A Journey into Personal Performance with Dr. Don Steele
Episode 1361st December 2023 • Total Michigan • Cliff Duvernois
00:00:00 00:25:51

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In this episode, host Cliff Duvernois interviews Dr. Don Steele as they explore his intriguing life journey. From Dr. Steele's important role in sports to his interactions with top-tier teams like the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers. They discuss thought processes and performance.

The discussion delves into the relationship between goal orientations, human behavior and high performance - all under the purview of psychological dynamics. Moreover, the conversation reveals Dr. Steele's unexpected knack for music and his thoughtful contribution to his community. All these and more make the Podcast-Radio Dr. Don Steele an absorbing discussion, uncovering the fascinating path to enhancing personal and professional success on multiple fronts.

Transcripts

Speaker:

Dr. Don Steele: But I ended up working

with the Seattle Seahawks, the Green

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Bay Packers, and teams like that.

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I never could have gotten there by

being an assistant coach, or coaching

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in high school, or coaching in college.

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My chances would have been zero.

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But teaching about how the thought

processes work, being a neck up coach,

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That's stuff they're really interested in.

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And they're not really versed in that.

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But, it took me to places I never

would have gotten, if I hadn't focused.

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Cliff Duvernois: Hello, everyone, and

welcome back to Total Michigan, where

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we interview ordinary Michiganders

doing some pretty extraordinary things.

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I'm your host, Cliff Duvernois.

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If you've been listening to the show for

any length of time, one of the things that

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I absolutely love to do is talk to these

people that seemingly come from nowhere,

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different socioeconomic backgrounds, and

yet they're going out there and they're

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achieving their version of success.

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And I was thrilled to actually come

across somebody in the state of

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Michigan who not only would be a high

performer himself But has actually

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worked with world class high performers.

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And we'll delve into that

when we get into his story.

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But ladies and gentlemen, please.

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Welcome to the show today's guest.

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Dr.

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Don Steele from the

Performance Learning Center.

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Don, how are you?

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Dr. Don Steele: I'm good.

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Thank you.

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Cliff Duvernois: Excellent.

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Why don't you tell us a little bit about

where you're from and where you grew up?

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Dr. Don Steele: I grew up here in Saginaw.

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And then left.

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I was superintendent of schools in

Saginaw, then went to Toledo, Ohio,

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as superintendent, then on to Seattle.

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And after Seattle, I

started my own business.

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I lived in Huntington Beach, California.

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Then Las Vegas, Nevada, and

then Scottsdale, Arizona.

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And I just came back

about three years ago.

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Thomas Wolfe, uh, released a book in 1940

that says you can never go home again.

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Uh, But I did come back home.

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And I found it to be, And,

it's been really, uh, a good.

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I met old friends, new friends.

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And we started doing things in this

area that, I think is a contribution

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to the community and satisfying to me.

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So I really, really enjoyed it.

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I truly believe that, um, if you don't

know where you came from and don't

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appreciate that, you're never going

to get where you really want to go.

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So it brought me back,

to my roots, so to speak.

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Cliff Duvernois: So let's talk a little

bit about your educational background,

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because you've obviously got a PhD.

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So talk to us, what'd you

get your bachelor's in?

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Dr. Don Steele: Bachelor's

is in psychology.

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Cliff Duvernois: Ok.

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And your masters?

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Dr. Don Steele: PhD?

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And philosophy.

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Psychology and education

are the two areas.

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Cliff Duvernois: Now why did you

decide to get into psychology?

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Dr. Don Steele: You know, uh, long story,

but I got in a fight in high school.

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Actually, yeah, my freshman year.

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And broke a guy's teeth.

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And so I had to either go to juvenile,

because his parents really came after me.

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Uh, or, uh, I could go to a psychologist.

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So I went to this psychologist.

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he told me so many things about myself.

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I, I thought he had talked to my parents.

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So when I went home, I said, why'd

you tell them all this stuff, and they

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said, we don't know who you went to.

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You know

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So I thought, you know, I called him

up and I said, who do I have to get

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in a fight with again to see you?

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I don't have any money.

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You know, And he said, no, come on in.

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So he became kind of a mentor to me.

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And I thought that's great to know how

the mind works and how people think.

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What a, what a wonderful

thing to go after.

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So that's what drove me.

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Cliff Duvernois: Now during this

time to as you're going into

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psychology and you've gotten your PhD.

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So why did you decide to take that

and now go into public education?

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Dr. Don Steele: Well, I was

teaching, uh, in Saginaw.

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I'd come off the road and I was teaching.

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I started out as a

traveling phys ed teacher.

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And it was simply, when I came off the

road, I had to have something to do.

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And I was always getting ready to leave.

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You know, I, I liked teaching.

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But I was thinking about

doing my own thing.

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And then they'd give,

they'd give me a promotion.

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uh, nine years after I started teaching

traveling phys ed, actually seven

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years, I think, I became superintendent

of schools in Saginaw, which was

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a surprise to all of my friends,

my parents, and everybody else.

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You know, being the moral,

intellectual leader of our youth

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wasn't what they projected for me.

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( Cliff Duvernois: and, uh, laugh 1987,

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Dr. Don Steele: So then I, then I

was, after I was superintendent in

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Saginaw, that went well, and I went

to Toledo, Ohio, and then to Seattle.

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So I, I followed that path a

lot longer than I intended to.

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Finally in 1987, I decided

to go out on my own.

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I always tell that I bought a desk

and credenza, set up my own office

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in my house, took me six months

to make my first sale, and that's

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when I sold my desk and Credenza.

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I didn't have any business.

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So I called the Pacific

Institute, Lou and Diane Tice,

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had started that, uh, business.

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And I'd spoken to them quite

often when I was superintendent.

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I'd go and talk to their staff and stuff.

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Lou Tice offered me a job.

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And I said, I really don't

want to work for anybody.

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I, I want to be in business for myself.

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But not by myself.

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So if I can have an office where

you are, I'll market your products

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or whatever you want me to do.

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But I would like to have my own business.

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He said, okay.

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So I, I did that.

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And then became vice president of

the Pacific Institute for a period of

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time and then started my own company.

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Cliff Duvernois: there's a, there's

so much here we've got to unpack.

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what is the Pacific Institute?

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Dr. Don Steele: The Pacific Institute was

started, 50 some years ago by Lou Tice.

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Uh, It's in the personal

empowerment business.

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And how thought processes work and stu

it was pretty, pretty basic at that time.

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Through the years we've

gathered a lot more information.

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I work with, uh, what's called the

Pacific Institute Community now, which

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is a spin off started by John McNeil.

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And including, uh, Denise Mills.

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And we have about a, over a hundred

companies that are involved with us.

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But it's a research organization,

a teaching organization, speaking

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organization, all around the thought

processes of high performance people.

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How the mind works to affect thought,

you know, your, your behavior,

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your emotions, uh, your success,

you know, that kind of stuff.

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So, it's been, it's led us into

working with people all over the

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world, very, very different domains.

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I mean, politics and, criminology

and, Microsoft and Ford Motor Company.

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I mean, big time, clients.

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and also small entrepreneurial

businesses and individuals who, want

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counseling for one reason or another.

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I worked with some of the movie stars

and athletes and people like that.

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That, Are always trying to learn.

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I find that the highest performing

people always want to learn more.

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people that are struggling, are more

reluctant to invest in, education.

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in psychological education

particularly, about how they think.

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And it's so important.

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research recently says 95 percent of

what we do is subconsciously controlled.

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That we really, the decisions we

make, the actions we take, the

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emotions we feel, are pretty much

driven by that subconscious picture.

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We take in information, from our senses,

we associate that with a subconscious

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picture that we have, our habits,

attitudes, beliefs, and expectations.

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Then we evaluate, is this moving

us towards something good or bad?

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And then we decide.

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That all happens in a millisecond.

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But it's a little process

that happens very quickly.

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We all think in exactly the same way.

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We don't hold the same thoughts.

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But that's the way we think.

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Whether it's negative

or positive is up to us.

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Whether it's good for us or not.

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So it's true for a high performer.

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And it's also true for

a person who's addicted.

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We used to think that the prefrontal

lobe of the cortex controlled

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our planning and our thinking.

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And it, it's very important.

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It distinguishes from chimpanzees

and those related most

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closely to the human beings.

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But, it really is our subconscious

that, that controls stuff.

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So my lifetime has been spent helping

people reframe their subconscious.

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Change the attitudes, beliefs, attitudes,

expectations that they have to help them

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move out of the rut they're in or whatever

and, and move forward more effectively.

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Cliff Duvernois: So just to go back

and draw a parallel what you're

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talking about here because I love

this topic, and it's something

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that's near and dear to my heart.

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Your musician side...

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And you were talking before

about winning this, this contract

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to be able to tour the U.

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S.

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But even since then, you've actually gone

on to play with world class musicians.

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Dr. Don Steele: Oh yeah.

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I did an album behind you.

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You can see the, the

albums with Willie Nelson.

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He's 90 years old, still traveling,

playing three, four nights a week.

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He's a study in how to live, how,

doing what you love to do most

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of the time gives you longevity.

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he's had a few health challenges along the

way, but, he's, he's going strong at 90.

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Tammy Wynette, she's the number two

singer of all time in country music.

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Did a wonderful album with her.

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I'd use that to, with Tammy Wynette,

we gave all the money to the

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Seattle School Scholarship Fund.

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And it raised tons of money.

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half a million dollars in,

in a short period of time.

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They're still giving scholarships.

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after all these years, in the Seattle

School District, based on that money that

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was raised and the interest it generates.

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Then with Willie Nelson, we dedicated

that money to the Catholic Charities

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Organization for street kids.

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Cliff Duvernois: Now what I find

interesting about this is that you're

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you're playing with these world class

performers Now you've gotten yourself

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involved with a business that helps

people to unlock that potential.

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Now was that something

that was just by design?

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Is that something that

you kind of stumbled into?

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Dr. Don Steele: It's by design.

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Release, unleashing your potential.

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It started way back in the institute days.

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And then I did some work a couple

years with Albert Bandura, Dr.

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Bandura out of Stanford, who

is the founder of, the father

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of self efficacy research.

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Self efficacy being the belief that

you can make good things happen no

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matter what the circumstance is.

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And that...

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It, change comes from me and

not from the outside world.

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Uh, Outside world can control some things.

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But most of it is controlled by

the way I think about things.

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Wonderful guy.

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He died at 96, about a year ago.

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But he was very, very helpful with

me in, in teaching others how to

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build a belief that they can achieve

athletic performance, get through a

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divorce, handle the death in a family.

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I'm on the suicide board here in Saginaw.

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The album I did a couple years ago

was for the Mustard Seed Shelter for

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Homeless Women and Their Children,

a wonderful organization in Saginaw.

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Amy Bartelserow does a killer

job of bringing people in.

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Sister Leona started it.

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Amy's been, when she was fifteen

or sixteen she was working there

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as a volunteer and ended up for

the last twenty years running it.

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Barb Smith from the Suicide Board

here in Saginaw does a great job,

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their whole organization does, the

board and the people that work in it.

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So, I found Saginaw to be a community

that's very alive with people

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that are helping other people.

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Like music, I want to contribute

to helping other people, like

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many others are doing already.

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so it's been, coming home

has been a really, really

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good, good experience for me.

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Cliff Duvernois: For our audience,

we're going to take a quick

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break and thank our sponsors.

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When we come back, we're going to

dive a lot more into this unlocking

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potential that we've been discussing.

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We'll see you after the break.

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Hello everyone, and welcome back to Total

Michigan, where we interview ordinary

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people doing extraordinary things.

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I'm your host, Cliff Duvernois.

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Today, we're actually dissecting

how ordinary people can do

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some extraordinary things.

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And as I said before, if you've listened

to the show for any length of time, I've

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had guests on here like Terry Duperon as

well as John Hall, people who seemingly

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had very different backgrounds, come

from very different situations that

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have achieved a high level of success.

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And you can definitely listen to

those interviews down in the links

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in the show notes down below.

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But why I picked out

those two is because Dr.

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Steele here has actually written

books about both of these

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people that are from Michigan.

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Don, let's take a step back here.

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Why write books like this?

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Dr. Don Steele: It was one, I had

no plan on moving back to Saginaw.

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And I was doing a consulting

contract with the Shepler family.

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That runs the Schelper

Mackinac Island ferry boats.

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And it was on succession planning.

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And that wasn't really my

emphasis in anything I did.

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But A friend of mine, Pat Doyle, said, he

introduced me to Bill and Chris Schepler

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and said, you know, they're struggling

with how to manage the dynamics of Bill

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stepping out and Chris taking over.

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So I went in, worked with

them for about a year.

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At the end of the year, I was

so impressed with what they had

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done 70 some years in business.

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fighting weather, politics,

competition, and surviving.

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So it was really a story

of surviving and advancing.

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At the end I said to Bill Shepler, or

Chris, I can't remember which one, I

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said, You should write a book about this.

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And, uh, you know, Chris

said, I can't write the book.

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But you could.

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And so, I wrote the book.

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That brought me back here,

to spend considerable time.

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The book sold really well,

primarily because they have good

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traffic going across, uh, every

summer, about 9, 000 people.

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So that book led to, uh,

Kim Norris called me.

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And she said, would you like

to write a book about my dad?

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I read the one about the Schepler family.

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And I, I'd like to write one about my dad.

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So I said, who's your dad?

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And she said, John Hall.

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I went to school with John.

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And John's the founder of Glastender.

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And he was the James Dean of our class.

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Uh, you know, he wasn't into sports.

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He wasn't into music.

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He was really good at art.

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I didn't know at the time,

but very good at art.

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And he was always working

on cars and bikes.

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He had a bicycle with

a steering wheel on it.

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How do you do that, you know?

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And he had a car, and

he was sanding a car.

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And he bought a car when he was like 13.

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He couldn't drive it up

and down the driveway.

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I wrote his book.

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And then another daughter, Tammy Bernier.

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I was having lunch with her.

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I'd given a speech to the

Women in Leadership group.

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And she said, my dad's

sitting right over there.

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She said he'd make a good story.

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So that led to Terry Duperon's story.

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c And then the It Factor book is

the one I'm writing right now.

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That's one chapter about people.

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each individual that we think has,

others assess them as having it.

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Whatever it is.

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They can sing well.

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They're really good in

business, or whatever.

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we, we balance off how,

why are they called it?

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Is it because of the

positivity of mindset?

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Is it because of the, engagement

that they have with people?

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The connectedness?

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Is it because of

relationships that they have?

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Is it because of achievement?

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and then each person we interview that.

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And we interview people that know them

will rate them in those areas and say,

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well, this person's really high in

engagement or super in achievement.

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They've got a signature

achievement that's pretty amazing.

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Cliff Duvernois: This gives you

almost a front row seat to figure

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out how these people achieved

what they did in their life.

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And I say that because, having

them on the show, all of them

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came from very modest means.

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Nobody was born with a 10 million

sitting in a checking account

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for them to just randomly go out.

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literally starting with nothing.

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But yet being able to build something.

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So you were mentioning before about

writing this book about the It Factor.

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Is that where that came from?

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Dr. Don Steele: Yeah.

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It came from there.

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all of the books that I've written, it

really come from the fact that as human

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beings, we have a teleological nature.

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What that means is we're at our best when

we have a clear goal or a clear problem.

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Now, Terry had this dream, you

know, of becoming a, an inventor.

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Even though he couldn't read and write.

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But that dream, that's teleological.

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He was drawn to that dream.

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And we have what we call the

reticular activating system.

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That when you have a goal or a dream,

that allows, it filters out information

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that's critically important to you,

or of value to you, or, or a threat.

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simply say you're walking down the

street sidewalk with your wife or

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whatever, you're oblivious to traffic.

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But as soon as you turn to go across

the street, That reticular kicks in.

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Mom and dad sleeping in bed.

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And, uh, baby coughs or cries.

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Mom's up taking care of the baby.

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Why didn't dad get up?

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Well, he knew she would.

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You can turn it on or turn it off.

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the thought process that they share, many

of them are very, very, they're oriented

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early on to what they really want to do.

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Cliff Duvernois: So let me ask

you this question because I've

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had so many people on the show.

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And so many of them have

achieved their level of success.

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You were talking before about how

they had a very clear picture in mind.

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And I'm thinking about two recent

guests that I had on the show, Cathy

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Howell as well as Deborah Tacoma.

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Neither one of them had a very

clear image in their mind.

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Like when, when Cathy was wanting to

start the Wicked Sister, her restaurant.

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Or when Deborah was creating,

um, the Freedom Wand.

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They didn't have a clear picture in

their mind of what success would be.

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But they achieved it anyways.

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They felt that pull forward.

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To keep moving and to achieve something.

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And then when they finally arrived

at their, destination, they're

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like, wow, this is pretty cool.

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is there some kind of a correlation

between the amount of success

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somebody can achieve, in relation to

how clearly they see their goal or

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outcome, or is that even a factor?

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Dr. Don Steele: Yeah, I think the

end result drives, you know, you, you

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talked about the lady who invented

the, um, the Freedom Wand, she said,

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if this is good for me, my goodness,

she had this picture, this thought.

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Other people could use this.

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And it's terrible for me

to just use it by myself.

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Usually there's a generativic,

something that goes in, in, into play,

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that this could help other people.

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that's, that's a living example of once.

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Once it becomes clear, you know,

like Terry thought about being an

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entrepreneur, I mean, an inventor

when he was in the third grade.

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That's not normal.

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it's, it's, it's more natural to think of

it when you're doing something and all of

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a sudden you see this opportunity arise.

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For me, when I was coached by

that psychologist, I mean, I

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hadn't thought about that at all.

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But all of a sudden I wanted

to know how people tick.

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You know, what makes them tick.

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How can you be, I used it at

the time in sports, mostly.

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But, my mother always bought the,

uh, world book encyclopedias.

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there's several book

series that she bought.

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But they're all, they're

all, you know, Aristotle and

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Socrates and all these things.

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So I was reading that stuff when I was

really young about the same time that

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I was, meeting with a psychologist.

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So, the seed was planted that,

there's a lot we can know about

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ourselves and about others.

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If we study what's out there and

what the scientists are finding

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and the researchers are finding.

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I just decided that I wanted to

dedicate my life really to helping

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others as well as myself um, achieve

higher levels of performance.

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But I ended up working with the

Seattle Seahawks, the Green Bay

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:

Packers, and teams like that.

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I never could have gotten there by

being an assistant coach, or coaching

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in high school, or coaching in college.

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My chances would have been zero.

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But teaching about how the thought

processes work, being a neck up coach,

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And that's the way I describe it to them.

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Kind of the coach of the coaches.

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That's stuff they're really interested in.

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And they're not really versed in that.

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They know the X's and O's, but they

don't know the thought processes.

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Some do.

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Pete Carroll's really deep in it.

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And so are some others now.

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But, it took me to places I never

would have gotten, if I hadn't focused.

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And I'm encouraging

others to find something.

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People who retire, they

flatten out so often.

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They just flatten out because

they lose their purpose.

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A husband and wife have

been married 40 years.

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One dies, the other

one dies within a year.

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You know, they, they lose

that, purpose in life.

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And we're teleological.

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We need a purpose.

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:

We need a problem.

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:

So whenever I have a problem, I

say, Thank God, the only place where

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there are no problems is a graveyard.

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:

You know, they have no problems.

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:

Cliff Duvernois: So before we get

to the graveyard let me ask you

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this you made this comment earlier,

and I loved it, when you talk about

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:

being a coach from the neck up.

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I know their's a lot of people who

are listening to this and they're

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thinking they want do something But

maybe they feel like they're holding

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:

back, or they're always sitting there

saying, you know, Why is it every time

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:

that I start, I face a certain level

of resistance, or whatever it is?

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:

What would be like, one key piece of

advice that you would give people that

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:

could really help them to turn on that

internal performer that everybody has?

449

:

Dr. Don Steele: Get help.

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:

You know, I mean, talk to,

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Cliff Duvernois: do you mean, when

you say get help, what does that mean?

452

:

Dr. Don Steele: Talk to

talk to a psychologist.

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Talk to a coach.

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Talk to somebody that you

have faith in that you know

455

:

that they have their interest.

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:

Your interest in mind.

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:

Because when we're on our own, we drift.

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:

we either live a life of

drift or a life of design.

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And the coaching that I do is all

about shifting from drift to design,

460

:

shifting from purposelessness to

purpose, teleological versus, uh, drift.

461

:

And so, you'll be surprised.

462

:

when I say I worked with Sylvester

Stallone, People say, well, then

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:

you're too expensive to work with me.

464

:

It, it, Money's not all,

not what it's about for me.

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:

if a person needs help, like the Mustard

Sheet Shelter, I mean, people like that.

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:

I just love.

467

:

And, and I, most, most people

that are in this profession of

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:

helping people, it's not the money.

469

:

It's nice to make money.

470

:

It makes life easier.

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:

But money's just a lubricant

that allows you to slide

472

:

through life with less friction.

473

:

But it doesn't solve problems.

474

:

If you look at some of the problems the

wealthy have, it's just a different set.

475

:

Well, they can call here, and,

and we'll set them on a good path.

476

:

The Pacific Institute community is

a great resource, like when, uh, the

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:

Achieving Balanced Well Being program

was put together by the Pacific Institute

478

:

community and I was engaged in that.

479

:

that program is, uh, designed as a self

paced learning program where you don't

480

:

have to, you can watch it all on your

phone or you can watch it on TV, but

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:

there's Follow up, programs where a

group of people will be on every Friday,

482

:

where a group of people will be on and

they'll talk about concepts like the

483

:

reticular activating system or comfort

zones or self efficacy and they'll

484

:

all talk and you'll, you'll probably

have 40, 50 people on the phone call.

485

:

And they can join those things,

in, in investing in the achieving

486

:

balanced well being is not a big cost.

487

:

You know, we made it available

at a very reasonable cost.

488

:

Businesses pay like 3.

489

:

99, but we can do individuals as

low as 99 for the whole program.

490

:

it's a marvelous, it's a well

done, well put together program.

491

:

It was done during COVID because

people were isolated on their own and

492

:

weren't having a very balanced life.

493

:

now we're still using it, but we're

gonna re, we're gonna do a new version.

494

:

I think we're going to be able to

move forward pretty quickly because

495

:

the COVID thing is past us now.

496

:

But, at least hopefully it is.

497

:

Yeah.

498

:

So, uh, we're going to work on, we

love sharing this information and

499

:

we're not trying to sell it to,

just to General Motors and Chrysler.

500

:

We want to make it available

to educators, in schools.

501

:

And I was in school

business for a long time.

502

:

We spent a lot of time

teaching people what to think.

503

:

But we don't teach them how to think.

504

:

And, and that's critical.

505

:

I, I thought 25 years ago that I'd

probably be out of this business because

506

:

the schools would be teaching it.

507

:

It's not genius.

508

:

You know, you can learn it.

509

:

You can teach it.

510

:

And, but they don't.

511

:

It's still brand new.

512

:

when you go out and talk to

people, it's brand new information

513

:

because they just don't get it.

514

:

I'm teaching all, at Saginaw

Valley State University, I'm

515

:

teaching graduating seniors.

516

:

It's the first time they've had this

kind of stuff in almost all cases.

517

:

Every now and then they've been exposed

to it some way, but not most of the time.

518

:

The athletes really gravitate to my

class because the music people, the

519

:

people are in the performing arts.

520

:

But just the regular people,

how do you do an interview?

521

:

visualize yourself being successful.

522

:

See yourself shaking hands with

the person afterwards and offering

523

:

you a job, It's, it's so much

better than our normal thought.

524

:

We have a negative bias built into us.

525

:

Uh, if your boss says, I

want to talk to you today.

526

:

it's why, why, yeah, it's

always what did I do wrong?

527

:

And even if the boss says, you

know, I think you're really doing

528

:

a good job, but the really good job

just goes and what's the but about?

529

:

So I explained to people that that's,

that's, we have to control our own minds,

530

:

our own thoughts, our own thoughts control

531

:

us.

532

:

it's much better to control your thoughts

than be controlled by your thoughts.

533

:

Cliff Duvernois: Don, thank you so much

for taking time to be on the show today.

534

:

We really appreciate it.

535

:

And for our audience, you can always

roll on over to TotalMichigan.

536

:

com, click on Don's interview.

537

:

And get the aforementioned

links that he mentioned before.

538

:

We'll see you next time when we

talk to another Michigander doing

539

:

some pretty extraordinary things.

540

:

We'll see you then.

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