Scot is owner and founder of “Elevating Others,” a professional coaching and consulting business focused on increasing personal and organizational soft skills. He has been a leadership and development coach for over 25 years and is best known for being a servant leader and putting people first, with a passion for elevating others to become the best versions of themselves. His leadership mantra is simple, “Be Present, Be Bold, Be Innovative.”
In 2020, while serving as the Commander of Scott Air Force Base, Scot underwent a life threatening surgery to remove a brain tumor. Following surgery, he underwent extensive therapy and radiation treatments. Scot continues to battle today, but his approach to adversity and an optimistic outlook on life is infectious. His story inspired thousands across the Air Force and was showcased on the local CBS affiliate’s “Surprise Squad” segment.
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Brett Gilliland 00:02
Welcome to the Circuit of Success. I’m your host, Brett Gilliland. Today I’m fired up. I’ve got another local guy. I love having local guys on the podcast. I’ve got Colonel Scot Heathman, Scott, how you doing today?
Col. Scot Heathman 00:13
Good. I’m doing great.
Brett Gilliland 00:14
Col. Scot Heathman 00:15
What day is it? I’m retired.
Brett Gilliland 00:17
Everyday is Saturday, every day is Saturday for you. What is today? Actually, it’s Wednesday, August 17. Right? That’s the day it is. Well, hey, it’s so good to have you, you’ve got an amazing story and I really look forward to sharing that with our listeners and our followers. But just really the way you’ve listened to some of the shows, I know, so I’d like to really dive in to really what’s made you the man you are today? There’s a lot there. I know that’s a big question, a pretty loaded question to start with, but but there’s a backstory there. So I’d love to start there if we can.
Col. Scot Heathman 00:47
Well, I was born. That was a good thing. That’s a great thing, always a great thing to be alive. And I was born actually at Offutt Air Force Base, my dad was drafted. And so that’s why I came into this world. Saw Star Wars at age three, in 1977. You know, so that put me on a track to I want to be a pilot, you know. And so most of my childhood, that was where my dream was. And eventually I worked my way to ROTC up in Chicago at Illinois Tech right outside of Chicago, and got a pilot slot and flew for most of my career in the Air Force. And I’ve had a number of jobs in the Air Force, and a lot of leadership jobs here in the last probably 10 years, command jobs. And then literally just retired just a few weeks ago, July 15 was our ceremony and John Michel, who you know, he officiated did a fantastic job was very comical, exactly like I wanted it.
Brett Gilliland 01:43
High energy John, right?
Col. Scot Heathman 01:45
Yeah, he hit it out of the park. And, and we’ve been traveling ever since you know, all summer just being on terminal leave. And now I’m trying to start a coaching and leadership business. I’m like, you know what, I want another challenge. And so I’m starting from the ground up again, and then join it.
Brett Gilliland 02:01
Well, you think about what you’ve been through in your careers, how long were you in the military?
Col. Scot Heathman 02:05
Just over 25 years.
Brett Gilliland 02:06
Okay. So 25 years? I mean, you’ve learned a ton about leadership, and you’ve had great leaders and yeah, just a little bit. Right. And yeah, so absolutely. That seems like to make a lot of sense. And I saw that your leadership mantra, which I loved was: “Be present. Be bold. Be innovative.” When you hear that, what’s that mean to you?
Col. Scot Heathman 02:25
I actually, I talked about this during the retirement ceremony I, that was the hardest speech to write. Because, you know, you can go so many different ways with a retirement speech, you can start pointing at people or, and I always like a talk right and learn something. And so I thought, you know what, maybe I’ll tell people what I’d been about these 25 years now. That mantra really didn’t come, I would say, into my public vision until maybe at my 12-13 year point in my career, when I was starting to really take on some heavy leadership responsibilities. But for me, it really breaks down into kind of three areas that I find myself, ebbing and flowing throughout any given day, in a given week, in a given month. They’re not all balanced. But there are three important areas that kind of guided my leadership. And when I became a Squadron Commander, I laid it out on a mug. And once you do that, if you put on the mug, it’s for real. Right? So to me being present was always about more than just passing people in the hallway and saying “What’s up?”, or just showing up to a meeting on time, it was about bringing your full self. Doesn’t mean your best self, but at least your full self, you may not have 100% in the tank that day. But you’re still bringing your full self to your day. You know, it’s maybe dive in a little bit deeper with people and I learned this from Cy Wakeman, who I’m a huge fan of. And she says instead of saying what’s up to people, she says try asking people, “what’s your update?” Like so on a Wednesday ask somebody give me an update today? What’s going on with you? I’m like, that is ingenious. You know?
Brett Gilliland 03:23
Col. Scot Heathman 04:10
It gets the conversation flowing.
Brett Gilliland 04:11
Well, absolutely does, right? Because you’re not just gonna be like, yeah, it’s great. That’s the go-to, right? You actually get into a detailed conversation.
Col. Scot Heathman 04:19
It’s understanding maybe if you know the times where I’ve been at the head of the table, and I’ve had my commanders and leaders and experts around the table. It’s, It’s understanding everybody’s learning style, or which ones are introverts and extroverts, and how do I manage a meeting in such a way that I can keep them all included in the conversation and not let any one personality dominate? Maybe a certain decision. So to me that presence is about not only understanding my needs, it’s more so about understanding their needs and what we’re going after, you know. Being bold. I’ve been underestimated most of my life now. Being five foot six, you tend to get underestimated a lot. And I do know I’ve got kind of young boy looks, at General Michelle pointed that out during my retirement think he called me major, boy major. You know, and it’s good in some things, but it is something that people have brought up. And I think, you know, when you meet somebody who’s six foot five and, and has a look, you treat them a little differently. So to me about being bold was not only internally finding ways to maybe stretch myself in a way that I haven’t done before, push the envelope of staying curious, that was always the go-to is, if in doubt, just be curious, ask questions, you know, because the best decisions if you want the best decisions, you need to ask better questions. Don’t just rely on data, but actually ask the questions, get the context of what’s going on. And so I’ve always tried to push the envelope in my personal self, because I’ve always been at, it has felt like to me at times, at a disadvantage. So I’ve got to find other ways to maneuver. And it might take some good old fashioned boldness to maybe bring somebody into my network or say, “I’m not the expert in this” and be vulnerable enough as a leader to just say, “Hey, I don’t know all this. Can you? Do you mind running this conversation? Because you seem to have, you know, the expertise here.” I think not only one does that really make people feel good that you’ve empowered them, but two it shows everybody at the table, you’re the kind of leader that’s actually open, you’re gonna create that level of trust, which is really what we’re all after. I don’t ask I don’t tell people you need to earn my trust, I tell people you have it. From day one. You can lose it. Now, there are situations out there. But I just I’ve always succumbed to the philosophy that you don’t need to earn it with me you have it, I will give it to you from day one. I respect you that much. Being innovative. This isn’t to me like inventing something it’s not, you know, selling something on QVC or anything like that, to me being innovative was about working within a very hierarchical, bureaucratic, policy-driven environment and how can I be successful and get after the things that I want to do? It may take some very creative thinking, or means to do something to get after a mission set or to get after the goals we want to achieve. And it’s important that you find a way to do that. I brought a couple books I want to leave with you because––
Brett Gilliland 07:34
Oh thank you.
Col. Scot Heathman 07:34
This has been part of my my growth over the years. But this this book Orbiting the Giant Hairball by Gordon McKenzie, I don’t know if you’ve ever?
Brett Gilliland 07:43
No, I have not.
Col. Scot Heathman 07:44
So Gordon McKenzie was an employee of Hallmark just in Kansas City for 30 years, and he wrote this really goofy book. And funny enough, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force had this on his reading list. So I pulled it down in my, this is an amazing book, it’s to him, he describes a hairball in an organization, as each hair is another policy that you keep piling on, and over years and years and years, we keep piling on these things, but we never take away, the hairball grows, right? Your job as a person within an organization is to figure out how to stay in that right orbit. You know, because if you come in too brash too, out of sync this and that the system is going to eat you up, you’re out of orbit, and you’re just going to float away. If you’re in too close, you become part of that machine. And you’re now not creating an environment where we need to think differently, we need to maybe be two degrees left to center to look at this differently, get a different perspective. If you’re a nice orbit with it, you’re able to kind of work within this crazy bureaucracy because it’s all––
Brett Gilliland 08:50
Col. Scot Heathman 08:52
But I respect the bureaucracy because I do need it, to a point right? To get the things done I still need my team, my leadership, my higher level leadership to get things done. But I may find a different crazy way to go get it done. You know, so I won’t go too far. But I’ll, I’ll push the envelope. That’s just the way I’ve always been. And I think a lot of my leaders would say that about me is that, “yeah, Scott thinks differently. You know he just, he just does.” And I think that’s what makes me unique. I mean, that’s feedback from them. So…
Brett Gilliland 09:24
I love about that is that be present, be bold, be innovative. You know, you mentioned that didn’t come to you for 12 years, 12, 13, 14 years. And I think as humans we go around like you hear people talk about these missions. And you know, we have ours here on the back of the microphones future greater than your past. Right? And I think we hear that and it’s like, oh, well, ___ has had that forever, or Scott’s just had that forever, but I think it comes with trial and error. But I also think it comes from being present, right? Being bold. I gotta go out there and make things happen and I gotta go read books. I got to be a student in the game. You have to be present, you got to take action, right? And then being innovative is always thinking of a different way to do something to your orbit comments, right? Being, and so when I hear those three words for you, it really hits me to, to all the people that are out there listening that maybe they’re looking for that purpose, or they’re looking for that mission. I think sometimes it just hits you like a ton of bricks wouldn’t you agree?
Col. Scot Heathman 10:21
Oh, absolutely. Matter of fact, the first leadership position as a young officer, you’re kind of put in first couple years in the military, you’re usually like just trying to learn your craft, be really good at your craft, but you’re an officer. So you’re still expected to lead whether that’s yourself, whether that’s five people, or it could be a couple 100. But when you get into a job called Flight Command, you might have a handful of people, some flights are bigger, it just depends on the organization and had a great leader who sat us down. And he gave us this book called Fish. Now this books been around forever. And it’s about the pike fish market, pike street fish market out in Seattle. If you ever seen him, they throw Yeah, you know, a lot of famous people have done it. But it’s a it’s a story about that, where there were four areas. And this is kind of where I got the presents from, it was the first one was choose your attitude. And I think you talked about that. Yeah, right, you got it, regardless of what’s going on. It’s a choice. Alright, so choose your attitude, be present, make their day and play. So those were the kind of the first four criteria that a mentor kind of really laid into me that really resonated. And again, over time, it kind of, you know, morphed to my own maximums and things that I thought would be successful to me. But those four things I think are resonant within, be present, be bold, be innovative, you can have fun within those, you got to choose your attitude within those. You got to recognize people when they’re being innovative, or they found a different way to do a process when somebody was telling them this is just the way we’ve always done it.
Brett Gilliland 12:03
Yeah, which I hate that comment. By the way, “it’s just the way we’ve always done it.” Yeah, that doesn’t mean squat man.
Col. Scot Heathman 12:08
It motivates me to actually get under your skin.
Brett Gilliland 12:10
Right? Exactly. Now I’m gonna do stuff that’s gonna make you mad. So and you said, the Choose attitude, I talk about that all the time, as you said, it’s really the top left pillar, if you will, of the circuits of success. But one of my favorite words in the dictionary is the word “choice.” And I’m a huge believer in choice, right? We choose our attitude, we choose our response to circumstances, whether good or bad, and right we can do really, you can get great news, and can still go off the deep end. And they will they say that people are most susceptible to failure after a major accomplishment. And so whether, whether we’re winning a World Series, we’re retiring from a great career, you get that client out there. I always tell people just be careful, right? Be careful, yes. When do we want to celebrate? Yes, we want to be in the moment. But also then stay focus and make the choice to keep your eye on the ball because it can knock you off really, really quickly. So, so when you hear that word “choice” for you what comes to mind?
Col. Scot Heathman 13:09
You know, I think it starts with how your day starts, you know, that’s the moment that we get to control. I think of the word control as well. I’m constantly trying to think about what are the things that I can control? And what are the things that I’m not able to control. Because I think that’s where almost turning yourself into a victim comes into play, you choose something you can’t control, and now you become a victim of it. And you head down this bad path. And I think a lot of wellness coaches will talk about that. You know, you do have a choice and so many things in this life. And you know when I talk to folks that are maybe having a tough time we get into that spot of control, you can control. And let’s not worry about the things you can’t, you know, there’s so many things that happen to all of us in this life. It to me, it’s a little bit of a stoic mentality, you know, live your life as if you find out you’re terminally ill tomorrow. How are you going to live today? You know, it’s some people don’t like thinking about maybe, you know, heading down that path. But we all do have an expiration date. You know, that’s something we can’t control. So what I can control today is how am I going to live Wednesday? You know, what am I going to do this morning? It may be just yard work today. And that’s okay. You know, you don’t have to like everything either. You know, the circumstances. I’m not saying, you know, just be joyfully gleefully all your life and nothing. No, bad things happen to people all the time. But I think it’s being able to recognize and understand and be able to manage what is happening, those emotions, and it’s okay, it’s okay to have a really crappy day. You know? It’s okay that maybe it’s a crap week month. Have a couple years. But find ways that you can separate what you control and not control. And I think your choice will be a little bit easier to make.
Brett Gilliland 15:09
Yeah. So so let’s talk about that. So you did have that crap day, right? You’ve had that crap day and you had  next year. Yeah. So the extreme level that thankfully, knock on wood I have not had, but you had a bad day, right? And so kind of walk us through that. So just to give the listeners some perspective of what you’ve dealt with. So when they see this guy that’s got great energy, great attitude, you know, full of all this wisdom, but what was the crap right, stuff that you had to deal with?
Col. Scot Heathman 15:40
I think it’d be hard for people to see that I needed a walker a couple years ago, I couldn’t see I had an eyepatch I had pretty big well, I have still have a really big scar on my head. But yeah, in 2018 we were driving my wife and I were we lived in Spokane, at the time, we were driving to a one of the unit holiday parties, every unit has them every year. So we were driving up to one and we got rear ended at a stoplight. Not too bad, but I got some whiplash and, and through the process of looking at the damage that had been done on my neck, and they did an MRI, of course, and an x-ray and all that. And this is the funny thing. I got a call as I’m sitting in a pre-op appointment for my wife who was going in for hip surgery. And I got a call from the flight doctor and he said, “Hey, I got your MRI back. Do you know you have a brain tumor?” And I’m like, “No, I gotta go. Because they’re calling us back.”
Brett Gilliland 16:45
Col. Scot Heathman 16:46
Like, I had no time to process that. Like, wait a minute, I’m here for my wife. I’m not here for me right now.
Brett Gilliland 16:53
Col. Scot Heathman 16:53
So I walked back. My wife had already been in the doctor––
Brett Gilliland 16:56
Can I pause you real quick on that? So, just think of that, like you have things happen. Right? Like, people I know call them God wings. I mean, so here’s this, I got rear ended, we can look at it choice. Go back to the word choice.
Col. Scot Heathman 17:09
Oh yeah, I was pissed about that car accident.
Brett Gilliland 17:10
I was pissed about that. But now think about that, that might have saved your life. Because would you have gone in and got an MRI? Right?
Col. Scot Heathman 17:16
No. I mean, most people in the military are generally healthy. You know, I think you would expect that. Yeah. I mean, we just don’t get MRIs just to get MRIs, you know? So yeah, I have no idea even to this day, how long that brain tumor has been there. I know roughly the size it was, it was about the size of a ping pong ball, maybe just a little bit smaller. Which is big in the brain, which is big, anything in the brain, and though not good, you know, that shouldn’t be there. And it was deep pushing up against my brainstem, your brainstem was supposed to be nice and kind of round. And it was actually deforming it. But I had no symptoms to my knowledge. Now, I don’t know if I was a boiling frog. And maybe there were subtle ones. I just wasn’t picking up.
Brett Gilliland 17:23
Col. Scot Heathman 18:02
But I had no clue. So we when we got back in the car we started talking about, I just broke down. I was like, what does this mean? Like I, I don’t? I don’t think I can even point to anyone in my life prior to that, that had one. So I’m like, who do I even talk to? And I’m the kind of person like, Okay, let me find somebody that had one. Maybe you can provide, you know––
Brett Gilliland 18:25
Col. Scot Heathman 18:26
Visual learner, right? That need to understand a little bit, but I was lost. And I’m not saying that when these things happen to you you won’t have the same reaction. I think that’s expected. But then you have choices still, right? So I could just play the victim for the next couple years, or however long I’m dealing with this or I can educate myself or, you know, I’m not going to just fake it, you know, I’m going to accept it, and then move forward. So I said, Okay, next few steps here is we got to start seeing specialists, you know, because they’re going to ask for all kinds of MRIs and things like that. I only had six more months left in Spokane, and I already knew that I had been picked to be the commander here at Scott Air Force Base in the summer of 2019. So I called my two star leadership and my four star leadership and certainly cried over the phone. I mean––
Brett Gilliland 19:22
Col. Scot Heathman 19:22
You know, they cry, you know, man, I’ll get worked. Whoo. It takes you back. They were so amazing. Yeah. Everything was we’re going to work through this we, not you or it was we’ll work through this, you know, and I had a string of MRIs like almost every month. I have this t-shirt that I bought that says I’ve had so many MRIs now I stick to the fridge. I just bought that recently? Because I got another one that went up in October. But I’ve always tried to find at least some humor in this too, because I think it helps me process a little bit better. Oh, yeah, you know what? I can still choose how I’m gonna act each day, I can still choose to show up to work. I still had to go back to work after hearing that news. I didn’t get the day off. You know, when could I have asked for it?
Brett Gilliland 20:28
Col. Scot Heathman 20:28
Like, that wasn’t something my boss said, Well, no, no, I had a wonderful boss. But I kept it very tight, a very tight circle around this because I started thinking, who really needs to know this right now? Just a handful of people. It doesn’t affect anybody else. And there’s nothing happening right now.
Brett Gilliland 20:48
Because you were still going on nothing was no symptoms, or when like, you had to balance different things like that? Okay.
Col. Scot Heathman 20:54
Yeah, up until that point. And then they put me under what’s called do not fly status. So just until they can kind of see what was going on. I didn’t know that that would probably be the last time I flew an airplane was in winter time of 2018. But I got into the simulator a couple times in the spring of 19, just because I’m like, I have my hands on some I got, I still had to take a check ride, which is like a driver’s exam every year that you got to get in. So I still took my check ride, you know, and passed. And, and, but again, those folks that were around me didn’t know, you know, I wanted them to focus on our mission. I was the number two in command at that time. You know, so I was working for a Wing Commander, I had a responsibility, that organization, but I also knew that I could still, he gave me the space to take care of myself too. So and then I instantly surrounded myself with the types of people that I needed. So like I started reaching out to that network of the optimism is the ones that would hold me accountable for not making myself and turning myself into a victim. But the ones that would also be empathetic, right? So I think it’s important that if you face something in your life, you, you look at the network that you have, and start bringing those types of people that you would want to have in your life and bring them closer, because they’re going to provide the humor for you. They’re going to provide the shoulder for it, they’re going to provide just the ear for you. And, and it was great. You know, there were times I needed somebody just to be sarcastic to me and make fun of me that I got a brain tumor, right? It was actually a little bit comforting. So we went through this journey in Spokane, I arrived in late June here, I took command on the 25th of June in 2019. And then a week later, I had another MRI done at Barnes Jewish. And so I had worked to get a new neurosurgeon here in St. Louis from Spokane and got referred to an incredible one. And, you know, one of the best cut men in the industry is, as his colleagues say, and anytime I mentioned Dr. Shucoins named like, Oh, he’s he’s one of the best. He’s kind of The Godfather, from what I’ve heard.
Brett Gilliland 23:12
Good to have that in the area.
Col. Scot Heathman 23:13
Oh, yeah. And it’s great to have that type of capabilities around here. You know, it’s not that far of a drive to go in. But, you know, my wife would go in, or there’s certain days where I could just throw myself in. And but it reached a point in January of 2020, I’d had another MRI, and the doctor said, “Hey, this thing is growing. And we may reach a point here, we’re gonna have to do something. And we had talked about surgery, Gamma Knife surgery, fractionated radiation, you know, there’s, there’s only so many things you can do.” But I kind of had a lot of options here. But we don’t know how things would turn out after that, you know, there’s, there’s death.
Brett Gilliland 23:56
And did you know, it wasn’t cancer at that time? Or who knows? So it could have been cancer, it could have been benign, you didn’t know?
Col. Scot Heathman 24:02
Where it was located, you know, you’d have to do surgery. So in 2020, in January of 2020, I started getting some numbness in my face on the right side of my face, I started losing a little bit of dexterity in the left side of my body, like something didn’t feel right in my fingers. And I called the doctor and he’s like, I think we need to make make a move here. And he’s like, “What would you like to do?” And I’m like, What would I like you to tell me when I tell you that was the process though, because everybody’s different. Right? And so ultimately, it is your choice surgery. And I think it had grown too big for gamma knife so that we kind of took that one off the table. Or we could try radiation. But the only true way I think to get after the pathology of this thing because I wanted to know what it was, was to really do surgery. So and I think with my health and my young age is 45 at the time I was a good candidate for surgery, you know if I was in my 60s 70s, maybe not, you know, and other other health conditions and things like that. But so we went into surgery on February 13. And, but 2020 of 2020 is before all the pandemic and everything else. Like that’s not even on my mind. No, I know that it’s hit the coast of California. And it’s being talked about in the news, but so a couple days before that, I had a mentor that gave me this boot book, Gerald Holt, who was at the Cardinals game. Yeah, he showed up and he was going to be there for blocking and tackling if something went bad. You know, that way my wife could just focus on taking care of herself and the family and, and he could deal with, you know, Air Force stuff and things like that. So he showed up flew in from Seattle. We had a we had a great night, we went out for drinks night before, you know, nothing too crazy. I should say a couple of nights before I didn’t drink that night. Not supposed to do. Yeah, yeah, it was a couple nights before, went got my hair cut, shave real tight, you know, and I still go into the same barber she still remembers that day. And yeah, went in for surgery at five in the morning. And you’re there for like two hours and like a whole bunch of other people waiting for surgery. And, and I wasn’t scared until they start wheeling you back. I was like, okay. And then I got into the surgery room. And there’s like 10-15 people in this room, massive surgery room, you know, just like you expect clean as can be and, and, and then there’s this resonant, and she starts reading. Hey, this is Jeremiah Scot Heathman, 45 year old male. And all of a sudden, I was totally cool. I was like, You know what? This is like a pre-mission brief. I’ve been through this. She’s––
Brett Gilliland 26:55
It’s not their first rodeo.
Col. Scot Heathman 26:57
Yeah, I’ve gone through 1000s of stories of flying, and you always do a pre-mission brief. Here’s, here’s what we’re doing today. Here’s the weather. Here’s who we’re gonna be through. Here’s the cargo we got, you know, here’s the sequence. She just laid it all out, I’m like “oh” yeah, I felt like it was part of what I do. Yeah, you know, and then the anesthesiologist puts the mask on and they turn me over my left side and, and I remember saying two things to him. And then it was and then blindsided for anything. I said, Whatever you do, don’t take out my movie quotes. I’ve memorized a lot of them. And I remember telling everybody because couple the residents came in and the doctors came in and they said this was a great quote, you said I said, I want everybody to do real good.
Brett Gilliland 27:45
To do real good, real good.
Col. Scot Heathman 27:46
Then I was gone like within 30 seconds, and it was 10 and a half hours.
Brett Gilliland 27:51
Oh my goodness.
Col. Scot Heathman 27:53
Yeah. So my wife is getting a call every 45 minutes for 10 and a half hours. So and it went pretty good. They got a good portion of it out there’s a little bit just based on location they couldn’t get I ended up losing my hearing on my right side because there was some tumor wrapped around the blood supply. I still to this day cannot feel if you draw a line down the center of my face most of the side like I have––
Brett Gilliland 27:57
So you touch that and you don’t know you’re touching it?
Col. Scot Heathman 28:07
This feels kind of dead. This feels like numbness Novocaine all day long. Like on a pain scale. To me, it’s like three but you might say it’s like a six or seven. Yeah, it’s nerve pain. These nerves are huge in your face.
Brett Gilliland 28:33
Col. Scot Heathman 28:34
And they heal very slowly. And I can’t chew on that side because I can’t feel my teeth. I can’t feel half my tongue. I can’t feel my nostrils. So you can COVID Test me over here. And I’m good. Shove it all the way up there. It’s just, you know, some things I wasn’t expecting. Although we talked about some of this. It just, it just hit. I couldn’t walk hardly at all. And I couldn’t get up with a walker and needed help. I couldn’t see, I had double vision. So right I was a little bit off. So the first couple months I wore the eyepatch, because it was just it was really hard. Yeah, it was reading like this. And so in the months to follow, you know, I came out of my command job. And the number two rolled in to be the commander guy who, you know, is a brother to me, Joe. And he’d been there before he had a three, three or four months stint as a commander because we had a gap when I came in. So he just took over. I mean, that’s what you do you create an organization that something happens leader who can take care of the team. I didn’t have any worries about that. I wondered, and they knew me well enough so they took away my computer, my workflow. They didn’t want any distractions. They wanted me to focus but leading up to that I did call leading up to surgery I did call someone on, we had been through a brain surgery a little different. And I said, “How did you manage communication like with your team?” When did you tell your team because even with my team at Scott, I have not told, really anybody but my closest commanders about it. And that was five of them, and then our vice commander, so it makes six total. I didn’t tell our squadron commanders until about a week prior. And I just said, “Hey, I just want you to focus on your people in the mission. I’m going to be fine. Prayers are good. love and support. It’s great. Send it my way, I could use it.” But, you know, of course, it was. that was an awful conversation. Just it was emotional, ya know. But the outpouring was just incredible. You know, even though I couldn’t see, I couldn’t hardly talk, you know, just there’s so many things. But you have a choice again? Are you going to play the victim card? And say, poor me every day? Now not to say that I didn’t ask that question. I think anybody in that situation would say that an athlete that goes down for a life, or a year long injury, might say, “Why me?”
Brett Gilliland 28:47
Col. Scot Heathman 28:49
I absolutely expect that reaction. But the really good ones don’t stay too long. They move through it.
Brett Gilliland 31:31
Can I ask questions, so well, so I hear that, right? And that sounds easy to say, I’m not gonna say why me and I have a choice. And people can sit here driving. Alright, these guys about choices. But it’s hard, right? You’re dealing with just terrible stuff. And so what was it like when it’s you, it’s Scot Heathman been sitting in a bed by himself? And the dark thoughts come in? Right? How did you get through the dark thoughts to the positive thoughts?
Col. Scot Heathman 32:04
I always tried to learn something. I actually was trying to read pretty early on, you know, even when I was in the ICU, you know, I was able to get to a point where I could text, some people and things like that. But I always tried to go to a place of learning. Like, again, just being curious, like, I can sit here with this thought, but I don’t want this thought because this makes me uncomfortable. So let’s just go somewhere where I can go learn something. And this book, funnily enough, this was the first book I read, when I could, you know, I was holding it up like this, you know, and, and, you know, page by page looking at it took me forever to read, I used to be a really fast reader. And now it’s, it takes me a little bit longer. You know, this is an interesting book, this keep going, because it’s about how an artist deals with the monotony of creating something, and then they do. And then they gotta do it again. Again, how do you keep going, when bad things happen when you hit a block in your life and this or that he’s got like, 10 different things that he talks about in here and just different things. One of them is everyday is Groundhog Day. How do you, I was about to hit my Groundhog Day, where I’m literally sitting, I’m gonna have to wake up, go downstairs, sit in a chair, probably take two or three naps today. I would love to be able to get out and walk but I just don’t feel like it today. How do you deal with that Groundhog Day? Like, I like to go learn something. I like to watch something that maybe makes me laugh. I like to listen to music that doesn’t depress me, but I listened to a lot of public enemy funny. My old school rap music.
Brett Gilliland 33:49
Col. Scot Heathman 33:50
You know, I just I found a new love of things that I had loved before, but maybe more intently paid attention to it. And that’s I knew even with a pandemic going on. That’s the furthest thing from my mind. Like, I got to just kind of sit with myself and get centered again. And it’s incredibly hard. But the best thing to do is go learn from others. Whether that’s watching, listen to a podcast, watching a video, maybe making a phone call to somebody I got into meditation, which I’d never really done a lot, wasn’t disciplined enough to do it. You know, I’m kind of, it was hard for me to hold my attention. This forced me to hold my attention for once. And it humbled me too, because I’m all thrust you know, sometimes a lot of you know good vectors here and there. I move pretty fast and I’m motivated to do things and get after action. But this for the first time my life slowed me down enough to just appreciate it. It was almost like the the Ferris Bueller moment, right? Because it might pass you by. So just enjoy. I started enjoying the things that I took for granted a walk.
Brett Gilliland 35:09
So how do you do that? If you haven’t if you didn’t get that little knock, right, that major surgery and you were forced to slow down do that, because a lot of us, thankfully right aren’t forced to do that.
Col. Scot Heathman 35:20
Brett Gilliland 35:20
So how do you, and maybe it’s hard to answer? I don’t know, because you were forced to do it. But looking back, if you go back to 2017 2015, that Scott.
Col. Scot Heathman 35:29
Yeah, how could I have offered that to myself?
Brett Gilliland 35:30
Yeah. How could you have offered that to yourself, then when you didn’t know what you know now?
Col. Scot Heathman 35:34
I think it would have been incredibly hard to figure this out. Because I’ll just say right up front, I think we all need life coaches. Yeah. Like, I wish everybody had a coach. I agree. Not a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, spouse, mom, or dad, I’m just I’m talking about a third party perspective, that can listen and ask you very tough questions that you probably haven’t asked yourself yet not talking about a psychologist necessarily, either. But just somebody who can be asked beautiful questions that you probably haven’t really spent some time with before, and then get after these things. And that’s hard. So, you know, we say a lot to people like, oh, go find a mentor. That’s incredibly hard to find a mentor. And that’s a tough phrase to say to somebody. But I think where you can start is with peers. And I think a lot of people look at peers, as competitors. airmen look at peers, everybody’s trying to get to that next promotion, right? There’s competition in everything. But there’s also a lot that a peer can do for you, especially somebody that has a completely different perspective than you. Maybe different upbringing, maybe different culture, maybe different demographic, whatever it may be. Some of the best mentors thought I was their mentor, but they’re actually mentoring me. You know, that’s, I have a couple airmen where I’m like, and I tell them this, you guys have no clue you guys are mentoring me? I’m not the one mentoring you. So it really is amazing to see where these superpowers from peers and others can actually invade your life in a positive way. You know, and I think that’s where I would start is through peer group, maybe it’s a church group, maybe it’s a volunteering together, you know, go to a non-traditional entity outside of work, where you can maybe find some perspective.
Brett Gilliland 37:37
Yeah, I’m a big believer, it’s actually funny. I think you read my notes, I wrote down support system and mentors versus coaches. Yeah. Because I think there’s a difference in that support system is my support system at home, I know, I’ve got my support system at home, my wife is my rock. She’s there, she she supports me, she challenges me, there’s that. Then there’s mentors, people I can learn from, right, whether it’s books I read, or podcasts or listened to, or just people that I know that I can, hey? I got questions, man on this, right? Yeah, never think I know it. But then there’s the level that I’ve had for years of coaching, I physically put my money, where my mouth is I hire that person, to not tell me what I need to hear, but to tell me what I tell you what I need to hear, not what I want to hear. Right. And I think that there’s a big difference in that. And if you look at the best athletes in the world, or the biggest business leaders in the world, they have that person in their corner that they’re paying money for. Yeah, that’s there for them.
Col. Scot Heathman 38:31
And it doesn’t always have to be someone that is like, in my world a superior, you know, to me, you know, I would look for a general officer. No, it could be somebody lower ranking, then yeah, if you’re going to use a hierarchical type structure. Yeah, I do think there is a difference. Because, you know, a coach may be looking to guide you a little bit more towards a vision that you’re trying to get to, and that maybe not necessarily dealing with a, a personal situation and medical situation, like I described here. But I also had to kind of put myself in perspective that like, I’m just one story, you know, and and I think that’s why I decided to be a little bit more public about what happened. Maybe my brain tumor to somebody, it’s the loss of a boyfriend, girlfriend, an 18 year old who thinks that’s the end of their world. So you do have to put things in perspective. And I, you know, it’s very easy to say, Oh, well, we have, we should feel bad for him. He just went through brain surgery, you know, my situation in life is nowhere near as tragic. It might be, because that’s all you’ve experienced at this point. So I don’t think I’d ever wanted to get into a situation where people are starting to compare injuries with each other like, well, it’s worse than yeah, it’s like a job you know? No, it’s not about that. But as a as the senior leader as the commander of an Air Force Base, I had a very unique opportunity to show them I’m horrible to I mean, that’s huge.
Brett Gilliland 40:01
Col. Scot Heathman 40:02
Yeah, it you cannot, you cannot generate trust like you can with a vulnerable leader. Like, you should be vulnerable enough to walk into a meeting someday and say, You know what I am, I just want to let everybody know, I am off my game today. I do want to have this meeting. But if I’m quieter than normal, don’t take this personal. I’m just off. I’m okay though. Or I might need a, we might need to do some puppet golf today, just later, than just I’m just saying, you know, but go through your day, just by saying that nugget, you now have taken down the walls, that conspiracy theories are going away about what’s happening with you. And they now see you as human, not a CEO, as a Wing Commander. And for the first time they go, “ah, they have things going on their life, too.” They are human or human horse we are, but we tend to forget that when––
Brett Gilliland 41:00
I think, don’t you think as men too, I think sometimes we want to be that tough guy. And yeah, and so I’m raising my wife and we have four boys. And it’s like, I want my boys to understand that it’s okay to be transparent. It’s okay to be vulnerable. It’s okay to have weaknesses and, and share those things. You know, I share apps, which I’m sure off podcasts, you could help me with my you know, my weakness was this fear of flying, that manifested in anxieties and just different things that I dealt with for years. I mean, I went eight years without flying and just flew just last month for the first time. And I’m talking to a guy that’s flown, you know, million times a billion miles. And let’s go fly sometimes. Absolutely. Yeah, I know, I gotta get used to getting on another airplane on Monday. But you know, so you gotta get used to that. But again, I think I was struggling, I can’t share that. You know, I’m tough. I’m this leader. But I found the more I shared my, my airplane, my anxiety, the more a person across table me would share their thing, right, that whatever their airplane was, they would share that. And I think those words transparent vulnerability, transparency and vulnerability are huge.
Col. Scot Heathman 42:06
I think they are, I’m a Patriots fan. I’m that’s hard to say in this region.
Brett Gilliland 42:14
I’m a Tom Brady guy. So it may be hard for you. I’m a big time.
Col. Scot Heathman 42:17
It’s been interesting to watch how he’s been given a little bit more ability to be open, and the vulnerability is coming out. But you know what? He’s always been that way though. This, this didn’t happen overnight. Yeah.
Brett Gilliland 42:30
I’m curious what he’s, what he’s walked away from right now, what are these personal reasons he’s left the team for is what I want to know.
Col. Scot Heathman 42:35
But you know what, I don’t care. Right. So why is it our business?
Brett Gilliland 42:40
It’s not. Yeah.
Col. Scot Heathman 42:41
But we’d like to say, yeah, what’s, what’s the athlete doing. But it was fun to watch his series. And look, whether you love or hate Tom Brady, you got to respect the guy be honest about what was going on. I mean, I think he think he killed a lot of sports writers stories with that series. And I think he wanted to do that. I think he reached a point where he’s been wanting to do this for a while. And this was a great outlet for them. And I think he did it with a lot of respect. He didn’t pull punches when he didn’t have to, but, you know, so I just I respect that. I’m looking forward to watching the year one, two, I think, did you ever once probably pretty good. I do like these kind of myopic pieces because I think this is when they’re at their most vulnerable and, and––
Brett Gilliland 43:30
We’re gonna go in the brain of one of the, you know, arguably the greatest athlete like you said of all time, and it’s what made them tick. It’s incredible.
Col. Scot Heathman 43:37
Yeah, if you if you at least just see behind the scenes a little bit I like to say below the waterline right the iceberg, right? We all judge judge each other on the 10% we’ll see and if you could get just a little bit below that iceberg. That’s the leaders I actually appreciated the most.
Brett Gilliland 43:53
I mean, think you get the Jordan one you get the Brady one. Now you get the Jeter one. It was incredible. I don’t know who’s next? Michael Phelps? I like to see a Michael Phelps one.
Col. Scot Heathman 44:02
Oh Michael Phelps would be good.
Brett Gilliland 44:07
I mean he’s the goat right, I mean think 18 metals or whatever he’s got. Wayne Gretzky would be awesome.
Col. Scot Heathman 44:12
You know he’s a pretty seems to be a pretty private but I, you know, it’s killing me you know, as I’m going through everything with the brain surgery and some it’s key escapes my mind now the St. Louis Blues player who went down with a with a injury last, two years ago, three years ago?
Brett Gilliland 44:32
I don’t know the blues well enough. I want to add it to show next blues fans we are gonna get murdered by the––
Col. Scot Heathman 44:43
He had this like fluke injury, and I’m going to look them up again because I get, my short term memories a little off due to some of the meds I’m on but he went down with a with a kind of a life threatening injury which pulled them out of the game. And I thought about him honestly, I’m like, You know what I would love to do, sit down and talk with him and share stories of how he dealt with it. You know, because when you look at, again, Tom Brady going down with a season ending injury, where I felt was like, Yeah, I, I wanted to be with my team, I felt like I let them down. And that’s such an awful thing to say about yourself, right? Some people would say, Oh, that’s a little bit selfish. Now, I don’t look at it that way. I just viewed it as this is my responsibility to go down as the leader. I’m not supposed to do that, you know. And just like any great quarterback, I want to be back in that game. And so after the surgery, I literally was in a walker, eyepatch, you know, eyepatch was kind of cool. You know, to start off with a walker and, and funny enough, so I, you know, I briefly talked about my wife, you know, when she was going to have hip surgery in January of 2019. She actually had a full hip replacement in November––
Brett Gilliland 46:00
Oh my gosh.
Col. Scot Heathman 46:01
Of 19. So before my surgery, she had a full hip replacement, and healed up enough to the point where, Okay, my turn now, you know, I’m going under. And so she’s, you know, she, my mom, you know, friends would be out there walking with me. And little by little, finally got rid of that walker, got the cane. And my vision started to get a little bit clearer. It was clear when it looks straight up, but it was blurry when I looked straight out. It started to come down and I saw a couple eye experts and they said, it’s going to be okay, it’s going to come back into alignment. About four months later. It did.
Brett Gilliland 46:39
So right now you and I looking at each other?
Col. Scot Heathman 46:41
Yep, we’re good. I’ve had a couple of prescription changes, but I don’t, I didn’t have to get any prisms and things like that to really ensure glasses before I did.
Brett Gilliland 46:50
Okay. Yep. Yep.
Col. Scot Heathman 46:51
So pretty normal their periphery I’m good. Like I said, don’t have any hearing on this side, a little shaky at times. But that was to be expected with all the ear work the end doctor had to do when they had me open. And because he had to make some room for the neurosurgeon to get after that tumor. And then once we did the pathology, I don’t know cancer, but it’s an it’s an aggressive growing tumor. So we got to really watch it. And they couldn’t get it all. You know, they got it like, 80% of it. They said, You know, we would like to go after the rest of this with radiation. So here I get done with surgery as, had of surgery on the 13th of February, out of the hospital on the 16th of February. You know, spent the next two months, getting my feet back underneath me a little bit. A lot of occupational therapy right over here. Occupational physical speech. Luckily, a lot of that came back. I feel like I slurred like it feels like there’s a tennis ball in my mouth. Or like, it’s my face is sliding off. But I know––
Brett Gilliland 46:51
See I would have no idea.
Col. Scot Heathman 48:02
I look fairly normal. Yes, whatever normal is right?
Brett Gilliland 48:06
Col. Scot Heathman 48:07
But I knew that I was going to go down this path of radiation and like, here’s another battle. All right, gotta gear up. And so I started, I actually got to a point where I was running again, you know, about July timeframe. I started jogging.
Brett Gilliland 48:22
Col. Scot Heathman 48:23
Just an actually took a practice physical therapy test just to see if I could do it, you know, sit ups, push ups and run a mile. Okay. Think I could pass? I didn’t run a straight line. Yeah. All over the place. And, you know, but I stayed in my lane pretty good. And but it was just me, I’d go there on a Saturday or I’d walk on the soccer field, I do some balance exercises and things like that, that they taught me to do. And, but it was hard. It was really hard. But I knew an August timeframe, I need to go back in radiation. So August 10, I started radiation and what that compass was 30 rounds.
Brett Gilliland 49:00
August 10, as of last year or as of like seven days ago?
Col. Scot Heathman 49:03
Brett Gilliland 49:03
Col. Scot Heathman 49:04
Yeah. So six months after the surgery, healed up enough to go back down to St. Louis. So I drove every day, back and forth to the seitan center downtown, downtown St. Louis. See my buddy Lamont, who checks you in and he’s a huge Cardinals fan. But boy, you couldn’t ask for anybody better at that front desk just to get you a high five because when you go in that waiting area, you’re there with people who are terminal. People are getting chemo on top of it. I mean, you’re now the customer. And you see the bell.
Brett Gilliland 49:37
Ring the bell. So where are you at today? So what what is, as we fast forward to that?
Col. Scot Heathman 49:42
Went through the radiation that you know, radiation is not a good thing, does damage to good cells too. So I think that kind of hurt some things in the face and that but, you know, I knew that was a possibility you’re going to get to now manage what you got. I stopped long ago. I’m trying to get back to my pre-surgery normal and say, You know what, this isn’t about pre-surgery normal anymore. It’s about living life with what you got now normal. Yeah, it’s a little different brains rewiring itself and healing and doing good. So, so far, they haven’t seen any growth. So I’ll go I’m now doing about every nine months. They’ve been extended from six months to nine months, which is a good thing.
Brett Gilliland 49:44
Col. Scot Heathman 49:48
Yep. So go down and get another picture taken meet with everybody. I’ll stay with the neurologist to kind of help see how we can manage the pain and but doing good. You know, I don’t want to say like that was the only reason why I decided to retire, I think it was a big reason. Because I wanted to make sure that I’m, I’m able to center myself a little bit more, also be there for my family. We’ve moved every year, every two years for the last decade. Plus, I’ve got a special needs kid who’s on the autism spectrum, you know, and I’m like, I don’t want to move him again in. He’s got to think about that. He’s okay. Yeah, he’s a senior this year at Masuda. This is the longest school system he’s ever been in, ever, you know, two years up to that point, was the longest time he’d spent in any school. And a lot of times, it was just a year, because we were moving. And, and I think he, he’s looking at college at Webster, he wants to get into film and that and I’m like, I want to be around for that, you know, and have that time and freedom. So so I just said, What can I be doing? After the military? Well, my love and passion, my why is to elevate others. Like, that’s where my joy is, you know.
Venture Creative 51:38
You have 25 years of showing that because that’s what got you to be a commander at one of the largest air force bases in the country. Is elevating others.
Col. Scot Heathman 51:47
I love this community. I love the fact that we get to stay here and bought a house in Shiloh and we’re just we’re loving this area, we’re just right down the road. But it’s been a, I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Brett Gilliland 52:01
Awesome. Here’s my takeaways. Man you got you things right, you got these big bags, when people talk about carrying these bags, whether you call them your skeletons, whatever these things in your closet, but you’ve got these bags that you carry around with you. And it’s amazing to me that, I hope the listeners can hear from this incredible story that you’ve got all these reasons why you can have a victim attitude, right? All the things you got to deal with in your life and you’ve chosen, go back to that word, right, you’ve chosen to not do that. And I think that just shows you the power of the human body. I mean, think think about what you’ve dealt with, right? Literally, your sight has come back, you’ve cut your head open and gone into your brain, and I mean, it’s just amazing the power that we have, right that we sometimes we just let it sit on the shelf. And we don’t go do anything with it. And it’s really amazing. It really is. And so that’s what I would just, you know, try to challenge people and leave with people today is just, man, we’ve got this amazing world we live in and and if we can turn this crap off, right, turn off if those people aren’t watching, but turn off your cell phone, turn off the notifications and and turn off these TVs and stop getting all the crap that’s absolutely dealt to us every single day. And start thinking about the things that we’re grateful for. The personal mission that we can have and how strong our bodies really are. But it comes back to us taking the choice and taking the action to go do something about it. And that’s what you’ve done.
Col. Scot Heathman 53:32
You got to believe in it. Right?
Brett Gilliland 53:33
Yeah, there you go. Baby. Ted Lasso.
Col. Scot Heathman 53:35
I love Ted Lasso. So yeah, you know, but you do you have to believe in it. There’s so many people working against you that are on social media. I’m gonna surround myself with the right things in making the positive deposits and get rid of that negative side it’s still going to be there. But I’m going to make sure that I’m not in a debit. Yeah, yeah. Being a credit on the other side. So that, you know, that’s that’s the key, I think right there. And I didn’t do it alone. So when you you cannot do all this alone. You’ve got to surround yourself with some people. And if you don’t know where to go, start at home, start with a caretaker, start with a best friend from college you haven’t talked to in 10 years. Reach out, you know, reach out, you know, and there’s so much help out there. Sometimes the menus a little too big. I think people get a little flabbergasted by oh my gosh, it’s so much help, mental health help. And this and that. Keep it simple. Just keep it simple. And, and there’s a lot of services out there that are free. And this is somebody that can listen to a professional, you need to start there. I’m fully on board with that kind of stuff.
Brett Gilliland 54:45
Love it. Well, a Colonel Scott Heathman, where can we find more of you, man? Are you on social media? You got websites where?
Col. Scot Heathman 54:53
Yeah, I mean, so most most of the things you can look up just Jay Scot Heathman, you’ll find me on LinkedIn, you’ll find me on Facebook. Like I said, I’ve just started a business called Elevating Others, so elevating-others.com. And yeah, you’ll find me out there like said I’m trying to grow this next venture and I’m loving the process.
Brett Gilliland 55:13
Love it, man. Well, thank you so much, one for being here today but thank you for 25 years of your service. And I think I would like to end with one more thing. You had a pretty cool day. Those that can’t say, well, maybe on this camera right here we can see that Cardinal hat on the right. It’s got my boy Jason Isringhausen on there. Yeah. And you had a pretty cool experience with Jason didn’t you?
Col. Scot Heathman 55:32
Yeah, it was, uh, you know, the surprise squad the KML V surprise squad and you know, they just…
Brett Gilliland 55:37
Which is the Channel Four News here locally in St. Louis.
Col. Scot Heathman 55:39
Yeah, it was. I didn’t expect it. It was completely unexpected. They got me, that’s hard to do. They surprise me and yeah, Jason came out and, you know, delivered a baseball and said, “Hey, you’re gonna go throw out the first pitch.” And it was the first game the Cardinals had under the pandemic where they finally let people back in. And yeah, they flew in one of my mentors and I threw a strike. It was beautiful. I was not going to throw a ball. I watched all those videos because I was like I am. I’m gonna show this team I can throw this baseball. But yeah, it was just a beautiful day. And Paul Goldschmidt gave me a beautiful message. I was just sad. I never got to like meet that, it was still under COVID.
Brett Gilliland 56:23
Col. Scot Heathman 56:25
I would love to just said thank you to him again. But at some point, you know, we’ll, maybe we’ll find a way.
Brett Gilliland 56:31
We will make that happen. And we will either go grab lunch or if you’re a golfer, you golf?
Col. Scot Heathman 56:37
You know swinging the club is a little tough right now.
Brett Gilliland 56:40
All right. Well, maybe we’ll we’ll go grab some, Yeah, we’ll go grab a drink. We’ll bring Izzy along and we’ll make it happen.
Col. Scot Heathman 56:47
Brett Gilliland 56:47
That’s right. Let’s do it. Well, again, man, thanks so much for being with us on The Circuit of Success, tons of takeaways today for me, and I know for our listeners as well and just appreciate you and your service man.
Col. Scot Heathman 56:56
Thank you, Brett. Thank you for having me here today.
The post Col. Scot Heathman Doesn’t Bring His Best Self to Work Every Day, and That’s a Part of His Leadership Mantra appeared first on The Circuit of Success with Brett Gilliland.