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 schnoorn.unk.edu or I got a Gmail account, schnoornealatgmail.com, 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!

 

 

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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Transcript

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 teamconcepts.com?

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.

 

 

 

END

What I Learned About Myself from Working with A Fashion Stylist

oh yes I did!

I’ve never been someone who wanted attention for how I look, but when I started writing and wanting to offer my voice of Influence in the world, I realized that my appearance was getting in the way of that happening. So I recently took a trip to work with Toi Sweeney, a fashion stylist for entrepreneurs, professionals and TV personalities. This is what I learned about myself in the process.

This video is going to be included in a longer video about the process. I’ll post it here again when I have it ready for you!

Find information about the Fascinate Advantage assessment here.

Follow Toi Sweeney for information about her upcoming book release.

 

Also, I’d love to have you join in on the conversation in the Voice of Influence Facebook Community group. Join here.

Do this Before You Kick 2016 to the Curb

The other day I did something I’ve been wanting to do for months, possibly even a year or two. But fear and lack of technical understanding kept me holding back; and you know how I feel about holding back. You see, I’ve been hiding behind the written word for the past couple of years. In a way, writing was a wonderful way to allow my voice to emerge, but it’s time to up the game.

I do not consider myself to be a writer. I’m a thinker. A strategic activator. I want to share ideas and begin or further the dialogue. I want to call out your deeply authentic voice because I want to hear it and I believe it matters. A couple of months ago I started offering more videos, and I will continue to do so. But I also want to try audio. So I started recording audio and today I’m going to share with you an edited transcript of that audio, along with the opportunity to listen. Just press play – or read – or both. Whatever works best for you. Then let me know what you’re going to bring to 2017!

Own 2017

I understand why so many people are discouraged with 2016. It’s been a doozy! Between the bloodshed around the world, the US presidential election and the loss of so many pop culture icons, let alone your personal pain and loss, I completely understand why you might be ready to move on.

But if you are ready to kick 2016 to the curb, please don’t throw your hands in front of your face, turn away and then say, “I hope you treat me well, 2017 because 2016 sure didn’t.”

I get it. Truly, I do. Some circumstances can leave us feeling frozen as victims to our circumstances. But I would be remiss if I stayed right here and didn’t call out the deeper, stronger YOU.

Who Are You?

In 2016, WHO YOU ARE didn’t change. WHO YOU ARE came out more powerfully because of what happened in 2016. That’s what’s going to happen in 2017, as well. Whatever happens in 2017, it is going to call out the depths of who you are and ask, “How are you going to meet me?” 2017 doesn’t have anything to say about who you are, but it will definitely call you out.

Most likely, you’re not a victim to 2016. Because WHO YOU ARE doesn’t have to change based on your circumstances.

We put the blame on 2016 – circumstances – other people – God – whomever. And we say, “It’s your fault that I feel so crummy.” And there is some truth to that because we are effected by one another. But we have a choice about how we’re going to respond to our circumstances.*

There is something really critical about the moment that you realize that you feel oppressed. Because in that moment you can’t be complacent anymore. It’s that moment that you look at yourself in the mirror and say, “Am I going to fall to my circumstances or am I going to rise up? Am I going to let other people tell me who I am or am I going to tell other people – show other people – who I am?!”

Are you going to let other people and tell you that your voice doesn’t matter – that your contribution doesn’t mean anything? Or are you going to look at them and say, “But it does. And I’ll show you how.”

Find Your Grit

Grit says, “Ya, knock me down, but I’m going to get back up and keep going.” You can choose to lay down and give up. I’ve certainly done that before. But the thing is that most of us have a choice. There are people in this world who are seriously oppressed. But that is not most of us. Most of us have choices. Most of us could rise to the occasion. Most of us could get up and look at our circumstances and say, “I’m going to keep going.”

I look at 2017 and I’m nervous. But I’m also excited. I want to keep pressing on and moving forward, no matter how many people pay attention.

What does it mean for you to show grit in 2017? Are you going to blame 2016 for everything negative thing that happened to you and to your ideals? Or are you going to look at 2016 with grit in your teeth and say, “thanks for the experience. It’s time for me to show 2017 WHO I AM.”

Remember who you are. Own it. Keep moving forward and build momentum as you head into 2017. How? Be sure to listen to the voices that help you do so and use discernment to tune out the ones that don’t. Subscribe to this blog, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and/or SoundCloud. I plan on being a voice that helps you remember WHO YOU ARE.

*If you truly have no voice in your circumstances, whatever they may be, I want to encourage you to seek out help from someone who will listen to you and possibly help you move out of them. I know it may be complicated, but know that I’m for you.

The Book That Will Release the Creative You

I’m here to tell you this is a worthy use of your life: both the grand calling of motherhood, and the smaller gifting of artistic self-expression.

~ from Life Creative by Wendy Speake and Kelli Stuart

A while back an article circulated Facebook with a title that sounded something like, “Back off Pinterest Mom. You’re making the rest of us look bad.” It seemed that there were quite a few women who felt particularly annoyed with the moms who turn simple snacks into elaborate cartoon characters and put together a creative concoction of homemade items for teacher gifts.

The article made me sad. Although I don’t consider myself to be particularly crafty, I certainly know the desire to find some kind of creative way to express myself in the midst of motherhood. In the middle of writing a book about my own desire for self-expression, I read the rant and knew my writing endeavor would upset the moms sharing that article. Because I intended to go all-out with my book like Pinterest Moms go all-out with their school snacks.

Reading the article made me sad for all women. Moms that create in the kitchen, women that throw elaborate parties, girls who sing their heart out instead of holding their voice in. With sentiments like “reign it in” circulating, no wonder we hold back. What if, instead of pressing each other into status quo-level confinement, we call out and celebrate creative self-expression in the midst of motherhood?

14317478_10153853027172555_3213682699467064735_nFrom Unfrozen to a Life Creative

The storytelling nature of Unfrozen: Stop Holding Back and Release the Real You was intended to help women who relate to my experience as someone who felt frozen from being able to express myself fully in relationships and in my creative contribution. I am excited to say that if you identified with my story, you will most certainly be nourished by a book that releases today.

Life Creative by Wendy Speake and Kelli Stuart (–>Website Here<–) is a composition of reflective teachings that call moms to open their minds and hearts to wrestle with their own desires for creative expression. The authors know the creative-mom struggle intimately, so they speak with compassion and authority.

One of my favorite aspects of this book is that it hits on both our need of living in the moment with our children and our longing to tap our creativity. “If you are smack-dab in the middle of this intense season of mothering right now, and the idea of carving out even a little time for your craft overwhelms your heart and your family balance, then take this woman’s wisdom to heart. Tuck away each torn out picture from a magazine, each story concept, each personal revelation that supports your vision. Jot it down and file it away, then move about your day with peace in your heart that the inspiration waits for you. This recorded book of ideas opens wide the gift of freedom, allowing you to live your dreams first.”

I echo that advice with a big and hearty “amen!” For years I’ve been filing away metaphors, stories, feelings and inspiration in journals and notebooks. These proved invaluable when my kids both started school and I began to write and speak with more intention. And now when I take walks by myself I turn on the voice recorder and document my musings on my phone.

The book also includes a section where the authors discuss another topic dear to my heart. “When the unique needs of a sensitive soul go unmet day after day, year after year, there is the tendency to spiral downward into the pit…Here’s an ugly truth: Sensitive people can be incredibly insensitive when they lose themselves. I’d never been an angry woman until the quiet spaces of my life were threatened.” Yes! Sensitivity and creativity often go hand-in-hand. If you were able to relate to the description of my angry outbursts in Unfrozen, you will certainly be nourished by the thoughts on sensitivity in Life Creative.

theauthors-01

Release the Creative You

The creative life of a mom is complicated and frustrating at times, but with the guidance of those moms who have gone before us, we can be released into the joy and freedom of a non-pressured creative self-expression right in the midst of mothering. Whether you’re a “Pinterest Mom,” a wanna-be blogger, or a master-schedule master, you can live this creative mom-life with great hope. There is so much more I could say but for now, I want to offer my thanks to Wendy Speake and Kelli Stuart for their hard work and beautiful mentorship through this book. They will help you release the Creative You.

“You are His Poem. Your heart and your art are His song to the world. Sing it loud. ~ Life Creative

I’m guessing that many of you need this book. If you don’t think you do, I’m confident that someone you love needs this book. So I encourage you to (–>Click Here<–) and buy it today before you forget.

Your Frozen Heart is Worth It

“I wasn’t depressed anymore, but I wasn’t happy either. I wasn’t sure what I was.”

Unfrozen prologue (read it by clicking –> here<–)

I can tell you one thing I was. I was cold. It didn’t come out all of the time. Of course, I shared as much warmth as I could with the outside world by engaging with people in heart to heart conversations and mustering up as much kindness as possible. But when I was warm to the outside world, it was like I depleted my resources so when I got home I had very little warmth to give my family. It made sense, in a way. They asked more from me than anyone else. When I was around them I felt like a failure because they needed things from me I wasn’t sure I could give. So every request for me to meet their needs felt like a neon sign flashing “FAILURE! FAILURE! FAILURE!” I knew I shouldn’t resent my family for highlighting my weaknesses, but that knowledge only made me feel shame for the fact that I often did. It was a spiral of self-centered self-hatred and bitterness.

*Don’t miss out on the contest at the bottom of this post!!!*

IMG_7422What does it really mean to be frozen, anyway?

When H2O is in it’s liquid form, it can flow freely, in and out of the spaces open to its movement. But when it freezes, it’s stuck. It might clunk around from place to place, but it doesn’t move freely and it keeps it’s goodness to itself.

The life-blood of our hearts is like that. When our hearts are hard, it’s difficult or even impossible to give or receive love.

When I think of that frozen kind of feeling, I think of a coldness of heart. I think of a heart that is so scared of being further wounded that it hunkers down or runs away from the threat of pressure or shame. The frozen heart feels paralyzed, isolated or trapped.

And when I feel trapped, I feel like there’s no way out.

But there is away out.

Wherever you are right now, you are not stuck. You may have given up on the idea of being open to giving and receiving love. You may feel you have no choice but to hunker down or run away. But you do have a choice. The beauty of the image of a frozen heart is that all it needs is warmth to get back to the free-flow of love. And that warmth can come with a gradual change in temperature or it can come in instant waves of heat.

One of the first things that has helped me in the thawing of my own heart is to come out of isolation and bring my heart into the light. But that was the last thing I wanted to do. I didn’t want to admit how fragile I was and then be vulnerable to the possibility of being broken. I didn’t want to admit how ugly I felt inside and then be vulnerable to judgment and shame.

I wanted to watch NCIS and Castle and eat away my longing. Sometimes I still do.

But that’s not the answer. We need a safe haven for our hearts. An environment where we can lift our eyes to see one another – to come out of hiding and gently begin to share the truth of what we think and feel.

You must decide that your heart is worth it.Your frozen heart is worth mining.

The very first image of Disney’s Frozen is the image of huge saws ripping through a thick layer of ice and a chorus of men singing about the dangers of a frozen heart. Then they claim that the frozen heart is worth mining.

Your heart is worth mining. Your heart is invaluable and you have an immeasurable amount of love to offer others. But you have to take the first step.

You have to decide that your heart is worth mining. 
I long to see your heart thaw so you can give and receive love freely. I long to keep mine soft and open. I long for my daughter to have a foundation for understanding that she doesn’t have to hide in the cold and become paralyzed by the fear that once trapped me.
That’s why I wrote Unfrozen: Stop Holding Back and Release the Real You. I wrote it to:

  • bring my own life and heart out into the light to prove to myself that my heart is indestructible.
  • offer my life (our life) as an example of some of the struggles we all face in our relationships so you know you’re not alone.
  • begin a relationship with you, that you might find the space I offer to be a space where you can be free to mine your frozen heart.

Unfrozen Video Discussion Guide

I also want to offer you the opportunity to create your own safe space to vulnerably share and connect with others. That’s why I’m creating a free video discussion guide based on imagery from the movie and personal stories. You can use it with or without the book but it is a great companion to the book.  The features of this special video discussion guide are:Book_whitebg

  1. 6 Lessons for you and 1-3 other people to view together either once a week for 6 weeks or in any time-frame you choose.
  2. 2-4 videos in each lesson. The 3-5 minute long videos use illustrations from the movie, the book and other stories to set up questions you can use for discussion. It’s simple. Play a video, then have a conversation.
  3. PDF Downloads with the questions and room for you to journal your responses, if you so choose.
  4. PDF Downloads with biblical references to lay a foundation for how these lessons relate to your faith, if you desire to explore that.
  5. Access to a private Facebook group where we can interact and support one another on the journey. I will be available at least once a week to answer questions and offer ideas for you as you do the heart-mining work with your child, friend or spouse.

If you would like to check out the Unfrozen Video Discussion Guide, sign up Start Here to receive notification when it’s available and access into the private Unfrozen Community group next week. Only people who sign up through this link or enrolled in the video discussion guide will be able to enter the group.

Enter to win one of 3  packages (including the Unfrozen audiobook & audio of Unfrozen keynote speech, etc. – a $27 value) by doing the following by Monday, August 30th:

  1. Share this post on Facebook and/or Twitter and tell your friends why you’re sharing it. Each post is one entry, so count them and let me know in step 3.
  2. Sign up for email notification of the Unfrozen Video Discussion Guide release here —>Start Here.
  3. Comment BELOW this post (not on Facebook) and tell me you did steps 1 & 2. Please let me know what email you used when you signed up so I can contact you if you win! I MUST have your email address if you want to win because that’s the only way I know I can get ahold of you. Check back here and on my Facebook page, just in case!

**Previous winners are allowed to enter into this new drawing.***

Beware the Frozen Heart

Unfrozen Prologue

It’s hard to be real. Real is risky and leaves me wondering what others will think of me when they know that I’m not the perfect wife and mom. What will they think if I share my doubts and struggles? Well, a couple of years ago I decided it was time to share my journey through dating, marriage, postpartum depression and anxiety because I long to see the “unfreezing” of women everywhere.

Unfrozen: Stop Holding Back and Release the Real You released August 28th as a Kindle Bestseller in multiple categories! I want to share with you the prologue, the moment just before everything changed for this wife and mom of two little kids.


Thanksgiving, 2013

Thanksgiving, 2013

“I’ve got a lot of work to do,” Aaron sighed. We were nearly home from spending Thanksgiving weekend with family.

“I know.”

As we prepared to pull off the interstate, I looked out the window at the Nebraska prairie whizzing past. He always had work to do. I’d spent the past three years taking care of our kids while Aaron attempted to dig out of the paperwork hole he’d fallen into as a small business owner. It wasn’t something we could do anything about and I felt bad for him, but…. How will I ever get myself out of this hole as long as he is in his?

“What are we going to do when we get home, Mom? Can we play with friends?” I glanced back at our 6-year-old Amelia. Her intense need to have our schedule planned out in her head made it difficult for me to feel like I was ever on top of things.

“No. Today isn’t a friend day.”

“Well, what fun thing are we going to do?!”

My muscles wound tight as she spoke, and then I glanced at Grant. His little body looked as tired as I felt. Grant spent the first four years of his life waking up at 4:00 a.m. Chronic sleep deprivation threatened to strangle the life out of me. I probably looked like it. Thankfully, we were at a point in Grant’s life when I didn’t have to wake up with him every morning, but I was still tired. Oh, so tired.

The truth was, I was also angry. It seemed like my kids, my husband, our dogs and even God were in on this conspiracy to keep me awake and on edge. I simply couldn’t catch up. Just as soon as I began to feel rested, someone would have a bad dream or need me when I went to sleep. I didn’t like having to fight for my sanity, but what choice did I have? If I didn’t, I was utterly defeated on most days by 7 AM.

My consolation was that we could afford a few distractions. “I think I’ll take the kids to the new Disney movie this afternoon while you work.” The thought of theater popcorn and a large Coke took the edge off the disappointment of another lonely Sunday.

“OK.” He looked at me apologetically and then pulled into our garage.

Leaving the kids in the car, I slipped into the house, through the laundry room and into our kitchen. I opened the pantry door to grab our popcorn bucket, but it was full of mismatched lids and containers. Dumping it out onto the shelf, I shut the door and sighed. I’ll get them later.

I shook away the acknowledgement that I had no intention of cleaning up my mess. Looking around our expansive kitchen, I mused again at how empty it felt…about as empty as I was.

“We’ll be back in a couple of hours,” Tears threatened to spill out as Aaron kissed me goodbye. I felt like a shell of the vibrant woman who married him 8 years before. While I wasn’t depressed, I wasn’t happy either. I wasn’t sure what I was.

A few minutes later, I shooed Amelia and Grant into the crowded concession line at the movie theater. Glancing down, I saw Grant lying on the ground. “Grant! Stand up!”

No matter how early he’d gotten up that morning, I didn’t want to have to hold him while we stood in line for popcorn.

I looked at my adorable kids and shook my head. A couple days before Amelia told me she was tired because Grant was waking her up at 5:00 a.m. every morning. I was incredulous. “Why?!”

“He just wants to play,” she told me.

No wonder they are fighting by 11:00 a.m. every day! If only there were a simple way to get more sleep…

“Mo-om!” Amelia insisted I come out of my head and back into the concession line. “What time is it?” She was the most time-aware 6-year-old child I knew. “What time does the movie start?! We’re going to be late!”

“Shhh. We’ll be fine.” I scowled. Having my thoughts interrupted irritated me, and I had no intention of going into this movie without popcorn.

There had been a time when I watched grown-up movies to stimulate creativity and intellectual analyzing. Now I went to children’s movies with the kids, hoping I wouldn’t poke my eyes out with boredom. And that’s why we’re not skipping the popcorn.

A few minutes later, we found seats in the front of the theater and started stuffing kernels into our mouths by the handful. I heaved a big sigh, wondering what the movie was going to be about. Based on the trailer, I expected Disney’s Frozen to be nothing but a fluffy children’s movie about a cute snowman and a reindeer.

The movie began and my disgruntled musings about my sleep-woes were interrupted by ethereal vocal sounds. I looked up to see Cinderella’s castle transitioning into the snowy dark of night and one big, bright, beautifully complicated snowflake.

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Don’t forget your free bonus. Sign up for the Video Discussion Guide in the menu above this post.

Cocking my head to the side, I squinted. The dark mountainous landscape developing before my eyes seemed anything but fluffy. Out of nowhere, wide-toothed saws ripped through the mountain lake ice, and a chorus of men’s voices declared the dangers of a frozen heart.

I hadn’t anticipated a musical. I love musicals.

Soon, a castle near the mouth of a fjord appeared. Inside the castle, Anna jumped on her sister Elsa, as Elsa lay sleeping in bed. And then little Anna asked Elsa if she wanted to build a snowman. The girls, Anna and Elsa, appeared to be the same ages as Grant and Amelia.

Playful, early morning innocence cut through my icy exterior as violently as the sawing in the first scene. How did they know?

Quiet sobs escaped, and the eyes of my heart opened wide as Elsa created a magical winter wonderland experience for Anna. By the end of the “Do You Want To Build A Snowman?” montage, enough tears had flowed to thaw the edges of my frozen heart.

Somewhere in my spirit, I sensed a voice whispering, “This movie is a gift to you, Andrea. Receive it.” So for the next two hours, my heart opened, and I wept as I watched my life unfold before my eyes in a beautiful metaphor on the screen.

~Excerpt “Prologue” from the book Unfrozen: Stop Holding Back and Release the Real You

Reach Chapter 1 by clicking on this button.

Read Chapter 1 Now


UNFROZEN is on sale at a special price of $2.99 (paperback $15.99).

AJW_FacebookProfileImage_11The Kindle and paperback versions of the book are available through Amazon.com. Come find me on Facebook and let me know you downloaded and don’t miss the free bonus: “Unfrozen Video Discussion Guide” in the menu above this post. It’s perfect for friends or mother-daughter conversations.

Click Here for the direct link to the book!

What others are saying…

This book will leave you feeling brave, encouraged, entertained and inspired. The great storytelling will make you want to read “just one more chapter” while the depth and wisdom offered will make you slow down and think about how it applies to your own story. Unfrozen will challenge and encourage you to not shrink away from who you were created to be. If you’ve ever felt frozen by your circumstances or stage of life or felt like you have to hold back a big part of who you are, this book is for you.

Susan Manes, Owner of Mathnasium, former Community Engagement Manger at Creative Trust Media

How refreshing! An imperfect author! Andrea’s raw reveal gives integrity to her infectious invitation. It turns out that God has chosen, loved, and released only the truly flawed, but uniquely fascinating, image-bearers to give voice to his love!

Neal Brower, MDiv, LLD
Pastor, Author, EFCA District Superintendent

Unfrozen would be a fantastic read for both adults and teenagers alike, and a great resource for parents and youth leaders to utilize with teens and young adults as well as women’s ministry programs.

Christina Klausen, MA
Recource Center Coordinator, Community Church Fond du Lac

Few books have the authenticity to change one’s perceptions of life or move one to action. This one does! I feel inspired, energized to become “unfrozen.” Through beautiful, descriptive prose, the author shares her own experiences and ways of overcoming fear, anger, resentment, confusion and so many other emotions that can hamper living life to the fullest, or as she says, “becoming unfrozen.” The stories are compelling and entertaining reading in themselves, but they also offer inspiring insights into how to make life changing decisions. It’s a great read for women of all ages.

Amazon Reviewer

Buy it here.

 

Unfrozen from Andrea Wenburg on Vimeo.

Who Needs You To Check Under Their Bed For Monsters?

It was time for bed and my daughter was distraught, “It could happen anywhere!” She overheard the news about Paris that morning and then managed to avoid thinking about it. But when the hubbub of the day calmed at bedtime, she had nowhere to run. Fear chased her down and mocked her. My sweet 8-year-old begged me for a distraction, “What can I do so I don’t have to think about it? I’m too young to know about stuff like this!”

Aren’t we all? I don’t know anyone old enough to be comfortable with the possibility that a gunman could come into a restaurant and take us out while we’re enjoying a glass of wine. And who is mature enough to handle the picture of a real-live human being strapping explosives on their chest and pushing a button that scatters pieces of their insides throughout a crowd of unsuspecting people?

I’m not.

Photo by Daniele Moomey

Photo by Daniele Moomey

I don’t blame my daughter for wanting a distraction.
I totally understand why she feels afraid. In the moment of my daughter’s intense fear, I felt confronted with my own. I know what it’s like to be taunted by the terrifying possibilities of what might happen. I experience it more often than I’d like to admit and all too often I get the feeling that something is chasing me down. In times like those I need a distraction to help bring me back into balance.

But there is an art to the use of distraction.

Distractions are helpful in moments of distress. Sometimes I need to shift my focus so I can stay calm and think clearly. In those moments I need a distraction to help diminish the fear I feel. But when I continue to use them to avoid thinking about painful things altogether, distractions increase my fear.

Because monsters are more frightening when they are hiding under the bed.

So this night when fear was mocking my daughter, I knew what she needed. She needed me to look under the bed – to give her the opportunity to bring her deep doubts, questions and fears into the light so she could see that they aren’t the big monsters she imagined them to be.

“Ask any question you want, Amelia.” The next hour was a beautiful outpouring of real, deep and intense questions. I hardly answered any of them. She didn’t really need answers, nor could she probably have handled it all. She just needed to know that it’s OK to ask the questions.

I savored every moment. When all was said and done I asked, “How did it feel to ask so many tough questions, Amelia?”

“It felt kind of good – you know – not to hold them back.”

Doesn’t it, though?

Holding back or distracting ourselves from the fear of pain isn’t necessarily a bad thing in the moment, until holding-back becomes locking-in. Avoiding. Refusing to be honest with ourselves, God and others. Fear feeds on secrecy and avoidance. So perhaps one of the most merciful things we can do for one another is to invite fear into the light.

Who needs you to check under their bed for monsters?

 

Find a few Words To Say when you’re left speechless. Grab your free mini-eBook today and be the first to know when my book is released.   Click Here

Title –

UNFROZEN: Stop Holding Back and Release The Real You.  
The unexpected path to connected relationships and extraordinary impact.
Fear feeds