Myron Lyskanycz of Zenwise Health: “Stimulus/response”

Regarding performance and focus, my practice and habit is to truly determine what I want the outcome to be before putting the delivery mechanism into motion. In advertising, we used to refer to this practice as the “stimulus/response” principal. I.e., first determine what the primary and actual response are that you are looking to elicit. […]

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Regarding performance and focus, my practice and habit is to truly determine what I want the outcome to be before putting the delivery mechanism into motion. In advertising, we used to refer to this practice as the “stimulus/response” principal. I.e., first determine what the primary and actual response are that you are looking to elicit. Then, fashion the stimulus that best drives your audience to the intended response.

As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Myron Lyskanycz, CEO of Zenwise Health.

Myron Lyskanycz is the CEO of Zenwise Health, a young, fast growing Florida-based company focused on delivering novel dietary supplements from a wisdom of Zen perspective, which focuses on leveraging the learnings of traditional holistic healing coupled with the latest science around digestive health and the role of the human microbiome in maintaining our overall wellness.

Myron’s professional background spans over 35 years working in the food and dietary supplement arenas, both on human health and pet health. He’s led the positioning, marketing and advertising of many Fortune 50 brands including on behalf of companies like Kraft Foods, Nestle, Purina, Smuckers, Sara Lee, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Wild Oats, New Chapter Organics and Whole Foods Market. He’s founded companies and launched household brands, like Altoids, and more recently has worked extensively in the organic food and whole food supplementation spaces.

Mr. Lyskanycz and his company are now embarking on the study of how the health of the microbiome of our agricultural soils impact the human microbiome and ultimately the workings of many bodily systems including stress management, sleep, mood, skin health and aging.

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?

I grew up in The City of Big Shoulders, Chicago, where my family still lives. I was born to Ukrainian immigrants that were fortunate enough to be able to emigrate to the U.S. at the conclusion of WWII. A Midwesterner through and through, I attended a technical high-school in Chicago (Lane Tech) and a commuter college (DePaul University), while working in grocery stores from the age of 16. Later, I attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison for graduate school, studying marketing and management.

I joined Procter & Gamble out of grad school as a sales representative, selling a bevy of oil-based products such as Crisco, Jif Peanut Butter, Pringles Potato Chips, etc. After several years at P&G, I spent the next 20 years focusing on my marketing-oriented career goals, working at Chicago advertising agencies such as J. Walter Thompson, Ogilvy & Mather and Leo Burnett. In these positions, I rose up to EVP/Managing Director at Leo Burnett and became a member of the U.S. Board of Directors. Burnett was eventually sold to a European agency group and my career shifted from the agency side to corporate.

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

One of my great influences was a part-time professor at DePaul University, Michael Meyers, who owned a small Chicago ad agency. He instilled in me a love of studying human behavior and motivation, the discipline of marketing, and the art of advertising.

One of the aspirational and inspirational quotes that motivated me was, “advertising is to business what rock n’ roll is to music.” I could never be a rock star (playing only the violin, very poorly, as a child), so advertising seemed a much more achievable dream.

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?

In advertising, my great mentor was Bruce Beach, who I met at J. Walter Thompson and who was later brought in to run Ogilvy & Mather Chicago where he recruited me. Bruce was an ex-Army Ranger who served multiple tours in Vietnam. He had incredible discipline, focus, sense of respect and a very deep understanding of the human condition.

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?

At Ogilvy & Mather, one of our largest accounts was up for review and happened to be a company whose brand we had launched in 90 countries around the world and that had become a 1 billion dollars+ brand in under 5 years. My boss and I were assigned to deliver the pitch to the client, in a final effort to retain the account. We had been developing the presentation with creative agency teams over several weeks of very long days and nights. The presentation was scheduled for a Wednesday afternoon.

That day, everything was ready and the team was fully assembled. My boss and I were driving out to the client’s offices and had given ourselves plenty of lead-time, so we decided to stop for a nearby light lunch. After lunch, we arrived at the client’s headquarters only to discover that we were an hour late and the presentation had already started without us. Needless to say, we were mortified.

The event was recorded in a Chicago newspaper the next day, “Agency Executives Arrive Late for Appointment to Save Account,” and we both thought our career’s were over.

The three lessons learned I were:

1.) There really is no such thing as a free lunch.

2) Check your calendar twice.

3) Life goes on.

P.S: We lost the account…and the story is only “funny” decades later.

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?

Reflect carefully on what you really like doing and what you’re wired to be good at. Not the specific job title that you desire, but rather the pursuit or activity that you are inherently gifted at. What actually excites and fulfills you?

Then, seek pathways that get you in the “flow” of that activity or pursuit. For me, being a P&G sales rep wasn’t advertising per se, but both disciplines involved learning how to be logical, how to construct a cohesive pitch, and importantly, how to be persuasive. Career paths are seldom a linear progression and the initial job may seem far removed from where you actually aspire to end up. Consider the broad skills that you need to acquire and try to find a teacher, could be an employer, with world-class credentials in that field to learn from.

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?

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet. It’s tangentially about the building of a cathedral, but gets to a deeper message of pursuing your dreams to a conclusion, even if that conclusion isn’t reached within your lifetime, and to leave a lasting mark.

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

“Success is defined as the end of hope.”

If you truly think you’ve achieved “success,” what are you striving for?

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

At Zenwise, we are working extensively within the digestive health space. We firmly believe that the key to good health is gut health. The gut really is the way to wellness. And it’s literally core to the thousands of years of wisdom, philosophy and diet prescriptions of Zen. Modern science is finally catching up with what the Buddhist monks discovered millennia ago: that the gut, and our microbiome, controls many of our physical as well as emotional characteristics, influencing a myriad of gastric issues, stress response, mood, sleep, skin health, aging, etc.

Additionally, we are finding that the microbiome of soil is intimately connected to the diversity and health of the human microbiome. If it’s not in the soil, it’s not in the plant and if it’s not in the plant it won’t be in the animal, human or otherwise. Helping to restore the health of the microbiome in agricultural soil has become a major mission of our company.

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?

Navy Seal Commander Admiral William McRaven explained in his best-selling book, why making your bed every morning is so important — it’s an accomplishment. You can see it, it makes you feel good, and it sets the tone for the day. That’s what good practices/habits, and bad habits, do. They set the tone.

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

One habit is that I read a physical newspaper every morning with my breakfast which gives me a three-dimensional view of the current world we inhabit and reveals interesting things that interesting people are doing around us. It provokes questions, fresh thinking and inspires creative ideas and likewise, sets the tone for my day. I will often end up doing things that I had no idea I would do that day, based on a newspaper article that provoked an idea.

Another habit, which I had to develop over time and which I continue to work on, is to express gratitude to my colleagues. It doesn’t always come naturally when you are busy and trying to accomplish a hundred things on your to-do list. But, it pays huge dividends when people understand that you recognize their efforts and appreciate their accomplishments.

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

Practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes permanent. Reflect on your habits and decide if they are helping you get to where you want to be or not.

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.

When it comes to wellness, my most recent epiphany has been regarding the importance of the gut in regulating our overall sense of wellness and being. Gut health is the key to good health. At Zenwise, our goal is to elevate your state of being well.The secret to doing that is to develop the habit of proactively managing and enhancing your gut health.

Over 25% of U.S. adults experience digestive upset multiple times every month. Most people then seek to “fix it” with products that address the symptom(s) of distress vs striving to alleviate the cause. That’s why reactive brands that line medicine cabinets are so prevalent. If people began managing their gut health beforethey eat, they could improve their overall wellness substantially.

Regarding performance and focus, my practice and habit is to truly determine what I want the outcome to be before putting the delivery mechanism into motion. In advertising, we used to refer to this practice as the “stimulus/response” principal. I.e., first determine what the primary and actual response are that you are looking to elicit. Then, fashion the stimulus that best drives your audience to the intended response.

If you can truly identify and envision the intended response, and base the stimulus on what inherently motivates your specific audience, you will then be able to craft the most appropriate approach.

A simple example of “stimulus/response” was a visual exercise that we called “Fresh Eggs and Flying Lessons.” There were two individual signs that simply read either “Fresh Eggs” or “Flying Lessons.” One version was hand-painted and hand-lettered with the paint still “dripping” down the sign. The other had the same words on it but rendered in a very scientific type font.

If you were driving down a country road and you saw the recently-painted “Fresh Eggs” sign in front of a bucolic farm with a plethora of chickens roaming around, you would be tempted to both believe the veracity of the message and perhaps pull in to buy a dozen eggs. However, try the same “hand painted” sign in front of the local airport with “Flying Lessons” scrawled on it…and your audience would be more likely to keep on driving by.

Now reverse the form of the stimulus and the location. What’s your response?

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

On the wellness front, one practice is to prepare your gut for what you are about to eat. After the age of 20, our bodies begin to produce fewer natural digestive enzymes, or produce an overabundance of enzymes not best suited to digest our individual favorite food choices and diet preferences.

Supplementing our natural digestive enzyme production with tailored enzymes that work to break down the “hard 5” foods i.e., meat, fried foods, high fiber/salads, dairy/ice/cream/cheese and alcohol before you eat will help prepare your body to digest those foods properly. Consume the right blend of natural digestive enzymes before you eat and also get into a daily habit of ingesting healthy probiotics and pre-biotics which literally feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut and you are much more likely to be well.

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

Envision the outcome, practice, finish.

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

On the performance/focus front, one of my practices is to always first develop a written outline of the process that I will take in communicating an idea or recommendation. I will then read, challenge and revise that outline multiple times until I believe that the logic, key points and flow will inextricably lead the audience to the same conclusion that I have reached.

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

A key habit regarding selling and persuasion, which is my form of performance focus, comes from my years of selling for P&G. They instilled in their salespeople the “5 steps of persuasive selling.” This is a presentation process that can be followed whether you are making a three minute appeal or leading a three hour Board of Directors presentation.

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

  • Summarize the Situation
  • State the Idea
  • Explain how it works
  • Reinforce the benefits (not attributes)
  • Ask for the “order” (explicitly)

Turn this communication practice into a habit and it will serve you well on the performance front.

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?

I am most fulfilled when I come out of a session with scientists, business colleagues or creative teams where we have uncovered a nugget or insight or method of presenting an idea that has the potential to lead to a broad societal change in thinking, habit or behavior. Restoring the microbiome and health of our agricultural soils in order to restore the microbiome and health of the human microbiome is a big idea that I’m proud to be working on.

To get into this “flow” regularly, I would suggest surrounding yourself with interesting people, being constantly curious and asking the interesting people around you questions that make them think and/or act differently.

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.

If you scoop up a tablespoon of organic, healthy soil and place it under an electron microscope, you would find more individual microorganisms than there are human beings on this planet (literally billions). Conversely, scoop up a tablespoon of conventionally farmed U.S. agricultural soil and you will find it essentially devoid of these same microorganisms.

If we can successfully restore the diversity of the microbiome of the soils that deliver our plants and food and then again begin broadly delivering these resulting whole foods onto our grocery shelves, we will dramatically improve the overall wellness of our human population.

To accomplish this, it will require a true movement and a population that becomes educated to the facts, begins to think differently and, ultimately, demands a change from our farmers, agricultural companies, grocers and government policy makers.

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 🙂

Probably Bill Gates because he is genuinely dedicated to improving the global human condition, puts his money where his mouth is, and is willing to commit to laying the cornerstone of a “cathedral;” one that is likely to not be fully completed in his lifetime.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can learn more about me and my work at

As well, check out This amazing group of scientists and leaders have been pioneers in the organic food movement for over 70 years and are today working with farmers and the agricultural community across the U.S. to help with regenerative soil management and helping to manage the impacts of climate change.

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

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