December 09, 2021

#037: Championship Formula – Jack Stark

Written by Fran Racioppi

Winning teams and companies aren’t built overnight. Leadership and a championship formula are needed for an organization to win. Dynasties are created when leaders apply this formula year in and year out without compromise.

In this episode, Fran Racioppi discusses how championship dynasties are built with renowned performance psychologist Dr. Jack Stark. Jack has been a part of 22 national championships, eight NASCAR championships with Hendrick Motorsports, as well as multiple Olympic and professional teams. He has authored or co-authored 12 books, treated over 10,000 patients as a psychologist, and worked with over 100 companies, many in the Fortune 500.

This episode is filled with lists that any leader, in any organization, in any industry can bring to their teams today to make an impact.

About Jack Stark

As a performance psychologist, Jack Stark provides psychological and performance enhancement training to elite athletes at the collegiate, professional and Olympic levels. He served as the team psychologist (1989-2004) for the University of Nebraska Cornhusker football program.

During his tenure, Nebraska won 88% of its games including 3 national championships and had the highest winning percentage in the 1990s. He is in his 11th year as the team psychologist for NASCAR’s premier Hendrick Motorsports Team (winner of 5 straight national championships).

He maintains a practice as a licensed clinical psychologist and has provided assistance to more than 10,000 individuals. He served on the faculty of the Nebraska Medical Center’s Departments of Psychiatry and Pediatrics as a tenured professor of medical psychology.

He is founder and director of Performance Enhancement Group and consults to F-500 executives. He has made over 1,000 presentations on Leadership and Teamwork. Read more about Jack Stark…

Listen to the podcast here:

Championship Formula – Jack Stark

Many teams win championships. Some teams win more than one championship but few teams set a standard for winning every season to become dynasties. Jack Stark creates champions and dynasties. He has developed a championship formula, a simple mathematical equation to win year in and year out at any level. It’s simple. Dynasty equals P4, People, Personality, Process, Purpose. It’s the who, what, how, and why to create championship organizations.

In this episode, Jack and I break down P4 and define the components of leadership. We identify the roles required to win over time, including the thinker, promoter, coordinator and influencers. We tied Jack’s 9 character traits to our 9 special operations traits. We break down the importance of assessments in our selection process and how purpose drives the most elite performers. Jack and I also discussed failure and how failure sometimes results from getting stuck somewhere along the six stages of moral development.

Jack has been a part of 22 National Championships, eight NASCAR Championships with Hendrick Motorsports, and many Olympic and professional teams. He has authored or co-authored 12 books, treated over 10,000 patients as a psychologist, and worked with over 100 companies, many in the Fortune 500. If you read the blog regularly, you know I like lists. This episode is filled with lists that any leader in any organization and industry can bring to their teams to make an impact.

Jack, welcome to the show.

One player, one play, one game could determine a season. Click To Tweet

I’m happy to be here. Thank you, Fran.

Winning is hard but winning consistently year on year, season after season, is even harder. Too often, we take for granted the work that has to be put in and is required to be successful over the long-term. We get used to seeing it. In many ways, with many teams and organizations, I feel like we come to expect it. I think about Nebraska and football in the ’90s, the Patriots, Berkshire Hathaway, JPMorgan Chase and GE.

It’s easy to think as an outsider that these organizations have been successful because they had a good plan, product or maybe there were a few charismatic leaders at the top that drove everyone to be effective. Still in reality, it requires a formula, a defined set of processes that everybody has to live by day in and day out. It has to affect all facets of the organization. Nobody can be immune from that.

Organizational leaders in these places have to complete the bulk of the work. They have to get the right people, develop the right plan and provide the right resources. I think about Bill Parcells saying he is going to be the cook. He’s got to be able to buy the groceries. They can get these groups 95% of the way there but the mental aspects are different between winning once and winning consistently over time.

That’s where champions become dynasties, and that’s where you come in. That’s this last 5%, and you have done that to the tune of 22 National Championships. In your career, you have coached hundreds of thousands of people. You have influenced so many by your work. It is truly an honor to sit here, speak with you, and learn from you. I read the book. It’s incredibly impactful. I have already incorporated it into my work, and I look forward to this conversation.

It has been a life of love and enjoyment to help other people.

Let’s start by defining a dynasty and why it is hard to build one. I always say and tell people that any team or organization can win a championship once. The time can be right. They can spend a ton of money, get the right players and coaches, and get everybody to buy in for one year but it’s what happens after you win that one, replicating victory. The repeat is so much harder because success is expected. It’s the goal, and the bar elevates.

It becomes incrementally harder than when the money is gone. People are recruiting your talent away. The unity of the group erodes because the goal is mad and personal interests come into play. Leagues or organizations put caps and budgetary constraints in place. A dynasty could be defined by the success and longevity of an entity. Can you explain what a dynasty means to you?

 

My undergraduate degree was in Philosophy, and I spent 2 to 3 years researching this. I was always driven by, “What makes a great leader, team or dynasty?” If you go back in time, “What makes a great civilization, company, country, church or sports team?” What I was fascinated by, I was doing my research and came across something powerful to me. It was some sociological research. This individual did back in the ’20s to look at how healthcare in this country got started, Blue Cross Blue Shield. Before that, we didn’t have healthcare and health insurance.

They said that in any dynasty, civilization or country, you needed three types of people. You need a thinker. It’s someone who can visualize, plan and know how to build a dynasty. The second thing you need is someone to promote it. It’s someone who can say, “This is what the vision is, what we need to do and how we can build this thing.” The third thing is you need someone who is a coordinator to coordinate and make this thing happen. That’s how Blue Cross Blue Shield got happened.

 

I begin to trace it back with the Sociological Principles of all the civilizations, “How did Greek and Roman civilization come about?” If you look at how these things happen, they don’t last forever. The Greek civilization, Roman, 100 to 150 years, what makes them fall apart? As a sports psychologist, I have worked with 40 to 50 teams and 100 companies I have worked with. I learned a lot from my patients. I’m a licensed medical psychologist. I have treated some 10,000 patients and at least have mentored probably 3,000 athletes.

I was always consumed with, “How do we build a dynasty? More importantly, how do we keep it going?” Losing is easy. Winning is very hard. It’s easy to lose because it doesn’t take much but you’ve got to have everything. You will have a tremendous amount of focus and organizational skills but it’s always about the people at the top. The people at the top have not changed much. If you think about the evolution of things and the Roman civilization, you had an emperor, commander and field general.

We have had this for centuries. We have a Chairman of the Board, CEO and COO. In sports, at the college level, we will have a chancellor or president of the university, athletic director and coach. I studied all of these organizations, sports teams and businesses. What makes them go? Why are they successful? I came up with a formula that explains that process. It’s not easy to do. It’s tough but if you follow the procedure, it will give you the chance of having a great dynasty and run.

Losing is easy. Winning is very hard. Click To Tweet

The formula is pretty straightforward, even for me, who is not exactly mathematically inclined. I studied Journalism so I didn’t have to take Math an undergrad. The formula is pretty simple. Its dynasty equals P4. The P4 starts with P, People, Personality, Process, Purpose. That becomes the who, what, how and why. I want to dig into this conversation with each one of these. You brought up the first one already, P1, People. We say in special operations that we have these values of five core. I call them values. We call them truths in Special Operations Command.

The number one truth is that people are more important than hardware. People are the most valuable and defining factor in any organization. There’s no amount of money, good idea, and process that can overcome poor people. The investment that has to get made there is so critical. Our entire show is about investing in people, developing people mentally, physically, emotionally, and driving human performance.

You spoke about the thinker, promoter and coordinator. There’s another piece of this, which is the core of action-oriented stuff. Why does an organization need these four components? You can define them but maybe we can dig in a little bit more about how those three work together, and then you take that fourth piece, which is the people who have to execute the vision, and the goals of these first three.

We hear a lot about culture. It’s almost overused. What is culture? Culture is the end product. Culture is how we behave as a group, our values and attitudes. Who shapes those cultures? It’s the leaders. Those leaders have to have certain personality characteristics. If you get those leaders, particularly the people at the top, it’s always the people who determine the culture. You can see it on sports teams. You can look at a coach. He is smart and has been around. He was won but his people skills or personality skills are not good, and it begins to fall apart.

The culture is determined by the 3P and the people at the top because people want to emulate them. They want to follow and believe in them. They want a vision. People want to be led. There’s a tremendous shortage of leadership. First of all, nobody wants to lead because it’s hard. You get attacked. Second, people don’t have the skills. The real great leaders are 2% to 3% in the country and, only 1% want to lead. You will get criticized. It’s difficult because you have got to have very thick skin. I always tell people, “I’m in the people business. I get 9 compliments and 1 criticism. Guess what I think about all day?” That’s hard to keep going through that.

The three people at the top, you can break it down. It can be the Chairman, CEO, COO, chancellor, athletic director or coach. Going back to the Roman Empire, it’s always about the emperor, commander, and field general. It’s always broken down into those three characteristics. They’ve got to get along, and then you’ve got to have your team. I do a lot of work as you do with executive teams. It’s all the team. There are usually 1 or 2 people in the group that can mess it all up. It doesn’t take much. My mantra in sports is, “1 player, 1 play, 1 game could determine a season.”

I lost the National Championship with a fingertip. I was on a team. A guy got a fingertip on the ball with Mr. Field Goal. I have had Jeff Gordon take half of a second, crossing the finish line and lose a championship. It doesn’t take much. That’s why everything has got to work together, and the people are the most important ones. You’ve got to find people who are good at it and want to do it. The problem we have is everybody is dropping out. They don’t want to do it and get involved because of the whole national-international thing. I have never seen people so angry. It’s a difficult time.

Can one person fill all three of these roles? You spoke about the thinker. This is the idea, the knowledge person. The promoter has to represent the organization and get the word out. The coordinator has to manage it. What about in smaller organizations where you might not have all three of those roles? What happens when you only have 1 or 2 people who have to do all these? What if you don’t have anyone good at any one of these things?

If they are not good at any of those things, you will usually not be very successful or have an incredible product with incredible timing. Often people start out doing 1 or 2 roles. I often go back to the great basketball Coach John Wooden. He was doing all three. He was the greatest basketball coach and won ten National Championships.

What happened one day was his athletic director came and said, “What are you doing?” He said, “I’m doing the work on our travel and getting the bus lined up.” He came in and got a wastebasket. He took all the stuff off his desk, threw it in the wastebasket and said, “You go, coach. I’ve got this.” What happened is he could go back to being the thinker. He says, “I’m going to be the coordinator and be the promoter for you.”

If you look at Berkshire Hathaway’s boards, if you look at Warren Buffett, he started out being a thinker and still does some thinking. The coordinator is the guy who runs one of the companies, like Greg Abel, who runs a big chunk of the company or the energy side of things. Charlie Munger was the thinker. Buffett becomes the promoter. You can start out doing all three.

You sometimes shift to doing two, and then you shift to doing one as your company grows because you can’t do all of them all the time. Usually, the person who starts it out like Buffett becomes the promoter. People interview and talk to him. That’s the focus. You have a star on the team, whether it’s the Packers or Tampa Bay. You have a coach and then the owner that runs the organization. That’s how things break down with people.

You said, “Leadership is a word used by many but truly understood by few.” You have seen leaders in all shapes and sizes in sports, business and philanthropy. You have talked to them and begun to understand them. How do you define leadership?

 

It’s getting people to follow you. People used to think, “You have to have charisma.” Charisma works only so long or they would come out with studies like, “You’ve got to be tall and handsome. You’ve got to have this certain look.” It works across the board with tall, short, old, and young people skills. People get used to it. I had the privilege of working with the greatest coach in college football history, Tom Osborne.

He had a PhD in Psychology, the only Head Coach in the country. I grew up 5 miles from him, knowing him very well. In 25 years, he won 255 games and 5 National Championships. I was a part of three of them. In 5 years, we went 60-3. Think about it. We should have won five National Championships. We have 3 plays from winning 5 championships in a row.

What’s happening is you’ve got to have a leader who has good people skills. If you thought back years ago, it was how smart you were, IQ. A lot of people went into Engineering, the intelligent people. We have shifted. We have gone to this concept of emotional quotient. Emotional quotient or people skills is five times more important than IQ. I can hire and get smart people but I’ve got to have the people skills. I call it an ability to connect.

Some bright people can touch you intellectually. Those who are deeply caring can touch you and your heart intellectually but only a few leaders can touch your mind and heart, reach, grab hold of your soul and connect with you. You have had them. You felt that. You followed people, brave men, and women that gave you passion and motivation. That’s what makes a great leader. If you can have someone who can do all those things, you will do anything for them.

A perfect example was this. I had a young man who grew up in the projects. He had no father and mother. He is very poor and a hardworking kid. He was a starter on our football team. He ran out onto the field and got a 15-yard penalty after we scored. The coach went over and looked at him. He said to him, “I’m so disappointed in you.” He said, “Jack, I cried like a baby for a half-hour. I have never cried in my life because I let the coach down. I love that man. That man is like my father. How could I do that?”

I thought to myself, “That is the essence of leadership. Incredibly, they love you so much. They don’t want to let you down.” I had a conflict with another person. Nobody liked this other person. He was a staff member. The head coach brought us both together, looked at him and me and said, “I expect you two to work this out for the good of the team.” I’m thinking, “Make me run stairs. Yell at me. Swear at me. Do something but don’t use the guilt on me.”

I thought, “I can’t stand that guy but I’m not going to let coach down and behave that way.” He just said ten words to me. It was over. Most bosses would have let that gone, “I’m punishing both of you. You are fired. You are this. You are terrible.” He is like, “This is who I am. I’m a spiritual man who cares deeply about you. Don’t do stupid stuff.” That is the essence of leadership.

Sometimes it’s that disappointment that is worse than being yelled at. You have brought up a lot about personality, and that’s number two. P2 in this P4 formula is personality or character. If we were to break it down a step further, you and I bonded over this because you have nine that you lay out as critical. We have nine here on the show to evaluate talent as defined by Special Operations Forces.

You say that elite performers demonstrate all of these nine. We say that they display all these nine. You have also gone into a specific incident. Most elite performers will have one that they latch on to. In assessment and selection in Special Operations, whether you are a SEAL, Green Beret or Ranger, they take the nine but weigh certain ones heavier than others. There might be 3 or 5 weighted more heavily to be a SEAL versus Green Beret but you will display all these nine at the end of the day, depending on your situation.

I want to share your list. We would go down on each one. We will define and tie them into the nine soft characteristics because there’s a correlation between all of these. We will talk about them. Yours are caring, honesty, attitude, resilience, analytical thinking, communication, teaching, energy, and rules to live by to make up these. Let’s talk about caring first. For us, we equate that to team ability. Can you define caring?

Only a few leaders can touch your mind and heart and reach in and grab hold of your soul and connect with you. Click To Tweet

What I did come up with these characteristics was I went and did all the research. What are the attributes? You will find books that say, “You’ve got to have the 4 principles, 9 characteristics and 3 laws.” The books sell because they use numbers. I looked at them and came up with over 100 different words that were used by various research. We call it meta-analysis, where you take all the research studies. There might be hundreds of them, and boil them down into what they say.

What I came up with, number one, is character. You’ve got to have character. If you don’t have character, you can’t lead. I used the words that spell out character. If you look at my list and your list, there are probably 7 or 8 of them very similar and use different adjectives. The first one is caring, and I find that to be the most important one. I learned from my patients that you are doing 10 to 12 hours of therapy a day, 60 hours a week. You get burned out. It’s heavy because I saw more deaths, dying, pain, suffering, trauma, and abuse that lasted for lifetimes.

You are looking at this patient. You’ve got 50 to 60 minutes, and I have no openings. I will see you in another 2 or 3 weeks. I have got to hone in on this patient. They are talking about getting into a divorce. There are four kids. I take that seriously. What I found is that if I cared about the pit person, I said, “I’m here. I care about you. You can call me night or day. I will be here to help you,” it meant the world to them, and that’s the most important thing. “I may disagree with my boss but I know he cares about me.”

I had so many patients say, “Dr. Stark, would you walk me down the aisle? My father abused me. Dr. Stark, what do I tell my four-year-old son? My husband was killed. My father is in a coma. My son wants to know where his daddy and grandpa are.” I can give you hundreds of those. In therapy, you don’t get that training.

I would say, “Here’s my card. You can call me night or day. There’s no charge. I will work with you. I know you have been to two other people. They said they couldn’t help you but I’m here. I don’t know if I have all the answers but we are going to walk together down this path because you have been traumatized and been through stuff.” That’s what I found to be most caring. I find that great leaders are the leaders who come around and ask people.

I worked in a factory one time. I was consulting a manufacturing plant, and this woman came up to me. She was on the midnight shift. She had tears in her eyes. She said, “Jack, look at this. This is a note from my boss who said, ‘I appreciate you doing extra work on the midnight shift because that got this product out on time and I appreciate it.'” It meant the world to her.

People who walk around don’t care. The biggest motivator is not money’s five. The number one motivator with people is, “Do you care about me? Can you connect with me? I will go through a wall for you.” The most important thing is caring. You have a different word for it. That’s the same thing but everybody knows what that means.

I thought about our team’s ability, “Do you care about others? Can you work with others? Do you invest in others? Do you put the collective group above yourself?” Those were a lot of the things you spoke about. You have honesty, and we have humility. There are a lot of correlations in there as well, “Can we be true and honest with ourselves?” Do we clearly understand where we are in evaluating our performance and mindset to the outside world?

I also throw in humility and humor. We don’t know who to believe. There’s so much misinformation out there. Social media stuff has taken over the whole world, and we want to believe in somebody. We are working hard. Are we going in the right direction? The most important thing you can do with the people you are leading is never lie to them. If you don’t have an answer, tell them you don’t have an answer. If you can’t share with them, tell them I can’t share with you. Don’t lie to people because once you do, they lose that confidence in you. They don’t want to follow you.

You want to be humble about it, and then have a sense of humor about how bad things can be. People like you to be vulnerable. They want you to say, “I screwed up. I had a bad day.” People will forgive you. That’s why honesty is essential. We can’t watch TV, radio or social media because there’s so much disinformation. There are thousands or maybe millions of people. There are social influencers. They think of you differently. It’s hard for us to know who to listen to and believe.

That comes to the third one, which is attitude. How do we approach what we do? We tie this into emotional strength. Can we remain calm in the chaos? Can we understand the situation, think logically through a process, and then approach it with some sense of purpose?

You get up every day and decide your attitude. I have a great example. A long time ago, I was trying to make a phone call. I had a telephone operator, and it wasn’t working. I’ve got frustrated and said, “Ma’am, you can’t help me.” I hung up. The good Lord was teaching me a lesson. Two weeks later, a woman came into my office. She is crying and depressed. “Ma’am, what’s going on?” “I have three kids. One of them is severely disabled, can’t see or hear. I get up at 5:00 to drive my son for an hour to his school for the hearing and visually impaired. I come back home and get my kids to school. I go to work.” “Where do you work, ma’am?” “I’m a telephone operator.”

The lesson that taught me is that you don’t know what’s going on with people. Oftentimes, when I ask my patient, “Are you okay?” They will start to cry. “I’m upset. I’ve got a child in intensive care unit in pediatrics.” That’s why our attitude has to be and not let it bother us as much. Let things roll off but we’ve got to have a positive attitude because people watch. They will say, “There’s the boss. He is getting out of his car. He looks in a bad mood.” Nobody is saying, “Don’t go near him.”

We both have resilience. Resilience is important because everybody faces adversity. Everybody has to figure out how they are going to respond to adversity. I always tell people that you are not defined by the adversity that you face. You are defined by how you respond to the adversity that you face.

TJP 37 | Championship Formula

Man’s Search for Meaning

I have given maybe 1,000 talks. One of the things I say to people every time is, “This is not heaven. This is Earth. On Earth, there’s pain and suffering. It’s how you respond to it. You’ve got to have resilience.” I was influenced at a very early age. I found my purpose in life at eighteen. I turned eighteen. I was studying to be a priest. I was in a seminary and went to our library. I found a book that changed my life. It’s called Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.

Viktor Frankl was an eminent psychiatrist in Germany but he was Jewish. The Nazis came and arrested him. They put him, his wife, and relatives in Dachau. He spent time in Dachau in Auschwitz. Even though he was a physician and psychiatrist, he took dead bodies out and buried them. He talked about why people live. It’s the worst condition in the history of mankind. He would talk about people catching rats and bugs, and eating them to stay alive. Some people gave up. He was talking about, “You have to be resilient. What is your purpose in life? Why do you live? What are you about?”

He developed a process called Logotherapy. The logo is a Greek word, meaning therapy of purpose. That impacted me because it helped me to deal with the life hits that you get. You are going to get hits. All of us do. You lose a family member, have a health problem or get fired from a job. How are you going to bounce back? Often, it’s your faith, family, and friends that get you through things. In particular, in the military, you have to be able to have resilience.

The next one is analytical thinking. I tie this to curiosity. You have brought up a couple of different concepts in this conventional versus integrative thinking, which are linear versus thinking on a multiplane and induction versus deduction. Can you explain those?

It was part of my undergraduate study in Philosophy, induction and deduction. It’s how I think, pump, write my book and do a lot of things. If you think about research, we use the word heuristic. If you have a heart problem, we go and do research. We’ll have hundreds of studies. Each time we do a study, we take it a little tiny bit further. It’s like a bit of mousetrap. Sometimes you need breakthrough thinking. Breakthrough thinking is a word that we use. It’s like the high jumper, the Fosbury Flop.

I had a friend of mine talking about this high jumper, and he was competing against him. He says, “I’m going to go see this guy. You won’t believe it, Jack. He jumps over the high jump backward. Can you believe it?” That guy went 7’2″ backward. Everybody does that. Think about analytical thinking. We make a lot of decisions. Some people talk about the big decisions but a lot of the little ones every single day, “How do I do this? How do I treat this person? Send this memo out. Call this person. No, I can’t talk to that person.”

In what I try to do, there’s a difference between induction and deduction. Most people deduct when they problem-solve. They go see what everybody else is doing, “What’s the research doing?” That biases you a certain way. You don’t get breakthrough thinking because that’s the big word. I use the high jumper, Fosbury. He went over backward and has changed the way we high jump. Those are the things that get breakthrough thinking, and we see this in the industry.

I like to do inductive thinking. Inductive is where I go inside. I think about, “What’s needed? What’s the problem?” I’m not influenced by all that research. That can take me down a whole different alley. I will think about it, and then I will look at the research. I go, “Here’s my thinking, how I view things, how I came up with my book and all that.” I see what everybody else is doing. I can say, “I agree with 20% of that but not 80%.” That’s how you get through, and you’ve got to be smart.

What happens is people tell me all the time, “Jack, it’s lonely at the top. I have nobody to talk to.” You can’t go talk to your staff, “I’m confused. I don’t know what to do. I’m depressed. It’s a bad day. The dog bit me.” You have to be disciplined enough to think things through. A lot of times, we don’t have the time to do that to become creative and think. That’s another one.

Communication is the next one on this list. I have called it effective intelligence. The way you have defined it is where you have to take the bulk of the experiences that you have had in your life. You have to use that information. Sometimes I say, “You are a victim of your experiences but not a victim in a victim sense. You learn from your experiences, and that shapes your thought process, how you approach problems, your decision-making process, and your communication style.”

You spoke a bit of the importance of communication styles. There’s also this need as a leader to give and receive feedback and then create a culture in which giving and receiving feedback is something that everybody welcomes and it doesn’t become a personal attack. Can you talk a little bit more about the importance of communication and this feedback loop?

The biggest problem for many leaders is, “How do I give and receive criticism?” We don’t like to do either one or do annual evaluations. They are painful. We don’t want to take our vice president. As a good friend of mine says, “You suck. You are terrible. I don’t know what to do with you but you are my son-in-law. I’ve got to keep you on.” That’s hard. People will come in and say, “I’ve got a friend of mine who is running for governor.” I say, “I love you. You are a great guy but you’ve got to be a little more dynamic in your presentations.” “I have been hearing that. I’ve got to work on that.” We don’t like to give or receive criticism. I find that each of us develops a certain style.

I have a great story. When I was in the ninth grade, the priest had me go and present to the Optimist Club in town. I have forgotten my speech halfway through. I was embarrassed and sat down. I was in college and won the speech contest two years in a row but it was my style. Each of you has to have your style. It’s like a Mark Twain style where you can be folksy. Some people like to be charismatic. I used to be very entertained in my presentations. I don’t anymore. The world is on fire. There’s a lot of bad stuff going on.

When I give a talk and communicate with people, I want to change your behavior. I don’t want to entertain you anymore. You can get that somewhere else. This means too important. We have 500 to 1,000 people. I gave a talk to a military group one time, the Army Corps of Engineers. A lot of those men and women had sons and daughters fighting in Afghanistan. They were engineers, and some of them passed away. That was a serious group. I could do a little bit of entertaining but my message had to be very straightforward. You’ve got to be able to talk to your people. Most importantly, listen to your people. That’s a skill that most people don’t have.

Teaching comes from this conversation, too, because you have to teach people how to think like a leader. People say, “Why did you go to school?” You don’t go to school to learn that much and recall 30 years later Russian civilization and ancient Chinese history. Still, it teaches you how to conduct the research, think through the problem, logically analyze and solve a complex issue. Can you explain teaching in the context here?

If you don't have character, you can't lead. Click To Tweet

All great leaders, whether they are aware of it or not, are great teachers. I was blessed. I have worked at the preschool and taught at middle school. The best job I ever had was teaching 6th, 7th, and 8th-grade Literature in a very poor school, high school, college, undergrad, grad, medical students and residents. To be a great leader, every day, we are teaching people things and sending them messages on how to do something, “Do like I do. This is how you want to help other people.” A leader must be able to be a great teacher. You find a lot of great teachers turn around and go into leadership. It’s an important thing.

If you go back to Greek times and Socrates, they had a concept called the peripatetics where they would walk around, lecture, and talk to their students. That’s the most powerful way to do it to small groups, talking to them and helping people. That’s why we call them listening groups or quality improvement groups. The Japanese developed those things. I did that with the football team, which was considered the best college football team of all time.

The fourth-best sports team of all time was the ’95 Huskers. I developed a concept called Unity Council. I had all of the players collected from each position. I had 16 players, 8 offenses, 8 defense and 1 kicker. It’s never more than one kicker because it’s a little bit strange. I would meet with them every week but I would listen to them and it was powerful. They were the people that held their peers accountable.

That’s what I find more and more businesses are trying to do. They call them quality circles or mentoring circles, and they are building them out. They are like offshoots. We have a group of people, women supporting women. We have new fathers. People are breaking them because they want to talk. They want to have people teaching and helping them, “What should I do?” That’s part of the mentoring process.

You brought up accountability there. As I work with different athletic teams and collegiate athletes, we talk about peer accountability. The coaches can only take it so far. The coaches have a role, and a lot of that role in coaching is the educator. You are the leader but you are also the educator. You are imparting the emotional, mental, and physical skills required to be a high performer on the field of water for rowing. Peer accountability is so important because there has to be somebody that everybody looks at and says, “I don’t want this person to come and have to correct me. I don’t want to let this person down because they are my peer.” Still, they have risen to say, “Everybody here is going to perform.”

I will give a great example. I had two people on my Unity Council who won the Outland Trophy, and the other one won Lombardi. One was the two-time defensive player of the year in college, won a Super Bowl ring and was 60-3. The other one was a runner-up for the Outland. Both all-Americans and both went in the Top 15. I went up to them. I said, “Gentlemen, I have one of our starting players. He is our defensive back. He played ten years in the pros but he is drinking on Thursday nights.” They looked at me and said, “We will take care of it.”

They went on, put their arm around and said, “Little brother, how are you doing? You are not going to drink on Thursday nights anymore, are you? We need you. Do you understand what I’m telling you?” We had another guy come in. He was a Southmoore starter and wasn’t going to class. My defensive player of the year said, “You will get your butt out of bed and go to class. If you don’t go to class, you will run with me at 6:00 in the morning. I don’t care what the coaches tell you.” He says, “Why?” He says, “It’s because I want to win a National Championship, and you are my starting left tackle.”

We won a National Championship that year. We didn’t have as good a team as in 1997. The kid said, “My car wouldn’t start.” He said, “If your car wouldn’t start, call me.” “You are a senior. Are you going to come to pick me up?” He said, “You are right. I am because I want to win.” That’s leadership. That peer pressure is powerful. The coaches would look at me and say, “Jack, you saved me a ton of work. I can go home and spend time with my family. These guys are holding each other accountable.”

I would say to my players, “If this guy gets in trouble, I’m coming after you. I’m holding you responsible. That running back better be doing. You are the leader. I expect you to work with him. I don’t care what you have to do.” My one coach in basketball said, “Jack, I’ve only got one guy who is 6’10 and the rest of them are 6’5. I don’t care if he has to sleep when you are four. You find him a girlfriend. I don’t care what you’ve got to do. He’s got to start. You better keep him eligible. Did you get it? Get out of here.” That’s the teaching part of the thing.

That reminds me a lot of Kristen Holmes, the VP of Performance Science at Whoop. We had her on in episode 32. She was a national champion and the Head Coach of the field hockey team at Princeton University. In 13 years as a Head Coach, she won 12 Ivy League Championships. It was all about culture with her. She talks about performance as a choice. Within that phrase is also this concept that your choices as an athlete affect the team’s performance.

I hear your story about policing up the other ones, bringing them aside and saying, “This is the culture and what we expect. You are not going to do these things because it’s against the team.” It reminds me of her success in driving that down into her organizations as well. There are two left, energy and rules to live by.

We spoke with Seth Goldman. He is the Founder of Honest Tea, Eat the Change, and PLNT Burger. He is the Chairman of the Board at Beyond Meat. He is a serial entrepreneur who has built several companies from nothing and taken them to massive global organizations. He told me that, “An entrepreneur has to be more mindful of energy than time. If you lose energy, that’s when everything starts to derail for you and on your drive to perform.” Can you talk more about energy and the importance of that?

Jack Stark 2014

It’s not just hard work. It’s a focus you have to have. Think about it. You win and lose games. Your margin for error is so small in all sports and businesses. In most grocery stores, you have a 2% margin. You screw up a little bit, and you are done. That energy you bring to is a focus on quietness, and problem-solving and making quick decisions. That energy got to come from inside of you. You couldn’t get by with many deficits if you work hard and have that energy but energy has to be focused on, “How do I make decisions and get people to follow those decisions?”

The last piece of your characteristics is you’ve got to have a set of rules you’ve got to live by. That’s the integrity piece for us.

One of the top research leaders in the country was a guy named Bennis at USC. He oftentimes talked about leadership. He said, “Leaders never fail because they are not smart. It’s usually they fail because of some flaw.” What I have found is that we see people go along. I have worked with tons of CEOs and world leaders in politics. It’s their flaw. The flaw is, “I have a midlife crisis, drugs, alcohol and gambling.” We have seen this over and over with companies and great leaders like the Madoff Pyramid Scheme.

You look at these people and you are like, “How did they fall apart? What did they do?” I find that you’ve got to have a moral compass and rules that you live by a lot of times. The most successful ones are where people follow the rule, and they have structure and discipline. That’s critical because you can be going along doing all these other things but if you don’t follow the basic ethical rules of society, you are not going to get followed up.

You brought up both John Wooden and social media, the rise of the media and the internet. John Wooden had a quote that you have referenced in it, “Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation because your character is what you are while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” In a world where we live, where everything is almost broadcasted in real-time, there’s no margin for error as a leader, especially if you are in these organizations in the public eye.

How do we stay away from that circus? How do we focus on our core values? How do we not get wrapped in what people are saying about us, and focus on our character and understand, “That might not be who we are. We are a different person,” but then resist that temptation to go down that road and then create that tornado and swirl?

It’s one of my favorite quotes. It’s something I live by. I know my character. Particularly, if you are in politics or a leadership position, people are going to attack you. Take care of your reputation to fight back. That’s all you had. That’s what your kids and grandkids have to see and go through. A lot of people say, “It doesn’t matter. They can think what they want.” You fight back. Work hard. Your reputation is what you have done your whole life and career. That’s what you stand for. That’s your legacy and protect it. Don’t do stupid stuff. If people want to attack that, you hold them accountable. It’s critically important.

It has been going on forever. If you look at all the Shakespearean plays, we get people up on a pedestal, and we want to take them to soap operas that are like this, “That great doctor there, he’s got flaws. I’m not so bad. He is bad, too. I’m okay then.” We love to put people up, and then tear them down because it makes us feel better or rebel in somebody else’s going through things. If you are working in a company, get rid of the rumors and save your reputation, not just your character.

Let’s get into the third P, Process, the how to create the dynasty. You laid out a five-step process. We are going to talk about lists. I’m a big list guy. The book has a whole bunch of different lists. The five-step process is what you call a SPEED process, Select, Plan, Execute, Educate, Document. Can we talk about this? Why SPEED? What is each one of these steps? What do they mean?

It’s a way to remember the steps. The first one is maybe the most important, and you do a lot of this as yourself in your company. It’s selecting people. You can’t make mistakes because it takes 2 to 3 years to get rid of somebody. It costs you a lot of money. Research shows that oftentimes you promote with inside, 70% of them make it and 30% outside don’t.

You’ve got to do your homework on people and vet them. The problem is it’s very difficult to get information because if you ask them for references, they only give you their best or they say, “You can’t talk to my company where I’m at because I don’t want them to know that I’m looking for a job.” That’s a big red flag.

I put a lot of energy into selecting and developing what I call Behavioral Assessment Tests. I ask hard questions but they are based on behaviors. You can’t give them psychological tests. That’s illegal unless you are in the police, nuclear power or something. You can’t even check the references. A lot of times, people don’t want to say anything. When you are interviewing people, you’ve got to be smart at doing this.

The successful CEOs of big companies get involved in selecting middle management, even going down that low and interviewing all the new hires because they are the backbone. The supervisory level is the backbone of an organization. You want to ensure that those people have the core values you are looking for in those nine characteristics.

When I ask people, “When have you failed? What have you done wrong? How did you learn from that? Tell me your personality. How do you make decisions?” I did it one time with a surgeon. I found that he couldn’t pass his boards. I did it with an attorney who had been fired. I have done it with engineers. These people have incredible credentials. When you dig into it, find them, and interview them, you find that there’s something not making sense. They are looking for a job but they are suddenly a faculty member on sabbatical. That’s a big no-no for like, “I’ve got fired but they gave me time to go find another job.” I spent a lot of time on selection, and that’s a critical process in terms of what you want to do with the five steps.

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The assessment piece is so important and something that I love about your work. You talked about the BASS, Behavioral Assessment Selection Survey that you have created. You also have spoken about this Mental Performance Index, which is an easy way to quantify people’s performance based on a certain level and a number of personality traits.

The military is one of the best organizations in the world about what we call assessment and selection. If you are going to be a Green Beret, it’s 24 days of assessment and selection. Even if you make it through, there’s still a year of training that you are going to go through where we consistently tell everybody, “You are constantly being assessed every day.” Within that year, you could still be kicked out in those various phases and won’t make it. It’s only after that entire period where you earn the Green Beret.

In Ranger School, it’s 61 days with 3 different phases. It’s constantly testing you and assessing your capability in a variety of different places. “Are you a leader? Are you a follower? Can you persevere? Are you resilient?” It’s understanding and putting people through this detailed analysis. Initially, when they come into an organization, it’s important but also, how do you follow it up? How do you constantly go back and continuously assess performance?

We were having this conversation with one of the organizations that I work with about the athletes and saying, “How do we assess them after the fall season when we go into winter?” When we have to look at individualized training plans, we have to make a personal connection and say, “How do we increase not only the team performance but your performance to the betterment of the team in preparation for the spring? What are the metrics that we are going to use?” Constantly going back to that is critical in evaluating and then developing existing talent.

People change. You don’t realize they are going through all kinds of things. I have had athletes, particularly young college athletes. They come in at eighteen, and the brain is not fully developed. At 22, it’s junior or senior year. We begin to see psychological issues that weren’t there before. That same thing happens with people. People have a midlife crisis.

I had a person. I identified if he was a superstar. People loved him, did good, transferred on one of the coasts, and was in charge of a company. They came and evaluated the company. He walked out in the middle of the evaluation. They had a $1 billion company. He closed it down. They lost $1 billion because of a midlife crisis, going through a divorce and things.

Constantly evaluating people, nobody wants to do it. Many of the Fortune 500 companies are getting away from annual evaluations. They say, “You should evaluate people all the time but we don’t like to do that because it gets messy doing that criticism or negative feedback.” I use the sandwich approach, good, bad, good. “You are one of my best workers. I love it but what are you doing wrong? How come you are having trouble with this person? Don’t forget. You are my key guy. I need you to go out there and do it.” I use that with people but you’ve got to be in the process of evaluating people.

Culture is important. It is a by-product of so many other things but timing is also important. You have brought up this concept of contextual intelligence or timing. “Is the place that the organization is at preparing for the change that I want to drive into the organization?” In the military, you are constantly changing leaders every two years. For the longest time, the organization has been changing leadership.

When I have come into the private sector and taken various roles, my default position is always, “I’m going to come in here and drive this rapid change.” That’s something that has worked in some cases to my benefit. In other cases, it was drastically wrong where I’ve got the timing wrong and tried to jam something down an organization’s throat that it wasn’t ready for. Where do you sit in that leadership position? You come into the organization, have this grand vision and see all the flaws. You say, “This is the strategy. Let’s start running and executing it.” What are the red flags that start to tell you, “Pump the brakes. They are not ready for it?”

You’ve got to have a good plan and communicate that plan. We talked about vision, “That’s where we want to go. That’s the direction. This is our plan and five-year strategy. This is what we are executing. We are evaluating it all the way along.” That’s critical. Now, you use a military term. In the old days, you say, “Gentlemen, we’re taking that hill. We are going to go up there. That’s a machine gun nest. We are taking it. You get ready. We are ready to go.” Sometimes with younger people, they go, “Let’s talk about this. That’s a pretty dangerous thing. Is there another way we can do this?”

You got to be able to adapt and handle different kinds of personalities and people to motivate them to do things right. That’s the planning part of the process here. You got to have a good plan and execute the plan. The plan involves, “How do I go about it? I know what the plan is. I’ve got the right people. I got to make the decisions and execute. I got to roll it out right. I can’t do it too fast or slow. I’ve got to have it right and have the key people executing the plan helping me with it.”

 

There’s probably a solicitation of feedback. As you are driving that plank, who is going to give you the feedback? Who is going to tell you, “This is working. This isn’t. You are pushing this but the organization is not ready for it?” You can internalize that. How you internalize that, and then adjust off of it is important.

You’ve got to educate people constantly. The first thing that gets cut when money is tight is training. You do a lot of training. You work with these organizations. When things got tough with COVID, they cut out training. People want to learn, particularly young people. They will give up money and a lot of things, “I’m here to learn and get new skills so that I can get promoted down the road. I want to be a part of things. I want to be included.” That’s where the education part needs to come in.

It’s got to be targeted towards what people need and want to do, what the company’s issues are and what’s based upon their personality. “How do I get better in these areas?” Education and training are a big part of it. The companies that do well, if you go back and look at General Electric and what Welch did, he had a national center that everybody went to and got training all the time, constantly evaluating middle management and getting through the training program.

The fourth P is Purpose. You have called it the guiding force. You have given three components to purpose. 1) A dream, 2) A love, 3) A mentor. A dream, reason and meaning. A love, life is not complete without someone to share it with. A mentor, a caring person that guides and directs us. When we embark on anything, there’s always initially this sense of purpose but then things get tough physically, mentally and emotionally.

We have setbacks. We lose. We don’t execute at the level that we thought we were going to or we are going to be able to. How do you re-find purpose when you are down, and when things aren’t going the way you want? You wake up one day and you are like, “I don’t know what I’m doing.” That starts to result in a degraded capability and performance but you’ve got to reset. How do you do that?

If you go back, there have been three schools of thought in human behavior. The first thought was by Freud. Freud talked a lot about pleasure. I use the word pay. That can only take you so far. The second was a guy named Adler, another psychiatrist. He talked about power. We do things in life for power. A lot of times, what gets us in trouble is the pay and the power.

I talked about the third element, which is becoming much more popular. It was developed originally back again with Viktor Frankl, his purpose in his book and surviving Dachau in Auschwitz. You’ve got to have a purpose in life, “What is your purpose? Why are you here?” We don’t always talk about that and think about that.

What I did was I went and did some research. I found this incredible study done by a psychiatrist. He looked at Harvard MBA students, followed them over 40 years and asked them, “What were the most critical things in your life that made you successful?” They found that there were three things. The first thing in light that’s most important to us is a dream. “What do we want to do with our life? What gives us satisfaction, purpose and meaning?”

I match up people, particularly young people. I look at their personality, people skills, potential and where long-term jobs are going to be. I match them up with that because not everybody is meant to be an engineer or robotics. Some people are meant to be a Journalism major or somebody else. Your dream is what you want to do with your life.

The second thing is love, someone to share your life with. I have been blessed. I have been married for many years to a saint. You’ve got to have someone to share life with because otherwise, it gets lonely. The research shows that people who live the longest are the people who have somebody that help fill their life. The last one is a mentor. I have thousands of athletes. I have had 6’5, 320 pounds, tough, nasty guys cry in my arms and I cried with them. They didn’t have what they went through in life.

I tried to develop my life. I spend 30 hours a week. For many years, I have donated my time mentoring people, mostly athletes. It has such a powerful impact on their life. I had one young man I’ve got a phone call with. He said, “This kid is a high school kid. He is about to drop out of school. He is manic-depressive and very depressed.” I said, “Come over to my house.” I’ve got home. I hadn’t eaten all day, twelve hours of therapy. He comes by at my house. I spent two hours with him. Two weeks later, he came back with his mom. I spent two hours with him. I’m like, “I hope this kid can make it.”

I’ve got a phone call a month later. He said, “Dr. Stark, I’ve got a full ride to Notre Dame.” A full ride is $500,000. I said, “When you graduate, you better write me a letter.” Four years later, I’ve got a two-page letter thanking me. “I graduated from Notre Dame. I can’t tell you what this meant. I should have kept the letter.” Those are examples of things where you can have such a powerful impact on people in mentoring them. If you have a dream, it’s what you want to do with your life. If you have love, it’s someone to share your life with and you have a mentor to guide you.

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Sometimes I use my bump-bump. Sometimes you get that. I start to go out of bounds. You’ve got to bump people back and we need mentors. As we get older, we tend to go and talk to spiritual people, rabbis, ministers and priests. “Help guide me. I’m in the final years.” That’s what’s missing. We try to do it with companies and assign them mentors that don’t work. You’ve got to find them on your own.

I was blessed I had a psychiatrist who was my mentor. I went to him and said, “I had this great plan. I’m going to send this letter out to all 5,000 people in our professional organization. I’m going to criticize the organization.” He looked at me and said, “That might be the dumbest thing I have heard in a month.” I’m like, “I’m your guy. I wrote six books with you. I’m a hotshot at the med center.”

Six months later, I was elected president of that association. With that, I’ve got invited to Rose Kennedy’s 100th birthday party. I’ve got put on the President’s Committee. My career changed because one person, my mentor in life, cared enough to tell me, “You are doing stupid stuff.” I was young, smart and thought I had known all the answers. That’s what you do every day. You love doing it because you can help people. Occasionally, you will get a person who doesn’t appreciate being mentored. They will want to criticize you back but you overlook that and move on.

Mentoring is critical and we don’t have enough of them. My coach, Tom Osborne, won 255 games. He won 9 games every year for 25 years, at least. Sometimes, 13-0. He started a mentoring program. He has 11,000 mentors, helping kids in high school and grade school to get through it. Think about what that does because those kids will mentor others. That’s his greatest legacy. Forget the five National Championships. You’ve got to have something in life that gives you purpose and meaning. Mentoring can be a special one. If you are good at it and you want to do it, I highly recommend it.

It’s so impactful for the people on the other side. As you tell the story about the Notre Dame student, you have not only impacted his life but his parents’ and children’s lives. Everything there changes spending this couple of hours with somebody. At the most tactical level, when we think about purpose, we think about focus. Even transitioning that into execution, you use a diamond-shaped mental preparation process that changes 48 hours, 12 hours, 4 hours, and the last hour before you go into an event. Can you talk a little bit about that?

I started with my hockey team and NASCAR driver. My NASCAR drivers are going to get in this car. They are going to go 210 miles into the corner and hope the tire stick. If they don’t, you are watered up and wrecked. That’s pretty scary. I’ve got to get you in the zone. The zone is not too hyped up. My offensive lineman, you’ve got to get him a little pumped up. My defensive lineman, you’ve got to get him calmed down because the offensive linemen are analytical. The defensive lineman wants to pound and hit people. You’ve got to get them in the middle.

A lot is going on in your life. If you are an athlete or running a company, you’ve got all this chatter, noise and people. You’ve got a girlfriend, parents, people in tickets and the game. You are supposed to do this and all the social media. What I do is I say, “This is what you do during the week, particularly the last 48 hours and then the last 24 and 12.” It’s a V-shape. An hour before they go out, I do a hypnosis and relaxation tape to get all that stuff out of your brain and hone in because it doesn’t take much.

I had one of my NASCAR drivers say he was going around laps. It was a hot day. He was in the middle of the pack and started thinking about his girlfriend. The next thing he knew, he was watered up in the fence. He lost focus. That’s pretty dangerous because that’s a $400,000 wreck. It’s the thing where it takes a lot of discipline.

I use that word a lot with my athletes and people. “You’ve got to have a lot of discipline to perform.” I use that mental shape. I develop audiotapes and download them to their phones because I can’t be there with all of them. They listen to that relaxation tape or my hypnosis tape to fall asleep at night. All those things work great with the athletes.

 

We unlocked how to build the dynasty. I want to talk about what prevents them. You have cited greed and arrogance as some top reasons why teams, people, and organizations fail but you have also listed things like insecurity, power, narcissism, paranoia, manic behavior, addiction, burnout, depression, and ability to love.

You tied these factors of failure into the six stages of moral development. Meaning that people mature as they gain more experience, presumably as they get older and they understand that more with life experiences. They go through these six stages of avoiding punishment, serving self-interests, seeking approval, following authority, respect for social order, and universal ethical principles. Can you talk about these stages? Speak a little bit about moral development. Why are those tied to predicting if a person can be successful or if they are going to fail on their path?

Some of the greatest leaders and researchers in leadership in the country have often talked about leadership, particularly leadership at the top. People fail not because they are not smart but they usually fail because of some type of moral flaw or thing that gets them in trouble. What I have found in my training as a psychologist, which is different than others in terms of leadership is, I talk about moral development.

I read over 100 books on leadership. I went through everything from Star Wars to the Confederate leaders, military leaders, historical leaders, philosophers, and yet I never found a single reference to moral development. As a licensed clinical psychologist, I do a lot of therapy. What I have found is that people go through stages of moral development.

I have been able to go back in working with people. I may have someone who is a tremendously brilliant person and has got a great product. The timing is great. They are going along and all of a sudden, they fail colossally and have a major flaw. We go back and look at it. I can trace it back to their moral development.

If you look at it, we have all kinds of things that come up, the Madoff Ponzi Scheme and the great failures in society. The stages are critical but nobody talks about them. The first one is, “I want to avoid punishment.” That’s why we talk about punishment. Punishment only works when you are around somebody. Reinforcement is much more powerful and people dislike the person punishing them. When you are little, you’ve got to keep your kids from running out in the street or doing things they don’t understand so they want to avoid punishment.

The second one is self-interest. This one is a dangerous stage to get out of. I see it in a society where people grow up in a dysfunctional home, abused or grew up in a lot of anger. What they say is, “I’m taking care of me. No one cares about me and loves me.” If there’s one thing I would share with all of your readers, make sure you do one thing with your kids. Teach them how to love and be loved, how to love others and yourself. That’s critical.

People in this stage put their self-interest and selfishness because no one cared about them. I see this sometimes when people get older. Professional people at the end of their career are bitter because they were dismissed from their job, demoted or weren’t successful. They had this attitude of, “I’m going to make as much money as I can, as fast as I can, as long as I can. I’m getting out of here. I don’t care about any of you.” That’s a dangerous stage to be in.

I have sometimes run into this with people. For example, in medicine, things have changed dramatically. I don’t want my kids to be in medicine. I see all these changes going on. It’s not good and healthy. They get stuck in that self-interest stage. The third one is, “I’m doing this because I want to receive approval. I want my mom or dad’s approval. I want my teachers, coaches or leader’s approval.” That’s not so bad. Following authority, we see this in the military and other places, “I’m going to do what I’m told to do.” That’s a good stage of moral development.

The fifth one is our respect for social order. That’s a very high level. Not that many people always get to that level. “I respect what’s going on. We have rules and laws. I’m going to follow those laws and rules.” The last one, which is hard to attain is, “I have these Ethical Principles. It’s who I am.” I have worked with some brilliant leaders in the world and we often talk about, “What are you going to do when nobody is looking and no one knows what you are doing?”

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I will give an example. I had Coach Osborne. It was late in the afternoon. He was ready to go out and work out. Somebody came walking up to the office because we didn’t have security. He had played for the football coach, one of the best in the world but he was intellectually disabled. I was in the other room. The door was open. I was watching my coach how he treated that man with such dignity and respect. We didn’t have enough players in the place. The place didn’t make sense.

He said to the young man, “Sir, where do you live?” “Five miles away.” “You walked over here to give me these plays. I deeply appreciate that.” He spent 40 minutes with this young man. I’m sitting there in my brain thinking, “Coach, that’s nice of you. Send the guy on his way. God bless you. You don’t have to do this.” All of a sudden, I feel guilty. A tremendous wave of guilt came over me because I was a parent of a child with a disability and I was elected president of the largest association in the entire world for people with disabilities.

That was my first year with my Coach Osborne. I said, “I want to be with that man. I respect him so deeply.” He has his deep Ethical Principles about treating everybody with tremendous respect. That’s what you want to strive for with your kids but unfortunately, we get locked in sometimes. Not many people talk about it but you can trace it back to those stages of moral development, which later on get you in trouble. You may do good for a while or be called a midlife crisis. We would meltdown and panic. We are tired of doing things. You can trace those back to some of those levels of moral development.

Can you train this or does it have to happen naturally for someone?

You have to train it. We often talk about nature, nurture, genetics and the environment. We often find that it’s 60/40 back and forth sometimes in how people are shaped. Genetics gets you set up but your potential may not be as high or low. To fulfill that potential, it’s the environment. If you have kids or family, thousands of messages are given to the kids every week. “Don’t do that. Pick up your behind. Make your bed. Go do your studies. We don’t watch TV. We don’t talk back. We want to be polite.” You get those messages and you are constantly shaped in how to behave.

One of the many issues is we have single-parent families. We have way too many dysfunctional families and so much turmoil going on. It takes a lot of time. The research I have seen shows that parents usually get only fifteen minutes per child of one-on-one attention. That’s not enough and yet it’s hard. I empathize because so many people will work in 1 or 2 jobs.

It’s hard to make it but we’ve got to spend time helping to shape, grow our kids and teach them those lessons. We don’t have as many grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other people around to help teach the kids growing up. Those are the issues. That’s maybe why we are seeing such an explosion of mental health issues.

 

I want to dig into this generational shift because you started going down this road. In terms of leadership, I’ve been speaking a lot about it. I think about our political leaders. By and large, the majority of our political leaders are the same people who were in power years ago. Nowadays generation, the up-and-coming generation, the Millennials, I don’t think we would be lying or fooling anyone if we said that they didn’t take a different approach to life, leadership, and how they want to be spoken to, led, developed and grown. It’s much different than the Baby Boomers of your generation and the Generation X-ers of mine.

I had a football coach who used to punch and throw us on the ground. If you do that stuff now, immediately you are fired and go to jail. There’s a different level of communication that’s needed at a different level. I will use the term inclusiveness but more inclusiveness as they want to understand the why. You have referenced the why behind the vision, and the decisions that are being made.

I was speaking with a championship coach who has won multiple Olympic medals and international championships not too long ago. He said, “What happened to the days when you did what your coach and parents told you to do? Those things are not quite as powerful as they are in the world.” I wanted to get your thoughts on this generational shift and the different approaches required of coaches, and leaders today towards the athletes yesterday.

What happened is in several years, we have gone away from punishment. We do less of that. It’s even illegal in many places to spank kids and that’s good but what happens is sometimes we overcompensate. It went too far. We never gave them guidelines. I always talk about, “You’ve got to have rules, schedule, and structure. You’ve got to be consistent and reinforce appropriate behavior. We knew not to punish but we didn’t always know how to reinforce doing the right thing.”

Oftentimes, we are busy. We’ve got more intense. Our work has gotten more complex and stressed us in the world. We didn’t have as much time with kids. What happens is kids become more permissive. They didn’t have as much guidance, the structure and rules set down. We tried at times to be parents, buddies or have conversations. What happens is kids don’t have patience. They want to be heard and listened to. They don’t feel like they have a voice.

I’m involved in university systems and I see that all the time. “I’m right. I have studied this. I know what it is. You need to listen to me and do what we are saying.” You try to have a conversation like, “Maybe it’s not that simple and we looked at the research deeper.” What happens is they are impatient. They want to be heard but they don’t know how to control that and make it work without alienating others. That’s some of the issues we are winding up. I have never seen people in this world so angry and impatient. It was made worse by the pandemic but even before that, it was growing. That’s why we have so many mental health issues.

Forty percent of college athletes suffer from some form of a psychological disorder or mental health issue. What kind of mental health issues are you talking about?

The biggest one is anxiety and second is depression. You get into some of the other more serious ones like bipolar disorder and manic depression. You may have addictions. What happens is I find that a lot of our young people are overwhelmed. They didn’t receive any feedback. When you and I were growing up, our coaches were tough on us. We’ve got used to saying, “You are doing this wrong.” Kids didn’t grow up with that. Now, if you yell at them or say you did something wrong, they can’t let go. They obsess on it, and then we’ve got the big social media.

Social media stuff is having a powerful impact on our young people. If you think you have the right idea, your parents would tell you, “That’s a dumb idea,” or our mentors would say, “That’s a stupid idea.” Now, you get online and you will have 25 people say, “That’s right. You are correct.” You go out and behave that way and you say, “I’m justified because people agree with me.” You may have another 200 people that you don’t want to listen to. You keep them from commenting on your behavior. We are getting bad leadership and advice from a lot of people that shouldn’t be giving advice.

That’s hard to ignore sometimes too on social media, especially the way that people are tied to their phones and accounts. It affects so much of how you think about yourself and certain situations. Sometimes it’s hard to disassociate and say, “This is one person’s opinion.” We have created this venue and platform for people to voice their opinions, which is good but you do have to stop and internalize it and say, “Is what they are saying makes sense?”

It’s hard to do that. The number one thing I see with high school and even college students who are athletes by far 95% of the time is obsessiveness. They have four great hits, one strikeout and they can’t let go of the strikeout. We haven’t taught people how to deal with failure. We have worked with them. We give them special tutoring and special coaching, and help them out to be successful in getting more trophies and all these things. They are built up. When they meet adversity, they don’t know how to handle it. They want to go to safe places but society isn’t safe.

You can’t get on the subway, go out to eat or go to a lot of things without wanting to do some conflict. We have to teach people how to handle conflict and not let it bother you. I call it obsessiveness. We call it thought stopping, shut your brain off. It’s obsessing this. There are only three things you can do. You can do surgery, get pills and change behavior. No surgery does brain damage. There’s no pill for your mind in how it thinks. You’ve got to teach them how to block that and change it. That’s what I do a lot of work with athletes on.

The greatest professional baseball pitchers and quarterbacks always talk about a short memory. “It happened. I gave up a home run and an interception. Stop, reset and forget it. Get back to the fundamentals and execute.” As we close out, The Jedburghs needed to do three things every day as their core foundational tasks to be successful. They had to be able to shoot, move and communicate. They were the foundations. If they executed these three things well, whatever came their way, they could devote energy to solving those complex challenges. What are the three things that you do every day to set the conditions for success in your world?

If you're working in a company, get rid of the rumors and save your reputation, not just your character. Click To Tweet

We talked about my dream, love and mentor. I look to my mentors for guidance every day. That mentor, as you get older, takes on more of appreciation of the meaning and purpose of life. You listen more maybe to people who are spiritual leaders. “What is my purpose? Where am I going? How am I going to live?” Sharing your life with someone, and having someone that cares about you. Many people are lonely and this pandemic has made it worse. Happiness is being able to share things with people. As my father once said, “If you get a raise, you will come home. If you have no one to share it with, it doesn’t mean much.”

The first one is, “What do I want to do with my life? What is my dream?” I evaluate every day. The first thing I do when I wake up is to say a little prayer that I can handle all of those kinds of things. “What is my dream? How can I contribute and make things better in life? The people I love the most, how do I take care of them?” Those are the things I focus on every day.

Look to your mentors for guidance, share your life with someone you love, and pursue your dream, what it is that you want to do. I love all three of those. Jack, the nine characteristics of elite performance as defined by Special Operations Forces are the driving forces for this show. We have tied them into your nine-character model. We call them drive, resiliency, adaptability, humility, integrity, curiosity, team ability, effective intelligence and emotional strength.

I take one of these in the same vein that we spoke about. You take one and say everyone exemplifies it. I apply one to my guest of these nine. For you, I look at integrity. You understand and do what’s right for individuals, teams and organizations. You stay true to your values and principles. You never compromise on core tasks and quit on achieving your goals.

Your three foundations tie so well into integrity. Mentors set guidance and the example for you of doing right. Happiness is found in love, being open, and authentic with others, and pursuing the dream that makes you happy. When we are happy, and content with ourselves is when we can be most effective, operate, and perform at our highest level.

I thank you so much for joining me in this conversation. I have taken so much away from your book and my conversations with you. I’m so thankful that we were introduced and that we can build a relationship. I look forward to a partnership with you moving forward. Thanks again for coming on and talking to me.

Thank you for having me. God bless.

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About the author

Fran Racioppi
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Francis Racioppi, CPP, CBCP, most recently led Genius Fund as the Chief Executive and Chief Operating Officer, a vertically integrated cannabis company in Los Angeles, CA. Prior to Genius, Fran served as the Director of Global Security for Snapchat where he was recruited to professionalize and scale the security organization across the globe and among all business units. Fran holds an MBA from New York University and graduated with honors from Boston University with a BA in Journalism and a minor in Political Science. Fran served 13 years in the United States Army as a Green Beret, deploying three times to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn. A lifelong sailor, Fran volunteers teaching Veterans to sail as the Race Director for Sailahead a Veterans service organization dedicated to reducing the Veteran suicide rate. Fran has also served as the Treasurer of the United War Veterans Council, an NYC-based non-profit focused on the wellness and healing of transitioning veterans, as well as the host of the annual NYC Veterans Day Parade.

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