What are soft skills? How can they help you be a better leader? What soft skills do you really need to know?
In this podcast episode, Billy and Brandy Eldridge talk to Kevin McNulty about the soft skills that everybody needs to know.
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Meet Kevin McNulty
Kevin McNulty is an internationally recognized speaker, coach, and influence strategist.
He has three decades under his belt as a trusted coach and consultant for major organizations such as Jack Daniel’s, Schwan Cosmetics, NASA, and Department of Defense.
Mentored by the renowned Leadership Coach, Dr. Marshall Goldsmith, Kevin is now a premier thinker and practitioner in the soft skills and personal development arena.
Kevin is the author of The Gap Between Two Worlds—a self-help book on change, transition, and personal growth. It was endorsed by giants in the industry including Dr. Marshall Goldsmith, Brian Tracy, Nido Qubein and more. Kevin has also authored several visual teaching models that help audiences grasp various aspects of human dynamics.
Kevin is a 20-year veteran of the US Air Force. In 2000, he founded Humadyn-Life Skills Institute and then in 2020 launched McNulty Life Skills Academy to bring his success principles to teenagers. Kevin is married to his wife Jane of 33 years; has a son and two daughters
In This Podcast
- Soft skills born out of necessity
- The gap between two worlds
- Life skills that work
Soft skills born out of necessity
The Air Force, in particular, is a bit more corporate than the other militaries so it wasn’t a hard sell, although the Army is evolving in that way too. In the realm of human relations education where Kevin was, soft skills were born out of necessity there too. Half of what human relations education was equal opportunity treatment which had to do more with race relations which were born out of necessity in the early 60s and 70s due to race riots shutting down military bases.
After this, the military started really building in the human relations programs and dealing primarily with race and cultural relations, now known as diversity and inclusion, but it was broader than just the diversity then, a lot of it had to do with leadership, team-building, and morale.
The gap between two worlds
Growing up, Kevin was a dreamer. He didn’t pay attention and struggled academically and intellectually. Fast forward to the military, Kevin started to realize how important his creativity was. He was clobbering himself, his self-talk was what he had always heard, that he was stupid and wasn’t going to amount to anything. In the Air Force, Kevin found the power of creativity and personality and how he could use that to his advantage. He became creative in how he did things and it gave him confidence because he realized he’s street savvy and can figure stuff out.
Life skills that work
If you lean on love first when you’re dealing with people, your behaviours will be completely different.
- Be proactive – be accountable and take 100% responsibility for who you are and where you’re at.
- Everything takes place from the inside out – Do you care? You have to care about your life, what you do, other people, your workplace, your mission, your purpose, etc.
- Who are you and why do you see the world the way that you do? Be specific. Who you are as a person translates into how you do things. What you believe flows into what you do and what you do flows into the results that you get in life.
- If I want to improve myself as a leader, I have to change behaviors – you need to shift your behavior but that will be short-lived unless you also shift your thinking.
Books by Kevin McNulty
Other books mentioned in this episode
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- We Had an Argument | Episode 10
- Franklin Covey
- Marshall Goldsmith
- Sign up here for the free Beta Male Course
Meet Billy Eldridge
Meet Billy, the resident beta male. For Billy, this is a place to hang out with other beta males and the people who love them. We’re redefining what beta males look like in the world. I have learned to embrace my best beta self, and I can help you to do the same. As a therapist, I understand the need to belong. You belong here. Join the REVOLUTION.
Meet Brandy Eldridge
Hello, Beta friends. I am an alpha personality who is embracing the beta way of life. I feel alive when connected with people, whether that is listening to their stories or learning about their passions. Forget small talk, let’s go deep together. Come to the table and let’s have some life-changing conversations.
Thanks for listening!
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Hey guys, glad to be back with you today. We have on the podcast today Kevin McNulty. He is a soft skills expert. We get to learn what that is in the world and how you get to be that. Growing up as a military brat in his own home and then becoming a poet, a musician and then going into the military himself and working for the Department of Defense and NASA and now he’s an executive coach and a life skills coach for high performing teams. We get to hear some interesting stories about how you get be that and what you can learn from him.
We also had a good time because we were guests on his podcast.
Yeah, Get the Edge.
Get the Edge. Let’s get into it.
Hey guys, we’re excited about today. We have Kevin McNulty with us. He is a soft skills expert, and we want to hear from him, hear about his life, and how you become that. Kevin, you want to introduce yourself and let us know how you’re doing today.
Well, thank you so much. I appreciate, really appreciate being here, Brandy and Billy. We do work in very similar fields. As a matter of fact, I was telling my wife a little bit earlier that I just saw… now you all are a few years earlier, younger, I should say, maybe even decades younger, I don’t know.
But, yeah, so a couple decades younger. But just saw a lot of similarities in your life as you all work together, and we do the same thing. So yeah, you know, let me just start by saying that, in total transparency that, you know, I call myself I guess you could say a soft skills expert or that’s where my expertise lies. But you all know just as well as I do, to claim that you’re an expert in people skills, boy, that’s a tall order because I like to say that, in dealing with people you’re dealing with this, you know, 7 billion different personalities and behaviors that we all display. And so, sometimes when you think you got it figured out, you don’t. But my background is a little bit different, I would say, in terms of how I arrived at the work of soft skills, and for your audience, of course, soft skills are just people skills. In my case, I do it primarily in the personal professional development arena. So as a coach, as an executive coach, when I’m talking to leaders or just professionals in general, I’m helping them learn how to interact with other people. But we also say soft skills are things like even decision making, and emotional intelligence and all those sorts of things. And so, there’s some areas where I’m stronger than in the others, but that’s essentially what the soft skills are all about.
In any event, I arrived here, believe it or not… I spent, I say 20 years in the Air Force, but I really like to say that I spent 40 years in the military because I grew up with a father who was an army officer enlisted and then officer, he was a Green Beret. And frankly, I like to say that I was more in the military growing up then when I actually went into the military. In fact, if you have conversations with Army people, they will say that Air Force people really aren’t military, but that’s a whole banter thing that goes on. But the truth of the matter is growing up as a military brat, probably where I first really, you know, I could say cut my teeth on human relations and soft skills because we moved around, first of all, every couple, two, three years. I was born in Fort Bragg, North Carolina and then within months, we moved to Bavaria, and grew up, you know, several years there, and so then from there back to the States, and then we lived in Puerto Rico, and then back to Germany, and then… all four corners of the States. And so you don’t know this at the time, but as you are being raised in this environment, where you are constantly interacting with people from the south, and then maybe from the northeast, and then maybe people that live in Germany, you just, you start to… I mean, you all know this better than better than I do as therapists, and people that work with young people, that your paradigm is such that you just learn how to deal with people and get along with people and, probably more than anything, learn how to shift. You’re almost a chameleon of a sense that, you know, I can be around just about anybody from a man homeless on the street to a C suite CEO, and have the same conversation without any problems whatsoever and frankly feel very comfortable in all those realms.
So yeah, I grew up as a military brat. And then I joined the Air Force. right out of high school… actually, I spent a year just outside of high school, before I went into the military, I moved from North Carolina where I graduated high school, moved to Bowling Green, Kentucky. Now, I came to this area – my dad was actually teaching military science up at Western Kentucky University, and I went to Bowling Green despite not really wanting to get around my parents anymore. My mother passed away when I was 16, she happened to be Puerto Rican and you know, that’s part of my journey, but in any event, I certainly did not want to be around my military dad anymore, but I thought to myself, listen, that’s near Nashville, I actually grew up as a dreamer, a singer, a poet, a philosopher, and just thought you know what, I’m going to head out there and make it big as a songwriter, and become a star. And probably within days I realized I was so not even there, I’m not even close. But anyways, I spent a year there, and really did. I was a songwriter. I’ve written many, many songs. I’ve written a couple hundred songs, very young in my life, and really did think that that’s where I wanted to go with my life, was to be a singer songwriter. But the truth is, is that I did find out very, very soon after I’d arrived there, and I got around other musicians and this that the other and realized, man, I am just, like, not even close. Really at the age of 18, 19, that was a tough reality for me. And I didn’t live with my father most of the time, but I ended up homeless, because I didn’t want to work hard. I wanted to be a singer. And I was really homeless for a couple of months. And finally, my father, you know, got a hold of me and said, you need to join the military. And of course, he meant the Army. And so, I thought, okay, my final dagger at him is I’m going to join the Air Force; it really pissed him off. And so, I joined the Air Force, which turned out to be one of the best things that I did. So, I joined the Air Force; I got involved in environmental support, working with water treatment and these sorts of things in the civil engineering field. I was not a civil engineer. I didn’t even have my degree at the time. And it was a fascinating few years of my life, and I eventually cross trained.
So I’d been in the Air Force probably six years, six or seven years, and I cross trained into a field… believe it or not, it was another musician that talked me into this by the way – I cross trained into what was called Human Relations Education. And so in the Air Force, this deals with a lot of different things including civil rights, discrimination, race relations, and you get into a whole host of other works, really dealing with employee engagement and soft skills and all these other sorts of things. So, to round off that position, I basically advised commanders and civilians and employees, and you know, military employees and all these, how to deal with human relations, people problems. And so that’s where I really started getting into this. And then probably around the mid-80s, 86 or 87, I started getting really heavy into personal development. And I started, you know, listening and studying all the greats, the Tony Robbins, and Wayne Dyer, just a whole list of people, Brian Tracy, and just started immersing myself in a dual track way. One in my work in human relations education… of course, we did a lot of training as well, a lot of coaching. Now we call it counseling at the time, but it was really more coaching than anything. And then, on the side, I’m studying really incredibly hard on the area of personal development; I just got really immersed in this world.
And so I continued in that work, I spent several… a few years outside of that I went into what is known as the Defense Intelligence Agency, otherwise known as DIA; it’s an intel agency that’s connected to the Department of Defense and spent three years in Israel then, in that capacity. I finally went back into the Air Force, into the real Air Force, as we call it, and went back into Human Relations Education – I really was more of a manager at that point, and overseeing a group of counselors really, and technicians who did the same work, again, they did everything from counseling to advising commanders and all these other sorts of things. And that was the last five years of my life and just the last piece is that, because of the work that I did, now, this was in Travis Air Force Base, California, which is the last place I was stationed out of the 20, the Air Force started bringing in Stephen Covey’s work. I’m sure you’re familiar with Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Principle Centered Leadership, First Things First, all these things. So, they connected themselves with the Covey Leadership Center, which turned into the Franklin Covey Leadership Center, I think. And so, they’re integrating these ideas into the military – into the Air Force, I should say – and I just so happened to be connected with the people that were doing it. And of course, my work as a coach, and as an advisor, lent itself to it. So, I immersed myself in that work as well.
So now I’m helping them develop or integrate these ideas and these concepts of the Seven Habits inside of the Air Force. And of course, that took me over the top because by this point, I was pretty studied up on personal growth and all these other sorts of things. So, in 2000, I retired that career. By the way, I should say, I always like to point out my wife was a veteran as well. She spent 10 years in the Air Force, also.
Thank you guys for your service.
Well, I appreciate that. But she had gotten out just before we went to Israel because they were going to end up splitting us up, and so forth. So, any event, we retired that career in 2000, and then moved to the Nashville area, and I decided this was going to be my only shot at going after what I really want and that is to become a speaker, and a full time coach and all these other sorts of things. And she, by this time, was teaching music; teaching piano and ukulele and some of these other things. So, we came here to Murfreesboro, which is just outside of Nashville, and began building our practices. And so here I am, 20 years later. I’m frankly shocked that I’m still in business, because I didn’t know anything about business, but it’s been a beautiful trip and I see no end in sight.
I mean, your story is amazing. And there are so many things in here, while you were talking, I was just writing notes because I was like, wow, we got to stop, we got to go back, we got to… So first of all, thank you to you and your wife, like Billy said, for your service, we appreciate you. But you had to shift, and it was funny because you said that you had to shift constantly and become a chameleon wherever you would go. And a lot of people, if they were faced with the same moving around all the time, they would be very introverted and possibly withdrawn. But that’s not the course that you took.
No. No, it’s not the course that I took. And again, it’s a little bit hard for me to discern based on my personality, which is fairly outgoing, but at the same time, I just grew up in that life. And so, whereas… I’ll give you an example of sort of how the paradigm comes into play here. So, my oldest daughter who graduated from college a couple years ago, in her junior year, she decided that she wanted to go study abroad for a year. And so, she had a choice of places that she wanted to go, and for reasons we don’t completely understand, she chose Poland. Well, of course, my wife and I, who had moved around all our lives, we were ecstatic about this. And we were like, wow, that’s terrific, and we can’t wait to come visit you and all these other sorts of things. Now, of course, when we got here to Murfreesboro, they were three and one. So, they didn’t experience the same thing of moving around as we did. But I’m sure that some of that had to rub up at least the mentality of change and moving around, and we had taken them on trips abroad and these sorts of things. But the point is, is that, we, of course, we were fully behind her doing this and then as we began to tell our friends, I was amazed at how many people were shocked that we would allow our daughter to go live abroad in Poland by herself. And I remember the first reaction I was like, what’s wrong with these people? I mean, well, first of all, she’s not going to the moon. But it never dawned on us that this was shocking to some people, that we would allow… Well, my paradigm of the world is that the world’s a pretty cool place. And there’s, you know, there’s a lot of places you can go. So, depending on personality, you might be more inclined or less inclined. But for me, I’ll fly to wherever, Singapore and jump in a car in a heartbeat, and start driving. That’s inconceivable to a lot of people, and I do understand that now.
Yeah. Well, and I wanted to ask you, you know, it’s born… the soft skills and the way you explained it, were born out of necessity, from moving around. I kind of had the same experience in the eighth grade. I moved, and when you’re faced with a sea of people in a lunchroom and you’re holding the tray wondering where you’re going to sit, and it’s your first day, you have to learn quick how to make friends and get to know people. And I’m so grateful for that experience, even though it was very hard at the time. It taught me so much and a lot of I guess, probably my interpersonal skills in the same way were born out of necessity. When we talk about the way you were brought up and raised in a military family and you went into the military yourself, are soft skills a hard sell for military people? Because this is the Beta Male Revolution and I do want to get your feedback on that also. I think of those as more beta type skills, the interpersonal how to have conversations with people. Was that a hard sell in the military?
No, I wouldn’t, and I would say, particularly in the Air Force. Because the Air Force, for lack of a better term, is a little bit more corporate, if you will, than say some of the other militaries. Their mission is so different, and it’s so much more technical, that you don’t have, such as you might in the Marines or the Army, which is evolving as well, where they have this command and control attitude that is much more necessary, by the way, in those… When you’re trying to take a hill in the Army and you got people, they need to put their life on the line immediately, there’s no discussion about whether this is a good idea. Somebody says you need to take the hill, and that’s it. And you do it. And that’s how they’re trained. In the Air Force, it’s a little bit less so. So, the soft skills idea is not. But the other thing is that the soft skills were, especially in the realm of human relations education in the world that I was, was also out of necessity.
So, technically, the field that I worked in was called Equal Opportunity and Treatment and Human Relations Education. So, half of that has to do more with race relations. And that was born out of necessity as well, that in the military back in the 60s and early 70s, when they were having race riots, they were shutting down military bases because, well, here’s a great example: it was actually right at Travis Air Force Base, in 1971 I believe it was, they had a big race riot because, particularly the blacks at the time, were complaining about being treated unfairly and being discriminated against. So, they literally, you know, took hostages, and shut the base down. Well, what a lot of people may not know about Travis Air Force Base is it was the major hub that carried supplies and personnel from the United States to the war, which was going on in Vietnam. And so, you’re over in Vietnam, Brandy or Billy, and you’re shooting at the enemy and click, click, click, you run out of bullets, and you’re like, where’s the bullets? They say, well, they shut the bass down that was supplying us with the bullets. And so, we’re kind of screwed here. So, the military suddenly realized, wow, we got to sort this problem out. I mean, this is impacting our ability to fight and win wars, which is the primary mission here. So I would say that then over a period of time, starting in the early 70s, they started really building in the human relations programs into the military and dealing primarily with, I guess you could say race relations, and cultural relations, and now known as diversity and inclusion. But it was broader than just the diversity thing. A lot of it had to do with leadership and team building and morale and all these other sorts of things. I don’t know if that answers your question, but that’s…
No, absolutely. And I remember when we first talked about you coming on the podcast, and I said, oh, I have this podcast called Beta Male Revolution, and you were kind of like, what’s that all about? And we love feedback and push back and different viewpoints on this topic. So, was it a hard sell for you when I mentioned Beta Male Revolution?
Well, certainly, I mean, I think, depending on how you read that, you can take it from a couple of different points of view. And I think as you had so eloquently described to me that, now this is not about… being a beta male is not about not being a man. It’s about taking your personality and using it appropriately. So perhaps, I think, as you had described with you and Brandy, you’re a little bit, I don’t know the right words to use, but you know, you’re more of a beta male that you’re not jumping in and taking charge, and I’m the man of the house and all those sorts of things. But it’s also not a dichotomy, either. It’s not as though you are either the man of the house or not, or you’re the woman of the house or not, as I know that we talked about in our conversation that, you know, it’s about the partnership. And if one tends to have the skills to be more of a leader in terms of the family, then you would be foolish not to… I’ll use this word, to allow that to happen. I don’t mean that in terms of you allowing Brandy to take more of a leadership role, but I’m saying in terms of the partnership. Yeah, please go ahead.
No, it is the partnership in life, and I see that livening color in your own life because you know, when you talk about being this guy who was a poet, and a musician and you had a love for the arts, and that was part of what you wanted, but then you knew there was a necessity of, I’m gonna have to transition to the military and you embrace that part of your life too, it didn’t have to be dichotomous. They were one and the same and they didn’t have to be different. They’re both parts of your life and they’re very real. And Brandy’s just chomping at the bit to get into your content here because she’s been going over the website and looking at your steps, and… what do you have, Brandy?
Let me just add real quick to that whole point, and that is that I struggled a lot with that though because I was one of four boys and then we had a sister. And I was, I was a very… My dad could just look at me just slightly wrong and I’d break out crying. Well, my dad was a Green Beret, and he was a tough ass; we woke up at five in the morning, had to make our bed a certain way and flip coins on the bed to make sure it didn’t bounce or whatever. And he had us working like crazy. And that was completely against… And, you know, again, he’s still alive, and he and I have a great relationship, but I thought I needed to be like him. And so, early in my life as a teenager, and then early in my career, I was confused about who the heck I was, you know, because on the one hand, I was forcing myself to be forceful, but on the other hand, I felt like I was a little bit more of a thoughtful, inspirational type of person. So, there was a lot of cognitive dissonance going on there with me for a long time that I had to sort out.
How did you integrate that and pull that together in that cognitive dissonance, and the war between your two worlds? How did you bring that together, where it’s the arts, and it’s the military and both can hold space in your life?
Well, it’s… I hate to make it even more complicated, but in growing up as a child, and then as a teenager, I was, you know, at least in terms of grades and school, I was the kid sitting in classroom, literally, you could see that big bubble over my head where I’m dreaming about something. I didn’t pay attention to anything. I really struggled academically. I am convinced, and I’m not even making this a joke, that I probably should have failed the 12th grade. And my one teacher, I know I had a D and she just pushed me over the edge and said, let’s move on, you know? And so, I struggled, really struggled, academically and intellectually. So now, fast forwarding into the Air Force, I started realizing… maybe I didn’t realize it at first, but over a period of time, I started realizing, and maybe it was the personal development thing, I guess you could say. Where I started studying personal growth and I was listening to these incredible people talk about your mindset and all these other sorts of things. And I started realizing how important my creativity was, that I was clobbering, myself. My self-talk was what I always heard and thought, all my growing up life and that was, you’re stupid, you’re not going to amount to crap, you’re this, you’re that. And I had all of these thoughts in my head. And I was proving it in school. It wasn’t as though… I’ll give you an example. When I took pre-algebra, I was actually fascinated by algebra. But they would give me the simplest formula and my brain would lock up. I can still see my teacher standing next to me. And I remember – I don’t remember her name, but I could still see her face. And she bent down, and I remember her trying to be relatively compassionate to me, trying to explain what turned out to be the simplest thing that you could have done in algebra, and my brain would not budge. And so, I get into the Air Force, and I’m trying to manage all of this, that I thought I was just really stupid. But then I found that power of creativity, and how I could use that to my advantage, and personality as well. And I started becoming very creative in how I did things. And that started to give me a lot of confidence because I realized, I’m pretty street savvy here. I can figure stuff out
And now you’re an author of a book, The Gap Between Two Worlds, correct?
Yeah, you know…
And one thing that fascinates me, you mentioned a guy you used to read a long time ago, Brian Tracy, correct?
And he endorsed your book. Is that right?
So, the guys you used to listen to and sit back and admire, and you and Brandy have a mutual friend, a leader in the world… why don’t you talk about that?
Well, Marshall Goldsmith, obviously. And you’ve been around him, he’s helped mentor you. Can you tell me about that, how you got to meet him? Because I’m one of his number one fans.
Well, he’s a pretty amazing guy, as you well know. Let me just say that, you know, whoever’s listening, this is for me… I talk about this story a lot and it’s a great lesson in life that I try to teach young people all the time. And it’s the power of stepping forward, stepping into a situation. So, actually, it was 2008, I was a part of the National Speakers Association. I went to a convention in New York City. And so now I’ve been in my business for now, eight years. I’m already coaching. I’m still relatively young. I was doing a different type of coaching, but I was doing a fair amount of speaking and training and these sorts of things. So, I go to this convention – I think it was actually my first convention with the National Speakers Association. My wife happened to be with me, and I think it was the second day, during lunch time, the general session speaker for maybe about 1500 people in the audience was Marshall Goldsmith, Dr. Marshall Goldsmith. I’d never heard of him didn’t have a clue who he was. But I heard everybody talking about, well, we need to get there early because Marshall is the bomb, and you know, and yada, yada. And I was like, who is this guy? Whoever he is, man, we need to get there early; it was that sort of mob mentality.
So, we got there early and got some really good seats. So, we sit down and we’re eating lunch, and then he’s gonna come out there. And honestly, I mean, I’m overstating this dramatically, but I expect God to step out here, you know, and he comes out on the stage, and now remember, I’ve been in human relations a long time, I’m very accustomed to observing and paying attention to what’s happening around me, and people’s nonverbals and all these sorts of things. And so, I remember when he came out, the crowd went nuts. And I’m like, I don’t know who this dude is, but you know, let’s roll. So, he steps out in khakis, and I think it was like a green polo shirt, and it was open. And he was bald headed like me. And he came out and I just thought he was going to come out like on this throne. And people were going to come up and kiss his ring or something like that. But he was like, he literally opened up, “Hey!”, like, what? That’s it, Dr. Marshall Goldsmith? Hey? That’s what you got for us? And so, he started off the conversation like this. He said, I got a question for you. He said, how do you know how to become a better leader? I was like, wow, what kind of question is that? And I’m looking around and people are just glary-eyed, watching him. And so, he says, no, I’m actually asking, I want to know. And so, some people raise their hand and they throw out these beautiful, conceptual, theoretical concepts of leadership. And he goes, yeah, okay, okay. And he’s asking other people and I’m fascinated by this. And then he goes, no. He said, actually, all you have to do is go ask your employees. And I said, you got to be kidding me. And I fell in love with him at that moment. I was like this dude nailed it. Just go ask these people.
So, okay, so fast forward. So, the program’s over, he did an awesome job, of course. And so now he’s going to be outside of this conference in this big place, and he’s gonna be signing books. A mile long. I’m standing in line with my wife, you know, ready to buy a book, and then him sign it. And so, I get about three people back and the lady… I saw this coming – the lady said, oh, sorry, everybody, we’re out of the books, but if you’ll leave your card, and you know, we’ll ship you a book. And so, all of these people are going by and I’m like crap, I’m not even gonna be able to meet him. And so just as people are walking away, I went and said hello to him, shook his hand said thank you very much. And I wrote down on my card because I knew this at that very moment. In the session, I wrote on the back of my card. I said Dr. Goldsmith, would you consider mentoring me? And I handed my card to the young lady that was taking all the cards. I shook his hand and we just… that was it. I didn’t really talk to him. And I walked away. So, this was in, I think, July timeframe. Somewhere around September, I get the book. And frankly, I completely forgot about the book. I forgot that I’d even done it so much time had gone by. I get the book and I’m like, oh, yeah, that’s right, Marshall Goldsmith, yada, yada, yada. I open up the book and on the first page, it said, Kevin, I’d be delighted to mentor you. Can you believe that?
I can. I spoke with him one time. And the one time I spoke with him, we had a 20-minute call setup. And it ended up being an hour and a half and within the first minute I was crying, in the first minute of it. Like, he just dug in in such a direct, kind way and was just mentoring me over the phone. And I want to dig in the same way he did with you. I want to dig into your content. I want our listeners to know what you’re about. Your story’s phenomenal; I love it. But your story brought you to where now you teach high school kids and young college students about these skills, and the skills that you have, like we’ve already… one of them was take charge of your life. And I want to kind of, can you give our audience some of your life skills that you’ve seen that have worked more and more over the years, the patterns that you’ve noticed, and you say, before you leave these are the areas that we want to talk about?
Yes. Thank you for that question because I frankly love how you position that. And that is step one, and I know you all are gonna subscribe to it, you know, you’ve subscribed to everything that that I’m about to say, at least principle, and that is that the biggest thing… Well, there’s several things that I learned from working with the Stephen Covey Leadership Center. As you all well know that habit number one is to be proactive. So, you think about this term proactive and you believe, you think to yourself, okay, it means to, like, you know, step out there and do something, take control, if you will. But as I dug in and started learning and hearing from, from Dr. Covey, you know, God rest his soul, he really was expanding beyond this idea of just taking control. What he liked to say about habit number one is to be accountable, take 100% responsibility for who you are. And that resonated so much with me that I carried on that thinking as I began to do my own work. And so that’s what I say to anybody at any part of their life is, step number one is, as hard as it is, you must take responsibility for who you are, where you’re at.
Our daughters, one graduated a couple years ago and one’s about to graduate. And we’re very clear with them that, listen, I guarantee we screwed up as parents; let me not even make that a secret, okay? But now it’s yours, you own it, whatever we taught you, right or wrong, you are now your own person, and you have to be responsible. If you look back and say, hey, my dad did this or mom did this. Okay, well, that’s nice to say, here’s how I would do it differently. But in terms of your life, you own it now; it’s who you are and that’s the way it goes. And so, I say that to people now, that that is step one, is to realize that you own your life and that certainly there are people and you know, you will both know this much better than I do, that there are certain people that were just dealt really bad cards. I mean, I look back on my life growing up and I struggled as a kid but not even come close to what others have struggled with, whether it be addiction or whether it be abuse or all sorts of things that position them where they’re at. And so, there are people like you all that can help these kind of people. But at the end of the day, it is still true as a principle, that if you have your mental faculties about you, first thing you have to say is I own my life. And now what am I gonna do about it?
The second thing that I would say, and again, this has to do with not just Covey, but a lot of people think this way, and that is that everything, I believe, takes place from the inside out. So, when I open up with workshops, let’s just say… it doesn’t matter if it’s leadership, communication, team building or mediation conflict. I start sometimes, start off the workshops like this: the first thing I’ll do is I’ll come around, I’ll see Brandy sitting there, and I’ll say, Brandy, I just have a simple question for you. Do you care? I don’t preface it with anything. I simply ask a question, then I go around to each person and ask them that and it’s amazing the different answers that we get. But those who get it, they will say, yes, I do. Simple as that. And of course, I get around to this point of saying, listen, if you don’t care, I can stand here all day long, and it won’t matter a bit. So, you have to care about your life, what you do, about other people, your workplace, your mission, your purpose, all these other sorts of things. So, I start with that.
And then the second thing is though, or beyond that, is this idea that I will then venture into this question. I might say, Billy, who are you? But more importantly, why do you see the world the way that you do? And of course you will venture down the road of talking about your… well, what I often hear, believe it or not, I mean, I shouldn’t be surprised I guess, is that they say, well, the reason I see the world the way that I do is because of my life experiences. And I say, okay, yeah, fair enough – be more specific. And I keep drilling people to be more specific in these… Sometimes these are, by the way, thousand person audiences that I’m having these conversations with people, and asking them, no, no, drill down farther than that. And then a person will say, well, when I was 16, my father committed suicide in front of me. And I’m like, okay, now you’re starting to define who you are, and why you see the world the way that you do. And I continue to then drill down this question, and that is that… so if I’m talking about leadership, I’m saying, okay, so here’s what you need to know: that you are a leader in the way that you are a person. So, who you are as a person, the way that you see the world translates into how you lead, and how you do things.
And I would want people, whether it’s your listening audience, or the people that I’m talking to, specifically in workshops, to understand that you have to get down to this concept of what you all are so familiar with, the concept of self-awareness; of getting to understand who you are. And you don’t have to like figure out every entity of your life or every aspect of your life. But you have to come down to this simple recognition that what you believe flows into what you do. And what you do flows into the results that you get in life. So if you use that as a logical perspective, then the logic becomes this: the results you get in life, they don’t just come out of what you do; they come out of what you believe and think.
And so in coaching people and speaking people or helping people change their mindset, you know, of course, in coaching… and Marshall Goldsmith, he certainly, I don’t know if he coined this notion, but he certainly refined this notion of what they call stakeholder centered coaching, and that is the idea that – he calls it behavioral coaching – that if I want to improve myself as a leader, let’s just say, then I have to change behaviors. So, let’s just say that I speak down to people, or I cut people off. I don’t listen, all these other sorts of things, or I don’t treat people with respect. Well, at the crux of that there’s a behavior behind that. And that’s where Marshall tries to drill down into people, is that you have to shift your behavior, but he would also agree, as Covey and all the rest of them would say, yeah, but that can be short lived if you don’t suddenly shift your thinking as well. So, if you hate people, I mean, okay, you change your behavior but eventually, you’re gonna get around to treat people like you hate them.
Well, I love what you have. And when my daughter is old enough to take your course, I’m going to refer her to you because I need her to know these skills before she goes off to college. And you do it in such a unique way that packages it so that it’s palatable for young adults, for teenagers, and really just understanding that life is going to give you things and it’s all about you. And that’s, I think, where we, on our podcast, agree so much with you is that you have to do the work on yourself to get the life that you want. And so, we are going to direct people to your website, to your book, The Gap Between Two Worlds. But if you can leave our audience with one nugget, from all of your experience, all your speaking engagements, workshops, books, everything, what is your one nugget you want to leave?
Well, so you may or may not particularly care for this, but I’m just gonna put it out there that I am a Christ follower, as imperfect as I am. And I can tell you, I think I’ve said this before to you, I tell people point blank, man, when it comes to me being a Christian or being Christ-like, I really suck at it, and I really do. But I believe that if we get down to it, whether you are… I don’t care what religion you practice, or whether you practice none at all, I think the thing that Christ preached the most is as pure as it gets. And he just said, love. Love God and love your neighbor. And I really believe that, that if you know, talk about mindset, that if you can begin to… and believe it or not, or maybe it’s apparent, I’m not the most touchy feely person in the world, I really am not. But I believe in love. I do. I believe that if you have the mentality of loving people, of caring about people… By the way, I will just throw this in there really quick. A big shift that I had, that I heard Stephen Covey say, that completely changed the way that I behaved more of the times, is that he said, love is a verb. It’s how you act. So combining these two notions about your mentality of, if you can shift your mindset to it has more of a love bend to it, that I love people, even your enemies, if you will, which is a hard thing for me, I gotta be honest with you. I think of ISIS and I’m like, I’m having a hard time loving them people, you know, I’m just, I’m a military guy, just go kill him, you know? But at the same time, Love is a principle. It’s a habit, but it’s also a principle. And that is that if you lean on love first, when you’re dealing with people, your behaviors will be completely different. And so that’s, that’s my thought.
Lean on love first. Thank you for your authenticity, thanks for sharing your faith, and being real that you suck at it sometimes. And I think when we look at the life and the story of Jesus, we can look at the first true soft skills expert, in the way in which he approached the world. And for all of my struggles with faith, the call to love my neighbor is not one I struggle with at all; that makes so much sense to me. And thank you for just coming on today, spending some time with us, sitting down, teaching us some ways we can learn to live life a little better. And we’ll talk to you soon, okay?
Well, you’re very welcome. And I will just say that just over the last days and phone conversations that we’ve had, and certainly through this podcast, you know, I have learned that you two are two amazing people. And I appreciate you a lot.
We feel the same about you. Thanks so much.
You too, Kevin.
Okay. All right.
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