GCM 251 Robert Towle | Don’t Be Dumb

  As a leader, you have to own up to your mistakes. Adapt the “Don’t Be Dumb” mindset. When you’re building your team and you hire someone who underperforms, own up to that. Some people are just not a good fit for your culture or organization. They could be better someplace else. To talk more about this unique mindset is Robert Towle. Robert is the Senior Program Manager of PrimCorp and the author of Don’t Be Dumb. Listen in as he talks to Rodney Flowers about his book and how you should learn how to own up to your mistakes. Also, learn how to hire the right people for the job, so you stop making mistakes. Own up today!

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Don’t Be Dumb: Driving Change By Owning Up To Your Mistakes With Robert Towle

As always, I’m excited about this episode. My guest is Robert Towle. He is the author of the upcoming book, Don’t Be Dumb. If you’re anything like me, you’re one of them, “What is that about?” Stay tuned because he’s going to tell us all about it and how that could help change the game for you and your life.

Welcome to the show, Robert.

Thank you so much for having me. I am really excited to be here.

The big question is, what is this book all about and how did you come up with the name Don’t Be Dumb? Fill us in.

The book is a leadership playbook to help people be smarter, overcome obstacles, and rise rapidly in challenging times, which we certainly are in right now. The title came from advice that my dad gave me when I was in junior high. Over a cup of coffee, when he was going out the door, mom wanted him to give me advice. She wanted a Leave-It-to-Beaver type of advice or something like that. Instead, he looks up over his newspaper and says, “Don’t be dumb.” She wasn’t happy with it, but it sticks in my head every day. It doesn’t mean I’ve always not been dumb. I’m frequently dumb.

The idea of that is so succinct and makes sense that you can look at things and evaluate in your business life, in your approach to whatever you’re facing, and say, “Am I being dumb here? Does this make sense?” I got a little resistance from some people in preparing the book. They were like, “You need to make it smarter.” I’m like, “I want to use this title because it does what you said. What does this mean? What’s this all about?” It brings people’s attention to it. That’s something we all could do better at, including me, not being dumb.

A lot of the tools and techniques that get us over challenges and obstacles are not like rocket science-type inventions or anything like that. They’re practical, common strategies that we can use, but we forget about those things. We forget because sometimes the distraction or the uncertainty is so big. It seems so insurmountable and bigger than we are or bigger than the tools that we have in our toolbox. Talk to us about what’s in this book. I have some ideas based on our talk before we hit the record button and what you’ve said, but give us a bit of what you mean Don’t Be Dumb.

I would give an example of what I call the worst conference call in the history of the planet, having experience of making the mistake of using somebody else’s system. I’m a business consultant for a number of years. It was a major kickoff with hundreds of people in a conference call. We use their conference call system, and it turns out it introduced everybody who joined and everybody who left. We couldn’t control it. It was only a 30-minute call. The first 10 minutes were, “Beep, Rodney joined. Beep, Sally joined.” I then had about five minutes of clearance to talk, then, “Beep, Rodney left. Beep, Sally left.” It’s a complete and total disaster as a kickoff for a major project that was running for two years.

I faced it. I’m signaling to my people to try to fix this. “It wasn’t our system. We couldn’t fix it.” I was sitting there picturing the whole project going up in smoke, right there in London, not even getting them to pay for our flights back home. It’s over. This project is doomed. I was faced with going back to a recovery strategy and figuring out, “What can I do here?” First of all, you blame them. You fail but you can’t blame them. I accepted using their system. I have to go down the hallway right now, own it, and tell them before the phones start lighting up, complaining about us, with a proposal to do it again tomorrow with our system and get it back on track. I had about a ten-minute window to solve it and did so.

By owning it, not blaming anybody else but myself, we were able to keep it on track and have a very successful project over a long time. There were those ten minutes, as well as the 30 minutes on that call that it was like, “This is it. There’s no saving this. None whatsoever.” You’re right about complicated solutions. You start thinking, “How can I fix it? What can I do?” It was a simple solution. Own it. Don’t play the victim. Find a solution. Don’t go saying, “We screwed up. We made a mistake.” Come up with the solution but first and foremost, own it and take those next steps to recovery.

Something like that is very simple to do, to own your mistakes, responsibility, or challenges. You know as well as I know that’s one of the biggest hurdles for people. I was speaking with someone. It was my barber. We have a standing appointment for him to come here. We were talking about the time because it’s very rare that it is my fault. He knows that. We talk about this all the time. There’s always something that’s coming up and he talks to me about it.

If you make a mistake, own it. Don't play the victim, and find a solution. Click To Tweet

He says, “I try to do this at night. I can get out and get there on time. Sometimes I forget this. I was almost at your house, and I had to turn around. I had to go back.” We were talking about, how we could remedy this situation? How can we fix this? We started talking about other things where sometimes we fall short and owning it came up. You can’t blame anyone else.

You can’t blame your family if your family had a crisis or something. You can’t blame anything. You have to take complete ownership of that. Let’s stop here for a second. There’s something about it that is a major hurdle for people. What do you think that is? Why is owning it something that we have to go and put in a book and say, “Don’t Be Dumb.” Own your crap. Why is that so difficult?

A lot of people are coming from either a fear-based mentality in their life or a glass half empty. If they think the glass is half empty, they’re afraid of losing what’s left in that glass rather than saying it’s half full and I can fill it up, and I can do more. It is puzzling what comes from their history. It can come from the culture that they were raised in. It can come with the culture of their companies.

I faced it with somebody failing to do what they were supposed to do on a project. I am on a call. We’re at a critical phase. I said, “We officially have an issue with this project.” You could feel the silence. I had to report it up to folks. It was like, you flipped on the lights in the kitchen in the middle of the night, and the cockroaches scattered everywhere.

There wasn’t anybody taking accountability for it, but I refused to let go of it. We solved it. Within twenty minutes on this call, we fixed it by owning that this was a problem. I didn’t point the fingers and say, “This is you that did this.” It was, “How do we get this solved now?” That’s a way you can start changing the culture. You behave like you’d want to be treated.

Do you want somebody yelling and screaming at you or do you want to be where a team and we’re in this together and let’s get this solved? That’s where the two-way street comes in. Not only should you own it, but if you do, you shouldn’t get your head kicked in for the fact that you owned it and said, “Let’s make it better.”

When people hear that they should own their stuff, it’s more like, “I have to do something that I have to do.” When you look at it as, “It’s mine to own, it doesn’t belong to anyone else.” That’s what it is. It’s not that you have to do it. It’s yours to own. It’s like your house. Obviously, it’s your responsibility to clip the grass and to keep it up and maintain it and not because it’s yours to own.

I remember a situation many years ago when I was in college, and somebody didn’t do the right thing the night before, turning off a gas stove. I came in the morning and lit the gas stove, and it hadn’t been turned off right, so it blew up and lit me on fire. It blew me backward into a counter. I got up. The owner was sitting there with a look of panic on his face. You could see everything. My business is gone.

I’m being sued. This guy is going to quit, every possibility going through his head. Instead, I said, “Can I have a minute?” He was like, “Okay.” I went next door to the pharmacy, bought some burn ointment and a comb to take the remains of my beard off and half the hair on my head because I had a whole lot more at that time, went back and washed up and went back and lit the stove and worked my shift.

I didn’t for a second consider blaming him. I should’ve double-checked it. I wasn’t blaming the folks. I can tell you where it came from because we had to solve the problem. It wouldn’t happen again, but I didn’t even consider I was going to quit, sue him or do this. I’m the one who blew myself up. It may have been a root cause from something else, but I didn’t even consider it. You could see the look in his eyes, “This is the end of my business. This is the end of everything that I’ve worked for.” It is because of a mistake somebody made the night before and me making that mistake in the morning.

Let’s take that a little deeper. There are times when it’s not your fault, and people make mistakes, especially if you’re a leader and many people that are reading are either leaders in the corporate space or leaders within their own businesses. There are times when people do things out of our control, yet we still have to own it. We can blame them. We can put measures in place to prevent things like that from happening again.

Don’t Be Dumb: The idea of “Don’t be dumb” is so succinct. That you can look at anything in your business life or whatever you’re facing and say, am I being dumb here?

 

At that moment in time, right now, while this is happening, we have a decision to make, and it may not be like yours to own, but it is yours to own because you’re a leader. What I like to do when I’m in those positions is think about the alternative. The alternative is, I could dig into this person right now. I can point the finger, and I can embarrass him and do all of those things like I blamed him, but then I have to ask myself, “What’s the value in that? How is that serving me from your perspective?” You’re like, “I just don’t.”

It is so tempting when it’s clearly somebody else’s fault to go there versus solve the problem and take the steps forward to making it better. Some of it comes from even having risks identified beforehand, what could go wrong, and having a mitigation plan already in place. It’s not instinct when you’re responding to those crises. You’ve given thought to what could go wrong. You have your plan, A, B, C, D, E, ready to go. When you go, “This calls for plan E. Got it.” It’s not instinct, and it stops away from that, takes some of the emotion away. That helps. The other side is there’s nothing wrong. I had a situation where something went wrong with a conference presentation and another individual co-presenting with me.

I went and needed the space. That’s the strategy too. Take that five minutes of getting your head straight before you respond. It takes a couple of minutes and gets your head straight. In this case, I tried to have that space, went to a separate place to get my head straight. The guy came in clueless and oblivious of what had gone wrong in this presentation. “That went great. Don’t you?” Guess what? My response was not good. It’s been several years, and I still think about it.

Did I threaten to take him in an alley and punch him in the throat, or didn’t I? I said, “If you weren’t a great guy, I would take you out in the alley right now.” Is that threatening or not? Either way, I’m not proud of my reaction. I tried to get my head together to respond more calmly and solve the problem. That can work too. If you can get that space and pause, get your head together, it’s rare circumstances that you can’t take a couple of minutes to get yourself together and think about what the right response is.

What is another common principle in this book, Don’t Be Dumb, that you would like to share with us?

It ties to this. I’ve called it in the years that I’ve managed people, “Go be happy someplace else.” That is, not everybody fits the role, culture, organization they’re in. It doesn’t mean they’re a bad person, incompetent, or anything other than they’re probably not a right fit, and they should go be happy someplace else.

You try to facilitate that as a leader, which makes you turn your head sideways sometimes and go, “Wait a minute. You’re supposed to hire the right people, keep the people, promote the people.” When is the right time to let them go? How do you do it kindly, professionally, but directly to where it doesn’t negatively impact your life, business, organization, whatever your case is.

That’s a challenge because you’ll often find people go, “No, I’ll do better.” You go, “I appreciate that. We’ve been through this three times already. I don’t think this is the right place for you. This isn’t the right role. Why don’t you consider doing this role instead in another organization? Why don’t you take some time to look for that?” I’ve also had a situation in the past where I’ve put somebody in a different role temporarily for six months because they were very capable but not doing a good job right then.

I’d let them have some time away doing something completely different and refresh themselves with something that needed to be done. They were able to come back and many years later, they’re still working in that organization and have done a phenomenal job. In that case, I temporarily let them, “Go, be happy someplace else,” but they were able to get their feet back underneath them and have had a very successful career.

What’s the lesson in all of that, that you would like to express to the readers?

The lesson is the best of the best in the world at hiring and managing people, you’re going to get it right maybe 70% or 75% of the time. It’s rare that any of us fit that category. Recognizing if you’ve been dumb to take it to an extreme example, but if you’ve hired somebody and you thought they were great and you’ve been wrong, or something has happened that changed things, recognize it and deal with it. Don’t play ostrich. Realize that you’re not a failure. You did the right thing, but it didn’t work out. That’s okay.

If you're not a right fit in your culture or organization, don't force it. Go be happy someplace else. Click To Tweet

You bring up an interesting topic as you were explaining this scenario. That’s immediately where my mind went to. Potentially there are some fundamental errors in the hiring process. I still think that I’m a diversity and inclusion guy. It’s a whole another show. Let’s dive deep into that. You bring up an interesting topic about the hiring process, and it’s how we are evaluating and making selections for the organizations. Given that, we’re going off a little bit, but what are your thoughts about that? If there’s anything that we could improve in that process, what are the 1 or 2 things that you say we need to do differently?

It’s probably being more transparent, number one, in conversations, asking people questions, and knowing people come from different walks of life and backgrounds. It’s often you approach things from a cookie-cutter approach. It’s almost like there’s a textbook for HR hiring, you’re supposed to do X, Y, and Z, and this is how you’re supposed to do this.

As opposed to having real conversations with folks, understanding what they bring to the table, adapting your organization to them, and realizing they can bring good things from a different perspective. You get into a very locked-in, inwardly focused organization otherwise. That’s one thing. I would take an example of a few years ago, I had a brain tumor removed from my frontal lobe that had been growing there for 20 to 30 years.

By a miracle, there was no cancer. They got it completely. No chemo and no radiation. I’m fine, which is incredible. I walked out of the hospital a few days after the surgery. I talked to somebody about a local job and interviewed with them. Not to sound egotistical, but I was probably the best-qualified person in the region for that job from my experience. I also told them when they said, “Why are you looking for this?”

I was like, “I might think about wanting to be more local. I could bring these skills. This is what I went through a year before.” I swear that’s why I didn’t get the job was because I’d had brain surgery and recovered from it. The looks on their face, they did not applaud. They did not look at it as overcoming adversity. They looked at that as you’re damaged goods. I swear they did.

You’ve opened up Pandora’s box here. You’ve touched a spot within me. I have to talk about it. The entire hiring process is flawed. The reason why I say it’s flawed is because of what you said. We look at what’s on paper. When we look at what’s on paper, we’re looking for the conversation and things that are coming out of someone’s mouth to be what’s on paper, which is this little, shiny object.

It’s so wrong. The reason why this is wrong is that you hire people because of their experience. Not job experience, but life experience. That’s what we want to look at when we talk about, “What can you bring to the organization?” We look at people with tattoos or maybe, in your case, you’ve experienced what you’ve experienced in there.

They know that and it’s like, “Damaged goods. It looks like this guy got a disability. He’s physically challenged. What can you do for those disabled?” They dismiss the lessons and the experience that those things provide. One of the people that are so underrated are people that go out for the Special Olympics. These people have faced adversity every day, not to say that able-bodied athletes don’t face adversity, but I’m talking about what we would consider normal daily activities.

They are extremely challenging beyond what someone that doesn’t have these challenges with base. On top of that, they have to go out and compete at a high level. It may not be the fastest human, dunking a basketball, or swimming the fastest in a pool, but for them to have to do all of that in addition to what they have to face every day, that warrants more recognition.

It carries more weight than the fastest person. When we dismiss these experiences that a person brings to the table from something like what you’ve experienced, there’s a totally different mindset that you may have about life. Let’s explore that. How can that be beneficial to the organization? People who haven’t experienced those things when we face some type of uncertainty like we are now or some type of challenge, you will be the guy to say, “I know it looks and feels this way. I’ve been here before, and this is how we have to deal with this.”

I was blessed with having an employee years ago that was a legally blind accountant. I inherited it in my team, and I was a young manager, and I thought, “How am I going to deal with this HR nightmare? How do you deal with somebody that can’t see being an accountant?” I’ll tell you what. He was the best accountant I’ve ever had worked for me. As you said, the challenges he faced every day, he managed to be better at using the software, having shortcuts, and doing everything that he knew how to do.

GCM 251 Robert Towle | Don’t Be Dumb

Don’t Be Dumb: It’s not instinct when you’re responding to those crises because you’ve given thought to what could go wrong. You formulated your plan, A, B, C, D, and E, ready to go.

 

All I had to do was say, “Go in once every few months. What do you need?” “I could use a bigger monitor so that I could see.” He had to have the lights off in his office and reverse the colors on his screen and have something to blow up pieces of paper if they gave it to him so he could read it. He was phenomenal, but I will admit my first reaction was, “How am I going to deal with this?” I had the benefit of learning that you need to be a little more open about these things. I realized that people that overcome that have all sorts of other skills and attributes. He became the trainer for other people on how to use the software better in my organization.

Statistics show that introverts are smarter than most extroverts. You don’t know that because they’re introverts. It’s not a bad thing. It’s the flavor.

It’s where they get their energy. It doesn’t mean they’re not able to talk with people. It doesn’t matter if they’re not able to engage. It’s how they sourced their energy to move forward.

I want to back up a little bit because some things are missing in the conversation when we interview. That leads me to ask, and I know this answer, but I want to ask anyway. Do you mean to be more human, have more of a human-to-human conversation in the interview? Is that where you’re going with that?

There’s an element of that. There’s quit with the stupid questions about, “Why are the manhole covers are round and stuff. How many Starbucks are consumed in Times Square daily and what are you doing?” What difference does it make? Cut that out. Ask questions that are real. One of my favorites in interviewing people is, “Tell me about your biggest failure.” You’ll stop people called. You’re supposed to be talking about your accomplishments and how great you are.

What I want to get out of that is everybody fails and makes mistakes. I want to hear about what they learned. They made mistakes and can own it and get back up and keep moving forward. What did they learn from it? If they give me a nonsense answer about I’ve never failed, my biggest failure is being too great at everything I do. We’re done with the whole interview process because that tells me that somebody can’t be straight with you and direct. Probably a little too much in the ego category of things they can’t admit that they failed at something in their career.

What do you think is needed going forward within organizations? When we look at an individual who’s applying for jobs, maybe you have someone, they’re looking for a job. They’re looking to get promoted, and they’re facing these interviews that are coming up. How should they present themselves? What do you think we’re looking for we need organizations now in terms of individuals? Is it before it was the degrees you got to have like eighteen degrees from an Ivy League school, then you get top pay, you get promoted? No problem. What do you think is the ideal person to hire?

The ideal person is that’s flexible and adaptable has shown that they can do different things in different environments. I may be biased here. I would admit it. My undergraduate degree is in History from a Liberal Arts school. I found myself as a director of accounting before everyone went back to school and figured it out.

I probably need to get this piece of paper, and I could probably learn a thing or two also, which I did. I went on to get some other credentials in IT and other things like that. I would tend to think I would give more credence to people who have overcome that, have come from a lower-end school or harder background because they’ve shown that they can overcome adversity, move forward, and they bring a different perspective.

In my first consulting job, I was hired, but then the first one that I was engaged when I was on, I was told, “We need you to interview for this with a client.” I looked at the credentials and went. “I don’t meet any of these credentials.” I was told, “Go get the assignment. It’s time scheduled. Go upstairs and get on Skype. We need you on an engagement versus sitting on the bench.”

There’s a lesson there of being able to demonstrate what unique attributes I brought to the situation. I didn’t get hung up on that. For a second, I was getting hung up on it. I didn’t have all those letters after my names and everything else that they were looking for, but once I reoriented and was told to get the assignment. I then sold myself on what unique qualities I brought to the table. I didn’t get hung up in that.

Everybody fails. Everybody makes mistakes. Get back up and keep moving forward. Click To Tweet

The key is, it goes back, even to writing the cover letter in the application. Your submission is how do you get that across when somebody is looking for it? Do you fit these ten checkboxes? How do you paint the picture that you chose to take two years off and do something different with your life than what your education would say you would do? If you don’t answer those questions, you’ll never make your way in through the front door to even have a conversation.

We need to revisit that. I do. I can’t see how that worked in the past. It did to some degree because we’ve adopted that process. If you fit these criteria, you got that, “Check that. You must be good.” We haven’t even checked in on the human side of things. That’s where we need to go going forward. You can have the paper in the credentials, but there’s still another element to this that we have to consider. As a matter of fact, from my perspective, that’s the first thing we need to check with an individual state. That is the human side. Not the box. Did he check the box? Did she check the box? Who is this person as a human being first?

I’ve made the call with folks that I’ve interviewed. I had a job where I had to hire 100 people within 6 months, which is a lot of hiring. Your other skills get rusty when all you’re doing is hiring people. I had a guy that could not look me in the eye across the desk. I made a choice that you needed to be out working with your internal customers and have good relationships with them, but this guy could not do it. It doesn’t mean he’s not good at something else, but he was not a fit for that role. I told him, “You didn’t make a look. We’re not going to be hiring you.” “Can I ask why?” I told him which was the right thing to do.

A lot of people are afraid to do that. They’ll say, “Talk to our HR person or whatever the case is. We can’t tell you.” I told him this was what the issue was, then the excuse started, “The sun was coming through the blinds behind you. That’s why I couldn’t look at you that way. That was the reason.” I’m like, “Okay, you’re still not hired because you didn’t have the ability to say, ‘Can you close the blinds because the blinds are in the eyes. The sun is coming through.”

Let alone, if you couldn’t say that, you’re certainly not going to be in a position out with internal customers and serving things and resolving issues. If you can’t say, “Would you mind closing the blinds and let me move my chair over here, so I get a better angle.” That’s the opposite side of what you’re talking about in some ways. It’s the personal human side. If the guy couldn’t engage to say, “Can you close the blinds?” You’re probably not going to be the right fit for that role.

Engagement is a big thing. It’s going to get bigger, especially with the advancement of technology. You don’t have anything left to do. All the things that these robots and technology aren’t going to be able to do, which is be human or engage in and talk to people.

I find it very interesting that some of the clients use the cameras. In this time, when we’ve been under a lot more lockdown, and some don’t. It’s very interesting to me. The level of, as soon as you can turn the camera on and look somebody in the eye, even like we are right now, it gets better. Even if the little small talk of what you did over the weekend. What you’re going to do this coming weekend or what’s happened to you? It builds that relationship. It may feel like nothing, but it makes a difference.

The ones that are that don’t turn on the cameras it’s difficult to deal with. Even if I’m the only one on camera, I will turn on the camera and engage with people that way. They will see me. I’ve been told that whatever I’m thinking comes straight across my face. I’d want that level of engagement. I want them to see if I’m frustrated, happy, proud, or whatever the case is. I’ll turn it on even if everybody else doesn’t. I’ll start influencing that way and begin with this client that occasionally they’ll turn the cameras on now after a year of working with them.

That’s something you and I have in common. I’ve been told that I wear my feelings on my face. It is what it is, but you’re right. For example, even though we don’t always publish the video, I like to see the person when I’m recording. It helps with the connection and the engagement in the conversation and the energy. That’s the biggest thing. The energy that’s happening between the two of us, even though we’re miles apart and have a screen in between us, I feel you.

We’ve bonded. We’re friends now. It’s not some voice in the distance.

This book is sounding good right now. People are digging it and they may want to purchase it. Before we dive into the last thing that you’re going to share with us, tell us where we can find the book for those ready to purchase.

Don’t Be Dumb: The best in the world at hiring and managing people are only going to get the best of the best 70% of the time. If you’ve been wrong in hiring someone, recognize it and deal with it.

 

The book is out already for pre-ordering on Amazon.com. You would look for my name. Everybody I’m related to has that name. That’s how rare it is. You can look for it there or go to my website, which is 636Advisors.com or DontBeDumb.expert. That provides links to go to the book. I’ve tied music into the book and themes from popular music to tie the book together. We were offering a free Spotify list of songs that are tied into the book. For folks that email me, I’ll submit it on the website.

What is your email address?

It’s RTowle@636Advisors.com.

Before we get into the last element that you’re going to share about Don’t Be Dumb. Can you tell us a little bit about who is don’t be dumb for? Obviously, it’s for people who don’t want to be dumb, but specifically, who is this book for?

I’m trying to avoid the trap of saying, everybody. There’s a temptation to say that, frankly. I’ve thought it’d geared probably for younger professionals, new entrepreneurs, and people that are starting up businesses or want to start up businesses to learn from the mistakes that I’ve made. Learn from the experience I’ve had. We have checklists.

We have ideas that are a little unique but are all grounded in real-life experiences. Just because I’ve been burned by the hot stove, literally in one case, they don’t make those same mistakes. They can get off to a better start in their careers or a better start in their business. The experience of professionals had helped them too, but it’s geared more to those newer professionals or new entrepreneurs.

There’s nothing like refreshing as we get older. As our experiences continue, we have a tendency to forget. One thing that I’ve learned about playing sports is when you find yourself in a very complicated or sophisticated space, and you’re trying to figure out how to navigate it, a lot of times, what’s required is to go back to the basics. We don’t need some sophisticated solutions to sophisticated problems.

A lot of times, that’s what gets us in trouble because we’re trying to do something so sophisticated that it’s almost not even executable. We keep spinning our wheels, going over and over, and trying to get ground as a hurdle. If we can go back to the basics, not the slam dunk, not the dribble all between the legs, not the 60-yard run, but let’s consistently chop wood. Let’s get 4 or 5 yards at a time. Let’s have consistency.

My oldest son was coached at a very young age by an ex-Houston Oiler. He was coached in football in third grade, and the guy kept it so basic. This team of eight-year-olds could go out and they’ve wiped the field with anybody that they played because they kept it simple. Every practice was the same. They probably had five plays that they ran.

That was it but he got through their eight-year-old brains. You’re talking about an ex-professional football player who’s able to do that. It was amazing. It stuck with my son through playing all the way to rugby at the collegiate level. That type of basic, do the right things every time, stuck with him. It was something to see. Your point is very good.

One of your principles in the book Don’t Be Dumb is, “If it isn’t, it should be. Stick it to the basics. Keep it simple.”

Don't get hung up looking for the green grass in Kentucky. Click To Tweet

I have a whole section about the anti-technology that ties to my grandfather’s business of how he used a secret code written on boxes of shoes to know what price he paid. No computers, no calculators, nothing. At any point, he could see what he paid and be off for sales or discounts. He had tenth-grade education. He had a very successful shoe store business in North Carolina as a result of keeping it very simple and not getting all tied up in complicated things. There is a section in there.

My philosophy, master the basics. Last thing, what is it?

I would phrase it as, “Don’t get hung up and looking for the green grass at Kentucky.” What I mean by that is my parents were a real good military family, multiple generations. Although I didn’t serve myself, you’re always moving someplace, and you need to enjoy where you’re at now and look forward. They were good at embedding that in us. I remember standing in the Alps in Switzerland, which I haven’t been back to since. I’m looking at this beautiful scenery of the snow-covered mountains. I was 7 or 8 years old and somebody next to me go, “These are nice but they don’t beat the green grass of Kentucky.”

I remember looking over at him like, “Are you nuts? You’ll go back. You’ll get transferred back to Kentucky. You’ll enjoy Kentucky again. Enjoy this now. Embrace where you are now. Look forward. Don’t look back to where you came from.” Many people get hung up in that. Entrepreneurs can get hung up in that. “I made a mistake. I need to go back and fix it.” No, you need to look forward, enjoy where you are and look forward to doing better things in the future, which is summed up in the green grass of Kentucky type of statement. Kentucky is a great place but enjoy where you are.

There are so many issues, especially with social unrest and all the things that we’re talking about. There we’re continuing to talk about them because we’re living in the past and we’re not looking forward. We’re looking at all the things that we’ve done wrong and because of that, we’re pointing the finger. It’s your fault, blame game. We can’t see how to move forward.

You’re right. It’s interesting to me in the military family. It was more integrated on a basis than in another place in the US. The first time I lived off base, I was shocked at the disconnect and the horrible nature of people looking backward and being stuck in the past. As a fifteen-year-old, it was shocking to me to go, “What is going on here in the Deep South.” It was a complete culture shock for me. Unfortunately, that’s still going on. We may be better than before, but we need to look forward. We don’t need to be hung up in the past.

I so concur with that. Robert, it’s been a great conversation. Thank you for coming on the show, sharing your wisdom, knowledge, and experience with us.

Thank you. I appreciate you having me. It’s been a great conversation. You’ve sparked a lot of ideas too.

Thank you.

There you have it, folks. It’s another successful episode. You are going to walk away from this show with a lot of things. First of all, I have some tools in my toolbox so I can prevent myself from being dumb. Here’s the thing. We all have those moments where we don’t do what we should have done. We make mistakes. The thing about it is we can learn from those mistakes.

When you have a book that compiles all of these things that says, “Do this, not that. Don’t be dumb.” It creates a framework that we can reference and remind ourselves on how we continue to go forward. If you’re new to this game, you’re getting in. This is what you want, your playbook and how you play the game.

GCM 251 Robert Towle | Don’t Be Dumb

Don’t Be Dumb: A Leadership Playbook To Help You Be Smarter, Overcome Obstacles, And Rise Rapidly In Challenging Times

You don’t have to go out there feeling like you don’t have anything to help you navigate the opposition. That is surely going to come up. You want to prepare yourself. Now what we have as a framework. I love books. I love speaking to people who have been in the game, marched down the field, hit in the mouth. It’s from those experiences. It’s not the accolades.

It’s not all the accomplishments. It’s those times when they have fallen, failed, or experienced some major challenge and overcame it. They can share who they were, how they felt, and what they did to get back on their feet. How do they overcome it? What did they need to learn? How do they grow? That is a path that we can follow.

When we have that, we don’t have to keep looking in the past and saying, “This happened in the past. It will probably happen to me. I’m not doing it.” We can say, “I’m going to face this confidently. Not only am I going to face it, but I’m looking beyond it because I have something here that’s so valuable. I have information that I can implement to move forward.” When you know that, and you have that, not only is it a privilege to have it, but it becomes a responsibility.

You are now held accountable, and you have no excuse because the playbook is there. We’re calling your name. We’re going to ask you, “Did you read the playbook?” Make sure that your answer is, “Yes, coach. I studied. I know the playbook. I will get out there and execute.” Change the game. Until next time. Peace and love.

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About Robert Towle

GCM 251 Robert Towle | Don’t Be Dumb

Robert was born in North Carolina and lived throughout the U.S and in (West) Germany during his childhood, including going to three schools between 9th and 12th grade. He gained a strong interest for both history and traveling due to his experiences and went to Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, for his BA in history. As a side note, with no offense to Baylor graduates, Southwestern is absolutely the oldest university in Texas being founded in 1840 while Texas was still a republic. He has lived in Texas four different times and in eight different towns in the state. Since graduation, he has worked at different companies in Arizona, Texas, New Jersey, and Virginia. He went back to school and got his MBA with concentrations in finance and IT from Auburn University in Alabama in 2000. Although the majority of his career has been in finance and consulting, he has also worked as a bicycle mechanic, caterer, dishwasher, optical technician, apartment manager, and communications coordinator. He migrated from traditional finance roles, including vice president of finance and CFO roles, into being a consultant in 2013. Since then, he has worked with a wide variety of clients including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Panasonic, the Iowa University System, University of California-Davis, First Data (now Fiserv), and the International Baccalaureate, traveling to Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, Sri Lanka, France, Colombia, Mexico, the UK, and Poland for his work.
He moved out on his own in 2018 by forming his own company, 636 Advisors, to continue to help both small and large clients. He is also working with PrimCorp, LLC is an award-winning SBA 8(a) certified and Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) management consulting company with a U.S. Federal Agency. In his free time, he continues to practice guitar and other instruments and has been working some singing and playing into training sessions for various business topics. Genealogy is another of his hobbies through which he’s found he’s distantly related to authors Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Louis L’Amour. Robert has testified before a sub-committee of the U.S. House of Representatives on Shared Services as well as serving on the Joint Commission to improve the connection between Radford University and the City of Radford, Virginia. He lives with his wife in Southwest Virginia in the heart of the New River Valley. Opinions vary over how a river this far west got a name like New River, but the prevailing theory says it was originally left off a map and added later. Another point of trivia is the river runs north, which is fairly rare for rivers for some reason he doesn’t understand, but he plans to figure it out someday