Finding the Through Lines, Measuring Success, and Building Resilience with Tom Epperson

Today we have special guest Tom Epperson. He is the leader of the Inner Will Leadership Institute.

I had just such a fun conversation with Tom all about his just amazing work story from working in a family business at a kind of absurdly young age to what he is doing now, which is a very cool nonprofit that’s been launched out of another business, which is a really amazing model.

And the work that he does is just in such good alignment, just amazing alignment with my work.

We get to dig into work trauma, a category that I see emerging in my own work. And I’m going to be creating more content about that because I think it’s such a significant category.

We talk about the four P framework for finding more meaning, more purpose in the things that we do. We talk about all the great things that they’re Leadership Institute is doing.

You’re in for a treat, so let’s get to it.


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Resources Mentioned:

Tom’s Company

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Software Generated Transcription:

Dan: Tom, thank you so much for joining me. I’m so excited to have you on the show. Welcome to The Meaning Movement Podcast.

Dr. Tom: Dan, it’s fantastic to be here. I really appreciate you taking the time today.

Dan: The question I always like to begin with is how do you begin to talk about the work that you do?

Dr. Tom: You know, that is such a big question. Um, and I’m always curious about like where to start cuz it would be easy to go through the CV and, you know, talk about the resume, but, you know, that seems boring. So, uh, I’m gonna start way in the way back. So I grew up in a super rural part of Virginia and a really impoverished county.

And, um, my family was broke. You know, dad worked seven days a week, 14 hours a day. Mom was a drug addict, you know. And so my grandparents, uh, decided that they didn’t want us to be raised by wolves. Uh, so they decided to step in, get involved. And my grandmother, she’s a super southern lady, you know, she’s 94.

If you show up at her house as a complete stranger, she will feed you biscuits and bacon, you know, and if you don’t eat bacon, she will gladly let you have the chicken. but my grandfather was an entrepreneur. Um, he started more businesses, you can count on both hands. Uh, he was also a terrible businessman and bankrupted all of those businesses.

And so, growing up the beginning of my career, At first, uh, growing up on our family farm and working there, we had a saw mill. So I worked in the saw mill. We had a heavy equipment repair shop, so I, I worked there. Um, and then, uh, the businesses really began to change. And so by the time I was 10 years old, I was really tired of working for free, as you do in any kind of family enterprise.

Uh, so I asked my grandfather for a. Was the first one to do so in my family, and he got this glint in his eye that now I understand as a parent myself. Uh, but I didn’t understand at the time. And, uh, so he gave me my first job, uh, working 50 hours a week, making a dollar an hour.

Dan: Wow.

Dr. Tom: Um, so you talk about profit being a part of your four P’s model.

Uh, and so I have to say when you grow up poor and you got 50 bucks a week, you feel like you’re rich. I bought, had a better TV than my parents had. Like, that was probably the wealthiest I’ve ever felt in my whole life.

Dan: I love that

Dr. Tom: And so, you know, I grew up, uh, turning wrenches. Uh, and then when our, our shot burned down, you know, we still blame my grandmother.

We think she did it. Um, we got into a, uh, this, uh, construction business cuz the saw mill had gone bankrupt. And then the construction business, I learned how to do all kinds of things like. Floating concrete and installing drywall. And, um, then we started an electrical contracting business. So I learned how to be a, a commercial electrician at 11 years old.

Um, you know, so there’s still some schools in downtown Richmond that I helped wire, um, which yeah, it’s terrible. It’s absolutely terrible. I don’t know how anything passcode. And then, uh, by the time I was about 11 or or 12 years old, my grandfather decided that I was old enough, uh, to be a supervisor. And so he gave me my first work crew, uh, which was one of them was the town drunk, who would sort of show up on day half lit work till about Thursday, go home half lit.

Uh, and then the other guy later shot his wife and his wife’s boyfriend and they were my crew, like two grown men working. So that was really my introduction into the world of work. Um, and it’s had a huge impact on me, you know, even to this day. so after that, um, you know, along the way, by the time I was in eighth grade, I was getting in fights every day.

And these weren’t like the heroic fights that you see on tv, but like, you know, I was getting the worst end of it. And so I started looking for ways to not get into fights and, you know, tried all kinds of things. And one of the things that really worked was like starting to tutor kids, you know? So I’d go home with them and they’d have like, Family dinners and they’d have like really stable parents and all that kind of stuff.

And so I said, huh, maybe there’s something to this. I kind of like it. Uh, fast forward to when I’m in college, I kind of make two fateful decisions. One decision was I became a percussion instructor, so I started teaching people how to play drums and kids how to play drums and things, which was fantastic.

Um, but at the same time I decided that, uh, I did wanna be a doctor. I wanted to be a. So I devoted myself to making a career as a fiction writer. so fast forward, I graduate from college, I’ve got an English degree. I’m not terribly qualified to do anything. Um, there’s no money in teaching people how to play instruments.

And so, um, I said, well, what can I do with this? I’ve got a little bit of experience teaching people and I wanna be a writer. So what job will allow me to chase my passion of writing? Uh, so. I don’t know, I’ll become a temp. And so I started out as a temp and then wound up working in HR for a hazardous waste remediation firm.

So the kind of company that cleans up Superfund sites and, uh, completely clueless, you know, young, young and dumb, and would do whatever I was asked and. I was asked to do a lot of heinous things and then, uh, ended up in a new role still in hr, but this one was HR and safety. And, you know, that company I have now been with, uh, in some way, shape, or form for 23 years, which was not my plan.

I thought I was gonna be there a year or two and then bail, and then something about this company like kept sucking me back. And so I’ve been in HR and I’ve been in leadership. Uh, and uh, currently I am the president of a nonprofit called Inner Will, uh, which is a five one C three. Basically what we do is we’re a part of the larger company’s philanthropy, so we’re part of a family held a hundred year old business.

We’re actually in the construction aggregates business. We take big rocks, we make ’em smaller, dig big holes in the ground. And part of the company’s philanthropy is all about making a difference in the world. And so inner will exists. To help develop better people, braver leaders in a wiser world through the practice of something called values-based leadership.

And so my team and I, basically our job is to go out and do culture work, do executive coaching, and do training, do strategic planning, really help organizations get more aligned. You know, if it’s a family held business, sometimes we work with the family, sometimes we work with the business, sometimes we work with both and.

In our business, our board wants us to be, uh, agnostic about the industries that we work in, which is a terrible strategy. However, what’s cool about it is we get to see every shape and form. Small ones, big ones privately held, you know, public for profit, non-profit. And uh, probably the biggest observation is they’re all the same, right?

They might have different ways of making money, but they all are in the people business, and they all have people.

Dan: Yes. I was gonna say they, they’re, they’re all the same in that they’re all flawed in all of the same ways, right?

Dr. Tom: For sure. People are people no matter where you go.

Dan: Yeah. Yeah. I love it. Wow. Thank you for that. Uh, yeah, that, that high level overview. And so just to kinda get clear on, on just this, you know, where you’ve been for these 23 years, it sounds like you, you were at this company, you’ve been there for a long time, and then did you launch the inner will?

Like where, how did the, where did the manifestation like, or where did it, where did it come from? What’s the genesis of. That particular endeavor. And is that your main focus right now? Are you still with the parent company or is it like Inner Will is your, is your baby and your full-time thing?

Dr. Tom: Yeah, so. The mildly quick answer to that is that, you know, back in the nineties, um, the family company, which is luck companies, uh, basically we had gone through a lot of change, some change in ownership. Our businesses tripled in size, tripled in revenue, tripled in geographic footprint. Things got really complex.

And so to try and manage that complexity, we decided to decentralize the business. So it went from having one person running the whole thing to lots of people running it. Uh, but we neglected how much culture and leadership work that was gonna. So things got toxic fast. People were fighting over everything from customers or resources to you name it.

Um, and we kept for the next five years, we just sort of wrestled with that and struggled with that. Uh, and then finally, uh, we got serious about developing our culture and got serious about developing our leaders, uh, and really focused on improving the health of the business. Um, and it got a lot stronger.

2008 comes along and, you know, Basically like the whole construction industry, you know, in about six months, 60% of our business just evaporates. Uh, and so we’re privately held. So the owner of our, our business got sick at the same time, and so he basically was in bed for 10 straight months, 22 hours out of a 24 hour day, and asked all these really big question.

Why did this happen to me? If I survive, what does it mean? What’s gonna happen with the company? And so by the time we had stabilized the company, and by the time that he came back, he walks in the front door and essentially says, company’s gonna stand for more than just making money. We’re gonna make a positive difference in the world.

I don’t know how we’re gonna do that and go figure it out. And so the one thing that we were good at, other than taking big rocks and making ’em smaller was this leadership and culture stuff. So we said, let’s do that. And uh, the original genesis was he essentially charged all of our employees, all of our associates, to take all of his values and, and leadership work we’ve been doing out to take it to your families, take it to your customers, take it to your vendors, and, um, You know, that wasn’t sustainable.

And so we decided to start a little business around it. That business became a nonprofit in 2015, uh, and that became inter will. And so I’ve been involved since the very beginning with all the leadership and cultural transformation I’ve been involved When we first started taking this work out to the public, uh, and in 2016 I took over full time, uh, as president of the organization.

So since then, that’s been my team and i’s main focus is going out and making a difference in.

Dan: that’s very cool. Thank you for that. It helps, helps, yeah. Kind of fill in, fill in some of the gaps there. Um, I. When I think of your, you know, just your story that you shared, just like, I mean, it’s a very, very interesting relationship with work that you, you must have with, with that experience of growing up.

And, um, It feels, I mean, I don’t know this, maybe this is a personal question, you can decide how you’d like to engage with it, but like, it just sounds really, uh, I don’t know if I, maybe, I don’t know if I would use the word capital, the capital T, but traumatic in some ways of like everything that you, um, You went through and I, I guess the question, I’m not sure what the question is, but, um, I curious of your response maybe to that observation.

Let’s start there.

Dr. Tom: Yeah. So, um, My wife and I, we’ve been married for 21 years, and, um, somehow I keep telling additional stories about how I grew up and somehow she keeps being surprised and horrified by them. Um, but , but, but I don’t, and my brothers and I, we really don’t see it that way cuz we didn’t know any different And you know, those, in those things that happened to us, you could look at them as, oh my gosh, that’s terrible.

And they had this huge negative impact on you, or you could see them as, no, they helped forge us and they shaped us. Um, they shaped us, but they didn’t define us. And so one of the great parts about being in, in the people business and the leadership and values business is that a big part of my work is working on myself. And that really is about finding meaning and purpose. And that is about me increasing my self-awareness. And that is about me getting. As a leader, as a business person, as a human being. And so I can look back on those events that shaped me and pull out what was best of them. Now I’ve still got my own stuff.

Like I’m wired for hard work and so I probably overwork and I probably don’t have enough white space and I probably work too many hours and I’m probably on the road too much. You know, I have a way overdeveloped sense of responsibility cuz I had to be super independent at a really young age. And so I don’t ask for.

I have a hard time, you know, letting others in. I have a hard time setting good boundaries, you know, I feel like I’m responsible for the whole wide world. All of those things, like, that’s all true, you know, and there’s a downside of it. But the upside is that work and those experiences have helped make me successful.

Um, and I get to really make meaning out of that going forward, you know, as, as the older I get and the more that I evolve, hopefully the, the stories. Have shaped me Will evolve too.

Dan: Yeah, I love that. And that is so, so beautifully said. I think that that’s a lot, a lot of the work, um, of finding, finding the right, I guess, finding the right next finding and however people want to think about it. Whether they want to use words like calling or vocation or meaning or, or work and identity.

Finding that thing that you’re gonna. Give your time and effort too, that speaks to you in some way and gives you, gives you meaning, has so much to do with how we think about our past experiences. And I think what you just said so, so beautifully well is that we, we shape the meaning that comes from our experiences, which isn’t an invitation to, um, to say, well, that was, that wasn’t actually hard because I don’t wanna think of it as being hard, but to acknow.

The difficulty and the pain and the ways that, um, it influences us for the positive and and negative. But then as we do that work of understanding it, of putting language to it and, and interpreting it, we then get to have more choice over what we do with those events in our lives and where we direct the, the energy I guess, that we get get from those events.

Um, and so just thank you. Yeah. Thank you for that response cuz it just feels, you know, so, so. In line with how I think about this realm and the work that I, I I do with people. One of the first exercises we often do is I’ll have people just do a little like a life map where they think about these highs and lows in, in their lives.

And there’s often these events that are like both highs and lows. And then the question is, so, so what do you do with the fact that like, yeah, that was traumatic capital T, or lower case T, however you wanna talk about. and also like really fun, you know, to be wiring a, you know, a, a building at, you know, at 13 years old or like, whatever might be like, um, so it’s, it’s often as is the case in life.

It’s, it’s often both, you know, both are true, both good and bad. Coexist all the time.

Dr. Tom: Yeah, I mean, it’s such a great point. You know, Dan, like I, I, in my role, I get to meet so many different kinds of people and I get to hear so many different kinds of stories. And I rarely, if ever meet anybody who hasn’t been knocked down, you know? And I really do believe the difference between. Successful and unsuccessful folks is we all get knocked down, right?

Life punches us right in the mouth and we can either lay there and hope someone’s gonna save us or feel like a victim or just just, you know, cover our head and hope that we don’t hit again or we get back up. And I really feel like the people who are most successful are the ones who can get back up more often.

You know? Now there there’s a lot of environments. And privilege that many of us have that others don’t. And sometimes getting back up is a lot harder, you know, depending on your circumstances and, and, and, and who you are and where you’ve come from and what culture you’re in, you know? But I really do believe that my job and your job is to help those folks who have been knocked down to get back on, like we can reach out and then as absolutely part of our.

Dan: Yes. I’m so, so well said. And, and, and I’d say even like the beauty of conversations like this too is that for, for those people that have been knocked down and may not be able to get back up to like, give an example of like that, that there is. A reason to get back up, right? Like it’s, it’s, it’s, um, you know, not being able to get back up not having that resilience muscle is because you’ve been, um, knocked down so many times that like, there is no hope, right?

Like, you don’t see the reason to even bother getting back up. And so again, I think just, you know, sharing your story and sharing some of how you’re, um, interpreting and what you’re doing with this, with your experience is, is an example of, of how that can be done for other people. So

thank you for.

Dr. Tom: That’s what I really like about your work in that you know, that that fuel that we need to keep going, that fuel that we need to be resilient, that fuel that allows us to be gritty, that fuels, that allows us to take hits, or make mistakes or take risks and fail and then keep going is that sense of meaning and purpose.

And if we don’t have that, we’re gonna be so much more fragile, you know? And so much more easily knocked off our course when things don’t go well because they’re not gonna always go well.

Dan: Yes. Mm. So well said.

Dan: well, I, I know I, I mentioned, we’ve mentioned before, like, I use this framework of, of the people, the product, the, the process, the profit, the four P’s as, as I call them, um, through my work with one on one as well as with, um, in my research I found like these are the area. Meaning really comes from for, for people, um, in, in work.

And I’m curious for you, one, I’m just curious, just as a, a professional who’s working with some of these kinds of ideas just to get your thoughts on that framework. But then secondly, I’d love some, some of your reflections on your own life experience, you know, through the lens of that framework.

Dr. Tom: Yeah. You know, so the, your, your framework reminds me of a, a friend of mine and a, she’s a career coach named Maggie Mis, and her model is, Soul search research, job search, right? Like, you gotta get really clear on who you are first, then figure out what environment’s gonna honor that and inspire that, and then go look for the job, you know?

And so for me, I very much believe in, you know, no, none of us do this alone, right? So we have to surround ourselves with people who. Are gonna allow us to be the best version of ourselves who are gonna help us along the way, who are gonna challenge and inspire us, who are gonna be that person who gives us a shot or maybe even believes in us in a way that we can’t even believe in ourselves, you know?

And then from a process standpoint, it really is about how do we go through all these experiments in our lives to find our path, right? Because nobody knows at 18 years, Whether, oh, I’m gonna be a doctor and then I’m gonna cure cancer, and then I’m gonna be really happy and I’m gonna retire with a bunch of money and

I’m gonna buy boat.

Dan: yes.

Dr. Tom: no one can chart it quite that clearly. And so life is a bunch of experiments and it is a process that we go through and can, can we learn to fi figure out what’s gonna honor our own values and then what’s gonna allow us to kind of bring our skills to the table and fill us with that sense of purpose?

And by the way, it’s gonna.

Dan: Yeah. Yeah.

Dr. Tom: you know, and, and then that product piece is, is are we, are we doing the work that lights us up? And again, it’s gonna evolve. You know, I, in, in my work, um, I really started out as a generalist and could do anything in the people business and then have really focused in on.

Everything from kind of culture and training and coaching to facilitating strategy. And now if you pushed me and you said, what’s your favorite part? I mean, I love facilitating and I love doing strategic planning, and I love doing things that are uncertain and are a little bit tense and things could go horribly, horribly wrong, and like having to recover.

The joy comes from both the people that you’re interacting with and then the uncertainty and the challenge. You know, and when we do work in families, it’s kind of the same way. It’s like, who knows if somebody’s got an Uncle Billy that they’re gonna have to fire tomorrow? Like that’s fraught and fascinating and fun.

You know, and,

Dan: Yes.

Dr. Tom: and I don’t know about you in this work, but I very much can feel this sense of sort of existential on we, you know, which is my complicated way of. Is this all there is and this sort of unconscious desire and this hunger to keep driving and growing and learning and achieving and moving.

Because I feel like if I stop all that, you know, I’m like a shark, you know, stop swimming and it drowns. Like if I stop swimming, I’ll drown, which is probably more of my work that I need to do, cuz that’s probably not a healthy way to, to look at life.

Dan: Yeah. Yeah. I love it. I love it. Yeah. Thank you for that. And, um, yeah, it’s, it’s helpful. And, um, just to even go full circle back to when you were talking about your childhood and getting, getting paid a dollar, dollar an hour and how that was a, a lot of, a lot of money for you. Um, just commenting on, on that, that profit piece is how, how much. Uh, how much all of this is, and, and meaning in general is subjective, right? That you can’t ever point at one work expression, one job, whatever it might be, and say this or that isn’t inherently meaningful because who would, who would, who would at this moment say like, yeah, a dollar an hour is not a meaningful, uh, salary, right?

But to you, It was, which also reminded me when I, my first job after, after college, I was a youth pastor for, for five years and was making, like, it was, it was like, it was less than $30,000 a year. I don’t remember the exact number. Um, which at this moment in my life was like, I, I can’t believe that we could live on that.

But also I remember getting my first paycheck and being like, wow, this is awesome. Like, this is the first time I’d actually had like a salary.

Dr. Tom: money?

Dan: Yeah. Like, it’s like, wow, I, I’m, every month I’m getting this money into my bank account. It was, it just felt like, I don’t know. It, it’s so, so wonderful. And so I guess just some more reflection on, on that profit piece of, of that money can be, and, and is a meaningful part of, of the work world.

Dr. Tom: Yeah, I do. I do love that that is part of your model. Cuz I think it matters, you know, I mean, it’s not just having enough money to support yourself and your family and to have all the basics, you know, the whole Maslow’s hierarchy of needs like. We need food, shelter, security. Um, but beyond that, it’s, it’s also a way, at least culturally in the United States, how we measure our worth.

Um, and sometimes that can be way outta whack. You know, when you, for example, when you grow up in poverty, you work really, really, really hard

for very little return. But there have been solidly middle class and upper middle class. That I’ve had that you know, that you get paid much more, but the demand of the work is less or it’s different, you know, and I’ve, you know, in our work, we get to see folks who, who are sort of solidly middle class or solidly blue collar.

And then we also get to see folks who are on the upper echelon of the 1% of the 1% of the 1%. And what’s interesting about that is they all have the same problems and they have the same challenges in their families, and they have the same things that they struggle. Just the folks with more money have more resources to deal with it.

Like there’s no, people are people, you know, and, and so can we, can we find a role or a job or a career that provides us enough income that we feel valued and appreciated, that can also take care of our necessities. Uh, that’s enough, right? And have that sense of. Because I have absolutely seen plenty of people who it’s never enough and there’s, they want more and more and more and more and more and more and more, and that’s, there is never gonna be a dollar figure that makes them happy and sleep well at night.

Dan: Yep. Mm. Well said. Well said. Well, I wanted to, um, just to zoom in a little bit on, on your, your work with inner Will, and I think the way I wanna kind of start the conversation or start this portion of the conversation is just to ask how do you define values based leadership? What does that phrase mean?

Dr. Tom: Yeah, so basically values-based leadership is living, working and leading in alignment with your core values. Uh, and when you do that, the research shows us again and again and again that you are more trusted, that you are more effective, that you are overall happier, uh, that your results are better. And when you do that, when you model.

Being, living a very authentic life, um, that, that allows other people to do the same. And then when they do the same thing, when they follow your lead, that allows them to be more effective, more trusted, you know, healthier, happier, you know, you name it. And so the goal of values-based leadership is literally to unlock the potential of other people.

Make that positive difference first, starting by working on yourself. Now, being authentic doesn’t mean that you can. Basically say, um, I’m value honesty, so I’m going to, you know, be so honest with you that I put your, set your hair on fire because I’m a horrible, terrible person and really mean, you know, what it really does mean though is I’m authentic with skill.

I’m who I am, the best version of myself with skill. So can I adapt that? So can I be honest, but in a way that you can hear me, can I be effective in the way that I act on my value of family or loyalty or responsibility? You know, it really is a hugely developmental. Approach to leadership because I gotta work on myself first, and I gotta master, as my boss likes to describe it, the eight pounds on my shoulders first before I can do anything else with anybody.

Right? But then I have the opportunity to coach and mentor and give feedback and really help them be the best version of themselves.

Dan: Mm. I love it. When you think about values, well, when I first, when I hear that word, it can, it can feel so squishy. Um, like hard, like I’m, uh, like what are my values? How do I, uh, and these are the questions I want, I wanna get you to speak to, to speak to. But this is what runs through my head. Like, like, I know, I know my values are press.

I could write some things down or give you, but like, they don’t like, like right there. And I’m curious. How you help people, you know, give language to those or establish those, or even like, um, decide, you know, decide what are their values versus what, what, um, what are not. How much of, and maybe this is another part of the, I’m asking you too many questions at once, but I’m curious how much of values is an active choice and how much is, like everyone has values and you just have to put words to

Dr. Tom: Yeah. Yeah. Super great questions. Um, so I’ll start with to your point. You know, most people can’t really necessarily articulate what their values are. They can very easily articulate what they should be or ought to be, so they’re busy shooting themselves. You know, like the, like you, you know, if you started your career as a pastor, there are probably lots of scripts in your head about this is what I should do and what I should believe and should value, as opposed to maybe what you really value.

And so the way that we help people really understand what they value is, first of all, where do you spend your time? Where do you spend your money? Where do you spend your. So you can literally look back through your calendar and say, maybe I didn’t value that as much as I thought. Um, but the, the strongest indicator of what you actually value are your deep emotional responses.

Dan: Hmm.

Dr. Tom: So the things that make you the happiest or the saddest or the angriest or push your buttons,

chances are there’s a core value that lies at the heart of that. And the reason is bi. So imagine that you’re a baby and a toddler and you’re observing your parents and you’re observing things in the world, and you start acting.

You get punished for some things. You get rewarded for others. As you go a little older, you begin to see even more models and more people, kind of coaches and parents and friends. You begin to do even more stuff. You get even more punishments, more. And so what your brain is doing is it’s forming a set of beliefs and assumptions about how the world works.

You’re basically writing the code for your personality, and then your brain is constantly, it’s like a tree where it’s constantly both growing branches and pruning branches, right? And so they’re getting pruned and growing from all of your experiences. And so by the time that we’re young, Basically what we’ve done is we’re have built a set of beliefs and assumptions, which then aggregate into our values, and they’re literally woven into our brains.

So our values have a physical component, a biological basis, that are in your brain, and they’re also deeply interconnected with your emotional regulatory system. Right? Your. And so when you experience somebody, if you value honesty, for example, and somebody lies to you, it’s gonna pluck one of those values.

Your amygdala is gonna get triggered. It’s like you see a bear in the woods. You’re gonna have a strong reaction and it’s either fight or flight. You’re either gonna bow up and you know, try to wrestle the bear to the ground, or you’re gonna run like crazy, right? All because of that actual real life value in that brain of yours.

Now, what’s cool about that is it’s relatively enduring and. Um, it does change over time. It can evolve over time. and if you intentionally want to change it, like your last question was about choice. Can I choose a value? Yes, but you’re gonna have to act on that value again and again, and again, and again, and again, and again and again because you’ve got to change the physical component of your brain as well as the sort of mental or psychic or soul component spirit component.

Dan: Yeah.

Dr. Tom: And sometimes you gotta go back and unwind some incorrect and faulty beliefs and assumptions about the world, which is a lot of where our sort of diversity, equity, inclusion work is. It’s like, how do I unwire some assumptions about, you know, the truth?

Dan: Yes. I love it. That makes so much sense that it has to be, it has to be active. I know that neural, neural pathways are, um, the more they’re used, the, the more, the more solid, the more firm, firm is not the right word, but the more ingrained they become. And so, um, like what you’re saying is makes so much sense.

Like if you want to change your value, you have to act. You have to repeat it over and over and over in order for it to then get to that level where it’s like this gut response. Am I, am I hearing you correctly, correctly in that?

Dr. Tom: And, and I don’t know what kind of, in your experiences, you’ve been working on yourself for years, but for me, you know, as, as a young person, um, I thought I was a laid back surfer. I thought I was easy going. I thought I didn’t have a care in the world. I thought I rode the waves and you’ve spent five seconds with me, and you already know that that’s not true.

But that’s literally how I saw myself. And so I started getting this feedback, uh, from my, the people that I work with. And I came to find out I’m not a surfer, I’m a shark. I’m, I’ve got a thick skin. I never stop swimming. I can be incredibly intense. I can be very task focused and if you get between me and a job I need to do, I might eat you right.

Dan: Yes.

Dr. Tom: But I can’t, I can’t go through life like that. Like I can’t be a great dad. I can’t be a great husband. I can’t lead and develop people. If I’m a shark all the time and people are scared of death, then I’m gonna eat them in their boat. And so I’ve had to learn how to value people to care about their feelings, how to empathize, how to listen, how to not have to be the smartest person in the room.

I had to do a ton of work on all that, but over time, it’s absolutely become core to who I. So I’ve literally rewired my brain through a lot of repetition and intentional choices, um, to be more effective at it. Now, am I perfect? Heck no. You know, I could get triggered tomorrow and then take somebody’s head off.

However, that’s not my hope and it’s not my intent.

Dan: Yes. Yes. I love it. I love it. Well, I’m curious just to, to contrast values based leadership, uh, versus the

Dr. Tom: Mm-hmm.

Dan: How do you think about that?

Dr. Tom: Yeah. So, you know, I’m a, my doctorate’s in leadership, so I’m a leadership. we have known how to lead effectively for thousands of years. Uh, but we just don’t seem to learn those lessons and we love repackaging things, you know, so the way that the ancient Chinese talked about leadership, the way that the Greeks talked about it, the way that Romans talked about it, you know, uh, throughout the sort of, uh, middle Eastern traditions, like we know how to.

But we make choices that are not effective leadership whatsoever for a lot of reasons. Um, so what’s unique about values-based leadership is that it’s a, it’s a type of transformational leadership. And transformational leadership is one of the most widely researched and well understood leadership theories out there, which is crazily effective in almost every.

Under a wide variety of conditions and sort of values based leadership is, is a branch of that. and so it’s very similar to things like servant leadership or ethical leadership. Um, and it’s a comes from that transformational leadership tradition. Uh, the big focus there is on self, self-development, self-awareness, feedback, uh, working on yourself, and then ultimately it’s about choice.

Dan: Yeah.

Dr. Tom: And so, Can I make choices that align with my values, that align with the impact I want to have and who I want to be again and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again

to ultimately achieve my goals?

Dan: Yeah. I love it. So well, so well said. I love it. Um, this has been so fun. We’re coming up on, on time here, but, um, I, I feel like we just speak the same language so much. I feel like we could just go on. Go on indefinitely. Cuz I also geek out on, on this stuff. And I think your, your work is more in the, the leadership direction.

Mine may more in the personal, you know, the personal direction, but they have so much, so much overlap between the two. And so just wanna say first I thank you for sharing everything that you do and thank you for the, the work that you do and, and making the world a better place. Um, I really believe that leaders change the world and to make better leaders is.

To make a, make a better world. So, um, thank you for, for the work that you’re doing and, um, really appreciate it.

Dr. Tom: It’s absolutely my pleasure. You know what’s, what’s cool about the, our work editor will and our team is, our model is, you know, we get to work with these for-profit companies, which are all fantastic, and then we get to use that money to cover our costs and then do reduced rate or free work with non-profit.

And so we get to in the morning, it might be with a technology company or it might be with a construction company, or it might be with a family that you owns business in the afternoon. We can work with a Goodwill or a Y M C A or a school system that otherwise couldn’t afford and have access to that kind of work.

And so it’s a really cool way of, of basically making.

Dan: I love it. I love it. Well, I really, yeah, really appreciate the work that you’re doing. If people wanna follow along, um, with you, connect with you, is there anything in particular you’d like to invite people to?

Dr. Tom: Yeah, so really, uh, two ways. Um, one way would be through our website, inner will.org. Um, you can also find us on link. And it’s I n N E r W I L l. So inner will um, dot org. And then the second way is, you know, we just released our first book, which is also called Inner Will. Um, and you can find it on Amazon, uh, both in paperback and hard back as well as, um, through Audible.

So feel free to reach out to us through any of those channels. We’d love to hear.

Dan: So great. I’ll make sure to link up to those, um, in the show notes. Tom, thank you so much. This has just been so much fun.

Dr. Tom: Awesome. Dan, thank you so much. I really appreciate it and keep on doing the good work that you’re doing, like helping people discover their sense of meaning and purpose really does make a difference, so thank you

Dan: Thank you. I will

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