Scott Schimmel 0:20
Hey, everybody. Welcome back to another episode of The YouSchool podcast. I'm Scott Schimmel, and I'm here with a friend, Ken Davenport. And we're gonna dig into something that goes 2000 years old. And I just want to give you as a warning, it's insanely relevant for today. So first of all, Ken, thanks for being on The YouSchool podcast, and maybe a little context of who you are. And what you do would help everyone that kind of get oriented to you.
Ken Davenport 0:45
Yeah, sure. Thanks, Scott. It's great to be here. Love the work you're doing. So basically, I'm kind of a reformed entrepreneur, I had started a bunch of companies, and about 12 years ago, kind of have this epiphany that wasn't really doing something meaningful enough with my life. And so I threw all that aside and decided to volunteer in the social sector, trying to figure out what I kind of really cared about. And it turns out the veterans were a big part of that. And I think they'll probably dovetail in with the conversation we have today. But right now, I run a company called Mission Edge, which is technically a nonprofit. We support other nonprofits with capacity building. We do, you know, HR, accounting, we do strategy work, we help new new small businesses start ah with some accelerator programs. So we're kind of really deeply in the community, trying to give back and trying to help, help social impact happen.
Scott Schimmel 1:46
It's... Well, I'm glad you mentioned that because one thing we I've been trying to do on this on this podcast has been to show particularly kids other career paths that they might not be aware of, and just say, hey, life could be like this for you. And I was playing golf with some kids, three teenage kids last week, and I don't know why it came up. But someone mentioned the idea of a nonprofit. And one of the other kids made a joke and said, like, that's a job? It's nonprofit. How do you have a job and a nonprofit? So
Ken Davenport 2:16
True. That's a very smart, that's a very smart kid, actually.
Scott Schimmel 2:20
It's a good point.
Ken Davenport 2:21
Yeah, it's a very good point.
Scott Schimmel 2:23
And if you had some new acts as a teenager, and there's no way I would have thought that you could work professionally for a cause, I just assumed I guess that those were all volunteers. I think if you'd asked me, I was such an idiot. I really thought my teachers were volunteers. They know, all I knew was business and finance was what you do. So I'm just I'm curious, as you look back, what you're doing now working at a nonprofit for nonprofits. Is that a surprise? Or do you see the thread kind of from early on?
Ken Davenport 2:51
Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, at one level, it's a surprise, I think, if you if you see the way we've built Mission Edge, it might not be as much as a surprise in the sense that we're, we're built basically, a social business. So we're primarily fee supported we, we came in and I early on realized that the nonprofit business model doesn't make a lot of sense, you know, you're taking from, you know, wealthy people or foundation's, and then giving things away on the other end, it's not very sustainable, it didn't really make a lot of sense to me, I think if we had stuck with that model, I probably would have made it a year or two, and I would have probably given up. So we became basically a business, we provide a service, we charge fees. Now granted, the fees are below, probably what you would pay if you hired a for profit, but we still, you know, anchor our services on high quality and doing the right work. Yeah, and I think all of our work is really geared toward trying to get people to realize that you can't make change if you're not sustainable. And for most nonprofits, it's sort of the 90/10 rule, you know, 10% of the nonprofits that are big, get a lot of, get all the money every year and continue to grow. And the 90% of the nonprofits that are probably doing actually the most important work are starving. And and in this kind of constant sort of cycle of feast and famine. And it's very hard to be productive if you're constantly begging for money and not really sure where your next dollars coming from. So we actually try to teach nonprofits earned revenue and we tried to we tried to turn them into businesses and that's kind of been our our sort of our stealth not maybe not so stealth objective for the past 10 years is to sort of disabuse people of purely being a nonprofit and and think about sustainable business models.
Scott Schimmel 4:49
Well, one of the things you and I relate on is many interests, having many interests and fingers in a lot of different pies and one of the things we connected on was around veterans Veteran transition. And what I'd love to talk about is the book you just published on stoicism. And kind of, please pretend like I'm a, I'm a total newbie on this. And I'm not much more than that on stoicism, but maybe you can just kind of give a overall framework of what stoicism is because I don't think that's something I learned in school. And it's only maybe become more recently. Weller, weller known. It's not a word, but weller known. So what is stoicism? And why were you drawn to it?
Unknown Speaker 5:30
Yeah, well, I think I think it is becoming more well known. And I I'm happy about that. I was drawn to it a few years ago. You know, the word stoic I think is probably there's a little bit misunderstood, you know, stoic is kind of, you know, has the connotation of being unemotional and sort of very, you know, steely eyed, deattached and kind of, you know, nonreactive, right. And I think that stoicism... so stoic with a small "s", stoicism with a large "S" is really is a, is a foundational philosophy that came about, you know, as you said, 2000 years ago, and really kind of came out of came out of crisis. It was a philosophy that came out of, of, you know, of events that were less than positive. So Zeno of Citium who started stoicism, you know, basically lost, he was a merchant in in Athens, and he lost everything in a shipwreck. And he, he lost his entire business his entire life, he ended up back in Athens. And he started reading Socrates and started realizing that maybe this event that happened that was so terrible for me, on so many levels, there is a silver lining here. And maybe I learned that out of this sort of disaster come strength, and maybe those material things that I had weren't as important as just the character that I have, my ability to kind of move forward in life with a positive attitude, and knowing that, you know, life goes on kind of thing. Yeah. And from that, the Romans then 100, several 100 years later kind of took on stoicism, and really turned it into a viable sort of framework for life. And of course, the one most famous stoics is Marcus Aurelius. He was emperor of Rome and wrote a great book called Meditations, which I encourage anybody to read. It was a book, actually, what they were notes, actually, that he wrote for himself, he was never even intending to have published and never intended anybody to read it. But the tidbits in there and the kernels of wisdom there for how you live your life is are so powerful. Ryan Holliday, who I think is the most, the currently kind of the most preeminent, stoic writer, I think has leveraged Meditations very well in some of his books. And so there's a ton of information out there about stoicism. I loved it for myself, because I realized that, you know, as you deal with challenges, you know, you can choose to look at those things, as obstacles or as opportunities, right, and that, you really, you have the power of your own perception of how you view the world and how you view the things in front of you, you can choose to be, you know, Marcus Aurelius has this quote that says, "Choose to be harmed, and you will be harmed. Choose not to be harmed, and you won't be." You know, so the idea that, hey, like, more and more, we're ceding our authority to other people, we're, you know, overwhelmed with information, we're having a hard time, you know, kind of even thinking for ourselves now. And at the end of the day, really your strength is within you. And the idea that you can choose to see things however you want. And as, as, as I was using this my own life, I've been working with transitioning veterans, and I think there is some parallels to teenagers, you know, I have a teenage boy, myself, and in 11th grade, and as we start to think about his life, and he we talk about, you know, the things that are important to him, I realized that there's there are a lot of similarities between veterans are getting out of the military and entering a brand new world, civilian world. And, you know, kids getting out of high school, and you know, you know, they're in a, you know, my son likes to say, you know, next year I'm gonna be an adult. I'm like, Well, what does that mean? Exactly? Right. And we actually just had that conversation last night, and he didn't really know what it meant. And so we're starting to talk about like, what does that mean to be an adult? And how do you how do you transition into a wider world where you have much less structure and there are a multitude of opportunities that you can address, but which ones do you go for? And how do you not become overwhelmed? And so stoicism became kind of an interesting model for how to talk to veterans about, you know, how do you see the world before you, you know, and, you know, you have to, you know, accept the fact that your military experience is not always going to directly translate to the civilian world. So how do you deal with humility With the opportunities that you're looking at knowing that you may not start out at a level that you want, but if you take it with the right attitude, you start where you can. And then if you're if you, if you crush it, you will, you will be successful man. And so that's kind of the those are some of the kernels I started building on when I wrote this book that some of the ideas around stoicism of you know, you know, looking at obstacles and opportunities, you're using the power of your own perception to decide how you're going to address things, embracing failure as a learning opportunity. All those things are our core to success in the civilian world and things that in the military, you tend... You know, failure is a good example. Like that's not something that is encouraged in the military. So even admitting your failures is not encouraged. So how do you get your head around learning by trying? And even if it doesn't work out, taking those lessons and, and moving forward?
Scott Schimmel 10:56
How, how do you and maybe this is a personal question, or maybe this is kind of how you would prescribe for someone else. Let's say your son in an ideal world would listen to you and do what you say. And I know that's kind of a fantasy. But oh, my God, how do you practice? I'm kind of using air quotes. How do you practice stoicism? And if someone who does what, what are the thoughts that go through their mind that might be different than someone who doesn't?
Ken Davenport 11:23
Yeah, well, it's actually a really good question. And I struggled a little bit with how you even you know, parse stoicism into chunks that are manageable for people, right? Because you can read the history or you could read meditations, and it would be a really good experience for you. But then how do you take those lessons, and there are many of them, and actually make them useful in it on a day to day basis. So one things I did in the book is I came up with nine rules, there are nine rules for how you kind of approach your transition. And some of them are as simple as you know, failure is a gift, do the work. Perception is your superpower, like little things that kind of get you thinking on a day to day basis about how to use some of these concepts in the middle of your day, because one of the things that's always been challenging for me, is how do you slow things down enough to not just react? And but to actually react thoughtfully in the moment, right. So you can always like Monday morning quarterback, and I was always really good at looking back and saying, you know, I shouldn't have done that. What I should have done is this. But how do you learn to slow that down enough to actually think in the moment that? Well, this is kind of what's happening here? This is something I've seen before, you know, maybe there's some wisdom here, I can apply to myself before I just say something that I might regret, you know, and I think for a 16 year old or 17 year old, that's really hard, right? Because everything is very, you know, kind of impulse driven. Yeah. So what I what I've been trying to do, and I don't know whether this is a solution to getting to, into the teenage mind, but what I've tried to do is, is break it into little, little tiny nuggets. Right. Yeah. And, and actually have a quote associated with the nugget that would say, you know, here's just something you could think about, and something that's very simple, like Ryan Holiday talks about, he wrote a book called The obstacle is the way and you know, the idea is that, you know, the the impediment to action advances action. And the idea is that, rather than go around the obstacle, you should look at that obstacle is an opportunity to go through it, because there may be something on the other side of that obstacle that might be valuable. Yeah, so those little like images that you can come up with, and those little, you know, kind of tidbits or snippets of of kind of quotes or for sort of just concepts. If they're repeated often enough, I think it starts to sink in a little bit. And if you get one or two to sink in, I think you've like, hit a home run probably, right? Because this is stuff that you know, these are old, these are old white guys, right? So it's not, these are like this is not the most popular, probably, you know, authors, these are probably the most popular authors that are read today. But if you can kind of contextualize it, I think there's little, definitely some tools in here that could be useful.
Scott Schimmel 14:25
I'm curious, this is kind of a probably not a well formed question. But over the last couple of years on this podcast, we've had some therapists come on the show and talk about trauma and stress and trauma has become much more well understood. You know, I would almost say popular of a concept and idea, especially because of COVID and the shutdown and what kids are going through. And then you add on top of that, you know, mental health issues, increase of school shootings, suicide, all that stuff. So the old I'm kind of like trying to set this up. The old idea, if you've got something hard or painful in your life was just get over it. Nobody cares. Just push push on. And then maybe nowadays the extreme would be everybody's traumatized. You know, we have to all stop and and you're a victim. That kind of idea. I wonder what your thoughts are for where stoicism fits in there. Because I think and maybe a dangerous way dangerous interpretation would be get over it, grin and bear it. And then there might be like a therapist, I'm listening to this, like screaming like, What are you talking about? The kids are going through really extreme situations actually need help. That won't help. So I just I guess I'm kind of set you up?
Ken Davenport 15:46
Yeah. No, I'm glad you did. Because I this is an area that I've done a lot of just transparently, I've done a lot of personal work in. In the second chapter, the second rule that I talked about this book is actually called "Your Past is Present", meaning that no matter what you do today, or moving forward, your past has an impact on the choices you make on how you view the world and how your brain reacts to stimuli, even in ways that you don't really even understand, right? There's trauma lives in the brain and part of the brain that is not necessarily conducive to talk therapy or, or just kind of working hard at it and trying to work through it, right, because I did that for years and years. And I didn't have a lot of success, until I started getting into alternative therapies for trauma, because I had a lot of just, you know, I had a lot of a lot of trauma in my childhood that really affected my entire life. And I think that, you know, if you just if you just make the assumption that most people have some trauma in their lives of some of some level that, you then open up the conversation Well, how do you get to a place where you can be the more, the most, the most self realized you? How can you be the most most yourself, of yourself, be yourself most effectively. And, you know, stoicism is kind of interesting because when you look at stoicism, I addressed this in the book, you know, the concept of stoicism really is that you kind of create this inner citadel of strength, you know, and you know, you you don't allow things to harm you from the outside, and you just choose cognitively, rationally to say, I'm not gonna let that bother me, I'm going to go this direction. And that's great. But when you're talking about trauma, that doesn't really work, right. So the way that I've applied stoicism in this case is actually the strength is in asking for help. The strength is in knowing that you cannot do everything alone, and that actually stoicism that to be success, a successful stoic in the world, you need to interact with other people. And that part of you know, part of stoicism is is is you know, acting in concert with nature, and it's your own interpersonal nature, but it's also the nature around you. So it's also the community around you. So you must interact with the community and to interact with the community effectively, you need to be able and willing to ask for help. So the stoic piece is to say, hey, you know, I can't get my way through this, or, you know, I can't just will my way through the challenges I have actually need someone to sit down with me and work these things through so I can move to the other side of that obstacle that we're talking about.
Scott Schimmel 18:38
It's awesome, great response. I totally resonate with that relate to that. And I think I'm curious from you as a dad now. And I can and you know, I've talked about this before having both 16 year old 17 year old boys. It's not always easy to get through to them. Yeah, that's an understatement. I'm curious, what you're experimenting with in terms of sharing some of stoicism with your son what's working, working. So especially if I'm listening to this, I like to actually this is interesting. How do I how do I kind of share this with the kids in my life?
Ken Davenport 19:16
Yeah, I think that, you know, the two things that I've really been working with my son on one is the power of his own perceptions and, or the and the power of his misperceptions, because I think, you know, there's a lot of social anxiety that's going on, and I've been having a lot of conversations with my son about how he feels at school. How he feels like people are judging him how he feels constantly under the microscope. Yeah, and I think his perception is that everything he does people are paying attention to and commenting on and watching as if, really, he were the most important person in the world. Right, right. And of course in his world, he is the most important person in the world. Yeah. But I think that part of it is sort of decoupling his own perception of what is going on with the reality of what's going on. And so I've been really challenging him to not make assumptions about what people are thinking. And people are saying, but to actually spend some time to actually figure out whether that is really the case or not. And by talking to people, and by actually having conversations about it, as opposed to assuming that, oh, I'm never gonna go there, because that person doesn't like me. Yeah. And so, perception and how you view the world, you know, is so important. And it's such a stoic a concept in the sense that, you know, you can perceive that people are against you, you can perceive that you have, you know, you're wearing a huge, you know, you know, red letter on the front of your, that people are pointing at and laughing at or you can say, maybe they're talking about something else, and maybe I shouldn't just assume that it's about me. Yeah. So that's, that's one thing that we've really been talking about a lot, because I think this whole idea of social anxiety seems to be rampant. I think there's a lot of, there's so much pressure in school right now. I mean, there maybe, there always has been, but it seems like it's ramped up even now with want, meaning to conform or needing to be a part of the in crowd or, you know, I don't know, it's all those social, kind of all that kind of social pressure. I think that that's happening that I know that my son's not alone in facing that. Yeah. So that's one thing. And then the other thing is really, you know, to have the courage to be your own person and to see the world through your own eyes. And, you know, I think my son sort of sees himself as a little bit, you know, nerdy or different, or, like, I, you know, I just think, you know, he doesn't always fit into the bucket, you know, and I think he sees that as a weakness. But I've been trying to convince him that, you know, at the end of the day, though, people who really changed the world are the ones who didn't fit into the bucket. You know, I mean, the the innovators, the rebels, you know, the the those that dared to change the world are always those who, you know, didn't really fit in and maybe saw things in a different way than everybody else. And that's a strength not a weakness.
Scott Schimmel 22:30
Where, where do I go, if I want to track with stoicism, obviously, I can read Marcus Aurelius, buy a book, but as you and I were talking about before, there's not that many people read books anymore. Are there other easy ways to, are there newsletters, are there Instagram followers?
Ken Davenport 22:47
So the ones that I would suggest is, so Ryan Holiday has two really good daily emails, one is called the Daily Stoic. Okay. One is called the Daily Dad. So he actually, daily dad email. Yeah, where, you know, he sort of applies stoicism to being a father. Awesome. So for the dads out there, that's kind of a cool and in there, they're snippets. And they're really relatively easy to digest. And you'll you'll kind of get a daily kind of reminder. And so I think those two things are really good. All of his books, Ryan holidays, books, I think are useful. The obstacles in the way is probably the most popular one, but he's got, you know, four or five, six other books around stoicism that would be useful. And so I would start there. I mean, I think you can always pick up medications and read the source material. But I think Ryan Holiday does a really good job of kind of making it accessible to you in a in a in a quick way. So I would probably start there. But those two newsletters, the Daily Dose Stoic podcast also is great. And there's a there's a whole bunch of information out there that you can get to relatively easily.
Scott Schimmel 23:59
And maybe the last question if you if you were on the stage of a high school graduation, and you had 130 seconds to give one message from stoicism to this generation, what what comes to mind
Ken Davenport 24:16
you know, universally I think for me, it's that you know, you are in control, right that like the world, the world may be chaotic and you may have influence. You may be buffeted by influences. But ultimately, you are in control of how you see the world and how you act and react. You can choose to see the glass half full, you can choose to see it half empty, it's up to you, and how you react to the world around you. Ultimately, you own you own that and that's a beautiful, unbelievably powerful thing to know that even with everything going on around you, you have control over you. Yeah. And and if you can just keep that in mind. Find how you react and react to the world around you can be yours.
Scott Schimmel 25:05
Yeah, I love it. And this morning, as we're all getting our kids ready for school, I noticed my son and I for five or 10 minutes, we're both in the same room. But both on, I believe we were I knew I was I was on Instagram, I think he was too scrolling mindlessly through silly, stupid, fun videos, for those five to 10 minutes. And what you're talking about, is the opportunity to be reflective and thoughtful in a constructive way. Because I think, the joy and the beauty of things like Instagram, and I actually get to escape the little neuroses, the the loops of insecurity and fear. So if you know, stoicism has a has a really neat, elegant way to help you do productive self reflection that leads to peace and understanding and joy. And I think what you're talking about more than anything is conscious living helping kids become more conscious and aware. But it's those hooks of stoicism that will help them get there. So I think this is super timely and extremely relevant. Any last words?
Ken Davenport 26:15
Yeah, I would just say, you know, we all have those moments where, you know, we're with our kids, and we're both on Instagram, or we're both on our phones. And you have this guilty feeling that, oh, I shouldn't be doing this. We should be interacting. Yeah. Right. But I would say, you know, give yourself some grace, I think these things have to happen in the in the context in which you're living today. It's great, you know, to sit with, you know, Socrates on a rock someplace and have these deep conversations. That's just not the world we live in today. So the fact is that they're offered, you'll have opportunities for those interactions, but it has to be done in a way that makes sense to your kid. Yeah, right. Now, this is the, this is the system that we work in. So, you know, just don't feel badly about that. Because we all have those feelings. And I know that I sometimes beat myself up because I missed opportunities. But the opportunities will come even within the context of sometimes using your phone more than you probably like to
Scott Schimmel 27:14
Yeah, that's great. Okay, thanks. I always love talking to you. It really helps me clarify and think I think productively about kids today. And thanks for being on the show. Thanks for especially your work with veterans and our partnership doing that. Here's two years to come a friendship and, and hopefully we get to impact some lives together too.
Ken Davenport 27:32
You gotta love what you're doing and always happy to be here.
Scott Schimmel 27:37
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