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Author: Dan Docherty

Dealing with Wake Up Calls

      What is a wake-up call? When you consider it, there are many different types. According to Merriam-Webster, a wake-up call is something that serves to alert a person to a problem, danger, or need.  


      The wake-up calls you get when…


  • your alarm awakens you in the morning 
  • you get up from a good night sleep to find that your favorite sports team lost the night before (thanks, Ohio State)
  • a news story breaks from your local community or country 
  • a longtime friend that you haven’t heard from in years passes away suddenly 
  • you are awoken in the middle of the night with chest pains 
  • the CEO informs your company that you lost a strategic deal 


     As I’ve reflected on starting 2021, all of these types of wake-up calls have happened to me. How about you? What is the most significant wake-up call you have received over the past couple of months?


      The last few weeks have already shown us that the calendar may flip for the year, but the world never stops. You don’t need me to reiterate the news headlines that have swarmed us already in 2021. There have already been numerous wake-up calls to individuals, communities, and our society. If we can’t avoid these events, then how do we deal with them as they occur? 


      Last week, we had the opportunity to launch our first podcast of 2021 entitled Driving Change – The Longevity Plan with Dr. John Day and Jane Day. I was fortunate to sit in the Day’s home in beautiful Park City, Utah this past fall to interview them. In the podcast, we learned from Dr. Day and his wife about seven life-transforming lessons they learned from studying and spending time with a select group of Centenarians in rural China.


      As I’ve since reflected on their book, interview, and time with the Days, I wanted to share how one of the seven lessons they speak of can help you manage the wake-up calls that are guaranteed to happen in your life. These events can and do have a life-changing impact on our short and long-term health outcomes. The lesson that I’ve often reflected on is principle #3 – Build Your Place in a Positive Community.       


      Notice some of the keywords – build, place, positive, community. Community means different things to different people, but it is described at a basic level as “the people with whom you surround yourself.” Do you surround yourself with positive people that help you build a positive place? Unfortunately, current events don’t allow us to be in person with community and fellowship as often as we would like. Nonetheless, we can be intentional about who is around us, even if our current situation is more virtual than face to face. 


      Don’t allow yourself to be surrounded by persistently negative people. Life is too short to be trapped by this type of negative energy. The self-reflection piece is to ask yourself, are you a negative person? If you are, then think about this quote from the Longevity Plan. 


“When we decide to engage in the world with positivity, it seems that positive people appear all around us.”


      Here is the take-home point for our personal and professional lives. If we surround ourselves in a community of positive people, there is no doubt that they help us absorb the impact of the wake-up calls that are destined to happen to all of us in 2021. If you want to live longer and healthier, then be in a community with those that share your beliefs and values. 


     I don’t know about you, but I certainly perform better in a positive community. Let’s have this movement start with us in our own personal and professional lives.    

One Light One Word One Dream

     Last weekend, we, along with a group of our dearest friends, decided to spend a Saturday afternoon making candles. Before you pass judgment, let me put it out there that the candle making experience is a blast. In this year of craziness, we had socially distant fellowship, great conversation, laughter, and a truly blessed couple of hours. Who doesn’t long for that in this holiday season? I want to thank Manitou Candle for a great afternoon (check out their website below)! 


     As we were all talking, our friends Dave and Missy shared a tradition they have been doing with their family for five years. Each year, when they get to December, they start to think about this question:


“What is your North Star for the next year?”


     As they kept sharing, I let the question roll around my head for a few minutes. Do you have a North Star going into 2021? What a year we have all just gone through. Through the mountain tops and valleys of 2020, were you able to keep your focus on your purpose and direction? 


     As they explained more, the exercise is quite simple. As we entered December, my friend Dave sent a text message to his family. He shared the text with me so that I could share it with you. You can tell quickly from the text that Dave is a fantastic friend, father, and husband.


“Hey Fam…welcome to Dec or, as I am calling it, “Fun December.” Ok, I know 12/1 is tomorrow, but I’m ready to close out the year. So, start thinking about…

1) One lesson you learned in 2020

2) Your word for 2021

3) One BIG dream you would like to accomplish in 2021 

This will be a fun discussion at Christmas!!” 


     How awesome is that?!?! As I have reflected on this, my wife Amy and I have taken some time to rethink how we want to enter into 2021. Let’s make a different type of New Year’s Resolution. Let’s use this approach above to do the following. We encourage you to do this with your family, whether you are face to face or on Zoom!


  • Focus your Resolution on a word and a dream
  • Be Resolute in NOT losing your North Star
  • Reflect on 2020 one more time (the good and the bad)
  • Reset our mindset for 2021
  • Reward yourself when you put your word and dream into action  


     As I reflect back and dream forward, I decided to take this Saturday’s candle making as an opportunity to put my word on the candles. Each time I light the candles, it will be a reminder of the light available to all of us (even in dark moments), the word that directs me to my North Star, and a BIG dream for 2021. 


Find your word and live your dream.

My Word for 2021 is: ADVENTURE 


     To give you a few ideas on a word to use as your North Star, I want to direct you to a few of our most listened to Podcasts.  These 3 specific examples can be broken down into 1 simple word each, and they may inspire you to make it your word of the year.



     At Braintrust, we all hope that you have a blessed Holiday season and a prosperous New Year. Thanks for reading our blogs and listening to our podcasts. See you in 2021! 



Charging a Dead Battery

     As I write this blog, it is a cold winter morning in the Midwest. For those of us who live in cold areas, is there anything worse than being out in freezing weather, and when you get in your car and turn the key… nothing happens. You hear the dreaded “click, click, click” that accompanies a dead battery. Often, we didn’t prepare in the warm months for the events that can happen in the cold. Isn’t this a great metaphor for our personal and professional relationships? 


     It seems shocking to many of us when Gallup comes out with their work engagement numbers, and we read that 65% of employees are either not engaged or actively disengaged (Harter, 2020). This proves we have a significant problem in the workplace and that many “dead batteries” in our lives need charging so they don’t continue to kill our relationships and impact change, growth, and performance. 


     So I thought to myself, what can we learn from charging an actual car battery. The Meineke resource center states that this is not a complicated process if you are prepared. Check out these steps.


  1. Park the vehicles next to each other.
  2. Both vehicles should be off. Set the parking breaks. 
  3. Attach one red clamp to the positive terminal on the dead battery.
  4. Attach the other red clamp to the positive terminal on the working battery.
  5. Attach the partnered black clamp to the negative terminal on the working battery. 
  6. Attach the partnered black cable to a clean nut or bolt on the engine block.
  7. Start the working vehicle and let it run for a few seconds.
  8. Start the dead vehicle. It should turn on.
  9. If it doesn’t turn on, try revving the engine of the working vehicle. 
  10. Disconnect the black jumper cables first, then disconnect the red ones. 


     As I typed out these steps, the words jumped off the page to me. There is a direct correlation between charging the battery and recharging a relationship.  Here is how I translate this for our critical conversations and relational connections.


  • Be prepared
  • Get close to your people
  • Control your emotions 
  • Use the positive charge first and start with the other person in mind
  • Use the negative charge, but it has to be in the right order and at the proper dosage 
  • You matter in the process because you control your emotions and feedback
  • If the relationship doesn’t get better, keep at it
  • Properly disconnect from the conversation and gain commitment on steps for moving forward 
  • Finally, sometimes dead batteries leak acid causing corrosion and damage.  Don’t fear replacing them if the battery is causing harm


     Did you know that you have the power to “jump-start” someone’s battery through neurochemistry? Our brain chemistry helps us better understand how individuals respond when exposed to situations where trust, empathy, connection, and stress are present. My mentor Dr. Boyatzis and his colleagues describe decades of research that help us better understand Positive Emotional Attractors (PEA) and Negative Emotional Attractors (NEA) (Boyatzis, Smith, & Van Oosten, 2019). 


     Like our red and black cables, both PEA and NEA are important to jump starting and having a healthy battery. The PEA enables us to thrive by activating stress-alleviating hormones (i.e., Oxytocin) that produce positive feelings like hope and joy. The NEA is also vital as it helps us activate hormonal stress responses (i.e., Cortisol) to fight, flight, or prepare for defense. The NEA also sharpens our focus cognitively or emotionally, but we need to be mindful that we don’t “over charge” this system. Utilizing PEA and NEA in the proper order while also delivering them in the right dosage. 


     The desired balance of PEA vs. NEA depends upon the situation, behavior, reaction, and desired outcome. Research supports that for sustained change, a person needs to be in the PEA 2 to 5 times the frequency or amount of time as the NEA (Boyatzis, Rochford, & Taylor, 2015). Let’s process this information when we think about filling or draining the battery in our relationships.  


     Disengagement (drained or dead batteries) is a real problem, but we can make an impact every day in every conversation. Like charging a battery, the steps listed above aren’t complicated, but they do take preparation and practice. As the winter gets cold, don’t let your relationships do the same.  


Boyatzis, R. E., Rochford, K., & Taylor, S. N. (2015). The role of the positive emotional attractor in vision and shared vision: toward effective leadership, relationships, and engagement. Frontiers in psychology, 6(Article 670). doi:https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00670

Boyatzis, R. E., Smith, M. L., & Van Oosten, E. (2019). Helping people change: Coaching with compassion for lifelong learning and growth. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.

Harter, J. (2020, February 4). 4 Factors Driving Record-High Employee Engagement in U.S. Gallup, Inc.

An Adoption Story of Thanks

      Last week we had the opportunity to lead a socially distanced live training in the beautiful city of Nashville, TN. Honestly, it was great to be interacting in a live setting once again.


      On our first day of training, I had the opportunity to have lunch and dinner with some of our client team members.  At one point the conversation moved toward how this Thanksgiving will look different from most that we have seen in our lifetimes, yet there is much to be thankful for, even in the madness of 2020. As we shared stories about our personal and professional lives, we found a common theme of adoption at our table. Immediately, I felt the call to share a part of my story.   


      At Braintrust, we train people worldwide about the concept of being a “trusted advisor” to our clients. I have taken some time to ponder exactly what makes a “trusted advisor”? My sincere hope that a part of my story will help you think about the importance of these two simple yet powerful words in your personal and professional life. To do this, I’m going to take you back to over fifteen years ago.            


      My wife Amy and I are blessed with three children. Our youngest daughter Kayla is our angel from China. Kayla came home with us when she was only 17 months old and is now a beautiful 14-year-old eighth-grader. When we started the adoption process, Amy and I needed to choose an agency representing us in this three-year maze of paperwork, shifting timelines, and seemingly constant setbacks. We needed a trusted advisor!


      The incredible journey of adoption and the fire ignited in our hearts came after attending a Steven Curtis Chapman concert (thank you, Steven). We watched a life-changing video at intermission by The Show Hope Foundation (www.showhope.org) about the state of orphans around the world, and the seed was planted. (I recently read on the back2back ministries website that there are 163,000,000 orphans in the world. Back2Back is a fantastic organization, and more information can be found at www.back2back.org.)


      As we drove home from the concert that evening, I’ll never forget our oldest daughter Abby sitting in the back seat as she said, “We should do that.” Amy and I smiled and told her to go back to sleep.  About six months later, we were sitting on the couch in our family room when Amy proclaimed almost out of nowhere, “I’ve never felt more called by God to do what I’m about to tell you.” As a husband, I had no idea where this was going to go. I then joked and asked if she was leaving me! Her eyes filled with tears as she said we should adopt a daughter from China. After literally less than five minutes of conversation, we were all in, and the process was started the next day. As Show Hope says, “it only takes a spark.”      


      Once we decided to move forward, we knew this journey was impossible to do alone.  We needed a trusted advisor to serve as our guide on the journey. After doing our research, we eventually decided to work with the agency America World (AW) out of Virginia (www.awaa.org.) The people at America World and their values aligned with ours, and we knew they had the heart to serve us along with being experts at what they do. (Also, it didn’t hurt that Steven Curtis Chapman referred them.) We immediately aligned with 


  • their vision of “building families according to God’s design of adoption, while caring for vulnerable children around the world.” 
  • their mission of “every adoptable orphan to be placed in a Christian home.” 


      It was evident that AW was there to serve us while helping us solve any problems that would come up along the way, and there were many! They promised to be with us every step of the way, and they were a part of our dreams of bringing our baby girl home. 


      Here is what made them so great as trusted advisors for us.  They weren’t transactional, fact-based, self-focused, self-serving, or aggressive. They were able to establish personal and professional trust. In their approach, they reduced many moments of stress and anxiety while we processed the maze of social workers, the Chinese system, and dossier preparation. They also helped us in the quiet, when time just passed, and we were getting no information. The actual process was supposed to take six months, and it lasted over three years. The adoption process wasn’t easy, but America World served as our GUIDE/SAGE/COACH through the process, and the story couldn’t have ended better. In the end, there is no doubt that every day mattered, and we were matched with our daughter at the perfect time, exactly as it was supposed to be. We couldn’t have done it without them. 


      As you go into the Thanksgiving holiday and reflect on your families and customers, the question is this – are you a trusted advisor for the people in your life story? To help you out, I made a small list of “Secrets of being a trusted advisor” that might provide you with something to think about during the Thanksgiving week.


  • Serve your customers
  • Solve their problems
  • Solutions that make them the hero 
  • Story (be invested in their journey)
  • Stick through the ups and downs 
  • Situational awareness (meet them where they are)
  • Show hope


      At Braintrust, we are so thankful for those of you that read our blogs, listen to our podcasts, and trust us with your business. We never take it for granted and genuinely hope that we are a trusted advisor to you in all we do.    

      Once more in case you “felt a spark”:  For more information on how you can help and/or give back, check out the Show Hope website @ www.showhope.org.

Social Isolation and Loneliness- The Power of Connection

      A few days ago, I talked to a client, and we discussed the frenzying pace of…


  • the fourth quarter 
  • the election 
  • COVID-19
  • working from home
  • kids at school
  • the holiday season with family and friends 


     In all of our lives, there is a crazy contrast between chaos and isolation. I was reminded of the Stockdale Paradox about prevailing in the face of a crisis in the book Good to Great by Jim Collins.


“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end – which you can never afford to lose – with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality.” – James Stockdale


     After our conversation, I started to think about the impact of social isolation and our relationships in 2020. We have all just lived through a year of chaos and crisis and it has demonstrated the importance of relationships and the negative impact of being isolated. It doesn’t take long for social isolation to lead to disconnection, disconnection to loneliness, and loneliness to adverse outcomes like depression. 


      According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), 264 million people worldwide live with depression. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, over 17 million adults age 18 or older in the U.S. experienced at least one major depressive episode in the last year. The fall and winter season is upon us, and more of our friends, family, and colleagues will be impacted by isolation, anxiety, and depression.   


      After reflecting on this blog, I dug into the definition of “loneliness” and “social isolation.” Loneliness is defined as the subjective feeling of being alone, while social isolation describes an objective state of individuals’ social environment and interactional patterns (Hwang, Rabheru, Peisah, Reichman, & Ikeda, 2020).   


      According to the CDC, social isolation and poor social relationships (characterized by social isolation or loneliness) increased serious health outcomes such as heart disease and stroke risk. Social isolation also increases a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, a risk that may rival those of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity. Loneliness is also associated with higher depression rates, anxiety, and suicide (National Academies of Sciences & Medicine, 2020). So, what are we to do?


     I was recently reading the book The Longevity Plan by Dr. John Day. In the chapter on Build Your Place in a Positive Community, I was introduced to some research by Julianne Holt-Lunstad of Brigham Young University, who describes our growing disconnection from one another as a health epidemic. And yes, this was before the pandemic of 2020 (Holt-Lunstad, Smith, Baker, Harris, & Stephenson, 2015). In a recent YouTube post, Julianne describes the importance of “perceptions of support.” There are protective effects on both our emotional well-being and physical health.


    As leaders and coaches, the people around us will downplay the impact of loneliness and depression so we need to have empathy for our people, and take the time to find ways of engagement even if it is socially distanced. As Dr. Day says in his book, “I often tell my patients that the best way to cure loneliness is to cure someone else’s. After all, when two isolated people are together, they’re no longer isolated.”  


     As we finish the year, I’m encouraging myself and you to find three ways to support your friends, family, and co-workers. Others have to perceive that we are here for them. How can you help people feel more connected even when we continue to be isolated? What can you do in November to show your support to others? 


     Here are a few simple tips: 


  • Send someone a note (hand-written)
  • Leave someone a voicemail of support
  • Call to just check-up and minimize any formal agenda
  • Make the phone call that you haven’t made
  • Forgive someone 
  • Thank someone for going above and beyond 
  • Connect someone with a book club, social club, or church group     


      Can you think of three people in your business or life that you want to show support for before we turn the calendar to 2021? Be the person that makes a difference for someone else. It just may be the best gift you can give someone this holiday season.  


     If you are struggling with loneliness or depression, check out the ADAA website, where you can be linked to a therapist directory.








Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., Baker, M., Harris, T., & Stephenson, D. (2015). Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for mortality: a meta-analytic review. Perspectives on psychological science, 10(2), 227-237. 

Hwang, T.-J., Rabheru, K., Peisah, C., Reichman, W., & Ikeda, M. (2020). Loneliness and Social Isolation during the COVID-19 Pandemic. International Psychogeriatrics, 1-15. 

National Academies of Sciences, E., & Medicine. (2020). Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults: Opportunities for the Health Care System.

Doing Something Difficult

     When was the last time you tackled something difficult? We all know that doing something difficult is not only challenging but requires 2 things:


  1. Motivation
  2. A deep desire to change


     Do you have someone in your personal or professional life that pushes you to do the hard things? If you do, you are blessed. 


     My friend Matt has been one of those people in my journey. Matt is a successful entrepreneur, father, and adventurer. He has a “wild at heart” mindset and is always striving to be better and conquer the difficult. If you’ve never read the book Wild at Heart by John Eldridge, I highly recommend it.  


     Here’s the story.  Back in 1999, I was at my house and the phone rang. I immediately recognized Matt’s voice, and he said with tremendous excitement, “there is an up-coming Marathon that is taking place this May in Cincinnati called the Flying Pig. Let’s do it!” He then shares that the race is the marathon’s “inaugural running,” and it would be a fun and challenging adventure. Honestly, I’m on the other side of the phone thinking to myself, “there is no way I’m running a marathon.” Matt then shared that he had done all the research, he has charted a training program that will lead us through the winter. He then reinforced to me in his ever convincing voice, “We can do this!” 


     Let me pause for a moment.  I want you to think of a time when you have been challenged to accomplish something that you knew in your mind was going to be difficult. 

  • How did you respond? 
  • What was your reaction? 
  • Did you shut down the idea or open yourself up to new possibilities? 


     Let me tell you what I did.  I informed Matt that I was happy that he is so excited, however, the one big problem is that I’ve never even run a 5K, much less a marathon. Yes, you read that correctly. Everything in my body wanted to say no, but for some reason, “yes” popped out of my mouth, and I couldn’t get it back. 


      That winter forever changed me. His plan included a full running schedule from Hal Higdon that broke down this monumental mission into day by day activities that would lead us to the goal. If you are interested in running a road race of any type, check out the following website – www.halhigdon.com


      At the time, I didn’t fully appreciate that the day-by-day program placed me in a completely different mental state of positivity, with small wins leading me to a huge win. The journey started with us running less than three miles, and within 18 weeks, we were running 20 miles. If you had told me to focus on just the 20 miles, I would have shut down and become overwhelmed. I would have gone into change resistance mode because it would have been too much change at one time, which would have filled me with anxiety and stress and I never would have started. Instead, we took it day by day, and we had accountability. Was it easy – no way. However, I will never forget running on the bike trail at 5:00 AM on snowy mornings in the middle of an Ohio winter with a running light on my head. In the end, we completed that marathon together and even beat our goal time of running it under four hours.  


      Here is the point:  Success doesn’t happen on its own, and you can’t bypass the hard work as we move into the new year “goal setting” season.  I want to encourage you to reduce your tendency to be hyper-vigilant on the end goal and start focusing on the day to day learning agenda that builds a performance plan and ultimately, goal achievement.  When you write down a goal, ask yourself this question – when I think about this goal, what plan is needed to perform and reach this goal? Don’t proceed until you answer this question.


      Here are a few learning agenda tips for tackling difficult journeys.    


  • Get in the right mindset
  • Do your research
  • Break down the learning plan into micro-steps
  • Find an accountability partner
  • Stay at it every day
  • Celebrate the small wins
  • Never give up 


        Thanks to Matt’s leadership and friendship, I have embraced the joy of running for 20 years and have completed multiple marathons, countless half marathons, and yes, even a few 5Ks. If you want to be the best, then you must do the work. Best of luck accomplishing something great as you close out 2020 and dream forward into 2021. 

Hot Questions and Hot Wings

     After reading the title of this blog, you may be asking yourself a great question. “When I think of myself as a professional communicator, what does this topic have to do with anything?” Well, let me tell you. 


     In my years of practical experience, academics, and consulting at Braintrust, my observation is that the concept of asking great questions is woefully undertrained, understood, and under-practiced. I can further illustrate this point by directing you to a course that CEO/Founder of Braintrust, Jeff Bloomfield, has completed on behalf of LinkedIn Learning. 


     Of the numerous courses Jeff has created at LinkedIn, the number one course in both views (over 60,000) and comments is “Asking Great Sales Questions.” As the COVID-19 Pandemic hit, LinkedIn/Microsoft committed to providing free educational resources for the over 40M people that found themselves without employment.  They selected their “Top 10” based on content, impact, application, and overall value add.  “Asking Great Sales Questions” was selected for this list and is still available if you are interested.  Click here 


    Asking great questions is a skill that takes knowledge, resources, and practice.  We use questions every day and for some professions, it separates the good from the great.  Professions such as lawyers, TV hosts, sales professionals, doctors, and school counselors emerge in that conversation. When you look at these professions though, you will begin to realize that each asks questions to accomplish a different goal.


     For example, lawyers are trained to ask questions that may be deemed more interrogative to get information that the lawyer cares about to prove or disprove their position. If you remember the great speech from the classic play and movie, “A Few Good Men”, Tom Cruise plays the part of Lt. Junior Grade Daniel Kaffee, and the legendary Jack Nicholson plays Colonel Nathan R. Jessup. To illustrate my point, recall this famous courtroom scene. 


A Few Good Men


Kaffee: Colonel Jessup! Did you order the code red?! 

Judge Randolph: You don’t have to answer that question!

Jessup: I’ll answer the question. You want answers?

Kaffee: I think I’m entitled to it!

Jessup: You want the answers?!

Kaffee: I Want the Truth!!

Jessup: You can’t handle the truth! [The truth then comes out]    


     Now contrast this with an example of a medical show on TV.  Check out this final scene from ER that took place in 2009. You will observe that the mindset, actions, and questions in this scene are focused on serving the injured patients coming into the ER. As I side note, A Few Good Men and ER are great programs to binge-watch the next time you are looking for classic entertainment.




    Now, I would like to clarify that both types of questioning approaches work, are needed, and serve a purpose. The critical difference is that the “lawyer courtroom approach” is focused on eliciting information that serves the lawyer’s agenda where the “doctor consultative approach” is focused on eliciting information that serves the patient. 


     As a professional communicator, ask yourself another question. Thinking back over your last ten customer conversations… Are you the lawyer or are you the doctor?


    Here are three quick practical tips for beginner “Hot Questions”:


  1. Prepare your questions in advance by understanding your customer’s story
  2. Determine if your questions are self-serving or other-person serving?
  3. Do your research and practice your questions consistently


     “Hot One’s” is a phenomenal YouTube show hosted by Seth Evans where he interviews famous individuals while they eat hot wings.  In his opening, Seth starts by saying, “It is the show with Hot Questions and even Hotter Wings.” As the interview progresses, you will observe something fascinating. Seth has a gift for asking questions that open up his guests to not only compliment him on his questions, but they then offer information that other hosts simply don’t get. There is no doubt that Seth practices the “Hot Questions” approach to his interviews. Seth and his staff do a tremendous amount of research, and he knows their story. He then asks questions that seeks information that allows him to continue to build the relationship. In the end, the hot wings don’t hurt either! (I want to give a disclaimer that if you join the MILLIONS of people who check out his YouTube interviews, the language is adult in nature.)


     We will dig even more in-depth on what it means to ask provocative and insightful questions in future blogs. Best luck asking “Hot Questions” and don’t forget the wings!

Fourth Quarter Mindset

     On January 26, 2020, I was stepping off an airplane in New York City while returning from a great trip to Europe. While I was there, I had the opportunity to both work with one of our global partners and present my research at Aalto University just outside of Helsinki, Finland. The trip was one of those non-stop adventures where in 14 days, I would fly from: 


  • Cincinnati to Charlotte 
  • Charlotte to London 
  • London to Frankfurt 
  • Frankfurt to Helsinki 
  • Helsinki to New York 
  • New York to Cincinnati. 


    If you look at your calendar, this was just before the world stopped in March with the global spread of COVID-19. On the day of my return, the world stopped for another reason. 


     As I departed, I went through customs and entered the main terminal. At that point, I looked up at the TV screen to see a report that the great Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others had died in a plane crash. Within minutes, I received a shocked text from my son that asked me “if I had seen what happened.” It was one of those moments that I will never forget. In my life, I can remember other moments that are emblazoned in my mind like January 28, 1986, Space Shuttle Challenger disaster that killed all seven astronauts just 73 seconds after liftoff. It was 1986 that I graduated from High School. 


     When the world stops, it will often make you look into and study things you usually wouldn’t have considered. As I studied Kobe Bryant, I was even more amazed by the impact he made worldwide outside of basketball. There is no doubt that he had issues in life, but his influence is non-debatable, and his life at 41 was just getting started.  


     A perfect example of this happened just last night. After making the game-winning shot, the camera noticed Anthony Davis as he mouthed the name “Kobe.” Just minutes earlier, Anthony, LeBron, and the team were reminded by their coach Frank Vogel that they are wearing the “Black Mamba” uniforms designed in part by the late Kobe. The “Kobe Connection” has led them to a 3-0 record when they wear the uniforms.  


      If you want to learn more about someone connected to Kobe, check out our recent podcast with author, entrepreneur, and business coach Todd Herman. Todd is the author of The Alter Ego Effect and a former business coach to the late Kobe.    


      So how can the “Kobe Connection” help you as you head into Q4, 2020? What do you think about when you know you have a game-changing conversation with a critical customer or a career impacting conversation with an employee? Where is your mindset? These questions can be quite thought-provoking as we head into the stress-filled season of the 4th quarter. The unforeseen enemy of COVID-19 has impacted many businesses, and I don’t think any of us had COVID-19 or a global pandemic in our SWOT plans at the beginning of 2020. The uncontrolled and unforecasted events of 2020 require us to assess our mindset for the remainder of 2020.  


    As I read articles and watched  videos of Kobe, the following video I came across titled “The Mindset of a Winner” had some tremendous principles that might help you focus and navigate the rest of 2020.     

  1. Desire to Win – “you want first place, come play with me, you want second place, go somewhere else”
  2. Watch the Best – observe the best in whatever your line of work
  3. Talk to the Best
  4. Do everything it takes to be better – “the world becomes your library”
  5. Understand your strengths & weaknesses
  6. Switch my mind to something somewhere else (Alter Ego Effect) – “put yourself in the cage”
  7. Get over yourself – you must practice
  8. Tailor your training – one size doesn’t fit all
  9. Great to have passion, but need to commit to it as a choice  
  10. Have a desire, always do more


     At the end of the interview, Kobe is asked about his business mindset and in particular, he was asked about his leadership in running his studio. Kobe said that you must understand the business, ask if you can help somehow, understand the barriers to entry, be an obsessive leader, have other leaders you believe in, and have a culture of obsessiveness. 


    There is no doubt that 2020 has been a year unlike any other. Challenge yourself to perform with a winner’s mindset so you finish the race strong and embrace your own “Black Mamba” mentality.  

Finding Hope at 30,000 Feet

    In a recent conversation, a colleague and I were discussing how unbelievable it is that we haven’t been on an airplane since February. In 30 years of business, I can’t recall a six-month period that I went without flying. There is much about traveling that I don’t miss, but one component that I always enjoyed was that feeling of the calm (after the chaos that comes from everything before the flight) so I could look down, see the world, and the perception of my problems at 30,000 feet.  That perspective always gave me hope.  


    Let me ask you… does this following pre-flight journey sound familiar? 

  • pack your bag
  • drive to the airport
  • park your car
  • get through security
  • rush to your gate (for some of us)
  • grab something to eat or drink
  • stand in line to board
  • squeeze your way through the aisle
  • wrestle with your bag in the overhead compartment
  • squeeze past the person next to you
  • slide your bag under the seat in front of you
  • turn on the air vent
  • get out your headphones
  • listen to the announcements
  • wipe the sweat from your brow


    As my stress cycle goes into overdrive, I finally get a moment to look around and settle in. The boarding door closes, I take a deep breath and maybe even close my eyes for a couple of minutes. 


    Then it happens, the plane departs, and the magical bell rings. Suddenly, I’m mentally and physically transported to a different experience. As the aircraft climbs past 10,000 feet, I am now momentarily freed from that chaos, and an odd calm comes over me. I look out the window as the world gets farther and farther away and a sense of peace and hope comes over me. Has anyone else ever felt this feeling? 


    My mind clears and the worries I felt just moments ago suddenly start to dissipate or at least momentarily seem a bit easier to solve. I love the feeling of being above the clouds with the sun coming through the window, and I can finally sip my little cup coffee with my single sugar packet. I’ve even convinced myself that the coffee tastes better than Starbucks or Dunkin. 


    At 30,000 feet, I’ve read great books, written blogs, relaxed to music, watched movies, thought about friends and families, solved business problems, planned worship services, blocked theater productions, and so much more. I love the brain clarity and hope that comes from being at 30,000 feet!

Here is my question for you – where do you find hope? For the past 30 days, this word HOPE has been all around me, and I felt compelled to write about it and direct you to some great resources. For our Podcast people, I highly encourage you to check out the Driving Change Podcast hosted by Jeff Bloomfield and listen to the following. 



 If you’re a reader, I want to direct your attention to two books that I have recently read and re-read.  



    If I told you that your health and life could improve by listening and reading these resources, would you do it? Here is the good news… it can. You will hear from Dr. Rigsby about the power of hope, even in the darkest of times. You will hear from Linda about how leadership and hope come from stepping into places that others won’t and choosing to lead through vision, love, purpose, and hope. 


    If you’re more interested in learning about the long-term health benefits of hope, read about the power of the “Renewal Cycle” in Resonant Leadership. Do you know that resonance & renewal involve mindfulness, hope, and compassion, which spark positive emotions & healthy relationships? In the book, renewal is described as a dynamic process that restores us and counters the destructive effects of power stress. 


     If power stress isn’t bad enough, you will read in the Longevity Plan that hope and a strong sense of purpose can help prevent adverse health outcomes such as plaque build-up, blood clots, and high blood pressure. The authors write about how a focus on the future is an essential part of having a purpose. 


    In these times of constant pressure and stress, I’m encouraging you to take action today. Find the place where you can have your “30,000 feet clarity moment” and remove yourself from the cycle of stress. There is scientific and practical power in words like HOPE. Everyone needs hope now more than ever, but sustainable change starts with you. 

Blocking The Noise

     Finally, last week our family excitedly drove our son back to college at “The” Indiana University in beautiful Bloomington, IN. We were thrilled that he got the opportunity to return to some piece of normalcy to hopefully enjoy his final year. 


     To move him back in, we decided to load up his Jeep and rent a large U-Haul for the journey. As we hooked up the trailer, I was thinking about the power of mastering something to the degree of unconscious competence. Unconscious competence is the idea that an individual has enough experience with the skill that he/she can perform it so easily they do it unconsciously. This is the phase following conscious competency, where he/she may need additional practice to master the task at hand. We frequently teach about this principle with our customers and I got the opportunity to live it through the experience of pulling a U-Haul.  


      To be 100% honest, I’m not unconsciously competent at pulling a U-Haul. Don’t get me wrong, I do have some experience pulling equipment, but I was trying to convince my son that I was completely capable of accomplishing this task without incident. Isn’t that what Dads do? I suddenly had to process new information that I didn’t have to think about just moments before. If you have ever pulled a trailer, you know what I’m talking about. The checklist is as follows:


  • Secure the trailer
  • Allow ample time and room for breaking
  • Increase the frequency of looking out each mirror
  • Make wider turns, so the trailer clears the curb
  • Plan out your parking spots


     As we were pulling out of the driveway, I decided my best course of action was to dial-up my attention,  attempt to filter out unneeded noise, and keep both hands at the proper 10 and 2 positions. What struck me was that I could process this “new information” because I was so unconsciously competent at all other aspects of driving. Once my environment was secure, and we were safely driving down the road, I decided to re-listened to one of our Driving Change Podcasts.


      The episode was The Alter Ego Effect with Jeff Bloomfield and our guest Todd Herman. As the podcast played, and the U-Haul was bouncing behind me, the conversation between Jeff and Todd challenged me. Here was the question that crossed my mind: 


How can we more fully step into our purpose while handling all the NOISE around ourselves to more  fully master the mental game of life?


     Todd’s interview reinforced that talent alone is great, but hard work is what helps you block out noise and attain unconscious competence. In the hundreds of people that I am fortunate to coach and serve every year, I’m consistently trying to reinforce that performance comes through hard work. There are no shortcuts. If you want to be a peak performer and attain unconscious competence, all the while being able to block out noise… you must master your “Field of Play.” 


In the podcast, (click HERE to listen) Todd’s additional tips hit me:


  • Own your story, your identity, and master your field of play
  • Step into a “Performance Identity” & drive towards excellence regardless of context
  • Develop your mental game, excel to be your best, and capture your wins
  • Find the best person at whatever you want to do and tuck yourself under their wing



      Peak performers can filter out the noise because of the hard work put into mastering their field of play. If this message can resonate with me as I’m driving a U-Haul, think of what it can do for you as a parent, co-worker, professional, leader, or coach. When you are working through the daily noise of life, are you unconsciously competent at the core levels of what you do?


     Take a moment today and list out the 3-5 things that you must do within your learning agenda to move toward a level of unconscious competence. It will not only help you filter noise, but it will also boost your mastery to reach peak performance.