5 Questions with Dr. Andrew Thorn, Author of Leading with Your Legacy In Mind

download (1)

This edition of 5 Questions features Dr. Andrew Thorn. Dr. Thorn wrote a guest post on legacy last year, so I was excited when I had the opportunity to interview him about his new book Leading with Your Legacy In Mind. I know you’ll love our conversation and the book as well.


In the preface for the book, you give a personal take on the struggle between career and family. What’s one strategy from the book that could help someone breakthrough?

Choose to be guided by purpose instead of passion. The purpose of your work is not to be passionate, it is to be useful, to be honorable, and to be of value to your community. When we align with our passion we are constantly caught in the struggle of trying to feed our own self-interests. When we align with our purpose we make a difference, we add value, and we connect our actions to our values.

In our society, fame (even on a small scale), money and status drive many of us to leave our legacy in the dust. Is legacy becoming a forgotten art?

We have forgotten what legacy means and so naturally creating a legacy is a forgotten art. Too often we confuse it with impact, but that is what others feel. We carry our legacy with us. It is the ultimate answer to the question “Who am I?” That is why it is so important for each of us to live and lead with our legacy in mind.

You have a chapter in the book addressing the move from change to growth. What’s that all about?

Change is always driven by external pressures. None of us change because we want to, or because we like to. We may tell ourselves that we do it for those reasons, but in our most truthful moments, we recognize that we only change when we have to. When we do for external reasons, we rarely can sustain the change.

Growth on the other hand is internally motivated. It is the answer to our deepest yearnings and aspirations. It comes about as a result of true desire. This is what makes growth easier to sustain. There are still challenges and trials along the way, but we are committed to our own idea, so we keep at it when the going gets tough.

I read recently, that organizations spend billions on leadership development annually. Are we getting a good ROI in developing leaders?

Sadly, most leadership development initiatives fail to live up to their promise. This is because they are generally focused on the wrong things. Leadership is not a competency or a skill. It is a behavior. Most organizations are ill equipped to measure and manage behavior, but they are very effective at measuring and managing performance. Naturally, and without a lot of effort, most leadership development initiatives become nothing more than just another performance management strategy. When a leadership initiative becomes tied to performance the game is over. Instead of reaching deep into authenticity, it remains an effort to cover up weaknesses and threats. To grow, our weaknesses and threats need to be exposed so that we can understand them and even use them to our advantage.

Another reason why so many initiatives fail is because we forget that leadership is an individual journey. This makes it difficult to teach it in a group setting, but organizations are afraid that it will be too expensive to work with each individual. They know they have to do something so they invest in ineffective strategies, just so they can check the box. We can never check the box on our leadership development efforts. It must be ongoing or we will create a stagnant culture. No one wants that.

Do you believe we’d have better balance in life, if we made legacy a top-of-mind matter? What kind of positive outcomes might we see there?

I think balance happens naturally, so the only time we feel unbalanced is when something is wrong. In life and in work, the unbalances we feel are directly related to our own inability to focus on the things that matter most. We are easily distracted by our business and busyness and we run out of time and energy to deal with what really matters. This is an easy problem to fix. All we need to do is adjust our focus. This doesn’t mean that we forget the things that matter least, which would be impossible because they are directly tied to short-term demands. It simply means that we take time each day to put the big picture in perspective and then do our best to allow our short-term actions to be aligned with bringing that picture to life. When we do this, our legacy is strengthened and we are happy. Most people are surprised by how easy it is to focus and recalibrate their life and work experiences.


Thorn_Press Materials_Headshot-NEW

A pioneer and leader in the field of work/life balance; Dr. Andrew Thorn is widely recognized for his breakthrough thinking on how to help people discover their sense of purpose and create greater meaning from their personal and professional experiences. He personally guided 2 of the top 50 business thinkers, currently listed on The Thinkers 50. His work extends to over 50 major corporate clients and over 250 Senior Leaders from many of the Fortune 500 Companies.

Graduating with a Masters in Business Administration from Pepperdine University, Dr. Thorn also holds a PhD in Consulting Psychology and a Masters in Personal and Executive Coaching.

He resides near Los Angeles, CA with his wife of 25 years, Stacy, and their seven children.

New Book Excerpt

I’ve been hard at work on the next book and waned to share an excerpt. Enjoy!

Day 2

 Began this day rushing out to make a 7:00 AM meeting. I made two major errors in that process. The first, was not checking my blood sugar before heading out. Damn! The second was playing a subtle game of chicken on the ride into downtown. The driver in the left lane was traveling at a mind numbingly slow pace. I entered the right lane to pass and the driver decided to accelerate, knowing I had a car in front of me. My speed did what was needed. Stupid on my part, for sure.

As I make my way down the road, I regret. Going over it in my mind again and again, I realize what I could have lost. As I get closer to the appointment, I reset with 3 deep breaths and move to what my client will need.

 We begin our session and the energy comes. I wonder if John knows what I take away from our sessions. As his coach, I give him what he needs. I’m struck by the learning and inspiration I gain.

Our conversation closes on the subject of mindfulness. This is an area we’ve placed a lot of focus on. I tell him about a friend of mind, who happens to be named John, who exclaimed that we have to turn the volume down in our heads, in order to hear God’s voice. He offers an analogy (one that helps him) around a group of divers in the Atlantic. These divers were on a mission to find a sunken German U-Boat. In the area they were in, visibility was lacking, and made worse if you stirred up something 200 feet below. If the latter happened, it was vital to be still. Did you get that, be still. Being still allowed the elements to settle and allow visibility to return. We both agreed that’s what mindfulness does for us, if we let it. As we walk back to our cars, I am energized.

Back at my home office, I begin the follow up communications relating to my dual entrepreneur life. This day, I’m not super happy about that. I pray for remembrance of the things I read in my bible earlier. Real life, real living, epic living, and above all thankfulness.

 Preparing for lunch, I’m pleased that I was able to find organic blueberries. Glad we’re heading into spring and summer. Availably goes with this reality. My yogurt, blueberry, raw nut lunch is complete.

 Later in the afternoon I get an email from a participant in a talk who wants to meet and learn more. She seems like an interesting person, so I’ll book something for next week. I also hear from someone that I don’t trust. This individual reminds me of how much harm can be done by those who wear the coat of goodness. I take the high road and don’t burn the bridge.

The mad rush to get my son fed before basketball practice begins. I’m not feeling good about the food choices. I remind myself not to get on a soapbox. The beauty of all of this is having a sit down dinner with Eileen. Unexpected and good for my soul. We spend 45 minutes together and it feels like hours. I am blessed.

5 Questions with Dr. Art Markman, Author of Smart Change

Markman, Art 2011_1841

I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Art Markman regarding his new book Smart Change. Some great insights on how to craft meaningful behavior change.


In the first chapter of your book, you note the success of the Cleveland Clinic in the area of behavior change. What would you say to those C-level executives who’ve tried some concepts to address wellness and behavior change, but have not met with great success?

The central problem with behavior change is that the motivational system is so efficient at promoting the habits people have already developed.  The Cleveland Clinic succeeded, because it instituted a comprehensive program of wellness aimed to help people develop healthier daily behaviors.  When companies institute wellness plans in a piecemeal fashion, they do not attack all of the pressure points on the motivational system that support change.  This approach is likely to fail.  The lesson from the Cleveland Clinic is that a comprehensive program that supports healthy living ultimately succeeds and that the initial investment leads to long-term cost savings as well as healthier employees.

Is the brain a friend or foe in our efforts to change our personal behaviors?

The brain is remarkably efficient at promoting the habits you have already developed, particularly when those habits lead to outcomes that feel good in the short-term.  As a result, your initial attempts to change your behavior make your brain the enemy.  Like a Jujitsu master, though, you have to learn to use the brain’s momentum to your advantage.  Change your environment to make desirable behaviors easy, and you will naturally start to act in accordance with your new goals.  Spend time with people who engage in the behaviors you want for yourself, and you will start to mimic their patterns.  Create specific plans for how you will achieve your long-term goals, and you will begin to create new habits that will ultimately make your brain your friend.

Can changing a person’s environment (work, school, community, etc.) be a catalyst for better behavior?

The environment has several influences on better behavior.  When your environment is littered with temptations, then you are prone to return to our past patterns of behavior.  So, disrupt your environment in ways that make it impossible for you to engage your previous habits.  If you are concerned about the amount of time you spend mindlessly browsing the web, then download a new browser that has an interface that differs from the one you are using.  Now, you have the opportunity to rethink your internet behavior until you develop a new set of behaviors.  People want to minimize the effort they put into many tasks, so making desirable behaviors easy to perform and undesirable behaviors hard to perform has an immediate influence on the way people act.

Explain the difference between a “process goal” versus an “outcome goal.”

When we set goals, we often focus on outcomes–the things we want to achieve.  For example, you might decide this New Years Day that you want to lose 40 pounds.  There are two problems wit these kinds of outcome goals.  First, they do not tell you how to achieve the goal.  Second, once you do achieve the goal, it is not clear what you should do next.  Rather than focusing on the desired outcome, create a process for living your life that generates the desired outcome as a side-effect of the way you live your life.  Focus on cooking new foods, adding exercise to your daily routine, and crocheting while you watch TV rather than mindlessly eating chips.  These process goals can be sustained long after you have reached your desired weight, and so you achieve your desired outcome without making it the focus of your efforts.

What’s been your toughest habit to break and what did you learn from the experience?

I had a few tough habits to break.  Until I was in my early 20s, I bit my nails.  It was an unattractive habit.  It was hard to break, though, because it requires *not* doing something.  You cannot create a habit that involves not doing a behavior, and so after a few weeks I would always start biting my nails again.  In order to break that habit, I had to figure out when I was actually biting my nails.  I discovered that I most of the time when I bit my nails, I was sitting around either reading or watching TV.  So, I worked to replace the bad habit with new habits.  I started buying a lot of desk toys and playing with them at the times that I would normally bite my nails.  Eventually, I replaced the bad habit with these new routines.  Of course, now my graduate students make fun of me for playing with a slinky while we are meeting…

Art Markman, Ph.D., is Annabel Irion Worsham Centennial Professor of Psychology and Marketing at the University of Texas at Austin, and director of the Masters Program in the Human Dimensions of Organizations. He received his Sc.B. in Cognitive Science from Brown University and his Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Illinois. He has published over 150 scholarly works on topics in higher-level thinking, including the effects of motivation on learning and performance, analogical reasoning, categorization, decision making and creativity. He is currently executive editor of the journal Cognitive Science and a member of the editorial board of Cognitive Psychology. His previous book, Smart Thinking (Perigee Books) was a bestseller.  Art is co-host of a new radio show Two Guys on Your Head produced by KUT radio in Austin. He is on the advisory boards of the Dr. Phil Show and Dr. Oz Show.


Thoughts on Quiet the Mind by Matthew Johnstone

Got to thinking about the importance of mindfulness this morning. I did this review back in 2012. This is an art I've learned through Yoga. Taking time to just be is vitally important.



Quiet the Mind by Matthew Johnstone is one of the best books I've read in a long time. The way the book is constructed is truly captivating. The only way I can describe it is simplicity. The book only took me 30 minutes to read and I was fully engaged the entire time. I don't know if it's available for Kindle or the iPad, but it would definitly be a good book for that format.

Now for the content. Mr. Johnstone takes you on a journey through the art of meditation. He does this in a non-threatening way. So regardless of your religious or thought-clearing methods you won't feel uncomfortable. The author gets high marks for this. He also speaks to the reader in a way that you can't help but relate to. It's as if Mr. Johnstone knew you before you even read a page.

This book is illustrated beautifully and the words used are an equal companion. I highly recommend this book. It inspired me on multiple levels.

5 Questions with Dr. Norman Rosenthal, Author of The Gift of Adversity

The_Gift_of_Adversity COVER
When I got the email regarding Dr. Norman Rosenthal and his new book, The Gift of Adverstiy: The Unexpected Benefits of Life's Difficulties, Setbacks, and Imperfections, I was intrigued by the title of the book and his story. Dr. Rosenthal's background, and his coming of age in the Apatheid era of South Africa, are powerful introductions to someone who has faced many depths of adversity. As I look back on my own journey I am convinced that adversity is a gift.

I hope you'll be inspired by the following interview I had the pleasure of doing with Dr. Rosenthal:

Your experiences are vast and diverse. What do you
want the reader to walk away with after reading the book?

want the reader to come away with a sense of hope that although adversities are
unwanted and sometimes painful and even disabling, whether they are large or
small, there are often ways out of those dark places and, most important,
lessons to be gained from the journey. Those are the gifts of adversity.

different about people who accept and work thru the gift of adversity?

who are willing to accept reality are ahead of the game-as opposed to those
who deny reality and resort to fantasy. They will assess their situation,
reach out for help and support, and find ways to overcome, and learn from,
adversity. The book offers many specific guidelines as to how to do so.

In your book, you detail the challenges of growing up
in the Apartheid era in South Africa. How did that shape your perspective on
seeing adversity as a gift?

brought with it a great deal of adversity, especially for the Blacks who
labored most under its yoke. Adversity was everywhere in evidence, and I
specifically deal with it, for example, by discussing the lives of the servants
who worked for my family and the torture experienced by a cousin of mine. But the whites also suffered from the guilt of watching and often taking
no action.

role does arrogance play in a person’s ability to consider or handle adversity?

arrogant person takes on a position of superiority in relation to others. He is unlikely to learn from mistakes because he doesn't acknowledge his
mistakes. Humble people are more likely to learn and grow from adversity. In one chapter I discuss how it is important to learn something from

inspiring you right now?

patients always inspire me by the courage with which they embrace their
problems and the creativity with which they work around them to live rich and
diverse lives. Kind people inspire me. I see kindness every day,
and it warms my heart.


Norman Rosenthal_Author Photo (2)
In The
Gift of Adversity
by Dr. Normal Rosenthal, the noted research psychiatrist
explores how life's disappointments and difficulties provide us with the
lessons we need to become better, bigger, and more resilient human beings. The
book is available for purchase on Amazon.com

About Dr. Norman Rosenthal

The New York
Times-bestselling author of Transcendence:
Healing and Transformation through Transcendental Meditation
, Winter Blues and How to Beat Jet Lag, Norman
E. Rosenthal
, M.D.
, attended the University of the Witwatersrand in his
native South Africa. He moved to the United States and was resident and chief
resident at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital and the New York Psychiatric Institute.
He has conducted research at the National Institute of Mental Health for over
twenty years. It was there that he first described and diagnosed Seasonal
Affective Disorder
(SAD). Dr. Rosenthal is a clinical professor of psychiatry
at Georgetown Medical School and has maintained a private practice in the
Washington, DC metropolitan area for the past thirty years. Rosenthal is the
author or co-author of over 200 professional articles and several popular
books, including Winter Blues, the classic work on SAD. He currently serves as
medical director and CEO of Capital Clinical Research Associates in Rockville,
Maryland, where he directs clinical trials in both pharmaceuticals and
complementary and alternative medicine.


5 Questions with Dr. Mark Goulston and Dr. John Ullmen, Authors of Real Influence

Had the pleasure of connecting with Dr. Mark Goulston and Dr. John Ullmen,
authors of Real Influence: Persuade Without Pushing and Gain Without Giving In
about their new book and more. Some really great insights from two great thought leaders. Enjoy!

The book is
ripe with practical ideas, could you unwrap the concept of "their
there" and why it's important in the arena of influence?

MG: "Your here" is your agenda and in this distrustful world everyone
expects people to have one and so everyone either has their guard up or is
primed to put their guard up at the first sign of you trying to foist your
agenda on them. 

JU: Focusing and remaining focused on "their there" or where the
other person is coming from and helping them to see and get to where they want
to go and way beyond that, where they could go is one of the keys to real
influence. In fact, the most influential people from our lives were influential
because they saw a potential in us that we couldn't see.

We here in
the U.S. live in a very self-focused culture. What are some ways to transcend
this state?

MG: Think of someone and what they did who stood up for you when you couldn't
and/or stood by you in a crisis and refused to let you fail and/or stood up to
you in private and pushed you to do something you didn't think you could or
stopped you from doing something foolish that would have hurt you or your

JU: Good point Mark.  What was that
person's effect on you? Probably amazing. 
What would be the best way to honor them? Probably by doing onto others
what they did onto you.  What would be
the effect on people around you? Probably the same as that special person's
effect was on you… huge. Plus you might even like yourself or be proud of
yourself more.

What will the
solo/individual contributor find most practical in the book?

JU: The solo/individual will find a 4 step way to truly win friends and influence
everyone, that works 100 % of the time if you apply it.

How does
listening help our efforts to influence?

JU: Ask yourself, "When was the last time I felt someone: got my situation
(I mean really got my situation); got me in my situation (my fears, dread,
dreams and possibilities) and got not just where I wanted to be, but where I
could be that would be profitable, successful, meaningful and fulfilling.
" We're guessing, "Doesn't happen to often."  That is the power of listening to influence

Could someone
apply the concepts found in the book to their personal lives?

MG: In a word… absolutely.  Just think
of the people who helped you become the best you could be and who will be among
the top handful of people you are most grateful to at the end of your
life.  What if you became that to the
people in your personal life? Imagine the possibilities.


About The Authors MARK GOULSTON, M.D., is a business psychiatrist,
consultant, Chairman and Cofounder of Heartfelt Leadership, and the  author
of the bestselling Just Listen and Get Out Of Your Own Way.  He also
writes a Tribune syndicated career column; blogs for Fast Company, Business
Insider, Huffington Post, and Psychology Today; and is featured frequently in
major media, including the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review,
Fortune, Newsweek, CNN, NPR, and Fox News. He lives in Los Angeles.  JOHN
ULLMEN, Ph.D., is an acclaimed executive coach whose clients include dozens of
leading international firms.  He oversees MotivationRules.com, conducts
popular feedback-based seminars on influence in organizations, and teaches at
the UCLA Anderson School of Management.  He lives in Los Angeles.

Meeting Marion in Central Park West

Celebrating the best of the Epic Living Blog, 2012. Enjoy!

This is a photo taken of me and Marion Margolis. We met on my visit to NYC last weekend. Marion was very kind to my wife and I on our visit. A seemingly accidental meeting as we were taking in the beauty of Central Park. The photo above was shot in Central Park West.

Marion is an author (among many things). She is a writer of 3 children's books. The one that intrigued me most was titled New Digs for Beau, about her beloved Dalmatian. She spoke fondly, with emphasis, about the her relationship with this special dog named Beau. I don't know if she knew how I was reveling in our conversation. It was so strange and familiar all together. This was important as I am making my way through a new chapter in life, and as I craft a second book.

I asked her about her inspirations and what her process for writing was like. Marion likes silence, I like music when writing. Two authors connecting on the process of writing. It's always intriguing to learn what sparks creativity in artists. She truly inspired me. 

Ever been to a place out of a dream that lived out like that dream? That's what my meeting Marion was like. It was like I was invited to participate in something beyond what I could have imagined. All of this and more, in a place called Central Park West.

Five Questions with Amy Shea, Author of Defending Happiness

Defending happiness
Had the pleasure of conducting this interview with Amy Shea, author of Defending Happiness. Love her insights and the experiences that forged them.

Why do we need to defend happiness?

We need to defend our happiness from the idea that it's dispensable. We not only put it last, but we eliminate it from our daily life. We save it up for vacation. And we blame and complain that we have all these responsibilities, these things that have to be done first. Yet, if we examine those things we are putting in its place, so often they are tied to an ideal of what life is supposed to look like, what we are supposed to be doing. Remember in Star Trek, when an episode would open up with the team in the transporter room, ready to beam down to the supposedly-docile planet? Whenever you saw a new guy you didn't recognize on the team you knew two things: a) there was going to be trouble, and b) he was going to be the first to go. That new guy is happiness. It's the first to go when there's trouble. Yet when we have trouble, that's when we need it most.

Is happiness a choice?

Yes. And it's sometimes a hard choice. No one is happy when hard and difficult things happen. And the last thing I am suggesting is positive thinking–I don't believe in that. It's denial of what is.  I believe in seeing what is, and seeing the value in what is. When I got breast cancer, my world, as I knew it, stopped. And that experience was not one sided. Was it a gun to my chest? You bet. But it also stamped an expiration date on my consciousness, and I was more present, laughed harder, and stopped making unimportant things so important. And THAT'S the choice: not what happens, but how to show up in what happens, how to live with a full consciousness instead of one that is but a limited perception of what happiness is supposed to look like. Breast cancer taught me that, though as a strategy I would not recommend it. 

You’re very transparent in your book, Defending Happiness. Was it difficult to be so open?

Not at all. I'm not ashamed of being human, and I think being human is hilarious. And I love to laugh, especially with others. I think pretending we are perfect is toxic–to us, our relationships, and our world. It is the most isolating thing we do as humans.  

What advice would you give to the person waiting for happiness to pay them a visit?

Hit the road. Go find it. Happiness is not a furry puppy that's going to climb up into your lap. Going after what makes you happy is going to mean disturbance. At the very least, it's going to disturb the habitual life. It may disturb those who are accustomed to you doing what they want, what makes them happy. It may mean you make less money, have fewer things. But whatever disturbance you encounter, you will be here, you will have shown up in your own life.  

Do you think there is a connection between contentment and happiness? 

Yes, if you can find contentment in being yourself and contributing from that place. To me, happiness is the peace found in being completely present in one's life, even as one faces all that life is–that amazing feeling of being awake. It is to have lived. I wouldn't trade it for anything of this world.