Invisible Mentor: Drew Dudley, Founder & Chief Catalyst
Company Name: Nuance Leadership Development Services, Inc.
Avil Beckford: Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Drew Dudley: The way I make my living is by using more than a couple of sentences at a time. I’m a professional speaker, an educator, and trying to be a writer and I absolutely love what I do.
Avil Beckford: What’s a typical day like for you?
Drew Dudley: A typical day for me involves me consistently trying to figure out what I need to do to make sure that I never have typical days. Honestly, I don’t have a typical day, but what I spend most of my days doing is consistently saying, “How can I make sure tomorrow I don’t have to go to on an office.” What do I have to do so that tomorrow I don’t fall back into saying, “Today was just another day!” How do I avoid a cubicle? How do I avoid an office? How do I make sure that I keep doing what I love to do? And that could take a thousand different forms. Most of my days are spent trying to do the things that I need to do to keep being lucky enough to do what I love. It’s constantly thinking and trying to do the things that are going to make that a reality.
Avil Beckford: How do you motivate yourself and stay motivated?
Drew Dudley: I have a great friend of mine who is a remarkable guy named George Kourounis (he used to host a show called Angry Planet). He is an adventure and TV Host. He says that in everybody’s life there are two forces, one that pushes you and push forces are things like you’re unhappy, that things are lousy, that you’re unhappy in a relationship, you’re in uncomfortable positions where things push you out of that position. But he also says there are all kinds of pull forces in our lives and those are the ones that pull us forward saying there is more for you our there, or this new idea is really exciting, or pursuing this course of action will make you better.
I think what I try to do, and how I try to motivate myself, is try to focus on the pull forces in my life and not the push ones. And every time I try to think about what are the things that are trying to pull me forward, what are the things that make me say, “That’s the direction I want to go,” that stuff inspires me. When I look at the push forces, I look at where I was pushed from and I remind myself that I don’t want to go there again. I think a big part of what motivates me is that I try to embrace the pull forces and I look back and I remind myself how much I want to stay away from the push forces.
Avil Beckford: If you had to start over from scratch, knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?
Drew Dudley: The biggest thing I’d do is start sooner. I absolutely love what I get to do now, and even when things don’t go well I’m happy and proud of myself for taking a shot of doing this, working with Nuance and speaking professionally. I think if I got to do it all over again, I’d just start earlier, and I think that many of the messages I try to convey now, trying to help people decide that they want to start earlier. And the other one is that if you’re going to start working on your own, make sure that someone who is good with numbers works with you.
Even if you spent most of your life figuring out how you do everything yourself, wanting to be self-sufficient, saying, “I could pay someone for that, or I could just learn it myself,” that’s a great approach to look at a few things, but I also think that when it comes down to creating something that’s going to be beneficial to others and that product could be a service or a product itself, I think recognizing the things that pull you away from simply making you great at your craft are things that for other people, that is their craft, that is the thing that they’re great at. So let other people do the things they’re great at whether it be numbers, financial planning. Look around and surround yourself with people who are not only good at things, but who absolutely love it, who love what they do as much as you love what you do, and make sure that you work with them.
Avil Beckford: What’s the most important business or other discovery you’ve made in the past year?
Drew Dudley: I don’t know the secret to happiness. But I’ve discovered that the key to unhappiness is when there is a gap between the person that you believe you can be and the person you are and how you know you’re behaving. I think this idea that I’m a very honest person, or I want to be a very honest person, this is your self-concept and then you find yourself, and you know that you are not being honest in certain parts of your life. Or you say to yourself that I’m not the type of person who settles for less, or I’m the type of person who holds out for what’s good for me, and you look at your life and see areas in your life where you are settling for less.
I think that those are the revelations whether conscious or unconscious that result in a gap between your own self-worth or how you know you are or how you perceive yourself to be. Those gaps are what lead to unhappiness. That was a major discovery for me – is that we all chase the secret to happiness and the second piece is that we don’t have to chase happiness, sometimes we identify the things that cause unhappiness, and the ways of eliminating them are more obvious than getting happiness. So why don’t we focus on the sources of unhappiness in our lives, not so that we can dwell on them, but so that we can say how can we deal with that effectively?
That was a big moment when I realized that there was a big gap between the person I want to be and the person I perceive myself to be and how I know I am behaving. My awareness of that gap consciously or unconsciously, really was a source of unhappiness for me and knowing that now allows me to address it.
Avil Beckford: What are the three threats to your business, your success, and how are you handling them?
Drew Dudley: The three biggest threats are myself, myself and myself. No matter what the threat is the only real threat to your business is yourself – can you handle things, or can’t you handle things? or how you handle things. So whatever threat there is to my business whether it’s the market, whether it’s how I behave or how people perceive me, the biggest threat to my business is always me, because whatever it throws at me, if I get hurt that’s really something that’s beyond my control, but how I behave if and when it happens recognizing how I can learn from this and grow from this. There are so many things in our lives that are beyond our control and I think all we can ultimately control is how we choose to respond. And sometimes it seems that we don’t get a choice because there is this powerful instinct in us to just react. Someone once told me to respond, don’t react because in responding there is one extra step that isn’t in reacting and that’s thinking.
Our biggest threat to everything is our unwillingness to accept things and prepare for the unexpected and our unwillingness to deal with the fact that there is going to be roadblocks along the way. Things are not beyond our control, it’s how we decide to react to those things and that always is your own decision even if it seems it’s been taken out of your hands, or every piece of emotion in your mind is saying I don’t have control over this, you really do. As long as you fully grasp the fact that inevitably how you feel about things is going to be your call, you realize that the only real threats to your business and your success are you and do you have the strength, the discipline and commitment to say I’m going to find a way to make this work every single time. It is so easy to say, “Oh woe is me, this isn’t fair.” When you do that, you are a threat to yourself. So I think I’m the biggest threat to me.
Avil Beckford: What’s unique about the service that you provide?
Drew Dudley: I don’t know if there is anything unique about the service, I think what is unique is the delivery of the service. In terms of what I do offering opportunities, facilitating, running workshops and speaking, that’s not a unique service. What I hope is unique is the perspective that I bring to it and the level of skill that I try to bring to it, not that the other people don’t have the same level of skill, but how you apply it is always going to be unique. We are unique in terms of what drives us, and how we choose to deliver our ideas, so what’s unique about my service is that it comes from me.
Other than that I recognize that there are a lot of other people doing what I do, the question is, what are the kinds of things that I can bring to it that are from my experience, from my particular set of skills that means that when someone walks out of the room they just got something that no one else could have given them exactly and that is the big one. When your service is trying to use your personal set of skills to help other people explore theirs is always going to be unique. It’s always going to be different and I think that’s true of anybody who offers any service. You don’t have to go out there and try to reinvent what you’re doing. I think the key is recognizing how you do it, how is that different, and how that can bring people who cannot get it anywhere else. Focus on that and make sure that your primary goal is that whoever you work with doesn’t leave unchanged. You can do that if you are a carpenter and you can do that if you are a doctor, and you can do that if you are a lawyer. What is it you bring that nobody else can? Make sure that is your focus, not just doing what anybody else can do.
Avil Beckford: Tell me about your big break and who gave you.
Drew Dudley: One of the things I think about is how what I am going to say will impact other people because language is such a powerful thing. If I say here is my big break, my big concern is what happens if people listening think, “Well that’s it, I have to keep spending my life looking for that one defining moment,” and I think my big break came when I realized that there are no big breaks. There are a whole bunch of little breaks that we have to take advantage of and that some of them are more immediately impactful, but the fact is that every day gives opportunities for breaks.
For those listening and reading this, the thing I want to make clear, is that we can’t live our lives for extraordinary days. There are extraordinary days in our lives, days when you get what you may think of as a big break, you get the job, or the promotion. Those are extraordinary and then there are negative extraordinary where you lose out on something you think you deserve, or you hurt somebody that you care about, where you lose someone that matter to you, and it seems to me that when we evaluate ourselves as people and leaders we tend to focus a lot on how our extraordinary days stack up to other people’s, or how big our extraordinary days were.
We can learn a lot from those extraordinary days, but I think it’s very wise to remember that those extraordinary days are always outnumbered by “every days”. The people I know who are the most successful and happiest are the ones who focus on those “every days,” what those “every days” bring to them, and what they can learn, and how they behave, so I think my big break was recognizing that my life is not determined by the big moments. Maybe the biggest moments and biggest breaks are the ones you never notice at the time, and often the things you think will be the most defining moments in your life turn out to be something that you don’t remember in a couple of years.
I don’t know when my big break was. There is a pretty good possibility that I wasn’t in the room when my big break happened – somebody decided to create an opportunity for me when I wasn’t there, they were discussing it with somebody. So I think all we can control are how we try to add value at an every day level, then the big break, the moments where we’ve added so much value that we have to break through, and something has to change. And usually it’s a positive change for us. That’s the key to building breaks.
Avil Beckford: Describe one of your biggest failures. What lessons did you learn, and how did it contribute to a greater success?
Drew Dudley: One of my biggest failures is not asking for help when I needed it. And that could be in work and in life. I’m bipolar and that was something that I didn’t want to recognize. And when I recognized it, I didn’t want to ask for help. Bipolar disorder bounces you back and forth between clinical depression and a state called mania. Many people are familiar with depression although many people will say it’s being sad and it’s not, it’s something much more profound than sad.
But the other side of it is the opposite, is your brain being incredible fast, your brain being inspired and feeling incredibly confident and that may seem like a really good thing but the difficulty is that sometimes it can cause you to lose touch with who you are. It can cause you to lose touch with what is socially acceptable because you think there are no consequences. You think everything is going to work out because it always has and mania on the side of bipolar is like having a gear that other people don’t have.
And that in many ways was very beneficial along the way when you are younger and you tend not to have to deal with the depressive side of the disease, but what really seems to drive you is the more manic side and before you head into true mania. Before you lose touch of who you are and what’s acceptable there is this little place they call hypomania where what has really happened is you’re in that extra gear that other people don’t have and you don’t need to sleep and ideas come to you incredibly quickly and you’re able to accomplish things that other people can’t in much shorter periods of time and that drove me a lot through my life.
When the depression started becoming part of my life, there was a denial side of it saying, “Well, this is the piece you have to put up with to be who you are.” I once heard someone say, “Too be a visionary, you have to be a little bit delusional.” I thought this is the curse I have to deal with being given gifts that I notice other people would really like – the ability to do really well in school, the ability to come up with ideas and be driven. I thought there are two sides to every sword and I think my biggest failure is that when it became clear that the disease was having a negative impact on me, being afraid to do anything about it because I thought that people weren’t interested in who I was, they were interested in who I could be. They were interested in me because of the events that I could run or the speeches I could deliver. And as a result, when it started to be more difficult for me to deal with those things as I dealt with depression, I wouldn’t tell anybody and that was a tremendous failure on my part.
The biggest failure in my life was thinking that people only cared about me because of who I might be, or what I did and not who I was. I needed to give more credit to the people around me. What I learned from that failure is the fact that asking for help is not a weakness, it’s strength. I failed to understand that for a long time, particularly in regards to my disease, and it cost me a lot of happiness moving along. I can’t change that, but what I make sure to do now, and what it taught me now is to do not deny yourself things that make you happy. Do not fail to get things fixed or ask for help with things that are holding you back and you know it.
I went to get new glasses and they said, “Oh my God, why didn’t you do this a year and a half ago?” I didn’t make time for it. A comedian once said, “How can drastically improve your vision not be on your list of to-dos?” I knew something would help me and I just didn’t do it. My biggest failure is for most of my life I was thinking that asking for help was looking weak and I tried to handle things on my own. That’s not the case now, it doesn’t make you weak asking for help, it makes you strong.
Avil Beckford: What’s one of the toughest decisions you’ve had to make and how did it impact your life?
Drew Dudley: It was to do what I do, to decide to work for myself, to take my own advice and say, “You know if you love something and you’re good at it, you have an obligation to try to make a living out of it.” I had a job that paid me and had a union, built in raises and benefits and everything the list in our heads say we’re supposed to have. I had to decide whether or not to acknowledge the fact that I was incredibly unhappy even though I had everything I was supposed to have.
I had a woman I met ask me, who I had met randomly for a couple of hours one day, “How far would you be willing to go for the chance to be happier?” In my life I realized the answer is I wouldn’t go very far because I had everything I was supposed to want and I was unhappy. The toughest decision I had to make was to ask myself quite strongly, “In what part of your life are you settling?” and to try not to accept it one more day because I think we have an obligation to ourselves to keep making changes in our lives so it’s the life we want and the life that we deserve and we don’t do it because we think that what we’ll end up with is worse than what we have now.
I think the toughest decision in my life was to take a leap of faith and say, “I bet what I’m going to end up with and embrace change in my life is going to better than I have now.” That was an incredibly tough decision and I’m glad I made it but it was a tremendously tough thing to do to say, “I’m going to walk away from the money, I’m going to walk away from the security in the honest belief that more of that will come along with more happiness,” and I learned that you have to make that decision. And you have every right to and the obligation to yourself to make that decision, to keep making changes in your life until you have the life that you want and deserve.
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