“Lesson learned…. Don’t rush!”, Paul J. Schmick of Alliance Security and Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated

Dedication and a progressive work ethic are key attributes to both personal and professional success. However, so is having a very clear vision of where you seek to go. You can be bright and possess unparalleled discipline while pursuing goals, however, without a distinct notion of what success means to you, you will be unable […]

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Dedication and a progressive work ethic are key attributes to both personal and professional success. However, so is having a very clear vision of where you seek to go. You can be bright and possess unparalleled discipline while pursuing goals, however, without a distinct notion of what success means to you, you will be unable to create the small steps and momentum necessary to get you closer to your ultimate goal.

As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Paul J. Schmick.

Paul J. Schmick is a Media Contributor, Professor and Vice President of Security Technology at Alliance Security headquartered in New York. At Alliance, Paul leads the security technology division and serves as the Chief Technology and Operations Officer.

Contributing to the academic community, Paul serves as an Adjunct Professor for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security — Transportation Security Administration Partnership Program at Des Moines Area Community College and instructs coursework in the disciplines of border security, transportation security and cyberterrorism.

Paul earned a B.A. in Homeland Security & Emergency Management from Ashford University. He also holds a M.S. in Homeland Security Management from the Homeland Security and Terrorism Institute at LIU Post, and a M.S. in Cybersecurity from the University of Maryland.

Paul is a media contributor at CNN, MSNBC and provides on-air analysis of security incidents and U.S. policy impacting aviation security, border security and national security matters.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

My childhood was traditional of the 80’s with my mom taking care of business at home and my dad being the sole working provider — much different than most of the two-parent working model of today. I grew up in a neurotic Italian household which very much parallels the work of comedian Sebastian Maniscalco and his take on the quirkiness of Italian heritages and superstitions. From my youth, I learned much from friends and family and spent most of my time outdoors, but close to home where my mom’s paranoid eye was always watching over me.

Growing up in a working-class family, I cannot say I had big dreams other than getting a stable job like my dad with the NY telephone company where I could raise a family and live what I believed was a comfortable life. Playing baseball in my local town was where most of my youth was spent and where friends were made outside the local circle in my neighborhood. Baseball was a tremendous confidence builder when I was young and eventually helped me overshadow the timid personality I had inherited from my dad. While I was a bit smaller than my peers, I could swing a bat and hit the long ball which impressed enough to make some friends on the team. I was absolutely in no way a young prodigy, but learned at a very early age from family, friends and teammates the value of determination, drive, speak through action, and that anything is possible. The fundamentals of what was instilled in me at a very early age has been attributed to both my many personal and professional successes.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

Unfortunately, my security career matured from one of the most destructive and deadliest days in U.S. history — September 11, 2001. Working in telecommunications installation in 2001 and assisting a family member with obtaining a position within the same organization several months prior to 9/11, we would eventually both serve time working at Ground Zero. While my time at the site was short served, my family member served eight months and eventually in 2006, was stricken with lung nodules as he fought through chronic health issues inherited from working there.

In 2006, with a patriotic feel still in the air, my passion to serve in the military was not the best option for myself — someone at that in their mid-thirties. Instead, I pursued a path in the private security industry where one year of experience afforded me the foundation to apply for a position with the U.S. government and Transportation Security Administration — TSA. After a year of private security experience under my belt, I signed-up for the entrance exam at the TSA and on March 17, 2008, I was sworn in as a Transportation Security Officer at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. While I had no formal education in the homeland security domain, I held a passion to serve others and luckily, the TSA provided someone with desire and determination every chance to serve and protect. In the end, I used tragedy to lead me from a part-time security role, to several promotions in government and multiple higher education degrees in homeland security and cybersecurity, to my current role as a Security Executive at Alliance Security in NY. I also serve as an Adjunct Professor where the goal is to educate and develop the next generation of leaders in security and law enforcement disciplines.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

I strive to execute on forward looking strategies and vision by calling upon lessons learned from every great leader I have had the privilege to serve, as well as those who were perhaps managing at a level of managerial ineffectiveness. Learning is an infinite pursuit and anyone with the goal of leading an organization — one must acknowledge and understand the difference between progressive leadership and ineffective leadership styles and the takeaways from both.

It is difficult for me to imagine my current professional success without thinking of all those that helped me along the way as I pursued career advancements. However, there is one who has been most influential. In 2014, I met a gentleman named Matthew Horace, former Special Agent in Charge of the Alcohol, Tabaco, Firearms and Explosives at the U.S. Justice Department. In 2014, Matt was the Chief Security Officer of FJC Security Services and Media Analyst for CNN, NBC and several other media affiliates. Matt was a master operator at managing both upward and downward in an organization and was very successful at both. Focusing on culture and people development first, he was an impressive progressive leader by not just developing managers but creating leaders at every level within an organization. While I no longer serve in the same organization as Matt, we speak frequently and continue to engage on the many disciplines of great leaders. My achievements in media and as a leader of an organization have resulted from lessons learned while serving as a subordinate and student to Matt. I am a firm believer every progressive student, can become a Professor.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

Lesson learned…. Don’t rush!

One of my very first job opportunities was as Courier for FedEx in Bohemia, NY. I started as a Cargo Handler, and several months later I was offered a promotion to a Part-Time Courier — an exciting opportunity I welcomed and was driven to succeed in.

Every Courier at FedEx remembers clearly their first day and there were many unique stories at our station. At the start of my inaugural day, I left the station with fifteen priority package deliveries for a local college. The goal was to have all priority packages delivered before 10:30am and achieve the 100% commitment that FedEx was proud to boast about. For reader awareness, FedEx had a slogan — “The World on Time”.

My first delivery was only a dozen yards from my truck and was a quick & easy stop. It filled me with hope that the rest of my fourteen priority deliveries could be duplicated in the same fashion. However, as I returned to my vehicle, nausea mounted as I realized I locked my keys in the delivery truck. In totality, my first day as a FedEx Courier resulted in one package delivery on time, and fourteen late packages that were delivered after spare keys were delivered from the local station. Spare key arrival time — 10:30a.m., just in time for 14 packages to be delivered late — so much for the FedEx slogan “The World on Time.”

The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

Dedication and a progressive work ethic are key attributes to both personal and professional success. However, so is having a very clear vision of where you seek to go. You can be bright and possess unparalleled discipline while pursuing goals, however, without a distinct notion of what success means to you, you will be unable to create the small steps and momentum necessary to get you closer to your ultimate goal.

As an Adjunct College Professor who lectures on career advancement, my advice is consistent — if you follow your passion and love what you do, you will be able to overcome many of the obstacles that come at you while pursuing your goals. If you do not have relentless passion, you will eventually fail because what you do not love, you eventually may quit. The journey to success is difficult and can be tolling personally and professionally. When you love the pursuit, you will overcome the setbacks that you should expect to face.

Lastly, I believe you need to shrug off concerns of fear and failure and make the pursuits small as if you are building a puzzle. Fear of failure will cloud your judgement and I believe no good decisions come from those based on fear. When we evaluate our goals, achieving them is dependent on executing on near, intermediate, and long terms goals while still being flexible as there is a chance that you will be faced with controversy and detractors. Simply put, be relentless and fearless, but have a plan and execute on small steps.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

In the past as I do today, I have often looked at wellness and performance to be contingent on each other. Meaning, I do not believe you can have one without the other. Originally published in 2002, “The pH Miracle” is based on theories from Dr. Robert O. Young and groundbreaking at that time as it identifies how health and wellness is contingent on diet — and bodies low in pH, and acidic are prone to diseases such as: obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The book guided me on a journey to understand that as blood becomes acidic from the environment and diet, the immune system degrades and you become vulnerable to disease.

While I read the book nearly 20 years ago, I could not imagine that COVID-19 would strike and the immune system would be under siege from a pandemic agent. While the book has aged, the theory continues to resonate regarding the value of measuring health through pH and the alkalinity your body maintains directly determines your state of health which is controlled by diet and environment. In the end, success is contingent on health and wellness first. As a cancer survivor, I strive to serve as a symbol that once you achieve and maintain health and wellness, everything else becomes possible.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

Growing up middle class, I did not have much money or worldly connections, but I understood the need to outperform competition personally and professionally. Whatever I have pursued, the goal was to be dominant by having more knowledge than those in the race against me.

Favorite quote…

“It’s not about money or connections — it’s the willingness to outwork and out-learn everyone… And if it fails, you learn from what happened and do a better job next time” — Mark Cuban

Leading an organization, you quickly realize you can not achieve market dominance without outworking and outperforming organizations that appear to own the market your business operates in. Learning must be a relentless pursuit and leaders must set goals to dominate in their respective marketplace by delivering an exceptional client experience. Simply, if you create an ease of use by listening to consumer desires, and are obsessed with the needs of your consumers, you will create a dominant company in your marketplace.

Experience has taught me that the more you focus on outworking and outlearning your competition, the less money and connections matter as you begin to reshape what is possible. If you build and manage a more perfect organization and secure a position in the top of your market, eventually money and connections will pursue you. In the end, everyone wants to be with a winner!

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I have been blessed with two careers, one as an executive leading a great organization and people, and my second career as an Adjunct Professor in higher education. My project is people development both academically and professionally and working with those who strive for more but are not sure how to get there. Not everyone has been blessed with a coach, mentor and/or the stability to be positioned to succeed, so it is an area I place special attention on when engaged from peers or students.

I find it very inspiring to help influence people who have potential and can accomplish “big things”. While I did not understand the power of people development earlier on in my professional career, it remains my most important focus each day. As someone who has authority in the business and education communities, I believe I have a responsibility to contribute in helping develop the next generation of leaders in their chosen disciplines.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples?

At 36 years old I was diagnosed with Stage 3B Colon Cancer. It was a very difficult time as I went through the emotional and physical toll of treatment and surgeries for more than a year. While I beat cancer in 2009, I had to consider — how the hell at 36 years old, does this happen? There was much self-reflection once I was well and cured, and I realized I needed to be an advocate for my own health and simply be doing more to practice wellness, health and avoid the bad habits that may detract from optimal wellness.

When I was well, there were many things I wanted to achieve personally and professionally, however, when I was sick, there was only one thing I wanted — to be healthy! A cancer diagnosis while devastating was also somewhat of a gift for me considering the practices, habits and lifestyle changes that occured post diagnosis. While I somewhat took for granted diet and the benefits of a healthy lifestyle while in my thirties when I felt indestructible, post cancer I have certainly focused on better habits. Every machine breaks down if you do not perform preventative maintenance so my current better habits in the areas of physical activity, diet, mental health are directly related to what success I can now achieve. In the end, I believe the best habits position us for personal success first. Once we get this right; much more is possible.

How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?

One of the best disciplines I have learned is how to be self-motivating and advance what I can, while understanding some things are out of my control that could potentially detract from progress. Whether personally or professionally, I continually evaluate if I am on the right course to move closer towards goals. Life throws many challenges our way and our ability to fall down and get back up with a renewed motivation has been key in my pursuit of academic, personal and professional achievements.

Second, I have found you need to be highly flexible and mold around an environment, not expect an environment to mold around you. While having a vision and goals are absolute, you should not be so rigid that your inflexibility is distracting you from forward momentum. Knowing when to be rigid and stay the course, or when to be flexible is part art and part science. Do not derail because you can not be agile and flexible, put your ego to the side and always consider the best path forward without marrying what helped you to your current position. What efforts and action that got you to today, may not get you to tomorrow’s goals.

Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?

When the mind evaluates good habits compared to bad habits, this is the equivalent to individual psychological warfare. We pursue bad habits usually because there is an immediate gratification gained from short-cuts or so called, bad habits. If you can avoid the desire of immediate gratification and can look long term, you will often prevent the bad decision making of a near term gain. Good habits compared to bad habits take a lot of self-learned mental discipline.

When coaching peers, I speak to avoiding bad habits or pursuits and take the continuing position –absorb short term pain, in the pursuit of long-term prosperity. My habit and focus are to take on tough decisions and challenges now, and avoid future pain of managing through controversy. I have found by taking on challenges immediately, and not kicking controversy down the road, my success rate is greater as I limit the challenges ahead from growing larger because I refused to take head-on.

Lastly, fearing the consequences of bad decisions should serve as a great motivator to avoid bad habits. I do not fear the challenges faced during forward momentum, but I do consider the consequences of ignoring bad habits which helps me avoid the pitfalls of pursuing short term gain. In the end, face immediate challenges, do not push them off — as challenges usually manifest into more painful challenges if not dealt with.

Let’s talk about creating good habits in three areas, Wellness, Performance, and Focus. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum wellness. Please share a story or example for each.

Serving as an executive by day, and professor at night, I need a lot of energy to execute both professions well. Without daily attention on beneficial habits that position me best to be optimal in both roles, it would be difficult to achieve success in either profession I serve.

With the journey of success dependent on an ability to run a marathon and not a sprint, wellness, performance and focus inward is critical as foundational variables that facilitate success. In terms of my own personal habits, I focus on overall wellness, meditation, a low carb diet and an intense exercise program to help maintain forward strength and momentum. While consistency in any regimen is always a challenge in a busy lifestyle, optimum wellness needs to be a focus when you seek to thrive in your environment.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

Like most busy professionals, there is always the chance that busy will overshadow taking care of self and in making mental and physical wellness a priority. This is the danger of successful pursuits that professionals may not spend enough time on developing, but a necessary constant to be pursued to maintain longevity and optimum performance in any discipline.

The term work life balance is somewhat dated, and I believe most executives reside in a world of work-life integration as our work life and personal lives are unified in a 24/7/365 environment through the benefits and advancements of technology. While careers and achievements are important, I seek to make myself a priority in an environment where busy can detract from a focus on wellness first. You cannot achieve optimum performance and focus without placing wellness first.

In the end, you do not need to join the military to develop the skill of self-discipline. Disciplines evolve from creating new habits that are positive influences on your goal pursuits and burying mistakes of the past. I have found being a master of self-discipline and creating new and healthy habits, have been the greatest contributors to a continuous advancement in personal and career pursuits.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal performance at work or sport? Please share a story or example for each.

There are many disciplines we learn throughout the course of our careers, as well as personally. Evaluating my successes in the far and recent past, there are a few disciplines that facilitate optimum performance and while they are different for each of us, the ones I focus on have continuously provided me the best chance to overcome obstacles personally and professionally.

Challenge yourself — Mentally and physically. I get the most benefit of challenging myself by maintaining a rigorous fitness program and each day I “show up” to challenge yesterday’s performance. I do not need a competitor and my competition was what I accomplished yesterday, I simply seek to advance what is possible today.

Be fearless — Fear is a normal response to what we are uncomfortable with. While a disregard for fear can be reckless, being fearless means I understand the risks, will calculate to avoid the risks, and make sound decisions based on the totality of information in front of me. Being fearless for me is executing and growing in a world of calculated risk and shrugging off fears that attempt to create self-doubt and divert your journey to what is possible.

Learn to make yourself important — I do not feel guilty on making my wellness, performance, and focus important. While I must balance multiple work, personal and family priorities, I need to make sure I am sound in mind and body, so I am in a good position to support and advance personal and professional responsibilities. If I do not take care of mental and physical health first, I may find myself needing others to take care of me like I experienced through my 2008 and 2009 battle against cancer.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

Always be a student — personally and professionally — and be willing to learn. While I have the pleasure of leading an incredible organization at Alliance Security and also serving as an Adjunct Professor, above all, I am a student first. I am fearless of not having all the answers and believe admittance that I do not possess all the answers is a strength, not a weakness. This position has come from growth and realizing I need to surround myself with bright, talented and knowledgeable peers, and shrug off any insecurity when I do not have immediate solutions to complex issues. We can not be almighty and all knowing which plays more to ego than reality.

As a best practice to being a student, while learning is continuous, I place a definite time each week to research and advance knowledge, skills and abilities of disciplines I pursue. When I make an appointment for myself to learn, I typically keep the appointment just as any other appointment or meeting in my calendar. While diversions happen, stick to a schedule of time where you cut out the noise and focus on knowledge building. The best in industry are those that spend hours and hours studying their tradecraft and learning. If you choose to be an authority in a field or discipline, always maintain the position of student first.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal focus? Please share a story or example for each.

My first response to this question may be controversial for some to pursue, but the actions are necessary to maintain focus on your professional and personal pursuits.

Reduce exposure to negative professional and personal relationships when possible. While pursuing the path of success, I have been faced with reducing exposure to unhealthy personal and professional relationships. While these decisions were difficult, the choice was obvious. The negative noise from avoidable environments should be reduced and this means cutting relationships that are detractors to your focus and energy.

Meditate as a common practice. Our brains are in a constant state of information and noise overload. I find it best to mediate in the evenings before bed to reduce the chatter in my mind going into the next day. I notice when I meditate and reduce mental noise at night, my sleep is more consistent and mental focus is sharper the following day.

· Identify a coach or a mentor that can serve you objectively. My career advancement was not possible without spending time with various coaches and mentors who have offered objective positions and considerations for me to overcome complex situations. I did not focus on this earlier in my career and regret not doing so. Find a mentor and do not be discouraged when you are turned away with your request. Become a hunter and find a mentor who will offer their experience on personal and professional attributes that breed success.

In the end, our focus is the initial discipline needed to maintain momentum and should be viewed as a foundational and absolute consideration as you seek progress. As I placed attention on all three areas noted above, progress was easier to obtain.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

Balancing priorities and managing work life integration has always been an area of great challenge. While the term “priorities” can be cliché, it needs to serve as a discipline where the first priority is your ability to sustain the stress and controversy you will face personally and professionally during progressive career and personal advancements. As I have prioritized a schedule that invites and supports wellness pursuits, my goals and pursuits have become possible as wellness is the driver to the goals pursued.

As a recommendation of what not to do, do not rank yourself last in the stacking of priorities. Obligations such as family and career will tempt you to divert what is important for your mental and physical well being. Perhaps the best skill set I learned was scheduling so all areas in life that require attention, receive it, and this includes personal wellness. If you master your schedule and obligations, your health and wellness need to be at the top of the priority list, or you outright choose to neglect your health and wellness. Do not expect a good outcome in the long term as neglect takes time to cause havoc mentally and physically.

As a leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?

For those of us that achieve a state of “Flow” we identify the difference between the state, and all other mental concentration and engagements. From my experience, the state of “Flow” is the result of hyper focus because of something we have passion for and that passion is unwavering. As you are performing an action that embodies passion, your hyper focus will have you in a state of “Flow” and you will find yourself 100% immersed in a task where time nearly stands still — having very little outside stimulus that can divert you from your focus.

I find the state of “Flow” and Meditation similar in the fact that they both encompass deep concentration and can allow you to get lost in an experience. Achieving flow takes much practice as you must master forgetting about the outside world to seek a position of happiness, creativity and productivity. My most progressive ideas have emerged from a state of “Flow” and learning the ability to “Cut out” noise that detracts from being creative and idealistic to manage a productive personal and professional journey.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I graduated from High School in 1990 and see the education system then as I do today — needing an upgrade. While general education K-12 in the U.S. offers foundational skill sets, I do not believe there is enough attention in areas that offer immediate executable skills post high school education.

The basic framework in education helps develop critical thinking skills and offers students a broad view of many topics and theories. A movement should drive students to be more independent post-graduation and not depend on organizational employment but develop students in the areas of managing finances and debt, investment, and entrepreneurship.

In the end, society and technology has changed, however, the education system k-12 can increase the efforts to transform at a relevant pace. While this movement or effort seems difficult considering the enormous size of the U.S. K-12 education system, momentum of a transformation would increase as the benefits are realized in society.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

Elon Musk.

I naturally gravitate to people who move society forward and deliver the future to current times. Between his contribution to Tesla and driving the advancement of lithium-ion battery cells and energy possibilities, and his work with SpaceX and vision of reducing the cost of human spaceflight, Elon is reshaping multiple industries and human advancement simultaneously. I believe Elon offers a story to admire and demonstrates much is possible when you dream big!

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