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Tips From The Top: One On One With Robert Maynard

I spoke to LifeLock co-founder and SurchX founder Robert Maynard about his journey and advice

Adam: How are you doing now?

Robert: Well, I was told by two doctors that I would never work again – and here I am.  I have been diagnosed, treated, and stabilized and I’ve got a new startup. However, you never overcome mental illness, you just manage it and live with it. I know there are some things I can no longer do, like deprive myself of sleep or go off my meds. I have learned humility through my illness.

Adam: You have experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows. What advice do you have on managing both?

Robert: The lows were physically painful and were very tough to manage. Until recently, I’d just vanish during depressive episodes. I couldn’t get out of bed which made me pretty undependable.  The highs were great – until I ran out of money. I didn’t manage either of them terribly well. But I guess I am resilient, because a constellation of miracles has given me another chance.

Adam: How did you wind up in jail? Can you describe your experience there? What did you do to stay mentally strong and ultimately bounce back?

Robert: That happened during a mania, while I was undergoing ECT (electroshock therapy). One of the primary side effects of ECT is something called retrograde amnesia – basically short-term memory loss of events leading up to and during treatment. I went to Las Vegas and took out a marker from the Mirage and I did not pay it back. Because I was in treatment at the time, I have no memory of this episode.  When I was arrested, I thought my identity had been stolen, which had happened to me before. I am now convinced that I did it. I paid the marker and all charges were dropped.

At what point did you figure out you had bipolar disorder? How have you learned how to manage it? What advice do you have for others who are bipolar?

Robert: I was originally diagnosed with Major Depression, which was why I underwent ECT. It was the side effects of the electroshock treatment – mainly the mania – that led doctors to my Bipolar diagnosis.  I was 40 years old. The most important thing people need to know is that this is a deadly, tragic illness with a mortality higher than many cancers. It is not a personality defect. My advice? Get the best treatment possible, and don’t stop until you are stabilized.

Adam: LifeLock has had its fair share of ups and downs as well. What are your best lessons from your LifeLock experience?

Robert: Do the right thing, no matter how hard it is.

Adam: What is your best advice on building, managing and leading teams?

Robert: Systems are managed. People are led. This is my core leadership approach, which comes from the Marines and the Army, where I spent time in Special Forces. I work hard to earn my leadership every day, because I know that employees who are managed go home at 5:00, but teams that are led break down all barriers.

Adam: What are your three best tips applicable to entrepreneurs, executives and civic leaders?

Robert:

  1. Don’t ask for anything you’re not willing to give.
  2. Commit to rigorous honesty at all times.
  3. The more people you lead, the more you serve.

Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective leader?

Robert: Creating and growing more leaders. Hire the right people, enable them to lead, and then get out of the way. You can’t grow a fault-tolerant, resilient company without creating leaders from the people you have hired.

Adam: How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?

Robert:

  • Study.  Leadership is a skill and it must be learned, practiced, and honed.
  • Humble yourself.  It is the humble leader who is effective.

Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?

Robert: Do what you should, not what you can.

Adam: What is one thing everyone should be doing to pay it forward?

Robert: Keep in mind there is a larger purpose for your life than making people money.  Find, pursue, and defend that purpose.

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