Joining The Circuit of Success for a second time since October of 2021, Marty Strong is back again to continue sharing his wisdom behind perfecting business processes and embracing the dreamer within. Marty is a retired Navy SEAL officer and combat veteran, as well as a novelist, practicing CEO, and Chief Strategy Officer. He authored Be Nimble: How the Creative Navy SEAL Mindset Wins on the Battlefield and in Business. His second book, Be Visionary: Strategic Leadership in the Age of Optimization is set for release in January 2023. Marty’s newest book applies his life experiences, formal education, and hands-on knowledge to demonstrate how proactive thinking and the application of thoughtful vision is the essence of exceptional leadership.
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Brett Gilliland 00:02
Welcome to the Circle of Success. I’m your host, Brett Gilliland, and today I’ve got a repeat guest. So we don’t, we don’t do that too often, Marty. So that was a lot of fun last time back in, aired October 4, 2021. We have Marty Strong with us. Marty, how’re you doing today?
Marty Strong 00:19
Doing pretty good, Brett.
Brett Gilliland 00:20
Good, well it’s good to be with you and you know what I’m fired up about today is we’re going to talk about this new book you got coming out here. It’s called “Be Visionary,” and so when you gotta name Visionary Wealth Advisors of your company, and you got a guy with a book called “Be Visionary,” it’s just made as a recipe for success today isn’t it?
Marty Strong 00:39
Yeah, it’s like a marriage. Think of matchmaking, matchmaking in heaven!
Brett Gilliland 00:43
That’s right, right here today on The Circuit of Success. Well, those people that did not get to dial in in October of 2021, last time we spoke, Marty is a retired Navy SEAL officer and combat veteran. He’s a novelist, a practicing CEO, a chief strategy officer, you’ve got your other book “Be Nimble,” how the creative Navy SEAL mindset wins on the battlefield and in business. And in this book, as we just mentioned, “Be Visionary: Strategic Leadership in the Age of Optimization” is coming out January of 2023. I know you’re a thought leader, and you’re talking all over the world and doing things and helping tons of people. So thanks for being with us. But if you could maybe just give us again, a little background who Marty Strong is, and what continues to make you the man you are today.
Marty Strong 01:31
Okay, well, I’m from the humble state of Nebraska. My parents were, I guess, farm kids, for the most part, my dad was definitely a depression era farm, farm kid, large family, etc. So they had a, they both had a very, very strong work ethic, a real blue collar approach, even though my dad ended up getting a degree later on, and eventually spending 30 years working for the government thing, he was the deputy director of Walter Reed, when he retired, he never, you know, he never left that early part of his life. And that’s what he imparted to me, my brothers and sisters, this kind of, you know, return the tool in better condition than you borrowed it, you know, be polite, a lot of the Golden Rule kind of application, but very strictly applied, and take care of things that you’ve been given and appreciate the people that are helping you and the people around you. So that essentially was my value system. And that’s what I walked into the Navy in the mid 70s with and kind of stumbled into the SEAL team selection process, and ended up spending 20 years in that business, so that, in that role.
Brett Gilliland 02:44
Traveled the world chasing bad guys in that role, man, and appreciate and thankful for your service, you guys are amazing at what you do. So we can talk about a lot of stuff today, but one of the things I want to talk about when we spoke, you know, almost a year ago, the world was still, you know, somewhat shut down, obviously was kind of opening back up. But what have you seen now and all the leaders that you’re helping, but also the companies that you’re running? What have you been seeing as the biggest difference today, now that the world, you know, basically is back up and running and making things happen?
Marty Strong 03:18
Well, I think there’s, there’s two kinds of disruption that occurred with a pandemic and by all definitions, the pandemic was a black swan, nobody, there are people paid to anticipate epidemics and pandemics, but nobody really anticipated this particular one. And it’s not so much that it was because of the virus, the way a virus was spread, or the medical aspects of it. It was the political and governmental aspects of it.
Brett Gilliland 03:43
Marty Strong 03:43
We’ve never really had a either an epidemic or a pandemic, where our governments both state, local and federal, just started shutting things down and shutting people down and shutting movement in commerce down. And then it wasn’t consistent because of the way the states are laid out, politically, it wasn’t consistent across the whole country. So if you’re a CEO, like I am, and I’ve got one country, one company that’s in 21 different states, and Japan and other companies in seven states, you had this kind of topsy turvy, you know, reaction to COVID. And to each state’s rules, whether they’re very stringent or very, very loose. And we thought we were pretty stable, we were still growing in both companies through ’21, which we kind of pat ourselves on the back a bit, able to hold it all together and still grow a little bit. But then the vax mandate came out September 16 of ’21, and the mandate applied to all government employees, all military, all government contracting employees and companies, and all health care workers. Well, I manage a government contracting company and a health care company. So we were a little bit too soon on that patting of have our backs because suddenly I found out that about half of my entire, about 1000 people population were not vaccinated. And about 40% basically told us when we’re not gonna get vaccinated.
Brett Gilliland 05:13
Marty Strong 05:14
So and so that was, that was my real kind of black swan event inside of the bigger black swan event because everything up to that point we had figured out we’d managed we’d retooled, reshaped, restructure, re-envisioned the companies we were doing business, I sent everybody home in March of 2020, and I’ve only got about 16 people out of 58 that were in the main office managing these companies now, I shrunk down from 21,000 square feet of office space, and a couple locations down to 6,800. Embraced all that, right, change, move, do all those things I write about, and then all of a sudden, there’s this decision that everybody has to have a vaccine or else they can’t work. And so that really created a crisis for us there in in September. So, and again, every state, and a lot of our government, and government agencies and the department of defense, they all kind of reacted either very aggressively about the new rule, or said, “Don’t worry about it.” So it was it was all over the place. And in the healthcare side, there wasn’t actually a deadline expressed. So the whole healthcare market was going well, “do we have to everybody backed by tomorrow, by next week, 10 days, 20 days next year?” Yeah, it was, it was a mess. And that was the biggest, so far, the biggest impact to COVID the pandemic on the business, because everything else that’s happened, it really has either been a positive or neutral to the two businesses.
Brett Gilliland 06:39
You know, it’s pretty hard to go out and replace 40% of your workforce, isn’t it? I mean, my gosh.
Marty Strong 06:46
It is and they had security clearances, so that’s difficult to find those people and they had some very unique skills that the government wanted, you know, and certain credentials are going to be trainers certified by this agency, or that agency or particular program. So yeah, you couldn’t just go out there and find them all on the street. You know, the second part, which I think is hitting everybody, and this is kind of the 2022 impact is the staffing crisis. In that we always had good retention in both companies, and I talked about this with my board members, I talk about this with other business owners all the time. You know, the, the everybody’s kind of pointed the great resignation, alright, that’s the reason for it. And everybody’s still trying to get a handle on exactly what’s going on, I’ve heard that the baby boomers all started retiring around the same time as the pandemic and, and there was an accelerated advancement of the next generation, which left a big hole in the middle, and nobody’s qualified for those jobs and all kinds of crazy theories. But in reality, our, our experience has been, if you’re looking for good people, you’re gonna have to pay them what they’re worth and their worth is based on the market availability now. So those dynamics have changed because of the second kind of parallel event next to the pandemic. And I’m not sure it’s directly associated with just with the pandemic, I think the pandemic is one of those things like, like a revolution, where revolution changes the entire social fabric of the nation and just changes everything, suddenly everybody can own something where before only the king could own something, those kinds of really, you know, huge sea changes, right? I think the pandemic changed the way labor is going to be utilized in this country, and maybe around the world, depending on what, how countries address it. But so we’re still trying to get our hands on that.
Brett Gilliland 08:39
Yeah. And so I mean, what what do you see? I mean, as a leader of organizations, and you know, as an author, you’re writing great books. I mean, what, what do you see for us, other leaders and the people listening this podcast? I mean, what do you see? What do you forecast 1, 2, 3 years from now you see any big changes out there?
Marty Strong 08:54
Well I think you’re gonna end up with three different ways to, to do work. You’re gonna have traditional labor structures, like we’ve had for the last, say, 75 years, most of that is going to be related to the way the job has to be executed. So, if you have factory jobs, it’s very hard to do that from home. You can’t do that through a Cloud Function. Right? If you need like, say medicine, sure, there’s some remote medicine capabilities. I had a DaVinci surgery for kidney cancer and the doctor was in some other room, there’s just some robot working on me. But for the most part, you have to have people hands on patients, right. So that’s an area. The second category is a complete detachment untethering from a place of work, that’s virtual work and 100% of its definition, where not only is the work itself, modulated and, and self directed, but the pace of that work and the use of that day is up to the individual. If they want to work from two o’clock in the morning until six o’clock in the morning, take the rest of day off, they can do it as long as they check the boxes and execute. And then the third one’s a hybrid, something where you see a little bit of a mix of the virtual and a little bit of mix of the traditional. It’s all this has been enabled by the technology that provided these cloud based platforms for just about everything, I mean, you can, you can 3D design things now you don’t really need to have, you know, the factory sitting there for a lot of things and that’s, that’s only going to get more and more dramatic as the technology advances. Accounting, you know, we’re before we had to try to push all the accounting files, payroll files, through a, an internet server well now through cloud based things, you can go into the cloud and manipulate it and move it around up there and then move it from one cloud location to the other without worrying about the size of your, of your IT pipe in the building, etc. or at your house. Yeah, so those are those all kind of came in, in parallel with the pandemic. And also in parallel with this. The shock is this impact, the tonic shift in the way people looked at their work, and the way they looked at working for somebody else.
Brett Gilliland 09:11
So um, a different kind of question is the positive impact. You talked about flexibility, creativity, and decisiveness to achieve results, you know, in this book, and so, so talk to us about that. Let’s start with flexibility first. What is the positive impact of applying flexibility?
Marty Strong 11:23
Well, you know, the opposite of being rigid. So, there are high speed, supersonic reconnaissance aircraft, and we’ve had these since the early 1960s, that go up into the atmosphere and move it in incredible rates of speed, they actually have materials and they have the capability to expand and contract because of the different atmospheres they are going into. If you’ve had a rigid aircraft, they basically shake themselves apart and destroy themselves. With coop, because of the stresses that are under, they’re going under, at the same thing with almost anything you look at, it could be an individual, it could be the organization, it could be a particular team to a particular. So if you don’t have flexibility, you’re not going to be open to any insight, you’re not going to be open to anything new. If you’re, if you’re doing the same process and using the same systems that you used last year, you know, you could do an exercise here. Just ask, well, when when was that system put in place? And when was that process put in place? And it’s almost like a time travel thing. You go back and go, “Well, what was happening in my market, what was happening to our company?” What kind of people did we have at that time, and you’ll find them in most cases, the process and systems unless they’re dramatically challenged, stay for a long time. And they they go from being habits to traditions. And when you have a tradition, in a room of people that have been living that tradition, it’s very, very difficult to think a different way. It’s very difficult to be flexible.
Brett Gilliland 12:54
Yeah, that’s a good point, too. We do we get stuck in our little rut don’t we?
Marty Strong 12:58
Well, we yeah. First, first we either dig the rut ourselves and lay down in it, or somebody else dug it for us and we lay down on it, because we’re told to and then we just stay in it. You know, we don’t look up over the edge of the road. We don’t, we don’t do anything, but just follow rules and follow directions.
Brett Gilliland 13:14
Marty Strong 13:14
So flexibility is very important component to the vision and nimble leadership.
Brett Gilliland 13:20
Yeah, I think too, like we’re going, I think it’s in two weeks, I can’t remember the exact date, but I’m taking, you know, our executive leadership team, we’re all going out to an off site retreat. And you know, we’ll spend the whole day going through processes platform, you know, what the vision looks like, whether that’s 90 days from now, or three years from now, or 10 years from now. And I think that’s a really, really critical step for a leader, don’t you think? To get off, out of the office with the team slow down, so you can speed up and be flexible and learn from the things that are going really well, and the things that maybe are not going as well, that you want to improve or add to.
Marty Strong 13:58
It’s a great idea, and you’re probably in the top half of 1% of companies that do something like that. For some reason, you see it movies and TV, and you just think, well, they’re all taking these big retreats, and they’re all having these big, you know, strategic sessions and all that but very few companies do it, very few organizations of any kind, profit or nonprofit do such a thing. And I even go a step further. I, I tell everybody, I write about it. Take 20 minutes every day, every morning. And just clear your mind and envision, you know, the horizon? What do I want to be personally and professionally in two years kind of vision. What, take a moment and envision what will I look like? How much money will I make? What house will I live in? All those kinds of things, and then shift to the organization if you’re responsible as a leader in your organization, where you want the organization to look like? What do you want the alliances to look like? What do you want them to be making or doing as a service or product? If you do that every morning for about 20 minutes, it doesn’t take a lot, you don’t have to meditate to do it. You’re just gonna sit there and you think. What you’re basically doing is you’re taking the short, the short range, very short range in some people’s cases, optimizing checklist or KPI checklist, and which is a to-do list of sorts. And you’re getting it out of your head for a moment to think beyond that. Because if you don’t do something like that, and you’re not in one of the organizations like yours that does this type of retreat, what you end up doing is you end up running down this railroad track, incrementally taking little tiny steps, looking at the tips of your toes, until you get hit by the train that you didn’t see coming, because you never looked up. So yeah, I think it’s a very important thing to do.
Brett Gilliland 15:38
Yeah, it’s shocking to me that you say that half of 1%, or whatever the number you said, and it just it is shocking to hear it. But also, it’s shocking to know that a lot of people don’t do that. So somebody’s listening right now, you’re a leader of a big company, a little company, your house, I don’t care what it is, have an off site retreat, you know? I used to do them, I need to do it more often. But we do it quarterly as a firm, but I used to do one, then also personally, I would go off by myself and just think about what are the things that we need to do or I want to do, right? And then have those conversations with my wife about that stuff. And I think that’s again, that’s really really important, no matter what you’re leading, to sit down, just you a journal and in a, in an ink pen and think and strategize and dream, right?
Marty Strong 16:23
Yeah, I think the first two chapters of “Be Visionary” focus on this is more of a, your personal attention to the art of the possible, to dreaming. How often do you dream, I mean, I’m talking waking dreaming, often do you dream about a potential future? And when you start thinking about those things, you start to structure a little bit. You say alright, what I’m looking for is I’m looking for threats on the horizon, competitive threats or any other kind of threat can be a supply chain threat or something, and you’re also looking for opportunities. And it’s, it’s part of human nature, that it’s easier to see or conceive of the threat side of the equation. It’s very difficult, if I talked to people it’s very difficult for them to envision the opportunity, yet, the opportunities are critical and some of them you have to deviate or pivot from where you are now, over the course of the time between now and when you need to do this or see that opportunity. Which means you have to have a 24-month action plan––
Brett Gilliland 17:23
Marty Strong 17:23
––right to shift or whether it’s a new service line, subsidiary company an acquisition, whatever it is that you want to do to get there and, and then you have to, it’s a little bit of a leap of faith, there’s not much of a leap of faith in recognizing a threat. And there’s not much of a difficulty in telling your peers or your subordinate leadership team, you bring them in a room and say, “Hey, there’s a train coming down the track it’s going to hit us in 20 minutes.” Nobody in the room is going to argue with you about getting off the tracks. They all get it right, right? Instinctively “Oh, yeah. Well, that’s bad, what’s, what’s our plan?” You know, but if you come in and say, “Hey, I think we should buy a company that provides this special titanium part two trains.” And then you just get, you’re gonna get a bunch of blank stares, because they can’t wrap their hands around the value of it. And “why are we talking about titanium parts for trains, we don’t do trains?” Well, we do parts and other in other ways we do Dd printing, and guess what we could maybe 3D print something and take the place of a titanic composite type part, replacing it anyway, you get the point. Very, very difficult. One, for a person or a leader to go through that exercise and see both the positive and the and the negative of the future. Very, very difficult for anybody to sell the positive for the future, because people tend to lean towards risk mitigation.
Brett Gilliland 18:39
So we talked about the flexibility side of that now talking about the creativity side, to achieve results. Why is that so important?
Marty Strong 18:45
So I believe in basically three phases. And I think this is something you have to do as a lifestyle as a leadership style, and you have to do it long enough and frequently enough to make it a habit not just when there’s an emergency or, or something out of the out of the ordinary happening. So the first step is, you have to be humble, you have to achieve intellectual humility. And what that means is you have to basically forget all the victories and all the defeats that are clouding your mind, clouding your judgment, which includes all the formulas that you’ve used in the past all the things you’ve leaned on in the past, because if you don’t do that, you can’t have the second phase, the second phase won’t open up. That’s intellectual curiosity. So intellectual curiosity is the willingness with an open mind to seek information, insights, ideas, recommendations, not only from your own people, but maybe from people that don’t agree with you people outside of your organization, and, and contemplate all of that, bring all that in. To get into third phase, which is intellectual creativity. I don’t think you can truly be creative unless you’ve gone through the first two phases. What you’re basically doing is you’re saying, I’m going to apply what I know from what I’ve done in the past, or what I’ve learned in the past and college or what some guy taught me four years ago. Was it mentor, and I’m gonna say that’s the way we solve all problems. You know, it’s like the world’s a nail. And I know how to swing a hammer kind of hammer. Yeah, but But you have to do that as a regular way, as a leader, a regular way, a regular way of addressing challenges large and small. And like the 20 minute a day thing, it starts to become a habit, it starts to become a part of the way you think. And between those two, I think you’ll end up finding that you’ll be a lot more curious. Almost all the time, you’ll be seeking information and insights from a lot of different sources all the time. And that’s so you’re already kind of preset for the creativity phase.
Brett Gilliland 20:38
And then when, the last one we talked about was decisiveness. So decisiveness I mean, clearly we know we got to be able to make decisions as a leader. But when you talk about in that realm of choosing that word, decisiveness, why’d you choose that?
Marty Strong 20:53
Well, there’s two reasons. One, I come from my pedigree as a seal, the SEAL teams in the SEAL teams, and I just had a conversation on the day about this, the perception is that anybody in the military is doing whatever you saw in a World War II movie with your, with your parents or something, they’re following orders, they’re being ordered to do things they don’t want to do, their grumbling, and they contribute when they have to, but they’d rather be sleeping someplace else, you know, so you, nobody’s really making decisions below the officer level, because that’s all they’re supposed to do is follow orders. And the SEAL teams is not like that. And the SEAL teams, it’s much more like, like a band trying to put together music and lyrics, it’s so much more like a group of creatives trying to come up with a, an ad campaign related to an artistic approach to expressing something that needs to be expressed in the ad. So what you do, is you come into a room and you have all these experts, maybe anywhere from 16 to 20 guys, all experts in their little niche areas, all experienced seals, and ranging from people that have been in for two years, to people who might have been in for 20 years. So huge, huge repository of, and wealth of experience. The way you go in there to solve a problem say it’s mission planning, is you don’t go in there and say we’ve been asked to to go to this town, find this guy, and capture this guy, and bring him back for, you know, intelligence collection purposes. And this is how we’re going to do it, you lay it out and everybody goes, roger that sir. And they just walk out of the room and everyone’s gonna follow the Marty Plan.
Brett Gilliland 22:26
Marty Strong 22:27
It doesn’t work that way, you go in there, and you kind of set the stage for what the requirements are. And then there is a planning process as far as phases, but what’s going to happen in those phases, how are you going to get in how you’re going to get out how we’re going to move from phase one to phase two, as a wildcard brainstorming session, and it goes on for as much time as you’re allowed, based on the mission timeline. But at some point, as the officer facilitating all this input, and kind of galvanizing all these ideas and thoughts into actual planning points, you either run out of time, or you get to a point, were you just have to say pencils down. This is it, this is what we’re gonna go do. We’re gonna rehearse this, we’re gonna brief this, and then we’re gonna go execute this. So at some point, you have to make a decision, you can’t just analyze it to death, and you can’t, you know, the other, the other enemy of that which we never had in the SEAL teams, which is you don’t compromise. If one guy says we should run fast, and the other person says we should crawl slow, you don’t go, what we’re going to do is we’re going to walk at a moderate pace. None of that splitting the difference stuff makes any sense when you’re trying to get to an actual excellent outcome. So in business, you end up especially in the way, leadership and management, not so much leadership, ;eadership isn’t really taught in schools anymore, or if it ever was, but in management in the management business schools, what they teach is consensus building, compromise, crowdsourcing decisions, and you get this whole crowd coming off of this now for the last 10 years. And essentially, what it really is, it’s a way to diversify accountability so that nobody’s accountable if everybody’s accountable. That’s one kind of outcome of it. And the second thing is, when you end up with this kind of compromise, you end up with something that’s less than excellent. And if you look at anything that’s considered excellent in history, you’ll find somebody like Steve Jobs or somebody that said, “this is what we’re going after. I don’t care how you get there, your job’s to build it, this is what we’re going after.” He didn’t say, “Okay, I don’t want I don’t want a phone. You’re right. The phone’s not gonna be this big. Let’s make the phone as big as a, you know, a basketball shoe. Because you’ve gotten because you four guys disagree with me. I’m gonna go with that to make everybody feel comfortable and happy and feel like they had input.” That’s not the way excellence is achieved. So at some point, somebody’s got to be accountable, and that accountable person has to make a decision, which is decisiveness. You don’t have to be a brute. You don’t have to be a tyrant or dictator. There’s a way to do the process like I described in the SEAL teams, and you can do that in business and you’ll get better results.
Brett Gilliland 25:12
Yeah, I think too, is, you know, you mentioned Steve Jobs. I mean, so there’s a guy that right that has created so many different industries, whether it’s phone, it’s movies, it’s, you know, how we listen to music, I mean, all sorts of stuff, right? Incredible. And I don’t know if it’s in your book, or if it was a different book I was reading this morning, but it talks about if he asked the people in the early 1900s, like what they wanted, they wanted, you know, a faster horse. Right? But the Model T Ford, right? Henry Ford wanted cars, he was talking about things that people didn’t even know they wanted, they wouldn’t even of articulated “I want an automobile” because they wouldn’t do it, so how do we do that, as leaders of organizations? Now, I’m not thinking about going and creating a new car, whatever the new automobile was or with at that time, but how do we get creative enough to start to think about how do I change my industry? How do I change this thing that I’ve been doing for so long, in the same way.
Marty Strong 26:09
So I think you don’t have to take a leap of faith. You don’t have to leapfrog current reality completely. And there’s a reason for that. I mean, it took the phonograph, the TV, the automobile, decades to be adapted in a massive way, right and become an industry and all that. Now, technology moves at a much faster speed, shelf life is much shorter nowadays. But still, if you invent something that nobody needs, the second part of this is trying to get people to realize they need it.
Brett Gilliland 26:39
That’s hard to do.
Marty Strong 26:39
So that’s, yeah, that’s marketing, right? Create, create an awareness of something you have as a shortfall that this thing fills. And if you do that, you better be someplace in a well funded research center or something, because you’re not gonna be able to run a business for very long on just an idea and a sketch so. So I think you have to do it in in increments, in baby steps, but those baby steps could be 12 months out, mostly, as you know, in the entrepreneurial world, it’s innovation and not invention. Invention is something that’s completely new. And I would say the car was completely different than having an animal pulling, you know, a box with some wheels on it. But innovation happens every day. Innovation is something every company can do. And you can do it in, in services, you can do it in the way you design your organization, the way you communicate with customers or clients, the way you analyze your competition, there’s there’s an opportunity 360 degrees, seven days a week, to look for where ways that you can innovate and look for adjacent openings and opportunities to what you’re doing currently. Yeah, and so what, I’m always fascinated by this with people and leaders and you know, you’re a busy guy, you’re chasing your was it four companies that you run and all the stuff you’re doing so what is it that if I followed you around with a camera every single day that I would see no-miss items, for you Marty Strong for you, personally? You saying what am I falling short on?
Brett Gilliland 28:20
No, no, I mean like, the no-miss items that would be like, “hey, this helps me be successful.” Yeah, just if I should, if I run around to work, you gotta, you know, respond to some emails, you gotta have some meetings. Those are the things that like, what are the things that you’re just your habits man, your, your traditions, your daily disciplines are that I will see time and time again with Marty.
Marty Strong 28:39
The first thing is, like, get up at five in the morning.
Brett Gilliland 28:42
Marty Strong 28:43
This isn’t, this isn’t, you know, ground a groundbreaking or shake, shaking kind of an idea. Lots of people do. It turns out a lot of successful people do it. I didn’t know that, I saw an article not too long ago, and they were listing all these different successful CEOs, a lot of athletes, a lot of people get up at five in the morning. One of the reasons is I can do that 20 minute exercise I told you about. And I do that 20 minute exercise and I’ve got to cover all these different companies, I have to cover my own consulting and my own books. And today, I got to look at what are we going to do next? But I want to write a third business book. Do I want to write a 10th novel? Do I not want to do any of those things? Do I want to write treatments and turn some of the novels into pitches for, for movies or for streaming content? Or do I not want to do that? These are, this is what I do early in the morning. I’m usually sitting right where I am right now, by about 5:20 with a cup of coffee. And I think through all those things and as ideas and and, and insights and and points pop into my head, I write them down. And I have a dry erase board over my shoulder. You can’t see and it’s covered with ideas. One sides got a one idea exploded out and pretty big in a kind of a big aspect, but I do that every morning and sometimes I’m reviewing what I did the day before, and some of these dreams kind of fall apart when I start throwing some real reality checks against them. So I’m pretty much––
Brett Gilliland 30:07
Can I interrupt you real quick there? So we can dive into that process. So you’re sitting in that chair right there. And you’re literally just kind of sitting there and like, whatever comes to your mind, or do you have like a journal that you’ve gone through? Or is it like, literally just kind of comes out, whatever comes out, you write it down, and then you?
Marty Strong 30:21
I change channels. So I start off with my responsibilities as a CEO and the board, the board relationship communications. And I spend probably about four or five minutes thinking through that, what can I do proactively, what can I, what can I do that will improve things? How do I want this to be better, and two months or six months, and then I shipped the channel to the government contracting company, kind of do the same thing. And then to do the same thing with a healthcare company, and then I then I shipped them, the last thing I do is I shifted my own my own business. And depending on where we are on the two operating businesses, I may spend more than five minutes on one or the other, because we may be in a moment of crisis or opportunity. And so that’s what I do. And that’s just I write the thoughts down, I don’t try to flesh them all out. Sometimes I just write a word because it’ll trigger it later. And then I get into, once I’ve done all that, so now it’s about a quarter to six. And then I spend about 30, to 40 minutes doing marketing things related to the books, things related to social media, and then I get a second cup of coffee and I open up all the emails related to my day job. And I started going through all of them, make sure that I responded to the ones that were supposed to respond to, make sure I read all the content that I’m supposed to read files attached, etc. And that kind of takes me to about 7:15 ish. And then I take a break, and I sit down with my wife, and we just talk and sometimes we watch something we record on TV for about 45 minutes, then I shower and I’m in the office by 830. So once I get in the office, and anybody that’s leading a company, who’s not actually doing the work of the company themselves, and you’re actually the salesperson or the service provider, and deliver, I found that if you can do get all your stuff ahead, you get ahead of yourself there in the morning, you walk in there, because somebody’s gonna walk up and crush your great idea what your day was gonna look like, they’re gonna come up and say, “Hey, so and so just quit,” or “hey, so and so just, you know, fell and hurt their ankle out here, do we have medical insurance?” Something’s gonna happen.
Brett Gilliland 32:34
Marty Strong 32:35
And sometimes they just want to tell me and I have people that have the authority to do something about it, and we have processes for them to follow. But sometimes they’ll come up and say something that I have, I’m the only one that has the authority to do anything about it. And I might spend that entire day from the point that I have this put on my lap, focusing on fixing that, that challenge. And eventually the day ends, and it may or may not be completed, and the next day, when I walked in the office at 8:30, I have to keep attacking that plus, be free to hear any other things that pop up. So it’s pretty much because we have people in in Japan, we have people that do training down in central South America, because of time zones and everything else, you’re pretty much 24/7, days a week, 365 days, but you’re the way I’ve done it, I’m in more of a casual, comfortable, reactionary mode, in general. And if I have one or two things I want to do proactively, I’ll work on them. But I always know, Murphy or something is going to drop in and disrupt me. And I’m okay with that now.
Brett Gilliland 33:41
I talked about that with your attitude. We wake up, we choose it every single day, if we have a great attitude, then your belief system comes in, but between those two things, there’s a thing called rejection, right? It’s just what you talked about. Something happened with this employee or that client or whatever it may be that, that rejection is really trying to drive you away. And have you ever been in a bad attitude, which then in my opinion, that’s where your belief systems come in, right? And our history tells us that if I believe in these things, then I can deal with the rejection. And so now it’s how fast I call it bounce back theory, how fast can I bounce back from that rejection? And I’m sure you’d agree with me on this is that the people that bounce back the quickest, are the most successful people in the world. The ones that want to go home and pout about it and you know, sit in the fetal position in the corner office and cry. It’s going to take them longer to rebound and they’re gonna wonder why, right?
Marty Strong 34:33
You have to, you have to create your own resilience. And you also you know, the habits and the behaviors kind of converge to become a discipline system. So just like you don’t want to have something derail you emotionally, or intellectually and emotionally during the day. You want to get get back on your get back on your game. The other thing is, you don’t want to have a crisis or a problem. Suck you down into a rabbit hole, bbecause what will happen is if you allow yourself to get sucked in and stay in there, you completely forget about the future. You’ve, I mean, next week, even as a future, you start getting into this really hyper problem-solving mode. And anybody is in charge, or anybody owns a company, or anybody is a leader of a division or anything like that. You, you are there because you’re good at solving problems. But sometimes you you get to a point where you’re really not supposed to be the person solving the problems, not all the problems, there’s like four problems a year, you’re supposed to really be the one to solve. The way you solve problems is you make sure that the people that you’ve hired, the people that are being trained, the systems, the processes and everything are in place, that problem solving is happening all the time. And the other 96% of the stuff you’re not touching is on track. That’s what you have to do as a leader. That’s what you have to set up as a leader. And I right in in, I think be nimble about, you don’t want to be the arsonist that sets, sets the fire through all if they’re not doing any of those things, that then when the panic happens, you jump in, like a firefighter, you know, and you save the day, because you’re so talented, you’ve got 10 years of doing this kind of thing, even though you’re up here not supposed to be doing this kind of thing. And you’re giving orders you’re running around every goes “ooh, ah, he was so good. He was so poised. She was incredible. What a great leader, she’s so sweet. She’s so special.” You know, and then you walk out doing the hand wave. But I’ve been around organizations, and I’ve had people working for me that I’ve sat them down, you don’t have to third, fourth time I’ve heard this heroic, this heroic saga from somebody and I will, “tell me what happened.” And then eventually I get into this whole six sigma, causal analysis, it turns out their lack of the fact they didn’t build structure, improve the quality of their team, continued and sustained training, testing and make sure that they’re validate their systems or processes for, for stress, a stress test of those things, is automatically generating a crisis every so often that he jumps in and takes powers for, or she does. So. Yeah, there’s a lot of things you got to do and maintain the discipline. You wanted to get sucked in you gotta pull, a military that’s a general rule of junior officers, a junior officer feel like, “well, I gotta get in there. The wheel just kind of came off the truck, I’m gonna go over there and help pull the wheel off the truck,” not your job.
Brett Gilliland 37:21
Yeah. So I’m gonna, I’ll ask you a question. I’ll lead with what I’m asking this for and what my word is, because it may be a difficult question to answer. But if I said you had to pick one word, like, there’s this one word that means something to you, what would that be for you because for me, the word is choice. Like I’m a huge believer, in the word choice, that we have so much choice in what we do, right? The choice of our attitude, choice of doing things, even when you don’t want to do it, you still got to show up and do it. Right, the choice of who we spend our time with the choice or the actions that we take every single day. I think we choose our results. And I could go on and on and on about these choices and all the things that we do. So what’s that word for you? And why?
Marty Strong 38:09
Commitment. I think commitment is a good word that wraps in a lot of what we’ve already been talking about. If you are a committed person, and you’re exercising commitment, and all that you do, you have a disciplined system, you’ve got good habits, you’ve got behaviors that are there are creative and positive and appropriate. You are probably like, like a person trying to swim against the tide. You’re running into resistance, you’re running into friction. Everybody does. But you don’t complain about it, you don’t stop because of it. Because if you’re a committed person, if you’re if you have commitment, you basically say, “Well, I’m just not gonna get to where I’m going as fast as I thought I was because of this current.” And, and that, to me is an incredibly important approach to life. If you’re gonna be a parent, if you’re going to be a husband or a wife, if you’re going to be a coworker, if you’re going to be a volunteer, I think those people that are truly committed are those people that change the world.
Brett Gilliland 39:18
Yeah, that’s a huge that is a great word. And I think I’m gonna butcher this quote, but I read it somewhere is, commitment is when it’s still a commitment, even though the feelings you had when you made it a commitment are gone, you still go out and do it. Right, if that makes any sense. I’m paraphrasing there, but it’s true, right? Because we can be all fired up in the moment and I’m going to commit to this and then you’re the battle cry for it and then, you know, a day later you’re like, “oh, man, that’s tougher than I thought, but I was so fired up.” Yeah. But when it stays a commitment, that’s when it’s truly we’re gonna go out and make an impact and to your point, change the world.
Marty Strong 39:52
It’s kind of like that, the quote about character, you know, character is what you do when nobody’s looking.
Brett Gilliland 39:58
Marty Strong 39:59
I think commitments that way too.
Brett Gilliland 40:01
Marty Strong 40:02
It happens between your ears. It was something I witnessed in, in SEAL training. A little bit, don’t remember much of it when I was actually a student, but when I went back as an instructor and ran hell weeks in the selection process, you could see, you can physically, physically see a difference in somebody’s eyes, the committed versus the not committed. And then once they went from not committed to, “I just don’t want to be here at all,” there was a whole different look. And sometimes they’d be in the middle and they’d get back to committed but yeah, the ones that ended up going to the “I don’t want to be here.” And their eyes looked kind of dull, it just, you could tell they weren’t, weren’t happy or excited anymore, you know, they were gone. Yeah.
Brett Gilliland 40:02
Yeah, that makes me think of a friend of mine and author Matthew Kelly talks about the QS, the quit and stayed, you know, and so when you said that it’s, they may stay working where they’re at, but they’ve physically have quit, so therefore, they’re gone. But they quit and stayed. And I think that’s when it’s us, as a leader to have that tough conversation with somebody and talk to him about that quit and stay mentality.
Marty Strong 41:06
Yeah, the military version of that is retired on active duty.
Brett Gilliland 41:10
Marty Strong 41:11
People that aren’t being challenged aren’t being pushed, they’ve achieved a certain rank, and they’re sitting at a desk, and they’re, they don’t, they’re not gonna take risks. They’re not gonna, you know, anything more than just the regular day and, and then if you’re, if you’re younger, and a military organization, and you’re, you’re trying to solve a problem, you’re trying to get something done, and you run into this immovable object, which is this, this, this thing, this person that’s decided, I have four years ago before I hit 20 years, but I decided I retired now, psychologically, mentally, and everything. It’s really frustrating, but it’s a real thing. You run into those people. And you see the same thing in, in, obviously, in government in general. And in business, too. It’s you can’t survive as a small business with somebody like that because there’s not enough people, you know, the single point of failures, it magnified, right?
Brett Gilliland 42:04
Marty Strong 42:04
But, but it’s frustrating, especially if you’re, you’re committed and you’re you’ve got other people that are committed, you start hearing from lots of different sources that there’s a problem on the second floor.
Brett Gilliland 42:16
Yeah. So let’s talk about, one of the final questions here as you know, we talked about success and all the things that we do, right, and, but what’s something that you struggle with, and I’ll be transparent and share that mine, mine is more of like a fitness side, like, I don’t love working out, you know, and I love the concept of it. I enjoy it when I’m done with it. But I’m not this like seven day a week guy and all this stuff showing up and just doing it even when I don’t want to do it. If I don’t want to do it, I just don’t freakin do it. Right? And so that’s what I struggle with, but when you think of sleep, or your diet or exercise or something I’m not even thinking of right now, is there something that you struggle with and what have you done, and I can share my accountability to the exercise later, but that you’ve done to overcome that, and now it’s become a habit for you?
Marty Strong 43:05
Well, it’s not fitness. Since we’re done here, I’m going right on to the peloton bike so I work out six––
Brett Gilliland 43:10
Mine’s right there.
Marty Strong 43:11
––six days a week. And yeah, I’ve, I’ve always, I’ve always liked working out I’ve always liked sports. So you know, I stay I stay in good shape that way. I have no problem sleeping, I go to sleep at night, wake up the next morning, boom, you know, I’m good. My, my problem is taking actual time off, quality time off. My kids are all grown, I got five kids, five grandkids. So we don’t have anybody in the house running around that we have to worry about paying attention to.
Brett Gilliland 43:40
Marty Strong 43:41
Except for a little yorkiepoo. The, so in 2020, before COVID I sat down my wife and said, “Okay, we gotta I gotta solve this, I gotta fix this, because I’m, I’m committed.” So if you’re, if you’re committed to all those channels I read rattled off earlier, you know, there’s going to be a channel called, you know, you and your, your family. So, as much as I have intermittent contact all day long, and when I work from home, I’m here. I’m not really engaging. I’m not really involved. So, in 2020, we sat down and we we set up a whole bunch of trips, and we set up two comedy concerts, these like destination concerts, and I think three or four music concerts, and we had the whole year stacked.
Brett Gilliland 44:28
Marty Strong 44:28
We sat out there, we light it up. So now I got a commitment. Right, I got a schedule. We’re gonna get out of town. We’re gonna go have fun. Every one them got canceled. And actually they were canceled, they were canceled again and ’21 and postponed I think we got to see one. Got to see the Doobie Brothers–-
Brett Gilliland 44:46
Oh there you go!
Marty Strong 44:47
––finally go almost three years later. So we just went through this again. And we just came back from from four days in Long Beach Island, New Jersey, which, she set that up a while back, we’ve got like four trips set up between now and January, where I set up a ski trip in February. So that’s how I’m trying to cope with my weak area, my, my failing, I need to take that as seriously and commit to that as completely as I commit to all the other things.
Brett Gilliland 45:19
Yeah. And when I hear there too, is that we got to pre plan it, right? I mean, if they’re on the calendar, then you’re going to take your weakness, and you’re going to turn it into an opportunity, because now it’s there. And now you just got to go do it, right, you just gotta get on the plane or the car, or whatever it is, and you’ll make it happen. And for me, the last few weeks, you’ve probably heard me talking about this in the podcast is that my accountability was I’m tired of this, I need to at least need twice a week. So Tuesdays and Thursday mornings, 6am I’ve got anywhere from five to eight guys that come to my backyard, I walk outside, usually around 5:42 or 5:52 and I’m ready, you got the weights out there, and there’s usually at least one or two guys already out there doing stuff, right? They’re exercising, but for me, like I know, I just I wouldn’t wake up then and go do it. And so I had to create this environment that I know a bunch of my buddy’s gonna be in my own damn backyard guess who’s showing up this guy, right? And so it’s been it’s been phenomenal. So again, to our listeners, I would say find that buddy group, find that system, book it on your calendar, whatever it is––
Marty Strong 46:25
Brett Gilliland 46:25
–– do something about it and make it happen.
Marty Strong 46:28
Yeah, figuring out what works for me is telling somebody, I’m going to do something because then I then I’m gonna have to be committed to it right, so?
Brett Gilliland 46:35
Well, because I’m gonna go check your beer a peloton name out and see if you actually rode the bike after this.
Marty Strong 46:40
Yeah, so if it’s Time Warrior.
Brett Gilliland 46:44
There you go.
Marty Strong 46:45
So if, if I would run a half marathon or me my wife ran marathons, half marathons, adventure races, things like that. As soon as we signed up, like the next day, you’re like, “What the hell did I just do?”
Brett Gilliland 46:56
Marty Strong 46:56
Now you’re committed to the whole training program, buying all the cool gear stuff, and so one of the first things I would do is I tell people at the office, I tell my friends, because I could never live down not doing it once I––
Brett Gilliland 47:09
Marty Strong 47:10
That’s what kept me, that’s what kept me on track. If we didn’t tell anybody, we could just go “hey, yeah, I’m good if you’re good. Let’s cancel this.”
Brett Gilliland 47:20
Yeah, well they say go public. You know, if you got a goal, you got a big goal work personally, whatever it is go public with it. And I’ve spent my whole career doing that you just because if you’re right, if you tell enough people, it’s like, “Oh, crap, man, I gotta do that.” You know? So.
Marty Strong 47:34
Well it works, it works for me anyway. I don’t like to say one thing and then not do it.
Brett Gilliland 47:39
Marty Strong 47:40
You definitely can’t do it when you’re writing books and talking about in interviews all the time.
Brett Gilliland 47:43
Exactly. Exactly. So “Be Visionary: Strategic Leadership in the Age of Optimization,” it’s gonna be an awesome book coming out in January of 2023. What’s your number one goal you hope somebody gets from it?
Marty Strong 47:58
That they lift their head up and look at the horizon and learn how to dream again.
Brett Gilliland 48:03
Powerful, isn’t it dreaming?
Marty Strong 48:05
I think so.
Brett Gilliland 48:06
I love it. I just love the word dream. You know, it’s it is amazing. And that’s for me what I do in strategic thing time every week, you know, just me, my journal, an ink pen, no technology and just dream. And we got to do more of it. And I’m sure you’d agree with that as the some of my best ideas, my best decisions have come from that time alone. But but at the beginning, it was really tough, because you’d feel like as a hard charging guy, I’d be like, well, this is, I’m weak. Why am I being a loser sitting over here, the ink pen and a piece of paper man? I should be doing this. But then I found as I’ve done it now since July of 2005, that it’s by far the best time I spend all week.
Marty Strong 48:45
Yeah, and there’s this there’s a sequence, you know? You don’t just dream. It sounds kind of goofy, but you dream, the dream turns into vision, the vision turns into a concept, usually somewhat fleshed out on paper, the concept is converted into a strategy, and the strategy then drives an operational gameplan, milestones, etc., to achieve the strategy. That’s how you go back into the reality of business. You start with the dream and you work your way structurally backwards.
Brett Gilliland 49:12
Love it, love it. Where do we find more of Marty Strong, that we can put in the show notes for our listeners to find more of you?
Marty Strong 49:19
Just go to Martystrongbenimble.com, and there’s links to all my books and articles, all kinds of stuff there.
Brett Gilliland 49:25
Awesome, man. Well, we’ll put it on social media, or on our show notes for sure and thanks for joining me again, man on the Circuit of Success. This is a great time and always enjoy the conversation.
Marty Strong 49:34
Yeah, thanks for having me. Good to see you again.
Brett Gilliland 49:36
Good to see you. Enjoy.