Small Moments In Leadership with guest Travis Crutcher, Founder and Managing Director at Above Average Leadership airs Wednesday, July 21, 2021.
Listen as Travis Crutcher, Founder and Managing Director at Above Average Leadership discusses discovering the power of leadership, what impact it has on results, and how to make the most of what you have.
Travis Crutcher is a retired infantry senior non-commissioned office and Ranger. He served in multiple senior leadership positions both stateside as well as deployed. During his time in service Travis cultivated his unique style and helped junior leaders develop into the next generation of dynamic leaders. Since retiring from the United States Army Travis has continued his work in helping companies, leaders and individuals unlock their full potential. He does this by sharing 15 years of leadership experience, candid real-world stories, and applicable interpersonal skills. By inculcating (TEACHING) Travis’ methodologies leaders are able to get clarity, increase influence, and make lasting sustainable impact!
For more information, you can connect with Travis at https://www.aboveaverageleadership.com/ and listen to the podcast -the Above Average podcast, airing every Wednesday.
Gail: Hey everybody, Gail Kraft here with The Empowering Process podcast and I have with me a friend, Travis Crutcher. You’re going to love, love, love the discussion he and I are going to have. Let me tell you a little bit about Travis. Oh, by the way, Travis, thank you for your time. Thank you for coming.
Travis: Absolutely. My pleasure. Thank you for having me.
Gail: Oh, it’s going to be great. So, Travis is a retired infantry senior noncommissioned officer and ranger. He served in multiple senior leadership positions, both statewide as well as deployed. During his time in service, Travis cultivated his unique style, and helped junior leaders develop into the next generation of dynamic leaders and believe me, he has a unique style.
Since retiring from the United States Army, Travis has continued his work in helping companies, leaders, and individuals unlock their full potential. He does this by sharing 15 years of leadership experience, candid real-world stories, and applicable interpersonal skills. By teaching Travis’s methodologies, leaders are able to get clarity, increase influence, and make lasting sustainable impact. So yes, increase influence and clarity. Crazy, right, Travis?
Travis: It’s fun. It’s crazy.
Travis: Who needs it? It’s overrated.
Gail: Oh, definitely. I will tell you a quick story and then I want to start hearing from you. I’ve been in corporate America, I was in corporate America for quite a while and in very high, influential roles. And I would always say, “What’s it look like when we’re done? Why do we do it? What’s the purpose? Does it fit in with our vision?” And when I switched to being a consultant, I would foolishly ask the same question. And the response was, “I hired you just to do the job,” but I don’t know why I’m doing it. So, I can’t make choices when I have to.
Travis: Why is a tricky question for people, isn’t it?
Gail: Oh, they’re so afraid of it because it’s not clear.
Travis: And what’s crazy is, you and I both know, especially the nature of our work now, like, you start with that end state and work your way backwards. It’s so much easier, so much easier to get to the end state. If you figure out that end state why and the other thing, we could go deep in the weeds on that, but I don’t want your two month why, I want your 10 year why.
Gail: Yes, yes. Yes. However… and then we’ll get to why we’re here. Who knows how this is going to go, Travis? We’ll just talk.
Travis: We can make it up. It’s fine.
Gail: Yeah, we can make it up. So, I had a client when I first started… so a lot of these experiences, thank you. When I first started out, I had some really tough situations. And I said, “In five years, where do you see yourself?” and he couldn’t dream. He couldn’t get there. And I’ve had many clients who have been like that. They don’t know how to dream because as children, they didn’t dream.
For him, he didn’t have to; he was going to go into his father’s business. He was from Ireland. Oops, he married a girl in America. Guess what, he’s not going into dad’s business. So, he didn’t know how to dream. So, we had to work on that kind of stuff first. And then I had another who was sickly as a child, still dealt with sick issues, and all he dreamed about was not hurting tomorrow.
Travis: Oh, yeah. Yeah. When you get stuck in those boxes, it’s very difficult to think outside of them. Especially when it pertains to something for yourself, you know?
Gail: So yes, we got there. It was like, “Well, what about five days from now? What about two weeks from now? What about a month from now?” “Ooh, ooh, that hurts. Okay, let’s go for weeks.”
Travis: Semantics are important.
Gail: Yeah, it’s perspective. So, Travis, we want to get back to your unique style. You’ve been dealing with leaders for a while now and a lot of what you bring to the table, of the experiences that you learned, both as a military man and in combat. And so, let’s talk about some of those stories, and how those translate into real world corporate or even entrepreneurial decision thinking.
Travis: I mean, I guess it all started when? Like, we’ll do a whole genesis story. But the reality is, I was kind of painfully shy from about third grade. And then I kind of quit caring a little bit. But I’ll never forget, and I think you and I talked about this story briefly. When I first enlisted in the Army, we get to Fort Benning, Georgia, or as it’s known better, as the home for wayward boys. We get there and there’s 240 of us in the company, but 60 in my platoon.
And I’ll never forget the first day there. My drill sergeant, Robert UnionShank, opens the door of his office, says, “Clean the barracks,” and slams the door. We have no idea what we’re doing, never met each other. I don’t know anyone’s names. He just tells 60 complete strangers to fix a problem. And to this day, I will never be able to pinpoint the ‘why’ that I decided to open my mouth. But everyone’s just standing there. I think it was fear.
Fear propelled me to go forward because everyone’s standing there and I realized, like, “If someone doesn’t do something soon, we’re all screwed.” And so, what fell out of my mouth was a workable plan. And 59 other humans decided that would work, and they started doing it. And that was really the genesis moment for like my entire leadership career. It’s so funny that it’s such a small moment in time. But really, like in that moment, I was like, “Okay, I can do this, if I just open my mouth a little bit.”
And I think a lot of times in leadership, there’s someone over there with a better way but they’re afraid to open their mouth, whether it’s because of judgment, or because they think they’re going to look stupid. You know that “They’re all going to laugh at you,” Jim Carey. But we have that in us. And I think that’s one of the hardest hurdles for people in leadership to overcome, is to just open your mouth, let the words fall out.
Gail: Yeah, it has a lot to do with judgment. I spend a lot of time, I have training courses, and spend a lot of time on judgment with my clients. And I used to say, to not let judgment affect you and to stop judging, until I realized that is humanly impossible. Because our job is to make choices and in order to make choices, we have to continue judging.
Travis: We have to judge things. Yes.
Gail: “I like this. I don’t like that.” Whoops, there’s a judgment.
Travis: I think a lot of times what folks have a tendency to do, though, is everyone’s got their little hang ups, their little personal peccadilloes, and the things that they’re insecure about, even though on the surface, they may seem like they’re wildly confident about everything. And what humans do, at least what I’ve seen, especially in the leadership world, is that you will project your insecurities and make it, you think that’s what that person thinks of you.
And so, everyone you meet, you’re like, “No, they think my haircut is stupid. They think this tie looks dumb,” like whatever it is. And so, you lack the confidence to open your mouth, because you’re projecting your own insecurities on the other human beings. And that’s just, I mean, it’s like, when you look in the mirror, if you can objectively go, “Okay, no one else sees the imperfections that I see.” You probably look great. But you’re insecure about it all day because you’ve got one hair that won’t lay down. You know what I mean?
Gail: Yeah, and it affects your ability to make informed decisions. It affects your ability to stay in a leadership role. And it affects the team that is dependent on you to defend them, to stand up for them, to give them guidance. If you’re not confident in who you are, the shit will hit the fan.
Travis: A thousand percent.
Gail: A thousand percent.
Travis: And it really depends, like, there’s nuance to all that kind of stuff. It depends on how long you’ve worked with the team too, like, how truly transparent you can be with how screwed up the situation is. But I can’t tell you how many times I’d get a mission brief and I go brief my guys and in the back of my head, it’s like, “This is not good. This is a really bad situation.” But I have to brief it like, “It’s going to be awesome, guys. We’re going to kill it. We’re going to do so good. And all the guys are not going to shoot at us and we’re not going to get blown up at all.”
Gail: “There’ll be no guns.”
Travis: And after two or three months in Baghdad, they were like, “Okay, whatever,” like they know better. But you have to own the space you’re in, even if you’re not… I hate the term, fake it till you make it. That’s not what we’re talking about. We’re not talking about being disingenuous. We’re talking about like, you have to Jim Jones yourself. You’ve got to drink your own Kool Aid first before anyone’s going to line up behind you to drink it.
Gail: I love that. Yes. Actually, the coach that both of us met each other on, he and I had a conversation not too long ago. And one of the things that he said to me is, “You’re one of the few coaches who actually practices what she preaches.” How can I coach someone…? You practice what you preach? How can you possibly tell someone, “This is going to be awesome,” if you haven’t done it yourself?
Travis: If you can’t apply it yourself, a hundred percent.
Gail: Or say, “This is going to suck but it’s going to be great at the end. I’ll go with you. I’m there with you.”
Travis: But so many people fail to do that. I think a lot of times, particularly again, back to the leadership perspective, in those moments where you know it’s going to be a dicey situation, you know it’s going to suck, and you may not be competent in the situation. But if you led appropriately up to that point, if you followed like, coach, train, mentor, make sure you’ve empowered your subordinates to know their job inside and out and your job as well, then you can have confidence in your preparedness. So, you don’t have to care about the situation, you know you’re ready for whatever it is.
Gail: Right. So, in business, that preparedness, one of the things that I talk about, because I have a project management background, along with my leadership, is risk management. What’s the worst thing that could happen?
Travis: Oh, my goodness.
Gail: Now, what are the odds that it’s going to happen? “Okay, let’s not waste our time on that.” But what potentially might happen? So, what’s your contingency plan? And what happens is, out of the 500 things that you come up with, two may actually happen. But when the shit hits the fan that you didn’t think of, you have trained yourself to plan and respond.
Travis: Are you suggesting you be proactive rather than reactive?
Gail: Oh, my gosh, yes. I think I am.
Travis: How dare you? How dare you? But it’s so true. And I think to your point, like, contingency planning obviously, was a huge part of my life before now. But it’s like, when you set yourself some parameters for, like you said, the worst-case scenario, and you realize, like you said, “It’s very slim that that’s going to happen.” I mean like, “Is there a possibility that our vehicle is going to get hit and all of that?” Yeah, but it’s slim, given statistics. “One of us will be alright,” whatever.
And so, then if you deal with that first and then you go the other direction to like, “Oh, crazy, wazoo best case scenario.” “Oh, we roll into downtown Baghdad and have a party,” it’s probably not going to happen either. So now you can stop that catastrophizing that stops forward action, and you can narrow your focus on the actionable things.
Gail: And that is so, so important. Again, when I was in business, I was able to work on risks, because I was in a leadership role. But as a consultant I would come up with, “Okay, so what are the issues? What is the potential of failure? Where are the breaking points? Where is the weakness? Where’s the resource constraints?” “Oh Gail, it’s going to go fine.” Hell, no, it’s not going to go fine. And I’m going to make a list of things I know will go wrong.
Travis: Sure. And then it really boils down to like, once you start going through that list of potential pitfalls, a lot of times you’re going to find something systematically broken. You start looking at hard data and realize, “Okay, well, this is broken every time. Why?” And so often, it’s just a slight deviation left, and everything’s back on track and we’re fine.
Gail: And it being honest, and it takes balls, it takes balls. The last corporate job I had, and this is why I was out of corporate, one of the things I did was a lessons learned. I had one of the worst projects that company ever saw and I ran into every pitfall, weakness that company had, along the way. And when I presented first to leadership, my SWOT and, “Here are the issues, and here’s what we can do about them,” I was told, “You cannot present this. We cannot talk about this; we cannot verbalize these problems.” And I’m like, “They’re systematic and there are solutions. I’m not pointing fingers at you’re a bad department or you’re a bad manager. I’m saying we are systemically broken, but we can fix it.”
Travis: But I think so many people… you and I, we’re in a good space where we can look at failure as a growth opportunity. And so many people look at failure as like, the end. “I’m in trouble because I failed.
Gail: “I can’t let anyone know.”
Travis: I think it’s probably because you grew up with a big red F on your paper, like you’ve got to hide that from your parents or you’re going to catch a beating kind of thing. But I mean, that’s not reality. And the truth of it is if you’re leading appropriately, and you’re leading with transparency, like, you welcome that criticism, you welcome an opportunity to improve your team. It’s that ego that gets in the way of taking that criticism and running with it and improving stuff.
Gail: And it causes such distrust, it causes, learning how to do things behind closed doors, it really is just horrific. I did a major project one time; this is when I was in a leadership role. And all systems came down and everything, it was brutal. And the project leaders were like in the same room with us. And so, when I was working with IT and saw, “There’s a failure point, I want a risk management plan for that. There’s a failure point, I want a risk management plan for that.” And they gave me such flack. But the weekend that we took this place down, two of them hit, and I had the customer in the room with me. And I would send a text, “Pull out the plan,” bam, fixed. Bam, fixed. That customer, when we were done, said, “Gail, I didn’t think you were able to pull this off. That was amazing.”
Travis: And all it took was a little bit of like, introspective thought and honesty.
Gail: Right, “We’ve got a weak point here. We have a weak point there.”
Travis: And I think, like you said, you tore it all down, people are so uncomfortable with the notion of like, “Okay, maybe it’s broken at every level, maybe it all needs to get ripped down and rebuilt.” My very first unit in the military, it’s actually part of one of my keynotes because it was so pivotal in my life. Was, we had a particular platform that we operated off, we had Humvees, and they took those away from us. And they gave us this eight wheeled apparatus called a Stryker that no one in the world had ever used before.
There wasn’t a manual for it, there were no rules, no one knew how to use it. They gave it to us and said, “You guys are going to go to Iraq for 18 months.” And we were like, “Okay.” And I remember, I’ll never forget it, little baby Private Crutcher was standing in rainy Fort Lewis Washington. For a month, we’re being told, “It’s going to be fine because at the end of the month, the battalion commander is going to talk to you.” Like, “Great, he’s going to have all the answers.”
We’re standing out in the rain, here comes the battalion commander, he’s like, “Alright, guys, so I know you guys are all waiting on the answers about how this is going to work and how we’re going to implement who’s going to work where, because we’ve got to restructure everybody now.” He’s like, “I don’t know. But we’re going to figure it out together.” And I can tell you, the result was amazing. We ended up being part of the Expeditionary Force, we were there during the invasion.
And we are to date, the most successful deployed unit in the history of the army because we took bottom-up feedback. The Doer level, what they had to say mattered. And it created an environment of like, you and I’ve talked about it before in other forums but when you feel like you work with someone, rather than for someone, it’s a wildly different dynamic.
Gail: Because that’s where the ego is left at the door. That has an awful lot to do with it. It’s interesting because I had a conversation about ego. Ego has been this week’s word, I think. Ego is incredibly important because its job is to keep you safe. Ego is incredibly destructive because its job is to keep you safe.
Travis: Exactly. And it’s learning when to turn it on and turn it off. I mean, you need it in certain instances but in a leadership perspective, you can just drop it, just show up humble, and things are going to work out for you, I promise.
Gail: And it depends. So, I’ll give you an example where I had to throw my ego on. It was my first job as a manager. And I was pretty collaborative with the group, again, bottom up. They know the work, I don’t. They know the issues. Tell me about them. I would take your feedback but then I had to make the decision.
And there was a decision I had made. And I was having a team meeting, and one of the members in the team said, “Well, I don’t think we voted on that.” And I looked at her and it could have been him, but I had mostly women, and I said, “I’m so sorry if I confused you. There must have been something I said that gave you the impression that this was a democracy. It is not.”
Travis: And I, of course, from my background, completely agree with you. Like, sometimes the more lax environment you create, the more successful it will be, but also sometimes, like you’ve got to remind… because ultimately, you’re accountable for the success and failures of the team.
Gail: Right, I’m the one who’s… and that’s how I managed it. I get reamed you get rewarded.
Travis: Yes, a hundred percent.
Gail: I get reamed, you get rewarded.
Travis: And people suck at that too. Leaders are quick…. I’ll quit using that because managers are quick to throw someone under the bus versus them falling apart. Like, “It’s Brenda’s fault.” No, it’s not, Todd, it’s your fault because you didn’t lead them properly.” The onus is on the leader a hundred percent of the time if it fails.
Gail: A hundred percent of the time.
Travis: If it succeeds, it’s through their efforts.
Travis: And that’s the way it is.
Gail: Absolutely and they will throw themselves in front of a train for you.
Travis: A hundred percent, yes.
Gail: A hundred percent. And I had it happen. I’ll give you one more story and then we can get back to some of the methodologies that you use. I was working in the controller’s department of a big company, a national company. And one of my staff didn’t follow procedures and a huge refund went out that should not have gone.
Gail: And the person didn’t cash it, but it came back through marketing, which was like a big, “Oh no.” My CFO came out of his office, “Who…?” and then here’s the language, “Who the fuck did that??!” And I stood in front of the poor girl and him. I said, “My fault and I’ll take care of it.” And then he had a few choice words for me and stormed back in his office. So, I went into my office and took a look, and my boss came over and he goes, “You fucked up.” I said, “I know it’s my fault. I obviously missed something in training.” “I’m going to go through my training and see where I screwed up and go through it with her again, and this will never happen again.” It was my fault.
Travis: What’s amazing, and I’m sure this was your experience because in those moments, you look at the person who did the thing, and you’re like, “It’s all good. We’re going to figure it out.”
Gail: I know, she was dying.
Travis: And you alleviated all that stress; that person will never, ever do it again. You didn’t have to lose your mind. You don’t have to write anybody up. No one lost their job.
Gail: It’s a mistake.
Travis: Right. And now she will jump through flaming hoops over shark tanks for you, because you showed a little bit of grace.
Gail: And that shows character, it shows integrity. And I think integrity is another word that people don’t understand.
Travis: I think a lot of times, people, they misinterpret their role. I mean, your role as a leader is to facilitate the success of your team. And if that means Superman jump in front of the speeding bullet for them, you do that so they can keep doing what they’re there to do.
Gail: And that’s exactly it. That’s a good analogy because that’s how I looked at it. I looked at myself, “Oh, I’m standing in front of you. No one can touch you so that you can do your work.”
Travis: I mean, good leaders insulate their folks, not just from inside, but as best you can from outside influences. If there’s outside stressors, kiddo is sick, car’s broken down, do what you can to facilitate that. Insulate them from nonsense, so they can perform optimally while they’re there.
Gail: And that’s where success comes.
Gail: I mean, that’s how I got on the board of directors. That’s how I moved up as quickly as I can. That’s how I implemented projects, literally, Travis, that went on for years and no one could get the damn thing off the ground. They give it to me, and six months later, it’s operational. It wasn’t me.
Travis: It’s a totally different animal when you’ve got people working with you towards a common goal.
Gail: So, talk to me about some of the challenges that you face with your clients and how you help them.
Travis: I’ve got clients in all different spaces. And one of the big ones and I know it’s not even part of what we talked about, but I’m sure you can commiserate, is the planning aspect. It’s the planning and the inability to think beyond the three-month mark. Back planning was such a big part of what I did in the military, we would have to have a whole fiscal year planned out. And that’s everything, like land, ammo, stuff we’re going to be doing all year. And so that’s easy for me to do.
But folks have a hard time. Like, when they’re doing their goals list and they say, “I want to achieve X, Y, and Z.” Like, I’ve got a bunch of entrepreneurs who they’re trying to build their businesses and they want to get to… but they can’t realize their own dreams. Like, “I want an X5.” And I’m like, “Okay. And what else? That’s not a goal. That’s a car. Like, tell me what you want.” Like, mine’s crazy. My thing is, like, if I aim for the moon and I hit stratosphere, I still have way better than the dirt right in front of me. You know what I mean?
So, it’s having them like step outside. Just like you were talking about those people who have those insecurities from when they were a kid, like, have a hard time dreaming for themselves. Like, if you can get an established why going for yourself, that end state goal that 10 years from now where you want to be, man, that’s like your lighthouse in the storm of life. Where it doesn’t matter what Tuesday throws at you, how wonky it gets, you can stay fixated on that, and you can start working your way back. Like we already talked about, if you’ve got that concrete end state and you work your way back, then all the moving pieces kind of fall into place.
Gail: So, I love Simon Sinek and I was all about why before I even knew the man existed. So, when I discovered him, I was like, “Oh, he’s my people.” But he recently came out with a book called The Infinite Game, I highly, highly recommend it. Because he gives example, after example, after example, of corporations who are very successful because they have an infinite mindset versus the similar, that has a finite mindset, and their struggles. And so, if you’re looking at what’s in front of your nose, the next month, the next quarter, the next six months, if that’s how you are measuring yourself, you’re going to implode.
Travis: Oh, for sure.
Gail: You will not sustain. I have this vision now because of that book; that is not attainable.
Travis: And that’s perfect.
Gail: It’s awesome because it allows me focus on the rest of my life. That’s my why.
Travis: You know me at a little more personal level, so you know my family and I are like big Disney nerds. But there you go, so imagine, though, if in 1935, Walt Disney was like, “I got this mouse. I’m good.” And they’ve got whole departments called imagineers. These are people whose sole job is to just think up new stuff. And so, would you call that like a pretty successful business model? Yeah, because they’re always looking beyond the fiscal year, the quarter, the whatever. I mean, look, we both can agree that KPIs are important. Like, you’ve got to keep your eyes on that.
Gail: You’ve got to have a measure of some sort, but it doesn’t rule you.
Travis: But if you can… I mean, get in your DeLorean, and then go 10 years in the future and figure out pie in the sky, stupid, unattainable, like you said, “Here’s where I want to be,” and aim for that. Because when you look at that quarterly metrics, like, you’re going to get substandard results, it’s going to be, “Ah.” You might hit good enough, but you’re really going to be like, 1.1% off from where you wanted to be from hitting your numbers. Like, don’t look at that. My friends and I used to have a saying, anytime we’d go anywhere, and it was, “We didn’t come to participate, we came to take over.”
Gail: I love that.
Travis: And I think, folks come to life to participate far too often.
Gail: But they don’t know how to take over. They’ve been programmed to just participate.
Travis: Sure, but like, I never took a position in the military and didn’t look two levels above me and say, “Well, that’s the job I’m really going for.” I never took a job in the civilian sector in corporate America, and “Okay, you’re in charge of these departments.” “Hmm, am I or am I really like way up there?” Like, that’s the goal. If I’m a part of this, I don’t want to be just the cog. Like, I want to be up here.
Gail: So, let’s talk a little bit about setting goals because before I even knew what I was doing, I’m in corporate America, I’m young and my boss says, “So what’s your goal, your five-year goal?” “I want your job.” And it’s like, “Really?” I’m like, “Hell, yeah.” I had it in two. I had it in two.
Travis: When I was a brand new private in my first unit ever, I screwed something up. So, I got in a little bit of trouble, like very early on, first couple of weeks there. And I was sitting down with my first squad leader, and he goes, “What do you want?” And I said the same thing, I said, “I want your job and I want all these folks in this section to work for me one day,” and he laughed. And sure enough, two years later, that happened; that exact thing happened.
Gail: A five-year goal that you believe in, and you believe that you can do it, and you believe that you deserve it. If I want to put one word to why clients come to me; deserve, they don’t think they deserve their dream.
Travis: Yeah, and man, that’s tied into so much baggage from environmentals, from upbringing, from you name it, like a TV show that hit you wrong, like, whatever, it could be anything. And like, man, what I tell them is, “That’s bullshit. You’re lying to yourself. You’re letting whatever, like tell you who you are. That’s nonsense. That’s nonsense.”
Gail: So, from a brain perspective, your brain is like a blank computer being programmed, programmed, programmed, up until around the age of seven to nine. It’s at that age around nine that you start making decisions for yourself but 85 to 90% of your programming happened then. So, you’re making emotional decisions like a seven-year-old. So, when I say that to my clients, they’re like, “What?” I’m like, “You are responding based on the information you received at seven. And how old are you, and how many years has that been? Do you think it’s time to change?”
Travis: And then there’s where the challenge is, right?
Gail: That’s the challenge.
Travis: Because neural pathways are hard to carve. And it’s easy when you’re a kid because it’s the first time you’re receiving information and that’s the way it is. But when you get older, and you’re trying to outweigh that with new information, what does it take? You’ve got to practice all that stuff.
Gail: You’ve got to practice, yes.
Travis: I mean, really anything beyond that timeframe you’re talking about, like, those are all now skills. This isn’t just the way it is. These are skills you have to develop and cultivate to be able to inculcate into what the hell you do.
Gail: Exactly. Exactly. Oh my God, we could go on and on forever, Travis. So, some of the things that I am NLP master trained, and I fell into that, certainly not planning to incorporate NLP into my training. I was just curious as to, “What the hell is this?” Same thing with coaching. I never planned to be a coach. And I’m like, “What the hell is this?” “That’s my goal. This is like, cool.”
Travis: You discover you’ve been doing it organically for like, 20 years.
Gail: But you didn’t know. And the reprogramming requires a variety of skills because you have your DNA, your body responds before your brain even knows that you’ve been triggered. And so, it’s physics, physiology, as well as psychology, as well as emotional and it’s complex, and it’s rooted. To get yourself to the point where you identify that you physically are starting to get triggered. Then you can choose, “Whoa. That happened when I was 12. That is not what’s happening right now.” And then not get triggered.
Travis: Well, one of the tricks, one of the tools that I kind of empower my clients with is, you’ve got to have like, real time resiliency skills. And one of the things that I use is simple starters. And so, when you get into that moment, where it’s like, let’s say that you have to go give a presentation in front of the board and the day of, you’re all nervous, “They’re not going to listen to me. They’re going to laugh at me, they’re going to think I suck.” Like, all those negative self-talk things that start happening, like, you can qualify yourself right off the bat. That’s when you simply start with something simple. It’s like, “No, that’s not true.” So, you start there. But then what you’ve got to say next has to be quantifiable, has to be true, otherwise, it won’t stick.
Gail: And you have to believe it.
Travis: Sure. It’s one of those situations, like, “That’s not true because I was chosen for this for a reason. I’m qualified because of X, Y, and Z. And if nothing else, they have to listen to me because Brad’s going to be in there and tell them to shut up and turn their phones off.” Like, you’re good. So, in those moments, where you start doing that, like, reset back to what you used to know about yourself, or what you’ve told yourself for 20, 30, 40 years, do some of that in the moment and go, “Okay.” Like, that’s just a fancy way of telling yourself, “You’re bullshit.” You know what I mean?
Gail: But that’s okay to have that conversation with yourself. Another physiological… there’s a couple of physiological things, the quickest way to change your state is through physiology. It’s not sustainable. You have to do the other work. But it’s the quickest, in the moment, way to do it. And if you’ve watched any of Tony Robbins’ stuff, he’s on a trampoline. Why is he doing that? To get his energy up. To get himself ready for the stage so that when he gets out there, whoosh, he’s bigger than life.
Travis: That does so much for you. It turns on the endorphins, a flood of good brain chemicals happen. So, you’re open and ready for what’s next.
Gail: Right, exactly. So, before going on stage, there’s this… I’m not going to do it because it’s really crazy but one of the things I was taught because I am a trained presenter, is you get down and you like scrunch yourself and squeeze every muscle together, and then you relax. And you do it again. Because there’s not a trampoline, you don’t carry a trampoline with you, but it does the same thing. To kind of release those nerves. So, there are so many physiological tricks that you can tap into, to shift your state. So, then you can deal with what’s coming up.
Travis: Yeah, for sure. I mean, shoot, even breathing, controlled breathing is a real thing.
Gail: Oh, yeah.
Travis: And there’s so many different methods. You get the five second cadence or positive emotion, all the different ones you can plug and play with. But people, on average, if you did a poll with folks, like they don’t actually intentionally breathe ever. And it makes a massive difference, whether if you’re doing like deep breathing rather than just diaphragm to keep me alive breathing, it’s a big difference. And one of them generates ATP synthesis and turns on good brain chemicals. The other one just keeps you moving through the day. So, intentionally breathing is a big thing too.
Gail: Well, turning on the brain chemicals through your breath, if you can breathe and imagine… I mean, when I breathe deep, I feel it in my lower back. And then feel it go up your spine because that’s what’s happening. So, feel it because your blood is bringing that stuff up there. And you can feel your brain getting stimulated.
Travis: Yeah, it’s a weird thing. It’s almost like you’re a machine.
Gail: You are a machine; you really are a machine. So, what else? There’s so much that I want to cover with you, Travis. And we’re just going to take forever. So, you have people kind of sit down and intellectually figure out, “This is not going to happen. I’m good at this. I’m not good at that. That’s fine. I was chosen for a reason. I can do this.” Then what?
Travis: Well, that’s the tough part. So many people, then what is a multifaceted answer? Something that I kind of lean on a lot is, “You’re not in this alone.” I think a lot of people become like this island in and of themselves. Particularly in corporate America, like all these go getters, like, “I’m all by myself, and I’m just going to go the straight line, and I’m going to go to the top.” But the reality is, you’re not going to get there by yourself.
Gail: And it’s not going to be straight.
Travis: And so, one of the things I like to reflect on a lot of times, like when we’re doing urban assault stuff in the military, eventually you’re going to kick open the door and go through it. And everyone in that stack of four people has their job. And that first entry point, we call that the fatal funnel. And the last thing you want is for number one to get stuck there, to get scared, and not want to go through it because they’re going down and maybe two and three are going down as well. So, it’s important to have people on your team because what happens if one freezes, two is pushing one out of the way. Like, “We’re going through the door, dumb, dumb.”
So, you need to have people around you so that when you’ve done all the stuff you can do. And so, what I like to do is tie people to my why. That 10-year why. For me, you know my why. And so, you know it’s like, I’ve got four kiddos that are my entire world. I’ve got an awesome wife who does my podcast with me. So, if I get stuck in that fatal funnel for a minute, I’m like, “Okay, I’ve got people that are pushing me through this. I can do this because it’s not just me. I’m not doing this alone.”
Gail: It’s interesting, a podcast that came out today, one of the stories I talk about is my short term. So, your why can be to, “Put a roof over my head. Put food on the table,” it doesn’t have to be this big, enormous thing. And there was a time in my life where I was on welfare with a one-and-a-half-year-old daughter. And I was not raising her that way. It was a stopgap for three months to get me from A to B. And I got a job, which paid me less than I was making on welfare because I lost food stamps, and I had to pay childcare. I don’t know how I made ends meet. But within six months, I had a different job, which paid way better. And within two years, I had that manager’s job. I had a house, and I was buying a car with cash.
Travis: I know you’re a smart lady. So, prior to making that decision, you did the numbers on everything. You knew you were going into something scary. And that why pushed you through, right?
Gail: Right. “This child is not going to be raised this way. We’re going to have a better life,” whatever, and we did.
Travis: And your why, that’s what’s so great about when you say that because I know where you are now. Your whys continue to grow. Just like that dream is so far away from you, that 10-year unattainable thing, it’s like, “Okay, so we got that, check that off the list. What’s next? I want x, y, and z for my family. Okay, check that off.” Your why, it can grow and change, it doesn’t have to say… that’s what happens, people get complacent. They check that one off the list, like, “I’m good.” Are you though? Are you?
Gail: And then they get comfortable. And I’ll tell you, Travis, some of my clients, many of my clients are the ones who maybe had a dream, and they’re successful. They’re making really good money; they have a beautiful home. They have a nice family. And they’re empty.
Travis: I mean, we were both there. We both had the money. We both had the job.
Gail: Oh my God, and I hated it.
Travis: And we were both like, “This sucks.”
Gail: Yeah, and, here I am, trying to make it on my own. Well, not trying, I do just fine.
Travis: But even in those roles, like when I walked away, because I had military retirement, and now this great job. And so, I’m making more money I ever have in my life. We can afford to do anything we want. But by the time I get off work and have the time to do it, I don’t want to do anything. I’m depleted because I have a soul crushing existence by just going and functioning all day.
Gail: And that’s the key. Soul crunching. As an entrepreneur, believe me, we don’t put in less hours.
Travis: Oh, no.
Gail: We put in way more hours.
Travis: When you’re your own boss, you can screw up and work all day.
Gail: You know. I spent four hours today recouping one transcription, because I lost a bunch of stuff, four hours. And I lost more than one transcription.
Travis: Oh, you’re better than me. I’d have let it go. It would have been gone.
Gail: Oh no, no. I want it. I want it. But that’s the way it goes. Because you have [cross dialogue 00:41:04] and then you make a decision. And I’m like, “Okay, so I have a whole bunch of them that I paid for, and I could just download them.” This was one that I happened to have done on my own. And like, “Don’t ever do that again, Gail. It’s worth paying for it.”
Travis: It harkens back to what we talked about before, like it was a problem, and you could have looked at it as a failure. But instead, you learned a lot. And now if it does ever happen again, you lose track of it, you know the process to get it back. It’s a perspective thing. You can go, “God, that sucks. I lost four hours,” or you can go, “Man, I’m golden next time that happens.”
Gail: Right because I’m never going down that road again. And so, is it worth it, to save 60 bucks? No.
Travis: Ultimately, not.
Gail: No, no, because it’s not that expensive to have a transcription done. So yes, this will be transcribed. And so, with that, is there something else that you would like to add before we wrap up, Travis, about the types of things that you do with your clients?
Travis: I think one of the things that it’s been kind of my topic for the last week or so, like the universe starts telling you, “Talk about this.” And so, it may not actually even be in line with anything we’ve talked about, but it’s one of those compulsions at this point. Man, I hate to use this verbiage but I’m going to, like, don’t be a douchebag. Okay? And apply that information to yourself as well. Like, be a better human, because we’re so good at… not so good but folks are generally pretty good about pumping decent into the universe.
So, like, pump good into the universe, not just decent, and then apply that same grace to yourself. I think so often, what we do is we give everyone else but ourselves our very best. And that’s really a detriment to you. Like, for me, I get up early before everybody in my house. I get up at four o’clock. So, I have time to like, drink some coffee, lift weights, shower, human up, before the first kiddo is out of bed. If I don’t do that for me first, if I don’t give myself grace and time first, I’m not the best version of me.
Gail: Absolutely. I’m up at 3:30, so I’m a little bit ahead of you.
Travis: Right. Yeah, it’s alright. But don’t short yourself, show up your best because you’re taking care of you. Don’t be a douchebag to yourself if that makes sense.
Gail: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think of the whipping yourself and people do that. I worked with one gentleman, and I was a consultant, and I was brought in to help him. He was a new department. To create his team. How does this now fit in with the workflow? Who are we? What’s the workflow? And help him with his leadership skills. And one of the things that I had a real hard time working with him on was him taking the blame. There’s a difference between taking responsibility, like I did with that CFO, and taking the blame.
Travis: You don’t internalize accountability. You know?
Gail: No. And it got to the point where even his staff… because I would have one to ones with his staff to find out how they were doing. And, like I adore the man, but I really am sick of him taking the blame.
Travis: And what’s crazy, too, and I know you see this with your clients, just like I see with mine, is when they get stuck in that, “I suck.” And they’ll come to you with a laundry list of, “I suck at this. I suck at this. I suck at this.” Like, “Okay, maybe. What are you doing about it?” Just like in that situation you talked about with the big refund. You could have like, “I suck. I suck at my job.” Yeah, maybe in that moment you did. But you fixed it, right? And did you ever suck at that again? No. So don’t live in it, don’t live in the ‘I suck’. Acknowledge it and move through it.
Gail: Oh my God, we all suck at something. We all do. It’s just crazy. But yeah, this has been awesome, Travis. We need to do this again.
Travis: Thank you so much for having me. Yes, I really enjoyed it for sure.
Gail: Yeah, we definitely need to do this again. And how can people get in touch with you if they want more information?
Travis: The website is aboveaverageleadership.com. The podcast is the Above Average podcast. It comes out every Wednesday. It’s up before you, I promise. So, check it out. And yeah, those are the big ones. And you can watch the stream on YouTube if you want to. If you can tolerate any more of this visual. We’re there every Monday, so check it out.
Gail: His podcasts are awesome, guys. I pop in every once a while to listen to what it is that you have to say. So absolutely.
Travis: Gail wrote me a wonderful review, actually. That’s a true story.
Gail: It was a while ago then, so it’s time for another one. So, thank you so much. And this is Gail Kraft from The Empowering Process podcast. And if this resonated with you, please let us know. And if there’s something in here that maybe someone you know could listen to and maybe this could help, share this with them. And leave comments. I might do an ‘Ask Me Anything’, based on your comments below. Thank you everybody. Thank you again, Travis. And have a fabulous day.
Travis: My pleasure.
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