A business is only an idea. We remember businesses and leaders not for what they do. We remember them for who they are. Their brand. A leader or business owner who is looking out for his people is going to foster loyalty. And when you do that, people will help you move mountains.
When I was an officer in the United States Army, I found that a lot of our training was built around handling highly stressful and critical situations. I believe that has allowed me to view times of crisis through a different lens. Part of the Soldier’s Creed states: I will never accept defeat. I will never quit.
In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of dealing with crisis and how to adapt and overcome. The context of this series is the physical and financial fallout that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic. Crisis management is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases, it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.
Today I’m joined by David Richards.A#1 international best-selling author, life coach, yoga instructor and self-development speaker. In his debut best-selling book, Whiskey & Yoga, David shares his wisdom on finding one’s purpose and living intentionally. His latest novel released March 31st titled, The Lighthouse Keeper is a story around the power of mindfulness, and will explore the ways individuals can learn to shift their awareness to master their minds.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?
Thanks for having me! Sure, I grew up in the military. My father was a Marine for thirty-one years and we moved around quite a bit. Most of that time was up and down the East coast, but we also lived for a time in Colorado, as well as Okinawa, Japan. I grew up loving the sense of adventure and journey. I got big into comic books as a kid, because the creative ideas and possibilities excited me.
And what are you doing today? Can you share a story that exemplifies the unique work that you are doing?
Today is an incredible time, any way you look at it. Currently, I am working for a large corporation, helping them to provide amazing experiences for their customers. I’m also working with people to help them break out of their boxes. Some of that is through yoga, but mainly through public speaking, workshops, and writing.
Can you tell us a bit about your military background?
I was on active duty in the Marines for fifteen years. I served some time in Somalia in the early days of Operation Restore Hope, but mainly carried on the family tradition of moving every few years. I served in the artillery, in communications, and as a strategist. I am grateful for the different parts of the world I got to see, even if I didn’t always get to appreciate the beauty of those places.
Can you share the most interesting story that you experienced during your military career? What “take away” did you learn from that story?
Wow, great question. I go back to Christmas Day, 1992. I was in Mogadishu as part of the security detail for a food convoy. The convoys would pick up food at the Mogadishu Port and then drop them off at food distribution centers around the city. There was a group of young boys gathered around us, asking why they couldn’t just grab the food off the truck. They didn’t speak English, and my Somali skills were non-existent.
Through a series of hand and arm gestures, I was trying to spell out that the food went into the center and from there, would be distributed across the city. I wasn’t getting through and then finally one boy picked up on the message, shared it with his friends, and we had a nirvana moment; they were all smiles, and I felt like I’d genuinely helped. We took a picture to commemorate the breakthrough.
Do you think your experience in the military helped prepare you for business or leadership? Can you explain?
Yes. At some stage, invariably, the military breaks down some of the traditions we cling to, which helps us see outside the box of our own thinking. Spending Christmas in Africa, having a tree made from cardboard and tent poles with pre-packaged meals on the ground for gifts…that’s a very different holiday experience than having trees with toys, snow, and a lovely smelling fir.
How does this translate to business and leadership? Going over familiar ground is easy. When the path has been cut for us, we see the signs, we know the choices to make, and we get to where we want to be.
It’s when the path ahead isn’t clear. The military experience helps because it’s chiefly about substance with very little consideration for form. Get the job done. If there isn’t a way, find one. Make one. Too often in business, we think there’s a path for everything. There isn’t. The rules are different in the military than they are in business, but good leadership carries the day in both.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
How much space do we have? The first person who comes to mind is my good friend Mark Calaway. Several years back, I was at an incredibly low point. I was going through a breakup, and wracking my brain over why I couldn’t make a relationship work. I was near a breaking point, and I called Mark. I had been so determined. I was trying to force something that was never going to work, and pride and ego kept me from accurately seeing the situation.
Have you ever had a friend that knew just what to say to you, how and when you needed to hear it? Mark is that person for me.
He walked me back. Back from my anxiety, back from my self-pity. He was the lighthouse for me in the storm.
Before a crisis strikes, what should business owners and leaders think about and how should they plan?
They should think about their people. A business is only an idea. We remember businesses and leaders not for what they do. We remember them for who they are. Their brand. A leader or business owner who is looking out for his people is going to foster loyalty. And when you do that, people will help you move mountains.
There are opportunities to make the best of every situation and it’s usually based on how you frame it. In your opinion or experience, what’s the first thing people should do when they first realize they are in a crisis situation? What should they do next?
Don’t panic! If we let it, our mind will race into all kinds of weird corners and shadows, speculating on what might go wrong, and making the threat out to be greater than it is. Soften the mind. Then, figure out what you can control. It may be a lot, or very little. Depending on the nature of the crisis, you’ll figure out pretty quickly the things that are within your control and the things that aren’t. It’s from within that space that we can create a new normal.
What do you believe are the characteristics or traits needed to survive a crisis?
Calm. Strength. Clarity. Humor.
Based on your military experience, what are 5 steps that someone can take to survive and thrive in these situations? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Assess the situation. If we look at the present circumstances surrounding the Coronavirus, what do we know? We know there is a 4% mortality rate. We know 87% of the cases are minor. We know it’s considerably more contagious than the flu. It’s tragic that so many people have already died because of this, which leads me to my next step.
- Understand the spectrum of control. National, state, and local governments are doing their best to define the line of control. Corporations and our medical fields are adding further clarity so we understand how to minimize our chances of contracting the virus.
- Respect the spectrum. Continuing on with Spring Break plans that involve crowded clubs and beaches are not respecting the spectrum. My heart goes out to all who have been infected or been impacted.
- Create a new normal. I love my gym. I teach yoga there, have met and become friends with some of the most amazing people there. It’s closed. We can’t meet in parks anymore to run or exercise. Now, I have a nifty, Rocky III style gym set up in my garage. Pushups. Pull-ups. Arm and shoulder work. Maybe some legs. I miss my friends, but we find ways to keep the lines of friendship open, and growing.
- Adjust normal as needed. As the situation changes and evolves, our normal needs to change and adjust in response. Be comfortable with flexibility.
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? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
People talk a lot about state of mind, and having the right state of mind. But to me, that’s only half the equation. We need to operate from a better state of being. What is a state of being? It’s the combination of a thought and a feeling. What’s the best thought we can have? I am Unconditional. What’s the feeling? Love.
If every one of us did that, the world would be forever changed.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders 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, especially if we tag them.
Tony Robbins. Three years ago, he provided shock therapy to my soul, and I’ve been reaping the rewards ever since.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you for the time; this has been an absolute delight. I can be found at https://davidrichardsauthor.com/ and on Twitter and IG at @davidrichardsauthor. Thanks again!
Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was truly uplifting.