If you had a second shot at life, what would you do? Would you live life to the fullest and focus on the things that mattered the most to you? Author & Speaker, Mark Black, shares his life-threatening struggle and how that experience has molded him into the person he is today. His story has inspired and taught the true meaning of resilience and how to use it to obtain continued innovation and growth.

  • 1:56 – Time is finite, spend it wisely
  • 3:29 – Live everyday like it matters
  • 8:14 – What matters the most to you
  • 10:52 – Living on bonus time
  • 16:41 – How changing the pronouns creates a powerful connection
  • 19:56 – Following the resilience roadmap
  • 25:11 – How to ‘shorten the gap’
  • 28:46 – Everyone is wired differently
  • 32:35 – The relaxed hierarchy
  • 40:39 – The deepest level of identity

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Live Life from the Heart – Mark Black

Full Episode Transcription:

Todd: (00:00)
All right. Mark, welcome to the show. So excited to talk to you today.

Mark: (00:03)
Thanks so much. Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.

Todd: (00:05)
Yeah, absolutely. So you have a really fascinating story, which I want to definitely get into some of those details. But I like to give the listener an opportunity to decide if you are the right person that they should be listening to. So I find that the best way to do that is to, is to start with your why. To follow Simon Sendik’s model. He beautifully outlines, which is why do you do what you do? Like what, what drives you as a person to do what you have done for your career.

Mark: (00:33)
So I do what I do because I had a realization that I think we all have it at some point in our life that time is finite and we don’t know whether we get 20 years or a hundred years. But either way it’s goes fast. And if my time and my energy are the only finite resources I have, which is what I believe, then it makes only good sense to me that I spend those with great intentionality and, and I think everybody else wants the same thing. And so really my ultimate goal is to help people use their time and energy in ways that they are proud of when they look back over the course of their life. 

Todd: (01:18)
That’s awesome. You know, I just I heard in one of your talks or your videos, you talked about living living today like it was your last day and how that can sort of be good at times and maybe not advisable at others. And you know, when you said time is finite, what do you see in people you talk to or people you’ve worked with? Is there, is there a black or white sort of delegation or can you bucket people in two different groups, like people that understand time is finite and really are aware of that and live with that in mind. And then the other side is don’t think about that at all. And just sort of are living along and not really thinking of what you just said. 

Mark: (02:10)
I mean, I think, you know, I think like most things, a whole pile of gray area that people live in, in between there and we’re probably none of us, certainly none of us perfect and none of us completely messing it up either. But I think the majority of folks, you know, the general pattern of life is we kind of go through school so that we can get a good job and we land that job hopefully. And then we, we work in hopefully one job, although that typically doesn’t exist anymore for 30 or 40 years so that we can retire and then go and live life. Right. And, and that model is broken for a number of reasons from the fact that you know, a lot of people who follow that model get to retirement and that are too sick to really live the life that they planned on living or don’t have the money to live the life they wanted to live. 

Mark: (02:53)
To the fact that you are basically then if you’re following that model, kind of resigning yourself to the fact that you’re going go through 30 or 40 years of tolerating time at best to being able to straight up misery at worst so that maybe one day you can start living the life you want to live. And my realization at, you know, 23 years old was and we can get into the story if we, if we need to. It was like, I, you know, I could be gone tomorrow and so could you, and that’s, it’s not to say live everyday like your last day cause I think that is a common trope that people tried out there. That sounds cute until you kind of think about the practicality of that. Like, you know, you can only skydive so many times and you can only, you know, you only do the, the bucket trip list so many times, so you can’t live everyday like your last day.

Mark: (03:40)
But my, my idea is can we live everyday like it matters because it does. And, and the better we do that, the more intentionality we bring to our days, the more fulfilling our life becomes. And what is meaningful for you may not be meaningful for me. It’s not to tell, it’s not for me to tell people this is what you must do to live a meaningful life except to say just do it on purpose. And I think a lot of us are, are, are kind of asleep at the wheel and we’re going through the motions. Waiting for some day retirement or some other day where we’re going to start actually living the life we want to live.

Todd: (04:22)
Yeah. I’m, I’m fascinated by that whole mindset. Right. And I see, you know, it’s interesting cause a lot of what we talked about on this show is about business and work and building a great team and you know, and then you get into these things that are seemingly, have nothing to do with work, right? Like live every day and be proud of what you do. And you know, don’t, don’t think that, Oh, I will do this someday. These are sort of intangible when people would call like soft skills. Right? But you know, I don’t know. Do you see that? How can you take something that’s such a broad topic and perspective about life and bring that into the really tangible small things at work?

Mark: (05:09)
Yeah, that’s a great question. So I think, you know, again, if you’re living with intentionality, if you’re, if you’re doing things on purpose and you’re treating your time like it matters, then it means you do that in your work as well. Right? And, and I’ll be the first to say I struggle with this cause I, we also live in a world of distraction and I think our smartphones and other things have, have have and continue to train our brains to not pay attention and to be distracted. So we have to really work at it. But you know, there’s this, there’s a principal whose name escapes me right now. But the phenomenon basically is the time expands to fit the task or sorry, the task expands to fit the time. Right? In other words, I’m going to give myself eight hours cause that’s what I’ve been, I have to do this work.

Mark: (05:59)
And that work maybe could get done in four hours or maybe it needs 16 hours, depends on the situation. But we have this, you know, concept that we’re supposed to fill X amount of time because that’s my working day and when maybe we can be a way more effective and if we can be then great and it gives us more time if we work in an environment where we have that flexibility anyway to go into other things. So for example, as an entrepreneur, it’s easy for me and I’ve done it to work 12, 14, 16 hour days. Cause there’s always another thing to do, right? And if you run a business that you know that that’s true. The question is, are you living that way because that’s really what’s required or are you living that way? Because you train yourself to think that that’s what’s required and maybe you could be a lot more effective and do it in eight hours and have a lot more time to spend with, you know, your family and the people that you say matter to you.

Mark: (06:51)
Because the other thing I’ve found out is that universally people kind of say the same couple of things are the most important to them. Like you asked people what really matters to you universally. People kind of say spending time with my family, my health and my wellbeing, having great experiences, like things like that tend to be, nobody says to work 16 hour days to make sure I get a lot done on Wednesday. Right, exactly. People will even say like, you know, obviously if I’m a business owner, I want my business to do well. But when you can get to, as you said, if you get to the why of that, why do you want the business to do well? Well, so I can provide a family, provide for my family, I can provide, a lifestyle, et cetera, et cetera. So it’s still, it’s the business success is important. Yes. But it’s only important for what it does for you. And therefore if, if you’re working your butt off and, and creating that success, but it’s not giving you the other step because you’re having no time to enjoy it, then something’s broken. Right. And so that’s part of this process of like helping people kind of go, okay, well is, is what you’re doing creating the result that you want because it’s really easy to lose track of that.

Todd: (08:02)
Yeah. Yeah. It’s, it’s true. Let’s circle back. I, I want to draw it a little more about your why, because I know you have a really, really fascinating story and I’m assuming that that was a major contributor to understanding your why or elevating the importance of continuously keeping that top of mind for you. Like you said, maybe some people say those things, family and experiences, and you know, enjoying my friends, but it fades really quickly when they have a deadline tomorrow. Right. Just lose it. So can you tell us a little bit about your own story and how that did contribute to the things you shared about your why?

Mark: (08:43)
Sure. Yeah. So let’s do the, I call it the reader’s digest version. We’ll see what happens for people so that it makes sense, but it’s not too drawn out. So I was, I was born with a congenital heart defect, so I had open heart surgery at, at birth, like hours old. And then another one when I was a year old and was told, well, I wasn’t told, my parents were told that I would need several more surgeries over the course of my childhood. And I was fortunate to not, to not need that. I was quite stable medically for a long time. It was touch and go in the first year, but after that it was, you know, things stabilized. And then over the course of about age 13 to 23, slowly my health deteriorated. And then by the time I got to 23 years old, I was at university.

Mark: (09:29)
I was experiencing what I now know were pretty classic symptoms of heart failure that I didn’t know at the time were classic symptoms, like shortness of breath and swelling in my feet and I’m getting tired all the time. So I went to the doctor and after about two weeks of testing they said you need a heart and two new lungs. Like you need a transplant and you need it yesterday. Wow. and we, we’ve known because of a chronic illness that transplant was probably my future, but we didn’t know how far in the future that was. And so that was something that was kind of like always off in the distance too. All of a sudden it was immediately right in front of my face. And the realities of transplant are that there are not nearly enough donors for everybody that needs a transplant.

Mark: (10:13)
And so you get put on a waiting list and you and you wait and you have no idea whether you’re waiting for two weeks or two years. And in my case, I needed a lung transplant as well. The closest transplant center that did that surgery was in Toronto. I live in New Brunswick in Canada. So that’s about a thousand miles away. And because of the fragility of the organs and the kind of time is really tight when and if a donor is found, things have to happen quickly. So they required you to move because you have to be within about an hour of the hospital at all times so that if something happens, you’re going to go. So in 2001 at 23, my dad and I leave home, leave my mom and my three younger brothers at home moved to Toronto. I wait for ultimately 10 months on the transplant list.

Mark: (11:00)
The last six months of that time I spent in the hospital because I was my, my, my condition was just so fragile that my heart could stop at any second. They said basically your heart could, could arrest at any time, and we want to be able to respond quickly if that happens. So I was admitted to hospital in April of 2002 and stayed there until the transplant, which was in September, September the seventh, 2002. And so, you know, for that six month and then six months, and especially in the last few months of that time, death was like literally imminent. It could happen at any day. And so as anybody who has faced that or faced it with a friend or, or a loved one knows death teaches you a lot about life and, and it teaches you a lot about, you know, what really matters to you. And having six months to sit in a hospital and not really be able to do a whole lot physically was very difficult, but also gave me a lot of thinking time. And

Todd: (12:05)
Maybe too much at times. Yeah,

Mark: (12:08)
Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. And so, you know, it just brings into very sharp focus what matters and what doesn’t matter. And I kind of just made a promise to myself that if and when this donor is found not only, not only I, you know, I, I have this responsibility, I think we all do to kind of use what we’ve been given. Well, but now I have almost this extra responsibility because in some ways I’m living somebody else’s life for them as well. Like I literally carry somebody else’s body within me, which is super overwhelming when I think about it. Yeah. Yeah. And so, and so after the transplant, it was just kind of like, okay, well, every day is bonus time now, right? Like every day is time. I didn’t think I was going to get, so we need to use it.

Mark: (12:59)
Well and, and you know, that sounds really, I dunno, that can feel very heavy if you, if you think about it in the wrong way. And so it’s, I don’t, I try really hard not to put tremendous pressure on myself to say, okay, well this is this particular, like, is this podcast a good use of this hour of time? Like, well, you know, could I, should I be doing something else? Should I be down at a soup kitchen or should I like, what should I be? So I don’t, you know, I think we can get into the weeds on that. But overall, the idea is just like life is short, whether you get to live it for a hundred years or 30 years. And so it makes sense to me that we’d be using it on things that matter. And what matters to you may not matter to me, but you ought not to be, you ought not to be following this model that you’re gonna live your life to save up some money so that someday you can do the things you want to do.

Todd: (14:02)
Yeah. Yeah. And it’s amazing. And I think that the perspective there, I’m fascinated by because when you go through something like that, obviously I’ve never had that same experience, but I’ve had, you know, a very good friend of mine died in a car accident when I was young and that was not instantly, but once I got through the other side, like you just shared, I had, I had a, an experience that I can then use to, to help other people through the same experience or help them prepare for something like that happening. And those things are very hard to learn unless you go through them. Right? So when you’re, when you’re speaking with people, I’m sure if someone else has a very similar experience, your instant rapport and you just get each other, how do you go about teaching something to someone that is so radically outside their realm of understanding that, that it’s, you know, it’s something that is sort of that tacit knowledge that you that you, you certainly learn better by going through it. How do you convey that to someone who has never experienced that and might never experience that? How do you, how do you communicate and you know, impart that wisdom?

Mark: (15:18)
Yeah, that’s a great question. And I think, so I’ve created, I created a framework for, for people to try and apply some of the things that, that I talk about so that it makes it a little more tangible and I, and hopefully that that’s, that’s helpful. When I, and when I share the story with people it’s a, it’s a tool that I use that I learned from, from other speakers who were, who were more experienced than I was. They said, you’ve got to put people into the story. And so through, through things as simple as changing pronouns so that I tell the story from you, the you perspective, not from the I perspective so that people can hopefully envision themselves living this experience. And, and bringing them to the, to that precipice and helping them see, okay, what would matter to me, what wouldn’t matter to me. And I mean, typically I’m doing keynotes that are 60 to 90 minutes long. So it’s, it’s tricky because you know, people don’t have a lot of processing time, but the feedback I get is later on people kind of go back over what they’ve heard and go, Oh yeah, I see how 

Todd: (16:24)
Can you, can you, can I pause you there and have you give a very specific example? Like can you give a sentence in the, the weak use of pronouns and then the really good one to put someone in the story. I love that as a framework.

Mark: (16:36)
Sure. So typically when we tell a story, whether we’re sitting around a table or we’re doing it on a stage, we would say, you know, so I was 23 years old and I was sitting in his hospital room and the doctor comes in and tells me I have a year left to live. And so that would be, and that’s, to me, that’s how I told the story when I first started it. And then as I kind of learned, I said, okay, imagine yourself sitting in a hospital room. You’ve been there for three months, you know that something is terribly wrong. You’ve had all of this testing done in a minute. A doctor is going to come in the door and tell you what the results have shown. And the doctor comes in and he looks you in the eye and he says, you need a heart and two new ones, he need them today or you need them yesterday.

Mark: (17:17)
And so just that little switch is enough for people to kind of go, Oh, and, and it’s fascinating because people will come up to me afterwards and they have made a connection in their mind that at one level is kind of funny because sometimes people will, will go, I totally get it. Like I broke my leg once and, and so on some levels you’re kind of like really little, little different but. Right. But at the same time I went, you know, you know what like perfect, like as long as you’ve made a link that lets you emotionally that you get the lesson and it goes from here to here so that you live it. I don’t, I don’t care what the, like it’s not about comparing pain that’s irrelevant. So, so the, yeah, so that tool has been really helpful.

Mark: (18:03)
And then I try and give people literally concrete steps and that came from just kind of reverse engineering what we as a family did to get through this challenge. And it’s, it’s what I think in some form or another we all do when we go through a challenge, we just don’t maybe necessarily do it at a at a cognizant level. Like we’re not aware that we’re doing it. 

Todd: (18:30)
Does it follow the stages of grief is it follow that sort of? 

Mark: (18:33)
There’s probably some similarities. Yeah. But, but so it’s a, it’s a five step framework I call the resilience roadmap. So it’s like how do we not bounce back from university? Cause I think that’s a really misleading analogy cause I think first of all, we don’t want to get back to where we were. We were not going to be the same cause we’re, we’ve grown hopefully.

Mark: (18:54)
But how do we transform through challenges so that on the other side we are certainly different. And in some ways we’ve lost something probably, but in other ways we’ve grown and learned and hopefully I’ll ultimately we’re, we’re better than we were before. And so that, that framework really simply is acceptance, right? So we have to, we have to accept reality, which is super simple. And yet you know, many of us live in denial about many things for a long time. Then once we’ve, once we’ve done that, then we need to start adapting to that new reality. So we can’t follow what a lot of, you know, businesses fall into this trap of the, you know, what got you here won’t get you there. That, that sort of philosophy, right? Of like, it’s great that this is the way we’ve always done it, but if this is the way we’ve always done it and that doesn’t work anymore, we have to be willing to change that, right?

Mark: (19:49)
And so what does this new reality require of us? And we, so we dig into examples of, of, you know, what happens when you don’t do that? And how, what are some ways that you can do that? When simple way that I talked to people now is I hear a lot of, you know, business owners talking about slash complaining about you know, millennials and and now post-millennials or whatever we would call that next generation. And how they don’t, you know, they just don’t operate the same way, right? Like they just, right. They’re addicted to their phones or they don’t have work ethic or they do this or they do that or, and, okay, some of that is true. Some of that is just stereotype. But also now what? Right? Like that’s the reality you live in. So you can sit there and complain about how they’re not like you were when you were that age, which is I think what every generation does, right? Kids these days. Or you can go, okay, well that’s the reality. So how do I adapt accordingly? And the companies and the people

Mark: (20:48)
Who adapt more proactively more quickly are the ones that succeed. That’s just, that’s just how it works. And then the other two pieces of the puzzle are, are what are we aiming at? And what is the action plan to take us there? So and, and so I, I, I shared in that that sequence, but it doesn’t always, you know, life is messy. So sometimes we jump back and forth and that’s, that’s OK. But we have to know where we’re going in order to adapt in ways that make sense, right? Because otherwise we will. Otherwise we’re in reactive mode all the time. We’re just kind of like, okay, we’ve got a problem, let’s fix it. But there might be four ways to fix it and only one of those ways is in line with where you want to go. So we need to know where we’re going as well.

Mark: (21:36)
And then action is just about, you know, the daily execution like we need to, it’s fine to know what we need to do. And it’s fine to know how we need to do it, but, you know, to the Simon Sinek model, right, of, of what, how, why we need to be actually doing it. And that typically means we need to know why we’re doing it because that’s where the motivation and the drive come from. And so I’m, you know, I, I, I referenced that, that model for people as well to say, look, things are going to be difficult. That’s part of the process. And, and you need to know why you’re doing what you’re doing, cause that’s going to carry you through those times when it’s hard. Those times should be anticipated and expected. Not surprises. Cause so many times I see people go, you know, they’re, they go lay there, they’re really fired up, they’ve got a goal, they started to take action, everything’s going well, and then they hit a roadblock and it’s like, Oh my gosh, like where did that come from?

Mark: (22:35)
When in fact it shouldn’t be like, okay, we’re ready because we knew this was going to happen because it’s, you know, I like to say it’s supposed to be hard. Yeah, that’s it. 

Todd: (22:46)
That’s a great insight. And it you said something else, you said life is messy, right? One of my favorite books of all time, I don’t know if you’ve read it, is the road less traveled? 

Mark: (22:56)
Oh no, I haven’t. 

Todd: (22:58)
Oh God, you gotta pick it up and read it right away. The very first sentence of the entire book is life is difficult. All right. And then he goes on to explain acceptance, right? Like you have to accept that life is messy. Life is difficult. It’s not going to be easy. And once you accept that everything else is easier because you’re not fighting like with the millennials, like once you, like however you’re describing your millennial team and the things that might drive you crazy about them and their don’t do this. And we used to do differently. Like why don’t you accept that they are, will they, I’m just bucketing to for once something is what it is. And you accept that you get a lot more to work with when you’re, you’re, you lower that resistance in that,

Mark: (23:48)
Yeah, that 100%. Right. So I talked to people about, about shortening the gap. This is a, this is a concept that that kind of came to me at an event and they resonated with people. So now we, we use it all the time and, and the gap is in, in our lives and our businesses, we have an event and then we have a response, right? And in between there we have that resistance, right? And that usually shows up as anger and frustration and resentment and then all of those, you know, negative emotions. And, and so the idea here is just to shorten that gap. Like, can we see it’s going to happen, right? Like I don’t care how enlightened you are. I’ve never met anybody who has no gap at all, who can, you know, like stub their toe and not at least say ouch before they move on with their day.

Mark: (24:36)
Right? But some, some person is going to stub their toe and then, you know, yell at the wall and then get, you know, get angry about, Oh, they’ve done that four times. And you know, I’m giving a really simplistic example, but you get the idea, we can, we can live in that. We can live in that gap for a long time. Sometimes it’s years depending on how significant the event is, right? And then eventually we get exhausted or we realize, okay, enough is enough. And we go, okay, now what am I going to do? And the idea is the shorter we make that gap more effective, we become because we’re not wasting time and energy being angry about something that can’t be changed. 

Todd: (25:11)
Yeah. This is a great life lessons hard to learn. Right? Very simple. Simple but not easy. Right?

Mark: (25:19)
Absolutely. Yeah.

Todd: (25:21)
Like shorten the gap. There’s some, there’s some great stuff here. One of the things I love to dig into on, you know, in these interviews is sort of these timeless principles like, you know, life advice versus like right now how to do something with this tool or this new social media site, right? Cause there’s some very tangible, immediate things that are very beneficial to people in businesses. But these timeless ones for me are, are really you know, there’s sort of the root cause of a lot of problems and the, and the, once you figure them out the, the path towards a solution to a lot of the things that are troubling,

Mark: (25:57)
Right? Absolutely. I mean, we need both. Right. And that’s why, you know, that’s why Simon Sinek circle has all three levels. Cause he, you can’t, it’s great to have a big why, but if you don’t go out and do something with it and have a what and a how then who cares, right? So you, it takes, it takes both layers of the, of the process, but you’re right, if, if the, if the base level, if these, if these timeless principles are not in place, then you can have the most cutting edge tools in the world. They’re not going to be, they’re not going to work for you because at a fundamental level, you’re not using them properly. Yeah.

Todd: (26:33)
Let’s, let’s dive into the what and how a little bit deeper. So with these timeless principles, I love the framework you gave, the steps, the resilience framework. A lot of what A lot of the guests and listeners are dealing with right now is how to train their team, how to grow a company and still retain the culture and the values of the founders. And how do you encourage learning like for the individual and then for a team and are there certain ones that you see that, you know, you sitting in a hospital bed for six months, did you consider that like solo work or because you had visitors and mentors or books you were reading? Is it something that is better done in collaboration and with a mentorship sort of relationship?

Mark: (27:23)
Again, good question. I think, I think it’s both and not either or. Right? So your people need to, you know, ideally people are out there doing their own work, but if you’re, if you are dependent on your team, if you’re expecting your team to, to all be as driven to learn and improve as you likely are, because if you’re listening to this and you’re a founder or an entrepreneur, then that’s in your DNA. But if you expect everybody around you to be at that same level, then you’re going to be disappointed because everybody is like we tend to think that what comes naturally to us comes naturally to everybody else. And it just doesn’t right. Cause we’re, cause we’re different and, and typically somebody who is an effective employee is not wired like an entrepreneur. That’s why they’re an employee and not running their own business.

Mark: (28:12)
And so we need to get that, you know, one of the one of the things that I, I remember from, and I think it was Gary V that I was watching who said like, you, you just can’t expect your employee to be invested at the same level that you are ever like expecting. That is ridiculous because their upside is not nearly as big as your upside. And they didn’t, they didn’t start this thing and they don’t have the same emotional tie to it. And all of that stuff’s like, so again, acceptance, right? Of like there our employees, obviously we all want employees who are not just there to punch the clock and get a paycheck and leave. But if they’re there and they’re punching the clock and they’re doing the work that you have laid out for them to do and they’re leaving, then they’re still doing their job, right?

Mark: (28:57)
Like they’re doing what they signed up to do. And so if you want more than that, then you kind of have to create the culture and the environment to make that happen and not hope that they’re going to do that. And so what do you do? Well, there are all kinds of things you can do from, and this will sound super self-serving, but it doesn’t, you know, don’t, don’t hire me. But from bringing in speakers and trainers and outside people can be incredibly valuable because, and I’ve noticed this phenomenon from the time people are 10 to the time they’re 80 is for some reason an outside voice often resonates with people at a deeper level than I’ve voiced that they hear day. That’s just the novelty factor I think. I, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had you know, a parent or a, or a CEO say to me, man, you, you came and you spoke about things that we talk about all the time and for some reason, you know, after you left yesterday, my employee, had this like big aha moment about something that I’ve been telling them over and over again for months.

Mark: (30:05)
And I, you know, as a parent, I, I’ve had my kids come and say or do something that they like learned at school and I’m like, we’ve been teaching you this forever.

Todd: (30:13)
Like, we have been trying to get this in your head for five years. I think I may have heard my wife say that to me. Like in sometimes you’re spot on and it takes an outside voice. Just a slightly different way of saying something you’ve heard often for you to just click

Mark: (30:30)
Well and cause, or because of the emotional dynamics of those two people are very different. Right? Like, I’m going to hear something from my spouse differently than I’m going to hear it from my boss differently than I’m going to hear it from my kid. Different. The only that I’m going to do it for my friend. You know, sometimes a friend can speak truth to you in a way that you know, none of those other people ever could, even though they all see it. Right? So

Todd: (30:51)
Can you, can you foster that within the company and I agree, having outside speakers is great, but maybe, you know, cross functional team members. Like how would you, how have you seen that work or maybe some tips on, on collaboration that brings out that same benefit? 

Mark: (31:12)
Yeah, absolutely. So I think about a really open and honest communication in both directions. It’s about making sure that you as a leader are very transparent with your team, right? So sharing your flaws, failures mistakes and being really honest with people about that. So, so there’s an organization that I’ve worked with and here in town, they’re software company, a million dollar software company that works out of this little city in new Brunswick that nobody knows about. And their CEO has been super intentional about it. They have daily daily meetings. I think they have a name for them and it doesn’t really matter. They get together in like the lobby area of their building or the kitchen area of their building actually. And they talk about different personal development leadership business topic every day.

Mark: (32:14)
And the CEO is usually the one who comes in and raises the issue. And then it’s a, it’s a round table discussion from the, you know, person who’s been there for three days all the way up to the founder of the company. And it’s an equal, it’s not a CEO down conversation. It’s a very equal exchange conversation. And they become so valuable now that they actually broadcast them on Facebook live for their customers and other companies to see. 

Todd: (32:42)
Oh wow. That’s really neat.

Mark: (32:43)
Just because they want to share them. And so what’s neat is..

Todd: (32:47)
what’s the company name? Can you share? 

Mark: (32:48)
Yeah, they’re called Dovico. Software D. O. V. I. C. O Do-vi-co. Yeah. DOVICO. And yeah, their CEO is just an, a ton of inner work is done. He’s gone to all the big personal development events and, and done a lot of, you know, a lot of his own work.

Mark: (33:07)
And, and so he recognizes like, Hey, number one, no matter how successful I get, I’m still a flawed human being. And he’s at peace enough with that, that he’s willing to share that fact with his team and, and nurture an environment that it’s okay to be a human and it’s okay to make mistakes. And that actually when we do that and we acknowledge that it creates a safer environment for us all to innovate and grow and try things because we know that if we screw up, it’s okay. And you walk into the building and spend some time there and you just feel it instantly. Like there’s a, you know, there’s still the hierarchy, it’s still a company. There’s still a CEO and a COO and all that stuff. But you know, there isn’t this like there, there isn’t the hierarchy in the sense of, of respect for each other or permission to speak or permission to share ideas that is all very like egalitarian.

Mark: (34:06)
And so because of that, people can contribute things that they might otherwise feel afraid to share or, and, and the learning happens up and down, up and, and up, down. And so, you know, the person who’s brand new sometimes is the one sharing something at that meeting. That is the takeaway for everybody. Everybody there that day. It’s not always, you know, the CEO sharing their wisdom to everybody else. 

Todd: (34:33)
Yeah. That’s fascinating. I’m going to definitely look at the look at the company. It’s neat they put that on Facebook too. It shows there. They’re re they’re, they’re serious about transparency. Right? 

Mark: (34:43)
Right. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Yeah. They’re just kind of going, you know, and what’s happened is because of that, they’ve, they’ve sort of developed this reputation of having great company culture. And so now the CEO is actually like becoming a voice for building great company culture and, and, and I don’t know that he set out specifically to build great culture or you just set out to build a great company.

Mark: (35:07)
But he certainly had the understanding that part of building a great company was creating this, this environment where people were encouraged to speak up and people were also encouraged to learn. So they’ve got a library in their office with a ton of different personal development books. They gave their people I don’t know if it’s unlimited, but it’s certainly a great a great amount of quote unquote free times on free time by time where they’re allowed to go to events or read books or volunteer or as long as they are getting, they’re meeting their deadlines, doing what they need to do, then the amount of time that they take to do that is almost irrelevant. So that’s incredible. Yeah, they do. They do group exercise. So they’ve done, they like, and they broadcast like they’ve done yoga classes, they’ve done. So all of this stuff could just ultimately, at the end of the day, it’s about recognizing like the people that are working in your office are people first and employees second. Right? And so when you treat them that way, they perform better. Yeah.

Todd: (36:19)
How do you I, I love where we’re going with this because this, the CEO, whoever runs that company seems committed to helping his team learn and grow and become better people. And in turn they will be better employees and help the company more. Are there, are there other things you’ve seen that, you know, one group of things that really encourage people to learn? And then is there anything that you’ve seen that actually discourages that activity that can backfire? You know, I’m thinking of I don’t know if you Daniel pink what is his book called? 

Todd: (37:00)
Drive. So he talks about autonomy, mastery, and purpose. And I remember an example in there, he talks about how you would think that if you put a big bounty on doing something like learning, right? Hey, if you read this book, I’ll give you a dollar. If you read this book, I’ll give you $10,000. The $10,000 prize, actually. I mean, it wasn’t that exact example, but if you put a high dollar value prize on doing something that someone should be innately wanting to do anyways, it actually lowers the effectiveness of that. So that’s sort of like where something can backfire. So when you’re teaching someone to want to learn and want to, you know, engage in those activities anything else come to mind that been really effective or a pitfall watch out for? 

Mark: (37:47)
Yeah, I mean I don’t, I don’t, I think, I think it’s as you know, building the positive peer pressure of, of the fact that like at an identity level, we are a group of people who value learning and we are learners. And so again, it goes, kind of goes back to that culture thing I guess. But there’s something to be said for an environment where you just, you show people, in other words, like telling people is fine, but showing people that we value learning. And how do you do that? Right? Well, you let them, you let them have the time to do it. You provide them the resources to do it. You tell them about it when you go and do it. And, and that sort of creates this effect that pretty soon, you know, if we’re a company of 25 and 22 of us are, you know, talking about the book we were reading this month or talking about the podcast we listened to on the way into work then all of a sudden I feel ostracized and left out simply because I’m the one who isn’t doing this anymore. And any, and I, and usually what happens there is one of two things. Either I joined the bandwagon or I leave. Right. And, and, and frankly, either one is probably good for the company, right?

Todd: (39:05)
Yeah. Or you get by, you just kind of sustain until there’s a necessary changing of the guard and then you’re probably going to be the one to like go. Be let go. Right?

Mark: (39:16)
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. So yeah, again, the, the, the why permeates everything else. And so if, if people understand that this is a place where I’ve always found this fascinating, it’s not my concept, I forget who, who I learned it from, but when we, when we can get to the level, the deepest level of, of identity, that’s when we can really start to, to change who we are as people. So in other words, teaching people to say them, to say to themselves, I am someone who is a learner as opposed to I’m going to go learn something is transformational and it takes time. But when you are, when you identify the company that way as well, and you say, this is a place where we do X, Y, Z, where we have those value statements and we have those mission statements, which I know every organization has, but do, do people know?

Mark: (40:15)
And it’s interesting, I’ve, I’ve asked that question a couple of times at events that I’ve been to or I’m working with the organization. I’d say, okay, how many of you, how many of you work in a place where you have a mission statement and the hands, I’ll go up and I say, and how many of you could tell me what that mission statement is right now? And usually 25% maybe. And of them, some of them are putting their hand up because they know they’re supposed to, but they really don’t know either. Right? And so then the question is, why have one, if, if we don’t like it, nobody knows what it is, then what’s the point of having one in the first place? Right? So we all will, I think, you know, as founders and companies, company owners and entrepreneurs, we’ve all been told we’re supposed to have one. So typically every entrepreneur I talked to, they say, yep, I’ve got one. But if your employees don’t know what it is and, or they don’t care about it, then what’s the point? Right? And so maybe, maybe it’s time to rewrite it. Maybe it’s time to write it as a group so that it’s something that we all believe in. Or maybe it’s time to throw it out if nobody knows or cares about what it is.

Todd: (41:14)
Yeah. This is some great stuff. I really I have a page of notes here. So Mark, this is you’ve been really helpful. I think it’s getting resonated with a lot of our listeners. How can people how can people get in touch with you if they want to bring you in to speak, if they’re inspired by your story or they want to know what events you have coming up. I know you have one coming up fairly soon as of this day recording. But where can they find out all of that about you and follow up? 

Mark: (41:41)
Sure. Mark Black.CA is, is my website and Mark Black speaks is my handle for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, all those places. So that’s probably the easiest place to find it. 

Todd: (41:55)
And for anyone listening. There’s some great testimonials on there. You’ve worked with a lot of really incredible companies. So I would encourage anyone listening to go check out Mark’s website and really appreciate you taking the time to be here. Mark. Thanks so much. 

Mark: (42:10)
Oh my pleasure. Yeah, it’s fine. 

Todd: (42:12)
We’ll catch up with you soon. 

Mark: (42:13)
All right, thanks. 

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