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.

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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.