Unlocking Yourself Through Resiliance And Empathy With Todd Simmons

Skot Waldron:

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Hello, welcome to another episode of Unlocked, where we talk about unlocking the potential of people so that we can unlock the potential of organizations and ultimately humanity. So today I've got Todd Simmons on the call. After 25 years, retired U.S. Air Force veteran. So super excited to have Todd, super grateful for his service. And he has some awesome principles to bring. A little note about Todd. And he says it like this. "You're going to hear nerdy principles wrapped in stories," and that's what Todd's all about. And that's what you're going to hear on the show today. 

He retired in 2019, December of 2019. Everybody know what happened around that time, right after that? A global pandemic. Yeah. So Todd retired into the pandemic and he's going to tell you that story. And he's going to tell you all about why he thinks the way he does. And what's got him to this point in his life. He did not start out in a great situation in life and a lot of people could have just ridden that wave and just done what they did and that's it, right? Not Todd, and Todd is going to tell you how all of us can have that mindset, no matter where we come from, who we are, as long as we are humans breathing oxygen. All right, let's do this interview. Here we come Todd. Todd, what's going on?

Todd Simmons:

Not much Skot, I appreciate the opportunity to be out here talking to you. Just good old sunny day up here in D.C. 

SKOT WALDRON:

Nice. That's good. That's good. It is quite sunny here in Atlanta as well. So we're digging the sun. We like it. Then as long as it doesn't get too hot, but I'm okay with that. 

TODD SIMMONS:

Yeah. As long as I can go golfing in the middle of the day, I'm okay.

SKOT WALDRON:

Living the life right there. That's it. That's it. Okay. Well, cool. Well talk about living the life. You've lived the past 25 years of your life in the U.S. Air Force. So thank you for your service. You've been retired now for 18 months, year and a half. You've been a normal civilian, like all of us. Welcome, welcome to the-

TODD SIMMONS:

Welcome to the world.

SKOT WALDRON:

Yeah. You joined the military as an 18 year old, which means that you had an interesting, I don't know, first 25 years of your "Adult life" that not a lot of people have. Let's talk about this transition last 18 months. And that beginning, what was it at the beginning? What was that like going in and developing yourself as a person? 

TODD SIMMONS:

Oh, you mean just transitioning out last 18 months then it's been interesting and I can say it's been really interesting. You come into the military at a young age. I came in at 18 years old, right out of high school within four months, I'm in. So, you don't really get an opportunity the way it looking back. You don't notice as you're in and you're going through the journey, you're doing what you're doing for so long. But looking back now, I never got an opportunity to find out who Todd Simmons was. 18 years old, fresh out of high school, coming into the military. I had a little semblance of who this young man was, but doing 25 years, 17 years overseas trying 11 assignments, moving my family every couple of years and now being out and being here in D.C. and being semi stable and not moving around so much, looking back, man, the first thing I retired into COVID now I'll tell you this Skot, let me tell you, don't retire into COVID. I know that wasn't planned. 

SKOT WALDRON:

Good tip. Okay, thank you. Noted.

TODD SIMMONS:

I retired into COVID. So the opportunity to really go out and find out what my next chapter was, what I was going to do was really stalled 30 days after retirement, because we were in a global pandemic. So I honestly will say to you that's the negative part. The good part is everything stopped and everything slowed down. So I really was forced to sit down and find out who Todd Simmons was, come familiar with this man in the mirror who I didn't recognize anymore. There was no more uniform, was no more structure, there was no more showing up at certain times, it was no more 100 people looking for me every week. It was none of that. It was just silence.

There was no more two cell phones. It was just silence. So it's been interesting. And I would say it's been a process and a process that at first wasn't enjoyable, to be honest with you, it wasn't enjoyable process. It took me about almost nine to 10 months just to start figuring out what I enjoy, what I enjoyed as a human being, not what was forced, not really forced. I was in our culture in the military 25 years, the things that I enjoyed are some of those I still enjoy today, but a lot of those things were handed to me or given to me, or in a time and space that was, just because you was in this community or you were here, it just was what you did.

And it was very regimented, but now no one was telling me I had to do this, or I had to be a volunteer for this. Or I had to have an interest in this. It was like, so what does Todd Simmons like? So it took me about almost a year to figure that out and I'm still figuring it out, but it took me a year to really get on the path of it. 

SKOT WALDRON:

So then what is it? Well, what did you find out who is Todd Simmons?

TODD SIMMONS:

I found out that I really, really, really value time and it's a precious commodity and I really enjoy small things that I didn't notice, like sitting in COVID in my house and not being able to go anywhere in the house being quiet because my wife was going to work. She works at Walter Reed in hospital, so she was gone. And my two kids are grown. So I really got used to silence and how much I like sitting outside and watching the bird and the squirrel just come across my backyard and very small things about getting up and just doing random things and figuring out I started making lamps. 

I started doing little things that I just would never do. I'll never thought I had time to do, going for walks. I'm always been really physically fit, but I always had to run. It was all about running, but now I enjoy walking and it's not because I can't run, it's because I love walking because I notice things, I love taking in what I have around me. So what I found out is that slowing down is actually a great thing, slowing down and taking the time to notice everything around you is a wakening moment. And that's the biggest thing I've noticed. So I'm very purposeful about my life. I'm very deliberate about doing things of value, of peace and a purpose. 

SKOT WALDRON:

Okay. So I can imagine that you come in through the military as a young man. And then developing and becoming an adult and living your life through the military. You had to pivot your purpose now, coming out. Tell me about that idea of how do you pivot, how do you transition from one mindset, one way of doing things, running, things being handed to you, strict schedules, assignments, people telling you where to go, what to be, what to do right to, it's just this now. I decide, a lot of these things. So that's got to be a tough transition. And in life, maybe for us civilians that never have gone from military to that, we still pivot in our purpose. We still have to make transitions. I've made a big one in the past several years with my career and things I'm doing. So tell us about that. Relate that to you in the military and how it applies to the general public as well. 

TODD SIMMONS:

I'd say it's a little bit about what I talked about taking a moment. It's not going to be, it wasn't easy for me and a lot of folks, will see your exterior. Even if you're a big social media person or whatever, or they just don't see you for a while. And when they do see it, they don't see "Now you looking great. And everything is great." No, it is mental gymnastics. I will be honest with you. And why I call it mental gymnastics, according to where you retire at, in life, it could be, or where your transition or pivoted at in life. It doesn't have to be military. 

I retired from the military in a senior position. So I actually had a exec. I had all of these people around me. I had all of this robust schedule and I was going 1,000 miles an hour, and now it's a dead stop. And the biggest piece about that is you cannot take everything that you have done in the past as an indication of what you will do in the future. So just because you were here in this life, doesn't mean that everything is going to translate to the future in this next life. And I think a lot of folks, they get a little of course if you're military or not, a lot of folks look for expectations ahead that sometime will set you up for even a tougher transition and a tougher pivot.

So for me, it wasn't about I retired and had all these things and I expect to be a senior vice president of an organization when I get out, it was about, yeah, I did this. This was a chapter that closed, this next chapter is completely different. And how do I transition and pivot into this next chapter of something that number one I want to do that I feel like I'm prepared to do, that it's not associated with, and honestly for me, that's not associated with the things of money or things because I've lived 25 years, working very hard. So this next chapter, I want to work with purpose, but it wasn't easy, I doubted myself and I will be honest with you, putting in for jobs in the military, you don't put in for jobs, you just get promoted through your skills and so just think this, I was 40 something years old, and I've never applied for a job. 

And really in the military, disappointment is a little different because if you don't get promoted, it's disappointing, but it's another chance, you know the process and you'll get it. But applying for jobs, getting out of the military and 10 people telling you, no, it's a little bit of a mental moment for you. And most of my friends will tell you the same thing. So having 10 people tell you, no, when you look at the qualification and you go, "I am overqualified and well qualified for that, I've done all these things, and I've got all this education and I've led thousands of people. And I will show up everyday on time and I will be your committed worker."

And they say, no. It becomes bad and just reorientating yourself with your family and all of those things, is small things that you have to really come, you have to get over and reassemble yourself. It's like at the Lego set that you took apart, and you have to now build this thing back up. And if you're not mechanically inclined, it might not look like the box. You might have pieces going left and right. So you have to rebuild yourself after such a huge transition. And a lot of people have seen that here in the past year at COVID, it doesn't have to be just the military transition. I know plenty of my civilian friends who are taking drastic career changes, due to COVID, and you do something for 10, 15 years in an industry and now that industry is pretty much devastated. And now you have to figure out what you're going to do based on skills that you have, but you have to repackage those skills into maybe a new industry that you have unfamiliar with. 

SKOT WALDRON:

So it sounds to me like you're talking about resiliency.

TODD SIMMONS:

Absolutely. 

SKOT WALDRON:

About getting knocked down, getting back up, shuffling. It's about mindset of having that, no throwing at me 10 times, but my brain saying, hey, I'm totally overqualified. What's your problem? And so you speak a lot about resiliency and what is the, I don't know, how does resiliency play into our lives and your mindset? How do you package resiliency when you deliver this to your audience or your clients? 

TODD SIMMONS:

Oh, man. Resilient, I think it is in so many different ways I could be on here for hours, but for me, resiliency is the bedrock. It's the foundation of everything we do. And even if it's the military or corporate America, I try to infuse things like empathy. What is the value of empathy? What's the value of seeing someone? What is the value of listening to someone? What's the value of feeling someone? Which is three big principles of empathy that we were in my-

SKOT WALDRON:

Repeat those again, repeat those again for me.

TODD SIMMONS:

Seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another. Three empathetic principles that I think are foundational for anything, because for me, and I don't think we talked about this at all, for me, empathy and resiliency. So the why I tie empathy to resiliency and why I say it's such a bedrock foundational thing. It is the reason why I'm talking to you today Skot, it is the reason at 19 years old empathy saved my life, at 19 years old, someone who absolutely did not know those principles can recite those three things that I said to you just a second ago, but they were examples of those three things saved my life. 

Absolutely physically saved my life as a 19 year old. And not only, he say he saved my life and pulled me out of the situation. The next six months, that person is still something in me that our bedrock principles that I live by today, that I've lived by for 25 years. And it is the thing that caused me to change my entire mindset as 20 year old man, it's the thing that made me face all my fears, it's the thing that when someone tells me no is exactly what you say, it's not our problem is yours. When you're getting knocked down, how you get back up, how do you look at our failure as an opportunity? How do you look at failing college algebra three times, which I did as the learning opportunity to get better every time you didn't make it through.

So resiliency in business because there are going to be down days in business. I've had small business folks out coach, and that's what a lot of small businesses had to be resilient. The last 18 months, had to lay off employees had to cut back on staff, had to not pay bills, had to really look in the mirror and say, "I was just a successful business for 15 years, now I am in danger of losing my home if I don't get any help." You have to prepare mentally that when a downturn or when the tough time comes, how are you building every day? How are you building that muscle? How are you exercising that muscle and resiliency? Because resiliency is a daily thing. There are going to be challenged. Someone's going to cut you off tomorrow in Atlanta. I know they are, I've driven in Atlanta.

SKOT WALDRON:

That never happens. 

TODD SIMMONS:

How are you going to handle that? How are you going to handle missing your Delta flight? I tell people, you are lifting lightweight every day, you're repping, you're repping. And if you understand that you have to continuously have reps in this resiliency game, that when the big things happen, you'll have a little bit more tools in the toolbox to handle it.

SKOT WALDRON:

Tools in the toolbox, because we walk around on empty toolbox. We're just carrying a heavy box of emptiness, right?

TODD SIMMONS:

Yeah, exactly. It means nothing.

SKOT WALDRON:

It means nothing, doesn't help much go to fix the car. You have an empty toolbox. 

TODD SIMMONS:

Yeah. You're looking and you're looking foolish.

SKOT WALDRON:

Looking foolish, for sure. So how does resiliency play into building relationships? Right? We've work on resiliency in our own minds. We work on resiliency as a self thing. I'm curious about your thoughts, and this is just an idea that just came into my mind, and how does that play into building trusted relationships as we move throughout life? 

TODD SIMMONS:

I think it's key. Because relationships are built on trust and trust is built on your ability to do those three things that I just mentioned, if you and I are in a working relationship at work, and we worked together for five years and you come by my cubicle once in five years, or you came by my cubicle 55 times in that one year, and you never noticed my family pictures, you never noticed my plant, you never noticed my chair. You never noticed anything about me. But then I miss a couple of days at work because they said Todd is sick.

And then when I get back to work, you come by and you say, "Hey, I heard you were sick." And then that's it. That's not building a relationship. Relationship is built every day on the small things on the... I've said hi to someone every morning, religiously coming into my building genuinely, "Hey, how you doing?" Make sure I went in and said hi to this person. "Hey, how are you dealing?" I did that to everyone, but this person was included in that bunch of people, "Hey, hi, how's everything going?" Monday, "Hey, how was your weekend?" Just little things. "Hey, what's that, what kind of plan is that on your desk? You got to water that thing?" I'm just a person. It wasn't anything purposeful. It was just, that's what I did.

And that person had a significant event happened in their life. Significant event that really challenged their mental health. And I came in one day and I said, "Hey, how are you doing? Everything's good?" And that person said, "I am not good. I'm not good. You mind if you step outside." And that person stepped outside to me and told me the whole weekend, they contemplated taking their life. The whole weekend and the reason they didn't take their life is because they felt like they would, and that's totally, and I've been in that situation. And I said, I didn't want to let everyone down. I didn't want to let you down. And I'm like, whoa, whoa, that's not [inaudible 00:20:17]. But a little bit of a relationship built was enough for that person to wait till Monday. And what if I skipped coming in there that Monday, I would have nobody in the environment. Wasn't everybody talking to each other that way that person waited to say no. I mean, because immediately it was, "Hey, how are you doing, everything? How's your week and everything?" "No everything wasn't okay can we step outside."

So how do you build trust with people? There's no ticker, there's no check list of how you build trust with people, it's being human. And I can tell you 10 things to do to make people feel valued and respected. But if you don't genuinely feel that that's the way you want to engage with people, then it's not going to be trusted. So it's just being human. It's taking the time to pause. And I wrote, it's not really a book. I wrote like a leadership thing. When I retired from the military about what I believe in is 30 days of courageous leadership, it's 30 days of what I would do if I was a perfect leader. And everyday, one of those things I wrote on one day is what do you do with your 10 seconds?

And another one is about being a drive-by [grieder 00:21:31]. So I said about 10 seconds. If you have 10 seconds, what do you do with it? If I'm in front of the elevator and started now, I waited on the elevator. We have about 10 seconds till it hits the bottom floor. What did I do with those 10 seconds? What did I do with it? Did I sit there and try to look awkwardly like, I don't want to talk to you and we're going to the same floor? Did I do the quick, "Hey, how are you doing?" Or do I really try to figure out a connection point with you? And I call it, pulling the string and I try to spy something that, do I try to work at that 10 seconds? Because 10 seconds can lead to 10 minutes, can lead to 10 hours, can lead to 10 years, can lead to a lifetime, but you have to start somewhere.

And I can tell you 100 stories of success, of how I try to connect with people. And it's not natural for me. I find it natural because I've been doing it so long, but I'm naturally an introvert. The only reason I do it is because it's got someone saved my life on 10 seconds. 10 seconds, that they built 10 seconds that turned into 10 minutes. That's probably never went past 10 minutes. And I trusted them at the bottom, bottom, bottom, bottom, bottom portion of my life where I feel like I just wanted it to be over. And that person was the person who at that time asked me if I was okay. And I trusted them enough to say no.

SKOT WALDRON:

That takes a lot. And you're right on because I think that and I'll talk about a principle that I use for individuals instead of just saying, "Hey, how you doing?" It's like most right. 98% of the time you're going to get I'm good. I'm fine. We're trained to say that in our culture. Because either we don't want to look fine or it's just a reaction. It's just trigger reaction to really analyze am I doing okay? Sometimes having people think, but the next step of that is when people know they're not, but they can look at you and say, "No, I'm not." The vulnerability that has to happen at that moment takes a huge amount of trust. And that is so key. You just freaked out about half the population saying they have to talk to people in elevators now. Thanks a lot for that. I think it's so true. It is about intentionality. 

If we are not intentional, we will be accidental and accidental is waiting for the other person to talk. Or being forced into a situation where I have to talk to that person. And I'm going to talk on the elevator. I'm talking about anywhere.

TODD SIMMONS:

Anywhere. 

SKOT WALDRON:

And that's what it's going to take to build healthy cultures and healthy relationships and healthy communication patterns. Because no longer in this world, as you have said earlier. And when we were offline, is that no longer are we held by the golden handcuffs that are at our jobs? It was really interesting that principle you talked about, why do you believe that? 

TODD SIMMONS:

Oh, I live it every day. So I believe that from a cultural standpoint of what I believed in the Air Force, the Air Force and the military in general is typically a lot of young people. And then you're on the young side, in the beginning of your career. And then in the second side of yourself, you're the old guy looking at all the young people. In my jobs, in the last couple of years in the military, I was around a lot of young people. And the motivation that I saw in some of our younger populations, are different than the motivation when I joined in 1994, just completely. And in my own home, I live it every day. My daughter is a proud graduate of University of Alabama, Roll Tide, giving some credit there. We're Roll Tide family so...

SKOT WALDRON:

Do your thing, man. Do your thing. You just dropped about the other half of my audience. So thanks.

TODD SIMMONS:

I know being in Georgia, I just, literally just, a lot of foams just turned off, but I will tell you living in my own home, my daughter is four years, five, almost five years graduated from college and she's on her third job? Third major post college job.

And she never left any of those jobs because of finances, not a one. She left them all because of culture, how they treated her. And it wasn't like any place treated her bad, it was toxic. It was like this place doesn't believe in the things that I just noticed. There's no feeling of people are on the same team. There's no feeling of environment of inclusiveness here or whatever the reason it was just always the culture. And I will tell you my parents, our parents didn't care about culture, and that generation cared about putting food on the table. And in eight hours that they had to work or the 12 hours or 15 hours of the 33 jobs that they had to work. It was that way. But a generation, I remember when I first logged on to the first computer, I guess that's my job. 

I remember when I got on the first computer, my kids have been born into a computer generation. They've been born into how people should treat you. Even if it's fake on social media, they've been born into how things should look in a perfect world in society. So their feelings and their emotions and what they expect has been wrapped up into a lot of this, is part of their upbringing. Parents instill things in society, instill things into them. And now I don't think it's anything bad about it. I love it. So, Skot, I don't want any of your audience to think I'm bucking the new generation. I absolutely think the world's going to be a better place because of it. I think they are expecting to be treated fairly. They're expecting to be somebody to see them, to hear them and feel them.

And if you don't, they're going to walk out the door. They're not going to stay at your organization for 15, 20 years. The first thing when I coach a small business or a medium sized business guy, is what I do a lot of is I ask them what their turnover rate is. In the last year, how many employees quit? How many employees quit? I remember when I was 15 years old, I used to work at McDonald's and I don't even know if they do it anymore, but McDonald's used to have name tags. And this is probably in '80s. And McDonald's you have name tags and had the years you worked at McDonald's on the name tag, literally how many years you were there.

And I remember being 15, 16 years old. And I used to see the morning shift when I would work the morning shift. It was mostly the older people. And some of those people had on their name tags 25 years, 27 years. Yes. Surprising because you will not see that today. 25, 26, 27 years working there at the same Mcdonald's. Off of exit eight, already built South Carolina. And it was that I had to now fast forward now to that, teach this stuff. I think about that moment. And I went, why did someone? Because it's a bustling hospitality industry where I'm from, why would someone stay there 25, 26 years? Even if it's only one of their second job, something had to keep them there, but you will not see that on the Mcdonald's name tag anymore. Because I checked because you don't have people who stay at Donald's two years. So what is the difference between then and now? Different generation now.

Because if you're not going to value, why does Chick-fil-A own the space of how you feel? It's not the quality of the chicken and I'm don't want to get us in trouble, but it is the quality of how you make me feel. That's the bottom line. And we are starving for that in society right now, this generation wants it. I think my generation wants it. And I think it's become a norm because it's such a hustle and bustle. We are so busy, we have gotten away from family at the dinner table, we've gotten away from communicating with each other with our cell phones. So many things that when I was a kid that didn't exist, exist now. And that takes away from those connection points. I think now we are all starving for just a little bit of something genuine in our day.

Even if it's for five minutes at a drive through. And that's why you have 100 cars in a Chick-fil-A parking lot. You'd have drive through. People are mentally now just want that, their mind is taking them to that. Their mind is really not taking them to the chicken sandwich. Everyone has a chicken sandwich, every passing restaurant has a chicken sandwich. You're going to Chick-fil-A because you want something. Because if you look at your eight hour day out of your house, your 10 hour day out of your house, going to grocery store, going to work, going everywhere. Count on one hand, I [inaudible 00:30:47] count on one hand that you had that warm feeling in your life, with someone, usually we come home and talk about it because it's a surprise. I met this lady, oh my goodness. I met this young, nice lady at the store and she was, we're shocked someone was nice to us. 

Why are we shocked somebody was nice to us? We don't tell about it. We either tell about the person who cussed us out and road raised us. Or we talk about the nice person. That's typically the two stories, but why is that not normalized where our day we have five or six of those interactions. So I challenge everyone to always that go through your day for three straight days and see if you can find five times that really are talk worthy opportunities that you, somehow you just met that person. And then you just like, "Man, I went to the grocery store and man John was so helpful." Well, John's supposed to be helpful, first of all. But if John made you feel real good in John's wine. And if you went to the DMV, which good luck and you felt just that, which I've had a great experience here where I live in a DMV. But I will tell you that's the sadness of what are you talking about? The connection piece is we have failed to make each other feel valued and it's not on purpose. That's the problem. It's not on purpose. 

SKOT WALDRON:

It's accidental. It's accidental behavior. 

TODD SIMMONS:

Yeah.

SKOT WALDRON:

Your new book, Why Not Me is pre out. 

TODD SIMMONS:

Yeah. 

SKOT WALDRON:

Now, right? 

TODD SIMMONS:

Yeah.

SKOT WALDRON:

I'm super excited for you for that. Congratulations.

TODD SIMMONS:

Thank you.

SKOT WALDRON:

Give us the premise of that book. Do you talk about these principles in that book? 

TODD SIMMONS:

Yeah, I do. I actually talk about this. I go through it's called, Why Not Me (Born to fail, Destined to Succeed). And it's a strong title I've been told. Why not me is a mantra kind of thing that I develop, that I started with, why not me from a place of, why not me of a place of sadness, of a place of this why, why not me? Why can't I have this? I worked on a resort island as a kid and saw people with a hundred thousand dollar cars. And I took grocery out as a 17 year old kid to people who drove Bentleys and stuff on who were vacationing with their family and in my family did not have, I didn't come from that kind of background. So I kind of grew up with that kind of this is not us mentality and I developed that why not me into a sense of why not me? Anything that's possible for a human who breaths oxygen to do, that's for me. That became the cut line for what I can accomplish in life.

I'm a human, I breathe oxygen. So that's the requirement to do that. And so born to fail, destined to succeed, it's just about, I came into the military, I was a fourth grade, ninth grade. I failed, I did horrible Skot in school, I had a learning disability. I didn't read my first book till I was 20 years old. Believe yes, 20.

SKOT WALDRON:

Because you couldn't read, or you weren't motivated to read?

TODD SIMMONS:

Wasn't motivated. And it was something that I found challenging to comprehend the words that I was looking at. And I learned how to learn, which is important people, like, "What does that mean?" I say at some point on I did a lot of work to learn how to learn, lot of work. And I spent the next 10 years after I joined the military, doing nothing, Skot, but going to school, I failed college algebra three times, but I never, why not me? I have to do this. I have to do this. And I got through my undergrad degree and I immediately signed up for my graduate degree first-class before I ever walked in my undergraduate degree graduation. And one day I went over and I saw a flyer that said, "We're looking for instructors to teach college." And I was like, oh, no way, you got this kid. I barely got, I've struggled with this and this. And I started teaching college and that was 16 years ago. And I still teach college students there. 

And so that why not me mantra is about, yes, all of these things happen to me. I can tell you every disadvantage, every bed card had ever been dealt to me. And sometimes you all folks can't get past that, but I had one opportunity. And it's about what do you do with that one opportunity? And that one opportunity was a recruiter who allowed a young 18 year old kid to join the Air Force, who wasn't supposed to join Air Force. I didn't even have the requirements to join the Air Force. And the crazy thing about this, this kid that failed the Air Force entry exam, that barely graduated high school, joined the Air Force at 18 years old, in 25 years later, Skot, I retired as a senior enlisted leader for all education for the United States Air Force for 600,000 people. I was in charge of education at 1,300 locations around the world, working for a three-star general. With the Air Force?

SKOT WALDRON:

Why not me? 

TODD SIMMONS:

Why not me? So if I would have allowed the why not me looking at a Bentley and a Mercedes that be in a sympathetic state of gone well, that's just not for me. That's not what we do. That's not what my family is. We're going to get jobs and we're just going on and nothing wrong with that. If I didn't take that one door that opened for me and kick it open and say, "I'm going to take every opportunity in this new opportunity," which is very difficult. And I'm starting way back. It didn't matter. I joined the military and I saw everyone who was smarter than me. I saw everybody who had more advantages than me. I was never the smartest person in the room, but Skot, I wouldn't know why not me [inaudible 00:36:56]. 

I would tell you and people I've seen this mean and stuff, but I will tell you, this is true to me. When I figured out I wasn't the smartest. When I figured out that it's going to take me longer to study, or I'm going to have to do all of these different things. I said, they have a disadvantage. I found a weakness in the disadvantage of people who had everything and it's that I'm willing to work harder. I'm willing to work hard. It doesn't mean everybody wasn't willing to work hard, but I already knew what I needed to do. So when other people got off work at eight hours, I stayed two more hours. And I studied for my job. I studied and I went and found out what else I needed to do. 

I look for other opportunities at my work center when everyone else, when I was 24 years old, and everyone who was my age was going to the nightclub, playing basketball, playing softball. I gave it all up. My friends thought I was crazy. I stopped playing sports, I stopped going to nightclubs. You know what I was doing? I was in the community center, studying algebra. I was in the community center, try to learn how to read this literature book. I was going to college at night. That's what I was doing. So it just developed. And so when I retired from the military, I wanted to give people a different semblance of what my story was. Because when I retired, people knew Todd Simmons for this guy, who's got all his education, who has done all this stuff who speak in 160. I was traveling 160 days a year speaking to tens of thousands of people. 

That's the picture people knew of me. What I wanted that one kid to know, and I can see in my stream, there's one kid. There's like memories behind me on pictures, but it's one kid that I've met out in California. And as pictures behind me, he's from the same area I'm from in South Carolina. He saw me give a resiliency speech. He walked up to me and he literally told the first four chapters of my book that hasn't been written yet because it was him. Because I was telling my story in public. He said, "That's me." He said, "And I'm struggling right now." That is me. I'm in the Air Force. I'm 19 years old. And I feel like I'm not supposed to be here. I feel like a zombie. I feel like everyone is better than me. 

And he said, "How did you overcome that? How did you end up like this guy?" But that's the people I wrote this book for. And I wrote this book for people who, to let them know, don't write people off, because people had opportunities to write me off as the kid who could not score over a 75 when he first came in the military. Had trouble taking standardized tests. But people gave me an opportunity where five years later, I couldn't score anything under a 98 or 100. Because we're all capable of doing what we want to do if we have the motivation and drive to do and the opportunity and the access to resources. So this book has been born to fail, but destined to succeed because I didn't allow the failures to become my identity. I allowed the failures to come my blueprint to success. 

SKOT WALDRON:

it, man. It has a lot to do with that mindset. And I know you are big believer in that as well. So thanks for being here today. Where can people get ahold of your book? 

TODD SIMMONS:

They can go to Amazon, Why Not Me (Born to fail, Destined to Succeed). It's releases on Amazon on August 3rd, but you can go pre-order right now, the ebook would be out on August 3rd. We looking for a great first launch with ebook that day. We want to take this thing to number one. They can go to mascotbooks.com and they can get a copy right now for mascotbooks.com and to go to Barnes & Noble on August 3rd also. And they'll have it out at Barnes & Noble, but if you want an autograph copy, you can email me directly at todd.simmonsatcourageouslead.com, courageouslead.com. Todd.simmonsatcourageouslead.com. And we'll take care of you. 

SKOT WALDRON:

You rock, man, this has been awesome. Your stories are fantastic. The passion you have is fantastic. Things worked out right? You could have gone in thinking "I'm retiring during COVID, ah, that's it I'm done." But you turned it into a strength and that's gotten you where you are today and keep riding strong, man. You're doing great.

TODD SIMMONS:

No, I appreciate the opportunity, man. What a great conversation. And man, I love Atlanta. I had choices of cities that I would've retired and it would have been Atlanta, but yeah, maybe one day.

SKOT WALDRON:

We've got some mountains, we've got the beach, we got lakes, trees. You got some of that up there, but it's a little warmer. 

TODD SIMMONS:

Yeah. And cost of living is much better. 

SKOT WALDRON:

Yes, yes. That too. All right, thanks. See you later, man. Thanks.

TODD SIMMONS:

All right. Thanks a lot, man.

SKOT WALDRON:

There were some great nerdy principles wrapped in those stories. And one of the biggest ones, I think that encompasses a lot of what we talked about was when he said seeing with the eyes of another, hearing with the eyes of another, and feeling with the heart of another. Imagine a world where we all did that. Imagine a world where we try to see with the eyes of another, hear with the ears of another, feel with the heart of another, what kind of environmental culture would that bring? Not only to our organization's day-to-day, but our families. And our society, our communities that would just have monumental impact on us if we would learn to think like that. 

I've loved his 10 second rule. Okay? What are you going to do with those 10 seconds? Next time, think about, I'm in this elevator, I'm walking down the sidewalk, I'm sitting with this person, I am talking with them on the phone, waiting for another meeting to start, what am I going to do with those seconds? How are they going to impact that person and how will they possibly impact me? And then thinking about those five occurrences today. That's the challenge for you today, walk out and see if you can come back home and think of five positive experiences that you had with somebody and be able to talk about them in a way that they were impactful to you and how they could impact somebody else. 

So I'm super grateful for Todd and go check out his book. Why Not Me? What a great mantra. Why not me? Right? Why not me? And I think that if we say that as well, that will create opportunities in our mind, possibilities that will not limit us. You can find out more about me at skotwaldron.com. Go there, find other interviews, find some more of the things that I do there. Teaching cultures and leaders how to communicate more effectively, you can go to YouTube, subscribe, like, comment, all those things there. I would love it. The more I get there, the better I can make some of these shows for you. There's a lot of learning principles and tools on there for you that you can take short, little principles that I have for you there. So thanks a lot for being on another episode of Unlocked. I'm Skot, we'll see you next time.

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