Don’t overreact to any one person’s account of a situation. Slow down and seek out multiple points of view.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing ASEA Founder Tyler Norton.
Tyler Norton is the founder of ASEA, a global leader in redox technology dedicated to delivering high-quality cellular health products. Throughout his career in financial services, management, and consulting, his focus has always included an emphasis on people. Tyler has consulted with thousands of individuals, companies, and nonprofit organizations across the United States. He has created a strong corporate culture which includes ASEA Ethos training, a foundational approach to the humanity of business that positions ASEA’s philosophies and beliefs in a way that impacts lives and the way people do business. His podcast, titled Corporate Soul, makes that ethos available to a broad audience, both inside and outside of ASEA.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Early in my career, I was working in retail financial services — a very difficult job. Few people endure the early years of building a clientele in that space. I remember thinking about quitting and making a change during my first year when one particular mentor of mine said to me, “You can’t leave a room you were never in.” I remember asking myself, “Have I really given this my very best? Have I really entered the room of this career?” I set out to do everything I could to succeed and then, if I still wanted to leave the industry, I’d be able to at least say that I had given it my all. I never looked back once. I gave it everything I had. I went on to have great success in that industry and ultimately became a chief distribution officer for a 100-plus year-old institution. That same mentor said to me, “The grass isn’t greener on the other side; the grass is greenest where you water it.” Staying the course in anything you’re doing — especially the hard things — will pay the greatest dividends. I certainly wouldn’t be leading ASEA today if I had not taken that advice seriously very early in my career.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
I had the opportunity to speak to over a thousand people in The Palace of the Parliament in Bucharest, Romania. This is the heaviest building in the world and is considered the largest civilian building. We were in a huge ballroom, speaking to the beautiful people of Romania, sharing our vision, values, and mission as an organization and in particular our ethos, which promotes entrepreneurism and true principles of success. I was so moved by the spirit of the Romanian people and their desire to trust an organization and to believe in the spirit of entrepreneurism that we promote. I will never forget that day.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Many years ago, as a young general manager of a 150-plus year-old company in New York City, I was attending a new general manager orientation meeting. There were about 25 of us going through the training at the time, and I remember feeling nervous that I was notably younger than everyone else. Our training meeting was being held in the boardroom of our home office on 1740 Broadway, just across the street the David Letterman Show. This boardroom had a huge walnut table, probably 40 feet long. It was football-shaped and absolutely gorgeous. The grain of the walnut wood was beautiful. The table had embedded microphones and small speakers in front of each person so you could hear people far away in the room. It was impressive. During a break, I grabbed a drink of water, and to avoid having the glass sweat on the table, I placed it on a fuchsia pink post-it note … just in case. Smart. Well, the glass did sweat, and that sweat made its way down the glass to the pink post-it note. To my absolute horror, when I went to pick up my glass and take a drink, it pulled the post-it note up and I saw a perfectly formed, fuchsia pink circle on the boardroom table. I prayed that I could wipe it off but, when I went to wipe it, it didn’t move. Somehow, in a short period of time, it had seeped through the finish and into the wood. It wasn’t going anywhere. It’s funny now, but I was mortified at the time. I had to very humbly tell my boss, who was leading the training, and he promptly told me that where I was seated was where the chairman of the board would be sitting tomorrow for a board meeting. I went back to the home office later that night after a group dinner and peeked into the boardroom to see a custom furniture crew working on the table with a belt sander in an attempt to remove the stain and refinish that spot prior to the next day’s board meeting.
Lesson learned: Do not place a perspiring glass of water on top of a fuchsia pink or any colored post-it note on a surface you hope not to stain. Use a coaster. Another lesson learned was that my manager, who was very helpful in solving the problem, was calm and supportive at a time when he could have otherwise been furious. An even more important lesson learned: When your staff make mistakes — especially new staff — give them room to make them and help them through it.
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
Five years ago, we created the ASEA Advancing Life Foundation with a mission to break cycles of poverty, abuse, and suffering in the lives of individuals and families all over the world. We have donated 1.2 million dollars to charities across the world and donated thousands of volunteer hours. All of the initiatives we’ve sponsored are close to my heart, but one of the most socially impactful is perhaps a project we worked on in Ecuador with CHOICE Humanitarian. With six volunteer expeditions, we built the Inta-Kara Advancing Life Center, a vocational school, from the ground up in a remote region where education is hard to come by. Nearly 90 percent of young people in that area were not attending school at all. Since the school’s opening last year, several classes of students have learned new skills that are already allowing them to benefit their communities while creating long-term self-sufficiency, sometimes doubling or even tripling their former incomes.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
Benito Rosero, a young man in his 20s, is one of the graduates of the welding program at Inta-Kara. His mother, Antonia, wanted to see him attend classes there because the school was close to their home, and Benito had been forced to leave home to find work in Quito as a mason. But without a diploma, Benito had to work as a mason’s assistant, and the pay was not enough. Because of the Inta-Kara Advancing Life Center, he was able to come back home and enroll in welding classes. When he finished, Benito presented his certification as a gift to his parents. Now he and some of his classmates have started a small welding business together, and they’re using their skills to continue to build their community. One of their jobs is creating the doors and windows for the next building phase of the Inta-Kara vocational school.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
Speaking in general, I believe we have a responsibility to be mindful and aware of the very real struggles and challenges that exist in both our global and local communities. I think that there is a reason that “awake” and “aware” are very similar words. I’m not sure we can be truly awake to an issue until we become aware of it. Something very special and personal happens when you allow your attention to rest on the very real challenges that OTHERS are facing. Our best selves tend to emerge when we see a general problem take on a concrete personal form and become real. Real people, real challenges, and real opportunities. Once we see that, our collective humanity and compassion finds expression in service of others. In general, communities, societies, and politicians need to become both awake to and aware of the challenges of others and invest personally in very real, and emotionally doable, ways to affect change. I am proud that our ASEA Advancing Life Foundation is doing just that, and I’m thrilled when we see local and community leaders engaging with us to solve very real challenges.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
My favorite definition of leadership is from the book, The Leadership Challenge: “Leadership is the art of mobilizing a group of people to want to struggle for shared aspirations.” I love the idea of a group of people who collectively WANT to struggle for something. Great leaders take people to a place they’ve never been before, and they do it by inspiring that struggle for a shared aspiration.
What are your “3 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Don’t overreact to any one person’s account of a situation. Slow down and seek out multiple points of view. I had an experience as a young senior vice president of a large 100-plus year old financial institution. An influential top producer in our sales field called me to complain about something that another professional had done. He was notably older and more experienced than I was and because I was young and impressionable, I took his side of things too quickly and reprimanded the other advisor. I later learned that I had been terribly misinformed and had made a rash and quick judgment (wanting to impress the more seasoned person in our company). I wrote down on a piece of paper that I tacked just above my desk, “No one is telling you the full truth… and no one is a liar! Slow down and seek the facts and multiple inputs.”
- That which is closest to you in time and space can appear bigger than it really is. Your thumb is not bigger than the moon. A great mentor reminded me of the importance of keeping perspective. Some of the greatest challenges of my career and of our company were huge at the moment, but looking back with the benefit of perspective, we can see that they were true challenges, but they were so heavy at the time that sometimes we gave them too much power over us. We often say, “Our thumb is not bigger than the moon,” to remind ourselves that even though you can hold your thumb up at night and cover the entire moon with your thumb from that line of sight and it seems bigger, it isn’t. Most big challenges in life and business are the same. Keep perspective.
- The price it takes to keep a job should be equal to or greater than the price it took to get the job. There is no arrival. There’s no great moment of meritocracy where you finally get what you feel you’ve deserved. You must get up every day and continually earn the title you have and the role you play.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
The power of humanity in professional endeavors. I feel like the most underused and underappreciated resource in the world is the human resource. The movement of our company that I’m incredibly proud of is inspiring belief in self and creating an environment where individual human potential is valued, promoted, and developed. What would the world look like if everyone valued each other and did all that they could to help others see their own unique and singular abilities, talents, and potential and helped to promote that? I think most of the world’s challenges would be solved if we focused on building, educating, and inspiring the human resources of the world. Humanity is the answer.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I have two favorite quotes on life lessons, as well as my philosophy that the outcome is not income; the outcome is overcome, become, then income.
“In the business world, everyone is paid in two coins: cash and experience. Take the experience first; the cash will come later.”
“The greatest reward is not what we receive for our labor, but what we become by it.”
Nothing is more valuable than experience. The older I get, the more I realize that the school of transactions and experience early in my career and the reality of consistent, honest, intelligent effort over time is the true asset to seek. That experience, as the quote suggests, will become the most important thing you can offer a good cause or business endeavor in the future.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
The 14th Dalai Lama. I would love to discuss with him the power of compassion in life and especially in business and how we can promote and increase compassion in a world that seems to be losing its sense of unity and humanity.
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