Life isn’t easy, especially for our brave men and women who have left the service. But many of them still find a way to be successful, creating their own space. Dr. Diane Hamilton sits down to talk with decorated combat veteran, author and consultant Steven Kuhn. Steven and Diane talk about his experiences serving in Iraq, the challenges he faced after his military service had ended, and how he set about to create his own space. Steven also talks about emotional intelligence and what he learned about empathy during his service and how he applies it today.
I’m glad you joined us because we have Steven Kuhn here. He is the Founder of Quality Of Life Enterprises and he’s the author of Unleash Your Humble Alpha. He has an amazing backstory of his military experience and he has taken all that and written about some amazing things for leaders. We are going to talk to him about his new work.
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Creating Your Own Space With Steven Kuhn
I am here with Steven Kuhn, who is the Founder of Quality Of Life Enterprises. He is a US Military Combat Veteran who has been handpicked to consult with some of the most influential people in the world. We are talking rock stars, singers, actors, business leaders, politicians. He is also the author of multiple books like Unleash Your Humble Alpha. It’s nice to have you here, Steven.
Thank you so much. I appreciate it. It’s an honor.
It’s an honor for me. Thank you for your service. You have quite a background. It was interesting to take a look at what people have done in the past and all the things that they utilize to bring their experiences into their books. You have a fascinating history. It would help for people who aren’t familiar with you to get a background on you and your backstory.
I’m living in Hungary in a small village outside of Budapest with 2,000 people. I left society about a few years ago to get out of the big city. I was living at the time in Berlin, Germany. I had lived before that in nine countries. I left America. At nineteen years old, I went into the United States Army and spent the better part of seven years in the US Army. While I was stationed in Europe and after a tour in Iraq, I came back to Europe and got out and stayed here. I went into different service industries. I was a doorman and a bartender.
I started my own bar and had another. I had three bars, cocktail bars and a nightclub in Berlin, Germany. At the same time, I’ve got headhunted for a corporate gig as a self-employed Director for British PLC and headed up a joint venture for an American NASDAQ listed company. I did that and I was up at the top. I was 32 years old, making so much more money than I ever knew that existed, crashed and burned. Within a week, my wife left me at the time, lost all my money in a bad deal and lost that gig.
It was in 2002 and ended up writing a book which came out only in German. It was about the first Gulf War and came out the day the Second Gulf War started in February 2003. That became a bestseller in the German-speaking countries and I did a book tour for a year. On TV, I was a moderator and an anchor. I went back into the corporate world again. The same company that I had left had me consolidated. We are at 87 locations, 9 countries and 3,500 employees. Running the gig, having a good time and at the same time, still doing other things like my bar.
We had the bars until 2006 and sold them. I brought her company to Europe and Pacific countries. I worked for Mick Jagger in 1998. I worked for Andrea Bocelli back in ‘15 and ’16. Everyone asks me, “Out of all of these things you did,” I have only mentioned a handful, “What do you do? What’s your career? Why didn’t you ever make a career out of the book or the TV thing?” I said, “That was my career.” I never had the urge to make a career out of anything because I knew my career would be bringing all this together with what I learned and implementing it somewhere down the road with people who want to have a paradigm shift.
They have either exited their company and they were like, “Now what?” They are in a corporate gig, they are not happy, leave or get fired. That’s when the book comes in, Unleash Your Humble Alpha, that we brought out in September 2020. If you break it down, that comes down to three things and that’s identity, purpose and certainty. We find your identity, we crystallize your purpose and through that comes certainty. Certainty allows you to let go of the how. That’s pretty much my short version.Humans have the absolute capability to fill the space that they're given. Click To Tweet
As you are talking about that, first of all, my daughter would kill to have Andrea Bocelli sing Perfect at her wedding. We have talked about that so many times. That must be fascinating. My other daughter got to see him sing in Italy. It must have been a real privilege to work with some amazing people like that. I can’t even imagine. You have touched on so many interesting aspects of what you think is important. My research in curiosity and perception are things that I focus on. I always tie in a lot of things, especially to curiosity, because of some of this stuff, you can’t uncover a lot of it until you ask questions and explore. I’m curious where curiosity plays a role in your success and what you have researched.
Curiosity and challenge can go hand in hand, at least for me. When I met Andrea Bucceli, I’m at his opening act, which is a guitar duo named CARisMA and they are classic guitarists. They have their guitars tuned to 432 hertz, which turned me on. They said, “Could you help us? Could you be our manager?” I was like, “I had never done it before but sure, I can do it.” They introduced me to Andrea. I flew to London to meet Andrea backstage. I met him the next day for coffee. He didn’t show up but his wife did. I was like, “I know that I can do this. This is awesome.”
I did some research and I sat down with his wife, Veronica, who runs everything. She’s probably one of the most powerful women I have ever met besides my wife and my mother. She’s a real tiger. She’s amazing at what she does. We sat there for 15 or 20 minutes and I told her straight out, “This is where you guys are. I can work with CARisMA but you guys need this, that and the other. I know your negotiations are up. I know that in America, you are locked in with a certain family and you can’t get out of that but in Europe, you’ve got some negotiation coming up. I will do them for you.”
They were like, “Who are you? We don’t need this position.” I said, “It’s not a position. It’s a project. I’m going to help you do this.” They said, “We will give it a try. You get 20% of the gigs you book. You will get this and that.” I’m like, “I work on retainer as well.” They said, “Nobody works on a retainer.” They laughed in my face. They said, “No one works on a retainer in the music industry.” I said, “That’s their prerogative but I worked on it on a monthly retainer. It has something to do with accountability and the returns are astronomical.” They said, “We will give it a try.”
They brought me on as a freelancer, as you can call it. Within two weeks, I was in the offices with every single CEO of every single major record label in London. Not just in their office but in their office drinking beer and watching TV. It was ridiculous. It was like we were best friends. Every single one of the CEOs I sat down and we had an amazing conversation. You brought up curiosity, I went into that office and all I wanted to know was, “How did you get to be the CEO of this company? Who ends up being the CEO of MGM Warner, Sony Music, Rhino Records or all these record companies?”
We had a great conversation. Why? I was interested in them. I was curious about them. When it comes down to it, after 30 or 45 minutes and sometimes 1 hour, they were like, “What do you want anyway?” The wall was already broken. We were already laughing. We had some beer. I don’t even drink beer but I was drinking with them. It seemed right. The next thing you know, we were doing deals. Curiosity plays probably right next to challenges and it’s the number one role in everything that I do.
Jay Samit was on the show from Sony. All the things he has done in his career are amazing. He was saying that, “One of the things you can do to be successful is to look at all the things that are bugging you in life. One of those things eventually, if you write down all the things that you could fix, maybe one of them you would create something to accompany a product or something like that to be successful.” As you are talking about curiosity, it comes up a lot because I wrote my dissertation on emotional intelligence and empathy is a big part of that. You have to be curious to be empathetic, which leads to being humble. That’s why I love the title Unleash Your Humble Alpha. Humble and Alpha are interesting. I want to see what you mean by a humble alpha.
First of all, thanks for that explanation. It’s awesome to be empathetic. You have to be curious. It aligns perfectly. You learn something every day, always a student and always a teacher. The title came while I was in Peru with my partner and co-author, Lane Belone. We do a Peru journey every year and we work with sacred plant medicine like Ayahuasca, San Pedro and combo. We were sitting there, we looked at each other and it came out Humble Alpha. We have another one in 2021.
The humble is external. That’s what people see. The alpha is the inside. We keep the power on the inside. It’s like your nuclear reactor. A nuclear reactor, the actual core of it is small but it powers whole cities and more. That’s the alpha in us. You can power the world with your alpha but an alpha doesn’t scream his name. It doesn’t go out there and brag all the time. It has his head up high but not to be proud but to look at the opportunities. This is where they can add value, help and elevate others. That’s where that humble alpha comes from because the power that we have inside of us is often given away or we let it get stolen.
We will be an employee and we will power until we burn out. How many people who have burnouts do you know? They give their power away for peanuts. They do it because they take their identity from a position or a title. We preach that your true power comes from your true personal identity. That’s amplified through your purpose. We take you through the book. First of all, we come down to a two-word moniker of your identity. My identity right now, as it changes through the years, is Powerful Connector. Everything I do whether it’s the investment fund that we have, the book, the coaching and training, advising and whatever it is, it’s all about connecting people. That’s my two-word moniker.
Powerful Connector, “What is my purpose through that?” Once you have that two-word moniker and you have your purpose, then your identity is amplified. That’s what creates presence. It’s not ego. It’s not the alpha on the outside. It’s that knowing on the inside. It’s that certainty that you have. When you are sitting in front of somebody and you are selling something, you are talking about something or you are asking for investment or something, in my opinion, they are not buying the offer or the product. They are buying into your certainty. The certainty in your voice. I’m on Clubhouse every day with Glenn Lundy. 8 out of 10 people who write to me say, “I know that you know what you are talking about? Can we chat?” It’s that certainty in your voice that carries everything. Even if you have flaws in the presentation or what you are doing, it doesn’t matter. That certainty in your voice is what carries you through and what they are going to end up buying into.With the right people in the right places with the right procedures and the right structures, you can basically win every time. Click To Tweet
I wrote it down when you said that you have never done it before but you were sure you can do it. I’m always the Nike commercial person. You Just Do It. I know a lot of women are known for not accepting jobs or putting themselves up for promotions because they wait to be 100% sure that they are qualified for every single thing as compared to men who will have maybe 80% and be fine, saying, “I will figure it out.” It’s an important quality to say, “Yes. I will do it,” to stretch yourself and have that confidence. How do you get people to feel that?
There are many different ways but it all comes from within. The first thing I would like to say is if someone offers you something, a job, position, title and you don’t think you are good enough, remember one thing, they would never offer it to you if they didn’t see it in you. If they see it in you, then it’s there. Embrace it and go for it even if you don’t know what it is. That’s where that certainty comes from and not worrying about the how. Don’t worry about how you are going to do it. Build that certainty within.
I was 32 years old when they said, “You are now the Director of Europe.” I’m like, “What? You do realize I’m a bartender. I have never done anything corporate in my life. I came out of the military.” He said, “Shut up and do it. I see it in you.” This is a CEO of a PLC in the UK. I was like, “If he sees it in me, then it’s there.” I crushed it. I broke every sales record, every rollout record. It was crazy. For me, it was like, “This isn’t that difficult.” Why is that? At the time, I’ve got one later but I didn’t have an MBA and I didn’t have a degree. I had none of that stuff that you were supposed to have. I thought because I didn’t have what the other people have that I wasn’t good enough but when he said, “I see it in you,” I said, “That’s all it matters so I’m going to fulfill that.”
Put it like this. Humans are like goldfishes in a way. If you put the goldfish in a fishbowl, it stays 1 inch long. If you take it out of the fishbowl and put it in a larger pool, it’s going to get about 1 foot long. They feel the space that they are given. Humans have the absolute capability to fill the space that they were given. I worked in politics in Germany and we started a non-party political organization. We were like a Think Tank. I was invited to dinner one night with two other Cofounders. There were some people there, world leaders and ministers. They introduce me, “Steven is a specialist on American Affairs.” I was like, “I have no idea I was.” I was sitting with all these people and they start asking these questions. It was Obama’s era and it was like, “Obama, The debt ceiling. What’s going on here? What’s going on there?” I was like, “If they are asking me this. I know what the heck I’m talking about so flow with it,” and I did.
A couple of months later, they were like, “How did you know all that stuff was going to happen?” I nailed it and that’s because I completely let go of what I thought they wanted to hear, what I thought I should say and what their expectations were. I let go of all of it because this is what happens when I go into any meeting, including this one right here or I’m standing on stage. It’s called creating space. It’s probably the most powerful concept in the book. Creating space is showing up wholly and fully for that person in front of you or people in front of you with no preconceived notions, no cookie-cutter solutions and zero expectations. “I don’t worry about the outcome because I don’t control it. I only control my intention and I intend to add value by solving problems.” When you do that, you create this neutral space around it and it’s easy to talk. Immediately, a mediate rapport is built and you create the space for the 2, 3 or group of you to create that mastermind that comes up with ideas and solutions that you alone never would have come up with. I do it over and over.
I have three new calls with three new people that I have never talked to every single day of the week. I create space every time. I only booked 30 minutes and after 30 minutes, they were like, “Steven, can we talk again? This is amazing.” I have no agenda. As far as the outcome, I have no expectations. I have no cookie-cutter solutions or preconceived notions that I’m trying to push on them. I don’t worry about the outcome because we don’t control it, only the intention. The intention is the most powerful thing that we can control in any conversation or any meeting.
This is similar to why I do this show because I get to meet all these great people. I have no desire to sell them anything. You get to meet interesting people and it’s great. You said something that made me think of a conversation I had. You said, “Let go of what you are supposed to say.” I was talking to my sister. She was in a meeting and they were saying all this stuff. They were on Zoom for 4 or 5 hours. “Does anybody have any questions?” She raises her hand and goes, “With all these Zoom meetings, when do you want us to do the work that we are supposed to do?” Nobody responds and they stare at her like she’s crazy because nobody says that but that’s what everybody was thinking in a way. Do we tell that? Should we be talking about this stuff? Everybody is planning this hour after hour meetings right now but all they are doing is talking and nobody is doing anything sometimes.
I base everything in my life on HIT. My nickname used to be the HITman. I have this concept called Honesty, Integrity and Transparency. That means honesty with yourself. Why do, say and think what you think? Transparency is how you step into the world with that honesty and that is your ongoing reputation. The byproduct of those two is integrity. Integrity allows you to be who you are for real and it allows you to dictate your market value because no one is like you. No one is like anybody but a lot of people act like each other. That’s the issue.
When you operate according to the core principles of HIT, for me, it’s mandatory. I would speak up and I would say, “How can we do this more efficiently? What’s the mission here? What are we trying to accomplish? Who are the people that can contribute to it? Who is listening because they have to be here to take notes? How can we make this more effective to be constructive and elevate others at the same time?” The most important thing is to meet those people where they were at. There’s a leader there and they were like, “I’m the leader or pusher.” You’ve got to meet them where they are. That means you might have to elevate them a little bit. Never decrease your frequency. You have to increase their frequency by elevating them or you increase your frequency. Meeting where they are and being non-combative or non-conflicting and say, “There’s probably a better way to do this. Can we talk about that real quick?”
I’m sure she said it better than what I said. She pointed out, “If we are doing all these things, we are not getting anything done.” There are a lot of people who spin their wheels. I meet a lot of people who plan the plan and they never do anything but plan. A lot of it is what you tell yourself. When people are telling themselves, “You don’t think you are good enough,” or whatever it is that you are telling yourself in your head in my curiosity research, which you if you were in Clubhouse, you probably remember that I talked about the things that inhibit curiosity.
One of them was your assumptions of the things that we tell ourselves. A big part of what holds us back from being curious is if we keep telling ourselves these things. We might not talk in a meeting and everybody might be thinking the emperor has got no clothes on and nobody’s saying it. I love when people feel they can say something and they are not being inhibited but you have to say it in a way that shows emotional intelligence, empathy and uncertainty.
Some of these people have jobs where they don’t do anything other than having meetings. That’s what they get paid to do. It has been turned into that throughout time. I was surprised. When you would have layoffs and they get rid of half the company and you were like, “That didn’t change anything. What were they doing?” You have probably learned some amazing things from the training you went through and your military experience that a lot of us who haven’t been in the military probably haven’t learned in terms of efficiency. I know you had this elite training. What did that train you that you think some of us who don’t have military experience maybe need to know?
It taught me how to empower a team directive. You have after-action reports and a briefing so you have a structure for everything. It doesn’t mean that it’s always effective. It depends on who’s running the show but it processes, procedures and the importance of a structure. I call it PPS, People, Procedures and Structures. Right people in the right places with the right procedures and the right structures, you can win every time. It didn’t teach you much emotional intelligence. When I’ve got out of the military, I was military style. People are like, “You are in Europe. That doesn’t work here.”
Thank goodness that I was empowering enough that people put up with it until they’ve got used to me and I’ve got used to how things work. I started using more internal power instead of external power. That’s when I exploded. Although they always call me general or captain I was neither. I was a Sergeant. People on the outside and civilians always think everybody is a general. Even the CEO called me general. It’s the way that I had. I had zero wiggle room. It’s either yes or no and this or that. It’s like, “Are we going to do this? Do we agree?” “Yes.” “Go do it and that’s what we are doing now and done.” People are like, “What do you think?” We cut through all the BS and say, “What do we want, what do we need, what’s the goal, what can you do to get there? Here are the parameters. Here’s the structure that we have. Does anybody want to update it or enhance it? No? Good. We agree?” “Yes, we agree. Let’s roll.” “You do your role, I do my role, they do their role and we are going to get there.” That’s how it works in the military. Everybody was trained for one thing and that’s what they do.
I know 100%, without a doubt, without having to look back, without having to look to the left or the right that everyone is doing their job because if they don’t, one of us is going to die. That’s how we do business and it’s great working with a military veteran as my partner because we are the same way. We follow the Law of the Architect. When we run a business as partners, you never should have partners in a business that does the same thing because you are going to be looking over each other, “Do we do it this way?” He does his thing. He does the admin, the outreach and stuff. I do the talking, speaking and directives. He joins me in podcasts or on stage.You need people to hold the business up, you need people to support the business in their specific area of expertise. Click To Tweet
The Law of the Architect states that when you build a building, there’s a certain part of that building, there are poles, files and foundations that are specifically there to hold a certain part of the building up and it’s the same thing in business. As you need people to hold the business up, you need people to support the business in their specific area of expertise. That’s how the military works. I have been a turnaround business consultant for 25 years. In all those things that I did, I would always turn the businesses around.
When I go into a business, I can see immediately where the competition is, where the weaknesses in that foundation, the poles or the architecture. Many times, you might have people with a different title but they are all trying to do the same thing and they don’t trust each other. They are looking over each other’s shoulders. They are controlling each other and say, “Come on in. We’ve got to do a coaching call.” That’s a checkup. “What are you doing? Are you doing what I want you to do? Are you doing what you want to do?” Instead of being proactive. I have a spidey sense when I go into these companies. I have turned around over 100 companies and company locations. I’ve got that spike. I love it. It’s one of my favorite things to do.
It’s a big challenge. You brought up a lot of good things that I wanted to touch on. You had brought up something that reminded me of when I had a Navy SEAL on my show who was talking about the importance of soft skills. You were talking about how the military was good, except for the emotional intelligence. The EQ aspect wasn’t there. What would you do to improve that? What are they missing that you think that they need to address?
I like to think contrary to popular belief. Everything is not a structure. There are things out there that I have not thought about yet and this is one of them. I do want to say this. I read an article in The Economist years ago and it was from a general in the UK. They said that anyone who has ever been in the military doesn’t matter what branch and what country, once they are out, they are still a soldier, a veteran, Navy or Marine. That esprit de corps that you learn and that you grasp in the military, you never lose it. You have never heard anybody who left Apple and went to Samsung going, “I’m an Apple and now I’m a Samsung.” That esprit de corps isn’t there for a lot of people. There are some companies like Google who had it for a little while but they are losing it. Apple has it a little bit while you are there but that’s the opposite. That’s what the civilian was missing but I have never thought about what the military is missing. The hard thing about the military, although they aren’t changing and I have been out for a while so they have changed is that everything is in a manual, even how to hold the discussion. How do you talk to somebody? How do you coach somebody?
That’s the status quo. I spend a lot of time talking about how to get out of the status quo because sometimes what worked in the past doesn’t work in the future. That’s a fascinating look at how it always has to be done a certain way. That limits creativity and innovation. That’s where the curiosity comes in because I look at curiosity as a spark to everything that you are trying to achieve that we are talking about here to get productivity.
The one thing you’ve got to remember too is that the civilian world is a little different in the military because, in the military, everything is measured upon this, “If you don’t do it, someone is going to die.” That’s the statement for everything. It’s like, “If you don’t fill out this paperwork right, someone is going to die.” It’s always that urgency of, “Go.” There are a little bit more at stake there, at least psychologically, when you are in the military than when you aren’t in the military. In the military, you were like, “I will quit the job if I don’t like it. This guy is a jerk. I don’t like my leader.” In the military, you have no choice. If you are assigned to a unit, it doesn’t matter if you like the guy or the girl. You are there. You’ve got to deal with it. You’ve got to find a way. You can fight it or try to adapt.
You brought up some important things about identity. We are talking about how identity is a big part of what we’ve got to start with. We have identity, purpose and certainly. I was thinking, as you were saying your identity, I’m a curiosity creator. I need to go through your three steps. How do you determine your identity?
We take it through a whole set. There’s a whole action. Each section in the book has exact action steps of how you do this. It’s about asking yourself questions and going inside and saying, “I don’t feel about this. What turns me on? How do I treat people? How do I treat strangers?” Some people ignore strangers. Me, I’m always here to help. I’m always adding value, “Can I help you out? What do you need?” For me, I’m that connector guy. That’s where I came upon that. I’m always trying to connect with people even if I don’t know who they are because they are in my field of view or they are in my AO, Area of Operations is what we call it.
That whole line of questioning is how we break it down. Some people get it in twenty minutes. There’s this one guy who was a lieutenant colonel in the military for 30 years. It took him a month because he was so embedded in that identity of a lieutenant colonel in the Marines. I was talking to a one-star general and he had gotten out after 35 years. I always asked him, “What’s your juice in life? What do you love?” He goes, “I love being a general. That’s what I love.” I said, “You are not anymore. That’s not who you are anymore. It’s not your identity.” This is a real issue that we have, especially nowadays, where everyone has a title, an identity from the outside. What happens is you end up taking power from that title or identity. Anywhere outside of that realm where that identity is useful, you are powerless. This is where the frustration comes from. This is where the lack of love for life comes from because everyone wants to stay in their realm so they stay powerful.
Who doesn’t want to be powerful? Everyone wants to be powerful. They want to feel powerful. They want to feel on fire and ignited with the juice in life. Imagine feeling that no matter where you were, who you were with, what realm, what country, it doesn’t matter, be on the moon and you feel all-powerful. That’s what this book does. The book, autonomously, without us even trying, was turned into a college certificate program. That college certificate program was seen by Forbes Business School MBA program.
The dean or the director said, “Let me see the course.” He looked at it and ended up taking the entire course. He said, “This course is incredible. We are going to use that on our book cover with the Forbes logo.” The University of Colorado picked it up. This all came because people who read the book said, “This is needed in this world nowadays because everyone takes your identity from the external.” Truth is on the inside. Only we know what we are capable of and if we aren’t out there doing it, we are doing ourselves a disservice. Not only that but the people we serve and the people who we lead we are doing them a disservice.
You are touching on some important things and it ties into another thing I wanted to ask you because you’re talking about how important this is and we talked about identity and purpose but I want to talk about certainty for a second. They always say nothing is certain except death and taxes. When you mean certainty, what can you have that you can be certain about in life and business? The only constant is change and all these hackneyed expressions. What do you mean by certainty?
It’s the certainty with yourself like, “I’m certain that I’m going to get to where I’m going.”
It’s a sense of confidence that you are certain that you could do it.
I can be confident. You heard of over-confident. I have never heard of over-certain. Certainty is all about you. It’s all about within. It’s all about not worrying about how you are going to get there and knowing that you will get there. That’s the key point. Once you try to find out the how, you are trying to control it. Once you try to control it, you are going to miss out on all the things that you are supposed to be seeing. You’ve got to let go of the how and drive forward knowing that those opportunities are going to produce themselves. The inside is like, “I’m unstoppable. If I want to do something, I’m going to do it.”
It may not be the way that you think it should be or someone else. “It may not even be the way it should be but I’m going to do it.” That’s the certainty that I’m talking about. I don’t waver. I don’t like, “This happened now.” “This happened now and why did it happen? Good. Let’s drive on. We will see. We will find out. Keep moving.” I’m a firm believer that imperfect action is a way to keep progressing. When I say imperfect action, I mean every step, as soon as your foot hits the ground, you are creating a new reality, you are expanding your reality or the truth that you are delivering.
When you are certain of that, “Everything I do, every person I talk to, every door open, every drive I take or whoever I have had, that’s a part of my new reality. That’s the part of the world that I’m building.” Do you know how powerful it is to have that inside of you? Nothing can stop. It doesn’t matter if you are in the grocery store or at the White House. I did a keynote speech on this island in Croatia. It was beaches and flip-flops. There was this beach that has a retreat for 4 or 5 days. It was ridiculously expensive with a lot of cool people.
I gave a keynote speech. I talked about HIT, PPS, PPR and all these acronyms that I use because, in the military, we love acronyms. I was up there talking about all these things and this guy came up to me afterward. This guy has a marketing company. He’s a bestselling author. He does the halftime shows for the Super Bowl with Beyoncé. He came up to me and said, “I don’t know what you have but I want it. Can you work with me?” That’s not seldom.You see things one way and others obviously see it another way. We all have our unique vantage points. Click To Tweet
I’m not saying that I’m great or I’m amazing. I’m not. I’m certain. I know what I’m talking about. I know that what I’m saying will help you crush everything that’s in front of you that’s is holding you back. I know that what we have in this book is powerful that the world hasn’t even seen it yet. On this date on May 13th, 2021, “This book will change the paradigm of leadership,” without a doubt. There are more to come out. Six more books are coming out.
You were talking about this is the way you think it should be. I was reminded of our conversation on empathy and emotional intelligence in the military. As you are saying the way you think it should be, that ties into my research and perception. You see things from one way and others see it from another way and we all have our unique vantage points. I’m wondering if a lot of the military emotional intelligence issues, do you want them to develop empathy?
I would say no.
Emotional intelligence is that understanding how the other guy feels.
You create a bond. That’s why they say, “Brotherhood and sisterhood.”
You want to know your brothers and sisters but if you start to understand how the other side feels, then that’s going to change your whole perspective.
That’s what happened to me when I went to Iraq. I saw the other side. I saw children and families. It was horrible and it killed my soul. I had empathy for this little girl. I tried to help her.
Do you use any of those stories when you are writing about this? I know you have storytelling in your book. Are those the stories you tell?
After the table of contents and stuff, the first story is about that little girl in Iraq.
Do you want to give us a little of that for the book?
I was in the Battle of 73 Easting, which is the largest tank battle since World War II. It was against the Republican Guard and I was with the Eighth US Calvary. After that battle, it was about 48 hours, we ran out of fuel and ammunition and we did a passage line. Meaning another company went ahead and kept battling. Once the ceasefire was found, we set up checkpoints. One of our checkpoints was outside of Basra. I was sitting at the checkpoint one day and I saw this little girl coming toward me with a grown-up. This little girl had her hands out to her sides like she was flying and playing airplane. I’m like, “What’s this girl doing in the middle of the desert.” There’s no city anywhere except 20 kilometers away. You can see Basra burning.
There was a deep demarcation line that we had set up. We were 200 kilometers into Iraq and set up a no-fire zone so the Iraqis couldn’t get to Kuwait. I’m sitting there and I see this little girl. She comes closer and I see that she has this pink summer dress on over top of her burnt body. Her neck down was completely burned. Her hands out the sides because she was in pain. I saw her and I was like, “Keep it together, Kuhn. You are a soldier. You are a warrior. You’ve got to be hard. You can’t let it get to you.” I sent her to the medics.
When she came out of the medic trucks, we had to send her back out into the desert because she was an enemy combatant. We couldn’t even help her. We weren’t even supposed to feed her. I called her over and I’ve got down on one knee. When I’ve got down in front of her, I saw this beautiful, maybe 7 or 8-year-old girl. I wanted to hug her. I wanted to take her home and make her life better. It’s one of those moments where you go, “I have to do something.” I didn’t know what to do.
Here I am wearing a Kevlar helmet, an M16 over my shoulder and a 45 caliber on my hip and weapons. I reached into the grenade pocket of my flak jacket and pulled out a Butterscotch candy that my aunt had sent me. I give this little girl a Butterscotch candy and she holds it in front of me and nods. I was like, “You can have it.” She waited for me to tell her to unwrap it. She unwrapped it, stuck it in her mouth and this little girl smiled. I was in tears.
I said, “How can I ever complain again? Here I am complaining I’m in Iraq. I’m wearing a helmet and it’s hot. I have the food I need, I have clothes and everything I need. Here’s this little girl who probably lost everything, burned from head to toe and smiles over a piece of candy.” That’s when it hit me to the point where I was like, “I have to show this little girl that there’s love out there in the world. There are people out there that care.” It wasn’t about the candy. It was about the energy that I was giving her at the moment. I didn’t know I was doing it but years later in retrospect, I was connecting with this little girl saying, “There’s hope. Hang on. You’ve got this.”
That’s got to change you. I can’t even imagine. I teach at a Military University. I still teach for Forbes and a bunch of different universities. Grantham is a military base for most students. You hear these stories and it’s hard for me because I have never served in the military. I can’t even imagine the experiences that you have had to shape you to know how to do so many things that we will never know unless you have been in the military. The humble thing that you added has to humble you.
If you realize it and embrace it, it makes you impervious to be in a butthole being mean to anybody. I was on that island I told you about in Croatia, there was a woman there who I met. She was like, “It’s nice to meet you.” She was home from Iraq. I’m like, “You are from Iraq. Where?” She was like, “Basra.” I’m like, “How old are you?” She was like, “I’m 35,” I was counting backward. I’m looking at her skin to see if she was burnt. I was like, “Can this be her?” I almost didn’t want to ask any more questions because, for me, it was good enough. I’m like, “This is her.”
It’s like that famous picture where a girl’s clothes got burned off. I can’t remember. Was it the atom bomb?
Hiroshima. From somebody on the outside, that can be similar but no. The whole scenery was different. It was on a highway in the middle of nowhere. It was built up. There was sand and desert as far as you can see. All you can see was our little base camp there. I’m asking this woman in Croatia, “How old are you? When did you leave?” I told her the story and she was like, “That’s crazy.” Two days later, someone came to me and said, “I heard you work with people to unlock emotional blockages.” I said, “Who told you that?” I didn’t know anybody on the island. There were 100 people on there and I didn’t know any of them. Someone told him something about me that I don’t know how they knew anyway. He said, “There’s this woman, she has been hurt and can’t get out of her bed now for two days. We have tried a chiropractor and natural healing. Would you help her out?” I’m like, “I don’t know.” I walked in and it was this Iraqi girl and it lit me up. Here is my chance. It’s not her but a proxy. I had her up and walking in five minutes. Everybody was like, “How did you do that? Are you a healer?” I’m like, “No. I talked to her.”
Did you spend much time thinking about how you could connect with this girl again?
I tried everything. I tried Iraqi friends and many people.
Maybe she will read your book and hear your story. I can imagine.
That’s my hope.
That would be my hope if I was writing that. You share a lot of stories in this book. You give advice, action steps and you do all these things. What’s the main thing you want people to know about your book?
For me, it’s a result of my life and Lane’s life. We didn’t write this book. It was us writing down our experiences, what we took from them and how it helped us get to where we are, do what we did or be who we are. It’s all relative. We are not saying at all that we are amazing and awesome. What we are saying is we live a full quality of life and fully enjoy every moment no matter what the activity. If I’m working my butt off or out playing with my kids or hanging out with my wife, I’m fully enjoying that moment and that quality of life. That’s what this is all about.
Everyone in the world seeks one thing and that’s the quality of life. They want to have a good life. We can all agree that no one says, “I wanted to have a bad life.” This whole book is like, “How do you get to that?” It isn’t about money, free time or a good job. It’s about that full integration of your true identity into all aspects of life being who you are, comfortable in your skin all the time, everywhere, no matter where you are and enjoying every moment of life no matter what the activity. That’s the book. That’s the mission of the book. If you read it, you’ve got to do the action steps. It will lead you there. I promise you.
I am glad you brought up Lane Belone.
He spent twelve years in the military as a Special Forces Green Berets. He was deployed more times in more countries than I was.
I was looking at his background. He climbs mountains and roughs Artics. He sounds like an interesting guy.
He is. He’s an amazing guy. We are two different generations. We balance each other out well. He’s spiritual.
It’s interesting to know your experiences and how this can help leaders to become epic leaders. You’ve got some real passion behind everything that you do and that comes through clearly. I’m glad that we’ve got to connect through Glenn Lundy’s Clubhouse group. It was nice of you to listen to my talk that I gave there. I was looking forward to having you on the show. A lot of people are going to be interested in finding your book and knowing more about you. Are there links to your social media or anything you would like to share?Imperfect action is a way to keep progressing. Click To Tweet
Go to HumbleAlphaBook.com and you will see the online course you can take. It’s a college certificate program. It’s about an eight-hour. It’s interactive, video, downloads and audio. You can buy the book there, which will lead you to either Kindle, Amazon for the paperback or Audible. When you have the Audible or the Kindle, you can click and you will download the workbook if you wish in the book itself, you can write in the book. That’s it. It’s simple.
Thank you, Steven. This was a powerful story that you told. Everything that you are working on is fascinating because it’s so important and it ties into a lot of the research I have done. I enjoyed having you on the show.
It was a true pleasure. What great questions. I have done over 100 podcasts per year and I don’t ever get questions like that.
That’s the curiosity expert in me. I want to know.
Thank you so much. What a true honor.
Thank Steven for being my guest. We get many great guests on the show. There are many episodes, I know you can’t keep up with all of them. If you take some time, you can go to DrDianeHamilton.com and explore some of our past episodes. You can also learn more about my consulting and all the other work I do with the books and the assessments, you could take The Curiosity Code Index and The Perception Power Index. You can also find that book on Cracking the Curiosity Code and The Power of Perception through the site.
I enjoy having guests on like Steven because you learn so much great content. What I found is that through every show, I end up reading them again to get the stuff that I miss. Sometimes when I’m asking questions, you hear things and you go, “I want to go back to that.” If you have read some past shows and you think, “I need to get back to that to learn a little bit more.” That’s why it’s great. You can pick out different parts that maybe had some meaning for you that you wanted to read again. We do have some tweetable moments there. If you find something that stands out to you feel free to tweet it. I would love to know what resonated with you. I enjoyed our guest. I hope that all of you take some time to explore the site and join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.
- Quality Of Life Enterprises
- Unleash Your Humble Alpha
- Book – Soldat im Golfkrieg
- Jay Samit – Past Episode
- The Curiosity Code Index
- The Perception Power Index
- Cracking the Curiosity Code
- The Power of Perception
About Steven Kuhn
Steven Kuhn is the Founder of Quality Life Enterprises. He is a U.S. Military combat veteran who has been hand-picked to consult with some of the most influential people in the world (rock stars, singers, actors, business leaders and politicians) to turn around their business and how to expand their brand, build value and loyalty and develop strategies for increasing beneficial relationships for increased revenue and achieving true Quality of Life (QOL).
Steven is a best-selling author and has a new book that was just released with his partner and co-author Lane Belone, (Special Forces Green Beret veteran) with the title Unleash Your Humble Alpha
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