrease the dropout rate because the school system is in an area of West Virginia in which they opened it unfortunately epidemic and crisis is hitting hard and it’s in the cow fields. And we believe that we can make a change in those kinds of cultural settings that we can do it any place in the country.

Andrea: That’s so exciting! Those students are just so blessed that they’re going to get to be part of that.

Doug: I hope so.

Andrea: Yeah. Before you go, I do have one more question for you. This one really comes from one of your fellow instructors at the Summer Honors Program.

Doug: Okay.

Andrea: And I love this question and this is a great way to end I think. Doug, you have the most wonderful character, kind, out-of-you-way polite, humorous, generous, appreciative, and toughest nails when it comes to discipline and work, how much of your well recognized leadership skills would you attribute to character and how much to formal education?

Doug: Wow! I mean that is an unbelievably structured question and I appreciate the thoughts behind that. I believe that if you have a centered family, your character evolves in the first five to eight years of your life and if you have firm grounding principled parents and the family as a whole is nurturing and respectful of you that is somewhat like one of the cornerstones or part of the foundation of your potential as a human being.

One of the things that I believe, and I had to work at this because early on in my life, I was undisciplined in the sense that I wanted to be a little bit of everything for everybody. And I had to step back and figure out where do your strengths lie and this was long before StrengthsFinder or even some of the positive psychology research in the last 25 years and I said to myself “I’ve got to figure this out.” And so I was able to do that because I had strong support initially from my immediate growing up family and then I had it with my wife, my beautiful, wonderful Barbara.

And so, our marriage was a partnership and therefore we approach raising our sons in a partnership. And so we continued to do that but we had very, very high expectations of our boys and I’m proud to say that they’ve done very, very well and I’m just unbelievably blessed to have that. So I think you know, basically as combination of continued learning, I still was taking, Andrea, formal classes until three years ago and I’m 73. I started grade school when I was 5 and so I basically was in some kind of a formal or informal learning mode for 65 years of my life up until that point.

But you got to have people that believe in you also and if you got someone that believes in you and I think this goes by to the very first part of our conversation and that is the students know if you care for them and if your heart is there to help them do whatever they need to do and I think respect is part of it. But boy, they got to know that you have strong expectations.

Andrea: That’s a great way to end this conversation. Doug, thank you so much! Thank you for your voice of influence with students and on the world today and in organizations and for being here today on the podcast.

Doug: Well, thank you very much. It’s been a pleasure!

Andrea: Well, listeners, Influencers listening, you just got a lot of wisdom dropped on you and I’ll be definitely putting all the links to the things that Doug mentioned, the books that he mentioned and his own information in the show notes. I encourage you to go care, be sincere and respectful and make your voice matter more.



How to Keep it Real in Your Personal Brand

Voice Studio 19

In this Voice Studio episode, we go back and discuss why Andrea interviewed Naomi Loomis about branding cattle and how that relates to Personal Branding. It’s not what you think!

Mentioned in this episode: