Life is an intricate journey filled with highs and lows, joys and sorrows. In this episode, Adam Markel sits with Andrew Bennett, a keynote speaker, workshop leader, coach, and two-time TEDx presenter. Together, they explore the essential facets of resilience, highlighting the transformative power of embracing change. They discuss how life’s hardships, much like its moments of joy, are transient and emphasize the importance of savoring every experience. Andrew brings up his upcoming book, The Restorative Mindset: The Magic of Finding Inner Peace, and shares sneak peeks at its insights about significant loss, seeking greater purpose, and rewriting your life’s chapter. Throughout the episode, Andrew emphasizes that our stories, even the most challenging ones, can become a source of healing for ourselves and a lifeline for those who need it. Tune in to start your journey towards a more resilient, peaceful, and fulfilling life.
- 02:14 – Andrew’s Story
- 09:23 – Magic: Appear, Disappear, Restore
- 14:58 – Resilience: Embracing Change And Life’s Challenges
- 26:53 – “This too shall pass.”
- 45:14 – The Restorative Mindset Sneak Peek
How do we leverage continuous uncertainty to thrive in this unprecedented new world?
The answer is to build the resilience we need to power us through the challenges we face so that we become “Change Proof.” Prepare to tackle the future with confidence by reading Adam’s latest book Change Proof: Leveraging the Power of Uncertainty to Build Long-Term Resilience.
Watch the episode here
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The Restorative Mindset: Transforming Pain Into Purpose With Andrew Bennett
I have an incredible guest. He’s an amazing man. He has life experiences that are compelling. They’re real. They are so touching. I’ll tell you a little bit about him and then we can settle in for this amazing conversation. Andrew Bennett is a keynote speaker, a workshop leader, a coach, a two-time TEDx presenter, and a professor at the American University in Washington, DC. He also teaches in the White House Leadership Development Program. He specializes in leadership, organizational culture, and personal development. He’s also a world-class magician and a member of London’s Magic Circle.
I can tell you that you’re going to love this conversation. You’re going to want to share it with friends and colleagues alike. Sit back, get settled in, relax, and enjoy my interview with Andrew Bennett. That was no joke. We got into the serious stuff or the things that are universal for all of us. That’s why they’re universal. We all deal with loss. We all are probably still processing some level of loss in our lives, whether it’s loss of life, a loved one, a business, an opportunity, or any number of other things that fall in that category of loss. That was some of what we covered.
I love this guy. I love how he speaks and communicates. He is a master at those things. He feels to me like a genuinely good human. Fortunately, I got introduced to him through another good human, a dear friend of mine. It’s probably no surprise that when you meet good people and have good people in your lives, you will be in the company of other good people. That’s how it works. That’s the Law of Attraction. Somebody once said that we’re always either affecting people or infecting people. That’s an in-your-face statement if ever you heard one.
This is a gentleman, Andrew Bennett, who is affecting people. He has been affecting people for a long time, and I would imagine he has affected you, me, and many others with this conversation. We talked about the restorative mindset. We talked about the magic that it is to work through our setbacks, losses, and disappointments in life and to see something truly transformative on the other side of that. It wasn’t part of our show, but in doing some research on him, I was looking at his website and looking at a video that part of his team must have created for him.
He was telling the story of how when he was a young boy, he lived on a farm with his grandparents. It was his grandparents who raised him. He had a very close relationship with his grandfather in particular. We know that his grandfather was the one who brought him to magic, taught him, and gave him what he needed, the first three lessons of magic, or these three lessons of appear, disappear, and restore. That changed his life as a young boy and gave him a direction and something purposeful to be working toward instead of perhaps leaning into the sadness of losses that he experienced, including eventually the loss of his grandfather as well as suicide as a result of mental illness.
Those three lessons have stayed with Andrew, and he has been teaching them in a different context of leadership and organizational development ever since. That’s amazing. He was sharing that when he was on this farm, there was a tree. This big elm tree had survived a blight that had wiped out all the other elm trees on farms in that area some years ago.
At the time when his grandparents bought the farm, the people who were selling the farm had a big male bull. This bull was tied to the tree by use of this large chain. When they sold the farm, they took the bull but they left the chain. It’s how the story goes. Eventually, this big elm tree’s bark grew as trees do and grew over the chain. You’ve probably seen something like that before where something was embedded in a tree, and then the bark surrounds it and then eventually grows over it.
Later on in life, Andrew discovered that from a scientific perspective, the reason that this elm tree on that particular farm survived when all the other elm trees had perished was that the iron from the chain was what gave this tree some nutrients to survive what was attacking it. It’s so interesting that in this instance, you can see that even something like that where there’s this thing that is difficult or this thing that is a challenge or adversity can ultimately serve to make us stronger.
It’s such a beautiful example of how that tree survived and thrived as a result in that instance of the iron that it was getting from this chain that was wrapped around it. You would never think that it would be a good thing for the health, the longevity, and the longstanding of a tree. I heard Andrew tell that story, and it reminded me of a lot of the conversations that I had with him. He’s had a fascinating career working for Ross Perot for ten years. Ross was his mentor.
We were talking about what the various pivots along his journey have been and how everything has led to these moments or opportunities for greater service to others, for clarity, and for the kind of success that, to me, is real success, which is how you feel about your day-to-day life, how you feel about the work you do in the world, how you feel about the lives that you impact, and how you feel moment to moment, which sometimes can be reflected in other areas too. There are signs of success in your bank account, but they’re not the only signs of success either.
I loved having this conversation. If there are other people in your life who would also lean into some of the wisdom that was shared and the great things that Andrew was able to craft in the way of this conversation, please share this episode with a friend, a family member, or a colleague because it’s fundamentally important that we share good messages. We would appreciate it if you did that.
If you’ve not yet left a review for the show, I will once again make that request and ask that you do it. Whatever the platform is that you consume this, a five-star review is very helpful to us. If you’ve got a comment or a question, you can always leave a comment there for any guest and/or me, and we will be the ones to answer that directly. We appreciate that.
Lastly, when it comes to this moment or snapshot in time, it’s so important to be cognizant of my ever-present awareness of the level of resilience at the moment mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. We have a test to give you or a tool that you can use to test your resilience in three minutes or less. You can go to ResilienceRank.com. In three minutes for free, you can get your resilience assessment and see this snapshot in time how mentally, emotionally, physically, and even spiritually resilient you are. We would love to serve you in any way we can. Always let us know how we can do that even more. For now, I will say ciao.
I’m thrilled to be sitting here in this seat. Before we did the interview, we were chatting a little bit about this whole thing. It was a new thing not so long ago, honestly, and now, it’s a regular thing. It’s a common thing yet after more than 300 episodes at this point, I still do it because it feels so good each time I get to meet somebody that I don’t know well and I don’t have an intimate relationship with, but through the conversation and being real with each other, I get to know and learn things. Martha Stewart said it best as she was being interviewed after winning the swimsuit cover for Sports Illustrated at age 81 or 82. She said something to the effect of, “When you’re through changing, you’re through.” This is a woman who’s reinvented herself over and over.
Change is so fundamentally important to us. I know that in my core. I don’t have to think about that. It might be called a core belief, which is what drives me not only to continue to do the work I do in the world, not because I want to be in some way a value to others and in some educational sense to pass on knowledge but because I’m still learning.
In every one of these conversations, we explore this unknown area or this unchartered territory with somebody for the first time. That is exciting. It excites my five-year-old self, the curious kid that’s inside. My first question for you is this. Despite everything that I’ve said previously about who you are in the world, your CV, the bio, how you’re introduced when you speak to audiences, and all that good stuff, what is one thing that is not part of that bio that you would love for people to know about you?
That’s a great question because it cuts right to the core of it all. The stuff that we put in our bio is we want to be credible. We want to look good. We put the stuff out there that is all of that. We want to establish ourselves. What’s not in my bio is all the stuff that’s gone on in my life behind the curtain. I’ve had a lifetime of unbelievable loss. You hear my story. I’ve been working in the White House, and someone came up to me after we were on a break and said, “Have you ever read the Book of Job?” It does read a little bit like the Book of Job. What’s not on the resume is the real stuff of life that’s gone on while I pursued achievement and all that stuff.
It’s so interesting in the sense that people think, “That’s good. You probably shouldn’t lead with the loss. Somehow or another, that wouldn’t help you to move forward.” It’s intuitive that it wouldn’t be a part of things. There’s an element of that being true. It’s a question of context and a question of timing as to when those things happen. It sounds to me like even though that’s not in the introduction, as part of your work in the world, you are transparent about the losses that you’ve experienced. You’re in the White House, but it’s not your first trip to the White House. Why don’t you give us a sense of why you spend time in the White House? What is that all about?
It’s an amazing opportunity to have a positive influence because if you follow the news, which I’ve stopped doing because it was so toxic in me, I didn’t like the way my mind was working when I was subjecting myself to so much of the “news.” I stopped. We know that’s focused so much on all the toxic stuff. There are tons of people in our government who are doing amazing work and want to be part of something better. This was an opportunity for me to be part of that.
The opportunity came through my teaching at American University. The White House went to American because American has one of the best programs for public administration in the country. We’re here in DC. They came to American looking for who are the people that could help us. I was asked to do that. It is this amazing opportunity to be part of something good.
It’s so interesting because most of my career has been in the private sector and the business world. We know how that is. The agenda is to grow your business and be profitable. We know the business metrics. It’s different in the government. For government employees, it is much more mission-driven. You don’t have the business metrics like revenue. You add this dynamic of not only is it focused on achieving a mission, and that’s how your success is measured but you’ve got the political dimension to it.
The people that I’ve been working with in the White House have been government employees. It’s the White House Leadership Development Program. It’s twenty top leaders from across the federal government in various agencies. They do a one-year detail to the White House. They spend 80% of their time working within the cabinet on policies, but then they have 20% of their time that’s for developmental experience or things like time with me.
They’re government employees. These people are very senior, and many of them have been with the government for 30 years. It’s a marathon, but they’re being led by people who are political appointees. A lot of the time, it’s a different agenda. It’s extremely challenging. When people get critical of people who work for the government, it’s important to make a distinction between people who work for the government and politicians. There’s this dynamic of wanting to pursue a noble mission to make this country better for its citizens and this shorter-term political agenda that can oftentimes be about power. It’s so interesting.
I’m so thrilled to report to people that I’ve worked with there. I would work for any one of them in a heartbeat. They are good people. We get to know each other as human beings, and these are good people with their feet on the ground and good hearts. Before my first time in the White House, I started making up stories about what they were going to be like, and I was thinking of the egos. They’re going to be like, “I’ve been there, done that, and seen it all.” They’re jaded and cynical. It’s the complete opposite. They are humble and curious. They want to figure things out and make things better.
If you live long enough, and you’ve had enough experiences with people outside of a little homogenous group perhaps, then you realize that people are people, especially if you travel the world and that kind of thing, which you and I have both had the blessing to do. My dad was a civil servant. He put his 30 years in as they did back in the day and retired at 55.
I grew up in a house where the mission was always at the front. Money was never at the front in part because there wasn’t much money. That makes sense that it wouldn’t have been what my father was putting his focus on. If that had been the case, he probably would have not stayed and been disgruntled. The fact is he was always inspired to do his work as I recall.
I’ve had the good fortune in my work in speaking and facilitating workshops to work with municipal organizations like the City of Palo Alto. You meet a lot of people. You and I probably won’t take this track in our conversation, but it does make sense to hone in on that distinction between people who are in public service roles as part of politics and those who are committing a lifetime of service or extended years of service to the public good. They’re civil servants. I wouldn’t consider a politician or a political appointee a civil servant in that respect.
That’s an important distinction. I’m not pointing to say one is better or not. I know that having grown up in a house with that, their focus was not on whether it was red, blue, or anything like that. It was always, “Are we taking care of the kids?” My dad ran a park. He was a parks supervisor, recreation director, and preschool teacher. Those were the things he was concerned with, not who was in power at the time.
You were out on Long Island.
Technically, it’s a suburb of New York called Queens. You may have heard of it.
I’ve heard of that place.
That’s where I grew up in an apartment building. It’s funny because you’re sitting in a gazebo with this beautiful green background. It looks like a Rhododendron or something like that. We also live in a tree house. It’s pretty funny to see. I’m not in that background at the moment. We live in tree houses. That seems to be the common thread in our lives these days between the East and the West Coast.
I would love to track back to what you said earlier about loss. Let’s go into the White House or some other area where you are either consulting or facilitating. We started this thread with, “In my life, there has been a lot of loss. That’s not something that’s in my 30-second intro elevator pitch.” Could you give us a little sense of what that is? Where does it integrate, if you are willing to share, in the teaching that you do and the facilitating?
I appreciate your deep listening and your question on this because it is everything in my work. The two have come together. When I first started in business, I was blessed because my first mentor in business was Ross Perot. I was his personal assistant when I was 23 years old. He was my mentor for ten years. In those early days, I was very much focused on climbing the ladder. It was all about business, strategies, execution, the right tactics, and the classic, “How do you be successful in business?”
Over the years, as some of the pain from my personal life became more acute and required me to pay attention to it, it started to influence the way I was feeling about work. Thank God I followed that to let my personal experiences influence my work. It’s brought me to this place where I’m helping people look at leadership from a much deeper perspective, not just in the context of their jobs but in the context of life. What’s the impact you want to have as a leader that will make this world a better place? It might be your corner of the world. It doesn’t have to be world-changing.
I started the loss experience before I was three years old. My mother and my seven-year-old sister were killed by a drunk driver. My father, my older brother, and I moved in with my mother’s parents. About a year later, my father remarried, took my older brother, and started a new family. I stayed with my mother’s parents. I didn’t find out until many years later some of the reasons. We were in a very small town of 421 people in Northwestern Lower Michigan. My father lived two miles away yet I only saw him on my birthday and Christmas.
Many years later as an adult, I started to become aware of my fear of rejection. It tracks back to my experiences of my father’s absence and seeming conscious choice to not have me in his life. It created a lot of pain. I was raised by my grandparents. They were amazing, wonderful, and funny as hell people. My grandpa got me into magic. I’ve been a magician my whole life. I had my TV show when I was fourteen and put myself through college.
Grandpa was my hero, my agent, my writer, and my chauffeur, but when I was thirteen years old, he had a mental breakdown. For the next three years, he was in and out of mental institutions. When I was sixteen, he came back. We lived on a cherry farm. He had been out for three years. He came back. He had been home for two weeks. One morning, he went down to our barn and took his life.
By the time I was sixteen, I lost my mother, my sister, my father, and my adopted father. A few years later, my grandmother who had been the rock in my life, a beautiful and tough Irish woman who kept it together through all this stuff that had happened in her life, contracted spinal myelitis. It made her quadriplegic overnight. I watched this woman for nine months, quadriplegic, having the spasm for every breath and breathing through a hole in her neck. Here was this beautiful and courageous woman who had suffered so much, and she had this cruel ending.
That was when I said, “There can’t be a God.” I didn’t feel like God had pinpointed me to hurt and suffer, but I felt like this is a random crapshoot, and stuff happens. After all of that pain, I poured myself into work, climbing the ladder, and all of those conventional measures of success. I wanted to have the right car, the right title, and a house on the golf course.
I got all of that and the house on the golf course. I saved my money for years. Shortly after moving in, my wife and I became ill. We found out the house was infested with toxic mold. It was condemned by the health department. We tried to get the builder to fix it. The builder had deeper pockets and resisted fixing it. We ran out of money to pursue that. We lost the house. We went bankrupt.
We moved into an apartment on the third floor of a three-story apartment building. One afternoon, lightning struck the roof above our bedroom and started a fire. We had just moved in. My wife hadn’t gotten renter’s insurance. We lost everything. Within the span of three months, we lost everything materially and financially. We lost 3 of our 4 cats. We didn’t have children. It was at that point that I felt like, “What’s this all about?” I felt like I had a gut punch after gut punch.
Shortly after that, my wife and I divorced. I was at rock bottom, the worst place I had ever been in my life. I was suffering from depression, and it was tough. I was lying in bed one night, and I looked up and said, “God, why did you leave me?” It wasn’t an audible voice. I don’t know if it was my subconscious. Who knows? Who cares? It was a good thing. I heard this message, “I never left you. You left me. I’m always here, and I always love you.” That’s when things started to turn around.
The next morning, I was reflecting on magic for whatever reason. I remembered the first three lessons that you learned in magic. The first thing is you learn how to make something appear, you learn how to make something disappear, and then you learn how to restore something that has been torn, broken, or cut and put it back together again magically. For whatever reason, those came to mind. I was journaling, and I wrote down, “Appear. Disappear. Restore.”
I was seven years old when I was introduced to those first three lessons. Grandpa and I sat down on the floor under the Christmas tree and looked at my magic set that they gave me, “Appear. Disappear. Restore.” I was at rock bottom, and I remembered these three things. It dawned on me, “What if I think about what I want to appear in my life? What if I think about what needs to disappear from my life? What do I need to restore in my life?”
I started making a list of all the things I wanted, that needed to go away, and all of that. I put all of my attention into the things I need to do and stop doing, the ways I need to behave, the choices I need to make, and the decisions I need to make to live with that. That became the structure for my work. We’re in the real world. What do you want to appear as a result of your leadership? What needs to go away? What needs to be restored? It leads to important foundational conversations about what’s real, about leadership, and about making a difference in the world.
I am marinating in what you said. That’s a word my daughter uses. Our daughter Chelsea introduced me to that. There’s something I’m sitting with in much of what you said. When you hear a story like the one you shared with us or life experiences, every single part of that is part of the experience of being alive. I would imagine there are a lot of people crying at this moment, and other people are uncomfortable.
It could be that it’s reminiscent. It reminds them of some pain or loss that they have endured and dealt with. It could be that it’s something inconceivable. We don’t necessarily even know how to sit with that or how to talk about it. I want to first thank you for sharing those experiences with me and everybody who’s reading this. Life is messy, not in a way that means that it ought to be less messy.
It’s the whole spectrum. It’s the good and the bad. It’s reality. You’re going to have joy. You’re going to suffer. That’s all part of it. I know so much of your work is about resilience. That’s why your work is so important to help people realize that whatever you’re going through, it’s not the end even when you are suffering. Something very helpful in being resilient is realizing that those hard times too shall pass.It's not the end, even when you are suffering. Click To Tweet
That’s such a great use of that particular advice that people hear or that phrase that has been said. I feel like, “This too shall pass,” is such an interesting phrase because we apply it often to the things in life that are difficult, and it’s a way to know that it’s not permanent. It’s not a permanent state of being, and just because you’re unhappy in this moment doesn’t mean it’s a foregone conclusion that you will be unhappy in the next moment or a hundred moments from now.
We know that is certain, but, “This too shall pass,” doesn’t often get applied when it comes to the things that we love, the things that we’re enjoying, or the moments when your kids are young. At the stage of life that we’re at now because we got started early having kids and all that kind of thing, we’re getting to see the next generation of babies being born, experiencing, and re-experiencing what it’s like to see a child walk for the first time, put 2 or 3 words together, or things of that sort.
“This too shall pass,” is for everything. It’s agnostic to the law of the universe, which is change. This is the reason why I wrote a book about change called Change Proof because change itself is the thing we have to learn to embrace. That is the greatest form of resilience I know because we can’t evade it. There’s no avoiding it. That change is ever-present.
The Romans wrote on a sundial long ago, “It’s later than we think.” To be in this moment and say, “It’s a gorgeous day. It’s a rainy day. This too shall pass,” then we’re less brought through the rinse cycle or the beach where you see that whitewash of things getting tumbled around and thrown to the ground. There’s a more peaceful or serene existence that’s possible for us as human beings. Part of it has ties to what you said, this concept of, “This too shall pass,” and how you move from one state in one moment to the next state in the next moment. Can we do that gracefully?
As you mentioned, “This too shall pass,” with all the good stuff, I’m feeling grateful. That time with your grandchildren will pass. It allows you to savor it. Maybe the consciousness of that allows you to look at that child and savor it in a way that maybe you wouldn’t and that you might take for granted. There’s a real gift. I often say, “I’m grateful to be grateful.” One thing suffering has given me is an appreciation for when things are good, and I don’t take it for granted.Suffering from one thing can give you an appreciation that, when things are good, you shouldn't take it for granted. Click To Tweet
That’s why I use the word marinating. Your word savoring feels just as right to me. I was savoring listening to you share your experiences because, first of all, you’re an expert at communication and a great speaker, but to hear you share those very powerful and difficult times of your life, it’s an old expression in speaking and helping teach people how to facilitate, as you and I have both been involved in. You don’t typically tell a story you’re still bleeding from. You’re not still bleeding from the things you shared. They’re still relevant in your life.
There may be people who read this. As helpful as it may be, it may create anxiety for people, but people need to know that since remembering, “Appear. Disappear. Restore,” and me going to work on it, the last few years have been the best years of my life. I met my wife Jennifer who’s the greatest blessing. She’s right up there with Nan and Grandpa as far as my angels. To your point, a huge amount of healing is taking place so that I can help others heal themselves. It’s important for anyone to know that you can’t heal people. You can’t help people when you’re still in it.You can't heal people, and you can't help people when you're still in grief. Click To Tweet
It’s probably the great Victor Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning. I used to refer to him more frequently in my resilience training but not so much now. For anybody who isn’t familiar with that name, Man’s Search for Meaning sold millions of copies a long time ago. He was a person who endured something pretty horrific. He was in a concentration camp in Germany in World War II where people were being murdered all around him, and it was likely that he would also die in the gas chamber or what have you. He didn’t.
Part of what that book is about and his meaning therapy and teaching afterward revealed that he was looking at his life and the difficulties as things he would be able to help other people in some way based on later. It’s profound that you don’t know why something is happening and why you are suffering in the moment. To understand that it will be of great value and even service to others later isn’t a little thing you say to yourself, “Every cloud has a civil lining,” BS. It’s a lot more than that, and it’s true on top of it, which helps.
I never told my personal story until a few years ago. It was after I met Jennifer, my wife. We had been dating for about six months. I had written a short story about my grandfather’s suicide, and it was a cathartic exercise for me. I didn’t ever intend to share it with anyone, but we had grown very close, and I shared it with her. She read it and said, “You need to start talking about this to your audiences.”
The first time I ever told the story, I was in Grand Rapids, Michigan. There were about 600 people. You could have heard a pin drop. At the end afterward, a woman came up and said, “May I hug you?” She kept saying, “I needed to hear you.” I had no idea what was going on. She didn’t tell me, but that’s when I realized the importance of sharing your suffering and making sure that you’re as whole as you can be so that the story can be part of a lift or a healing for other people.It is important to share your suffering and make sure that you're as whole as you can be. Click To Tweet
Since I’ve been sharing that story, it has been incredible. One of the people from the White House and I finished our three days together. At the end of the day, there was an envelope that I discovered afterward when I was packing up. I read this message from this person, and she was talking about the impact the time had on her. It was incredible. I thought, “That’s what can happen by virtue of talking about your suffering, pulling back the curtain from the resume, and sharing your human experience in the interest of helping others.”
Whether it’s an intention or a prediction, it’s probably a bit of both, but I have a feeling people who are reading this have already gotten a great deal out of it. There will be people who for sure need to hear exactly what you shared with us. That is a certainty. There are so many things I want to cover, and I know we don’t have much time left. I will say this to double down on the point you made.
When I was a lawyer, I was under tremendous stress. I was unhappy in my chosen profession at that point for eighteen years. I had some moments where I felt out of control and was having some difficulties that a lot of people deal with like sleep issues, and people dealt with them then, trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, and waking up in the middle of the night.
I share with people about how I ultimately put myself in the hospital. It led me to have this very stark moment of truth, which was that my life was out of control, or I felt like I was out of control, and that’s what was producing the anxiety. I had an anxiety attack, but at the root of it was that I’m a control freak. That’s why I went into the law in part. Here I am living a life where there’s so much out of control. It’s producing this intense helplessness inside so that my body said, “Here’s how we get your attention.” It’s so obvious looking in hindsight at these things and understanding what was going on.
When I share that story from a stage, it’s what you said. It was my wife Randy who said it to me. When I got out of the hospital from that event, the last thing in the world that I talked about or would want to talk about was that I found myself in an emergency room having a mental breakdown when I was supposed to be at my son’s junior baseball game.
I share that story. It’s so interesting because even though I’ve shared it now many times at the behest of my wife, which she always knows best anyway, and I’ve learned that, I couldn’t share it when I still felt shame about it. When are you not bleeding from something? I’m tracking our conversation and where people might be able to think for themselves, “When can I share something? When would it be cathartic but also valuable to other people to share things?”
I train in the leadership space too. We only trust people that we feel safe around. The only people we ever trust are people that we feel we’re safe with. I never feel safe with somebody if I don’t feel like I see through them. If I don’t know them transparently on some level, I don’t trust them if they’re hidden or if they’re good at keeping their cards close to their vests. All that stuff that we’re taught in a whole variety of ways is the safer approach.
That’s part of that success recipe, “Don’t be too strong or aloof.” I don’t trust people like that. We have trust issues in leadership now big time because younger folks are more intuitive. You and I might be version 12 of the iPhone if we’re lucky. They’re version 14, and their kids will be version 16, and so on. Those versions don’t go backward. They’re evolutionarily more advanced. It shouldn’t be any surprise to people that Millennials and Gen Zs are more finely tuned to something that we were less finely tuned to when it comes to what they want out of life or what they want out of a leader. There’s that element.
To close the loop on that thing, when we stopped feeling shame about a difficult event, that was a signal point for me that this was a time that I could speak about it, and now I speak about it all the time. People always come up and say, “I had that happen to me last week or last month. People on my team are experiencing anxiety. It helped to hear how you walked through that. What do you do?”
That’s part of what my work is about. There are ways to develop your resilience before you end up in a hospital bed with something like I had, which thankfully was a thing that came and went, but a lot of people end up sick, and it’s not a came-and-went. It’s not a one-day event thing. I said a bunch of things there. Is there anything there that you want to lean into?
It made me curious. What was it that made you realize it was time to talk about this?
I was reading at the time some books. I wasn’t into personal development, growing up in Queens. It was like a jungle. I went to school. I was a teacher for a little while, and I go, “People around me are telling me to leave. There’s no future here.” I figured out, financially speaking, having come from a civil servant’s home, that I needed to make a lot more money than my dad did if I wanted to have a bunch of kids, which is what we wanted to do and live in a house as opposed to an apartment house.
I got on that path, the one you described, that corporate warrior path, or that business warrior mentality. That was part of my armor. When I had this moment where it was a real kink in the armor, and I couldn’t ignore it, I felt relief that I was not having a heart attack at that moment. I felt shame and embarrassment the next moment that I was putting my wife through it and that I was in such a weak state. It was self-loathing to the max. I didn’t know what to do with any of it, and I wasn’t going to talk about it. I got a book that you probably have read or heard of called The Road Less Traveled by Scott Peck. That book changed my life.
It was a very important book in my life too. I went and saw Scott Peck speak many years ago. It’s still an important book people should read.
My daughter read it. She was having some challenges in her final year of school. She saw it in my bookcase, and I said, “Take it with you.” She loves it. That’s why we write books too. Part of my last couple of questions here with you is I want to track that experience of having read a book that changed my life and very much inspired me to write Pivot originally.
It’s a book about personal transformation and reinvention out of my legal career and into the work I do now. I wrote a book called Change Proof, which is this book about resilience and change in organizational settings in part because I know that book can have an impact on people. I’m living proof of that. You are at the early stages of a book that you’re writing. My dad retired to become a book writer.
I didn’t know that.
He was superstitious about talking about his books. All my life, we would never talk about them until they were done. It was bizarre, but that was his thing. I don’t know if you’re willing to talk about your book that’s not yet finished, but if you are, I would love to know about it.
I get the superstition because there’s this part of me that’s like, “I don’t want to talk about it because it may not happen.” It’s hard. I was talking once to our mutual friend Steve Farber who’s had some great books and asking him, “How did you do it and everything?” He said, “You sit down in front of your computer and strain until blood breaks out in your forehead.”
That sounds exactly like what I would expect to come out of his mouth.
I’m in the early stages. I celebrated 30 years of private practice and doing leadership development and organization development. I turned 60 a couple of years ago. There are these milestones, and they cause you to reflect. As I’ve looked back over my adult career and all these corporate things in the last few years, a lot in the federal government, the things that have meant the most to me have been seeing individual people change their lives. Those are what means a lot to me.
I’ve had some big projects. I have done 39 multi-year projects with companies like Google and Habitat for Humanity. It’s where I’m on-site with them for four days a month, helping people change the real-world part of it. I’ve had all these projects, and there have been great things that have come out of that, but it has been the individuals that I’ve seen find so much more meaning in their lives and happiness, and then also getting enough messages from people to say, “You need to share your story. Your story needs to get out there in a bigger way.”
I’ve set about writing the book. It’s called The Restorative Mindset: The Magic of Finding Inner Peace. It’s very personal, and it’s for people who want to write a new chapter in their lives, whether that means they have experienced a significant loss, and they’re at a point where they’re ready to start moving forward or whether they have felt like, “There has to be more to life than what I’ve been experiencing. I want something new and different.” Maybe they feel a calling, “There’s something calling me, but I can’t quite identify what it is. I’m supposed to be doing more.”
It’s for people who are wanting to write a new chapter, and it’s all built around what I call The Restorative Mindset or the appear, disappear, and restore approach. It’s personal. It’s not a leadership book per se although leaders are human beings, and teams can write new chapters. I’m working with an organization in Boston that’s about to write a new chapter for itself. It’s a pharmaceutical company, and they have had a lot of success. The CEO is saying, “I want us to think about the impact we’re having and not think so much about the money. I want us to have some serious conversations about how we can serve people more equitably.”
I can’t wait for that book to be at the stage where the world will get to enjoy it, and I know it will be amazing. I can’t wait for that. I’m already bought in. Whatever your pre-order list is, I’m first in line or only behind people, family, and friends who have heard about it already. Andrew, thank you for that. To my audience and those of you who support this show, which we so appreciate, here are a couple of quick reminders.
If you have a question, a comment, or something you want us to see, you can leave a comment here for me and Andrew, and it will be us. We don’t have a bot for that. We’re not using AI to answer these things. That’s good too. Andrew, I want to thank you for the time and the intimate conversation that you were willing to have. I so appreciated it, but I also feel that I needed it. Thank you for that.
Thank you, Adam.
Here’s a final reminder. If you loved this episode, please share it with a friend, a colleague, or somebody that you know could benefit from it personally or professionally. That is also how the show reaches more people. I’m being selfish in that respect. I don’t mind doing that. Please share it. If you can provide a rating on whatever platform it is that you can consume this, that also helps. If you give it five stars if that feels right to you or whatever it is, we appreciate that feedback, and it’s super helpful. For the moment, I will say thank you and ciao for now.
- Andrew Bennett
- Change Proof
- Man’s Search for Meaning
- The Road Less Traveled
About Andrew Bennett
Andrew Bennett is a keynote speaker, workshop leader, coach, 2x TEDx presenter, and professor at American University in Washington, DC. He also teaches in the White House Leadership Development Program. Andrew specializes in leadership, organizational culture, and personal development. He’s also a world-class magician and a member of London’s Magic Circle.