Build a team. In order to get any project done, it is almost always a team effort. You may be the leader, but there is plenty do for anything worthwhile. I found having co-authors for my academic articles invaluable. To get a heavily researched non-fiction book finished, it takes a variety of research help, otherwise each book will take ten years or more to write. I am very appreciative of my researchers for my various writing projects.
Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Croc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonalds franchise in his 50’s.
How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?
In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “ we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing David D. Schein.
Dr. David Schein is an author, attorney, public speaker, and a management professor and Associate Dean for Graduate Programs at the Cameron School of Business of the University of St. Thomas in Houston. He is the founder and CEO of Claremont Management Group, and hosts the weekly podcasts “Saving America” and “Business Law 101.” His book, The Decline of America: 100 Years of Leadership Failures, is a thought-provoking, non-partisan book that reviews the last 100 years of American Presidents (from Wilson through Obama), offering not just criticism, but common sense solutions to help fix America before it’s too late.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I am the oldest of seven children from the family of a Navy enlisted man. For most of my childhood, finances were a major consideration. However, my parents always emphasized the importance of education. Neither of my parents had a college degree and they had no money to pay for college for any of us. Due to my hard work in high school, I managed to earn a scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Given my background, transition to an Ivy League School was very difficult. Even though my scholarship covered tuition, and a small student loan covered books and some living expenses, surviving day to day was a challenge. However, I began to branch out and soon had my own weekly radio program on PBS and small arts management business. After Penn, I went on to earn an MBA and a law degree.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never — in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense.”
You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
- Plain common sense
- Respect for other people and appreciating the diversity in each person
- Total persistence
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?
I was a corporate attorney for 10 years, living in several different states and working around the United States. I then entered private law practice for 15 years while raising my 2 sons after my second divorce. In 1999, I moved from Houston to the Washington, DC area and was unable to find work as an attorney, so began to teach as an adjunct at four different universities. My realization during this time was that I could “adjunct my way into bankruptcy.” This was because adjunct positions pay poorly and have no benefits. I bought a battered old triplex and lived in one unit and renovated and then rented out the other two units and that helped with living costs. I had a friend who worked on Capitol Hill and had a chance to attend numerous events during that time and to observe directly the operation of the government in DC.
And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?
In 2002, I went back to school full-time at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville to earn my Ph.D. Most of my classmates were 15 to 20 years younger than me. I was awarded a fellowship to help with tuition and continued to provide legal services part-time to my clients in Houston to pay my bills. I was also able to continue to rent the triplex near DC and that helped with my overhead expenses. As I completed my Ph.D. in the least possible amount of time, three years, I began recruiting for a full-time faculty position. I found out that trying to get a faculty position at age 54 was not that easy. I filed approximately 200 faculty applications during a two-year period. I eventually landed a “visiting” (temporary) faculty position at the University of Richmond. Unfortunately, that 2008–09 school year was marred by the Great Recession, and the school released all the visiting faculty in Spring 2009. I spent the next year recruiting for another faculty position, eventually starting at Virginia State University as an Assistant Professor in Fall 2010. While at VSU, I began to focus on opportunities to move forward as an academic and an author. I was given an opportunity to return to Houston at the University of St. Thomas and changed schools in Fall 2013.
Once back in Houston, reflecting on my various experiences and especially my time in DC, I also began writing The Decline of America: 100 Years of Leadership Failures. It took four years to write the book. I was fortunate to connect with an agent and received a publishing offer from Post Hill Press. The book was published in February 2018 and has garnered 5-star reviews and has provided me a variety of speaking and radio opportunities around the United States. I have also spoken about the book in Mexico. I was promoted to full professor in the least possible amount of time at the University of St. Thomas. I have published numerous management journal and law review articles and spoken at conferences from coast to coast. My second book is in the works and hope to release it before the end of this year. I am also working on my first musical revue and another book about my time in college. This week, I recorded my 23nd weekly “Saving America” webcast the second week of February 2021.
Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?
I had anticipated that I would switch to full-time teaching after establishing myself as an attorney. I did not realize how much effort it would take to make that transition. My move into academia made my efforts as an author easier.
What did you do to discover that you had a new skillset inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing? How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?
Attorneys are not known for numbers and most are not known for creativity. But, with the move into academia I excelled in statistics as part of my Ph.D. and it also opened paths for me to write and explore beyond academic journals.
How are things going with this new initiative? We would love to hear some specific examples or stories.
There are no easy paths in life if you want to succeed. I am working hard on my next book and a second edition of my first book. At the same time, I am exploring new paths with the musical revue that I have written and hope to have that ready for some trial performances in early 2022. I have a one-act play currently submitted for a one-act play festival and waiting to hear if it will be performed.
Many have heard of “publish or perish” as the lot for college faculty, and that is true. So, in addition to the writing that I want to do, I do feel pressure to produce regular journal articles on current topics to stay visible and in compliance with requirements for faculty.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Given my struggle to get started in academia after earning my Ph.D., I am especially appreciative of Dr. Mirta Martin, currently President of Fairmont State University, WV. She was the Dean at VSU’s business school in 2010 and hired me into my first tenure-track faculty position there.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
It was a great honor to speak about my book to a packed house at the Central Library in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico in early 2019. I was attending a conference in that city and was invited to speak to a general audience while I was there. Copies of my book are available in various public and university libraries, and readers around the world have given me positive feedback on it. It was also a great pleasure to be interviewed on the Houston PBS radio station as the book was released, among the multiple radio interviews, reviews and articles that have mentioned the book.
Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?
Two years after I completed my Ph.D., I still had not had a single interview for a faculty position and was struggling to keep all my finances afloat. A lot of executives think that they will move into academia after their professional careers. As I mentioned above, there are plenty of adjunct opportunities, but it is tough to jump into the trenches and obtain a tenure-track position and then earn tenure itself.
In my own work I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?
The new path was largely driven my desire to forge a new career path. I did have faculty friends and administrators from my adjunct assignments who were kind enough to serve as my references when I began applying for Ph.D. programs.
Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?
Prior to writing my book, I must have read over 1,000 books. But, it looks a whole lot different when you are writing your own book. I had a burning desire to tell a story that is important to both present and future generations of Americans. In addition, I also wanted to tell other stories through plays and other creative projects that I have in process.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- Start yesterday. I wish I had pursued my Ph.D. at an earlier point in my life. Many people delay doing things for their future objectives like a graduate degree.
- Build relevant networks. In publishing, I had little to go on when I was writing my first book. If I knew three years ago, what I know now, I could have launched my current book much more successfully.
- Be open to suggestions. No, I am not the “smartest guy in the room,” and you are probably not either. For instance, I was accepted in three different Ph.D. programs. The director of one of the programs knew I was already admitted to UVA and he told me: “There is no need for you to be here, you should go to UVA since that is the highest rated program.”
- Ask your friends for help. I was blessed with friends I had made over the years. One couple, Lindy and David Rackiewicz, reviewed and edited each chapter of my first book as I wrote it. Their reward — I made a donation to their church when the book was about to be released.
- Build a team. In order to get any project done, it is almost always a team effort. You may be the leader, but there is plenty do for anything worthwhile. I found having co-authors for my academic articles invaluable. To get a heavily researched non-fiction book finished, it takes a variety of research help, otherwise each book will take ten years or more to write. I am very appreciative of my researchers for my various writing projects.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Americans need to demand accountability from our government. The current bureaucracy is flawed and this is documented by the failure to produce results while running up a huge national debt approaching 30 trillion dollars. For instance, the federal government has spent 10 trillion dollars on the “War on Poverty” over a 50 year period. Yet, we still have poverty and disenfranchised Americans. This is not a partisan appeal. Both political parties have failed America, and I think grassroots reform is going to be required.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. 🙂
Warren Buffett, who achieved great wealth while remaining a very down to earth individual.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
My consulting website has links to most of my works:
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!