Is there really a recipe for success and happiness? Bernie Stoltz has been leading companies and advising top business executives for more than four decades. The Fortune Recipe draws on the full wealth of that experience, giving you all the tools you need to create a rich and fulfilling life. No matter what goals you’re pursuing, both personally and professionally, there is a proven formula to get there.
The Fortune Recipe will help you make your own unique life the best it can be, laying out the essential life lessons, the strategies and the effective behaviors that have proven effective in one life after another from young entrepreneurs to seasoned CEOs. Here’s my conversation with Bernie Stoltz.
This is The Author Hour Podcast, I’m your host Benji Block. Today, we’re honored to be joined by Bernie Stoltz. He’s just come out with a book, the title is The Fortune Recipe: Essential Ingredients For Creating Your Best Life. I love that title, Bernie. Hey, welcome to the show.
Bernie Stoltz: Hey, good to be with you, Benji.
Benji Block: Awesome. We’re glad to have you here and let’s start with this, Bernie, just give a little bit of context to the work that you do and then the genesis of this project.
Bernie Stoltz: Yeah, absolutely. I am presently and have been for the last, almost 30 years, the CEO and co-founder of Fortune Management. For your listeners, Fortune Management is the leading and the largest executive coaching and practice management company in quite frankly, the world for dentists.
Benji Block: Wow.
Bernie Stoltz: Although we do have other divisions as well, we have a division in veterinary medicine as well as plastic surgery but make no mistake, dentistry has been our roots for over 30 years. And prior to that, I also — as anyone who reads the book will know — I have always been a serial entrepreneur. I created five other companies by the time I was 30 before I really found my purpose and passion with this company in healthcare.
We’ve created four other companies since then. It’s exciting, it’s purposeful work, love what I do and so at this point, we needed to start getting a book out there to kind of document what’s going on in my life a little bit.
The Quality of Questions
Benji Block: Yeah, I love that. You look at this book as a way of kind of paying it forward, is that right?
Bernie Stoltz: Absolutely. I wanted to make sure now that at my age, I’m in my early 60s, that I really just committed everything to pen and paper and to a book that really — I didn’t want it to be an autobiography, that’s not what I wanted. What I did want is I wanted to give the world basically, a gift to say, “Look, here are the essential beliefs, core values and actions that I have taken over the last 30 years to create this incredible life that I have and I’m very grateful and very blessed to have.”
The fact of the matter is that, all of these things in the title being the recipe is really just a bunch of ingredients really that I think any person can take and use. I’m not stuck on everybody having to use every single ingredient but this is what has worked for me, you know? I’m by no means ever said I’ve got life all figured out and did not want to be condescending in writing this book. I really wanted to, as you said, pay it forward. I wanted to say look, for anybody out there who maybe doesn’t think they’ve got the resources to really create a life by design, we wanted to give you something here.
Benji Block: I love that. You said, it’s kind of for the world but let’s hone in a little bit there on who you’re imagining reading this. What gets you fired up, Bernie, when you think about this type of person picking the book up and starting to apply some of these principles?
Bernie Stoltz: Well, I’ll tell you who I think. First of all, anybody. It does have a slant towards business and entrepreneurship. I think anybody who is aspiring to go out and do something with their life and their career and wants to do it on their own terms. Anybody who is in business or owns a business, I think, it’s perfect for them. I think anyone who is in a leadership role, it is perfect for them.
I also think that it’s good for anybody who is just out there in the world because there’s so many different dimensions to the book that are nonbusiness orientated. One of the things that I believe in is what’s called life mastery and we talk about that a lot in the book.
Life mastery is just saying, look, there’s really — let’s make this simple. There’s about six areas of a human being’s life and if they were to focus on those and focus on constant never-ending improvement in those six areas, the life’s probably going to be pretty good. Those six areas being your emotional mastery, your physical mastery, relationship mastery, your spiritual or contribution mastery, your career or purpose mastery and then of course, wealth and lifestyle mastery.
I think whether it’s someone who is aspiring to build a company or as I have, done 10 companies in my life or someone who just wants to live life at the highest level by their one design. I think it’s a very — it can be a very broad readership.
Benji Block: Yeah. Makes good context for us here. The way you structure the book, you value the power of questions a lot. You choose to provide these guiding questions at the end of each chapter. What are you hoping that that sparks in the reader? What’s your thought process behind that structure?
Bernie Stoltz: Well, I have an old saying and that is, the quality of your life will come down to the quality of the questions that you’re willing to ask yourself and others.
Benji Block: That’s good.
Bernie Stoltz: We have to remember that our brain is probably the ultimate Google search engine because if you think about it, whatever question we ask ourself, our brain is going to throw back an answer. Now, just like Google, if you ask good questions, you get good answers. If you ask bad questions, you get a bunch of gibberish, right?
It’s the same thing with our brain. It’s training our brain, training our mind to ask questions that are going to give us empowering answers. At the end of every one of these chapters, that’s exactly what we did. We made these actionable items, questions that the reader can ask themselves to really get their brains and their mind focused on the right conclusions for them.
Implementing the Gratitude Strategy
Benji Block: Give me an idea of where you started with a question asking. I love to hear from you personally how this became a highlighted thing for you and how you see the value of that?
Bernie Stoltz: Well, I think I’ll give you a couple of examples. One, really is, that I speak about in the very first chapter of the book. I’m a big one on gratitude. I think gratitude is the foundation for emotional fitness, mental toughness, and all other good emotions can spring from that. Gratitude to me, every morning is the key.
Now, where the questions come in, those you can’t just get up every morning and say, “I’m going to decide to be grateful today.” You can do that but that’s not as powerful as asking a great question which would be, “What am I most grateful for and who do I love and who loves me and what am I going to do today to get the maximum results out of the minimum amount of energy and affect us many people in a positive way as I can?”
Gratitude is a key because out of gratitude, what I get out of gratitude is the ability to be happy, to be kind to others, to also live in an abundant world and of course, one that I’ve just added lately which is optimism. To be optimistic but I think all of those sit on the foundation of gratitude. The way to get your brain to be grateful or to be anything else is to ask in the form of a question, “What am I most grateful for?”
If I want to be more loving, it’s, “Who do I love and who loves me?” right? I think it’s those things. The other thing that I’ve taught people as an executive coach now for over three decades is to make sure that we’re always willing to ask a question, which is the ultimate question to turn things around when things are not working well, which is, “What’s great about this?” Because, no matter what, even as we just have gone through a worldwide pandemic, where there’s some great things that could have come out of that?
Now, not the death and not the disruption of human beings’ lives. There’s an old saying that what does not kill you makes you stronger. On every level, I have trained my mind over decades to just always be able to ask the most powerful question which is what’s great about this? If your brain can’t give you a definitive answer on that, then I go one step further and I say, what could be great about this?
Benji Block: I love that question. I actually had it in my notes, Bernie, no joke, to tell you. I have a gratitude practice of my own and I stole that question. I’ve already copied and pasted it into my gratitude practice in my morning. What could be great about this is now a recurring question that I will be asking myself and much appreciative of that.
Bernie Stoltz: Yeah, that’s important because a lot of times, people get stuck, right? Stuck is when someone says, “Well, what’s great about this?” and your brain goes, “Nothing,” right? Well, you just got to ask a better question and the better question is, what could be great, what could be great that I haven’t even realized yet that I haven’t even focused on? What are the unintended consequences that could happen out of this? There’s all kinds of cool stuff. I’m glad that you said morning gratitude’s because that’s exactly when to do it, you know? I do a little something every morning. I have a little bit of a regimen and of course, the first thing I always like to do is just do some deep diaphragmic breathing.
I think oxygenating your body first thing in the morning is key to get your eyes awake and just alive. After that, it’s just going into a series of power questions and taking a look at the gratitude’s and asking great questions in all six of those areas of our lives that we talk to and then the other thing that I like and that I write about this in the book too is, the power of intention. I think mornings are a great time to really put intentions in motion for the day and get clear about what are the things that you want to accomplish that day that are going to make the most difference, create the most value for yourself and other human beings in the shortest amount of time.
Benji Block: Let me ask you a follow-up question there. With gratitude, with intention, these are things that obviously, the practice can be developed over time and I’ve seen it evolve in my own life. I’m a bit of an ADHD-type character, right? I can get distracted real easily. I wonder for you, what kind of morning ritual, practice, how that evolved over time for you? What did it start as to maybe what it is now, the amount of time you spend doing it, where are you for this kind of morning ritual of yours, et cetera?
Bernie Stoltz: Well, I can be in a plethora of different places. My favorite place would be to be on a stair climber getting ringing wet, listening to some great music, getting my state of mind right, and then going through those questions actually while I’m doing that or out for a run or a bicycle ride. But there’s other mornings where I’m on the road and in the city, maybe doing a lecture and I’ve got to do it in the hot shower at 6 AM.
It varies and the other thing that I think is important is that people understand, there’s been so many books written about time management, right? Here’s what I’ve discovered in my life and I talk about this a little bit in the book too is that I don’t think you can really manage time. I mean, let’s be honest, everybody has the same amount of time. There’s 24/7 365, you can’t slow it down, you can’t speed it up, it just is what it is — and I don’t even like that phrase.
What I’ve taught people to do and the enlightenment that I’ve given this book is, what you can manage is your energy. If you’re an ADHD guy, then you know this and that is that energy and how you manage your energy and where you invest your energy is what’s going to make the difference. Successful people learn how to invest energy in things that matter most.
Finding Your Purpose and Maintaining Your Hunger
Benji Block: Yeah, that’s good. Let me — I’ll read a paragraph from the book here, it’s actually in the chapter where you talk about energy and talk about hunger, passion, and energy. You say —this specifically around that kind of hunger piece but obviously, it flows right into energy — you say “hunger has nothing to do with scarcity. Hunger, passion, and energy all keep you and what you call, right, the proactive state.”
Hunger leads you to your passion or your passion could make you hungry and both will increase your energy, which is what we were just talking about. Then you say that all three, kind of synergistically propel each other. Now, here’s my question for you on this idea of hunger, passion, and energy. I meet people all the time that lack passion and hunger. I sometimes call that drive and I’ve been there at times in my life.
For you or in your coaching, what are some of the ways that you tell people to keep their hunger, keep their passion, keep their energy up?
Bernie Stoltz: Well, I think, first of all, there’s another word that comes in that I think is mission-critical to discovering your hunger, your passion and your energy and that is your purpose. You know, I tell you about this in the book. I mean, from the time I was 22 to the time I was 30, I continually created new companies that were good at making more but they didn’t have any purpose, you know?
Something I ended up talking about in the book that I’ve shared with my kids at a very young age is, I didn’t care what they did for a career. Whether they were a school teacher or a firefighter or a doctor or an author, it didn’t matter. The only thing that I told them is just decide that you are going to go into something that has or that you feel gives you a power of purpose, something that will get you up early, keep you up late.
Because at the end of the day, if you’re in any kind of business where you are buying things, selling things, living on the margins — it’s what I call transactional career types, which, unfortunately, you know they say by percentages, 80 to 90% of the workforce falls under that description, which is sad but what I say is — if you find something that is really purposeful for you, you know, purpose-driven life so to speak through your career, then you’re going —
I mean, you know as well as I do, if you just find something that you’re really, really passionate and purposeful on, it will get you up early, it will keep you up late, you lose track of time. So that, I think, generates the energy that we’re talking about here. I mean that’s what I think and I think it’s just like everything else. It is training your mind that you have a choice. You have a choice on everything you do including what you want to put your energy in.
Like I said, would you put your energy in, what you’re passionate about, what you believe in. The other thing I’ve had people do is examine your belief system. What do you really believe is most important that you do with your life and what’s most important in your life? Those are core values too, right?
Benji Block: For sure, agency plays such a key role, choice plays such a key role and then choosing I think to try things, right? Because a lot of times when you find people with a lack of purpose, there is also a lack of trying like what are the avenues of new things that you are exposing yourself to, to where you could actually I would say stumble into your purpose. You have to be in situations, right?
Bernie Stoltz: Right, now the other thing is like hunger, right? One of the examples I’ve given in lecture sometimes is take a look at a guy like Warren Buffett. One of the richest men on the planet and well into his 80s, probably close to 90 years old now and he’s still hungry. Not because he needs the money but he’s still got hunger and drive and passion for the companies that he and Berkshire Hathaway want to take a position in.
The hunger after a while, I just think if you’ve done it right for so long like Buffett has done, it’s just inbred into you. You remain hungry and I am in the same boat. I mean, I at this point have created this incredible life but it doesn’t mean that I am not still hungry to making a difference or to build something. You know building companies is just something that I’ve just always had a passion for because I appreciate business.
I talk about that in the book, too. I say, look, fall in love with business if that’s what you’re doing unless you just really have other reasons for not but I’ve always loved what a great built company and business can do. It can employ people, it can serve the community, it can be purposeful, it can really make a difference, right? Those are some of the things that have created my hunger, drive, and passion.
Benji Block: Was there a switch that kind of flipped in you from your 20s when you’re doing it and you’ve built up this fortune, this financial wealth, right? But there is not a ton of purpose may be behind it, what was — was there a light bulb moment that put you in a better direction?
Bernie Stoltz: Absolutely. I talk about it in the book and that is that it really goes back to my humble beginnings. I was born to two 19-year-old kids in the inner city of San Francisco, no money, no education. There was never a shortage of love but there was certainly a shortage of economy so to speak. One of the things that was drilled into my head at a very early age was, “Hey, if you are going to be happy then you have to go out and you need to make a lot of money so that you can do the things you want to do to be happy.”
Basically, it was having things led to doing things, which led to the ability to be happy and so I bought into that hook, line and sinker from the time I got out of school to about up to 30 years old, that’s what I did. I did whatever and I was good at making money but what I learned at about 30 years old that I wasn’t that happy and I wasn’t doing purposeful work. So what I did at about 30 years old is I created the exit strategies out of those first five endeavors.
I took about nine months off and said, “Look, if I could do anything for the rest of my life, what would that look like?” Which I think the sooner in your life that you can do that process, the better, and what I learned two big things at about 30 years old that flipped the switch as you say. Number one was that I believe that I was more than what I was currently living and what I mean by that is, is that instead of being into personal achievement, I made the whole shift to personal development.
There is a big difference between what you achieve and what you gather in life as opposed to who you become as a human being. I did a lot of personal development work and that led me to the second thing, which was to say, “Look, I’m good at making money but I am not doing purposeful work.” That shifted so that now, if you take a look at the syntax of those three words, I say you have to be first, then you get to do and then you can have anything you want in your life but you have to work on yourself.
It’s how you show up in this world first, being happy and being kind and being grateful. I had to be — I think, people look at me now and it is pretty easy for the cynical person to say, “Oh well of course you’re grateful now. Of course you’re happy now, of course everything is great. Look at all that you have and all that you’ve built in your companies” and this and that and I say, “Yeah, but you don’t understand. I had to be grateful when I didn’t have all that stuff.”
That’s what got me where I am today. So it’s about personal development first, it is about deciding you’re going to be happy and just being a good person first. That will lead to good things and I think it is also about something else I talk about in the book, which is the law of attraction, which is to say — Gandhi had a great quote, “Be the change you seek in the world.” What that means to me is, is whatever you send out is what’s going to come back to you and usually it comes back tenfold so I’ve used that to my benefit as well.
The Powerful “Why”
Benji Block: You hit on something there that I want to focus in on for a second as we start to wrap up. You basically make this conscious decision around 30 to start to create your life or design your life intentionally and you take time in the book to discuss that, how to create a life by design. As we start to wrap up, I thought it would be smart for us to hit on that real quickly.
If there is someone listening and they’re going, “I want to be more intentional with the life that I’m creating,” what’s an action step? What is something that people can practically do, Bernie, to start that journey and start to ask themselves questions on the type of life that they want to design?
Bernie Stoltz: Well I think, first of all, from a global perspective the whole book is kind of a how-to. I think anyone who wants to create that best life as the title of the book or wants to really have a life by design. I think you do follow the whole recipe or at least read the whole book but if I was to single out some things, I think first of all it starts with a little bit of visionering. Visionering like saying, “Look, if I wanted my life to be a certain way, what would that look like?”
I would use all six of those areas of my life to define those questions and then what I would also get clear about is, is there a powerful “why” behind why I wanted that way, you know? Why do you want to live in this particular city? Why do you want to have a wife and two kids or whatever that is for you? Why do you want this kind of career? Why would you want to start that business? I think there is an old adage and that is, reasons come first, answers come second.
If you have a powerful “why”, you’ll figure out how to do it but I think some visionering, some imaginering, and then once you know those powerful “whys”, then you set some goals — very, very laser-focused goals — and then what you also have to do is understand that it doesn’t change. Some of those goals are not attainable in a day, a week, a year. Some of them are ten-year goals, right?
I’m a big one on goal-setting workshops. I think the more you measure, the better it gets. So that would be kind of how I’d answer that, Benji.
Benji Block: Okay, give me one of your first big dreams that when you wrote it down or you set the goal, it kind of made you, I don’t know, goal pro big.
Bernie Stoltz: Yeah, well you know what? I mean, there is kind of two chapters to my life. There was the before 30 and then the after 30 to here and now. I set my first set of intentions and goals in place when I was 19 years old and you know it was pretty amazing because I set goals like the fact that I wanted — who is going to be the woman of my dreams and what would a family look like for me and I knew early on I wanted to be an entrepreneur.
I wanted to own or create some businesses. I knew I wanted certain things, materialistic things. I was much more impressionable on the materialistic side back at 19 or 20 years old but what it proved to me by setting those, I had every one of those intentions by the time I was 25 and it was almost like magic. It was like, “Wow, I found this magic formula” but you know what happens, and I think this happens to a lot of people is, then from the time I was 25 to the time I was about 30, I just kind of rested on my morals.
I think when you’ve got where you think you wanted to go, then you party more instead of pondering more and celebrating more and after. By the time I was 30, it was like, “Ah, you know is this all there is?” — and by the way, that’s a great question to ask too. So at 30 years old, I went right back and remembered what got me to where I was at 25 and I recreated and reimagined.
At 30 years old, I went through the same process again but much bigger bolder dreams now and ones that were much more geared toward purposeful living and personal development as well. So that’s kind of how that all unfolded and of course, nothing happens overnight. You know, you just have to work at things like a good stonecutter so to say.
Benji Block: Right, a lot in the end. Well, this has been a really insightful conversation. I’m excited for people to go check out the book but there are going to be those that would want to follow what you’re doing, the work and I think just even outside the book itself. Where can people stay connected to you, maybe, online?
Bernie Stoltz: Yeah. Well, first of all, my main company, fortunemgmt.com. My personal email address is [email protected]. I think, Fortune, our parent company, my parent company, is really the center of the universe and then there’s also information on all of the other companies that I currently city, there is chairman of the board or as a board member or founder or owner of. It’s all there in the book but I think if you want a good insight into me, go to our corporate website and of course, read the book.
I think there is a lot of good pearls there for anybody who is on the journey and that journey could be different for every human being.
Benji Block: For sure. Again, the book is titled, The Fortune Recipe: Essential Ingredients for Creating Your Best Life. Bernie, thank you so much for taking time and being with us here on Author Hour today.
Bernie Stoltz: It has been my pleasure. Good talking to you, stay well my friend. Mahalo.