Joining me for this episode (pre-recorded LIVE on Facebook) is Don Schminke. He is an Award-Winning Speaker, Researcher, Founder of the SAGA Leadership Institute and author of the best-selling book, The Code of the Executive. His scientific methods make him the thought-leader in applying genetics, evolution, and anthropology to strategic growth.
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On this episode of the Live. Love. Engage. Podcast:
- Don explains how he went from being an MIT planetary physicist to a trainer of CEOs.
- The pivotal moment when Don realized something needed to be addressed in leadership development.
- What insights Don learned from the Samurai have to do with becoming more effective leaders.
- One of the biggest mistakes Don made as an entrepreneur and what he learned as a result.
- What gets Don excited about the work he does.
- The impact Don would like to make during his lifetime.
Connect with Don:
- Join the Live. Love. Engage. Community
- Intuitive Business Coaching
- The Live. Love. Engage. Book
- Support the Podcast with BuyMeACoffee.com
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[00:00:00] Gloria Grace Rand: Welcome to live love, engage the podcast where we share practical advice from a spiritual perspective on how to create a life and business with more impact, influence, and income. I am your host, Gloria grace Rand, the insightful copywriter and founder of the love method. My mission is to help you stop doubting yourself so you can live fully love deeply and engage authentically.
[00:00:52] There we go. And Hey, hello, Namaste and welcome to another edition of live love. Engage coming to you. Live on Facebook today and YouTube. I thought I’d try it out. So we’ll see how that goes. And I am delighted to have a guest with us for this edition of the love engage. And his name is Don Schmincke. And I’m going to tell you all about him in a minute, but first I just want to officially welcome you to live love, engage, Don..
[00:01:25] Don Schmincke: Thank you.
[00:01:25] Gloria Grace Rand: Well, delighted to have you. This is a gentlemen who has a wonderful background with expertise and leadership, which is one of the reasons why I wanted him on the show today. So he’s an award-winning speaker, a researcher, author of the bestselling book, the code of the executive.
[00:01:46] He’s also the founder of the saga leadership Institute and has trained over 15,000 CEOs in his career. His scientific methods make him the thought leader in applying genetics evolution and anthropology to strategic growth. And he has a, his latest course is called how to slay dragons, which talks about the terrifying problems that are stopping us from truly achieving success.
[00:02:16] And one other thing I didn’t mention is that not only does he have all those credentials, he was an MIT planetary physicist. And, uh, so I love that. I think that’s totally fascinating. Cause I’m a space geek, I guess. So how did you end up going from that type of a background to training CEOs?
[00:02:42] Don Schmincke: It was a circuitous route. I, you know, I started off, being fascinated by planetary formations and all that. So I, I started with the closest planet to us, which is of course the one we’re standing on. I was already here. I thought, what the heck, you know, start studying this one. And then I, uh, I noticed humans and they became more fascinating through they were so, uh, non-linear and irrational.
[00:03:06] And I thought, I will study, these, this study, these humans.And they became my favorite species. And so, I was, I left MIT and I went to Hopkins. I was teaching there and, I ran into a bunch of. CEO’s and executives in the, uh, the MBA program. And I, uh, started hearing about these problems they were having, and I was getting more fascinated with how humans group together.
[00:03:34] And so I started looking at that and then, uh, I found out these amazing high-level failure rates in popular management theory, and I, and there’s millions of articles now published on this. If you go to any Google scholar level search. So I was, uh, I started, they asked me if, if this could be a biological pattern, in other words, if what we’re seeing in these failure rates is something that we’re missing as a species in terms of, in terms of how does it work?
[00:04:08] Because obviously it has worked. We’re still here. We’re still, still surviving. So that’s what happened. I, uh, took on and got a lot of support. You know, it had a lot of access to a anthropological and medical research at Hopkins, but also Oxford university, they give you permission to use an ancient manuscript that was used to train managers a long time ago, about 700 years ago. So I used that manuscript and published, The Code of the Executive and that was back in the nineties and it just took off. And next thing I know I was speaking and sharing, uh, this research. And then later on, I was able to take some of the samurai techniques that were very powerful and validate them with modern medical science and our evolution.
[00:04:54] So it just built from there. And now what I do is I help CEOs and business owners grow their companies faster and more effectively and have more, uh, powerful cultures and, and purpose, but of what I’m using isn’t like some fashion trend theory I’m using, uh, elements of our, our biology.
[00:05:14] Gloria Grace Rand: Hmm. So, so tell me a little bit more about the samurai.
[00:05:18] So how did that factor in, what is it about a samurai that is helpful for leaders?
[00:05:25] Don Schmincke: I, it was an accidental thing. I was, I was doing an expedition in a lost civilization in the Himalayas at the time. And, after about a month, we, you know, we’re, we’re, we haven’t seen, you know, electricity or water for a long time.
[00:05:39] And I was playing this Tibet fortune telling game. Somebody had bought this thing in from Tibet, cause I was in, I was below China and above India. We were next to Tibet.. So I, uh, as part of the game was to use problem that you had in your life. And I had been running into a problem with my agent and getting this, uh, book published on, on tribal phenomena.
[00:05:58] Now, this was years before any tribe books came out, which are now best sellers, and I was having a problem. But the, the, the thing that the, uh, game told me that was a result of this fortune telling game was I had to give it up or I couldn’t move on. And, came back to the states, called my agent and said, you know, this isn’t going to work out.
[00:06:18] And then within a matter of weeks, I stumbled onto this ancient manuscript. And what I noticed is, uh, it, it was just powerful because here was an organization that survived, you know, until the technology of the gun, uh, repelled the major forces of the world that tried to attack this country and, uh, their areas of discipline, discipline and philosophy were so effective.
[00:06:45] I mean, we still use them in their movies today. I mean, you see television shows and movies and you still see these samurai characters. You know, if you watch star Trek or star wars or, uh, you know, any of these robot shows, there’s usually a samurai character there. So I think, what was fascinating to me is that they taught more about how to achieve bravery and honor, and those are the things missing in most business training today. You don’t see a lot of courses in companies. You don’t see a lot of entrepreneurial training programs. You don’t see a lot of, you know, even, even areas of coaching where bravery and honor become a center point. But when we looked at high-performance organizations and we were able to test this because, you know, we were, we wanted to get companies to grow two or three times their size.
[00:07:40] Or in some cases, 10 times their size and that’s what we’ve done, but we were using these techniques so we could see that they had impact, you know, they could grow sales of a company dramatically faster than anything they had been doing. But I think a lot of it had to do with this, this essential base of bravery and honor.
[00:07:59] Gloria Grace Rand: Wow. So can you give an example of, let’s say, especially for an entrepreneur, how. How does, how can they be brave, I guess, how would that show up in their business? What would be an example of that?
[00:08:14] Don Schmincke: Well, most, most entrepreneurs, if they’re actually, if they have the profile of an entrepreneur is generally the ability to take risks. And, and it’s kind of a rare ability. In fact, we’re doing some research now on, what the evolution of why do some people have a certain capacity for risk and others don’t. So if you don’t have that capacity, it’s really, really tough, but entrepreneurs, I think, have to be brave every day. I mean, you’re risking your life in a new concept.
[00:08:51] You might have your house mortgaged out to help fund something, or, you know, you may be, uh, taking other people’s money and be accountable for, and you’re, you’re launching ideas into action and there’s no guarantee they’re going to work, you know? And so it’s, it’s not a journey for the, for the weak.
[00:09:14] And most entrepreneurs fail a lot. I mean, I I’m a serial entrepreneur. I can tell you I’ve stopped counting the number of failures. And, I think it’s, you know, we were working with black Hawk down and, Matt Everson was the main character. And I don’t know if you, I don’t know if you saw the movie or read the book, but it was probably one of the most classic epic tales of a, of a planning failure in modern history.
[00:09:42] And one of the things that came out of that as is when Matt said, uh, you know, the enemy always has a vote on your plan. And that is so true. It’s like plans don’t always work. And so you have to approach life as I have a plan, but I have to accept it’s going to fail. And I’m remember that esteemed a leadership genius.
[00:10:02] Uh, Mike Tyson said it best. I think you said something like, you always have a plan until you get punched in the mouth or hit in the mouth. And then all of a sudden you realize your plan is gone. And I think that’s it. Entrepreneurs have to be brave enough to be willing to be punched in the mouth a lot and do a reset.
[00:10:22] And what did you learn? And, what’s the Mandela, or I’m trying to think, you know, oh God, I love these quotes, but if I got, who said this, but it might’ve been one of the basketball stars, you know, I never, I never lose. I always learn. And I think that’s what keeps entrepreneurs being brave enough to keep going into battle.
[00:10:42] And Hey, if you’re going to lose, you’re going to learn a lot from it and then pick yourself up and move on. But it’s a rare breed, you know, and I think as people evolve in leadership in their companies, uh, even if you’re not an entrepreneur, each, each level requires a certain demand on your decisiveness and your actions, uh, which have higher levels of risk, you know, because you’re doing something that’s farther out into the future, the result, you know, being missed. It’s one thing to say, well, I’m going to come in and I’m gonna, I’m going to nail this thing together or narratives I’ve done. It’s another thing to say, well, we’re taking on this new project or this new market we’ll know in three years if it works.
[00:11:22] That’s harder to guarantee.
[00:11:29] Gloria Grace Rand: Absolutely. Now you mentioned that you’ve made some mistakes just yet. I’m sure. One or two in your career. What has, what were maybe one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned in your entrepreneurial career?
[00:11:41] Don Schmincke: I think I’m, oh, geez. Which one do I, which one do I pick? I think some of it was hiring teams to do things that I trusted that they could do.
[00:11:52] But they couldn’t. And I’ve actually made that mistake many, many times and I’m a slow learner, so I I’ve gotten more to the point of where I’m only using people that have demonstrated or actively performing in the areas where they need to perform. So I think people and for entre,, for entrepreneurs, I think this is really critical because, you can’t do it all yourself.
[00:12:15] You have to bring people on and originally as an entrepreneur, I used to trust people if they said they could do it, or they were great. I believed they were great. And then, you know, if were six months or a year, you got to fire them because they couldn’t do anything. Uh, I’ve learned that, you know, maybe they did believe they were great, but their performance, you know, I should have looked at, are you doing it now and how well, because if you’re not doing it now, don’t tell me a story and have a note from your mother that you’re a good boy or a girl, because I don’t need that. And entrepreneurs it’s risky already. So you have to like limit the risks that you take. And I think my mistakes where I have been through several teams that I had to fire and each time they had collapsed my company.
[00:13:03] So that was, those were the notable problems.
[00:13:07] Gloria Grace Rand: Well, painful, painful mistakes, but. If you can learn from it. I, I know I’ve I very first time I hired a virtual assistant. It did not work out well, but it really was on me. It really was not her fault. I did not set expectations at the beginning of what I, how often I wanted to hear from her.
[00:13:28] I didn’t really set up good systems for her to follow. And so the next time around when I hired someone, things worked out a lot better because I was better prepared. You also mentioned, I, one of the traits of the samurai was honor. So how, how does a leader, I mean, I have an idea, but what would be some ways that a leader can, uh, demonstrate that in an organization?
[00:13:57] Don Schmincke: I think, by decisions that represent the culture that you want to present to the world, Because people kind of see through, through some things. In fact, uh, like for instance, when, when you know, years ago when Tylenol had that, uh, that breakout of tainted product, cause somebody was sabotaging, I mean, they totally pull products off, lost a lot of money, but they were out to protect the consumer and that made a big statement.
[00:14:27] There were times, there are stories that literally through, through, business literature that I think people should, you know, resurrect or hold dear, because it’s times when CEOs just, just took something that was going to cost money, put the company at risk, but it was the right thing to do. I think it was a ALCOA CEO that went for workers safety even though that was like crazy at the time that he would put profit and risk the company. But it was that, that turned it around. I, I had, I had a dear CEO friend of mine, bill Herdrich who actually was running a plastics, manufacturing business. And, uh, they, there was some, several employees had C uh, just suspiciously died from this, this respiratory illness and he just shut the company down immediately, they could figure it out and, uh, having to do with something in the air conditioning. So vendor, uh, the system, the vendor had put in, recently, Southwest airlines, uh, we were, you know, through this whole COVID thing, you know, everybody’s short staffed.
[00:15:32] This is going on that going on and they literally cut flights and, and the announcement was, it was like, wow. You know, we, the CEO said, you know, we forgot about you, the employee, and you know, you’ve been pushing yourself heavily and he basically acknowledged that. And he said, we’re cutting out this many flights because you deserve to have a reasonable workload and schedule.
[00:15:55] And I thought that was really impressive. You see? So if you look around, you’ll see, the leaders making decisions that are honorable. And even though it may not be the easy choice.
[00:16:07] Gloria Grace Rand: Yeah, absolutely. I love Southwest airlines. They’re my favorite airline. I think they do, uh, at least appear from the outside that they attempt to put their employees.
[00:16:20] If not, well, I’d say may. Yeah. Even first above shareholders. And I know, because that can be, there’s been a lot of controversy, I think over the last few years about, you know, companies who, who do we. Who, who, who are we serving? You know, are we, how are we supposed to be serving just the shareholders or are we supposed to be serving the larger, greater good, as well as our employees. So it’s a,
[00:16:50] Don Schmincke: well, there’s a lot of it’s changing now. And I think it’s interesting, a lot of investment groups and a lot of, uh, there’s a lot of movement on evaluating companies at their level of a. Contribution to, to the planet, you know, it’s sorta like people and the planet as well as profits. And, I’m not a finance advisor, but I’ve heard people tell me that a lot of those companies do better, uh, you know, than the rest.
[00:17:16] I mean, they have higher levels of loyalty. They have, not only with customers, but employees and investors. So I think with the communication capacity we have now to, to learn about things that companies do or if they’re trying to cut corners and they get exposed, uh, uh, companies are, I think stockholders are expecting that the asset be protected that way more than maybe ever.
[00:17:46] Gloria Grace Rand: Awesome. Let’s go back a little bit to, you know, talking about your work in particular that you do. What is, what is your favorite thing about, you know, working with CEOs and, and, and training them? What really brings you the most joy during the day
[00:18:05] Don Schmincke: Teaching. Really. I mean, I, I’m just a researcher and a teacher and I, I love doing it.
[00:18:13] It’s just, it’s my thing. I’m just a chronic learner and teacher and form of teaching is not the CEO area became very challenging. Cause you know, you have. A group of people that have seen everything. They’ve heard all the speakers, they read all the books and they’ve been through the reality of life in terms of growing your businesses.
[00:18:34] So when you’re working with them, we’re presenting something. It better be right. It better be good. It better be validated and it better be fresh, not just a regurgitation of, of, uh, something in leadership that somebody wrote 10 years. So, that became a nice challenge for me as a, as a, as a professor and as a teacher, because I, uh, it challenged me to really get good and, and the research and make sure that one, I was going to be saying something, it had value and it could be tested and I would have case studies and I could apply it in the field.
[00:19:09] And now I’m because of COVID, it really forced me to look at a different form of teaching. So now I’m getting really excited about. Instead of working with, you know, just hundreds in a group, you know, going out to thousands. So I’ve taken a lot of the research and put it down for like the masses to access.
[00:19:28] So when I started becoming samurai, I made that an online film, you know, uh, online course and, uh, the how to slay dragons piece that we’re just getting ready to launch now, uh, is really looking at what are those problems we have in life that are just horrendous and lingering and we’ve tried it. We tried all the normal problem solving solutions and they’re still there and it could be career-based or something with the kids or the marriage, or being an entrepreneur and struggling through that, that development, or maybe just trying to be a good salesperson. And, uh, and these problems stop us from growing and I call these dragon problems. So I’m talking a lot more about dragon problems, these, these fierce fire-breathing things that could just burn us alive.
[00:20:21] And we can’t, they won’t go away. So we started and I took some of the samurai research and I started this, how to slay dragons, course on looking at, you know, what’s stopping us. And usually it’s some fear that’s driven by a dragon and the Dragon’s attached to something. And what it is, we, we keep forgetting that we have to detach.
[00:20:42] And in other words, slay the dragon that stopping us. And so we categorize the number of fear dragons, and we have a whole course on it. So I love it because it’s allowing me to teach across much more wider boundaries than showing up in a, in a CEO group and just dealing with that, which I still do. But COVID forced me to, uh, I mean, I took the cigar room and it’s now a studio, I guess you can kind of see, I got lights, green screens over here and all that.
[00:21:09] So it forced me to learn how to be a film producer, you know, and how to edit and special effects and how to script. And so I think it’s just think COVID provided me, you know, in one case it was one of those failures you asked about earlier, what failed was like, I can’t get on a plane that’s what failed, but it forced me into studio mode and now I am spending a lot of time filming and releasing these, these products. So it’s, that’s what I enjoy.
[00:21:39] Gloria Grace Rand: Good. Well, can you give us an example of, maybe give us a little tease of the, the course, how to slay dragons? So. What, what would you, what’s sort of your, maybe the first step that someone would take in, I guess it’s maybe beyond even identifying a problem, but then actually learning how to slay it.
[00:22:03] Don Schmincke: Well, the first part is really, and, uh, and it’s great cause I’m you mentioned this because we’re starting to, like we just put a post up on Facebook and I’ve got a great social media person. I’m totally incompetent when it comes to, you know, who needs this? How do we, how do we get it to them? So we’re starting to publish some white papers on things like right now career it was a great example.
[00:22:25] I mean, the New York times published that the, the mass Exodus, you know, what do they call it? The resignation explosion that has occurred the, uh, is affecting the world. And. More people have resigned or quit than I think ever in history. And then, so I started looking at this data, then I thought, wow, that’s a lot of people reassessing their lives.
[00:22:49] And so this article came out, but then there was a lot of stuff from the Gallup poll and the world health organization, people burning out. So I wrote a paper on it. Uh, that just came out yesterday actually to, to look at, you know, do we, is your career. Is your career dying or is it breaking or, you know, is stress of all this we’re going through making you or breaking you.
[00:23:13] And I think that’s a question that, you know, we haven’t really had to ask and now it’s the time, you know, because stress can be good. I talked about all those entrepreneur examples, the failures you’ll learn from. That stress is good and it keeps you going, but there’s times where it’s just like, whoa, it’s like burnout.
[00:23:32] Battle weary. It’s like, what do I do? So I’m looking at dragon problems in that, in that, uh, context was, was perfect because it’s like, well, what are those chronic problems in your job? You know, not the ones, not the normal stuff that we all deal with day in and day out. But the things that have been lingering, like, you know, do you feel that your career stopped or do you feel like everything you’ve tried is just, you know, you’re not getting the recognition or you’re not, you’re not able to demonstrate the leadership capabilities that you do have, or you’re just being miserable and you don’t know why. So we actually put this quiz out, on, on testing, you know, is, is stress making or breaking you?
[00:24:19] And it’s like five questions or no, wait a minute. I upgraded it. So it’s like, it’s like 10 questions and it comes out with, Hey, You’re doing great. Keep using it. And on the other side, Hey, stop. Something’s broken. It’s too long. And I think so. So the point is first we get to identify what that problem is. We don’t want to be distracted, but there’s usually something stopping us.
[00:24:42] If we’re not happy and fulfilled in our career or our work, that’s a large part of our life that’s being wasted. But once we have that, that’s easier to move into. Well, what are we afraid of? You know, like what would we do if we didn’t have that fear? You know, what, what decisions we make, what actions would we take?
[00:25:02] And so that helps us get deeper into, you know, metaphorically. Okay. What’s that dragon. Cause you got to slay that dragon because until you do that, you’re going to stay stopped. And it’s interesting with the dragon. Um, I think came out, unexpectedly. One of my coaches is Mark Levy and he helped a coach Simon Sinek going to start with why thing and a lot of other people successfully, and I I’ve been using him. It was in my samurai research where it was like, that’s about dragons. It was like, what? And so that’s where it came up, but metaphorically it’s perfect because throughout history for like the ages, it’s the one symbol that we’ve carried with us as humans.
[00:25:42] So I thought, wow. That’s it let’s do that. So, uh, he’s been helping me, craft this whole program, but yeah, I think we need to slay. We need to identify what are our real dragon problems in life, because sometimes they may be invisible to us. Maybe they’re lingering, but we kind of feel it or we smell it or we taste it like something stopping me.
[00:26:06] And then once we get it, you know, how do we, you know, what’s that dragon? How do we slay it? And that’s the whole point of the program. And it’s using techniques that have been used for hundreds of years. And we use today in corporations because we’ve actually implemented this with executive teams and, and cultures.
[00:26:21] But, once we can detach from whatever it is that’s causing that, uh, we have freedom and you know, it can be scary slaying a dragon, but the freedom on the other side, once we don’t have that attachment, I mean, I’ve had people come up to me like I’ve done these in live seminars and say, why like a year ago I heard you.
[00:26:43] And it changed my life either was an issue with the relationship they were in or a job they were in. And I was like, wow, really? So when I got quarantined in the studio, I thought, well, that’s what we’re going to start doing. Right. That technique.
[00:27:00] Gloria Grace Rand: Very good. Well, and that sort of leads into my next question is I was curious to know, what impact do you like to have on planet earth during your lifetime?
[00:27:13] Don Schmincke: I would like to have some small dent in civilization before I go. You know what I mean? I would like to enhance or evolve civilization. As much as I can, either with these concepts that I’m researching or discovering or carrying on from people centuries before me and reawakening them so that we can, uh, improve our civilization a bit more than we have.
[00:27:45] And cause if we, if we can’t it’s, the stakes are very high.
[00:27:50] Gloria Grace Rand: Yeah, that’s for sure. Absolutely. And I should have asked you this before, but just when you’re just mentioning that, so what do you do? And this may be, you know, it might be the same, you’d like them both, but if you had your choice, if you had your preference, would you rather be, you know, just a researcher or do you like being able to at least use the research and then to be able to apply it as well?
[00:28:20] Don Schmincke: I think I like teaching as, as the main focus, but to teach, you have to know what you’re teaching, you know, and for me, I love discovery. I mean, that’s what has me going in through remote regions and Africa or Asia or any of these extreme environments and sometimes dangerous environments because I want to study how things, evolve or collapse. You know, when I snuck into the Soviet Bloc during its its collapse, it was, it was dangerous, but God, I learned so much and you know, and it just falling in love with the people and seeing common struggle, but also seeing, you know, the progress we can make together. I’ll, I’ll always do that.
[00:29:05] And, uh, I kinda miss it cause during COVID of course everything shut down. So for a couple of years I’ve been stuck in a studio, but you know, I’m ready to get out there again. And, and I don’t know what I’m going to learn. I just, you know, I get on a plane and I packed my gear and I just go somewhere and always, I stumble into something, you know, just listening to people.
[00:29:28] You know, hearing about a tribe, somewhere in the mountains and like great, who can get me there and just, you know, going there and, uh, coming out educated, you know, and then I can come back and not everything is useful. I mean, some of it’s humorous, some of it is just for my own edification, but some of it can be applied to teach.
[00:29:48] And that’s really, what’s important if, if, if, if humans can, if I can somehow contribute to someone, having a better career or make a difference in the world or improve their relationships. Wow. You know, I think for a teacher that’s what we look for.
[00:30:05] Gloria Grace Rand: Absolutely. Yeah. Well, if someone listening to this today or watching, would like to know more maybe about your course, maybe they love to, I know it hasn’t officially launched yet, but maybe they want to be able to get on the waiting list or something.
[00:30:19] What is that? What is the best way for people to be able to contact you?
[00:30:22] Don Schmincke: Well on Facebook, we have the, how to slay dragons groups. So they can join that and I’m there and we’re starting now ramp that up. Uh, the website is saga leadership s-a-g-a which we stole from the Vikings, another area of research, saga leadership.com.
[00:30:38] And, that’s where I have a lot of corporate stuff, but I’m going to be evolving that site to bring a lot of this other, other stuff into it. And, you know, I’m out there on the web. If you search my name, I’m afraid to look what’s out there, but maybe they shouldn’t tell you to do that. But, yeah.
[00:30:55] So that’s the main website. And if you have any specific need, you can reach out to me directly. I’m dom at sagaleadership dot com. Really?
[00:31:05] Gloria Grace Rand: All right. Excellent. Well, thank you so much for taking time out of your day to be with us. I really appreciate it and yeah, wish you all the best and, continued, good work in the world at bringing about change and slaying those dragons.
[00:31:23] Thank all of you as well for watching. And if you’re listening on the replay on your favorite podcast platform, I appreciate that. And if you have been enjoying this, I hope you’ll leave us a review or comment below on Facebook or on YouTube and, I will definitely read those comments. I appreciate it.
[00:31:42] And until next time, as always, I encourage you to go out and live fully love, deeply and engage authentically.