Discover Your Design and Lead with Purpose

Episode 32 with Dr. Anthony J. Marchese

“Don’t you wish that babies came with owner’s manuals?!” We’ve all wish we could understand our kids, loved ones, friends and coworkers better at one time or another. But what about understanding ourselves? Maybe it’s self-awareness that can help us know what direction to go in life and how to communicate with others. In this interview, I talk with Dr. Anthony J. Marchese about how discovering our design helps us live a life of significance.

Dr. Anthony J. Marchese has over twenty years of leadership experience in corporations, universities, and churches. He is the author of DESIGN: An Owner’s Manual for Learning, Living, and Leading published by WestBow Press. Marchese is a corporate trainer, professor, and avid public communicator.

Find Dr. Marchese’s book here DESIGN: An Owner’s Manuel for Learning, Living, and Leading with Purpose

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Interview Transcript

Hey, hey! It’s Andrea and welcome to the Voice of Influence podcast. Today, I have on the line, Dr. Tony Marchese. He has written a book, a fabulous book called Design: An Owner’s Manual for Learning, Living, and Leading with Purpose.

Andrea:   I’m so glad to have you on the podcast today, Tony!

Dr. Tony Marchese: Oh it’s great to be here, Andrea. Thank you very much for the invitation.

Andrea: Yeah, and it’s particularly fun because we have a mutual friend. I had Doug Walters on the podcast a few episodes ago and he and you are actually working together. Can you explain what’s your relationship is just briefly?

Dr. Tony Marchese: Sure. Several years ago, Doug and I worked for a university in Charleston, West Virginia. He was the Dean of Students and I was the Assistant Dean of Students and then I ended up going over to the academic side. But we remain friends, and for many years, we did some consulting together where we go into nonprofit organizations as well as small to medium sized corporations to assist them with anything from HR to organizational design, organizational assessment, and executive coaching. So I worked with him for a long time and he’s a very, very good friend.

Andrea: OK. So you wrote this book and I know that you have a doctor degree in organizational leadership. So tell us about what that is exactly first before we go on.

Dr. Tony Marchese: Sure! My PhD is organizational leadership and I was toying several years ago between going for a PhD in philosophy or PhD in organizational leadership. And I felt like since my bachelors and masters were in the humanities so I wanted to do something that was a little bit more practical. So my area of interest is in the science of human motivation as well as positive organizational psychology.

So rather than viewing organizations and people as problem to be solved, I look at them as opportunities where there’s immense potential and there are immense opportunities. And if we look at what’s essentially right about us, those things at service differentiators and we really learn how to identify those things and develop them and apply them strategically, I think that we can make a major difference not only in our lives but also in organizations.

So that’s what my doctorate was all about and my practice for the past many, many years in my work has been kind of pretty at well aligned with that philosophy I guess you’d say.

Andrea: So you’re using this positive psychology and the things that you’ve learned to help organizations and be able to man better leadership and to be able to communicate better. What would you say are some of the top priorities when you come in to work with people?

Dr. Tony Marchese: Well, I think that many people have an approach where it’s guided by a deficit-based world view. I think that rarely does kind of proliferate our cultures. We’re always trying to identify what is essentially wrong and learn how to compensate for those weaknesses and for me it’s all different disciplines.

Currently, I work for a large international consulting firm that’s based out at DC. I live in West Virginia. I’m the Director of Learning and Development, so I’m essentially a corporate trainer, and I create the leadership and management curriculum for all of our 6000 plus employees worldwide. In terms of the rest of my career, I’ve done a great deal of consulting in medium to large sized corporations. Again, in all of those areas, I just been very interested in helping people understand kind of the intricacies of the self and to really identify those things at serve as differentiators and to develop those and to really learn to channel those strategically in various ways where people want to achieve.

It doesn’t mean that we are unaware of areas where we fall short. But I just kind of have lived my life according to the idea that when we try to compensate for our weaknesses and that’s the chief aim of our professional life, we become adequate at much but excellent at nothing and so that’s really not the approach that I take. I try to help people understand what’s right about them and how to really use that to create a personal brand in one in which they’re able to flourish.

Andrea: Obviously, I really love everything that you’re saying. I’m curious though, in a corporate setting, do you come up against any oppositions to this idea that we should be focusing on what’s right? I recently talked to somebody who is a manager of a small business and they were working with somebody else who had the same kind focus, this strength based kind of focus. He said it was really hard to shift gears because he grew up and spent most of his career in that mindset of “You got to fix what’s wrong, you got to fix what’s wrong.” It feels a little bit like we’re not going to fix what’s wrong then if we don’t do that. So how do you talk to somebody like that? How do you explain this to them?

Dr.Tony Marchese: Well, I think that’s a very common perception that people have, especially initially, when you’re not really adept or familiar with kind of that assets-based approach. I think that the transcending kind of principle, the overarching principle behind all of this is the idea of being self-aware. That can either be from a personal perspective as an individual but also from an organizational perspective. What does that mean to be self-aware? That is the number one thing and when you’re self-aware, not only you’re aware of your strengths but you’re also aware of those areas where you kind of fall short.

But if you’re really good, if you’re self-aware, you understand your reason for existence. You understand why you exist. You understand your chief function. You understand your values and you’re able to leverage those in various ways. So the idea of having a strength-based approach to working or to living does not mean that we ignore what’s essentially wrong, but it’s really kind of future focused rather than dwelling upon those areas that we fall short, we can really, really supplicate within that mindset in living a life or working in a profession immersed in that approach. It’s about identifying what the desired future really looks like.

In positive psychology, there’s this idea of disputation where you reinforce the positive. And as a result of that, the theory goes that the negative, those areas of deficit, where they’re applicable diminish. So it’s not ignoring what’s wrong but it’s making sure that we’re moving in the right direction that our values, our identity, and our true function are all aligned in that particular direction and it’s focusing in what we need to get there.

Andrea: Yeah, I love that quote in your book, “self-awareness is intimately connected to a positively _____ impact and that awareness that you help people to achieve, what’s kind of things are you helping them to become aware of?

Dr. Tony Marchese: One of the things that I do a lot is I work with corporate executives’ kind of an international basis. And the thing that I know that regardless of individuals success, I mean how much money they make regardless of what domain that they may find themselves professionally that they all bring baggage to the work place, everyone of us do that. Some of these bring more baggage than the others or baggage that maybe more potentially harmful to others around us than others.

It’s really important to be aware of our own liabilities and to be cognizant of how those can impact others within the organization. One of the things that I do talk about in the book is a lot of bad behavior that happens among leaders within the workplace has its origin on the playground when the not-yet leader was bullied or pushed down or no one would pick that individual to be a part of their team. They didn’t get invited to play tag and they were kind of in the shadows.

For many people, there’s an injury that occurs very early in life. And for most of us, we don’t really find healing. There’s sort of scar that’s left. Not necessarily an open wound anymore but it’s still there and there’s still sting. As we advanced in our careers, we become smarter and enjoy a more lucrative lifestyle from our earlier years. Unless we actively engage in that process of becoming more self-aware and being aware not only of the good that we bring to the workplace but also those areas that could cause damage or inflict harm then it’s probably going to happen in some degree.

So one of the things that I really try to do is for people in order to be able to move forward, in order to really excel as a leader, you need to start with the basics. You need to understand who you are and in all of the complexities that make up your identity. That includes some of those areas that aren’t so nice. It sort of like Plato’s Cave allegory which I used in the book and it’s often used in many different ways 2500 years after its initial publication.

I think that it’s the idea of being a attentive to what’s above and recognizing the shadow with black and white cavernous existence is one that’s not going to allow us to flourish. And it’s only through the arduous climb out of that cave, facing ourselves, coming out into the light, and being able to look around and see things not just as they appear but as they truly are in color and in multi-dimensions and that type of thing that we’re really able to see things as they are. And to really address who we are and what we bring to the table and to be cognizant again of those areas that aren’t so good. So it’s about being truthful with ourselves I think is one of the main themes.

Andrea: You know that’s interesting because we’re just talking about positive psychology and everything and a lot of times people’s perception of that is that you don’t even pay attention to these things that you’re just talking about the harder things. They’re kind of different too. But bringing those two things together just standing in the truth of who you are and being honest about it that is a really hard thing for people to do.

I’m curious about your experience in facilitating that for other people as they’re going through this process with you. Do you find that people resists going there? How does authenticity and transparency, which are two different things I realized, how do these things play into this process as they’re working through it?

Dr. Tony Marchese: As I speak across the country and as I write articles in different things, especially when I’m speaking in public, a lot of times people will come up to me afterwards and you can see on their face a look of brokenness. Because from many of these individuals, and if someone look at their life, they’d say “Well, they have everything.” They have a nice car. They live in a grand house. They really have wants of really nothing, and yet, it’d come to a point in their lives where despite all those things, despite checking every box that our society would say makes an individual successful and happy and make them content in many, many ways, they’re languishing.

Languishing is not depression. It’s also not flourishing. It’s sort of what one writer calls being wooden, kind of feeling hollow inside and so part of moving forward, part of being honest with ourselves is asking a question, “Is my life worth what I really thought it was going to be?” “Am I really making a difference?” Because I believe that inherent within human nature is that need to really contribute in whatever way is relevant to us to the evolution of the human race. When we’re not doing that, when we’re just living life in a transactional way, I think that slowly our soul begins to atrophy and we find ourselves longing for something more.

When we’re at that place of authenticity, of being aware, and of looking at ourselves as though in a mirror, I think it’s at that point when we’re really in a position in an assuming a posture where we can really make some changes.

Andrea: Yes. OK so you just mentioned a comparison, why don’t you go ahead and do this for me compare what it’s like, what is that look like for somebody to live in a transactional kind of way versus living with purpose?

Dr. Tony Marchese: I think a transactional way is something that is really perpetuated by our culture. We live at a very consumptive lifestyle for the most part. We’re taught to always be seeking opportunities to make ourselves over to be focused on those areas of deficit. If you look at television, if you look at the commercials, if you look a lot of popular TV shows, if you read, or if you’re paying attention to the internet; there such a lot of things that are reminding us who we are in our present state is an adequate and reconstruct ourselves to correspond to whatever the latest trends of societal acceptability look like and so it’s idea of a transactional.

We expand effort of some sort and receive a return of some kind. I don’t think that that is how we were designed to live our lives because when our lives are no more than just here to basically perform a function, we become nothing more than a horse that’s been trained to pull a cart. I think that we are to live lives that are transformational in nature where we really pay close attention to those things that differentiate us from every other human on this planet.

As we look at what I call birthright gifts or what Aristotle called 2500 years ago, entelechies, when we pay attention to those differentiators, and we see what pattern they reveal, there’s a lot of information there about things that we may want to do. Things we may want to consider and things that can move us from that transactional way of thinking and living towards activities that we really were designed to do.

When we’re engaged in those types of things, it’s very similar to flow. It’s almost like a mystical experience. Some of the things that I noticed in my work as I’ve coached executives of different types over the years is that it’s often people that are in roles like teaching or an education of some sort that really kind of have that sense of destiny. They feel like their lives are lives of consequence.

It’s not just teachers but I noticed that especially with those people, they have a sense that they’re not living life as though they paid for their tank of gas at the gas station and requested a carwash. When they get that receipt with that code and they go up and they drive up to the carwash and they input the code and they gained access into the carwash, many people live their lives where they’re at the carwash and they’re just randomly inputting numbers hoping to gain access to what they’re feeling that they need but don’t really understand.

Andrea: Hmm, yeah. OK, I find it interesting that you’re talking about all of these things in relation to people’s personal brands. It sounds like a corporate setting, is that right?

Dr. Tony Marchese: A corporate setting in what sense? What I do?

Andrea: Yeah like what you’re doing.

Dr. Tony Marchese: Yeah. I’ll just say this, when I wrote Design, I wrote it out of the sense of obedience. It was one of those things where I felt like I just absolutely had to do it. That’s why it was written in three months, which kind of crazy. I would come home and it was almost… I was absolutely in a state of float. I think that one of the main things about this book was that it was written to be accessible to all types of people.

I’ve heard many, many stories of teenagers that are reading this book. I know many single parents or parents who have children that have recently left the nest and the parents are now wondering “OK, what am I supposed to do now?” I think I would say that in my day-to-day profession, while I don’t necessarily use the book, I think many of the principles are quite evident in a way that I approach management and leadership.

Because this is all based upon a promise that before we can really lead others effectively, we need to understand how to lead ourselves. If we don’t understand our design, if we don’t understand the intricacies that make us who we are, then we’re not really living the way that we probably want to. It’s probably going to be really hard to lead others.

It reminds me of a quote that Thomas Martin said; he said “How do you expect to arrive at the end of your own journey if you take the road to another man’s city?” And the one thing that I know about leadership is that a lot of the leadership and management materials, if you go in the business section of almost any major bookstore, there’s Tom after Tom after Tom promising that “If you do these five things then you’ll be successful like me.” I find that somewhat insulting because it’s so imitative rather than organic.

Design is written for, not to say ignore all these other voices out there, because there’s a lot of value and things like even Voice of Influence podcast, there’s a lot of value and perspective of other people and the wisdom that they bring. But at the same time, don’t deny all of those clues. Don’t deny those voices internally that are screaming for you to pay attention.

Andrea: I totally agree. The promise of this podcast is to help other people hear their own voice of influence. So yeah, I’m in full amen mood right here. You mentioned personal brand, so I’m very curious. How does finding your purpose and all of these things that you talked about in your book, the Design, how does relate to personal branding for you when you look at your own or when you look at helping other people?

Dr. Tony Marchese: Well, the subtitle of the book talks about the idea of an owner’s manual and this is really what the book is about. I started out talking about how this book came to be. Basically, I talked about waking up in the middle of the night and needing to get a drink of water because I was really thirsty. I walked into my kitchen and I looked around and got my water and I noticed a cell phone box on my table, when I remember that I purchased a cell phone the day before, and there was an owner’s manual that was sitting on it.

I never, ever, ever read an owner’s manual for electronics. I’m a techy kind of guy. I’m an early adopter. I ordered a new iPhone this morning at 3:00 a.m. When it came out, I started scheming through this owner’s manual. It was literally 3:00 in the morning when I had to get this drink and I had this weird thought that you’d only have at 3:00 a.m.

As I looked at this owner’s manual especially the table of content, I saw sections like Overview where there was an explanation of the purpose of the product. I saw section called Distinguishing Features, which was all about differentiators, things that differentiate this cell phone from another. There was a section that dealt with requirements for optimal functioning which were basically instructions in order for this to function at its best. There was a section on precautions, which was all about preventing harm. And the last section was Support. If things aren’t working the way they’re supposed to, this is where you go.

And I thought, you know, what if people had an owner’s manual? How might that impact the way that we think about our lives, the way that we plan our lives in terms of making those major decisions like what do I want do with my life professionally for example. I mentioned earlier the parents that maybe their children have left home “How do I know what am I supposed to do next?” Or that executive that has everything but yet feels as though they have nothing and they’re looking for answers.

If we were to really begin to identify those entelechies, which Aristotle said are innate within all living matter, those things that can pick something from a state of potentiality to actuality that can turn an acorn into an oak tree provided that it receives the right nurture and care, the right elements of water and soil and so forth. If we were to really begin to pay attention for those things and to create an owner’s manual based upon those where we understand our purpose, we understand what we need to be at our best, we understand how to prevent harm, we understand where we go for support, and we have that support system in place; I think that we’re going to do a lot less imitating.

I was talking about buying a book and then just going to do everything that it says to do and we’re going to make a lot more decisions based upon what that owner’s manual said about us. Because I believe, unlike some educators who believe in a concept of tabula rasa that humans are born as “blank slates,” I believe there’s great deal of information on every human being. And until we acknowledge that and we affirm those thing and we begin to develop them and strategically apply them in areas where we want to succeed then I think we are going to be languishing.

So the idea of a brand for me is really about being attentive to who you really are. One of the things I say in my book is I say that the childhood is perhaps the most honest season of our lives. When we’re young, we have yet to yield the cacophony of voices competing for our attention. Parents, teachers, television, and connected culture present various compelling visions of our future selves with promises of acceptance, approval, prestige, beauty, and wealth.

We slowly yield our still emerging dreams and gifts not yet developed into talents to act to the expectations of others. Part of us is real self gradually back swaying to the shadows. Eventually, when we find ourselves in middle age enjoying all the benefits of personal and professional success, yet strangely looking for something more. I believe that our most authentic selves, our most authentic moments are as children.

As we grow older, so many factors or so many different types of stimuli that are encouraging us to grow up and to develop and to conform to whatever trends are out there at the time and I believe that we begin to lose ourselves. And so part of this process of identifying our brand is understanding what I call our birthright gifts.

I wrote this, I said “Birthright gifts reveal the depth and breadth of human diversity, and while we all share in common the presence of Design, the way our gifts manifest themselves is as unique to each of us as our DNA. Like discovering our place of origin, knowledge of our gifts serves as a stabilizing force as our identity and calling become clearer. Acknowledging and developing our gifts helps to reveal our place in a brilliant tapestry of human experience.”

Andrea: Hmm, totally. I love that. It’s really beautiful.

Dr. Tony Marchese: And so as I think about things that are in the news, one of the things that’s in the news right now a lot is this whole idea of bullying. It’s been for the past several years. When I was in school, I don’t really remember that being a really big thing. I remember a little bit conversation about it, but it’s really a very real thing and it’s really a horrible thing that happens.

As I think about this idea of Design, I think of a bully. I think of our world has a lot of stuff going on right now and there’s a lot of stuff that’s not so good. There are a lot of uncertainties and people have a lot of anxieties. And the thing about Design is I think is so powerful as we’re faced with all these things that are coming at us and creating all the anxieties. We’re kind of in the sea and it’s a very tempestuous sea.

I think that our design and awareness of our design really serves as a bully and keeps us from going under. And I think about the child that maybe bullied. How powerful it would be to know even in the midst of some of these bad stuffs that’s going on at school, you know, “This is who I am. I’m here and my life is a life of consequence and I’m here to do some very specific things.”

I don’t think as Design is something that’s just for older people, for those executives that we’re talking about before. I think that there’s a great deal of opportunity with even younger people as well.

Andrea: Definitely. I’m totally in agreement with that. I’ve had conversations with our kids about “If you end up feeling like somebody is trying to squash this part of you in some way, in your mind, acknowledge that maybe they just don’t understand. They don’t understand you and that’s OK and the idea that they might know, that they are created in a certain way that they’re designed that these things that might be driving other people crazy or might be really powerful things that needs some honing maybe, maybe they need to be channeled in a right direction but that’s such a power inside of them. I mean, I think it’s encouraging and empowering for those kids and the parents.

Dr. Tony Marchese: It makes me think about also one of the concepts that I write about in the book and that’s the concept of “dream stealers.” I tell you, as I go around the country and I talk about Design, I can’t think of any other story that I share from the book that resonates more than the story that I share of dream stealers in this whole concept. It’s almost like universal. Everyone can relate to at least one person in our life who acted in this way.

A dream stealer can be one of two types. It ultimately has this idea where they deplete our greatest desires rendering us pain and empty and sometimes feeling of lost. It can be a parent who urges their child to be realistic and responsible and a lot of times, it may come from a lack of experience on their part or it may be a fear of the unknown. The words might come from a parent who didn’t go to college and was successful and feels as though it’s not a necessary thing. It can come in a lot of different ways.

But one of the things that I know was handling your child’s destiny is a very, very delicate matter. I think other dream stealers have a far more sinister intention and a lot of times they target our clues to selfhood, our birthright gifts, our entelechies and can sometimes derail our entire professional trajectories any existing confidence that’s there in that person.

For me, I was a very averaged high school student. In my elementary school years, I spent several years in gifted program and in fact took classes at a high school in fifth and sixth grade for half a day. When I got into high school eventually, I wasn’t really engaged and I was taking classes like music theory and radio and television and public speaking, things like that wasn’t under the AP track, let’s put it that way. I think I had a 2.6 GPA, but I decided my senior year that I wanted to go to college and I wanted to go to the local community college.

So I remember towards the end of the year that I was going to be having what you basically call an exit interview with my guidance counselor and I was excited because I was going to let her know that I was going to go to college. I’ll never forget when I received the invitation to go upstairs and to see her.

I went out there and my heart was really pounding and I was really excited. I sat down and we had small talk and then the question, “So Tony, what are you gonna do after high school?” And I said “Well, I wanna go to the community college. I wanna become a teacher.” And I’ll never forget her looking at me dead in the eyes and she said “Tony, you’re not college material. You’d never make it in college.” I had a DJ business at the time and did very well. She said “The best thing you could do is just keep DJ’ing. You won’t make it in college.” I left there so depleted, so upset, and really, really injured.

Andrea: It’s crashing.

Dr. Tony Marchese: It was. And many years later as I walk the stage to receive my PhD, I had a flash of her face that went through my mind and I thought “You know, I’d love to go see her.” I ended up working with youth shortly after that period and I heard story after story of kids that either heard that same thing from her or from other people. We have to be so careful about the words that we say. Like I said a person’s destiny is a very delicate matter.

Andrea: Yes! Do you think that that was part of your motivation for pursuing continued education in this area and writing the book and all that?

Dr. Tony Marchese: I can only say this, I’ve always had a pretty strong sense of self and I’ve been pretty self confident. I’m here in the timeline of history for a reason and that really has driven me to make a lot of decisions that I have. I don’t like to hear people tell me you can’t do something. So I do think that it did act as a motivator. I really can’t fully explain it. I think that some people maybe are a little bit more resilient than others.

I know that other individuals may have heard those kinds of words and there’s nothing wrong with working in a blue color job. There’s nothing wrong doing a vocational or low tech type of thing at all. We need those professions but I know of so many individuals over the course of my 20-plus-year career who ended up choosing a different path that really wasn’t aligned with where they really were at and with what their birthright gifts or their entelechies said. For them in many cases, they do engage in a transactional approach to life and its life is lost, its joy or its magic I guess you could say, that wonder that I write about in the book.

Andrea: Yeah. It’s hard for me to see people not living into the fullness of who they are, not that it’s kind of idealistic but that is hard. It’s hard to see wasted human potential. It’s very painful almost.

Dr. Tony Marchese: Yeah, and I truly believe that the world suffers every time an individual lets that flame, that spark, get pushed down and smothered. Like I said, I don’t think that I’m unique at all in the sense that I’m in this timeline in history and in this place. I think everyone of this are here for a very, very specific purpose. And I think that when we just become consumers of life, we just become consumers of oxygen when we go to our jobs and we come home and really don’t have any sense of destiny, any sense of a purpose. We just kind of go to the motion.

It’s hard to know what kind of an impact that really has because I don’t think that our gifts, I don’t think that those things that captivated us as a child that we’re just kind of emerging but meant to be nurtured and cultivated to move that acorn towards that oak tree. It’s hard to really calculate, to quantify what that impact really has upon our role.

Andrea: I really appreciated the fact that at the end of your book, you gave so many exercises and things that people could actually do to write their own manual for themselves. I wonder if you would mind sharing a little bit about it with us that Creative Disruption exercise. I love it. Would you share that with us? Maybe some of us are stuck. Maybe some of us are feeling like we’re in a day-to-day grind and it’s just more comfortable there. Maybe there’s more for us.

Dr. Tony Marchese:   I’m happy to do that. Creative Disruption is the concept of really altering patterns of your life. There are certain patterns. I could go through all kinds of them that I have been following or engaging for probably 20 or 30 years. We all have those kinds of things. We have our routines. We have a way to go about things. The idea of Creative Disruption is an experiment basically and it’s the idea of picking something, choosing something one of those things in our routine.

So for example, one idea might be that you wake up in the working and you’re still in bed and the first thing you do is you turn on the news and you watch the news. Well, you might find later in the day that you really are sort of preoccupied with negativity. You’re really preoccupied with a sense of some just “Uh there’s just so much bad stuff in the world.” It really brings you down. I know that it does to me sometimes.

So you’ve been doing this for years and years and years, so the idea of Creative Disruption would be to maybe instead of doing that, maybe reverse that. And instead of lying in bed for half an hour watching the news, you get up and you go workout or you go for a walk. You do that for a week and just see if you learn something about yourself. See what kind of an impact that there has on your life. Another great thing is that some people absolutely have to have noise. They have to have noise all the time.

A great Creative Disruption exercise is to turn it off during a specific time and just see what it’s like to be alone with your own thoughts. It might be scary but you might come upon a great idea or strategy or a new awareness. Another one is that a lot of people don’t journal at all, and I think that there’s so much stuff that bombarding our senses every day and it can be absolutely overwhelming. I think that rather maybe watching that 30-minute show that you like to watch maybe have it recorded and watch it another time. But during that time when you normally watch it, spend 30 minutes and journal about your day.

I find that in the act of journaling for example, it’s a way of getting all that stuff that’s all bottled up within us and it’s just making us anxious. It gets out and it puts down on a paper where you can kind of step back and see what’s going on. A lot of times, I find that many people have epiphanies of sorts as they do that. It really is a very therapeutic exercise, so creative disruption can take on so many different forms but it’s in experiment, in changing your routine, disrupting the norm in very intentional ways to see if something emerges about yourself that could be helpful. At many times, people continue on of those that it becomes a new routine for a while.

Andrea: Yeah. That’s super powerful but I will say that like most people don’t want to change that kind of thing. They don’t want to try. It’s scary, so what do you say to that person? “I don’t wanna change. I don’t wanna change.” You know, they always say that.

Dr. Tony Marchese: Well, I say that the worst thing that I think you could do is to try to change everything all at once; you know. I think the idea is to identify little things and again things are somewhat safe, things that are disruptions, but aren’t a complete kind of a thing. The whole final chapter of my book, the chapter entitled Deciphering your Design is all about what that process looks like.

So yes, full of different activities. Several of those could happen within the context of a retreat which I talked about, you know, going on a personal retreat. Not many of us are able to do that with their lifestyles or the way they are, but maybe blackout 30 minutes a day or if you’re lucky an hour a day or a couple of hours a week in your calendar and you work on some of these things that are in that chapter. Do some of these activities that are there.

Some of them are just kind of thinking and throws some questions and to kind of really understand a lot of things from way back. Because again, I think that some of the greatest _____ ourselves in what would ultimately make us happy now when we go back 20, 30, 50, or 60 years depending how old you were. So this process of deciphering your design, it requires some concentration and it requires of being in an environment that’s kind of free from disruption where you can really think and process and reflect. But like I said, not everybody can literally go away for a week and do that.

Andrea: I do like the idea of a retreat though because I think it might be an easier way to then come back. If you go away and get a start on it in a different space that’s just make a huge difference. You don’t have your normal responsibilities and relationships maybe that you’re taking care of and you’re able to get out of that and start to think about it and then come back and do the creative disruptions, the other kind of creative disruptions. I think that’s a really great way to do it because you’re ready. You have to set your mind ahead of time and your heart ahead of time too “You know what; I don’t wanna change this one little thing and try it.”

I think it’s really hard for people to do it right in the middle of what they’re doing unless they’re already really hungry or in great deal of pain.

Dr. Tony Marchese: I think that’s true and in some cases, sometimes the people that I talk with at that place, they’re really kind of along the edge where they just had enough. But for others, it’s not quite to that point yet and that’s good and sometimes it’s more of a subtle process.

Andrea: Yeah. And I think if we were to view pain as the opportunity to make changes that need to be made, you know, that is a very motivating factor so maybe we don’t need to run away from pain and we don’t need to resist it so much as look at it and say “OK, what need to change? What do I want to change?”

Dr. Tony Marchese: Some of that pain you know, Andrea, is connected to our gifts. I mentioned earlier the idea of dream stealer and again I found almost everyone that I talked to can relate to that in some way whether they’re a parent, a coach, a teacher, or a boss. All of these probably have some experience of that type of person who really, really encouraged us to keep our feet on the ground. For some, they kind of dig a hole and bury yourself. In many ways, those words are targeted around that persons birthright gifts or their entelechies.

So that process of discovering, deciphering, or design is a lot of times painful because it forces us to go back and to kind of face that person. Maybe that person is no longer alive but it requires us to really consider the impact of their words and how harmful they were and how wrong they were. Ultimately were responsible for our own lives and we’re responsible for nurturing our gifts and trying to make a difference and I think for a very few people, it’s an easy process.

Andrea: Yeah. Yeah, don’t play the victim. You don’t have to be a victim.

Dr. Tony Marchese: No.

Andrea: Yeah, we are responsible. I love that.

Dr. Tony Marchese: You know and the idea of the other thing is that just as there are dream stealers, there are also dream starters. The dream starters are those individuals who don’t just see as we are but they see us as we could become, you know, they spot our entelechies.

Fred Rogers said “As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has – or ever will have – something inside that is unique at all time. It’s our job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression.”

I just really think that we need to be aware of the words that we share with other people and maybe we’ve been a dream stealer to someone, maybe we’ve inadvertently causing individual not to pursue something that they probably were supposed to do. I just think that we just need to be very aware of that and to make sure that we’re being a dream starter in someone else’s life.

Andrea: That’s great! Yes, let’s be dream starters! Well, thank you so much for your time with us today and sharing all of your wisdom and all of the knowledge that you’ve gained over the years on this particular topic especially Design and your passion behind it. It’s very inspiring.

Dr. Tony Marchese: Well, thank you so much. It’s been a great opportunity and I really, really appreciate the chance to be on your podcast.

Andrea: Sure and where should I send the people? Where do you want people to come find you and your book?

Dr. Tony Marchese: Well my book is available online. I’m on Amazon, if they just do a search for Design: An Owner’s Manual to Learning, Living, and Leading with Purpose. Or search Design and Marchese. It’s available in all major online booksellers and they can also find out more about me at

Andrea: That’s great. Well, link to all of that in the show notes for listeners to get really easy for them. Well, thank you again and let’s go big dream starters.

Dr. Tony Marchese: Let’s do that. Well, have a great day. Thank you so much!

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.



Perhaps It’s Time to Stop “Leading” and Focus on Influencing

Episode 14 with Dr. Neal Schnoor

The concept of leadership is a good one, but is it possible that we’ve turned it into a list of behaviors we “do” in order to get people to do what we think they should do? Dr. Neal Schnoor, Senior Advisor to the Chancellor of UNK, presents an interesting proposition to focus on influence, rather than leadership.

In this interview we discuss:

Connect with Dr. Neal Schnoor here:


Listen here, on iTunes or Stitcher


Dr. Schnoor provides counsel and assistance to the Chancellor relative to the comprehensive executive portfolio. He is a member of the Chancellor’s Cabinet and Administrative Council and serves as UNK’s chief compliance officer. Previously, Dr. Schnoor served as Dean of the School of Education and Counseling at Wayne State College. For thirteen years prior he was a member of the faculty at UNK, where he held tenure in both the College of Education and College of Fine Arts and Humanities and served as Coordinator of K-12 and Secondary Education and Director of Bands. He has published articles in state and national journals and presented papers at state, national, and international conferences and served as a higher education representative to the Effective Educator 2020 Summit and on Nebraska’s statewide committee for developing state teacher/leader standards. Dr. Schnoor is one of only a few individuals to have been elected President of both the Nebraska Music Educators Association and Nebraska State Bandmasters Association and he continues to present clinics and leadership development sessions for students and educators. Dr. Schnoor earned PhD and MM degrees from the University of Nebraska Lincoln and BFAE from Wayne State College.


Hey, it’s Andrea and welcome to the Voice of Influence Podcast. I am honored to have Dr. Neal Schnoor with me today. When I first decided that the premis of this podcast would be helping creative leaders develop their message and their voice of influence, there were a few names that immediately came to mind as people I want to interview and Dr. Schnoor was one of them.

I met him at the University of Nebraska, Kearney when I was a music education student and he was the director of bands. And he also taught a secondary education class that I was in and it really felt like that secondary education class felt a lot more like a life leadership kind of class. So I gained so much from his influence and I loved the way that he communicated and it just seems to resonate with me.


Andrea: So today, I’m so thrilled to have you with me on the podcast, Dr. Neal Schnoor.

Dr. Schnoor: Well, Andrea it’s just a thrill to catch up with a former student and find the wonderful things you are doing to help people and to see your life unfold. That’s the best part of being a teacher. It’s sort of like being a parent; you get to watch your kids grow up and it’s just a pleasure.

Andrea: Well, thank you. Now, you’re not a director of bands of UNK anymore, what is your position now?

Dr. Neal Schnoor: So currently, I serve as the Senior Adviser to the Chancellor for executive affairs. While I was band directing, I got involved in teacher education and kind of did both of those things and then have the opportunity to go back to my alma mater, Wayne State College and served as the Dean of Education and Counseling and then I’d been back in this role for about five years now.

Andrea: So what all does this mean that you’re a Senior Advisor to the Chancellor, it’s sounds like right hand man king of thing, it’s that kind of description of it?

Dr. Neal Schnoor: It is and it’s a little hard to describe to people because it just sounds like a bunch of mumbo jumbo. But in general, I work with strategic planning, compliance. Chancellor refers to me as this crisis manager, so I can get some of the sensitive, legal and personnel things, just really trying to help the executive team here function best, and think short term and long term. So every day, is an adventure and that’s what I love the most.

Andrea: Are you in a classroom at all now?

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Not very often, although, I still try to do at least one honor band every year and I’ve probably stayed more active trying to do leadership. I just love working with teenagers and we’ll probably talk as we go on. I’ve almost gotten to where I hate the word ‘leadership.’ I’m really more into influence and helping kids, not to get sidetrack at the beginning, but to help them deal with the anxiety in that process because I’m just seeing them what are college students here, adults or high school students, their level of anxiety are so high. So I try to work that in as well.

Andrea: Oh yeah, we definitely need to get into that. But before we go there, I’m excited about that.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: I sidetrack you are ready, didn’t I?

Andrea: No, not at all. You know, I was thinking today again about how…I just cannot help but go deep fast. I invited you to take the Fascinate Assessment®, which you haven’t heard of before, and you did and it was so fun to find out that you and I are so similar in our voice.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: But it’s really interesting, isn’t it?

Andrea: Yeah, so the two things that come out on top are Innovation and Power and they’re just flipped for you, Power and Innovation which is kind of a language of leadership. But you don’t like that word, so I love that you don’t like that word, you’re ‘going to tell me more about that later. But I suppose, it’s a language of influence then willingness to share your opinions and guide people and then innovation is creativity. So you come out as like the Change Agent as what the thing says and so the archetype is. So I’m wondering what was your impression when you found that out about yourself?

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Well, my first thing is I ran it across my filter, my wife, Theresa, and I showed her those things and I said “Do this described me for better or worse?” And she said “Yeah, most of them. That really is you.” I’ve never gotten too hung up on it but as I read those descriptors, I really did feel like they fit a lot of aspects of what I hope to do. Some of what I do in this job, again for better or for worse is just to ask good questions. I think that just, is there another way to do things? Are we looking at all the information? Are we considering people’s strengths and weaknesses and things like that?

So the word probably caught me, you have to explain it to your listeners better but the word power kind of took me aback because I don’t want to be authoritarian. I think I explained in our class one time, that that’s how I started teaching. I simply was demanding and, kind of my way or the highway, and the kids taught me pretty quickly that there were a lot better ways to engage them. So tell us a little more about power, Andrea, what that means?

Andrea: Yeah, I was definitely taken aback by that word too and that was my exact experience is that I think I have this natural bent towards telling people what to do, which is not a form of real influence. I mean, you can tell people what to do and try to get them to comply with you, but that doesn’t really change who they are in the inside.

So I really struggled with that word as well. But at the same time, I realized that for me, when I looked at it, because I didn’t want that, I pulled back in some ways where I wasn’t sharing as passionately or intensely or whatever as maybe I could in a way that was not. I guess in a way that’s compelling instead of, I don’t know what’s the different word, yeah authoritative.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Yeah, instead of drawing people in, it can kind of turn them off. And so I think sometimes in our passion, some people misread that as maybe even arrogance and so on. So yeah, such fine lines in there.

Andrea: I always considered you to be very powerful. In this more positive way, your voice is that way and when I say voice, I’m talking about your style, your tone whatever. I mean, it’s confident.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Yes. You know, one of the things I was thinking about, Andrea, and again this can go a lot of directions, but you had kind of talked when we initially visited about have we always had this voice, or have I had this voice? It really made me think really hard about something we’ve talked in class as Stephen Covey described to as secondary traits people have a hard time seeing that. And the more I’ve developed, the more I think I’m finally catching up with where we really are, our intellect, our passion, charisma, and communication skills, those were actually all secondary traits.

And I guess one way to understand that as he explained it, those are things you could lose. Say you had a traumatic brain injury, those things would go away. But the essence of who you are is still the same and will hopefully .. a little bit but some people call it the soul or consciousness or those kinds of things. But the real challenge for me is that I think I’ve always been able to use those secondary traits that I had to influence other people, where over the years I’ve tried much harder to get at the “But am I doing it for the right reasons?” Because you know, there have been a lot of leaders who have all these leadership skills that we’ll talk about.

And if you go down as I often talk in my leadership presentations, I’ll ask the students when we set lists who are your leaders and always was positive ones. But I’ll draw them to figures like who are some other leaders that who really had these skills very powerfully and some horrible leaders have had those skills that even Adolf Hitler had all these leadership skills what’s missing? Well, we might argue consciousness. So yeah, have we had this voice? I think so. Have we always used it? Well, that’s another therapy session for me I think.

Andrea: That’s the reason why I love the idea of developing one’s voice. Yes, we have a style or we have these secondary qualities that you’re talking about. We have even a message and things that we’re wanting to share but then it’s really important to take it through a process of development that edits the message and turns the voice into a tone that is compelling, that is drawing in and inviting instead of pressure and that sort of thing. Who have you read or what are some of the things that you have encountered over the years, beside your students that you’ve already mentioned, that have influenced the development then of your voice.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Well, you know, it’s interesting. And we may work into faith but my Christian faith has been strong throughout my life, and yet I think as all people are aware the stronger that is probably the more you question it. And to me that’s always actually a good sign, but it is interesting. I started reading a philosopher, his name is Jacob Needleman, and what attracted to me initially is his efforts to put together Judaism, Christianity. He looked in Hinduism and so he’s looking for some central truths, so to speak. And I just like his voice, his message, and how he looked for rather than differences similarities.

And so that kind of led me looking for things and lately, I’ve really, really found Michael Singer’s work to be powerful, a book called The Untethered Soul. It kind of profoundly moved me to look more at that consciousness. And I’ve shared it with family members, nieces and nephews and they’ve all found it to be compelling. There’s another one called, The Surrender Experiment, The Power of Now is a very strong book and then different things I just looked at these universals and what I’ve gained is somewhat say that’s leading away from Christianity, it’s actually kind of reinforced that stronger.

So I guess digging, you say, you like to dig deep. For me, it has been a real challenge just because of my nature to quite the voice in my head. So I was drawn to your voice because for about the last four or five years, I have tried to really identify with it’s not a false voice, but our thinking minds will think around problem. And if we allow it to do that and where are psyche in it’s kind of overactive, freaked out way to constantly talk in our head.

If we can identify those for what they are and realized where the consciousness within that perceives those voices, that perceives the emotional state where in, then those things quit running our lives and instead, we simply fully experience each moment. And we know that we’re the one watching even though we might be sad, even though we might be happy that’s not us. That’s just something we’re experiencing.

Andrea: How does that tie in to your message about anxiety?

Dr. Neal Schnoor: It’s actually the major point. We really do talk, you know, our psyche to put ourselves in touch with it, that’s what I think Singer talks about it really eloquently which is, you know, for hundreds or thousands or millions of years with these biological creatures for a great period of time, the psyche kept us from – it’s that hair on the back of your neck that told you a bear was coming and you reacted. Most of us don’t have to fear for our physical safety walking to work in the morning, and so we kind of set this psyche, we’ve given in a different job which is to really kind of fuss about how we feel all the time and it just talks to us if you hear it.

The best example I always give to kids is that’s psyche and your thinking mind, if you pass a friend in the hallway and you say hello and they ignore you, just pay attention to that mind “What did I do? I didn’t deserve that. What’s wrong with her today? Oh my God, I’m so stupid. I bet she’s mad because I didn’t call.”

It’s everywhere. If you start listening to it and paying attention to it then you see that it’s not going to solve your problems, it presents every possible option that’s out there. And if you become aware of it and simply watch it, it’s amazing how much power you have to not live in that reactive state.

Andrea: So watching it is the answer. Is that what you’re saying?

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Yeah. Just watch it; do not get involve with it. If you do, it will suck you in. I mean, we’ve all done it before. So for instance, it could seemingly a silly example but we spent 90% of our lives in that silly example. My wife is quiet. My mind starts working. I wonder what I did now. I wonder if she had a bad day. I wonder for something I can do to help. All of those are not bad in and of themselves but that’s just are thinking mind. And if I sit back for a moment and say “Wow and how’s that making me feel and some of those things?” I’m less apt to say, “Well, what’s wrong today?” It’s just amazing how reactive we are, not even fully reading.

So back to the example, then I ask the kids the person passed in the hallway and your mind is going a thousand miles an hour and 15 minute later, your friend comes back up and says “I think I just passed you in the hallway but I get a text and my pet died, I was really busy.” And all of those negative thoughts that we wasted 15 minutes crucifying ourselves didn’t even need to happen.

So much a more proactive responses might even be to give them a little space or simply to follow them and say “Hey, just now I said hello. Is there anything happening with you or something?” You know, it’s just more proactive ways. It’s been a journey for me for five years to see how frequently my perceptions, attitudes, emotions, thoughts, or mood can negatively affect a reaction. It’s not about me. My job here is to solve problems or help others find their solutions to their problems. And the clearer I can be and the more I get my emotions out of it, the more help I can be to them.

Andrea: That is so true. I think there was a time when I realized that…I mean, I’m sure everybody kind of goes this at one point I hope, but when you start to realize that not everything is about you, people’s reactions are not necessarily about you. It’s hard a thing to swallow at first because when you’re a baby, everything is about you.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Yeah!

Andrea: And then as you start to realize that other people are having other experiences that are unseen. And you may never know about, you may never understand what’s going on inside of somebody then the question for me became “What do I have to offer them?” Instead of “What do I need from them? Do I need them to tell me hello? Do I need them to acknowledge me?” Or “Do I have something to offer them instead?”

Dr. Neal Schnoor: You know, Andrea, it’s along those lines reading your book and we could talk about that for an hour. I so enjoyed that, but one key thing that really hit me is that I got to know you better. I realized I was interacting with you every day and had no idea what was going on in your mind. You know, we get so focused on, well it’s a class and…

I perceived whether you might be understanding a concept, or you read your students to see if they have a performance look. But we frequently looked true life either assuming or not paying attention but there’s a whole consciousness in every person we talk to and we’ll get very complex. You know, it hit me very powerfully and wonderful reminder for me.

Andrea: Thank you. I think the other part that’s hard is me knowing that I have so much going on in my head. It’s easy for me to assume that other people have a lot going on inside of them. And I think that one of the hard things for me is to say, it’s okay if I don’t know and to let people just have their experience and not need to be a part of it that inner experience. I don’t know if that’s very common but…

Dr. Neal Schnoor: I think so and the other piece there is you talk about, for instance my work here in this current role and what a slippery slope it can be. I mean my job in some ways is to be problem solver. And so I find a world of difference in a very slippery slope between problem solving and helping people come to their solutions or help them find some that are inevitable. And doing that for the right reason which is to serve or that slippery slope  because 180 degrees worse I derived my value and sense of worth and it strokes my ego to be seen as the problem solver.

It sets a challenge I think in all of our lives that we identify with our roles, and yet, even the most noble “service” we do or the donation we give, do we give it in the spirit of true for giving. The right hand doesn’t know what’s the left is doing, although we do it to stroke our own ego to feel better about ourselves that we’re a “giving” person. I find that to be a dilemma I’ll continue to wrestle with for my life.

Andrea: I agree. I think that that’s something that is, especially for people as we have both described ourselves to be, we care about that motivation. Sometimes, it can be tempting to like you were talking the voice in your head and it can be tempting to analyze that and pick up that part so much that we don’t end up offering what we have to offer them because it feels, am I doing this for the right reasons? And it can become that cycle inside of the head that’s just like “Well then maybe I shouldn’t offer that at all.” What are your thoughts on that?

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Well, that’s interesting. My first reaction there to what you said is absolutely, many of the things that I share aren’t that place of consciousness I’m talking about, it’s my mind. There are wonderful instruments. I hope anyone that listens doesn’t think I’m negative about that or think that “No, that’s the beauty of it.” But our greatest asset can be our worst weapon, and so that constantly thinking, I mean, Singer’s book made me just sits back. And he describes it in this early chapter that he was just sitting there and you started listening to this.

I mean, when you first do it, you will be amazed that it’s just an incessant noise in your head. It is a voice that constantly talks to you and we can so identify with it. Don’t get too involved, just watch it. It’s a notorious flip-flopper like I did the example in the hallway. She did that. He did that. Why is that? I’m so stupid, I mean there’s the self-blame and self-loathing comes in then it would be followed up almost immediately if you watch with “Oh but I have the right to do that.” She’s just unfair. She’s unkind and that’s not right.” It’ll switch to righteous indignation. It’s just everywhere.

So that’s our thinking mind and it’s not bad. It’s not trying overtly to harness it. Honestly, both in The Power of Now, I think that’s where it’s presented and in Singer’s book most directly, I’m sure many, many, many other excellent resources. Just notice it and don’t get involve in its energy and overtime you become quieter inside. And the quieter I can be then I’m tapping into that ability to think beyond my history, my own perceptions.

Honestly, Andrea, I see it in myself and maybe I’m just the scoundrel out there. But we really build up a veritable wall of our mental perceptions how we think the world should be. We even have a belief system and some of those beliefs, we don’t question very often and then we turn around and either judge ourselves or judge others based on not reality, just the reality that we’ve created of how we think the world should go and often how the world should go just to make us happy. It gets really, really complex but my take away and what I’ve tried to do is to be quieter. These things happen and I think we touch the Divine in those moments of quiet.

Andrea: I’ve recently, and when I said recently pretty much since I don’t maybe last few years, and I think that this is part of when I was trying to accomplish with the book has explained this change at least the start of the transformation of me being so in my head starting to realize that I could let that go. I didn’t have to or I guess like what you’re saying engage with it. When I get stressed out now, I think what I end up doing is, I see things that happen. Like the dogs, the dogs get into the trash.

This happens quite frequently at our house and I feel attacked. I’m like “Uh these stupid dogs,” and start to get really frustrated inside and then I start to realize that I’m doing that. “What service is this to me?” Like these dogs could care less what I think about the fact that they got into the trash. Only it’s doing is making me more frustrated, burning these pathways in my brain to negativity and victimization and those sorts of things, which puts me in a position where I end up being more bitter or irritated or whatever. I have less of the things that I really want to offer my family. I have less of that to give.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Yeah, it does. I love that example because we often think of such things and we’re going to change the world, but the dog knocks over the trash is so immediate. I mean, you just nailed it. Why did that hit your stuff so to speak so hard? Well, one reason is because you’re busy, you got something else to do and you got to go clean up that trash. But really, it goes that step further to think for whose mental model thought they could set the world in a place the dog wouldn’t knock over trashcan and that’s what we do.

We, literally every day…we don’t even have control of our own thoughts and emotions many times, and yet we project that and think somehow we can influence and control other people’s thoughts. And there’s a whole a lot of consciousness that work in there, but yeah, what a great example. Those things still suck me up, you know, like “Oh man, I don’t wanna go clean that mess up.”

Andrea: And what’s funny is that Aaron will try to tell me, “Andrea, they’re dogs” and try to tell me that “that’s what happens.” In which actually this makes me think of something that you’ve said before in that class that I ended up writing about a couple of years ago because it was burned in my brain. Well, what you said in class was “don’t you dare yell at the kids in your classroom essentially, don’t you dare yell at them for your lack of classroom management.” So I’m thinking about how Aaron would say to me, “these are dogs. This is what happens and probably we should have let the dogs outside or something instead.” But now, it feels like “Okay, well, I’m gonna look it that way then it’s my fault.”

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Oh I see, yeah.

Andrea: So how do you balance that you know just sort of saying “Well, I could have let them out. I guess, we’ll let them out next time and not let emotion get tied with it,” or what would you do?

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Well, I mean that’s certainly one thing right there because there are four different directions we can go. But if I think about those and I’m going to tell on myself here, so I’ll sound like and might be a little arrogant first but then the next part will come. So one of the things when I do presentations, the best comment I like and especially with the young teachers, one of them come up and say “Oh, it was so good to hear that someone like you had those problems.” They feel like and we often listen to gurus, we seek out all these resources and we think that person has the answers.

So now, to tell on myself, why could I tell the class with such genuineness and honesty and seemingly know-at-all-ness these because I’d screwed it up for three years, because I had gotten mad at students for how they were acting when I realized that had I done my sitting arrangements the first day, so they knew what to sit. Had I spent the first day or week even if needed to be to explain to them what my expectations were or behavior for how to enter the room so that we could maximize…again, the end goals, some people think that’s a power trip. No, I wanted to maximize every possible second of making music, and I didn’t want to waste it scolding a kid or whether they needed to ask for permission to use the restroom.

So all of those discipline problems, that hundreds of thousands of fires I put out every day or simply a matter that at the beginning I didn’t think through of a set of procedures and explain my expectations to those students because I still believe, sure I was a willful child and I broke the rules and did things like that. But in general 85% of kids will do 85% of the things you asked them to do, simply because you clarify and didn’t ask them to do it.

So that really resonates with me but not to miss that fact that how do we know this? I tell my kids all that or “How do you know how to get around there? How do you know not to drive there?” Because I did it and I blew up my tire and I had to learn the hard way. So yeah, part of it, you would go back and say, “You and Aaron must go out and buy a trashcan with a lid on it,” because you might say…you spent this whole psycho analysis of “Why does it bother me so much that the dog knocked over the trashcan and it shouldn’t bother me. Haven’t I grown up that these things don’t hit my stuff or whatever?” And the solution is perhaps, to buy a trashcan with a lid on it, you know. It’s kind of fun.

Andrea: So first of all, it’s such a great advice about the classroom management.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: About trashcans.

Andrea: Yeah and about trashcans. I knew this is going to happen, you know that right? Anyway, it’s a joy to be able to talk with somebody when you do kind of speak the same languages and that sense that we’re talking about before. And I think anybody, no matter what your style is, it’s just easy to have those conversations with people they’re kind of like you. I want to go back to what you said about why you’re able to share that message about classroom management with such conviction. Now, you hesitated, you didn’t want to use the word power, but I would say that was powerful.

When you communicated that we shouldn’t blame kids or yell at kids for our own lack of classroom management, it was an incredibly powerful statement. And I want to suggest that maybe it’s because like you have said, you could speak that because you would experience it. And I would call that a redemptive message. I would call that, you know what, this is something that comes out of your experience of either pain or messing up, whatever it might be.

There was some sort of transformation that occurred that got you to a point where you could say, no that is not the way. And then it comes across so authentic, genuine and powerful because it is born out of that pain and that experience that you had previous. I feel like maybe that is where the power really comes in. And I say power again as we’re talking about before I guess. It’s powerful because it comes from that place.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Yeah, and I think we’re unpacking again that word power, gave us both pause, but I like where you’re going with it. I noticed my power wasn’t being smart and what I knew about classrooms. My power was learning from experience trying different things, being able to share that with you. And I think hopefully the other message that came across is you all have unique gifts and some of what I do may not work for you and some of what you do won’t work for me. And so it’s kind of aligning with those elements of ourselves that are authentic I think.

Andrea: I think it also helps give us permission to not look at those difficulties that we face, the struggles that we’re having with so much, I don’t know and feeling like it’s a catastrophe. Because then when we do experience that pain and that suffering that messing up essentially, hurting other people or messing up yourself that there is potential to turn that into something really beautiful in the end.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Absolutely!

Andrea: And so when we’re in the middle of it, though maybe we need to feel the weight of it, there’s still hope.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Absolutely! I’m so glad and just like you said, I knew that something would come out that we weren’t thinking. And for me is how many times you’ve mentioned and what a great topic that I think we avoid and that’s pain. And in general, and this is very general, we tend to either look at the past and cling to those things which we should not do that led to joy. We want to feel good and we reject or repress pain.

And so it’s a hard step for some people but we should experience pain fully. And when I said to be quiet, I’ll use the phrase, I haven’t use it a lot but I used it a lot is to sit with pain, is to sit with joy, sit with jealousy, just be present with it. Don’t try to change it. Don’t judge yourself. So when I get back of that, I know it’s going to sound freakish to people but the answer is not to try to fix it. They answer is to get quiet simply experience it. And really, most people who have done any kind of meditation, always talking about meditation. Yeah, I am but a lot of people meditate with the purpose of becoming a better person and you’ve missed the point already.

It is a process that can happen and will happen by itself if you’re able to sit with, and I hate to say it but people think “You’ve lost your mind, dude.” But sitting with pain, pain is part of life. I don’t want to not experience part of my life but then to bring in that other piece we talked about, so we start building these mental models. And here how dangerous it gets, people think it’s Muslims versus Christians.

I grew up in a little town of Nebraska and there was literally sort of a philosophical and almost we don’t talk to each other. We certainly don’t date each other between Lutherans and Catholics. We’ll find ways to differ if we allow ourselves to and so sitting with these experiences of pain and not building these walls of our concepts. Because as soon as those walls get hit, we experience discomfort which leads back to that word, anxiety which causes us pain. And if we repress those, it’s not good. So just sitting with it, just recognizing it that this is just something I’m feeling. It’s not me.

So my big message to students, if you looked in the mirror this morning and saw your face and then you had plastic surgery tomorrow that totally transformed that face, would that be the same you in there that’s looking at that image? And they get that. They connect with that. Is it the same you that’s sitting there, that’s experiences pain as well as joy, as well hurt? It is unless we allow our emotions to be us, and then we’re simply bouncing all over the world wishing that would make us happy. It’s tough. It’s really tough to not get involved in that negative energy.

Andrea: I like the idea of… like I don’t want totally separate myself from my emotion. I like the idea that my emotion could still be an indicator of what’s going inside of me or who I am as a person, and yet that I could ground that in something deeper like observe it like you were talking about. But then run it through, you know, ask myself then what do I really believe about this.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Yes. I’m really with you, Andrea, because I think I could negate that. It’s a human endowment. Well, as we talked about with learning, if there’s an emotional tie in, people learn. If it’s a purely academic tie in, they tend not learn as well. So I guess it’s just flipping the onus. It’s the you that experiences all these things, but you are not just what you experienced. There’s a level of control. So here’s the simple one, the next time the dog knocks it over, instead of going right it, my thinking mind kept this and I’ll say “Well, go buy a trashcan with a lid on it.”

You might spend two minutes simply going “What part of me is so bothered by that being knocked over.” It would be an interesting two minutes. I don’t know what you’d come up with. I guess that’s where us going with leadership and not lose that way. We go out and we talk about having charisma, having passion, discipline. What are some other ones, Andrea? Great communication skills.   Those are all secondary traits. Where do we have to go to find that core that allows us to be disciplined?

When I’ve had a disagreement with my wife, it affects my mood. I sure hope people hear when they come to me, don’t think in their mind “Well, don’t go to him today, he’s in a bad mood.” We have to be deeper than how we feel at the moment but that is not negated all of sitting with those emotions and what they teach us. Does that help a little bit because I don’t want to say the emotions are childish and we should get rid of them?

Andrea: Right, I do think so. I think that’s good. So when you were talking about leadership then, you’re saying, we don’t want to…I want you to explain this leadership concept here before we go. I want to understand what your distinction between leadership and influence.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Okay and this is maybe just my hang up, but as soon as something becomes a $10 billion cottage industry, I get fearful. So I’m telling you if you want to make money right now, if you’ve got a shlick thing and you go out there and tell them, you know, great leaders are purpose driven. I have nothing against purpose driven leadership, it’s good. Okay, so the real challenge is finding your purpose because it’s the most searched for. So anyway, that’s just a silly example probably shouldn’t be used because that’s way more in-depth.

But 90% of time when you go to them, they talk about this secondary traits. We have to be more confident. You have to be firm but approachable, communications strategies. They’re all good. But how are you able to come to a place where you’re able to truly open up and listen to what another person’s saying without already trying to solve their problems. So where I’m going with that is, I started thinking less about leadership which implies, you are going to go out and do something that move these other people and try to bring it more inside, “where do I develop that inner sense of right and wrong of consciousness, of awareness of openness to the needs of those people?”

I rarely see those presenters get up and start and say, “what are you hoping to get today? Where are you at your life because it will be all over the place?” And I used the word carefully because I don’t mean to their deep concepts that are quite superficial. If you just tell somebody, “You got to be more positive.” “Oh people say, that’s it the power of positivity.” Well, what is that mean when you just lost your job or your child is sick? There’s another powerful book out there that I didn’t talk about called the Prosperity Gospel. There’s a very dangerous that a lot of people and this happens to be Christianity but I put it in leadership. They go out and say, “If you do these things, you will not only be successful but you’ll be rich.” Not true, not true. I mean, if we take at the core as a Christian, Christ, was he happy all the time? Was he rich? Did he have a nice house?

It so subsumes to me the gospel and what it really means which is to find that internal presence, that connection with the divine moving. It doesn’t matter if you’re sweep on streets or president of the United States, it influences us. I’ve often thought, maybe my role here is not the work I do. Maybe my work was to be a good dad to Graham and Graham is going to do something in the world that’s transformation or maybe he is the transformational figure. And I was simply the support network or the training ground.

So I hope that’s not too vague of an answer, but to me when you go into leadership, too much of it is about do these things and you will be successful, win friends and whatever rather than, you need to get in touch with yourself and be really authentic about that and really think about what success means for you. If it’s having a nice car, nothing wrong with that necessarily but you find out, you buy that new car and a day later, you’re just worried about the payment you got to make. That’s a rumbling answer, I apologize.

Andrea: No, no. You got me thinking. I find that I also tend to shoot for the being of who we are instead of a doing and I’d like to talk about that. I’d like to figure out why we do the things that we do and all those sorts of things. The difficulty I find is that in communicating this message of being an influencer versus doing leadership, it’s easier to communicate how to do leadership. It’s easier to say, this is the path because when you’re talking about becoming an influencer, you’re talking about things that are harder to pin down.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: It really are, and I think too and not in a bad way, but we often project this out in the big thing, changing the world. I’m ever more challenged to be a positive influencer just in my own home and in one-on-one relationships. I find it much easier to go out and say motivate or large crowd and not one-on-one. Sometimes it’s really hard to explain this but I think that’s the importance of your work because all around this, I think I’ve seen it on your website so much, none of this stuff can we give to someone.

We can only hope to inspire them and get them on a path, but for instance when I talk about solitude and taking the time to think to realize this becoming you’re talking about or I might have called it consciousness or awareness or enlightenment as good Buddhist would call it, you have to do it. No one can do it for you and you can’t read it in a book. As a matter of fact, one of the favorite things I’ve heard, her name is Pema Chodron, a Buddhist priest who said “Quit looking at this library of resources, just pick one and do it.”

I think there’s tremendous wisdom. I go to a lot of workshops and good friends of mine “Have you read this? Have you read this? Have you read that?” I’ve actually slowed down my reading in some ways and I tried to pick a few that resonates and go deep and try to really do what they say rather than just being able to go out and say “Here’s what you can do” to experience it myself in some way.

Andrea: Hmmm, because when you experience it then you can offer it in a different way than you could before and then you could if you just learn it.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Absolutely! Well, the other thought Andrea, and I don’t want to interrupt where you’re going as you think through this, but I think we’ve also given ourselves, our mind that says but also our emotions and our sense of who we are. We’ve given ourselves an impossible task. We have said to be authentic, we have said to be open and all those things and yet we’ve given ourselves the impossible task in our mind, we want everyone to like us. And so you want to talk about another one. None of these things I talked about as in either/or.

When I interact with people and I get feedback from them that can lead me to “Oh Neal, you’re being a jerk, you need to stop doing that.” So it’s valuable feedback. At the same time when you’re authentic and you share your voice and you say it very passionately and openly, there will be some that not only dislike you but truly hate you because they disagree so passionately with you. And to be comfortable with the fact which I’m not yet, it still hurts me especially if I offended them in some way.

But we’ve given ourselves the impossible task. We’re going to be a mother or a father and my wife is going to like this because of what we do and people will all like me. There are two different people and they will like and dislike different things. So we struggle with it and if anyone has answer, I’ll be tuning in to your future podcasts. But anyway, we have to surrender to the fact when we thought through well and we’re confident in who we are without offending or judging or hurting other people, simply speaking that truth with our authentic voice is going to make us some enemies or at least cause some people to be aggravated. The best compliment you could ever pay me is when you said I made you think. If I did that, please don’t say “I’m gonna do what he said.”

Andrea: Right and that’s what I look for in their leaders. That’s what I look for people to have influence. They have more influence over me when they get me thinking than if they were to tell me what to do and I went out and did it.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Yeah, yeah. I agree.

Andrea: Yeah because when we really integrate that into who we are and we apply it, we think through it and we decide, we start to become that, you know. Maybe we move in one little step in that direction where the person was trying to lead us. But that’s more powerful than it would be to just put on whatever they told us put and doing it.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Uh-hmm, absolutely and staying open to the influence of others. Obviously, there are some bad ideas out there for people. On the other hand, we are snap judgers. We often look at something that they tell you and say I either like it or dislike it. It’s just what we do. We categorize traits if you think about. Again, let’s take it out of the realm of psychology and the incredibly complex human. We walk down the street and say I like that kind of tree but I don’t like that kind of tree. What’s wrong with just letting the tree be a tree? Why do we have to label it?

Well again, it’s not psychosis but we just have a tendency to build these mental models of how the world should be and that’s our likes and dislikes and even our beliefs. Just to take a step back and say “I can just appreciate that tree,” rather than say “I like the color of its leaves.” Yeah, if you catch yourself doing these simple things, I think you’re on a good path that many traditions have pursued which leads believe it or not to some really, really deep understandings. But if we jump to “How do I solve this problem myself?” And “Why I’m aren’t getting better at this?” Or “Everything is gonna go well.”

I know when I’m near where I can sit quietly for 30 minutes. Sit for three and then tomorrow, it’s four. That’s growth. Many people set health goals. I just experienced it myself. I’ve workout for three weeks because I got this nasty virus and it’s driving me crazy. But if you start a goal and you get sick and then you don’t exercise for a week, often that’s all it took for us not to start. And so we get dissuaded very quickly. So it’s a journey. I just love folks like you for taking the time to help us think through that.

Andrea: Oh yeah, I feel the same way. Okay, so Dr. Schnoor, if anybody wanted to engage you in conversation about this or invite you to come and speak to their teachers, their students to do a band workshop, where could they find you.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Where they can find me at or I got a Gmail account,, LinkedIn, Facebook. Again, to me it’s that interaction with other people, I would love to talk with folks about this.

Andrea: Awesome! Well, thank you so much. I really appreciate you taking time to do this and this has been just a great conversation for me. I love just the fact that we could dive in so deep, and hopefully, there are people out here, the Influencer listening that maybe even us digging in-depth like this makes them feel less alone, because I think it’s hard to think about things like this and feel like you don’t have anybody to talk to. So thank you for engaging with me and engaging with the listener.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: Well, it’s a pleasure, and Andrea, if you ever get the chance in the future if somebody, I’d love nothing more than somebody call and say, that guy is full of it and I’d love to talk again.

Andrea: Yeah that would be fun.

Dr. Neal Schnoor: This could sound condescending, but I mean it with all good thoughts. I’m just so proud of you, the work you’ve done and to catch up with you and to see the journey you’ve been on since you sat in that classroom. Well, I won’t say how many years ago. We won’t give our age or what, but the work you’re doing is so important and I thank you for it.

Andrea: Thank you!



Dare to Live Outside the Fences

Episode 06 with Terry Weaver

Terry Weaver is a speaker, author, event producer, podcaster, and ideapreneur whose passion is to see others live life alive; whether through helping others see their dreams become reality, traveling around the world challenging students to change the world, leading teams of people to do more together than they could alone, or hanging out with Mickey Mouse.
With a background in the music business, Terry has helped creatives navigate the journey from the garage to the biggest stages in the world. Whether it’s getting to the stage of Grammys®, helping entrepreneurs with a six-figure product launch, or leading conversations with key thought leaders his mission is always the same to help leaders take what they are doing to the next level. Terry and his wife Leslie live outside Nashville, Tennessee with their miniature schnauzer.

Mentioned in this episode:


I don’t have a transcript for this interview today, but grab a cup of coffee and pull up a chair and listen in by pushing play above or in iTunes (here).


How to Create Lightbulb Moments with Espen Klausen, Ph.D.

Episode 01 Podcast & Transcript

We’re here! It’s the very first episode of the Voice of Influence podcast! You can listen to the podcast and read the transcript here. But if you want to help a girl out, head on over to iTunes and Subscribe, Rate and Review the Voice of Influence. It would be so helpful! Thank you!

You can find Espen Klausen at his website


Hey, hey! This is Andrea Wenburg and you are listening to the Voice of Influence podcast and this is episode 01. That’s right, this is the very first interview that I’m publishing on this podcast. A
nd Espen is the perfect person to start us off. Espen is excellent at communicating and connecting with his clients and people that he cares about in his relationships, his work life and as a speaker. I think you’re going to find that this interview is something you’re going to want to come back to over and over again. I’ve already listened to it a couple of times and I’ve thought, “I have got to write some of this down, because this is good!” Let’s get to it with Espen.

Espen Klausen, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist and speaker based in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. His work in public community mental health includes individuals, couples, and family therapy with clients of all ages and he conducts psychological assessments. He is the lead psychologist for several County programs. He consults for Social Services. As a speaker, he runs seminars on a wide range of subjects for professionals groups, company wellness programs, ministries, County departments, and community groups.

Andrea: Espen Klausen, it is so good to have you with us.

Espen: Thank you. I’m very happy to be with you.

Andrea: This is of course very fun for me because Espen happens to be married to one of my bestfriends from high school, so I’ve known Espen for quite a long time. And through my work in ministry or just in trying to help other people on a one-on-one kind of basis, Espen has often served as somebody that I could come to with questions about different things and sort of like a consultant. I’ve really appreciated your help through the years, not only for attempting to help, but for myself as well, Espen.

Espen: Ah yeah. I believe I show up as a cameo in your book.

Andrea: You do, you do and very important one too because I was really struggling at that time, and I appreciated you and Chris and the way that you guys came around me. I really appreciate that. Anyway, I’m so glad to have you here to talk about Voice of Influence with the Influencers that are listening. Why don’t you tell me a little bit about what you do?

Espen: Wow, what do I do?

Andrea: Right. I know, your bio kind of indicates that you do everything.

Espen: Yeah, and being in community mental health, you have to be ready to do everything. You have to be a generalist. You don’t want to go working for the county and be “Oh, I’m only working with trauma,” because we want to help everyone and you don’t know who’s going to walk through that door and we cover crisis and then certainly you don’t know who’s going to show up and need the help right there. You’d be willing to do everything and work with everyone. That’s also been the training I’ve pursued.

So a lot of general public mental health which is what I wanted in seeking this line is working with a lot of people that underprivileged, underserved people with multiple mental health problems, medical problems, poverty, difficult life situations; and the hardest of cases to deal with where they have few outside resources.

Andrea: Yeah, that sounds like really important work. It occurred to me that the listeners are probably hearing your accent and wondering where you from. And also, how did you get from there to where you’re at right now? Maybe a little overview of why you are doing what you’re doing, how you got this point?

Espen: Yeah, and I know you’re very intrigue with how people are finding the voice and it’s kind of the same story. Growing up, I always knew that I wanted to help people. And as a result from early on, I’ve pursued becoming a medical doctor. In Norway, that’s where my accent is from, you know, I often joked I got it for $1.99 on eBay because nobody else would bid for it, but I got it from Norway that’s where I was born and raised.

So I was pursuing medical school. The way we do things in Norway is in Norway, you start medical schools straight out of high school. There’s no premed college or something like that. Once out from high school, you go for medicine that’s one long education. I studied hard in high school. Got the insane grades that’s needed in Norway to get into medical school, but as it turned out, I didn’t get into the medical school I wanted.

So I decided to wait a year and collect some… we call them “study points,” which would make more qualified to potentially get into medical school I wanted to. So I decided to take the dare to study abroad. And when I said study abroad, that has two meanings – my girlfriend at the time, now my wife, who you know well, was going to college and was an American. So I decided to study at her college for that year.

But then what happened was – I took a psychology course just a few weeks and I’m like “Why in the world am I pursuing medicine?” Yes, helping others is a part of my voice, but my voice is multifaceted and has certainly other elements than that. It is part of that meeting people where they’re at, helping people on a very personal level. And I quickly fell in love with psychology and the opportunities that it had. It was a possible self that until this point I have never even considered.

I actually think that’s one of things that lead to us, having too few mental health workers and people in psychology and related fields is most people just don’t even think about it as a career choice until they happen to take a psychology class. And I just recognized “Wow, yeah this is where my voice is.” Since then, I continue education in psychology, three years of college, graduate school, and now having been a professional in psychology over the last 9 or 10 years.

Just every year, I discover more, more of my voice and refining it within that field. So how I got to America of course then is loving education. And once here, just discovering psychology and choosing to finish my career here and of course, I got married to my wonderful wife too and got established here.

Andrea: So when did you begin speaking then?

Espen: Well, I was probably around 2 years old when I started speaking but okay…

Andrea: You’re very funny.

Espen: Yeah, yeah okay. I usually joke way too much and say “Hey, waited this long to have a joke,” that’s kind of unusual.

Andrea: I was going to say … I think that was part of your voice. This is part of who you are is you’re funny and you’re witty.

Espen: It is. Sometimes people are…oh I sometimes come to a talk because I get to have fun and I might learn something at the same time. You want to keep people entertained particularly in this day and age. Yeah, I guess early start would be in my graduate training. It was research-focused. You’re expected to become a scientist. You’re expected to do research and you’re expected to disseminate research, which means you’re going to do presentations.

Through my research, I was lucky enough to get a lot of opportunities for it. And that picked up interests, which means I was interviewed by radio shows and that was the early beginning to it. But I never thought of that as much of a career or as a society career. Starting to work for the county, people started liking what I was saying; social services, social workers there, and other people started coming to me for advice. They wanted to learn and they like what I had to say and people started asking me to training or “Can you do this talk?”

And the more and more I was doing that, I started recognizing that I had the ability to meet people where they’re at in more than a one-on-one situation or more than a family or a group. I could do it with a bigger audience and that people appreciated what I had to say. I also found that one of the things in the world that I found the most rewarding is seeing people have a light bulb moment. And that also flavored the way I speak, the way I talk, or the way set up main points are in ways that give people light-bulb moments. I speak in such a way that by the time I give them their main points and take-home message, is exactly the same time that their brain is making the same main points.

Andrea: How do you know that that’s what happening? Is it intuition or is it just kind of an observation?

Espen: No. It is observation. And for most people, this is akin to having a baby where you show them something new. They may be looking all around or bubbling or whatever but you show them something new and exciting they’ve never seen before and you just see the face changed. And you knew they were interested. It’s just the sudden change, the sudden dawning on their face.

And for most people when they have a light-bulb moment, actually the face looks much light bulb. And my understanding is, it is probably because it is the same face. It is the same reflex. It’s the brain that’s recognizing something new.

Actually, one of the rewarding things for a person is when we make new sign-ups connections. When our brain makes new connections, it is pleasurable for most people. But it’s pleasurable when their brain is making those connections, not when they’re just being fed information. Or if just being fed information is work that your brain has to focus on and make itself concentrate to put it in the storage banks.

And when our brain can make its own a new connections when…I like to call it, when we can learn when our brain is just putting two and two things together and go like “Ah so that’s how that works.” Or sometimes it create a light-bulb moment where I present things in a way where I just know that what I’m saying is going to connect to their own experiences, where they’re be interpreting what they did experience before. And that’s when I know things they’re thinking in and that’s when I know how things are going to be remembered and put into actions.

It’s one of the reasons I work educating people who have children with certain mental health issues, particularly something like autism or ADHD where very often parents who are new to the diagnosis don’t understand how it works. Now, I can understand certain principles and suddenly there are dozens of life experiences with their child that just in a few flash seconds are getting re-interpreted in seeing in a totally different life. They report this “Oh, there’s so many things that suddenly makes sense now.” And when people have that experience, it’s one of the most rewarding things there is for me.

Andrea: So do you think that you’ve always been pretty good at leading people to these light-bulb moments in a sort of way by allowing them to connect to their own experiences, allowing them to come to their own conclusions. It kind of sounded like you’re saying, you’re sort of putting the two pieces in front of them and letting them add them up. Have you always been good at this or is it something you’ve developed overtime?

Espen: That certainly something I’ve developed overtime. This sharing knowledge, sharing, understanding, it’s something…I have memories of doing this when 5, 6 years old. I was probably labeled as precocious and…

Andrea: Probably huh?

Espen: Yeah, probably. But that was just sharing information and probably whether the person was really interested or not. It was probably the information that was relevant to that person, or now I’m a know-it-all or certainly I was that way in high school in class “Ah there goes Espen, he is raising his hand again.” So that’s something I developed overtime. Certainly something that has been important is a lot of my training in psychology is understanding people psychology, understand how people’s past affect the way they look at things certainly has helped me tuned in to that.

But that really boiled down to…has been my philosophy that has developed over the last decade and a half which is that meeting people where they’re at. And part of this is too much training and acceptance to commitment therapy or other which sometimes called Third Wave CBT. It does look very little like…it might be very different in what people…I’m unfamiliar with first and second wave CBT is, but it goes down to their values and what’ s important for them.

Andrea: Okay so CBT. I don’t know what that…

Espen: Yeah, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Andrea: Thank you.

Espen: I’m going to make an example of meeting people where they’re at and I how your values don’t matter. I guess this is a perfect example where I was at the other end of things. Many years ago, my health was bad. I was 45 pounds heavier than I am now. My cholesterol and triglycerides were really bad. I lost three weeks of work staying home with…we couldn’t figure out what’s going on and we realized, it was bad asthma. Certainly my obesity at the time didn’t help.

So I went out to testing with my pulmonologist. My lungs were tested. My heart was tested and the doctor told me…I have a hard time doing this without going to his heavy accent, which I know coming from me but the doctor said “Dr. Klausen.” “Yes.” “You wanna be healthy, right?” “Fit right?” “Yeah, I do want to. Yeah. Sure, I agree with those values.” And then “Okay, you have to go exercise one hour, five days a week.” “Okay, okay. Yes, I need to do that.” And so I really realized that that was really important. So I went home and I did not do that.

The thing is, like most people, I agree with health and I agree with fitness. But they’re not my core values. A couple of years later, I had a conversation with my daughter. It was more like her having a monologue and she was talking about her life, about she’s going to graduate high school, graduate college…

Andrea: How old was she?

Espen: She must have been 4 years old.

Andrea: And she was talking about graduating.

Espen: Right, you know.

Andrea: Okay, go on. I just want to get some context here.

Espen: Yeah. And okay, one day she’s going to get her masters and she graduated on her PhD. And I said, “If you wanna stop with a masters, it’s okay, but a PhD is fine.” And she said you know, “Okay and getting married.” She was just spluttering on about her coming life. And in the middle of that conversation, I had this realization as I was picturing it that the way my health was going, I might not be there to see that. Now, my daughter matters to me but beyond this, what are my core values?

And one of the things that’s rewarding to me is being a witness to other people’s lives. That’s one of the privileges I had been being a therapist. People share their lives with me and I get to be a witness to their life. And I realized that to the most important person in my life, I might not be there to be a witness to her life. And my diet changed. My exercise changed and I did what my doctor told me. It had to relate back to my core values.

If we speak to someone, if we teach someone, if we try to get people to change or tell them what they should change, it’s irrelevant and it’s not going to do anything unless it meets them where they’re at and it relates to their core values.

Andrea: Such an incredible point, so important. And I love this idea and I certainly want to do that. That’s something I always want to do, but I think it’s kind of hard to figure that out. But what I’m hearing you say is that what we need to do is almost to listen first to understand where their core values are, and what they do care about so that we can get to that point where we can speak to those instead of just throwing information at somebody and expecting it to stick.

Espen: Yeah. Even in Evangelism or spiritual direction, you have to start with what you believe. Or in life and change in general, what’s important to you or what you want in life or what are you missing in life and that’s the starting point. And even if you have this goal mind for them that’s different, the goals you want them to pursue has to be related back to where they’re at and what they want.

Andrea: Ah, that makes a lot of sense.

Espen: It relates to a flipside of this, that relates to that that’s very actionable thing I’ve learned overtime that it both related to my growth but also my relationship for the people I work with. And I do this whenever I do speaking engagements for a company in learning about that company. I do this in a group level, the company level, but I do this in individual therapy level but also with friends.

But a big principle for me is, learn something from every single or every single organization. So every client I have, I learn something from. Every client I meet is on the inside of something, whether it’s how something is actually done on what that requires or what does it entails to actually be doing tattoos. What it’s like to have autism? What it’s like on the inside? What it’s like to actually being social worker removing children from a home when it’s necessary? What it’s like to be a police officer and the various levels of that? What’s the experience of actually being incarcerated?

In every client I see have their own inside experiences which something, and I can learn from that, from someone being on the inside. And that in turn how I can relate to future clients and get a lot of credibility but then I also learned from them. We often feel like we’re in this in a lot of positions in life, particularly one word – the professional, we feel like we have to be the one that knows everything and the other person is the person that has to learn. But people get so much more open to learning when they feel like they taught you something. It’s now two-way street.

Andrea: I’m sitting here like raising my hands going “Yay!” I hear yeah, I do. This is great! This is so true! I mean, I feel like people want to be known and they want to be respected in some way and they don’t want to just be written off. They want their voice to matter. So when their voice matters to you, when you’re able to communicate, you actually care what they’re saying and where they’re at then they can come back with being more open to maybe what you have to offer them as well. And it’s not that sort of top down teaching that you’re talking about, it’s a dialogue which is significant.

Espen: Absolutely, absolutely! And the more educated we are, we will have a tendency to focus on logical thinking and logical arguments, but that definitely has its limits. Our brains have many different learning centers. But two primary areas of our brain are roughly dividing, up here is our outer cortex and it’s our midbrain. Now, the midbrain is a part of the brain that we share with most animals. The outer cortex of the brain is fairly unique to us humans. Dolphins and dogs, they have a little bit of it but nothing like humans.

Now, the outer cortex, it can learn from reading. It can learn from talking. It’s the part of the brain that can put two into together and learn things that technically nobody ever taught you. It’s the intellectual part of the brain and is very deliberate and that part of the brain can adjust quickly. You learn something and then learn you’re wrong and you learn something else and say “Okay.” It adjusts quickly. “Hey, Obama is the President.” “Well, Donald Trump got elected.” “Okay, now my knowledge changes about who’s the current President.” That’s the outer cortex.

Very often when we talk to people and the more we’re academically trained, we tend to do this and that’s the part of the brain we’re talking with, except even more powerfully is our midbrain.

Our midbrain is where our instinctual understanding is. It’s where our emotional understanding is, and it’s where a lot of our automatic thoughts come from. The thoughts we don’t have any control over. You see chocolates and you have a good or negative experience to that – I’m imagining most of your listeners have a good experience to that, good reaction. And my reaction is “Yuck!” I don’t know, I just laughed the credibility of your whole audience but I apologize for that.

But the midbrain only learns from experience. You could talk all you want, it only learns from experience. And that means that for people to learn on that level, you have to give them an experience and you also going to be so much more effective if you can talk about things in ways that it speak with their experience or utilizes their experience; otherwise, you’re only working to change one part of their brain.

Another aspect of that is when things get busy, things get stressful, or things get overwhelmed, our outer cortex tend to shutdown or tends to get overwhelmed and then we tend to leave our decisions to our midbrain. This is one of the reasons why people that are stressed tend to eat unhealthy. So if you’re very busy and your brain, your outer cortex is filled and overwhelmed with all of these other things you have think about and now we have to make a choice about what to eat. With outer cortex is busy, they just going to go with your experience of what taste good and that’s usually not a healthy stuff, so deep change requires experience.

Andrea: Okay, so is that why story is so important? I mean, I hear a lot about telling stories and how important stories and all that. Is this the reason why stories are so important?

Espen: That is a big part of it. And in a way, that’s the strength of a book like yours. There are personally that books I kind of like to read tends to be very academic because I, myself is, kind of an outer cortex person. But if I wanted to influence my life, if I wanted to influence my instincts and my emotions and how I react to things then I probably should have a book that tells us story and a story that gives me an experience where I can feel like I’m in that person’s life. And going through as I’m reading some of what they’re experiencing, that’s kind of has more transformative power on the midbrain level.

Andrea: Because you’re kind of experiencing with them sort of like empathy and so because of empathy you’re able to – it’s feeling like you are also having the experience in the sense?

Espen: Right, you’re providing the person with an experience. A parallel is, sometimes we use Jaws as an example, so most people are afraid of sharks. Intellectually, I can teach a person that out of more than 200 species of sharks, there’s only five that will ever attack a human being and even then they will only attack a human being if they don’t have any better options.

So if you’re in an open water and you see a shark coming your way, you’ll probably still say – and I can give them all education about a shark and they may even agree with me “Okay, I realized now these sharks are safe.” But if they’re down in the water and they see a shark coming their way, they still feel scared because their experiences with sharks still the sharks are dangerous.

And they may tell me “But I’ve never had experiences with sharks.” “Well, have you seen Jaws?” “Well, yes.” “Well then you’ve had experiences with shark.” It may not been real in person but you have that experience. When we read stories or we watched movies, we had the experiences. It’s how they’re set up and that is affecting our emotional reactions through things.

Andrea: Yeah. Okay, so what do we do when we encounter something a story or an emotional experience that is negative or that kind of leads us to make conclusions that might be incorrect or how do we deal with that?

Espen: Yeah, that relates to something that – I think these days there’s actually a problem with American culture. I’m not just picking America. We have at least as big of a problem with this back where I grew up in Norway. There’s a tendency these days to think about “Hey, if I did this or watch this and nobody got hurt then there’s no repercussions of that.” But that’s not true because our midbrain learn from our experiences. Our whole brain learns from our experiences and the automatic thoughts and the feelings we’re going to have in the future are going to be based on the experiences we’re having.

So one example I often use when I speak on this is, if someone watches pornography and we could go into the whole exploitation things of whoever’s involved in pornography. But if we set that aside, the person is “Okay, I’m done watching pornography, nobody was hurt. I had a good time and I will move on and nobody knew about it, so it had no consequences.” Well, that’s not true. It does mean that the person had exposed their midbrain to this experience and the more likely to have sexualized thoughts in the future. It does have effects.

There are plenty of clients I’ve worked with where their brain tends to think too violently. And I have to confront them about “Hey, you need to stop watching violent movies.” I’m not a big prude when it comes to violence and say “Hey, if you don’t have a problem with watching violent movies, but if you’re already having a problem with having too many violent thoughts to begin with, don’t create more.” But it can be negative thinking if someone already has a sense that the work is really dangerous.

Maybe their early life experiences or more recent experiences in a relationships or something like that have a lot of negative experience that people are dangerous, that people are bad, or that only bad things happen in life then they should not be seeking out more experiences through TV, through movies that give them more of that experience.

The midbrain had already had – I was about to say incorrect experiences. They’re not incorrect, they were their experiences but they’re not indicative about the way the world is in general.

Andrea: Uh-huh. How do people know that though? I think of people who might even watched news and almost feels their own anxiety about the world and they continue to go back to it. And even maybe leave it on and it gets sort of keeps fueling that negativity, how do they even know that that’s not wise? We just need to tell them?

Espen: That’s get difficult and that’s getting almost…and this gotten more difficult over the last decade because our news world now tends to be so over saturated. We have news channels; they’re on 24/7. And if someone sees a terrorist attack, if they keep the news channel on, they’re maybe hearing about that terrorist attack for 24 hours. And you don’t hear the stories about the wonderful things that are happening in the world or every town in the world where there was nothing happening.

A big thing that comes to all of these things is being connected, talking with people, and being a witness to other people’s lives. The more our lives get limited, the more our experiences also get biased. It’s usually good for people that have a wide-range of I call it the purviews of someone’s life. If someone’s life is work and home and either work or home starts having difficulties, then half of the world is having difficulties.

Andrea: Right.

Espen: The more activities we have, the more people’s lives were involved with, the more settings, the bigger the purview of our life, the more chance there is of their being stressed in life. That’s one of the reasons some people end up starting to shrink their life because the smaller your life is, the less life there is for them being stressed. However, when they’re now stressed for difficulties then that suddenly fills a huge portion of your life and you may not have safe places in life to go to to deal with the stress.

That it’s why in marital counseling…I’m all for married couples need to have a lot of shared interests and activities. But they do need to have some things in their life that are separate, because any relationship is going to have difficulties. And there are times where they need to step out of their own life or times when they have to step back just so we can recognize when we’re thinking incorrectly or when we’re getting too stuck on things.

But if we have nowhere to step out to to do then we’re not able to get that step back so that we can come back in and having a constructive conversation. It’s not just related to what you’re involved in in your life, but it is also where you find your stress relief. If all your ways of dealing with stress is backed up in your partner then the moment there’s stress in the relationship with that partner, you have no way of dealing with that stress. That means you have no way of getting to a point in a spot where you can calm down with your partner and have those good conversations.

Andrea: Yeah that’s great! I think of actually young moms who have young kids at home maybe and maybe they’re not working. I’m thinking of myself you know a few years ago and how limited my world view was at that point just because I didn’t have connection outside of, you know, just few people around me. And that was because mostly because my time was taken up with little children. I think that definitely set me up for was to, you know, when you’re only with other moms with little kids, they’re also having the same struggles. So it does sort of feed that, I think. So it makes a lot of sense.

Espen: Wait, wait, wait…little kids can be stressful?

Andrea: I know right.

Espen: Huh, okay huh.

Andrea: You know when they wake up at 4 o’clock every morning and you’re getting five hours of sleep every night. You kind of have a limited worldview.

Espen: Yeah, exactly. It’s hard to step away from that.

Andrea: Yeah. I think that’s one of the things that I’ve really appreciated about you know, once my kids did get into school, I kind of sorted to take more long lines of writing and finding a place for my voice. But I think that what you’re saying sounds to me like, it’s wise to find a place for your voice outside of just your own immediate family at times because you kind of need that bigger perspective. And to be tapped into something other than just what’s right here in front of you all the time because that can be awfully stressful.

Espen: Yeah, and a mistake sometimes people make is…it’s nice if that things stepping out is relaxing and fun that’s nice. But people for this day and age have the notion that it has to be. But very often the things that are most useful and helping us to distress or take that step back or get different perspectives, they may not be fun or they may not relaxing.

For some people, getting their husbands or their wives to watch the kids for a couple of hours so they can go on and sit down and write, it may feel like work and it may not be distressing. But it might actually reduce their stress for the rest of the week because their mind was able to go to something else and they also make it easy for them because the brain was able to go to something else. It’s easier to step back into the stressful part of life with a different perspective on it, where were not so stuck in our head and stuck in the stress.

Andrea: Oh man! This has been great, Espen! So many value bombs here. I feel like whoever is listening – the influencer who’s listening is definitely going to go back and listen again and take note if they haven’t already. And I’m pretty sure we’re going to have you back on again sometimes to talk about some other things. But this has been really, really helpful and I love this idea that you know, you’re telling us how we can sort lead people to this light-bulb moments instead of just telling people what to think, because it’s not as effective as when they’re able to put those two and two together and have their own experience of understanding something.

That’s so significant for anybody wanting to have a voice with somebody else. And not only that, you also mentioned this idea of being a witness to somebody else’s life, learning from them, letting that be a dialogue instead of a top down kind of teaching time. Which I think has always for me been the most significant interactions and the most significant learning that I’ve had. So I can certainly attest to that as somebody on that side but then also, I’ve seen it myself as well.

One of the reasons why the book ended up what it was from my book because it was going to be something where I just taught. And then as time went on and as I kept working through it and everything, I felt more and more led to just share my story in a way that would also give people that experience but then allow them to learn something at the same time. And I’m so glad because I do think you’re right. I think all these things are just really important. They’re so valuable to the Influencer that’s listening.

So thank you so much for everything, Espen! Do you have any parting words of wisdom for us?

Espen: When we’re in the presence of someone else, we share one environment. But everyone exists in two environments at the same time. We have an external environment that we share. We may sit in the same room or maybe in the same coffee shop. We may even order the same coffee prepared to Starbucks’ perfectness of consistency, same drink and we share an external environment.

But each of us also exists in a second environment and that’s our internal environment. They have an environment of emotions, of physical states, and of automatic thoughts, that’s a combination of our past experiences running headlong into the external environment that’s around us right now. The result of that is whenever we meet with someone else; we’re not in the same place only in the same external environment, but we’re interacting not just with that person but with their internal environment.

And that internal environment we don’t know unless we listen to them. And they may not even say what an internal environment is. Few people do unless they specifically say “Hey, I feel sad and right now, I’m having this thought popped up.” But it’s not usually how people talk or sometimes we can get to that level. But you hear it on how they talk and what directions they go. How they react through things and that’s the real reality that we are interacting with. It’s also where healing takes place. It’s where pain takes place, but it’s also where close relationships are really being formed. It’s in the interactions between your internal environment and their internal environment and that’s a very precious place.

Andrea: Indeed! Thank you so much, Espen!

Espen: Thank you, Andrea!



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How to Stop Holding Back and Achieve Your Potential

Using the Fascinate Advantage®

It was a rainy evening and I had a few hours to work, so I settled myself in at a local restaurant with wifi. I love restaurants with wifi. There was this personality assessment I’d been wanting to take for a while, but I avoided taking it, sure that I could look at their graph and figure out where I fit. I had my Fascinate® archetype all-but-framed when I finally bit the bullet and shelled out the money to get the report. I sure hoped it would be worth it.

The assessment was surprisingly short, so I knocked out the 23 questions in a few minutes and then clicked, “submit.” In just a few seconds the report came back and I did a double take. It couldn’t be right!

How the World Sees You

Bare with me for a moment as I explain the Fascinate® concept (or skip this paragraph and watch the 1 min. video at the bottom of the page). It was developed by Sally Hogshead, an internationally award winning copywriter and hall of fame speaker. She’s really good at coming up with words for marketing. She wanted a way to make it easier for small businesses who can’t afford big ad agencies to identify the best words to use and tone to take when marketing their products and services, so she created a little quiz. Well, that quiz turned into a researched assessment that has now been taken by over 1,000,000 people and is used with huge companies and individuals, to help them identify the voice of their brand. (And if you haven’t heard me say it before, every person has a personal brand. It’s what people think of you when you aren’t around.)

There are 7 Advantages. The assessment pairs your top two Advantages to create your archetype, as displayed in this graph.

Well, before taking the assessment, I was sure of my spot on the matrix. I knew I had to be a Catalyst: #1 – Passion (the language of relationship) and #2 – Innovation (the language of creativity). But when I clicked “submit” and my assessment came back, Passion wasn’t my number 1 advantage. It was number 4! I was shocked and a little taken aback, because though Innovation was #1, my #2 came out as Power.

“Power?!” I thought. My stomach rolled a little. I shrank back and took note of my response. Power is the language of confidence. Power is something I’ve never wanted to convey. I’ve seen Power play out before, and it’s not always pretty. “Surely the assessment is wrong!” I demanded.

But then I read the name and description of my archetype, The Maverick Leader:

You lead with a bold and unconventional vision

You are unafraid to take the lead and happy to propose a new direction for a product or market strategy

You’re always full of new ideas, and almost a little restless. You definitely make sure there’s no dull moments in your meetings

If something starts to feel familiar, you’ll probably start experimenting to see whether higher goals can be achieved

“Oh. Well, maybe they’re onto something here. Because all of those bullet points fit me like a glove.”

Your Greatest Potential Lies BEYOND What You Already Know About Yourself

Upon further reflection, I had a huge revelation: “I’ve been calling my ‘Power’, ‘Passion’ and trying to hide it all my life!”

Let’s just take a moment and read that again.

“I’ve been calling my ‘Power’, ‘Passion’ and trying to hide it all my life!”

That’s right. All my life I heard things like, “you’re so passionate” or “you’re so deep.” But no one ever said to me, “you’re so powerful.” So I never associated power or confidence with my intensely passionate responses. When I read the full description of my archetype, I knew that the assessment was right and I’d been so afraid of displaying my intensity and confidence that I hid it. Why? Because I didn’t want to alienate myself from other people. I didn’t want to stand out. I didn’t want them to be annoyed with me or think I didn’t care about them when I shared my opinions or insights. I worked to develop my relational advantage so I could speak that language with people instead of just shooting off my opinions whenever they came up in me.

It sure seemed to me that “powerful” people got what they wanted sometimes, but if they achieved their objectives by using shame, judgment and sheer force, they didn’t get to people’s hearts and souls where change really happens. I knew. I’d found myself in that very position before – on both sides of the exertion of power. I didn’t want to be like that. I didn’t want to be compelling in an aggressive way. I wanted to be compelling in an invitational way.

But seeing power as an Advantage, I realized that maybe it wasn’t not all bad. Maybe power was just like any other trait or gift. It’s most helpful when fueled by love, and truly dangerous when fueled by fear and stress.

Since that rainy night in October, I’ve determined to step into my own “Power Advantage” and explore it. Maybe I was created this way for a reason. Maybe I’m supposed to be more bold.

And so I’m trying this power thing on for size. I’m leveling up my game and doing bold things like asking big-time entrepreneurs and leaders to be on my podcast. And they’re saying yes. The crazy thing is that I fully expect them to say yes when I ask.

I’m realizing more and more that all I’m doing is stepping into who I’ve been created to be. I’m not trying to become more “powerful” or “successful.” I’m trying to figure out how to best steward the gifts I’ve been given.

What about you? Do you wonder if there are untapped resources inside of you, just waiting to be explored and used for the good of others?

Subscribe to the Voice of Influence podcast in iTunes or Stitcher! Whatever you do, I encourage you to keep growing in self-awareness. Because the greatest potential for your voice lies beyond what you already know about it.








Oh – and if you would like to find out your own Fascinate Advantages®, [ CLICK HERE ]

7 Gifts that Help Creative Leaders Overcome the “Frozen” Feeling

You’ve felt it before. It’s the feeling that you experience when you have so much going on inside your mind and heart that you can’t say or do a thing to express yourself sufficiently. Being frozen in self-expression just might be the most frustrating and lonely feeling a Creative Leader must cope with on a regular basis.

I know.

For about six years I felt as though I was locked up inside my own body. I was stuck in my own head and I didn’t know how to come out. The sad thing to me was that I’d tasted the sweetness of creative self-expression before, but I just didn’t have the time or emotional energy to connect what was going on inside of me with words or actions on the outside. So what did I do? I distracted myself to avoid thinking or feeling. And all the while, the pressure in my subconscious world built up, leaving me ready to burst at any given moment.

After taking care of my physical need for chemical balance in my brain and my spiritual need for restoration of my relationships with God and people I loved, I decided to tackle the problem analytically by researching the gifts and curses of creativity. Here is what I found.

Your Gifts

The gifts that most Creative Leaders possess or have the potential to cultivate can either help or harm your ability to express yourself well in what you do and say. The key is to play those gifts like a fiddle instead of letting them play you. Let’s take a look at a few.

  1. Empathy. Empathy is the ability to feel what other people feel. It’s an incredible power you can use to connect and understand other people. However, it can be difficult to separate your feelings from the feelings of others. This might sound crazy, but you can choose what you will feel to a certain degree. What feelings are other people experiencing that you might be mirrorng simply because you’re around them? Are those feelings yours to own? Use your empathy to understand the other person, but then take a look at that feeling and decide if it is yours to carry.
  2. Sensitivity. Empathy and sensitivity are closely related. If bright light, being surrounded by certain colors or sharp/loud noises feels painful, you are experiencing sensory sensitivity to some degree. If chaos or commotion bothers you more than it does other people, you may be overwhelmed by sensory stimulation. Emotional sensitivity is related. When your nervous system is overwhelmed, your emotional equilibrium may be, as well. Sometimes, feeling emotional pain may cause you physical pain and vice-versa. The pain and overwhelm you experience could leave you feeling frozen or about to explode. Either way, sensitivity can also be used in your favor. When you become more aware of the things that overwhelm or cause you pain, you can choose to prepare ahead of time, avoid certain situations or, most powerfully, use your own sensitivity to understand when other people might be experiencing overwhelm. When you begin to take care of yourself, you can focus your efforts on helping others, releasing the grip of overwhelm.
  3. Intuition. This gift comes right on the heels of empathy and sensitivity. It’s that gut-feeling, not based on conscious thoughts. You just “know.” You might feel frozen because your gut is telling you it’s not a good time to speak for whatever reason. That’s OK! But sometimes what we just “know” is wrong. Intuition connects our past experiences and knowledge in non-linear ways. It is incredibly important to not only give yourself the opportunity to pursue good experiences and build a knowledge base that you trust, but also to be aware of what you are actually feeling in your gut and then ask if it fits with what you believe. Practice reflection on a regular basis to build your intuitive skills so you know whether that frozen feeling is irrational fear or wisdom.
  4. Idealism. Creative Leaders tend to be idealists. They see the world as it could be. Unfortunately, many people who begin as idealists may have been accused as being overly positive, irrational and not practical in their youth. As idealists experience the shame, injustice and disappointment of life, they may begin to question everything they previously stood for or believed. These kinds of situations can disappoint idealists to the point where they deflate like a balloon and feel utterly defeated. But that isn’t the end for you if you’re an idealist! Turn your idealistic demands into your ongoing idealistic vision. Let it fuel you as you strive to make the world a better place rather than depress you that it’s not what you thought it could be. When you feel frozen, find inspiration to tap into your idealistic vision and move toward it rather than letting disappointment overcome you.
  5. Initiative. You can be creative without utilizing initiative, but don’t call yourself a Creative Leader unless you do use it. Initiative begins with an impulse to do or say something and then it acts on it. Unfortunately, people punish or squash initiative all of the time because of the fear of failure and fear of the judgement of others. So what if we do something and it doesn’t work? Of course there are times when we need to heed wisdom, but Creative Leaders must be willing to stick their necks out by offering their ideas, service or art to the world in full knowledge that they might be rejected, ignored or shamed. Don’t let the shadow sides of empathy, sensitivity and intuition overtake the bright shining light you just might radiate if you act. Lead by being willing to appear less than perfect and you will not get stuck.
  6. Intensity. Emotional intensity is a powerful force, so be sure to learn how to use it for good. When you feel frozen, your emotional experience may be so intense that you don’t know how to contain it, though you think you should. You need release! The number one piece of advice I have for people experiencing emotional intensity is this: tap into your emotional core rather than living from your immediate emotional reactions. “Sad” is under “angry” every time. Give yourself permission to feel your sadness and possibly even cry. But don’t stay in that discouraged state. Find something that inspires you and open yourself up to how it could bring you out from your sadness or frozen feeling. Sometimes it helps to learn something new or be reminded of something old, but it is very difficult to will your heart to follow your head. Find something that speaks to your heart and don’t be afraid of the intense power within you. Use it!
  7. Problem Solving. Your ability to employ your creativity to solve problems is an incredible gift, but it is tempting to get stuck in a holding pattern where you keep trying to solve the same old problem. Unfortunately, for Creative Leaders, not all problems can be solved. If you find yourself frozen by the same old problem, it’s time to step out and gain perspective. Use those problem solving skills to analyze the situation. You might need to let go of the idea of solving the current problem and find a different way to look at your situation. Maybe you’re solving the wrong problem! Whatever you do, don’t allow yourself to obsess over the same problem forever. Keep moving forward in other areas and perhaps you will stumble upon the right solution at a different time.

Do you relate to any of the above gifts listed above? Which one feels most like a “gift” to you?

Unfrozen Self-Expression

I will say it over and over. Authentic self-expression is not about doing or saying whatever comes to mind in the moment. That’s reactionary self-expression. Authentic self-expression is based on a holistic perspective of who you are. It is awareness, reflection and action based on more than your emotions. That’s why I believe Creative Leaders need to go through the process of uncovering and refining their core message.

Align what you do and say with a robust understanding of who you are for clarity, confidence and focus. Download the Arrowhead Alignment PDF now.

Free Fall: Do this when you feel that sinking feeling

It’s days like today when I create something like this that I think, “you know? I think I’m right where I need to be.” I created this video based on the blog post I wrote yesterday. May you be inspired to take action!

Go find this video on (click these links) Facebook, YouTube and Twitter and like it. Share it. Comment on it.

I’m sending you a virtual fist bump.

Arise, my friend. Your voice matters.

~Andrea Joy