Compassionate behavior is something you might forget about a lot when you’re running a business. Yet, it’s essential nonetheless because it’s a baseline for the relationships you’ll want to be established with your customers. Dr. Diane Hamilton speaks to Dr. Nate Regier, Co-Creator of Compassion Mindset, CEO and founding owner of Next Element Consulting, about how compassionate behavior brings success to your business dealings.
Suicide is always tragic, no matter the circumstances. The scary part is, we don’t always know when it might strike. The President of the Direct Ascent Group, Patrick Makin, talks about how death hits families hard, and how to process this tragedy in the aftermath. Every life is worth saving, and if you know what to look out for, you might just get the chance to do so.
We have Dr. Nate Regier and Patrick Makin here. Dr. Regier is the CEO and Founding Owner of Next Element Consulting. He is a former psychologist and expert in social-emotional intelligence. Patrick is the President of Direct Ascent Group. He’s a consultant as well. He’s also got a sad and inspiring story to share about a situation he had to deal with the loss of a family member. He’s going to talk about that and how to handle survival if someone has committed suicide.
Listen to the podcast here
Compassionate Behavior In Business Success With Dr. Nate Regier
I am here with Dr. Nate Regier who is the Co-Creator of Compassion Mindset and the CEO and Founding Owner of Next Element Consulting, a global leadership firm dedicated to bringing compassion into the workplace. He’s a former practicing psychologist and expert in social-emotional intelligence, interpersonal communication and leadership. He’s got several books. His latest is Seeing People Through: Unleash Your Leadership Potential With The Process Communication Model. It’s nice to have you here, Nate.
Diane, it’s great to be here. Thank you for this opportunity to have a conversation with you.
I am excited to have you here and you’re welcome. This is going to be interesting to me. I told you that some of my interests are emotional intelligence and curiosity. I’ve had some people who talk about compassion and different aspects of that on the show. I always love to have anybody who has a psychology background. I had Albert Bandura on and that was so much fun because psychology is a fascinating field. I’m curious how you got interested in that? Can you give me a little bit of background?
Our connections go further back than you might think because Albert Bandura was in the first psychology graduating class at Wichita State University here twenty miles from where I live in Kansas. He went to school here right close to me. I’m a big fan of Albert Bandura because self-efficacy was one of my first passions and one of the most guiding theories in all of my work. How did I get into psychology? It’s a funny journey because I call myself a recovering psychologist now. It’s not because I’ve abandoned psychology but because of how short the half-life is of knowledge in our field. Things we’re learning so much all the time, I feel like I’m always learning new things every day.
I started out in business. I was an economics and business major and I was going to get rich and be an entrepreneur. This was in the ‘80s. I took Econ 1 and Econ 2 and each course got harder and harder. When I went to enroll in Econ 3, I picked up a book at the bookstore and it was about three inches thick. Inside the cellophane cover of the book was what they called a floppy disk. This floppy disk apparently could hold more information than five of those books. Once I learned that, I was completely overwhelmed and I quit. I turned my book back in, changed my major to psychology and the rest is history.
Having been a pharmaceutical rep for several years, I appreciate your half-life reference and not a lot of people talk in terms of half-lives. I hear you on the economics classes. I only did 1 and 2 because I majored in management. I never got to see that floppy disk, but I was in college in the ‘80s with you. I appreciate the reference. We do have a lot of the same background and interests which is fascinating to me because you also have a podcast, On Compassion With Dr. Nate. You write a blog, you do a lot of the similar things to what I do. What I love is focusing on different aspects of behavior. You take a different angle than I do. Your company, Next Element, is about compassion and bringing that into the workplace which is an interesting new twist because you say that the world needs more compassion. What do you mean by that? How are you helping that come to fruition in the workplace?Compassion without accountability gets you nowhere. Accountability without compassion gets you alienated. Click To Tweet
I’ve come to that realization as part of my journey. Psychology is a big part of that. We have a compassion crisis in the world. You might not think so if you looked at these magnanimous acts of philanthropy from the wealthiest people in the world. If you looked at my daughter’s gift registry for her wedding where you could donate a portion of the proceeds from all the Target sales to some charity. You would think that there’s all this compassion going on in the world. If you looked at YouTube videos of cute puppies that need to be adopted, but I really think that the problem is we don’t understand what compassion is.
Compassion has become synonymous with empathy or sympathy or maybe a little bit more evolved into this self-love, self-acceptance and nonjudgmental meditation thing. It’s so much more. If you go to the Latin root of the word compassion, it comes from the root meaning to suffer with. Com means alongside of with and passion means to suffer or to struggle. To struggle with is a different way of engaging with people than empathy, sympathy, philanthropy or fixing people’s problems. I grew up a missionary kid in Africa. My parents are with the Mennonite Church, which is a Christian denomination. It’s a lot more about living by example and empowerment. I got to see an evolved version of compassion growing up, which was about treating people as though they are capable, valuable and accountable rather than broken and in need of fixing.
That’s interesting when you talked about accountability. In my mind, my first jump when you think about compassion, you’re not thinking about the accountability on the other part. Is there a disconnect in people’s minds in that respect?
I do think there is. That’s why the book you mentioned Seeing People Through is coming out soon. My latest book that’s published is Conflict Without Casualties. The focus of that book is compassionate accountability. It focuses on this idea that compassion without accountability gets you nowhere. Accountability without compassion gets you alienated. We need to find a way to match those two together. What we’ve discovered is that the solution is to go look at the epigenesis of conflict and note that conflict is energy in search of a creative outlet. When we apply compassion to conflict, we can create something amazing. That’s where accountability comes in because you can’t treat someone as an equal if you don’t have accountability. Otherwise, there’s a power or a dignity differential that doesn’t work in a meaningful relationship.
As you’re talking about that, I’m thinking about how it ties into curiosity because where does that come in? If you want to see somebody as their equal, you have to be able to ask questions and build empathy and all these things that tie into curiosity. What do you think?
I love it and I’m excited that you’re a curiosity expert because in our model, when we teach people how to do compassion, we use what’s called the compassion cycle. The compassion cycle is made up of three necessary but not sufficient skills. The first skill is openness, which is much more aligned with empathy, safety, vulnerability and an emotional connection with somebody. The second skill is resourcefulness and it is epitomized by curiosity. Resourcefulness is about coming towards a problem, saying, “What do we bring to the table that we could put together to start figuring this out?” Curiosity has to be the modus operandi to be able to do that. What we’re interested and open and we want to know what’s possible, what’s out there and what people bring to the table. We don’t judge, we don’t pre-decide, we don’t make the assumption in that process. That leads to the third skill, which is persistence. Curiosity is the second skill in the compassion cycle that’s all about resourcefulness.
It’s funny that you’d bring up assumptions because in my research, I found four things that keep people from being curious. They’re fear, assumptions, technology and environment. When we’re helping people be more resourceful or more curious, what are you helping them do to determine what holds them back and how to move forward?
In our compassion cycle model, it starts with openness and openness sets the stage to say, “You and I are both valuable. I’m not going to judge you. I’m not going to hurt you. I’m also going to show you my cards.” It’s about disclosing our emotional motives because I believe that what drives most human beings is we’re trying to achieve an emotional end state. Maybe I feel afraid and I want to feel safe. Maybe I’m feeling insecure and I want to feel connected, but we’re moving towards those. We may not let people know. We may not disclose it, but it doesn’t mean we’re not trying to get it. Once we’ve disclosed those things at resourcefulness, we can say, “What do we have to work with?”
We talk about the three strategies of resourcefulness that all involve curiosity. The first one is building on strengths. How do we learn about what people are good at, what they love, what they’re passionate about, what they like to do? Another one is exchanging information. How do we create an open space for us to reveal what we know and what we have that could be beneficial to solving the problem. The last one is building on success. That has to do with how do we start to prime people for where they’ve been successful in the past that they may not have even realized and how can that come to bear on nowadays problems? There’s a lot of appreciative inquiry process that goes into that, I would say.
Are you a fan of StrengthsFinder?
I’m a fan of StrengthsFinder in a particular place in compassion and that’s where we leverage strengths. It’s not the be-all, end-all. It’s not a methodology for communicating with people based on their strengths, but it’s important to know what they are and value them and see them.
There’s so much focus on many different ways of dealing with things. That’s why I’m always curious about what people find helpful and what they don’t. I want to touch on that third thing we talked about. Was it persistence and the last of the three is openness. Do people sometimes get out of the habit and that’s what you’re talking about persistence or something else?Persistence is getting clarity and following through on what matters most. Click To Tweet
We define persistence as clarity and follow-through on what’s most important. Persistence is about getting clear about what matters most. Why are we doing this? Why are we here? Aligning our behavior around that. It might mean getting clear about boundaries. It might mean identifying what our non-negotiable or what are our principles that we are pursuing here is. What are my principles that I want to live by? Once we know that, it could be realigning our behavior by talking about, “We’re straying, let’s get back on track.” It’s all about alignment and clarity around what’s most important and then doing the hard work.
Are you talking about keeping people compassionate in their current job or maybe making them more interested in doing charity? Is this across the board? I had Scott Harrison on with Charity: Water. I don’t know if you’ve interviewed him. He has an unbelievable story of how he was into drugs and everything else. He turned his life around and now he gives water all around the world. Are you trying to develop that in people or happiness in their job? What’s your end goal?
Compassionate work is our focus. Compassion is needed everywhere in the world but we’re specific about compassionate work and trying to teach people how to operationalize compassion in their daily interactions. If we identify compassion as having openness, resourcefulness and persistence, then we talk about a process for bringing that compassion into everything we do. Our process is we first teach people the basics of compassion and how to do it and then we move into the application. What does this mean for how we talk to somebody about performance? How do we have a conversation around performance behavior in a way that reinforces that people are valuable, capable and responsible? How do we conduct a meeting with compassion? How do we deal with a customer service problem when someone feels like they’ve been wronged or something didn’t work with the way we provided our product or service? How do we engage that with compassion so that the interaction reinforces that we are valuable, we are capable and we are responsible? It’s pragmatic, practical and it’s not about teaching people to be more charitable or have more sympathy. Even though empathy is part of it, but it’s much more practical and pragmatic.
When you talk about these words, when I hear compassion, it reminds me of when I first started studying emotional intelligence. There are certain words that are squishy. I’m wondering like soft skills and certain things that you can say and people aren’t sure how to take it in the business setting. I’m curious about your opinion. Do you think men can get away with selling squishier words than women? Sometimes it comes across as we’re going to all hold hands and sing Kumbaya or whatever. If we say certain words like emotions and compassion, but Daniel Goleman comes out and says, “Emotional intelligence.” Is there a way to make this rougher sounding so that the tough guys will buy into this?
That’s one of the reasons why I’m a recovering psychologist because I spent a lot of my career practicing psychology outside of a therapy room. In medical practices, in integrated behavioral clinics, in employee assistance programs and in corporate settings. In those settings, anything that’s a smack of emotions or therapy or talking about our feelings or anything like that was immediately dismissed. My whole life has been pushing up against that. I was encouraged at ATD in 2018, the Association for Talent Development, one of the keynotes was Seth Godin. He came right out and said, “Will you stop calling them soft skills? They are real skills.”
That’s where the compassion cycle gives people a way to get on board. Only openness aligns with what traditional male or the blue-collar corporate world would dismiss things like emotions and feelings. Resourcefulness is consistent with collaborative problem-solving. Everybody can get around that. Persistence is all about accountability and purpose. Everybody can get around that. When people try to align compassion with empathy, I want to work hard to say empathy is a small part of compassion. It’s about behavioral skills.
There’s been a lot of focus on making things sound a little bit more broad and tougher. I interviewed Mark Divine who is a Navy SEAL and his focus was there’s nothing soft, it’s all hard. Soft skills are difficult. I imagine that it’s hard to make this business case sometimes for compassion with leaders because of all this. I like how you focus on that because we need to bring up this conversation and like Seth said, stop calling them soft. These are some of the harder things that we deal with in cultural settings. What’s the biggest thing you have to overcome when you’re trying to sell the business case with us other than the softness of it?
Let’s focus on the business case. The business case is robust. We have an online assessment that measures a person’s openness, resourcefulness and persistence. What we have found over a few years of research is that the higher up you go in leadership, the more lacking people are in openness, the weaker. People get promoted for resourcefulness and persistence, not for openness. Yet the research is clear that the final differentiator among top leaders is their ability to be open, vulnerability, emotional awareness, creating a safe emotional space for people and interaction safety. The research is clear that that’s what they need to develop to take their leadership to the next level, but that’s not what they’re promoted for.
We identified that gap which gives people recognition, “We’ve got to develop the skill to be able to become more effective.” One of the barriers is this idea of soft skills, that they’re soft, therefore they’re not important. Another idea is that vulnerability equals weakness. That is a hard myth to break. We are not being done any service by some of our role models in the media and in leadership. They’re not demonstrating the courage that it takes to be vulnerable and the strength of connections that you can build when you’re vulnerable. That’s a problem. It’s because we keep getting these messages of philanthropy and sympathy. I’m the one with the resources given to you who has nothing. There’s this immediate power and dignity differential that keeps getting reinforced that we have to overcome that makes it harder.
When you say openness, I’m assuming you measure in terms of the big five. Is the way you measure openness different than that?
We defined openness as emotional transparency. There are three skills and only one of them is vulnerable. One of the skills is called disclosure, where we disclose our own emotions and our own emotional motives. Another one is validation. It’s where we value, validate and affirm another person’s emotional experience. The third one is empathy, which is where we connect with someone in an emotional way. Only one of those is inherently vulnerable because I’m disclosing. The other two are much more supportive and affirming.
It’s all interesting when you talk about acceptance as well because I’m wondering if you see any differences in generational acceptance. Are they getting more accepting as leaders or younger? Is this a Boomer problem to try and make this seem a special thing?Every business large and small is, in some way, impacted by a globalized economy. Click To Tweet
They are, although what we also see and what I’m noticing even in my kids, despite my efforts is they’re becoming less and less tolerant of difficult emotions. Everything is quick. Everything happens in sound bites. Everything can be fixed with a click, purchase, like or a share. With the way in which mobile devices are creating this addiction that’s akin to cocaine addiction in the brain, we’re becoming less and less able to manage emotions and the nuance that goes with it. Even though there’s more and more permission to have them. I don’t know what’s going to happen with this dynamic over time.
It’s interesting because everything is hard to predict what’s going to happen. You’ve written many books about many aspects and your next book is coming out soon. You also wrote Beyond Drama and Conflict Without Casualties. In Conflict Without Casualties, are you addressing this same compassion to avoid conflict or did you go in a different direction in that?
That one is where we took square aim at this idea of conflict is not the enemy. We get specific to defining what conflict is. It’s energy that is generated by differences between what we want and what we are experiencing. How we spend that energy is everything. The whole book is dedicated to two ways that energy can be spent in the conflict energy. We can spend it in drama where we’re struggling against each other to feel justified or we can spend it in compassion where we are struggling with each other to create something amazing. Each one has specific behaviors, predictable dynamics and rules of the game. Both of them are predicted by personality. Personality predicts how somebody is going to spend the conflict energy either positively or negatively. That’s why it was called Conflict Without Casualties because my goal is to say, “Conflict is not the bad guy. It’s the energy source.”
When you talk about personality, how do you measure personality? Are you going with somebody like Myers-Briggs, DISC or something like that?
We like a model called the Process Communication Model. It’s was developed by Dr. Taibi Kahler in the ‘70s and then used by NASA so they can train astronauts for the Space Program. It was used by President Bill Clinton for all of his communications training. It was used by Pixar Studios to develop all of their characters and character plots. It’s a six-factor model, but what’s unique about it is it talks about types in people instead of types of people. It identified six specific personality energies within each of us that are arranged in a preferred order. Certain ones have more influence in certain ways at different times in our lives. It’s the most predictable model behavior I’ve ever seen because it teaches people how to communicate and recognize verbal and paralinguistic cues that are correlated with personality types and then adapt communication at the moment. That was the one we liked because it’s psychologically sophisticated. It shows how behavior happens both positively and negatively and predicts negative attention behavior to a tee. That’s why we like it because it helps us distinguish drama from compassion.
I can tell that I need to do a little more research on some of the stuff you do because you do many interesting things. I want to look into that Process Communication Model a little bit more. That’s one I have not used. There are many fascinating ways to try and figure out our behaviors and you definitely focus on the things that I find interesting. I’m sure a lot of people who’ve read this would like to be able to read to find out more. Is there some site or something you’d like to share with my audience?
Our latest venture is called The Compassion Mindset. This is our framework for teaching compassion to the workplace. People can go there at TheCompassionMindset.com. You can also find me on LinkedIn at Nate Regier. You can find Next Element which is my company on Facebook and on LinkedIn. Any one of those things can take you to the stuff we’re doing. We’re super excited with my podcast On Compassion With Dr. Nate and interviewing fascinating people like yourself and leaders who are trying to do the hard work of bringing compassion into their workplaces.
You’re a Top 100 Keynote Speaker, so that’s another thing that you do that people could reach out to find out more about. This was so interesting, Nate. Thank you so much for being my guest.
Diane, you’re welcome. I feel like I could do this with you for hours and hours. This is so interesting.
What To Do When You Can’t Save A Life With Patrick Makin
I am here with Patrick Makin, who is the President of the Direct Ascent Group. Before starting his company, he worked for the Governor of Arizona with a focus on education. Prior to working with the US State Department, he worked as an economist and a foreign affairs officer. His focus is on helping companies expand into foreign markets and monitor their foreign supply chain nodes. This is going to be interesting. This is a little different for the show. I’m looking forward to it, Patrick. Welcome.
Thank you very much, Dr. Hamilton.
You’re welcome. I’m interested in what you do because it’s a little bit unique, the foreign aspect of it. My daughter, Terra, had introduced us. She’s a super language expert so I could see why the foreign aspect was something that caught her attention. Can you give a little bit of a background on how you got interested in what you’re doing?
For my background, I grew up in Arizona and I went to Arizona State, the business school there at WP Carey, which is outstanding and underrated in my opinion. I went on to banking for a couple of years and returned to ASU for an MBA, which included a stint abroad over in Spain for a semester. After that is when I went to work for the governor handling primarily education-related issues, K-12, higher education. I found myself out in DC working for the US State Department. I had a number of different titles, but the best way to think of it is a jack of all trades, foreign policy specialists. I did a little bit of everything out there.
Eventually I started thinking, maybe I could start my own business. Particularly after having some good managers and not so good managers, I decided, “It’d be nice to try to be the boss for once.” Two motivations to move out to Arizona. One is to find a more business-friendly environment to start a consulting business and two is to look after my father who had been in some failing health and suffering some depression after the death of my stepmother a few years prior. On the summer of 2018, I moved out and moved in with my father and started working towards starting my own consulting business.
You bring up ASU. I went to ASU as well and both of my daughters. One of them you know. It does have a great business school. When you say you were a foreign policy specialist, what exactly is that?Don't just rely on text messages and on social media, talk to people face to face. Click To Tweet
I worked on a number of different projects, anything from multilateral trade negotiations to ad hoc analysis individual countries and conflict zone analysis support. Some of the details of the work are proprietary to the US government. Unfortunately, I can’t share some of those details.
It is an interesting aspect of the business to go into what you’ve done. You’re consulting now. You’re the President of the Direct Ascent Group. What exactly do you help people do?
The concept is executives who are running companies, large and small, who are in one way or another interested in a foreign market. They’re interested in expanding. There’s a merger opportunity or they’re concerned about a supply chain node. They don’t have foreign policy experience and they have neither the time nor the desire to become a foreign policy expert or hire that expertise as a full-time employee, give us a call and the Direct Ascent Group will provide whatever that analysis you require is. Think of it like a LegalZoom for foreign policy analysis consulting. At that point, if you decided to go ahead with your merger or you decided to expand into a foreign market and you need a full-service consulting firm, that’s when you hire KPMG, Deloitte or whoever. They’ll send an army of suits to invade your conference room.
As you talk about this, I have a book I’m working on about perception. I talk about a lot of cultural aspects. As you’re talking about foreign policies and all that foreign expansion, how much does perception come into play in cultures and understanding how everybody sees things from unique perspectives?
The most important thing is to embrace that people have different perspectives. We have a reputation as Americans as being fairly inward-focused. To some extent, that’s deserved. Look at something as basic as learning other languages. You go to a country like Germany and they speak German, they definitely speak English and probably speaks French and maybe another language as well. Here in America, it’s not an emphasis. We don’t focus on bilingual education, which is a whole other topic I’d love for us to do a better job on something like that. It starts with understanding that other countries have different perspectives than us. Take a step back from your own situation, your own state, your own country and look at a broader picture. That can be difficult, particularly when you’re working 12 or 16 hours a day as an executive.
A lot of times, you don’t know what you don’t know and you don’t even know where to look. I had asked you a couple of things you’d want to talk about on the show. You had talked about maybe matching higher education students’ skills and business needs. Do you think we’re teaching people to know, to look, to be more curious, to try and discover what we don’t know?
I am not convinced that we are doing that at least at the undergraduate level. I did some interviews in the spring when I was looking for a full-time person. Admittedly, I was looking for a bit of a unicorn, someone who had a business degree but also had at least a basic knowledge of foreign affairs, geopolitical risk. What I found was the political psychology majors had an understanding of foreign affairs and international trade. The business students, for the most part, did not. They didn’t have that even basic level foundation that I could train up from there and that was a bit disappointing. Admittedly before, people inundate me with emails about how good their business school does.
I understand it is a small sample size but our business schools could do a better job of introducing the concepts of foreign affairs and geopolitical risk because this is a different economy than many years ago. Every business, large and small, is in some way impacted by a globalized economy. I don’t expect a new graduate to understand the different factions of Kurds in Northern Iraq or something esoteric. That’s for foreign policy experts. You should understand that people in Madrid might speak Castilian Spanish but in Barcelona, they might speak Catalan. You might see signs in Catalan. This is the basic foundational foreign affairs knowledge that is important as a foundation for businessmen.
As you’re talking about all this, your company sounds fascinating to me and it ties in a lot to what I research in terms of consulting and in the areas of curiosity to explore some of these things and perception. You also had mentioned you moved back here to take care of your dad. You have a story that I remember Terra had told me. I noticed you had a couple of things that you mentioned you might want to talk about in terms of that story. Do you want to tell what happened?
I would. If people out there who faced personal difficulties can take some measure of encouragement from my story, then I’ll consider that a victory. I moved in with my father to raise his spirits and look after him. By all accounts by other people and my own assessment, that worked. He seemed happier. He seemed more willing to get out of the house. We’d taken a couple of trips to the mountains and that was where he found his happy place. Everything seemed to be going fine. In January 2019, he went to bed one night. I went to bed. I had trouble sleeping that night. We were on the edge of a desert and there was a pack of coyotes howling so loud. I ended up putting on headphones to drown them out, listening to music. I heard a noise at some point after I drifted off to sleep. I didn’t know what it was. I thought maybe my father slammed the door as he wanted to do in the middle of the night, but then I heard the sound of water running like a fountain in your yard. That was unusual. I went to investigate. My bedroom was situated next to a room that had been converted to an office with a desk and a computer and all that and the lights were on. My father was slumped over the chair. He no longer had a head. I went back to my bedroom and collapsed. Thirty seconds later, I got up and went to the kitchen and dialed emergency services. They told me to grab a coat and go outside and wait outside.
I do want to thank Phoenix PD and Phoenix Fire. They did an excellent job of under impossible circumstances trying to make me stay sane. I really want to thank them. I have an entirely new level of respect for those first responders. The first thing I did was reach out to everyone I could think of for help, which can be very difficult, particularly for men. We tend to be foolishly stubborn. I understood I needed help at that point. There was no way I could do this on my own. I instantly became homeless. Everyone told me that staying another night in that house would have been bad for my mental health and I agreed. It was a difficult circumstance. I was in shock, homeless and reaching out for help.
One of the things I did was I quickly want to provide a little bit of advice to others who might face horrifying circumstances like this. I decided early on not to ask why, that’s an important question for society. When you are an immediate family member, the most important thing for you is to get help and to flip that switch between being a caregiver and a care recipient. Asking the question of why, if you go down that rabbit hole, I don’t think it’s helpful, frankly. That might be controversial advice, but I think that helped me, making that decision early on.If you expect to be a good leader, you can't do things that erode trust in you. Click To Tweet
It’s got to be hard to rationalize painful behavior. When somebody is going through what your dad went through. First of all, let me say I’m sorry. That’s the most horrible thing. I can’t even imagine going through that. My first thought is did your dad consider you’d have to find him and things? I don’t think that that goes through people’s minds when they’re in pain. They’re suffering and I don’t think that they’re considering consequences. Like you said, not asking why, maybe there isn’t a way to rationalize behavior at that point because people are in so much pain. I can’t imagine what that’s like to have to see that. What’s your next move? You didn’t go back to the house, you said that. Do you then have constant appointments with psychologists? Did you talk to a psychiatrist? What do you do at that point?
One of the things that happens is now you’re in charge of an estate and as banal as it sounds, managing an estate, even a small estate is a tremendous amount of work. I had a business to start. I decided to throw myself into that managing the estate and throw myself into the business. I found that that was helpful because the last thing I wanted was downtime. A time for reflection is great during most of your life, but after a trauma, a time for reflection is not helpful. I kept very busy. One of the battles I had was trying to keep fairly rapacious out of town lenders from seizing the house before I had a chance to sell it. That’s one of the things that I threw myself into because when an estate pops up like that, you have to go through probate, which is an expensive and time-consuming process.
Arizona has a provision, particularly for poor families can avoid probate, but they require a six-month waiting period. Unfortunately, the bank doesn’t have a six-month waiting period so they can come in and seize the property, which this lender was eagerly trying to do. I had to write a big check to a lawyer and go through probate. One of the things I’ve done is to write legislation to try to fix that. If any of our audiences out there, I want to offer some lobbying assistance. I could certainly help with that trying to help other families going through the same things that I had to go through.
There are so many people who aren’t prepared. They don’t have their executors. They don’t have a lot of things set up. Some people pick the bank as an executor. Will that have made it easier for you or did it help because it kept you busy?
No, nothing would have helped unless you’re on the title. Even if you’re on the title of that property, as long as there’s a lien against it, you still have to go through probate. It’s still a ton of work. I would have preferred to spend that time working on my business but there wasn’t an option.
Do you have any siblings?
No, I don’t.
Everything came down to you. You help others by giving them advice on how to handle the struggles of overcoming suicide. What advice would you most like to give? People who’ve had to go through probably nothing as horrific as you’ve gone through, but they’re still dealing with suicide or they’ve lost somebody. What would you tell them?
You have to continue to reach out for help. That’s the most important thing. For those who know someone who’s a survivor, please check on them, particularly during anniversaries, during holiday seasons. Those can be particularly difficult. Keep it up. Keep checking on people you care about. That’s the most important advice other than maybe think twice before digging through emails and social media to try to figure out why. We’ve got an epidemic with young people in this country. Social media might be contributing but really think twice before you go down that road. I’m thinking of parents who, God forbid, they’ve got a teenage son or daughter who does this. If you go down that road of asking why, you’re not helping your own healing. You’re going to get angry. That doesn’t help you and it doesn’t help the person who did this.
Do you think about anything proactively for people who to suspect that somebody is thinking of committing suicide would have been helpful? Did you suspect that he was capable of that?
I suspected he was capable of it, but as I said, everything had been trending upward. I guess it had gone from my mind. In his case, there wasn’t anything I could have done, unfortunately. For other folks, particularly for young people, keep an eye on your kids, keep an eye on your friends. For other folks out there, I am concerned that we’re becoming a society of narcissists. We spent a million years evolving to pick up on nonverbal cues. Don’t rely on text messages. Don’t rely on social media. Talk to people face to face. Ask them how they’re doing. Ask them how they feel when a breakup happens or whatnot.
Everybody’s pretty much familiar with Robin Williams and what a shock that was. Sometimes, you think things are different than they are for people. The people that you think would never do it sometimes are holding back a lot of pain that you don’t even recognize. Did your father leave a note or anything? Was there anything unique about that day that tipped you off?Continue to reach out for help if you can see that you're going to need it. Click To Tweet
No. You mentioned Robin Williams, for me, the shock was Anthony Bourdain because he was someone who seemed to have everything going right and had made that decision. Sometimes we forget that the brain is an organ. Sometimes, the brain can suffer organ failure too. That’s what I consider suicide. It’s organ failure for the brain. For instance, my father grew up at a time when heavy drug use was common. Decades later, that has an impact on your brain that we don’t fully understand. There’s a lot about the brain that we don’t understand.
Anthony Bourdain is another case where I had no idea, but there were reports that he did a lot of heavy drug use early on. We need to keep in mind that the brain is an organ. You need to take care of yourself, fitness and mental health. It’s all crucial. Treat your brain like you do the other organs in your body, like your heart and your liver. Don’t neglect it. Don’t strangle it with drugs and alcohol. Everything in moderation. Take care of yourself and take care of other people. Don’t be inwardly focused. How do you treat other people because that has a direct impact on suicide and suicide recovery?
This isn’t even a year ago that this has happened. How has 2019 progressed for you? Does each day help at all? Is there a marked difference between 2018 of how you feel?
As time goes by, it does get better. I don’t have flashbacks as often. It used to be daily, which is pretty horrifying. Now, it really isn’t. I’m not going to be sad to see 2019 go. That’s for sure. It was a difficult beginning and ready to get the anniversary over with but it is better. It does get better and staying busy. I like trying to help other people is my happy place. I’m trying to do what I can.
Are you doing much in terms of on the side with the suicide, helping people in recovery after suicide or are you mostly focusing on your business?
No, I’m mostly focusing on my business. One of the side effects of this whole battle over the house was I had to figure out how to be an interior designer quickly. I updated the house. I managed to get it sold. That’s a side business. I put a condo for sale, the first full remodel I’ve done. I’ve got essentially two jobs. I worked seven days a week. I’m trying to get involved in some of the charitable work. The legislation I’ve written to help other grieving families, I need to get that introduced into the legislature here in Arizona. Anything you come across, you never know. I was at a luncheon with Secretary Condoleezza Rice. She’s such an inspirational person. She always has something insightful to say.
Was she here in Arizona?
That was in Chase Field. She’s great. One of the points that she had to say was on leadership and integrity. If you expect to be a good leader, you can’t do things that erode trust in you, gossiping, denigrating, making promises that you’re not going to follow-up on and things like that. She’s always vehemently denying that she wants to be president, which in my opinion, is one of the primary qualifications for being president. At this luncheon, I happened to sit next to a man who is chairman of an organization that provides math and English tutoring for returning service members and helps them get into higher education, which is an outstanding organization. I’ll try to do what I can with my minimal social media presence to connect with that organization called See4Vets.org, and tries to help them out. Pies Descalzos is another educational foundation in South America. I’d love to set up a teacher exchange with the education college at ASU and Pies Descalzos if I could. I’ve got plenty of initiatives to keep me busy, keep the downtime to a minimum. I do go out and go to a movie. I’m not completely Elon Musk level.
It sounds like you’ve got a lot going on. I appreciate you sharing this story. I know it must be horrific every time you tell it. If it helps even one person, it’s brave of you to come on and talk about it. I appreciate you doing that, Patrick. A lot of people might be interested in knowing how they could find out more about you, your story and your company. Is there a link or something you’d like to share?
The company website is DirectAscentGroup.com. I’m also on Instagram @DirectAscentGroup and the interior design piece is PMIdealDesign.com.
I hope that 2020 is a great year for you. I appreciate you sharing this information with everybody on the show.
Thank you very much. I appreciate it, Diane.
I’d like to thank both Nathan and Patrick for being my guests. We get many guests on the show that have such amazing stories. I appreciate everybody checking in the show. I hope you enjoyed it and I hope you check out the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.
- Compassion Mindset
- Direct Ascent Group
- Seeing People Through: Unleash Your Leadership Potential With The Process Communication Model
- Albert Bandura – past episode
- On Compassion With Dr. Nate
- Conflict Without Casualties
- Scott Harrison – past episode
- Association for Talent Development
- Mark Divine – past episode
- Beyond Drama
- Process Communication Model
- Nate Regier – LinkedIn
- Facebook – Next Element Consulting
- LinkedIn – Next Element Consulting
- Pies Descalzos
- @DirectAscentGroup – Instagram
About Dr. Nate Regier
Dr. Nate Regier, Ph.D. is the Co-Creator of Compassion Mindset. Dr. Regier is a former practicing psychologist and expert in social-emotional intelligence, interpersonal communication and leadership. Recognized as a Top 100 keynote speaker,* he is a Process Communication Model® certifying master trainer.
Nate is the author of three books—Beyond Drama: Transcending Energy Vampires, Conflict Without Casualties: A Field Guide for Leading with Compassionate Accountability, and his newest book, Seeing People Through: Unleash Your Leadership Potential with The Process Communication Model. He hosts a podcast called OnCompassion with Dr. Nate, writes a weekly blog, contributes to multiple industry publications and blogs, and is a regular guest on podcasts.
About Patrick Makin
Patrick Makin is President of The Direct Ascent Group. Before starting his company, he worked for the Governor of Arizona with a focus on education.
Prior to working with the U.S. State Department, he worked as an Economist and a Foreign Affairs Officer. His current focus is helping companies expand into new foreign markets and monitor their foreign supply-chain nodes.
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