Episode 327: Curiosity and Knowledge Lead to Happiness, Health, and High-Performance

Episode Summary

We dive into four powerful sources of knowledge all of us have access to — with proven results for many successful and high-performing leaders — that can immediately impact our lives: mentors and coaches, books, forums or mastermind groups, and the last one, podcasts, seminars, webinars, and any other social broadcasts.

Steve Shallenberger: Greetings to all of our podcast listeners wherever you may be in the world today. This is Steve Shallenberger, your host, here with Becoming your best Global Leadership. And I am so excited to have you joining our podcast today. What a terrific subject, and it has such a big impact on us. I love talking about Becoming Your Best and the 12 Principles of Highly Successful Leaders. And as I think about each one of them, each one is extremely powerful and has a predictable consequence every single time. And yet, alone they’re insufficient, it’s how they work together. And the one that I want to focus on today is applying the power of knowledge in our lives. And really what’s the vision and the purpose? And then what are the external environments that are out there working against us sometimes and for us.  

So, I think the vision for you and for me is happiness, health, and high performance, especially if you are in a leadership position. And so, some of the things that are in that external environment, some of the things that are on our mind is how do I bring out the best in people, our teams, and our whole organization? How do I create high-performance teams? And then other mitigating factors – how do I hire enough people to do what I need to do? And what do you do when your margins are being squeezed by increased cost of materials, fuel and supply shortages and labor? And even if revenues are going up, sometimes you feel like your margins are being squeezed, so it’s a real paradox. Or other challenges – what can I do to adapt my business to be among the best, especially amid rapid economic and social change? And how do I cultivate the best opportunities? How do we maintain real growth year over year? And how can we be sure that we have a clear strategy to succeed now and in the future? Additional questions: What can I do to manage a cash flow squeezed in my business? How can we improve communication within our team and our organization? Here are a couple of last ones: What can I do to create my personal freedom? If you’re in that phase of life of retirement, personal freedom might be a better way to refer to it for transition and succession planning to move your organization forward without necessarily you being in that point position. And last of all, how about personal concerns and focus? Your fitness, healthy mental health, solid finances, strong relationships, and safety? Well, these are all key components to achieving happiness, health, and high performance.  

So, today as we focus on one of these 12 principles, you’ll see how powerful it is. And I invite each one of you as we talk about principle number 10. Apply the power of knowledge to think about what you can do to better gain knowledge and then apply what you learn. Maybe you can have a blank sheet of paper close by and just make notes as I go through some of these thoughts today in this podcast to stimulate that thinking. And the stakes are high for us to achieve this health, happiness and high performance, not only for ourselves but for your team. And so I’d love – as we think about this particular subject – to think about curiosity. Curiosity is right at the foundation of learning: What should I learn? What can I learn? What are the best sources of learning? And how can I apply what I learned? And it’s very helpful to think globally as we are engaging in this. And how do we share with other people? I love what Albert Einstein said, “The mind that opens to a new ideal never returns to its original size.” And that’s what we’re talking about today. So, as we think about this, I’d like to suggest and focus on four primary sources of knowledge. Of course, there are others, I’m just going to focus on these four, and they apply at any age. The first one, a great source, is mentors and coaches; second, books. And today I’m going to talk about how you can increase the number of books you read by 100%. And then the third is forums or mastermind groups and the people that you associate with. And the fourth would be podcasts, seminars, webinars, and social broadcasts. In each one, I’ll try to give some examples.  

Let’s start with the first one: Mentors and coaches. As I think about this, I took some time to actually create for me a slide with my mentors, especially starting from where I was younger. And I’d like to create a mental image in your mind with six couples on this slide. For me, they happen to be Stephen and Sandra Covey, Thomas and Francis Monson, Lael and Margaret Woodbury, Bill and Ellie Jones, Dave and Ann Conger. This last picture with Roxanne with also another mentor, Dorothy and Gardner Russell. As I reflect on these, I was early on growing a business, I was studying accounting, I had a sales background and marketing. But I knew there’s much that I didn’t know, I was the president and owner of a rapidly growing company. So, these individuals had looked around, and I said, “How can I compensate for this?” And these were individuals that I asked if they could be involved, and I started with one and went a year and then another, and then went a year and so forth. And we added to but they were an enormous impact on me. I think it’s clear to say that Stephen Covey was – and they’re spouses, by the way, and were the same – so encouraging and all huge impacts in my life. But Stephen – he was on my board for 17 years and I was on his board for five, and I had the privilege of setting up a couple of their international groups. And he was so totally inspiring, he believed in people, he believed in their potential. And I think without that impact, I would have never been inspired to do the research that I did with executives and leaders around the world on “what set apart high performing individuals and teams from everyone else,” which formed the basis for our leadership company, and are put in the book, Becoming Your Best: The 12 Principles of Highly Successful Leaders. I owe so much to him. And Thomas Monson is so upbeat. When he joined our firm, he was a member of the Twelve Apostles for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had a marketing background before he entered his church service, also ran a publishing company. So, he was a perfect fit for what we did. He, ultimately, became the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and leader of 16 and 17 million people just in the church itself, not to mention all the others that were influenced – so upbeat, so caring, and took the time to improve his own skills.  

So, he was an example of building his abilities, so he was in a position to do better. But not only that, when I was around Tom Monson, he made me feel like one of the most important people in the world in spite of all of the people that he associated with. So, I appreciate his example and so many other things as common sense approach, his wisdom, his insights of looking ahead.  

And Lael Woodbury was the Dean of Communication and Fine Arts – an immaculate dresser and a tremendous orator. So, I appreciated his love and kindness, consideration to detail. He taught me calligraphy. So, he pointed out that I could learn how to do calligraphy, that was part of his art. So wonderful. And Bill Jones, a practical solid, right down in the trenches businessman. And he and Stephen inspired me to attend Harvard Business School and Bill had the insight of running companies. He helped me buy my very first company. And without Bill who knows where I would be today. But he was the one that helped outline, this is how you can do it. So, thanks to Bill. And Dave Conger, when I was 16 years old, he was a real estate broker in Northern California. He helped me start my very first company at 16, Shallenberger Maintenance Company. He inspired me to read books and made that transition from just a young boy to saying, “Hold it, here are the possibilities.” And in this slide that we’re imagining, his wife was right next to him here. Three months ago, she celebrated her 100th birthday that I had the privilege of being there at that. And then just a couple of weeks ago, I took the picture that’s on this slide. She is 100 but she looks like she’s 75, and so this influence continues. And then last of all, Gardner Russell. Gardner was a Certified International Business Consultant. On his card was the subheading, “Achieving the seemingly impossible.” Wow, what a mindset. And Gartner was another one of those that just have this great practical business sense, and was a great entrepreneur. His wife, Dorothy is in the picture. She’s now 97. I’ll have the chance to see her next week. Her mind is bright. And up to one year ago, she was still running 12 rentals, and loved doing it.  

So, I’m thinking about the impact of these mentors and all the knowledge that I acquired from them. You, too, can look around and say, “Who are mentors who can supplement my life?” Now, because I had a growing company, I paid for them to be on our advisory committee. This wasn’t inexpensive. But as I look back now, after 40 years, they can tribute to millions and millions of revenues that we were able to create in our company. So, it far outpaid the investment I made. You can look in your own organization. Depending on where you’re at, you can look at retired people, but you can look at people within your company, the CEO or other key leaders. Put your plan together and ask for help. So, these are things that you can do there, that’s number one.  

Number two is books that you read, and how to increase the number of books you read by 100%. One of our friends, Jeff Flamm, has a company called eyeQ. And what he does is he takes people into his program frequently, they have a desire to read, they haven’t been reading. And what he’s done is he’s taken a brain scan of those people and it shows the activity level in their brains, actually shows a graphic representation. They go through his program where they read 15 minutes a day for eight weeks. And he takes a brain scan again and compares the two images, the activity level is about 10 to 20 times more than it was, and it’s represented by greater lighted areas in the brain. This is the power of reading. And clearly, the quote that “leaders are readers” is true. It’s a way to stimulate your mind and create connections and see new possibilities. So, how can you increase the number of books you read by 100%? Well, this is just a recommendation, perhaps some of you are doing it now. But I’ve always read around 12 books a year, I’ve enjoyed that. And by the way, that may or may not seem like a lot of books, depending on your habits. But according to Amazon, 80% of the households in the United States last year did not buy a single book. And then another statistic we saw which is so shocking is 46% of college graduates never read another book after they graduate. Well, this is stunting. So, I went from 12 books in 2020 to 30 books in 2021. And I’ll probably equal or exceed that in 2022. How did I do it? I discovered a simple little secret. And that is by taking a dual approach to reading of getting both the Audible book, the audio, and the printed book. So, when the printed book comes, I go through it, I scan it, I look at the book structure, what’s basically in it, what are the chapters, and then I go through the audio. And as I’m going through the audio, I’ll hear a quote or a concept that I like, I go back to the book, I turn down the page, I highlight it, note the things that I’m learning. This has been a powerful way. And then you can go back when you’re done, anytime, and re-listen to it.  

So, I recently listened to the book, Hamilton, by Ron Chernow. Wow! What a book. It had such an impact on the founding of the United States and so many of our current systems. The book itself, I think, was 28 hours on audio. It’s a big book but I loved it. And it’s been inspiring. I mean, he was archenemies, if you will, it wasn’t easy to go on with Thomas Jefferson, James Madison. But much of what we owe today to the success of our country is to these people. I recently listened to another called “Stress Less, Accomplish More” – same thing, I have the audio right here and the printed book. I’ve gone back and forth, they’ve had such a big impact. Another one I’ve listened to recently is Eight Dates. And it has to do primarily with strengthening relationships. And this is written a lot for married couples, eight different dates that you prepare for each one of you, and you have fun in these dates, but particularly about coming close together and having a lasting love and a strong relationship – could be also for people developing new dates. But again, this is one that I went through in three days. I got the book, I went through it, but listened to the audio in three days. You can do it while you’re exercising, riding in the car, those extra moments that might be empty moments. Some of our books that we’ve written: Becoming Your Best; Start with the Vision: Six Steps to Effectively Plan, Create Solutions, and Take Action; Do What Matters Most. For example, let’s take, Becoming Your Best: The 12 Principles, I go through and listen to this book at least once a year. And I wrote the book for heaven’s sakes. And the power is in the principles, it’s not in me. So, every time I go through it, I learn more, I get new insights. I love that. Well, that is what the Audible does, and you can go right through it. For example, start with the vision, the problem solving, and developing opportunities. The book itself, on the audio, is only two and a half hours long. So, this is something when you find a book you really like and can have a big impact in your life and on your team and organization. This is one you want to share with your team. Because what you’re looking for, for example, and start with the vision, is creating a solutions-based culture where your whole culture is coming up with ideas and adapting and creating a high-performance team.  

So, those are examples of what you can do when really leverage book reading. Now, number three would be creating mastermind groups or forums. And the Young Presidents Organization Forums is a central part of that whole organizations, having eight to 10 presidents that you meet for three hours a month, say, and we’ve been doing that for years. Some of my best friends are forum mates. But you can bring up anything. And there are confidentiality rules that are strict so that you can be open with one another. This is a great source of knowledge. And then you apply in curiosity then look at ways of how you can apply it. Last week we had with our elite mastermind group of coaching clients, we asked them to share some things that they did or learn in the last six months that have been helpful for them either personally or professionally. Hare are just a few of them that were so helpful. This is an example of the influence and as you exercise your curiosity, you can see how you can apply this. Here’s one of these by one of our coaching clients who’s very successful. Each one of them are in their own right. Extremely successful. Here’s what he said, “People know the glory but not the story.” Isn’t that wonderful? In other words, they see the outward appearance of a highly successful organization, but they may not be aware of what all the blood sweat and tears, the struggle, the failure that went into achieving that success, that’s the story. Here’s another one: “It is more important to be interested than interesting.” In other words, if you’re into social, learn about other people, be interested in them, rather than having to share your story, necessarily. Here’s another one by Melanie, who did a great job. She asked the question, “Is it important, five to 10 years from now, the issue, the crisis today? Well, and if it’s not a big deal in five to 10 years, maybe it’s not that big of a deal today.” So, I love that major of things. And if it is, then you take the serious time that it needs to really develop it. Here’s another one, one of our fine coaching clients shared: “Just remember, we are not immune from challenges. So, don’t be above it all, be prepared for the time of crisis, and anticipate that you are.” I loved ones shared by Rob Shallenberger, my son. He said, “Check your attitude indicator.” And then he threw up in this meeting a slide that was the console of an aircraft, and it had six instruments but in the top middle is something called the attitude indicator. This attitude indicator, it’s a relational type indicator where you have an aeroplane set of wings and the nose of the airplane, and you’re looking out across the line. Below the line is the earth, above the line is the sky highlighted by blue, below the line is black, and has the indicator. And if the knows the plane is down into the black, it means you’re going down and unless you get that fixed, you’re going to hit the ground. And it actually has little indicators of how fast you’re losing altitude and going towards the ground. Rob made up the point that in life, circumstances are neutral, but it’s our attitude and thoughts that are not neutral. And we want to keep those attitudes and thoughts up so that we can navigate safely and successfully as we have things going on.  

Well, this is just a simple example of the power of a mastermind or forum. I met Dr. Maoshing Ni, someone who’s had a big impact as he talks about longevity and health. So, that takes us to our last one, number four – the power of podcasts, seminars, webinars, special broadcasts that you can take advantage of, for example, Becoming Your Best. You can go to, and it takes you right to 325 podcasts that we’ve done. Tremendous guests from all over the world, or a podcast like this one that you’re listening to today that Rob or myself does, or others may do. And that you can catch an idea or two that has a big impact. It’s a way to exercise that curiosity and gain knowledge. And I’d like to just give three very quick examples of these that you choose to participate in, and frequently they’re so inexpensive. Becoming Your Best has an eight-week Zoom course for 90 minutes a week that goes through all 12 principles. It’s inexpensive for the tremendous impact that you get back. So, let me give an example of the podcast. One person I met on the podcast was Ron Williams five years ago. He taught me how to lose 25 pounds which I’ve kept off, and to stay fit, and in condition. He actually has a web-based workout that you can just follow. And I’ve purchased, invested in some of his equipment, a chess master, and a stair stepper, and some chords, and I’m off to the races. I have a whole exercise place and I just do it right there at home. So, that’s an example. You can go on and listen to Ron’s podcast. It’s free.  

Another one special guests, number 300, that I have on was Crystal Maggelet. She is the CEO of FJ Management. Her husband, Chuck, runs Maverik stations. As I had her on, she talked about how they create a culture for family businesses where they have petroleum, refineries or oil company, banking, and Maverik stations. And I said, “Well how do you create a culture for all these groups?” She said, “Well, we have a clear vision.” And Crystal served on the Coca-Cola board of directors. So, she’s so capable, such a wonderful person. She said, “Here’s how we do it: We have a clear vision that everybody can tap into, and it is to build value to last.” And I love that. And she said, “Our guiding principles are integrity, mutual respect, and excellence.” So, here’s another free podcast, transformational, just wonderful ideas that you can get and apply as you exercise this curiosity to organizations, large and small. And then the very last one that I would talk about today under having these experiences, these type podcasts, webinars that you can cue into, and courses that you can participate into is one I tapped into, took place through the Utah State University. And Stephen M. R. Covey was introducing Indra Nooyi, who is the former CEO and Chairman of the Board of PepsiCo. And she was talking about all of her experiences, she has consistently been ranked among the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women. She is fascinating. And during this interview, she talked about one of the things that she did as the CEO of PepsiCo. And she said, “I went home and visited my mom one time.” And this is about 2007, when she was named to be the CEO of PepsiCo, and she was visiting her mom and her mom asked her to get dressed, she said, “I always obey my mom.” And she said, “There’s a knock at the door at 8 AM and people just started screaming.” Indra was there, and they started saying to her mom, “Oh, you have raised such a wonderful daughter. You have done such a great job.” And her mom said, “Well, I give thanks to God for that. I pray a lot for her.” But it was really fun because Indra realized how important this recognition was of the efforts her mom did in her life. And so she went back and decided to write a letter to the parents of her top executives within Pepsi, and actually made an effort to go visit them in their homes in Italy and Spain and different parts of the world. And she said, “This is one of the coolest things that I did, and it was so powerful and helpful as I did this, and they were so appreciative.” For example, in the Philippines, I think it was that she said, “I sent this letter to one of our executives, and the executive reported back what the dad did. The dad made 100 copies, sat down at the elevator at the bottom of the apartment he lived in and gave it out to all the people that came in, so he could tell him about his son. And look, here’s the letter I got from the CEO of Pepsi.” Isn’t that wonderful? Another one wrote that his mom in Missouri was placed in an assisted living center and had a new apartment, and the walls were bare. And the one thing that was on the wall of that new apartment was a framed copy of that letter. Well, this is an idea that I hope to use as well.  

Well, my friends, those are four ideas of ways that you can acquire more knowledge: Mentors and coaches; books; a forum or mastermind; and taking advantage of podcasts, seminars, webinars. These are powerful influences. And then asking yourself, “How do I apply that knowledge? How do I lift other people with it? How do I create greater happiness, health, and high performance?”  

Well, I hope that you have received an idea today. And if you too made a sheet of paper and asked yourself the same question, “How can I gain more knowledge? And how can I apply this knowledge?” I hope that you’d come up with some inspiration of some ideas that are helpful for you. So, thank you for joining us today. We admire you so much. We wish you all the best and all that you’re doing today and always. 

Steve Shallenberger

Founder, Becoming Your Best
CEO, executive, corporate trainer, and community leader.
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