L3 Leadership Podcast Transcriptions: How to Overcome Tragedy and Failure with Dr. Leslie Braksick

By April 11, 2018Transcripts

Please enjoy this transcript of this episode with Dr. Leslie Braksick, Co-Founder of My Next Season.  It was transcribed and therefore might contain a few typos. For ways to connect with Leslie, the notes, and for links to everything discussed, check out our show notes.

Dr. Braksick: 00:00 Everyone has a pile that they are just trying to navigate through to get through the day. And if you treat people with that belief then you treat them differently and you will, you may never know what that pile is in their life and you don’t need to know it’s not your business, but if you treat them as though they have it, then you really treat people better.

Doug Smith: 00:22 This is the L3 Leadership podcast, episode number 190.

00:27 This is the L3 Leadership podcast and a now here is your host Doug Smith.

Doug Smith: 00:40 What’s up everyone? And welcome to another episode of the L3 Leadership Podcast. My name is Doug Smith and I am your host. And this episode you’ll hear part two of my interview with Doctor Leslie Braksick. If you’re unfamiliar with Dr. Braksick, let me just tell you a little bit about her. She is co-founder and managing partner of My Next Season, a company whose mission is to provide a bridge for retiring executives to transition from corporate careers oriented around productivity to a life season anchored in purpose. Professionally. Leslie is a veteran CEO coach and which are work often involves preparing EVP for csuite succession, including coaching them during their early years at the helm. Her coaching clients have included senior-most executives at General Electric, Bell Atlantic, Exxon Mobil, Heinz and many others. She’s an entrepreneur, a consultant and author and educator, keynote speaker, and a board member and an on a personal level.

Doug Smith: 01:31 She is a wife, a mother, a community leader, and a philanthropist. And this episode you’re going to get to hear us talk about overcoming tragedy. She shares a very vulnerable story and I think that you’ll just learn a lot from what she learned through going through that. You’ll hear her talk about her thoughts on faith and money and of course, we walk her through our lightning round questions. I, which I know that you’ll love her answers to all of those. And again, I just want to encourage you, if you’ve not listened to part one of our interview, I encourage you to go back in episode 189 and listened to that. And that episode specifically, you’ll hear Dr. Braksick talk about executive leadership, sales succession and so much more. Again, you can go back and listen to that in episode number 189 but before we dive into the interview, I just want to thank our sponsor, Alex Tulandin. Alex is a full-time realtor with Keller Williams Realty and if you’re looking to buy or sell a house in the Pittsburgh market, Alex is your guy. He is a member and a supporter of L3 Leadership and he would love the opportunity to connect with you. If you’d like to learn more about Alex, go to Pittsburgh property showcase.com with that being said, let’s dive right into the interview with Dr. Braksick and I’ll be back at the end with a few announcements

Doug Smith: 02:42 I would love to talk to leaders about is just some money, especially from a young leader’s perspective. Yeah. I’m just curious over the course, both personally and professionally, what if of your journey, what have you learned about money?

Dr. Braksick: 02:53 I’ve learned a lot about money. It’s a funny thing. So my first job was a hundred percent commission. I had no guaranteed income. I had no health benefits, I had nothing. And my newly acquired husband was in graduate school. So we had, although he had paid a teaching assistantship, you know, we had bills, we were going to have bills quickly and I was a hundred percent commission. So if I didn’t work, I didn’t get paid. But I, and it wasn’t sales commission, it was work like billing my time. So, you know, I, I was, I did well. I was successful at it, a very successful at it gave us enough money to then be able to buy a house and then buying that house allowed us when we moved to Pittsburgh to have a down payment to buy, you know, a more expensive house.

Dr. Braksick: 03:45 And so I, I sort of, my relationship with money has always been one of, work hard, save, you know, work hard, earn, save, you know, I consider myself a mild investor. I do, we do some investments, but it’s not a huge focus, you know, of what we do in terms of stocks and bonds and such. But clearly money enables you to do things you really want to do. And so I’ve always tried to work hard so that I had enough that I could do the things I want to do it, which in my case is giving back, we give away a lot of money. We, I’d love to do that. And nothing brings me greater joy to be truthful. And so whether it’s scholarshipping donating money for scholarships or helping something be built that I think is important or, helping a problem be solved or, you know, helping underserved people get a leg up or have a way to achieve a dream or a vision, you know, that’s what we’re kind of about as a family.

Dr. Braksick: 04:47 So we, I want to always make a good amount of money, but frankly, cause I, I like to give it away. I don’t drive a fancy car. And I mean, I live in a beautiful home and, but I, I don’t, I’m not big on stuff. I’m more, I love to give money away to things that I care about.

Doug Smith: I know you said work harder and save. Any other advice that you would give your kids, I guess your kids are starting off their lives, but, what advice do you have for them when it comes to money?

Dr. Braksick: Well, I, the same. I think you have to live within your means. I think the biggest thing is living within your means. And we, you know, I started out in a little cottage in the woods, you know, that, that had more critters than I care to, but it was what we could afford at the time.

Dr. Braksick: 05:31 And, you know, we used to laugh about it, had spiders. I hate spiders. Like it just, you know, it was not a place that I loved, but it was a place we could afford. And so we have always lived within our means. And, about, I’ll tell you a story. We had, you know, my, I have two children and I had a child in between them, who was very sick and she spent her life at Children’s Hospital and eventually she passed away. And they came a point in time where we thought she, well we thought she was gonna live and recover from her surgeries for most of her life. And there was a time where we were, it became clear we were going to be bringing her home and she might still have a feeding tube and she might have some other complications.

Dr. Braksick: 06:14 And I never left the hospital for those 32 days that she was in there. I never physically left. My husband brought our son out to visit me at the hospital and, I there and I was journaling. I was a behavioral scientist. I kept thinking I could help solve her problems. I became very engrossed in the whole, helping her. And when we realized that we were going to bring her home, my husband, who was the stay at home dad thought it was overwhelmed and a little intimidated by, the medical complexities of her condition where I was very drawn to it. I felt very comfortable with it. And my father was a doctor, my mother was a nurse. I dunno, I just felt comfortable among that complicated. So we had the very explicit conversation that we were going to switch.

Dr. Braksick: 07:03 So he was going to teach cause he was teaching English College English when he stopped working to be a stay at home dad and I was going to be the caregiver at home and I said, you know, we’ll just, we’ll sell our house, we’ll downsize to our house, we can downsize to one car. And we had sort of a very distinct plan of simplification, which really was giving up a lot of what we had come to know and enjoy. But there was no stress associated with that. It was almost excitement because we could solve for that and we knew that I would be the better at home parent caring for her, cause I wasn’t intimidated so much by it. And he would not be able to bring in the same income as a professor of English as I could as a business consultant. So we had reached, you know, we figured that out and we’re prepared to execute that plan and you know, we, never had the opportunity to execute that plan. But I think the key is to always don’t fall in love with your stuff, you know, and live within your means and strive to, to do well enough so that you can help others too. That’s sort of been how we’ve looked at it.

Doug Smith: 08:12 Yeah. Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing that experience as well. I also know, you’re a person of faith and I would assume you were during that time as well. What role does faith play in your life? And then even in the workplace, again, you’re going to executive suites and a lot of these big companies, I mean, is it really like don’t ever bring up anything about that or do you find the opposite and I’m just curious.

Dr. Braksick: 08:34 Well, my faith, I’ll give you the short version of my faith journey because I think it might be helpful. So my father’s Jewish, my mother was Catholic, so I was very well educated religiously. And we had a menorah on the mantle on a Hanukkah Bush or a Christmas tree in the corner. We attended both the synagogue and the church growing up. And so I felt very well educated as long as we stayed in the Old Testament, you know, things weren’t good. And, um, and I went to a Catholic university. I was part of the campus ministry team there. So I went to church every Sunday. So, but I will tell you that when faced with the death of a child, I realized that I had a lot of education and not a lot of faith. I was, really, I didn’t have what I needed to help me through that and to sustain me.

Dr. Braksick: 09:29 And, the thought that she would be six feet under and cold dirt and that was all there was for her was overwhelming to me and unbearable. And I immersed myself in scripture. And, I became baptized as a Presbyterian when my next child was baptized. So after our daughter, Sidney passed away and our daughter Madeline was born then our son, Austin and I and Madeline were baptized on the same day in the Presbyterian church. And I would say now, and from that point on, faith is my rock. It’s my center. It is my fuel. Our church has played a huge role in my children’s lives and faith is a huge component of their life. And I know even when my son was contemplating marriage, he’s not married and expecting their first child. You know, he would, I don’t know if he would have married a woman who wasn’t strong in her faith, you know, cause it’s such a huge part of who he is and we are so, but I really credit my daughter Sydney, for that, you know, stirring in me that intense, you know, journey.

Dr. Braksick: 10:43 My husband was baptized, he was raised in United Church of Christ, so he was very involved in the church growing up. But, but I, wasn’t in the same way. So now I would say my faith is everything.

Doug Smith: I’m just curious, can you facing something as hard as what you’ve had to go through, maybe they’re going through right now is the loss of a child or something else. What would your judgment to be B to them in this season that they’re going to?

Dr. Braksick: Well, for me it just helps to know that other people had walked in my shoes. So I was very, I got, there was a, a really a group of us with children in the intensive care unit at Children’s hospital. We used to meet at midnight in the waiting room. And we prayed together for each of our children. And it was so helpful to me that, they were going through the same thing.

Dr. Braksick: 11:32 And so whether it’s, finding that support group or, or people in the community or for me through books. So I read, When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Rabbi Cushner in that book, that was the first book that helped me after her death and he lost a child. And so you kind of, where is God, where is God when bad things happen? And that was sort of my big question, like, but she not worthy of being saved or, you know, what, why, what happened there and you know, to, when I read that and to imagine what God was weeping alongside me for this, you know, it was helpful to me. And then I next read The Bereaved Parent and that was written and it was written by a bereaved parent and that was really helpful. And then a book called, A Broken Heart Still Beats was a collection of stories by parents who had lost children and who found joy in life after that. So for me, it’s finding people who have walked that journey who, so you know, they understand that raw pain, whatever the pain is, divorce, illness, death, anything that’s just, it’s so helpful to know that you’re not alone. And that’s what was most helpful to me.

Doug Smith: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for sharing that.

Dr. Braksick: Yeah.

Doug Smith: 12:54 On a more lighthearted note, I want to dive into what I call the lightning round. So just a bunch of fun questions for leaders that I love to ask. So first one would just be, what is one belief or behavior that’s changed your life?

Dr. Braksick: 13:07 Well, it’s related to the story I just shared. It’s that everyone has a pile that they are just trying to navigate through to get through the day. And if you treat people with that belief, then you treat them differently. And you will, you may never know what that pile is in their life. And you don’t need to know it’s not your business, but if you treat them as though they have it, then, you really treat people better. And I think, I, I learned that when I had my pile and felt like a little bit of an imposter trying to be out there running a company and helping executives when I was grieving and sad. And I thought most people didn’t know I had a thing. I had a pile. Right? And, and, those that did were so helpful to me. So I try always to be the person who thinks everyone has their pile. So treat them with that degree of kindness.

Doug Smith: 14:07 What is one a quote that you would put on a billboard for everyone to read?

Dr. Braksick: 14:12 Actively care. I guess what I would say, you know, it’s easy to say you care, you know, but it’s another thing to actively care. Actively care means you do the uncomfortable, the awkward to help a person, you know, if a coworker isn’t wearing their protective buy equipment when they’re operating a piece of equipment, you think you should really do that. You know, you’re going to whatever. And then you let them operate the equipment without it, you know, then you care about them but you’re not actively caring, actively caring would go grab them and say, dude, put this on. I don’t want you to lose an eye. You know, it would be intervening in an uncomfortable way to help a person to really, really help them. So I would just say actively care.

Doug Smith: 14:57 What’s the best purchase you’ve made in the last year for $100 or less?

Dr. Braksick: 15:02 It would be this awesome cable that I have for my iPhone. It’s like

Dr. Braksick: 15:07 six feet long.

Doug Smith: I’ve been doing this question for this year and literally everything’s related to an iPhone somehow.

Dr. Braksick: Oh really?

Doug Smith: I’m sorry, I’m just laughing to myself.

Dr. Braksick: 15:15 Yeah, well I was thinking under a hundred dollars you know, it’s, it, it plugs in my plug it behind my bed is so far from like my nightstand. And so it’s just this long cord that I can, then I just keep it at my permanently at my bedside, so I don’t have to like, I can just plug it in when I go to bed or, you know, it’s just so handy. So that’s probably my greatest purchase I think. Yeah.

Doug Smith: 15:44 I’m curious, other than your own books, what books do you find yourself giving away most often?

Dr. Braksick: 15:50 You know, I love, I love stories about people, no surprise. So, you know, I just finished Kate Bowls book. Everything Happens For A Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved. You know, or When Breath Becomes Air, you know, I, I just love stories about human humans on a journey and what they’re experiencing. So I think those are some, probably of my favorites. They’re inspiring to me. People’s perseverance and grit under adversity, you know, I find great inspiration from that.

Doug Smith: Yeah. Are you, are you a podcast listener?

Dr. Braksick: I am.

Doug Smith: Okay. Yeah. What are your top two favorite podcasts listen to you right now?

Dr. Braksick: Oh Gosh. Right now. Well, I haven’t been listening to any of them, most absolute recent, but you know, I love, I, I love listening to one. Some I listened to a lot of the CEO, you know, podcasts. And that I love things like Oprah has, you know, my, and she’ll lose her interview with Maya Angelou to me, but the Oprah, what’s it called?

Doug Smith: I’ll include the link to it in the show notes. I know what you’re talking about.

Dr. Braksick: Yeah. I love the one that Maya Angelou one is just particularly inspiring to me. Yeah.

Doug Smith: Do you have a favorite failure that eventually led to success for you?

Dr. Braksick: 17:18 Oh, I’ve had a lot of failures. I would say,

Dr. Braksick: 17:25 you know, it’s, I don’t know if it would constitute this exactly, but I was accused of doing something that I didn’t do and I is a leader. So, I had sold my company for, you know, set price and cash in the business and we were to keep the receivables in the business and the people that we sold the company to came back six months later and said, you intervened with these two companies overseas so that they wouldn’t pay you until after we took over your company and therefore you’re going to write us a check for that amount, 1.2 million. I’m like, I freaking kidding me. Like first of all, I would get kicked from here to the moon if I even tried. Like these are two of the fortune 10 companies. Like I’m a pimple on the butt of an elephant to them.

Dr. Braksick: 18:23 Like they wouldn’t care about me if I ever tried to do something illegal, which is what I was being accused of. You know what I mean? So first of all, it was so ridiculous. And secondly, I mean, I wouldn’t have done it, but I mean, I like, it was ridiculous. So I tore it up and I ignored it. And then a thicker envelope was delivered to me and certified mail with the accusation and that they were taking me, to, you know, to court over this to a mediator. And so I’m like, oh, he’s serious. I really have to deal with this. Like honestly. So the bottom line was that they were very successful in convincing, they turned the tables with this mediator so that they convinced the mediator that they were the victim of this big corporation. So not me, I was like the middle person, but that this, these two big companies that were overseas delayed payment so that they wouldn’t get it.

Dr. Braksick: 19:16 And so the judge was, was, you know, rendering a verdict that I needed to pay that amount of money or that we basically reached a settlement was nearly that amount of money. And it took about a year of my time. It took about three years off my life. The money was multiplied, there was the check I eventually had to write anyway. There were the legal fees I had to pay. There was the stress, the last night’s sleep I developed, I mean I could feel high blood pressure. I was stressed from tire year mainly because I was being accused of something that I would never do. But I learned from that that you know that it’s not always a game of right or wrong. It’s what people can prove. I know that sounds very cynical, but I was just kind of young in my interpretation of what was happening and I think had I gone to talk to those people and try to engage in conversation with them and discuss it and I think an older person, would have approached it differently and I now approach life differently as a result of that failure.

Dr. Braksick: 20:31 I’ve viewed that as a huge failure of mine as a leader, as a decision maker on so many levels. Not because I didn’t, I really didn’t do what I was being accused of, but I really didn’t handle it in the way that was in the best interest my company, because they, in effect, lost me for that is it is a really focused leader for a period of time and my family paid a price. I prayed a paid a price. And so I view that as a failure and now I approached things differently.

Doug Smith: At this point in your life, what is the greatest, most worthwhile investment of your time and money right now?

Dr. Braksick: Oh, my children. Yeah. Or young people in general. I love young people. I love, I love young people. I love helping them. I just love their company and I, I love the energy I get from them and I love being able to give back in any way I can to them.

Doug Smith: 21:27 Do you have any unusual habits and be successful and usual habits?

Dr. Braksick: Well, I meet a lot of people and, and when you meet people, if you get to know them, there’s a lot of details that they’ll share. So I keep notes on every person in my little outlook note section. So, when I learned the dog’s name or that the mother-in-laws suffering cancer or that they’re getting ready to move their, that their daughters at Denison and studying sociology, I make a note of that so that when I reconnect or speak with him, because I meet hundreds of people, I’m reminded of the details so that I can, cause I care about it and I want to remember them, but I don’t always remember them. So I keep very detailed notes, like of quirky things like that, that allow me to stay connected with people. Even when I have long lapses of time between connections.

Doug Smith: 22:25 Amazing, I need to do that better. You can go back and have coffee with a 20-year-old Leslie, what would you tell her?

Dr. Braksick: I would tell her to, I wouldn’t change a lot, you know, I would just say love life. And don’t, don’t skip to the finish line. Just, you know, love every part of it. I think probably the thing I would change the most are, I would tell her is, when you’re playing with Thomas the Tank Engine Trains on the Brio train set, really focused on the trains. Don’t use that as an activity while you’re trying to solve your client’s problem that’s keeping you up at night. Just focus on the trains and the magic of your son’s blue eyes and curly blonde hair. So that you remember it clearly. I think my biggest regret is, you know, it’s stressful to lead and grow a business. And when you’re a mom of young kids and you know, you’re, and plus I think with the added complexity of having lost a child, you know, you, are under a lot of stress and strain. But I wished I have. I wish I had richer memories of specifics than, than what I do because I think my mind was oftentimes elsewhere even though I was physically present. So that’s what I would

Dr. Braksick: 23:46 change.

Doug Smith: That’s good. So you talked about don’t just skip to the finish line, but one day you will make it to your finish line. And I’m curious when you do, what do you want to be remembered for? What, what do you hope that your kids and friends and employees would say about you at your funeral?

Dr. Braksick: 24:00 That she was generous. She was generous with their time, with her heart, with her spirit, with her money, with her love. You know, she was generous. She plowed it to the fence, you know, she, did everything she could and in the category, she was asked to or, had opportunity to, and that she, she was brought a spirit of generosity and encouraged to others, modeled by, you know, modeled with actions. But I think that’s what I would want people to say.

Doug Smith: 24:31 And if people are listening to this and they fell in love with you, which I’m sure they did that this, how can people connect with you and what you’re doing and is there anything that you’re excited about that you want to share?

Dr. Braksick: 24:41 So many things. Yeah. Leslie.Braksick@mynextseaon.com is my address. I have a personal website that just is more of personal history. That’s LeslieBraksick.com if people want to look at articles or books or any more details, there’s more there than anybody could want. But that’s, yeah. You know, I, I think I’m really focused right now in the whole area of transitions. We just launched a new offering around career transitions, helping young people to really, we were finding a lot of people in the age group that, that you’re tied into most are finding themselves in careers that they’re finding themselves unfulfilled, not really sure if that’s God’s calling for them. So we have recently launched a new line of offering as part of my Next Season that’s on career transitions. So we help people to discern and to figure that out and then to take specific action steps.

Dr. Braksick: 25:40 So we’re excited about that. And yeah, I mean, this whole area of transitions I think is a real one for all of us. Whether you’re a professional athlete, you know, that has to adjust to life after sports or I’m a stay at home mom who’s last child, you know, it goes away to college and you look up and say, wow, I’m an empty nester. What am I going to do next? Or I’m an executive that’s, transitioning out of a big role. All of us face these life transitions, aging parents, you know, aging people who no longer can be self sufficient. There are just all kinds of transitions and I think there are ways we can all make it gentler and easier. So that’s really what I’m dedicating this, this part of my life to studying and being helpful with.

Doug Smith: 26:24 Anything else you want to leave our audience with today?

Dr. Braksick: 26:26 No. Just stay optimistic. I would just, my main advice to young people is just ask, make yourself known to people, introduce yourself to people, email. You know, I think if there’s one disservice that we’ve, this current generation has, is the informality with which you can get to know somebody through a LinkedIn or listening to a podcast. You kind of feel like you get to know people breeds an informality in how they sometimes approach them and, and if they, and then they, they miss the opportunity to really get what they want from them, you know, so if you want to meet somebody, you can meet them by, communicating with them properly. I mean, my daughter, when she was seven, wrote a letter to Madeline Albright. She was named, her name is Madeline. So she wrote a letter to Madeline Albright and Madeline Albright sent back the handwritten card, a photograph, one of her pins, you know, to our daughter Madeline later, a book about her that was published about her pins.

Dr. Braksick: 27:39 And, it’s the greatest thing. We have it framed outside our daughters. And she wrote in there her last sentence of her card to my daughter Madeline. You know, she praised her cause Maddie told her how great she was doing in math and science. I don’t remember exactly what she put in a letter, but Madeline Albright wrote, and remember that sometimes you just need to interrupt to make sure your voice gets heard. Love Madeline. That was the that was the letter, the card. That was her lessons. It’s not the greatest.

Doug Smith: Yeah.

Dr. Braksick: And so, you know, but she, she just wrote her and, and, and then when she came to Pittsburgh, Maddie met her. She, they met, they had a little dinner together before she presented as in Downtown.

Doug Smith: Yeah.

Dr. Braksick: Right, so I just think, but if you do it with thought, right, it’s not a casual, it’s not a form letter. Do you know what I mean? It’s a personalized connection that says, I’ve been reading about you or I’m interested in, or I would like the opportunity to speak with you or I just want to share. I think people can get to people that they wouldn’t think they could by doing a personal connection, so that would be my message.

Doug Smith: Well thank you for responding to my ask, doing this interview, I really appreciate it.

Dr. Braksick: 28:51 Likewise. Yeah. Thank you.

Doug Smith: 28:57 Thank you so much for listening to our interview with Dr. Leslie Braksick. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. You can find ways to connect with her and links to everything that we discussed in the show notes at L3leadership.org/190 if you haven’t already, I encourage you to go back and listen to part one of our interview in episode 189 it is full of phenomenal content from Dr. Braksick, so make sure you check that out as well and is always a few enjoyed the podcast. It would mean the world to me if you would subscribe and leave a rating and review and share this on social media that helps us grow our audience and we really do appreciate that. And thanks as always for being a listener. I never take one of you for granted. I want to thank our sponsor, Henne Jewelers.

Doug Smith: 29:36 They’re a jeweler, owned by my friend and mentor, John Henne, my wife Laura and I got our engagement and rings through Henne jewelers and we just think they’re an incredible company. Not only do they have great jewelry, but they also invest in people, in fact, they give every engaged couple a book to help them prepare for their marriage. And Lara and I just love that. And so if you’re in need of a good jeweler, check out Hennejewelers.com if you want to stay up to date with everything we’re doing here at l three leadership, you can simply go to our website at L3leadership.org and sign up for our email list and you’ll stay up to date with everything that we’re doing. And as always, I like to end with a quote, and I will quote Dave Ramsey. I saw this recently and loved it. He said this, he said, “You start with dreams for your life, but you don’t stop there.” I love that “You start with dreams for your life, but you don’t stop there.” Thanks for listening and being a part of L3 Leadership. Laura and I appreciate you so much and we will talk to you next episode.