Write thank you letters. Doing this simple act a few times a week allows me to identify and acknowledge someone for their kindness. When we do this, we realize we did not get to where we are alone and that our relationships are worth nurturing and becoming better and more emotionally intelligent for.
As a part of our series about “Emotional Intelligence, I had the pleasure of interviewing Terra Schaad.
Terra, a zealous horse lover, is the executive director and founder of Hunkapi Programs, Inc., and Hunkapi Farms. Schaad holds a Bachelor of Science degree in pre-veterinary medicine from Texas A&M University, where she also competed at the national level for the university’s horse judging and equestrian teams. Following graduation, she trained reining horses professionally and it was during that time that she discovered her intuitive ability to build safe, trusting, and sustainable relationships with horses. Terra holds a Master of Counseling Psychology from Arizona State University, where she conducted research on equine-human relations and group dynamics.
From 2010 to 2012 Terra had the extraordinary opportunity to live in Italy, where she worked as a leadership coach and development expert at the University of Iowa’s CIMBA, an international MBA business program. Her work included intense study, research, and application of neurobiofeedback, emotions, psychological assessments, and mindfulness, including how they all directly affect leadership and optimal performance.
Terra gives full credit to horses for her development as an entrepreneur, leader and human. In the arena, Terra combines her education, intuition, and experience with horses to observe and interpret individual and group behavior and gives immediate, tangible feedback that will dare you to move mindfully and love optimally. She is committed in her purpose to give all beings the same opportunity with horses and to live life with a heart wide open. Terra is an avid yogi, a three-time Ironman, and an ultra-marathon runner. She embraces her extraordinary life with mindful, contagious enthusiasm and gratitude.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the 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 was raised by my mom and stepdad on my grandma Mini’s farm in rural Illinois. My family life was a little tumultuous and when I got my first horse at age 10, Smoky, I turned to him right away for comfort and freedom. I spent most of my days, when not at school, with Smoky and others near our farm. We were not well off, but a neighboring farmer, Carl Becker, took many of the local farm kids under his wing. He gave us horses and a safe place to be, which felt more like home to all of us. I learned a lot about horses, but more importantly a lot about life at Carl Becker’s farm. I learned how to work hard, have a dream, and what community and family should feel like. The experience and love that Carl Becker and his family gave me has carried me into my adulthood and this career.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We would love to hear the story.
Growing up, I did not know much about careers or what I wanted to be because it was not emphasized in my home, although getting good grades was. The only thing I knew was that I had to have horses to feel like I could breathe, so my career in its infancy was solely a fear-based pursuit driven by the idea of needing a horse to cope. I did anything that involved horses so I could selfishly have them in my life without having to pay for them. As a young high school and college graduate without any financial means, it was this simple motivation that drove me. When I moved into my current role right out of college, I was fortunate enough to have been hired by a Ph.D. professor at Arizona State University, Dr. Debra Crews. Through fate, I then signed up for an introduction to counseling class at the university to further my education, and my professor, Dr. Barbara Kerr, happened to love horses. It was the convergence of meeting these two women, both of whom told me I could do anything I wanted and become anything I dreamed of, that led me to fully understand what it felt like to be supported and encouraged by a female. Up until that point, I had spent my entire life running just to end up recreating my upbringing in fear of anything different. Horses were my reprieve from it, but no one had ever told me that I could take this passion and turn it into something meaningful for others until Dr. Crews and Dr. Kerr. They turned my fear response into a love response, and I have been striving, growing, and loving my career path ever since.
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?
The two powerhouses I just mentioned — Dr. Kerr and Dr. Crews. They both encouraged me in different ways, but I will never forget the day I went to Dr. Crews and told her I wanted to take full control over Hunkapi. I sat down with her scared, jittery, and almost unable to talk. I respected her immensely but felt I could do a better job if she would let me handle everything from A to Z rather than allowing loose ends to drop. She looked at me after I finished talking and said, “thank goodness, I was hoping you would say that!” I could not believe my ears. At my naïve age of 23, I thought she would feel like I was disrespecting her, but she had the opposite reaction. With that one interaction, she taught me the importance of following my instinct, speaking up for myself and advocating for what I believe in. To this day, I always follow my gut and I seek employees who have the same level of assertiveness.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you during your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
Having been in my position for more than two decades, all the mistakes blend together but a good sense of humor, the ability to laugh at your hiccups and move on is vital in sustaining an operation of this magnitude. I make mistakes every single day! It is what helps me grow.
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?
If there is a barrier, you must, and I mean must, find a way through, over, around, or under it. You must be ready to rise to every occasion and you must be able to ask for help and give it back.
Is there a particular book, film, or podcast that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Avatar because it creatively and impactfully portrays how everything is connected and related, which we try to teach at my program, Hunkapi.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
“Why do you stay in prison when the door is so wide open? Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking. The entrance door to the sanctuary is inside of you.”- Rumi
I and many others tend get caught in fearful, imprisoning thoughts. But success comes from learning how to acknowledge them and then move on.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
Right now, I am working on developing a new dog shelter on our property to house pups that are owned by people experiencing homelessness. It is a collaborative project with the City of Phoenix, and one of the first of its kind. I hope it will help people without shelter have access to a safe place for their four-legged companions to stay at while their owners get back on their feet emotionally and physically.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let us now shift to the core focus of our interview. Can you briefly tell our readers a bit about why you are an authority about Emotional Intelligence?
I am a long-time horse lover, rider, and trainer. They teach you about reading emotions and regulating your own to make them feel safe. I am also a therapist and a somatic experience practitioner, which involves a high level of emotional intelligence to be successful.
For the benefit of our readers, can you help to define what Emotional Intelligence is?
Emotional Intelligence is the capacity to be aware of, control and express one’s emotions and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.
How is Emotional Intelligence different from what we normally refer to as intelligence?
Intelligence refers to processing speed and the application of knowledge to a skill. You can be highly intelligent without being emotionally intelligent, because you may not have the regulation to slow down a response to build a better relationship. High intelligence does also not always equate to high awareness of the emotions of others and the ability to empathize with what they are feeling.
Can you help explain a few reasons why Emotional Intelligence is such an important characteristic? Can you share a story or give some examples?
Emotional intelligence is imperative to building good relationships with animals and people. It allows you to feel what other beings need and respond in a way that makes them feel seen, heard, and understood. Many employers believe that it is more important to hire a person with higher EQ than IQ because while IQ cannot be taught, EQ is learned and can be practiced over time. I work regularly with trauma victims, many of whom experienced their trauma in their formative years. As children who were abused, they were often “trained” to be silent and passive as a coping mechanism. They often shrink back in session from talking or sharing, so with my EQ skills, I know I must approach them softly, slowly, and cautiously to make them feel safe. My “normal” way of being now is fast-paced and fearless, but I acted like that toward these clients, it would revert them back to their abusive pasts. I must read body language, notice flight, fight, freeze responses, and adjust my own actions, words, and tone so that the therapy is effective.
Can you share some specific examples of how Emotional Intelligence can help a person become more successful in the business world?
Leaders can greatly benefit from becoming more emotionally intelligent. I cannot think of a part of business it would not benefit, but perhaps the largest impact would be in employee relations. If bosses and employees both feel appreciated and comfortable in sharing their thoughts and emotions, the open lines of communication would be a positive factor in allowing the business to thrive.
Can you share a few examples of how Emotional Intelligence can help people have better relationships?
The key to any relationship is both partners feeling seen and heard. One of the biggest barriers to those two goals is fear because people allow their past trauma to infiltrate their present situation. When you are working with a high EQ, partners are able to pick up clues that their partner’s emotions may be dysregulated because of former experiences and adjust their response appropriately so that the other person feels loved, instead of attacked.
Can you share a few examples of how Emotional Intelligence can help people have more optimal mental health?
A big benefit of emotional intelligence is learning how to react appropriately in difficult situations instead of spiraling. Choosing calm and practical responses over impulsive ones can reduce feelings of anxiety, guilt, and shame over our interactions with others and can overall foster positive feelings within ourselves.
Ok. Wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you recommend five things that anyone can do to develop a greater degree of Emotional Intelligence? Please share a story or example for each.
According to Daniel Goleman, a pioneer of emotional intelligence, there are five key elements of EQ:
- Social Skills
I employ the following five practices regularly to keep my EQ sword sharpened:
- Try mindful awareness through seated or moving meditation. This gives me the opportunity to do a full body scan and harness the appropriate energy that I bring to each day. I know that if I am in an elevated energy state, I will need to breathe and calm myself before entering most personal engagements that day.
- Exercise in the morning. Use this time to take inventory of what your feeling and work out any emotions that will not positively serve you that day.
- Create time between meetings. Allow yourself to process one conversation at a time before going into another. I usually find on days when I am in back-to-back meetings, the last one of the day is hardest for me to be patient, listen and regulate responses
- Get a dog or a pet. Animals obviously cannot speak, so we must actively observe their responses to us and how we react to them. They also reward us with unconditional love, which is something that we must all work to have for ourselves
- Write thank you letters. Doing this simple act a few times a week allows me to identify and acknowledge someone for their kindness. When we do this, we realize we did not get to where we are alone and that our relationships are worth nurturing and becoming better and more emotionally intelligent for.
Do you think our educational system can do a better job at cultivating Emotional Intelligence? What specific recommendations would you make for schools to help students cultivate Emotional Intelligence?
Yes! I think it should be a class they attend every day. We integrate mindfulness and identifying emotions with all the kids that come through our program at Hunkapi. Kids, when exposed at a young age and on a regular basis, are quick studies of EQ. We teach them not to just mimic specific feelings, but also understand why those feelings are happening.
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 would like to start a movement for people to look at their food, look at every single meal, and ask themselves, “did this food come from the kindest farmers?”.
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 🙂
Oprah Winfrey, I love her vision and her quest to connect people in leading from their hearts. Also,
Howard Schultz because I deeply admire him for how he created Starbucks and decided to take a loss in revenue, something most Fortune 500 CEO’s do not do, to train his staff appropriately.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you for these excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.