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!

Finding Convergence Between Your Calling & Career

Episode 12 with Josh Erickson

For the past 20 years, Josh Erickson has been utilizing his experience, intuition, and insatiable drive for success to help transform businesses and teams into champions. After being proven successful in his own ventures, his innovative methods have expanded in reach, helping institutions like FedEx, Catholic Health Initiatives, and the University of Nebraska take their employee engagement and team collaboration to new heights. His ability to navigate the cyclical patterns of human behavior, coupled with his dynamic and personable presentation style have established him as a pioneer in his field, paving the way for emotional and professional empowerment in collaborative environments, large, small, and everywhere in between.

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Hey, this is Andrea and welcome to the Voice of Influence Podcast. I’m really glad that you’re here with me today. And today I have a fun guest. His name is Josh Erickson and Josh and his wife, Nikki – we, Aaron and I knew them back, I don’t know what was it, 10 years ago or so and when we’re living in the same town. Now, we both moved away from that town and we haven’t really kept in touch. I’m really looking forward to hearing from Josh about what he’s doing with his business, Team Concepts. 

Andrea: Josh Erickson, it is really good to have you here today!

Josh: Hey thanks, my pleasure to be here.

Andrea: Let’s start a little bit with maybe where you’re at right now and then we’ll go back and find out how you got to where you are right now. So what is Team Concepts? What is this business that you have?

Josh: Well, Team Concepts is a consulting company. Basically, we work with all size of organizations to improve employee engagement organizational proficiency. We really believe that in order for an organization to be successful, everybody needs to lead. People need to take ownership and they need to figure out how they can lead within that organization. And we have a phrase that says “When everybody leads, everybody wins.”

And so we try to help organizations build the team where everybody is leading. And in order to do that, we need to understand personalities, styles, profiles, and the different leadership components of any group. So we worked with athletic teams. We work with, obviously businesses, schools, with the high schools assemblies; middle schools assemblies, teachers and services. We work at nonprofit organizations and just any organizations that require teamwork which is pretty much everything.

Andrea: So true. So I know that you have been always doing Team Concepts, so why don’t you take us back to kind of…I guess, I’d love to hear about where you started out and how you’ve gotten to this point right now. So what were you doing when we met you guys like I don’t know, was it 10 or 15 years ago?

Josh: Yeah, 2003 or 2004 I suppose. I’ve always done Team Concepts on a part time basis and that is ever since college. I really got into this idea of team building in order to be a more successful coach. I was a wrestling coach, so just figuring out how to get my team to collaborate together and to develop leadership with my team because I know if I could just get them to lead themselves, it really just made my job easier. And so I started practicing different methods and investigating

But the whole time I was coaching wrestling, I taught school. I was a youth pastor. I started a nonprofit organization and I really give my life to public service, different groups, and being involved. But I always did this team building stuff on the side. And then about eight years ago, I really started a sense of change in what I wanted to do, obviously still serving the community but probably from a more influential role. I felt like my overall community influence as a youth pastor or somebody, ministry, or nonprofit was minimal.

And I really want to have that ability to impact the whole community with the things that I felt and the way that I see the world. So I realized, in order to do that, I would have to be a successful member of the business community also. My wife and I started dabbling in some different business ventures trying to figure out how we could really just kind of gain influence in the community. And we knew that it had to be from a financial aspect that we just had to be seen as successful.

So while I was doing Team Concepts and doing these other things and I also started doing investment properties, flipping houses and some commercial properties. Then we got into a restaurant business and started several restaurants and owned and operated. At one time, we were doing 13 restaurants at a time and then when the opportunity presented itself, we started getting out of that.

And four years ago, I had to say just kind of pivotal moment from myself. I just realized “You know, instead of Team Concepts, and teambuilding being my hobby, this is really what I wanna do. And I wanna run it like a business not as a hobby.” So the business experience that I’ve gained from the construction and then the rental property management then the restaurants, I just started applying that to Team Concepts. I thought “You know, I’m gonna put a budget together. I’m gonna put a business plan together. I’m gonna start advertising and will start marketing and really solidify the product offerings that I have for different organizations.

And so I would say that that journey is what’s that kind of led me here. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do and I didn’t know that it’s what I wanted to do until I went through some other things. And it’s been unique because I find myself in a very influential place for a definitely a lot of organizations especially my clients. They allow me a lot of power when they hire me to come in and work with their employees and work with their staff and help lead and guide their organization.

Andrea: I find this really interesting because I think that there are a lot of people who do have that heart. They want to be an influencer and so the gravity towards those… I mean, the two things that you were doing beforehand, teaching schools and being a youth pastor, and being a coach those are really great ways to influence people. But like you were saying you kind of had this. I don’t know, did you just feel it like a deeper call? Did you just keep feeling called to more, how did you know?

Josh: Yeah, I think as I matured and just had more experiences in life, you know, I used to believe that I have the best ideas for kids and how they should look their lives and had the best ability to influence them. And so when I was younger that’s young in my professional career that’s really all I saw myself doing. I supposed as I gained experience and just life grew, I started realizing that I wanted to impact, not just kids, but I wanted to impact the city.

We started a nonprofit organization in 2003, called One City and that was a city-reaching organization to really empower people to take responsibility for the condition of their city. As I started doing that, I just realized that there’s only so much influence you can have as nonprofit which is great. It’s a great influence but yeah, I just needed more. I really felt like even governmentally like I had ideas and things that I wanted to be able to share. And not just share through a letter or not just share through an empty, you know, a blank stare from somebody who didn’t respect me. But I really wanted to gain the ability to speak government policy to political institutions to the business community.

And I didn’t want to counterfeit it. I didn’t want to find the way in. I knew the only way to get there was to really get involved in business and feel the struggles. You know, we got some successes and we’ve had some failures. And we had to make some really hard decisions when it came to the cost-benefit ratio and the return of investment. The experience gained in running my own businesses and having the employees has really helped me feel a big part of society. I can emotionally relate to people at all different levels.

I know what it feels like to be a teacher. I know what it feels like to be a government worker. You know, I was a soldier in Nebraska Army National Guard. I remember that feeling and then I also remember the feeling when people started to perceive us as successful when we bought a bigger house and we drove nicer cars. And when we started to do that to feel the different perception of how society feels about us, it’s just different. And to live the experienced life on both the sides where people perceived you as not successful and then the other side when people perceived you as successful or at a higher social status.

I don’t think you can really empathize and lead effectively. And so through the process, I’m just thankful for the journey that Nikki and I had been onto, to really understand where people were at and how to influence people at all levels of socioeconomic status.

Andrea: You know, just personally, I always thought that it wasn’t good for me to try to gain different kind of status in society or whatever. You know, I almost thought that being in ministry or having that kind of mindset that I shouldn’t try to get people to perceive me in a different way. Does that make sense?

Josh: Uh-hmm.

Andrea: Did you ever feel that way? Or did you just kind of…

Josh: Yeah.

Andrea: I mean, was that a struggle?

Josh: You know, I would say the first part of our marriage in our life; we never officially did it but we kind of talked about poverty that we were not going to be successful for the sake of our ministry because we didn’t want to make anybody believe that we were any better than anybody. So we lay that aside, although, it’s kind of funny because Nikki and I, we’re just very gifted people. And I think that they led me out of that realizing that I have the ability to be way more successful with even very little effort than a lot of people do. And it’s not because anything I did. It’s just that the way that I see the world, people find value in.

And so when I expressed it and when I used the intellect and the lens that I see the world with, it adds value to people. And for me that’s really what influence is, is the ability to add value in a simple way to other people because we can be influential over our children because we add so much value but that’s not really scalable. I mean, I have five kids but I don’t think we can handle another one because they’re so time-consuming.

But when we started talking about influence, it’s really the ability to add value or even to have the perception of adding value to somebody’s life. And when you can add value to somebody’s life, you have influence over them. And to have that the scalable model of influence in order to grow in your ability to influence others, you have to add value with your words. You have to add value with your ideas.

And because you can add value to tens of people or maybe even hundreds of people physically, now you can share, you can invest in them. You can be one-on-one with them or you can help meet their physical needs or even their emotional needs. But in order to really have them influence on society, on cities, on a larger organization or even worldwide influence, you really have to be able to add value with your words, your thoughts and your ideas.

And I think what led me out of or into this next season of life, it’s not even out of anything but is when I started to realize that my ideas and my words were influential no matter what audience I got in front of. I used to believe that they were just influential for kids. Then I just had some opportunity to speak to larger groups of people, adults, and I got the opportunity to speak to some politician and through some different experiences. And I just started realizing that every time that I had the ability to voice my opinion that it’s influential to people at all varying levels.

I just realized that my ideas, my thoughts, my words, add value to people at varying levels. And for me to stay at one place and just say this is my position would really be kind of robbing me of my destiny and maybe robbing God of the glory that he deserves who created me the way He did. He put ideas and thoughts and creativity in me in order to really live out my destiny and live out my purpose in life. I have to expand that and see how much influence do I have and what platform can I build to just share my ideas and my thoughts with the world and how far would they reach.

And now that’s where my goals has changed in life is to see how far this voice that God has given me can reach and see where He wants it to go and how He wants it to look. And in that Team Concepts as a platform I’m using right now, because I just seen more and more difficulty for organizations to really build a solid team to understand the concept of teamwork as we deal with, especially with multigenerational organizations, the lack of communications and understanding between the generations as we lead in a world we’re leading.

A generation of people that in the baby boomers that really believe in positional leadership and authority that you respect authority for the sake of authority and we’re entering into a generation, the emerging workforce generation does not believe in positional authority. They do not have a respect for any title or position. They have respect for people who show them respect.

Then we have this organizations that are really struggling to find the balance of “Okay, how do we attract or retain new people to our organizations with this multigenerational concept, and how do we have the influence over different generations all at the same time?” And it really requires some skill, some understanding but I really believe that I developed the system with Team Concepts that’s easy to remember, easy to use and that can benefit organizations of all type.

Andrea: Wow! Yeah, that’s a huge need. I find myself being a person who resonates with the younger generation maybe, who wants to be respected and have a hard time grappling with or putting myself into this position where I really appreciate positional authority if you will. So I find that a very personal thing. Do you have any suggestions for people about how to communicate with somebody who really just wants to be respected not just told what to do?

Josh: We did them look at the life experience and the quality and just what life is teaching people in each generation. So it take the baby boomers, you know, they were born shortly after the depression. Their parents lived through depression and they were taught that if you don’t work, you starve to death. They were thankful for the opportunity to work and they were also thankful for education because anytime they got out of school, it didn’t make any difference how boring school was or what was being taught, it meant that they didn’t have to work.

So school and education was just so much different because it was either “Oh if I’m not here working on blackboard then I’m gonna be digging potatoes.” So it’s obviously was a much better thing to be educated. So the teacher became the one who is the one who got them out of this work. And the teacher was seen as a hero because their position of authority that they had was automatically respected because it was an improved quality of life but what they’re being asked to do, right?

And so anybody who was in a depression or let’s just say a boss then, let’s say this baby boomer got his first job, well they remember that if we don’t work, we don’t eat. That we’re going to starve if we don’t eat. So that position was being shown to automatically give them respect because it improved their quality of life. They gave over the influence because the title alone of being a boss meant that “My family is not gonna starve or I’m not gonna starve.”

And so positional authority, those people had influence because they were adding value to life. And so the switch is comes over the last two generations is that work no longer adds value to life. So it’s not a direct comparison because nobody remembers or nobody thinks that we’re ever going to starve, that we have to do these things. And so I think about teachers now instead of being respected automatically, they’re giving a classroom full of students that could be playing video games or doing some incredibly fun but instead, they have to be sitting, they’re listening to them.

And so the difference in the educational environment and the culture is just…I mean, you can’t even compare them in how they grow up. So what we have here is people, the older generation and baby boomer generation that they’re in a position of leadership right now. They believe that “I’m adding value to your life.” They believe that intrinsically where young people come into a job thinks “I’m adding value to your life; you’re not adding value to mine. I showed up to work today.” Obviously that adds some value and neither one is wrong.

That’s what people realized is that nobody is wrong. It’s just as our culture has emerged and changed and we transformed into a much more prosperous culture, there’s a negative and positive consequences. Obviously, we don’t want anybody to think about starving because it’s not fun. But fear-based motivation is effective and it does work. It’s not where we want to live, but it does work. But now, we’re trying to motivate the kids and motivate this emerging workforce just from a compensation package.

Well, compensation really doesn’t even work either because you have to find the way to add value to who they are as a person. And I would say that the baby boomer generations never even dreamed that finding convergence. They didn’t care about convergence, they just wanted survival. And if they found more than survival, they were thankful and they work harder to start giving extra and to start allowing their kids to do extra and then their grandkids to do extra, to do more. So it’s the very fact that they paved away for people to do more that has led to the change in culture where people automatically thankful. People are automatically appreciative of a gift or appreciative of an opportunity because they have millions of opportunities.

And so this idea that everybody can come into the environment and just know how to get along is ludicrous, because it takes a lot of thought and it takes a lot of skill to navigate that all the different world views that are coming into the workplace right now, because they’re so opposing. It just really becomes important to understand that “You know what, if you don’t know how to navigate, they said, nobody is wrong.” And they can’t throw us aside because it’s people world view. It’s how they experience life and experience culture.

So as far as like for me automatically, you know, I’m in between and if somebody who automatically wants respect because they’re human being or because they have a title, they’re both right. Everybody deserves respect, but it’s how you give it, how its felt. And so with the emerging generation and I really just try to focus on what I’ve already talked about here today and it is how they add value by being just who they are. How do we help them find convergence as quickly as possible because obviously, the younger we get, the less patient people are too.

You know, I’ve got a millennial employee who wants to find convergence in his 18-months in. He’s like “I’ve done convergence this life’s over.” I was like “You know, it was a 25-year process for me to find convergence.” And my father and my grandfather didn’t care and didn’t even understand what convergence was. They didn’t care because they were just happy not to be starving. And now we have a next generation who’s trying to find convergence and they understand it even if they don’t have that as their title. It’s what they’re looking for that ultimate value satisfaction and stuff. But they want it quickly and so there’s just a lot of balance there.

Andrea: I love hearing your thoughts on this. It’s definitely something that I’ve thought about as well and the idea of having a voice of influence and one of the things I say is “Your voice matters but you can make it matter more.” And it sounds like we’re talking about both of those things. It’s like yes, inherently, you matter inherently you add value. But at the same time there is a perception and putting yourself in a position where people are ready to listen to you is different.

How did you get to this point where you had built yourself this platform where you could speak, where you did have the opportunity to speak to people in all kinds of different scenarios? Was that something that you also set out to do or did you just find yourself in these different positions and the doors just kept opening up, or how did that build for you?

Josh: Yeah. Whenever I try to build my platform, I fail. Whenever I just try to look at the world and see where I can add value, my platform grows. You know, the even flow of economics, there’d been times when my families has been in need and I really thought “Man, I really need to build my platform and need to get out there because I prosper financially when people want to hear what I have to say.” But it just that never seems to really work for me. So how I’ve grown more than anything is just really looking at organizations, looking at people and start really giving away my advice for free and just see how I can add value and then build rapport with those people and that’s where my clients came from and referrals.

And I’ve got several from advertising also but the majority of the clients that I’m working with have just been because I care about their organizations and I really want their organizations to succeed. And I thought, “You know, I got these thoughts and ideas that I believe can add value to you, do you think this is valuable?” And we see if there’s a mutual beneficial situation there. But I would say more than anything, my platform has grown just when I observed the world around me, organized my own thoughts about it and then share those thoughts in a way that I believe that’s right to the people involved and that’s really how it’s grown.

Andrea: Uh-hmm, so it’s that been mostly in person? Have you done much building online or is it mostly been in person?

Josh: Yeah, all in person. Yeah, one-on-one phone calls and personal. Obviously, you know after our little staff this morning trying to get this thing done that I’m not very tech savvy guy, so I don’t… I barely uses technology for any of my platform.

Andrea: Well, it sounds like you don’t have to because you have that natural ability to connect and the desire to share what you’re thinking and what you’re learning. I mean, that’s powerful in it of itself. I asked you before I noticed that you’re strengths finder coach, Gallup’s strengths coach, is that right?

Josh: Yes.

Andrea: So do you want to share your top five for anybody that is listening.

Josh: Yeah, I’m a big fan of Gallup’s StrengthsFinder. Yeah, I was part of the second class they offered when they decided they were going to outsource their coaching and I let other people from outside their organization get certified. Anyway, my Top 5 – my number one is Activator. My number two is WOO, which is Winning Other’s Over. My number three is Maximizer, which means nothings ever good enough for me, and number four is Strategic, and number five is Self Assurance.

Andrea: Hmmm, I mean it’s just sounds like you to me, especially after everything that you just described in your story and everything. Of course, I have a pretty good idea of what all those things are but that activator, that desire to get people going, right?

Josh: Yeah definitely.

Andrea: And the WOO is being able to easily connect with people and draw people in. I mean, all those things together I think are really just powerful combinations. So do you think that you’ve always been all those things? Have you seen that in yourself since you were like a kid?

Josh: Yeah, you know, seven on my top 10 strengths are in the domain or the category of influencing others and this is what my life is has really I think always been about. I tried to be great athlete, but I wasn’t that great. I was good but not great. I was an amazing coach. I was a much better coach than an athlete and I think that’s kind of been my life, my skill sets are, not that outstanding in an out of themselves. But when I have the ability to activate other people and when people around the cause share ideas and get people excited, motivated, and organized around an idea or concept that’s when I really get to add the most value.

I kept talking about adding value because I believe that’s the source of all influence but great things happens when people get to add value by being who they naturally are. And that’s when you start to hit what I would call convergence in your life or the switch part of your life is when you get to be who you are and you’re adding value to a lot of people. That’s where influence really starts to increase exponentially. And through strengths and through self-evaluation processes, I just realized that what I bring, I had energy and ideas to any organization. But I don’t add a lot of work value. I don’t add a lot of hourly value for the stuff that I do. I can do those things but it’s very minimal value that I add.

But when I have the ability to share ideas, when I have the ability to encourage and motivate and get a platform to set an objective and tell people why it’s important to  objective, that’s when I have the ability to really be influential at the highest capacity and I love the idea of convergence where you find the thing that you love to do, that’s your passionate about and that becomes the thing that you’re able to provide for yourself and your family through.

And I think that’s what I’ve been able to do through Team Concepts is I’ve created a platform where I just going to be myself. I get to add value the way that I add most value to an organization and be the most influential. And it’s now the way that I’m providing for my family. First is running a restaurant. I mean, it’s a tough thing to do but it didn’t need my specific skill set to do that and I was moderately successful at that but nowhere near as influential as am in this current role.

Andrea: Yeah and the journey that you been on to get to that point where you could find that convergence, that’s a long journey. It wasn’t just overnight. You didn’t just decide and then it happened. It sounds like you had a vision and you started walking down that path. Did you feel like you had a pretty good idea of each step along the path?

Josh: No, not at all. I really believed that my life have been a little more just like Forest Gump. I say that often that I’m just going to force my way through this. You know, you try to make the best decisions with the information you have at different stages in life and try to pick opportunities when you see them. Whenever I create, I try to create an opportunity for myself, it fails. Whenever I just sit back and look and see what opportunities are available to help others or add value, it works.

I would say that the biggest pivotal moment, the only time I knew that there was a moment was when I just realized we had just kind of suffered a business loss and some hard time and I knew that I had to find to make up the difference for the money we had lost in one venture and I say “You know, the only way that I wanna make this money back and the only I wanna provide my family is Team Concepts.” And I said “That’s what I love to do and that one was a pivotal moment for me where I said “You know, I just got to do this. It’s either gonna work or it’s not, I’m gonna go all out. I’m gonna give everything I have and try to find this convergence.”

You know, I’ve been doing this for 16, 17 years on the side and loved it but you know all of my…I don’t think anybody except for my wife told me that it was a good idea. Everybody said, that’s such a…well the first thing is I’m creating a market especially in the Midwest. There’s people that do some other things on the Coast, but in the Midwest, there’s really none. I don’t really have a direct competitor here. For that different thing I do, some competitors that indirectly compete with some of the services I offer. But as a whole, nobody offers the services we offer.

So you have to create a new market. You have to create the need around that new market and let people know that they have a need and then you also have to tell them that you’re the person to meet that need and that your organization is going to meet that need. So we go through a lot of difficulties in our sales process because very few people are out there looking for “Hey, I need somebody to come in and teach my team how to work together, how to be more efficient and effective.” It’s because it’s indirect result from a bottom line for an organization, not a direct result.

Andrea: Right. And it’s so valuable but like you said it’s indirect, so people don’t necessarily feel that right away especially with small businesses, it can feel like you’re just trying to survive anyway and not necessarily financially. Maybe just trying to survive the day-to-day, and the idea of taking time away from whatever you’re doing with your employees or whatever, that’s a hard sale but so worth it in the end. And I’m sure that you have plenty of testimonials to attest to that.

Josh: Yeah, you know when people are busy living life; it’s tough to work at improving your life. The same way most home owners go through or business owners and/or business managers is that you know, the only time my houses ever done is the week before we list them to sell them. The rest of the time, we’re just too busy living to actually work at our home improvement and do the projects that we wanted to do and make things actually the way that we want them. But when we get to the end or we decide we’re going to sell our home or we’re going to move on then we’re like “Oh we got to make this look like we’ve always want it to look so other people would buy it.”

And I think business owners get in that in their mind, they’re like “Oh this is gonna be great. We’re gonna be like this. We’re gonna be like this.” But yet, day to day living in an existence where their company isn’t, their workplace is not the environment, it’s not the culture, or it’s not all the things that they want. But in the back of their mind, it is and that they’ll get there someday but how do you create that deadline for yourself when it’s not. We’re going to sell that over, we’re going to move.

And unfortunately, a lot of the times for business owners and managers the deadline creates itself and that you have a crisis. You start losing key employees until it affects your bottom line because your culture isn’t what it needs to be then that crisis will call them to action. But I would much rather see organizations work on the top end and that is “What are you dreaming about? What are you trying to look like?” And make them believe that “You know what, you can’t have that, you can’t be like that but it’s really tough to do yourself.” But when you bring somebody else in that knows exactly how to influence people to create that culture, it just works better.

Andrea: Yeah, it actually kinds of reminds me of your story and how you’re kind of dabbling in Team Concepts until there was an actual financial loss and then you went for it. Do you think it would have happen quite like this if whatever business opportunity didn’t fail?

Josh: No. I don’t think so. I think it’s actually what had to happen for me to launch into this business, because it was hard for me to really push or sell this because it’s so personal to me. It’s like selling myself.

Andrea: Yes, I get that.

Josh:  And that part is really tough to do aggressively. It’s easy to do when it’s passive and people are talking great about you and they’re friends and that but to aggressively say “You know what; you need what I have to offer.” It takes a lot of confidence and it takes a lot of drive. But it’s amazing if you go home at night and you realize that if you don’t do this your kids are going to be hungry. It’s pretty easy to find that confidence and it’s very easy to find that drive. So when we found ourselves in a hard spot, I realized that there’s only way out and that was for me to really find convergence and get paid to do the things that I love doing the most and what I’m best at. So we had to create that opportunity.

Andrea: Yeah, I love that. This is all very, very interesting. And I’m so glad that you’re doing what you’re doing Josh. I’m glad that even though you had to experience some loss and frustrations and whatever else came with that a few years ago that you could come to this point where you really living into who you are and sharing that with others in such a powerful way. So thank you so much for that.

Josh: Oh thank you!

Andrea: And so now that we know who you are and everything, if somebody were to want to get in touch with you, are working on mostly of local level then or do you do any travel?

Josh: No, we work nationwide. So if a local in the Central Nebraska area, I have some different program and a more in depth program available, obviously logistics. We have three different training facilities that we use here in Central Nebraska. But when I travel nationwide, we have scaled activity based programming, obviously my speaking and consulting. Team Concepts is pretty…we have a lot of different products offered.

We offer activity based learning Low Ropes training for larger organizations and schools. And so those require vehicle travel with trailers so that scale is different there. But when I travel and speak and consult on managing millennial engagement, managing the engagement cycle of others and building teams that lead themselves, all three of those topics I travel nationwide on because it’s just me who showcase of activities.

Andrea: Yeah that’s cool. Well, how can people get a hold of you, Josh? Go to

Josh: Yeah that’s perfect. And my phone numbers are on there too. I don’t mind people to contact me directly and just see if there’s anything I can do to add value to any organization or anybody’s life. That’s what we’re here for.

Andrea: Awesome! Well, thank you so much for your Voice of Influence and for sharing it with us today.

Josh: Oh thank you. I appreciate the opportunity.





Stretch Into Who You Are-Like It’s Your Job

Purpose and calling may not always have a measurable reward. Stay at home parents know exactly what I’m talking about. The day-to-day humdrum of life keeps beating and they keep-on keepin’-on withoutsweetness financial reward or recognition for their often extraordinary efforts to fend off tantrums, sickness and boredom. Some of the most important jobs are not paid.

Over a year ago I desired to spend time on a curriculum on friendship that I’ve been developing for forever. Aaron and I looked at our schedule and decided that I would spend time working on it while our youngest was in preschool. Expending time and energy on it felt self-indulgent until I started thinking of writing as a part-time “job.” We decided to devote job-like time to it because it was that important to us. I wasn’t getting paid to do it, but thinking of it as my job to read, think, write and teach was freeing! It was like stretching out in a big soft bed after having been cooped up in a box – a little bit of pain, a lot of relief.

I don’t know if we really had a choice about how much time I could spend on this sort of thing while the kids were tiny. Though I’m sure I could have, I’m not going to say I should have done it a different way or that anyone who feels boxed up doesn’t have to maintain their responsibilities. I don’t want to turn stretching into running away from responsibilities for me or you. I don’t want to neglect my kids when I’m with them or prioritize writing over my family.

But I do want to prioritize it. I do want to take a hard look at the week and our commitments with my husband and come up with ways that we can each find time to stretch into who we are. The fact is that I am a better mom, wife and friend when I stretch out into these other parts of me.  Most of the time I have more energy, focus and momentum to carry out my responsibilities. And when that happens, my perspective sees beyond the tantrum or barking dogs and I interact knowing that hard moment will pass.

Things that feel self-indulgent might actually help me fulfill my calling as a family girl and a writer.

When my husband and I work together to consider how we want to spend our time, we become mutually invested in each other’s growth and purpose in life.

     Sometimes that means we don’t get what we think we want coming into the conversation because through open discussion we realize we want something else even more – time together, sanity for our partner or maybe just rest. Great team-building conversations are open like that. They aren’t demanding, they seek the best for everyone. Of course, not all of our conversations are like that! But when they are, great things happen for both of us and we strengthen our team.

Tackle It Together: Discussion ideas to explore with someone you love.

1 – What “you” sort of thing would you do if you had more time or energy? How would it help you stretch into who you are so you can offer more of YOU to the world?

2 – What box are you cooped up in? Where is there room to stretch while still maintaining your responsibilities/prioritites? What could you cut so you can add something more important to you? (Sometimes saying “yes” means saying “no” to something wonderful!) What things could you set aside for now or for the evening or for the week?

3 – If you live or work with your loved-one, how can you work together to accomplish other tasks or provide specialized time or encouragement for you to each stretch into who you are? (Maybe it’s 30 minutes, maybe it’s a whole weekend! What works this week, in this stage of life?)

I hope we can look at those we love and with all our hearts be able to say: Stretch into you like it’s your job (even if it’s a very-part-time job). 

like it's your job

What would you do more of if you could call it your job? Let me know in the comments here or on Facebook.


My Birthday Proclamation

How I want to spend my life

Do you ever wonder what your life is really about? I am not talking about your overall beliefs about the meaning of life, necessarily. Rather, when you look at how you actually live, what you actually say and how you actually do what you do…how are you spending your life?

Photo by Jennifer Brungardt

Photo by Jennifer Brungardt

The other day I watched a movie that rocked me to the core and got me feeling what I was already thinking about my life-spending. In Still Alice, the main character is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. I grieved as a brilliant 50-year-old Alice considered her future, forgot her family, grew anxious and lost her ability to interact with others. And I thought…

How much time do I really have left? The next fifty years are not promised to me. I turn 37 this week. What if I had thirteen years left to leave a legacy? How do I want to spend my life?

I can tell you how I don’t want to spend it.

  • I don’t want to spend my life protecting myself. I don’t want to hide or hold back for fear that I may not succeed or that someone might think negatively about me. I don’t want to restrain my love.
    • So I’m going to go for it. I’m going to step out and do something bold and brave. And then I’m going to do it again. I may fail and I may not be everyone’s favorite person, but I plan to learn and grow from it all. Because I want to love boldly.
  • I don’t want spend my life overwhelmed. I don’t want to shuffle stuff around and over-pack our schedule for fear that I might miss out on something or disappoint someone. I don’t want to act like I’m God and can handle it all.
    • So I’m going to simplify. I’m going to cut back on stuff and activities that turn into detours or stumbling blocks between us and our family purpose. I realize it will be a constant balancing act, but there will be less to balance. Because I want to think clearly.
  • I don’t want to spend my life running from feeling. I don’t want to distract myself with meaningless things so I don’t have to feel the intens
    ity of the meaningful things. I don’t want to numb my feelings or carelessly feed my emotions so they grow out of proportion. I don’t want to diminish or exaggerate feeling.

    • So I’m going to explore. I’m going to dig deep to uncover what I’m honestly feeling and why. I’m going to bring those real feelings to God and allow Him to turn them into power with His love. Because I want to live passionately.

That’s it. Those are three things I don’t want to spend my life on, and three things I do. These particular things have been on my mind for a while, but now I want to be clear: I want to love boldly, think clearly and live passionately.

How do you want to spend your life – your actual day-to-day life? What are you willing to do or give up to get there?

Go for it square