Weekly interviews with influential leaders sharing their secrets to help you win by finding your inner desire to change, igniting your passion, and instilling discipline.

Mindsets on Steroids: A Conversation With Malaika Rivers

In my Mindsets on Steroids blog series, influential leaders share their secrets to help you win by finding your inner desire to change, ignite your passion, and instill life patterns. If what you were doing right now would get you there, you would already be there.

Malaika Rivers is the Executive Director at Cumberland Community Improvement District in suburban Atlanta, Georgia. The Cumberland CID is the mechanism by which the area’s commercial property owners – the private sector – invest in public infrastructure to protect and increase their property values as well as better the entire community. Rivers works with commercial investors, developers, government partners and other stakeholders by improving the transportation infrastructure and services. She has been with Cumberland CID since 1996 and during that time has helped the business community leverage $140 million into an estimated $2.5 billion in capital improvements through this public-private partnership. Rivers has been named a “Notable Georgian” by Georgia Trend magazine, a “25 Power Women to Watch” by Atlanta Woman magazine, a “40 Under 40” by both Georgia Trend and the Atlanta Business Chronicle, and a “Woman of Achievement” by the YWCA.

Tell us a little about your background.

“I moved around quite a bit growing up, but when I was in middle school we ended up in the Washington DC area. My parents moved to Europe after I graduated high school but I stayed in the states and got a degree in business marketing. This was the early ‘90s and I ended up accepting a job with an organization that put me in the transportation sector.

“It’s interesting how one decision leads to lots of other corresponding decisions in your life… I worked in transportation demand management for a couple of years, both for a transportation provider as well as for a boutique consulting firm. I got a phone call one day from a colleague that I had worked with in the DC area and he had since moved down to Atlanta to start up a regional effort out of the MPO (the Metropolitan Planning Organization). My parents were in Europe at the time. I didn’t have any family close by, I was very comfortable moving around, and I liked adventure. I had a good impression of Atlanta, and I said ‘sure I’ll take the job.’ Two weeks later I moved to Atlanta to work for the planning agency.

“One of the capacities I had was to reach out to business groups in the region to get them to adopt and sponsor these transportation management programs and to initiate their own efforts. One of the groups I worked with was the Cumberland Community Improvement District (the CID) and it was about 8 years old at the time. It was the only CID in the state of Georgia and it had effectively innovated the model for commercial property owners to improve transportation infrastructure.

“I had reached out to them to see if they could broaden their perspective to not just to look at infrastructure, the supply side, but also look at the demand side. After a few months of going through a series of meetings and getting to know the leadership at the CID, they decided that they wanted to hire me in order to implement these services.

“At that point I was 25 years old and I was put in charge of organizational development and management. We developed a first of its kind effort in the state of Georgia that would reach out to our tenant companies and get them educated and engaged on the demand side. Over time my responsibilities grew to taking over the entire portfolio for the CID. I was their first full-time dedicated staff member and from there we grew all of our efforts, including capital improvement projects and services, and everything that we’ve been dealing with over the past 25 to 30 years now.

“Things have changed over that time and it has really been quite an exciting ride. It’s like a puzzle honestly. I like the architecture of that. I like putting the pieces of the puzzles together in strategic partnerships – leveraging money and relationships in order to construct infrastructure that improves commercial real estate portfolios and builds communities. That’s very exciting for me.”

Lasting change starts with inner desire. What internal triggers have set change in motion in your life?

“I would never be with an organization as long as I have if I didn’t find it challenging and rewarding. It’s a puzzle; the environment, the landscape, the climate – it’s always changing. One aspect that is important to keep consistent, however, is trust.

“If you think about the last 10 years of the economy, the market crashed in 2008 and the years that followed were difficult times. Real estate values plummeted and we lost some of our ability to affect change. We had to rely on long standing relationships with our government partners, including the governor, state legislators, county officials, and everyone in between in order to keep projects on track. Trust is important because your partners know that you’ve got the wherewithal to make good on your promises and to do what you say you’re going to do. Some of our endeavors span many years. It’s not like you think ‘I need a road,’ and then you build it the next year. It could be 10 years easily for a big project. So these are long standing relationships that I’ve enjoyed. Over the years my appreciation grows stronger because the track record of these relationships is that much longer.”

Passion fuels explosive growth. What ignites your passion?

“I have the opportunity to be engaged and plugged into a variety of different local and regional efforts, from infrastructure delivery to public policy. I’m fortunate to help create opportunity for my commercial investors. This submarket started out being very office heavy in the mid ‘90s when I came here. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some terrific, trusted, amazing leaders who have all worked so diligently to transform this community over the decades from being a suburban office market, to one that’s now becoming a really robust live, work, and play community.

“To illustrate that, the Atlanta Braves moved from downtown Atlanta to my district. That was huge news all over the country, even the world. This district has evolved from this 9 to 5 Monday through Friday market to one that has added multi-family, has attracted millennials, has an amazing park system and trails… there are people living, working, and playing here. It’s so amazing to see all of that. To think that I’ve played even a small role in this has been very satisfying.”

Consistent life patterns are often the missing component to greatness. How do you find discipline in your life?

“I am a disciplined, organized, and thoughtful person. That’s just how I’m wired and approach things. In the early days of joining the CID, there was not much organizational structure because there wasn’t a need for it. Being able to contribute to the growth of the organization and develop our structure while relentlessly pursuing best practices in an environment that is never constant has been terrific for me and satisfies that inner architect in me.

“Over the years as our organization has grown, resources have grown, and our projects, portfolio, and partnerships have grown, you go from being an independent operator to one that is now threading and aligning all of these partnerships and looking at how to allocate resources appropriately.

“One thing I’ve adopted over the years and become more conscientious of, is making sure I take my moments to just breath, center, and appreciate. I find myself doing that more and more because I’m just at that stage in my life and those small gestures help me manage it all. Reassessing, taking that breath, being thoughtful and grateful of all the things going on is something I pay more attention to.”

What is one result of change, passion, and discipline in your life?

“Being a part of transforming a community and creating value for investors has been very rewarding but I’m also a mother of two children. One is starting high school and the other one is in fifth grade. You spend a lot of time when your kids are younger using words and actions that you hope they will absorb. When they get a little older, you finally see your efforts reflected back at you. They’re still kids and they still have their moments for sure, but I’m just so pleased with the people they’re becoming. That’s very satisfying.”


Mindsets On Steroids: A Conversation With Steve Piacente

In my Mindsets on Steroids blog series, influential leaders share their secrets to help you win by finding your inner desire to change, ignite your passion, and instill life patterns. If what you were doing right now would get you there, you would already be there.

Steve Piacente is an award-winning journalist and novelist and is the founder of Next Phase Life Coaching. Originally from New York, Steve earned a bachelor’s in communications from American University in Washington, D.C. before moving to Florida to report for a local paper. He then moved back to Washington, where he spent several years as D.C. reporter for papers in Tampa and Charleston before becoming a speechwriter in the federal government. Steve also earned a Masters in Fiction from Johns Hopkins University and published two novels. He now works with clients and students as a professional life coach, communications trainer, and adjunct professor at his alma mater.

Tell is about your background and career path.

“I was at American University during Watergate. If you were interested in writing and you were at American University during Watergate, you had no choice but to become a newspaper reporter. My senior year I interned at the Washington Bureau of the Baltimore Sun and fully expected that I would become a journalist covering the White House and Congress as soon as I graduated. Part of that came true. I did become a reporter, but there were no jobs in Washington.

“Instead of covering Congress and the White House, I wound up covering high school sports in Naples, Florida. That was interesting because I brought the tenacity that I had seen in Woodward and Bernstein to covering high school sports, and that didn’t go over so well with the local high school football coach… I eventually wound up back in Washington as a correspondent for the Tampa Tribune and, later on, the Charleston (S.C.) Post-Courier..

“After the newspaper career ended, I went into the U.S. government as a speechwriter at the U.S. General Services Administration. I spent 10 years at GSA as both a speechwriter and a communications manager. At one time I was actually running the entire communications department of this big federal agency.

“In 2013, I made my next move, to The Communication Center, which specializes in media and presentation training. People who have to make a lot of presentations or speak frequently to reporters come to us to hone their skills.

“I also went back and got a Master’s in Fiction from Johns Hopkins University, and that led to the two novels. A third is in the works, plus a non-fiction book aligned with my coaching practice. I became a certified life coach in the last year.”

Lasting change starts with inner desire. What internal triggers have set change in motion in your life?

“I’ve come to believe every moment is an opportunity to define or redefine ourselves. Do we want to settle or keep challenging ourselves? The phrase that always made me cringe is, ‘good enough is good enough.’ I’ve kept adding to the communications framework that I started building three decades ago as a journalist. So the internal trigger is a drive to keep improving plus a healthy dose of intellectual curiosity. I believe that when you’re passionate about something, you really don’t think about how much time you’re putting into it, so it’s never laborious or tedious. To me, it’s always felt like there aren’t enough hours in the day.”

Journalism has have gone through an incredible transformation over the last couple of decades. How has that affected you and how did it lead to the next phase of your career?

“About 15 years ago, right after 9/11, my paper called and said that because of financial reasons, they couldn’t afford to have anyone in Washington anymore. If I had a life coach in that moment, I would have had a much easier transition into something else. As it was, all I’d ever done was reporting.

“We had three small kids at the time and I felt like my world had kind of come to an end. Washington newspaper jobs are hard to find, especially at regional papers, which tend to promote from within. I was stumbling around like, ‘what do I do now?’ If I’d had a life coach then, it would’ve helped me learn what I realized by myself after several months of stumbling around… What I found was that the skills I learned being a reporter were transferable to several different disciplines.

“First of all, if you can write, you can always find work. If you write well, you can land yourself something better than a mundane job, which is what happened and how I became a speechwriter.”

What was it like making the transition from hard-hitting journalist to speechwriter for a government agency? That seems like a drastic change. Were you bored at your new job?

“It was a significant change in mindset and I had to come to grips with that… GSA is the buying arm of the government. I was writing about new courthouse projects. I was writing about these big acquisition purchases that GSA was doing on behalf of other federal agencies. Not exactly scintillating stuff.

“One of the things you learn as a regional correspondent is how to write your way on to the front page. Big breaking news is not always happening, so the challenge becomes, can you write something well enough or creative enough to work your way on to the front page? When I got to GSA I had to figure out how to make some of this boring stuff interesting.”

What’s an example of an interesting project you worked on at GSA?

“In the early ’80s, work began on a construction project in lower Manhattan. As the bulldozers were rolling, they uncovered what turned out to be an unmarked burial ground. It was full of caskets that contained the remains of early Africans who were brought to the U.S., many as slaves. These people essentially built the East Coast and never were credited.

“Sentiments ran high over how to move forward, and the situation took more than 10 years to resolve. Part of the compromise involved bringing the remains to Howard University in Washington. They did DNA analysis and from that we learned who these people were, what they did, where they came from, how long they lived, how they died, about the tremendous work that they did, and the backbreaking labor. We learned about their customs. All of this went into speeches I wrote that were delivered at various stages, including the opening of the African Burial Ground National Monument in New York, which anyone can visit today.”

Passion fuels explosive growth. What ignites your passion?

“Lots of things. Here are a few: Turning a blank sheet of paper into a page of writing that touches readers’ emotions or persuades someone to consider a different point of view.

“Coaching a client through severe stage fright or having a student find his or her unique voice.

“When I was reporting, I loved making the front page, and it was either because of good piece of writing or because I discovered new information to shed light on something that affected the public.”

Consistent life patterns are often the missing component to greatness. How do you find discipline in your life?

“It starts with finding what you’re passionate about… I think that the two (discipline and passion) kind of work hand in hand. I spoke earlier in a work context, but when you find what makes you feel truly happy and fulfilled in other areas – personal relationships, health and fitness – even fun and enjoyment, then discipline becomes more of what makes you happy. That’s how I look at it and that’s how I coach my clients. The problem I find is that too many people settle. They rationalize that things are good enough and then discipline becomes tedious instead of effortless.”

What are some of those personal passions for you?

“I was lucky enough in high school to find a girl who blossomed into a beautiful woman and special educator. She’s been my wife since 1980, so I’m pretty passionate about her and our three children. Two of those children now have children of their own, so we now have two granddaughters, which is crazy. The notion of your child having his or her own children is something you never imagine. I can’t think of anything I’m more passionate about than all of that.”

What is one result of change, passion, and discipline in your life?

“First, I’m never bored. Two, I don’t waste time, and because I’ve always strived to be objective and consider multiple points of view, I stay pretty balanced.

“When I was younger, I looked at time as infinite. As I’ve gotten older, I realize that it’s finite. My objective now with myself and with everyone whom I coach is to help them realize that – even if they’re 24 years old – we do have a finite amount of time. So, bottom line – figure out what you’re passionate about and do a lot of it.”

Steve’s 2010 novel Bella won an Indie Excellence Award and the Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal for Dramatic Fiction. His 2012 novel Bootlicker won the Readers’ Favorite Silver Medal for Southern Fiction. You can find more info on Steve’s writing at www.stevepiacente.com. You can also learn more there about his work as a communication and life coach. Follow him on Twitter at @wordsprof.

Mindsets on Steroids: A Conversation with Tim Tobin

In my Mindsets on Steroids blog series, influential leaders share their secrets to help you win by finding your inner desire to change, ignite your passion, and instill life patterns. If what you were doing right now would get you there, you would already be there.

Tim Tobin is the dean of Choice University at Choice Hotels International where he oversees professional development for franchisees. Previously, he was Vice President of Global Leadership Development for Marriott International and held talent management roles for Baker Tilly and Booz Allen Hamilton. He holds an Ed.D. in Human Resource Development from George Washington University, as well as a master’s degree in Organizational Management. Tim is the author of “Your Leadership Story: Use Your Story to Energize, Inspire, and Motivate”, a frequent leadership speaker, and is a five-time Ironman triathlon finisher.

Tell us a bit about your current role at Choice.

“I’m currently the dean of Choice University at Choice Hotels International, which is a top hotel and franchising organization in the world, so I oversee all of the learning for our franchisees. I really consider myself a learning and leadership development professional overall.

“One of the things I’ve learned is that I really love to build things. Whether I need to come in and fix it or build from the ground up, I get a lot of energy from that. This (Choice University) is an organization that had some good pieces in place but ready for its next iteration when I arrived. I was responsible for putting together everything from the strategy to all of the execution and everything in between. We’re realizing some early high impact wins, so I got really energized by the process and results, and I learned a ton.”

Lasting change starts with inner desire. What internal triggers have set change in motion in your life? 

“The more I think about it, at different stages of my life there have probably been different triggers. When I was a bit younger, I probably just didn’t give it much thought. The wheels were in motion, I was learning and having fun, traveling, getting some experiences, and I think the first trigger was the realization that that’s not really enough.

“After I finished my undergrad I really just had some odds and ends jobs for a couple of years, and I realized that all those delays kind of set me back personally and professionally from a success standpoint. I said, ‘I’ve got to go back and really educate myself,’ and that’s what drove me to get a masters degree. I realized that maybe there’s something more out there and then I said this learning thing is really fun with the master’s degree. I don’t want it to really stop, so that’s when I went on for my doctoral degree.

“My motivation at first, to be quite candid, was strictly in the title. I wanted people to call me doctor, but something really funny happened along the way… I had the realization that I was actually learning something. While I was proud of the accomplishment and the progress, the title actually became far less significant… It’s really about what I learned in the process – the way I approach problems and solutions. I went in with one motivation, and lo and behold I came out with a completely different one and probably a bit more beneficial.

“A common theme for me is realizing that I have not reached my full potential yet. So I’m going to continue to strive for that. Along the way, I’m going to try some things out and some things I’ll probably be more successful at than others. I don’t just go for the easy things. Writing a book isn’t easy. Getting a doctoral degree isn’t easy, but they’re possible if you give it a shot.”

Passion fuels explosive growth. What ignites your passion?

“I was actually lucky. Later in my career I had the opportunity to attend a training course where they had attendees think about their personal mission. For me, mine is about helping people meet their full potential. That’s it. That transcends everything I do.

“During my career over the last twenty years I’ve put myself in learning and leadership development roles that are basically tasked with helping people reach their potential. We’ve all heard the expression ‘if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.’ I feel like I work hard, but I love what I do.

“I’m almost embarrassed to say it, but the truth of it is my motivation when I was younger might have been much more transactional in the sense that I just wanted things. Success for me was about things, whether it be a title, or a certain salary, or the things the salary brings… I realized that there’s power in this thing called learning. If we pay attention to that and really do some soul searching and ask, ‘what is it that I get energized by?’ That’s really where my purpose came in.”

Consistent life patterns are often the missing component to greatness. How do you find discipline in your life? Does your training as an endurance athlete help?

“I blend discipline with flexibility. To use the fitness example, if you’re going to train for any kind of endurance sport, you have to have discipline. Knowing that I’m doing an Ironman triathlon, and coming up on my sixth one, I know that I have to run, bike and swim, and that I have to do it often and at great distances. But when I wake up in the morning, if I don’t feel like running that day, I’m not going to run. I try to keep some amount of flexibility with my drive, focus and rigor. I’ve got to do at least one workout every day, and often times it’s two things a day, but I don’t want to teach myself to hate running or swimming. I want to give myself some permissions to say, ‘you know what, this isn’t where I feel like directing my energy today, but I really want to do a good thing over here.’

“That applies to work. I’m a big list person. I try to start with the most difficult thing on my list every day, rather than save it for last. But again, I give myself permission where there’s flexibility, to say, ‘you know what, that’s not where I’m going to get my energy today, so I need to refocus.

“For me, discipline starts with self-awareness. I’m very in tune, not only with what needs to get done, but how I’m feeling physically, mentally, emotionally at any given time, so I’m pretty connected internally. Along with that comes a level of self-criticism and expecting more of myself.

“Have that plan, but keep it fun. I talk to my team all the time and let them know it’s okay to come up for air, hit the pause button or whatever. It’s interval training. If you’re going in 4th gear all the time you’re going to burn yourself out.”

You can find more info on Tim and his work at www.tobinleadership.com and can follow him on Twitter at @tobinleadership.

Mindsets on Steroids: A Conversation with Catherine Cornelius Smith

In my Mindsets on Steroids blog series, influential leaders share their secrets to help you win by finding your inner desire to change, ignite your passion, and instill life patterns. If what you were doing right now would get you there, you would already be there.

Catherine Cornelius Smith is the CEO at TrueBlue Inclusion, a Washington DC based consulting firm that coaches global clients on diversity and inclusion. Smith started her career working on Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign immediately after graduating from Texas A&M in 1991. She spent six years working in the White House on a wide range of projects before moving to the private sector where she has been an advocate for women, minorities, and the voiceless. In the interview below, Smith tells us her story, what motivates her, and how she stays disciplined.

Tell us about your background and how you came to work on the Clinton campaign:

“I had just come out of Texas A&M business school and the economy was really horrible in Texas at the time, so I went to work on his campaign. I was the third employee in Little Rock, Arkansas. I went through the whole experience from the primaries through the convention. I never had any political experience but I knew how to work spreadsheets, so they thought I was a genius because I could manage all of this money. We set up fifty state operations and low and behold, come November, Bill Clinton was elected president. I went to the White House with him when I was 23 years old and worked in the White House or another 6 years.

“I think the most important message out of all of that is that no one ever told me I couldn’t, so I did. No one ever limited me; they just believed that I could do it. I could figure out block times for Air Force One. I could decide who the right people were to be on the airplane. I could manage large teams of people over the world as we deployed on foreign travel. I just did it. I always tell people I was way to young and stupid to know what I was in the middle of… I think it gave me a sense of fearlessness that anything can happen. Change is possible and it plays out as a theme throughout my career.”

Lasting change starts with inner desire. What internal triggers have set change in motion in your life? 

“I call myself a truth and justice person. I grew up never wanting for anything. I had a great childhood, I had great parents, attended private schools, and college was expected of me. I can’t really tell you I had a hard childhood, but I have this inner spirit that is driven by unfairness and inequity – I’m a bit of a protector. For me there’s a driving desire to right wrongs or prevent them from happening. That’s how I ended up working around advancing women in the workplace, as well as people that are different than others.

“If I look at all the things that have created lasting change, it’s all about empowering people who are affected by outcomes to have a voice in the process in the creation of the way things will work – really just engagement.”

A great example of this is when Smith brought farmers and trade negotiators together when the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was being designed. She created a listening tour to bring policy makers around the country to talk to food producers about a piece of legislation that would have a tremendous impact on them. She was able to give a voice to American farmers and make sure they had a say.

“It’s really about giving people a voice in a process that’s supposed to serve them. I fight for that every day. I think that’s what creates lasting change.”

Passion fuels explosive growth. What ignites your passion?

“My passion is people – really individual people. I love to understand people. I seek to understand what they need and what they want, so I’m very driven by human connection. What can people teach me and how I can help them? That’s really my passion.”

Consistent life patterns are often the missing component to greatness. How do you find discipline in your life?

“By being married to a secret service agent (laughs). I’ve gotten much better at it. I haven’t always been good at it because I’m a creative spirit and I tend to get excited about all kinds of things that can derail me. In the last couple of years, I’ve been very focused on personal wellness to help structure my day. Just by injecting that accountability in my daily life it really helps me and my team deliver on behalf of clients on a regular schedule.”

What does a typical day look like for you?

“I spend the first two hours of my day – 8 to 10am – at home. I go over emails from clients. I’m a voracious consumer of information; I live in a twitter feed – I am constantly seeking real time input on people’s concerns, news changes, happenings… it helps me serve my clients best.

“I hit the office around 10:30 loaded with stuff to talk about. I have a team of four located here in DC. I pretty much take the first hour with them and we talk through all the things I’ve learned in the last twelve hours since I saw them, and they provide me feedback and we get aligned… we’re all very different from one another, so I ask them how they interpret things and tell them to let me know if I’m missing something. From that point on it’s really on the phone or delivering projects for clients. I usually take half an hour in the afternoon to work out. I just go across the street to the gym and it’s been a great thing. At least 2 or 3 of my team have picked it up as well, so it’s sort of fun. It’s really about feeling better because we have such high demand schedules, so it’s just about being well.”

What is one result of change, passion, and discipline in your life?

“One that I remember poignantly was my last year in the Clinton administration. I detailed myself over to the Foreign Ag Service to work on agriculture trade… I don’t know why that’s what I wanted to do, but I created all of these listening sessions across the country that brought producers in to talk to trade negotiators about how they felt about trade policy. They needed to have a voice, so we created a whole system.

“It became clear that this sort of tyrant executive in the Ag Service was really controlling all of the discretionary budget that could be used to inform producers domestically. He did not want to play nice, so I took him on, and in the end, our administrator called a vote. Women executives in that agency came in from vacation to make sure they were there for that vote.

“I developed a passion for a topic that I really didn’t know and spent my whole year with farmers and commissioners of agriculture all over the country. We created this buy-in and won a departmental award. I had women leaders come forward to support it before it had ever proven itself, so for me that’s sustained passion – creating passion around something you probably didn’t know about, but learning a lot and becoming vested in the outcome because you care about the people.”

Do you have any advice for people early on in their careers?

“Work for people who see your potential and not your accomplishments. It makes all the difference.”

You can follow Catherine Cornelius Smith on Twitter at @TruBluCatherine.

Mindsets On Steroids: A Conversation With Dr. Frank King

In my Mindsets on Steroids blog series, influential leaders share their secrets to help you win by finding your inner desire to change, ignite your passion, and instill life patterns. If what you were doing right now would get you there, you would already be there.

Dr. Frank King is the founder and president of King Bio®, Carolina Bison® and Dr. King’s® Farms. For the past 40 years, Dr. King, a doctor of naturopathy and chiropractic as well as an entrepreneur, has tirelessly educated his patients and the public about the benefits of natural healing and living a healthy lifestyle. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina with his wife and two children where he manages his two businesses. In the interview below, Dr. King tells about his journey from a sickly, scrawny kid to an active and healthy adult with a successful career.

Tell us a little about your background.

“I am a fourth-generation American farmer. In the early ’70s I attended business school at Youngstown State University for a business management degree. Growing up on a farm, I loved living off the land and nature. I converted our 450 acres into an organic farm back when people thought that was really strange.

“In the early ’70s we were doing this conversion (to organic) and I began to understand the principles of natural health through the process, and all of a sudden got into natural healing with people. So, I went off to chiropractic and naturopathic college and by the late ’70s, began one of the first holistic, integrative natural clinics. We grew and prospered into one of the largest in the country.

“We were focused on healing causes behind people’s’ illness rather than just suppressing symptoms. Through that process we discovered how to awaken healing in people. Our health center was so successful that by the end of my first year we had to hire two more doctors, and through the ’80s we averaged four doctors and 13 therapeutic staff to be able to take care of all the needs of people coming from all over the country… It was really about empowering people to heal.”

Lasting change starts with inner desire. What internal triggers have set change in motion in your life?

“In my fourth year at Youngstown State, I started going away from business classes and started studying philosophy, world history, religions, cultural anthropology, and started learning more about life, about people and what makes people work and I was fascinated. I just started following my own personal passions, not what other people told me I should do.

“The more you seek your passions, the more you find your purpose. When we find our purpose, we find this driving force that gives us greater momentum to reach uncharted territories and discover our real identity. I found that purpose through healing – through empowering others to heal and become whole. I would have never found that if I hadn’t taken the leap from the security of doing business and go down this path that was for me. That is where you’ll find greater fulfillment and meaning in life.”

Passion fuels explosive growth. What ignites your passion?

“Personally, it’s empowering people to walk in their full potential in every aspect of their life.”

Consistent life patterns are often the missing component to greatness. How do you find discipline in your life?

“It’s not about doing more, it’s about being more. It’s about becoming the change. You program that in and that reinforces you for that consistent force that we all need to go higher in life. Those challenges that come forward are really opportunities, and they make us stronger and equip us to fulfill the higher purpose before us.”

What is one result of change, passion, and discipline in your life?

“Living healthy. I was very sickly as a child. When I was four or five years old, they thought I had leukemia. I was a scrawny little kid. There was a trailer park near our farm and there were lots of kids to play with, but I was always the last kid to get picked for football.

“I remember my parents taking me to this doctor who practiced in that trailer park. He lived and practiced in a single-wide trailer and spoke with this Eastern European accent. He found food allergies with me. Just within a few weeks of this diet, I found myself running faster than I ever had in my life. Within a month or two, I remember catching a kick-off in football and running past 20 kids and scoring a touchdown. A transformation had taken place in my life. It was my first realization of seeing that I could change.

“I realized that I didn’t have to be a victim. I learned how to be a victor in life. I shifted from this victim to victor experience. I didn’t allow the weaknesses in me to define who I was.”

You can learn more about Dr. King and how his work can benefit you at www.DrKings.com

Mindsets on Steroids: A Conversation with Meredith Oliver

In my Mindsets on Steroids blog series, influential leaders share their secrets to help you win by finding your inner desire to change, ignite your passion, and instill life patterns. If what you were doing right now would get you there, you would already be there.

Meredith Oliver is the Creative Director of Meredith Communications, a full-service digital marketing and consulting agency that she founded in 2001. Meredith also delivers keynote speeches, runs workshops and seminars on marketing and sales related topics, and is the author of three books, including her most recent: FANtastic Selling: The 10 Undeniable Traits of Rock-Star, Top-Producing, Quota-Busting Salespeople



What inspired you to start your own business?

“I was working for a dot com company out of Silicon Valley in the early 2000s just as the internet bubble was getting ready to burst. I was at a trade show working their booth 14 hours a day on the floor trying to sell their products to people and I just got tired, so I snuck out of the booth and went and sat down in one of the seminars at the trade show to get a break. I pretended I was in the bathroom but I was really in one of the seminars. There was somebody on stage teaching people, and I just said to myself, ‘I can do that and I’m going to do that.’

“I went home that weekend and told my husband, ‘we’re starting a company; it’s Meredith Communications,’ and I quit my job and started the company. That was in 2001.”

What was it about that moment in the seminar that really inspired you?

“I was watching this person speak and I really have a passion for teaching people. I love to be in front of people. I have no fear of public speaking. I knew I was good on stage.

“I also looked around and there were very few women who were speaking about marketing and sales at that time, yet I looked at the audience and most of the audience was women. I thought to myself, ‘they need a woman role model.’ So I just saw a fit with my skills with what the market needed.”

Lasting change starts with inner desire. What internal triggers have set change in motion in your life?

“My number one internal trigger is that I am a passionate life-long learner. I cannot absorb enough information, and so when I see an opportunity, I have to know more about it – I have to learn about it.

“Number two, once I come across a piece of information and I start taking it in, I’m one of those people who has to take action on it. I have to do something. I take in information constantly and once I identify an opportunity it will haunt me until something is done about it.

“I would absolutely say that it’s my faith and that God provides these lightning bolts to me. There’s no question in my mind that it’s divine intervention; it’s Providence and I just try to stay open to those opportunities.”

Passion fuels explosive growth. What ignites your passion?

“Definitely seeing others succeed; seeing others perform better because we helped them. I love to see our clients grow their business because their digital marketing is on point and doing its job. That is so rewarding.

“Just the other day I got an email from someone who heard me speak on a Friday, and by Monday she had put in her notice for her job of 25 years. She had been wanting to move on and go in a different direction and had been stuck, and something I said moved her forward, so helping other people move forward and be successful – I love that!”

Consistent life patterns are often the missing component to greatness. How do you find discipline in your life?

“Being a creative, this is something I have to really work at, because I can be all over the place with my thoughts, with my ideas. I get a lightning bolt idea and I’m off and running. I now do have successful patterns in how I manage my work routine every day in terms of how I mange my tasks, my email, my time. I’m happy to say that has improved a lot. Most of the time I do not feel nearly as panicked or overwhelmed as I once did.

“I’m very disciplined about my speaking practice – how I develop and practice each talk, the checklist of items I go through before I go on stage – my room setup. All of those things have been incredibly beneficial to me being an effective speaker. A lot of people think you just show up, dazzle the crowd, and leave. Actually, the magic often times isn’t determined by your message, but room setup, the audio-visual workings, so many more factors to it that can take a perfectly good talk… that’s definitely an area where discipline is a huge part of my work.”

What is one result of change, passion, and discipline in your life?

“Change has taught me to follow my instincts, but also, let go of the result. Whatever change is coming next, as scary as it might be, it is truly for the best. There is a bigger plan for me. I trust in that bigger plan more than I trust in myself now. I just let it unfold and try to stay open.

“I couldn’t have even planned this life that I have – personally or professionally. I couldn’t have planned it to be this amazing. I had to let it unfold.

“I have short-term goals, but long term, I’ve really given that up to my faith. This whole thing could come to an end tomorrow and something else would be in my path and it would be for the best. I trust in that completely. That’s not to say I don’t get scared, it’s not saying that I don’t get frustrated or stressed out – of course. But there’s always a voice in my head saying, ‘it’s going to be fine.’”

You can follow Meredith on Twitter at @MeredithCSP.

Mindsets on Steroids: A Converstation with Becky Sansbury

In my Mindsets on Steroids blog series, influential leaders share their secrets to help you win by finding your inner desire to change, ignite your passion, and instill life patterns. If what you were doing right now would get you there, you would already be there.

Becky Sansbury is the author of After The Shock: Getting You Back On The Road To Resilience When Crisis Hits You Head On. She has spent decades working as a hospice chaplain and has counseled professionals in career crisis. In her personal life, Becky has experienced multiple miscarriages, two divorces and single parenthood. She has taken her experiences with grief, professional training, and her passion for helping others and turned them into a career of helping people find their resiliency. Now working as a professional speaker and consultant, Becky lives in Raleigh, NC.


Give us the quick rundown of your early life and career and what led up to what you’re doing now.

“I had a very idyllic 1960s growing up in small town in Western Pennsylvania – a very happy home and a very pleasant life. I headed off to college quite sure I was going to be a public school music teacher. I turned out to be a glorious failure at that after one year in the public school classroom.

“I redirected my interest in music and combined it with my lifelong involvement with church work and headed off to seminary at a time when not a whole lot of females were going to seminary. I developed a 15 year career in the area of church music. I became an ordained minister as pat of that process, married, had two children, and then experienced a very dramatic significant mental health change in my husband – non of it his fault – but very much disastrous to our family.

“I found myself as an ordained female, about to be divorced single mother, working in a Baptist denomination, and that wasn’t a real good prospect for finding a job. I went back to seminary and headed into chaplaincy, which has a much more tolerant view of both women and people who’ve been through divorce and found a very satisfying career for about 15 years in a very much traditional chaplaincy in the field of hospice.”

So what do you do now?

“I now call myself a community chaplain – I’m employed by me and my work is not always what people would see traditionally as a chaplain, but within my sense of purpose and direction it is, and the broader sense of the word.

“During the recession I worked with with professionals in career crisis. The same core tenants of resilience I saw within hospice patients and families intrigued me and I saw it again with folks whose careers, and thus their lives, had been completely disrupted by something over which they had no control.

“After about four or five years in that work I stepped back and realized that contract had come to an end because basically the recession was resolved enough so that our services weren’t needed.

“I found myself at the end of twenty year marriage and approaching my sixties with no marriage and no stated job, and it was a pretty unsettling time,” she says with a laugh.

Becky had already been doing some motivational speaking based on her experiences as a hospice professional and chaplain when she decided to hire a career coach to give her some more professional direction.

“My career coach told me ‘If you can find a process and create a product, then you have something that people can use. Otherwise you’re just giving them a lot of fancy words.’”

Becky’s career coach helped her refine a seven part model that she named ‘After The Shock’ and Becky spent the next few years testing it out.

“I realized that I had indeed landed on something that was very down to earth and very practical and usable for people either going through crisis themselves – or sometimes even more so – people walking alongside others either during or post crisis.

“In 2015 an editor who I admired wanted to work with me and I wanted to work with her. We spent 13 months further refining the process, the stories and the visual illustrations. In 2015 published the book, After the Shock: Getting You Back On The Road To Resilience When Crisis Hits You Head On.”

Lasting change starts with inner desire. What internal triggers have set change in motion in your life?

“So often we look at those internal triggers as the negatives. I realized that the parts of life that distress us – grief was an early one for me – whether it was personal or being driven by other people’s grief. I also found that I had built into my DNA a dogged desire for making life better, so I would have to say that my internal triggers are definitely what grief does – not only to me but to others – but also that persistence within us – within me – to make life better.

“Even as a child I was drawn to be with people who were sad. For instance, a girl who had polio in my third grade class who others made fun of – but I enjoyed being her friend.

“When I was in high school, one of our classmates died in an accident and I was the one who sat with his girlfriend. I wasn’t trying to be noble; it was just like that was where I was supposed to be and something went off inside of me to be in that place.”

“When my husband and I lost those three babies pre birth, the grief was profound, but I was also struck by the fact that people were loving and well-intentioned and hadn’t the foggiest idea beyond hugs and casseroles of what to do or say. So that persistence said ‘there’s got to be another way to do this.’

Passion fuels explosive growth. What ignites your passion?

“My passion comes in discerning where hope is hiding and then finding understandable ways to help us move more simply through complex times. That feeds my soul and causes me to look at life for myself and others in new ways. The writing of the book came out of all of that because I felt that I had a sacred contract with the people that had shared their life wisdom with me.”

On her own personal struggles and finding hope:

“There’s a good reason that flowers grow up through the mud. I found it in the messy places in life and within my own self. I found it when I could start playing classical music again and big band jazz – and play them loudly. I found it when I could laugh through tears.

“I found it with friends; part of my passion is people. I’m not a good isolationist. I refuel in private, but then my passion comes through in connection with people. I formed in different times of struggle a circle of wise people around me. When I couldn’t figure things out I allowed them into my soul and then I realized other people would allow me into their souls too.

“When our own flames are dimmed so badly that they’re just about flickered out, that’s where that passion gets reignited for me.”

Consistent life patterns are often the missing component to greatness. How do you find discipline in your life?

“I realized that discipline for me comes when I remain planted in my purpose. When I get off track from that, then you can have to-do lists, you can have schedules, and you can have prompts on your phone or whatever gadgets you use. They will help you, but they don’t motivate you to want to be disciplined. They simply jog your memory. For me, discipline comes from clarity with my role and my mission in life, which for me is to accompany and support other people on a journey.”

What is one result of change, passion, and discipline in your life?

“Writing and publishing After the Shock. It’s the visible culmination of those three things. I do not consider myself to be a writer. I am a speaker. I am a chaplain and a counselor who has had the privilege of putting thoughts together and creating – with the help of a very good editor – a book. It took self-imposed discipline and it also took the external discipline of a very good editor.”

“In order to fulfill my passion, I had to find another significant way to accompany people when I can’t be with everybody. If they can find it on the written page and it’s a help to them, and something that they share with someone else, then it’s another way of me fulfilling the purpose that came about because of these changes in my own life and these changes I’ve experienced in other people’s lives.”

Find out more about Becky and her work at www.beckysansbury.com.


Mindsets on Steroids: A Conversation with Dr. Tashni-Ann Dubroy

In my Mindsets on Steroids blog series, influential leaders share their secrets to help you win by finding your inner desire to change, ignite your passion, and instill life patterns. If what you were doing right now would get you there, you would already be there.

Dr. Tashni-Ann Dubroy was named the 17th president of Shaw University in August of 2015. She then led an incredible turnaround to improve the university’s culture and sustain it financially. Before entering academia, she left a successful corporate career at BASF to follow her passion and start her own hair care business, Tea and Honey Blends, which is still operating today. Dr. Dubroy holds a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from North Carolina State University and an MBA from Rutgers University.

After a career in corporate America and running your own company, how did you get on the path to becoming president at Shaw?

“They had a chemistry position opened, and so I applied for the job and nailed it. I started at Shaw as a chemistry professor and very quickly got promoted to department chair, then to special assistant to the president for process optimization, and lastly to the position of president.

“I gained the presidency at Shaw within five years of being at the university, and I also am the second youngest president at the institution. I was 34 when I started and came into a turnaround situation. I inherited a six-year decrease in student enrollment. I also inherited a $4 million budget gap and two years of net losses on the balance sheet, so very quickly I had to lead teams to turn around the institution. So far Shaw has been extremely responsive in terms of their ability to do the work and get the job done.”

Lasting change starts with inner desire. What internal triggers have set change in motion in your life?

“I am intrinsically motivated. My mother always said that when I was a young child she never had to tell me to study… at the end of the day, I know from within what I want to do. When I have my eyes set clearly on a goal, I work to achieve it.

“I would like to tell you that I am only passionate about one thing and that that one thing is education. I would like to say that, but if I’m being true to myself, there’s a passion that I have from within with anything that I choose to do, whether it’s entrepreneurship, whether it’s education, young people, or giving back. Everything that I take on I ensure that I commit myself to it.

“That type of internal motivation really helps me to be successful in all realms of my career and personal life. I think the evidence for that is my history of being quickly promoted in every setting I’ve been in. I always say I can’t hold on to a job because I keep getting promoted.

“If I look at the variety of positions I’ve been able to master in my career, I think there are some common skills that are shared across all of these positions, and it’s interesting for me to see the challenges that I’m facing in the college presidency setting I’ve been able to solve because of the analytical skills, organizational skills, and people skills that I’ve developed over the years in each of these roles.”

Passion fuels explosive growth. What ignites your passion?

“I do get a lot of energy from being around people. I’m a people person and I enjoy giving back. If there is something that entails educating young people – especially young girls – and helping them to be confident, to be successful, get rid of perceived barriers to success that they may have, or eliminate real barriers to success, those are the types of things that I’m passionate about. That’s what keeps me going.

Where does that passion come from?

“My mother is my most early influencer. I have a very strong mom. I saw her working very hard to help our family. I saw her make sacrifices even up to having to migrate out of the country while her kids were back in Jamaica. She migrated to the United States while we were in Jamaica. I think those types of things certainly resonate with me today. I have a young daughter – she’s seven years old – and the things that my mother instilled in me are the things I’m cultivating in her as well.”

Consistent life patterns are often the missing component to greatness. How do you find discipline in your life?

“I have been waking up early from a very young age. My mom used to wake us up at six o’clock in the morning for no reason at all. So we were up very early in the morning and just up to be up. She created a bunch of early risers in the family and soon it became a habit for me.

“I wake up at 4:30 every morning and that’s just part of my morning routine. I wake up ahead of the family. I’m able to do so much work and by the time they’re up I can focus on them. That type of disciple I now realize is not common. Every time I speak about it, people are shocked,” she says with a laugh. “It’s not that I don’t get sleep – I do – it’s just that to have this type of schedule I have to wake up early.”

What is one result of change, passion, and discipline in your life?

“While I was working in corporate (at BASF), I was making a very good salary, and my husband and I were very well compensated in the jobs that we had. I remember when I started Tea and Honey Blends, I learned from one of the VPs at BASF that it was a potential conflict of interest with our customers, so I was either going to have to quit my company or have to quit corporate.

“I remember going home and speaking to my husband about the impact that me leaving would have on the family, and he said he would support me in whatever decision I made. I remember thinking about him in terms of how much more of a burden he would have to take in order to help the family’s finances, and so I told my VP in corporate that I would stay. But that night when I went home I was literally sick to my stomach. I couldn’t eat; I couldn’t sleep. I knew that I had made the wrong decision.

“Usually I don’t like to renege on decisions, but I had to go back in and I had to tell her that I wanted to take the risk to leave corporate while I was young and explore entrepreneurship. It was one of the best decisions that I have made in my entire life. I got an understanding of what it was like to own my own company and be responsible for ensuring people can meet the needs of their families, as well as just understanding taking a company from an idea and then executing. I think that’s an example of how passion and making a bold decision are how I approach everything in life. I make bold decisions and I don’t make any small plans.”

You can follow Tashni-Ann Dubroy on Twitter at @PhDTash.


Mindsets on Steroids: A Conversation with Paul Meshanko

In my Mindsets on Steroids blog series, influential leaders share their secrets to help you win by finding your inner desire to change, ignite your passion, and instill life patterns. If what you were doing right now would get you there, you would already be there.

Paul Meshanko is the founder and CEO of Legacy Business Cultures, a leadership training and organizational development firm that has served fortune 500 companies and medium sized business alike for 20 years. He is also the author of The Respect Effect. In the interview below, Paul tells us about his passions, what motivates him in his business, and shares secrets for being successful in business and life.

Lasting change starts with inner desire. What internal triggers have set change in motion in your life?

“What put me on my current trajectory probably started 22 or 23 years ago when I was still in my first job. I went through a training program when I was with Allied Signal (Paul’s first employer) called ‘Increasing Human Effectiveness.’ When you’re in corporate America you go through tons of training all the time, but this one really stuck out in my mind, because it was the first training I’d ever been through that actually focused on me as an individual, and what those personal competencies were that enabled me to be effective as a part of a larger group.

“I was so infatuated with that that I actually volunteered to become a facilitator internally for that program, and it became literally almost intoxicating. That whole role of being a catalyst for helping other people learn and grow and develop their own potential was addictive. About two or three years after I went through the program and became an internal facilitator, I decided to make a vocational change and left the safety of corporate America and said ‘I’m going to do this for a living now,’ and so it was really that passion for helping others uncover their own potential.”

Why did you feel the need to leave your job to pursue this passion?

“I had so much doggone fun doing it! The day that I turned in my resignation, my boss at the time just kind of smiled and said, ‘we were wondering how long it was going to take for this to happen,’ because that was not my job. I was actually a new product development manager. He said ‘I’ve never seen somebody take such an incredible interest and really have an ability to excel in a discipline that really wasn’t related to their job.’”

Were you worried about taking a chance and leaving a secure job for an unproven venture?

“It was just me and I figured if it didn’t work out, I could always go back to a real job,” he says with a laugh. “Fortunately for me, 20 years later I’m still doing it.”

Passion fuels explosive growth. What ignites your passion?

“For me, I think one of my core personal attributes is that I am intensely curious about what makes people tick – at the individual level and the organizational level. Why do we do the things that we do, and when we’re doing things well, can we learn from it and do more of it? When we’re doing things poorly, what kind of interventions can we put in place to address it and fix it?

“I also have a technical background – I was a sales engineer when I first started with Allied Signal – so I’ve always had a technical orientation. So looking at that whole human equation through multiple lenses -psychology, anthropology, history, and most recently neuroscience – was always second nature to me. What I like to do is find a pattern and see if that pattern can be explained through multiple lenses and disciplines. For me, that’s the essence of my passion for what we do organizationally.

“The second part of that is distilling it into actionable training and consulting for our clients. It’s one thing to see a pattern, it’s another thing to be able to translate that into workshop content, or a speaking topic, or consulting or coaching that actually helps another person or organization improve their situation.”

Consistent life patterns are often the missing component to greatness. How do you find discipline in your life?

“My first thought is to laugh out loud because that’s probably the single reason I’m not a multi-millionaire already. Because I’m intensely curious, I also suffer from the ‘shiny object syndrome.’ If something catches my attention, even if it’s not 100 percent relevant to what I’m working on, I may go explore it a bit. What I have found is that my discipline comes in spurts, and it usually is around something that is new, fun, and educational for me.”

A good example of this is when Legacy won a contract from the Department of Justice to create a curriculum around unconscious bias training.

“My discipline went into high gear because I was just so absolutely fascinated by the subject myself. I was talking to researchers from Harvard, the University of Wisconsin, UNC-Chapel Hill, and really some of the foremost researchers on the subject. That kind of environment puts me in the zone where I can be focused and disciplined.”

Are there things you do every day to maintain that zone?

“One of the things I do every day is I go through the headlines and try to look at the events going on around the world through those same lenses – history, neuroscience, phycology – and try to spot patterns, and it’s that curiosity that allows me to keep our content relevant.”

Over the past 3 1/2 years, Paul has been through a lot of change and challenges in his life. His father died, he’s moved three times, divorced, and relocated business.

How do you deal with these challenges?

“I was talking with a friend and they said, ‘how in the heck are you still standing?’ and I said ‘ because I’ve got really good friends to talk to.’

“I don’t care how well-balanced you are as an individual, how resilient you are, how adaptable you are; at the end of the day human beings are social creatures. Neurologically we’re the most socially wired animal on the planet. We did not evolve to be lone rangers, and so I am as passionate as anybody about this notion that we are here to take care of each other. So when we’re going through tough times, if we don’t have a network of friends and family to fall back on, we’re in trouble, because we’re really not designed to go through hard times alone.”

What is one result of change, passion, and discipline in your life?

“There are two. I’ve been successfully running my own business for twenty years, and the number of people who start a business and are in business twenty years later as a percentage of those who try is very, very small; so I take some degree of pride in that.

“And the other thing I think is being a published author. I think having the discipline to take a concept and research that concept and then get it published through a major publishing house – that takes a little bit of all three of those also.”

You can follow Paul on Twitter at @PaulMeshanko.