Have you ever felt stuck in a rut or helpless in changing your life’s circumstances? Are you searching for more happiness and fulfillment but don’t know where to look? Author Doug Stewart doesn’t have your answers, but he knows how you can find them for yourself.
In his new book, 5 1/2 Mentors, Doug asks you to join him on a journey of enthusiastic discovery to learn and grow from everyone and everything. He reveals the mentors in your life you never knew you had, you’ll learn how to identify your blind spots, break through barriers, and discover innate greatness that’s been with you the entire time. If you’re willing to look for it, a more exciting life is waiting for you.
Drew Appelbaum: Hey listeners, my name is Drew Appelbaum and I’m excited to be here today with Doug Stewart, author of 5 1/2 Mentors: How to Learn, Grow, and Develop from Everyone and Everything. Doug, thank you for joining, welcome to the Author Hour podcast.
Doug Stewart: For sure, thanks for having me.
Drew Appelbaum: Let’s kick this off, can you give us a quick rundown of your professional background?
Doug Stewart: Yeah, for sure. I grew up in a family business and so my professional career started when I was old enough to dust the furniture in my parent’s and grandparent’s furniture store. I was maybe four years old and it’s really all I ever knew. Growing up in the furniture business, I was on the sales floor and on the delivery truck early so, I would say, my professional career really started as early as I have memories of being alive.
After college, I came back and took over the furniture business. Then after realizing that that’s not what I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing, I left the family business and ended up working for some iconic brands, sort of adjacent to the furniture and bedding industry.
Around 2011 I had the privilege of taking a program called The Dale Carnegie program and it fundamentally changed my life. I noticed that the instructors for that program had a real opportunity where they were able to watch miracles happen, and they set a stage and created an environment for people to have meaningful breakthroughs. I notice while taking that program that that’s what I wanted to do with my life.
I started following the primary Dale Carnegie person in North Carolina around until he agreed to allow me to apprentice under him and after that, it was sort of history. I worked for him as an apprentice, mostly unpaid for four to five years, and then got my own opportunity. Then from that, found a way to end up on the TEDx stage, and then after being on the TEDx stage, that opened up my speaking career, and then my coaching practice, and then here we are.
Drew Appelbaum: That’s such a great story. What inspired you to write the book, did you have an Ah-ha moment?Why was now the time to write it?
Doug Stewart: Well, something interesting really happened in around March of 2020, when I looked up and the news said, “You need to stay home for at least two weeks,” and I thought, “How am I going to quarantine for two whole weeks?” I thought to myself, “I’ve got to find something to do.” So, this book. I talked about on my podcast not very long ago, that this book is something that I have had on my mind and heart for about the last 10 to 15 years.
The reason I hadn’t written it before was that I really wanted to live it. I wanted to be able to say, “Hey, here’s my personal evidence why these concepts or these tactics or these strategies or methods actually work.” When COVID 19 hit, I thought to myself, what better time to sit down and write this book?
Drew Appelbaum: Now, who is this book for?
Doug Stewart: Ah man, what a question that is. First of all, I think when I was working with my manager at Scribe and we were first talking about, “Hey, who is this for, and what do you want to accomplish out of this book?” I think I was a bit of an irritant to her in the beginning because my answer was what I wanted the results of this book to be.
I said, I wanted it to be something, number one, that I’m proud of. Number two, I want it to be something that my children are proud of. Number three, I want it to be something that my grandchildren are proud of. And so, I guess, to answer that question, the person that I wrote this book for in a lot of ways man, was me. This is the book that if I would have had this if I would have gotten this as a middle schooler, as a high schooler, life maybe wouldn’t have punched me in the mouth so often as a young adult and early in my career.
Overall, I would say, this book was really written for people who feel stuck, who maybe feel like they need some sort of permission or they need some sort of access or they need some sort of a savior or a mentor to come and pry them out of their current situation. This book really is the evidence that they don’t need any of that stuff to get started.
The Book Won’t Change Your Life
Drew Appelbaum: Now, what can readers expect from the book?
Doug Stewart: I would say the biggest thing that they can expect is that the book won’t change their life. I think a common misconception people have a lot of times is if I read this thing or if I get this information or if I watch this video or take this course, it will be my answer.
Really, what people can expect more than anything is this book may provide some insights, it may provide perhaps even inspiration, but more than anything, I think readers can expect a bit of a practical roadmap so that they can go and change their own life. They can go and do work.
The book won’t change their life. The book didn’t change my life, it’s the action that I took, it’s the action that people take–I believe it’s somewhere at the end of the book, in the conclusion, where I talk about a piece of advice that someone I consider a mentor–his name is Mark Kinsley and he always says to me, when I’m struggling with how to get from where I am to where I want to go, maybe on a particular project, he’ll always say, remember that action reveals answers.
If people are looking for answers, they may find some insights in the book, but the real answers come from taking action after reading the book, while reading the book, or gosh, before reading the book, the book really doesn’t matter, so long as they’re taking action.
Drew Appelbaum: You start off really strong in the intro saying this book will not change your life. I thought it was really interesting how you kicked it off like that and then you actually talked about many people, even make a living off the word and the theory of motivation. And yet, you say motivation is sort of worthless. Can you tell us why?
Doug Stewart: Yeah, for sure. The reason I say motivation is worthless is that motivation is elusive. Motivation is sort of like that one friend that we all have that says they will meet us for lunch and about half the time they show up. I just have never found motivation to be particularly reliable and what I find is, motivation is really a byproduct, it’s a symptom of something else. That something else is self-discipline.
So, one of the things I talk about in the book is you know, my motivation is always there at five PM, last night, five PM, my motivation was there and ready to roll when I was thinking about getting up at five AM and going for a run this morning. The challenge was, when I woke up at five AM, my motivation was nowhere to be found. I didn’t feel motivated to go running when it was time to actually take action and do it. I wanted to hit the snooze button.
Then I hit the snooze button, and motivation doesn’t show up at 5:10, at 5:15, at 5:20, at 5:30. But what I found is that I can create motivation in my life by number one, creating an environment that supports the disciplined decisions I want to make. That may be putting my running shoes by my bed, putting my workout clothes on my nightstand. Making sure that my alarm as an example is too far away for me to just reach over and turn it off. If I’m disciplined enough to get up unmotivated, put my shoes on, put my workout clothes on, open the front door and leave, my motivation normally shows up when I’ve gotten just far enough away from my house where it’s impractical to turn back.
Then my motivation shows up, I feel good, I’m glad I’ve done it. The same is true with healthy eating. Anytime I’m hungry, ice cream always sounds better than a salad, you know? Who is ever motivated to eat a salad when ice cream is close by?
But if I eat a salad, if I make healthy, practical, conscious decisions about my health over time, once I start feeling better and it may take a month or two months or six months or a year, all of a sudden, my motivation shows up more often to make the types of decisions that serve me best.
Alarm Clock Moments
Drew Appelbaum: Now, you just mentioned hitting the snooze button a few times and you bring up a term in the book called, “Alarm Clock Moments,” can you talk to us about what an alarm clock moment is?
Doug Stewart: Sure, I think we’ve all had this experience where you’re laying in bed, you’re sleeping well, and then you kind of get that first moment of consciousness and you look at the clock out of one eye and you realized that your alarm clock didn’t go off. That feeling is what I call the alarm clock moment–when you look around and you’re like, my goodness, I’m going to be late and there’s no way I can catch up.
Sometimes we get that when we’re late for a meeting or a flight back when people used to do those sorts of things, or we’ve slept in for a zoom call or something. My experience was, I had an alarm clock moment in life because I found out I had this moment in my life where I woke up and I realized that I had fallen behind intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, and relationally. Almost every way I felt behind and I got this massive surge of intention to start taking action–to do everything I could to try my best to catch up, to where my potential was.
I still don’t know what my potential is. But I found a way, and this is one thing that I really encourage people to do in the book is to be comfortable not necessarily knowing your potential, but be enthusiastic about discovering what it is.
Drew Appelbaum: Let’s dive into mentorship. What has it traditionally meant to people?
Doug Stewart: I think mentorship, it reminds me of this movie I watched, admittedly more than once, which I don’t know that everyone would admit this but there’s this movie called The Devil Wears Prada–you’re familiar?
Drew Appelbaum: Yeah, I didn’t see that coming.
Doug Stewart: In this movie, Meryl Streep plays the lead role and she’s kind of the person that has all the access and all the affluence and all the influence. Then this young intern comes in and sees her kind of as the mentor or the standard and so she gets verbally and emotionally abused by Meryl Streep’s character for the entire movie. I think that’s how most people see mentorship–there’s that person that has resources or access or influence or affluence and if I allow them to tell me what to do or maybe go get their laundry or their coffee for long enough, one day, I will get to be that person with all the resources and access and excess and then I get to mistreat the people that come after me.
I think that many times, Drew, that people don’t make a distinction perhaps between mentorship and apprenticeship. You know, apprenticeship has its place, and many people think that in order to be mentored, there has to be an agreement, maybe a contract, and they have to talk about it and then the mentor is there to save them in a lot of ways or give them things maybe that they can’t get on their own.
Instead of seeing mentorship as something that they really do for themselves with another person–they see it as something that another person does either to them or for them. Which takes them out of the driver seat of their own life and puts them in a position to be a victim of their circumstance.
Drew Appelbaum: One of the cool things in the book is you actually do ask people to pause and think about what they just read and to take some action. This isn’t one of those books where you just read through. You are going to want to make some changes and pause throughout your reading. Now can we dig into the five and a half mentors?
And I love to start with the half portion because I think that’s really interesting. You call it the anti-mentor. Can you explain this?
Doug Stewart: For sure. I think the reason is the anti-mentor is only half of a mentor is because in general, we are less likely to want to accept this type of person as a mentor. The reason that they still make the list and the reason that they are the first one that we talk about is that in my view they’re the most important ones. These are the people that irritate us, they frustrate us, and maybe hurt us or treat us poorly.
These are the people that lack the level perhaps of integrity or insight or worldview that we find is valuable. It reminds me of this quote by Dale Carnegie that I love so much where he says, “If two people always agree, one of them is unnecessary.”
So often, we want to be around people that are like-minded, that see the world the same way we do, that are positive and uplifting and make us feel warm and fuzzy and good and we forget the benefits of learning from people that see the world differently.
We sometimes see them as evil, when they’re merely inconvenient. I have learned through my experience in my life that my best teachers have been people that I was uncomfortable around or irritated by. You know the people that question me really taught me how to think on my own. The people who abandon me taught me resilience. The people that mistreated me taught me compassion. The people that frustrated me taught me new ways to communicate.
I think if we see those sorts of people, those what I refer to as sandpaper people or the people that could make a happy meal frown, you know those sorts of people if we ask ourselves what is it that perhaps causes them to live in that way, not only can we help them, but we can also change ourselves and we can see things in ourselves. I think it is pretty universal that some of the things that irritate us the most about other people are often things that we don’t like about ourselves.
I think about myself as a father, I have a nine-year-old daughter, and some of the things that get under my skin the most as a dad are typically things that I’ve struggled with myself or things that maybe I’ve hated about myself. Like I am naturally not a very tidy or neat person, it is something I’ve had to work really, really hard to do better at. So, when my daughter leaves dirty socks on the floor, that irritates me in a way because I know that she probably got that from me.
When people are acting out in particular ways that irritate us, it can be really valuable to stop and ask, “Why does that irritate me in this way? Why is it that I get this reaction from their behavior?” Instead of letting them own it.
Another thing that I think is really important about the anti-mentor is that they’re not always wrong. They might just make us uncomfortable because it can be really uncomfortable to come face to face with something that you’re wrong about.
I know there is nothing that has helped me uncover truth more than talking to people that see the world differently than I do–that believe differently, that are from different perhaps political persuasions or faith traditions or parts of the world. So often, we call this combination of like-minded people around us. We call it community when it is really not community at all. It is really a cult, because if you think about what the definition of a cult is it’s where everyone agrees, believes the same thing about all the same things and there is no ability to question anything.
When we fall into that, we really put ourselves in an echo chamber that not only stunts our growth, but it really limits our ability to be happy, to relate to others, and to advance humanity in a positive way.
Drew Appelbaum: Now another one of the mentors you mentioned, which is a little off the beaten path, was the virtual mentor. It’s a really interesting approach because if I have this correct, it’s almost doing research online on a particular topic.
Doug Stewart: Yeah that’s it 100%. So often people have polar opposite views of technology in general. There is the side that says technology is the best, greatest thing of all time and they spend all of their time in technology. There is the other side that says technology is eroding the very fabric of society as we know it and one day, the robots are going to rise up and kill us all.
I think there is a middle ground.
I grew up in a world that technology wasn’t available. Like many people, I’m sure listening to this podcast when I was a kid and I wanted information, I had to go in my parent’s living room to the big credenza and open these doors, and then there was a bunch of these green books. They were alphabetized and called The Encyclopedia Britannica and that was the only place that I could get information in my home.
Now, if I couldn’t find it in the Encyclopedia Britannica, I had to go to this thing that they call the Library and I had to fumble with the Dewey Decimal System, which I am convinced is the tool of the devil. You know, there is this saying that knowledge is power. The challenge with this concept of knowledge is power is that knowledge has really been commoditized and knowledge if you have an internet connection, you have access to all of the information of all humanity of all time.
There are very few things that you can’t either learn about or find something about that you didn’t know before. For me, I have found as many mentors virtually as I have physically in my real life, and I think if we think about how we use technology, am I using technology to enrich my real life and the real people that I am interacting with? Am I using it to learn in a positive way or am I using it simply for escapism to disconnect from the world?
There is space for that for sure, but it certainly shouldn’t be the majority of our appetite when it comes to technology.
Drew Appelbaum: I have to ask you this question Doug, who are the mentors in your life right now?
Doug Stewart: I’m really blessed and fortunate to have some really outstanding mentors. The first two and I would say most valuable and most dynamic mentors that I have in my life right now, one of them is two years old and the other is nine years old. These are my children. I will tell you that my kids on a daily basis teach me things about how to show up in the world, how to see the world, how to be inclusive and open and energetic and in the moment and present in a way that no one else had taught me before.
I am really fortunate to have them. I think if we pay attention, particularly to children, they can really call us back to what I would consider maybe our factory setting–to the way that we were created to be in the first place.
Another very important mentor, that would be categorized in the book is a street view mentor, is my wife. We’ve been married for 13 years. There is no one that supports me and also calls me out on my own BS like my wife.
Additionally, Tom and Molly Brazil, they are who I apprenticed for with Dale Carnegie for four or five years. I still have the ability to have these conversations with Tom, two or three times a week, and we’ve had a decade long relationship.
To be even more specific, I really do my best to make every single person, just like Ralph Waldo Emerson said, that every person I meet is my superior in some way. And it’s my responsibility to find out in what way. So, when embodying that idea, everyone is a mentor. Everyone is someone that I can learn something from.
Drew Appelbaum: Now when you were writing the book either via research or maybe some introspective research, were there any learnings along the way?
Doug Stewart: Oh, for sure. One of the biggest ones is about what we were just talking about–the anti-mentor. One of the biggest ways that concept has evolved is in the beginning, it was really about people that just rub us wrong, but as I wrote the book, I realized it is not just about the irritants in our lives. It’s also that sometimes we are the irritant. It is recognizing that, “Oh my gosh, I am an anti-mentor to people.”
You know they say that there are two types of people in the world–there are people that brighten the room when they come into it, and then there are the people that brighten the world when they leave it. I make choices sometimes where I end up being the type of person that brightens the room because I have left.
One of my biggest learnings in writing this book is just how much impact each of us has in the environments that we find ourselves in and that there is no such thing as a neutral impact. When someone comes into the room the energy changes.
When someone logs on to a webinar or to a video call, the energy changes, and it is really our choice of whether that energy change is going to be a positive energy change or whether the energy change is going to be a negative energy change.
You Do Not Need Permission
Drew Appelbaum: Now you end the book by saying, “Mentorship is a gift you give yourself with the help of everyone and everything,” and I thought that was such a lovely statement. Can you dig a little bit deeper and tell us what you mean here and why you chose to end the book this way?
Doug Stewart: For sure. One of the main ideas that was so important for me to communicate well in this book, and I hope I have communicated it well enough, is that there is no need for permission to develop. The idea that you need someone to come along and give you access to start or give you permission to start is perhaps one of the biggest excuses and detriments to our growth.
The reason I end the book that way is to concrete in this idea that mentorship is a choice that we make first, and then as we make that choice, as we consistently make the choice on a daily basis and we take action–that is the way, number one, we start. But number two, that’s the way we attract the best mentors.
If we think about people that we want to help, no one wants to help someone that they feel like they have to drag across their own finish line. You know, we are willing to help people when we go, “Gosh, they’ve got the right attitude, they’re already trying.”
Those are the people that we’re willing to invest our time, our resources, sometimes our money in, but rarely do we want to invest our money into someone that’s not trying, that’s sitting around and waiting. This is the primary idea of the book that the more–who said it? I forgot who said, I am going to paraphrase it and not accurately ascribe it to the right person, but I want to say it is Gary Player, the famous golfer, but I think it was him that said, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”
I found for myself and for so many other people that I’ve had the privilege to coach, the more deliberate they are in taking action, doing the right things for the right reasons, expecting the right results, and not having any attachment to the timing of those results, the more resources they attract, the more people that they attract, the more mentors they attract, and ultimately, the more opportunities they get in their life.
Drew Appelbaum: Doug, writing a book especially like this one that will help the personal growth of so many people is no small feat. So, congratulations.
Doug Stewart: Thank you.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, if readers could take away only one thing from the book, what would you want it to be?
Doug Stewart: If there is only one thing that people would take, I think it would be that they don’t need permission to start and that their personal development is ultimately their personal responsibility.
Drew Appelbaum: Doug, this has been a pleasure and I am so excited for people to check out this book. Everyone, the book is called, 5 1/2 Mentors, and you can find it on Amazon. Doug besides checking out the book, where can people find you?
Doug Stewart: The best place is just my website, dougstewart919.com and all of the resources and other connection points can be found there.
Drew Appelbaum: Awesome. Doug, thank you so much for coming on the show today.
Doug Stewart: My pleasure man, thank you for having me.