This is my second interview with Jan, and if you haven’t had a chance to listen to Episode #240, be sure to check that out. In this interview we talk about crucible experiences - what they are, why they are so valuable, and steps you can take to introduce them into your everyday life. We talk about why you may want to write a book even if you don’t think you would like to write a book. We talk about self-publishing vs. publishing, costs associated with writing a book, and tactical advice on how to make it a success. We talk about entrepreneurship, life, and a whole lot more.
Jan Rutherford is the Founder of Self Reliant Leadership, an executive and military veteran program for leaders who are selfless, adventurous, and possess heroic aspirations. He entered the US Army at age 17 (weighing 114 pounds), and spent six years in Special Forces as a medic and “A” team executive officer, and three years as a military intelligence officer. In addition to having over 25 years of business and healthcare experience, he is the co-host of The Leadership Podcast, and the author of “The Littlest Green Beret: On Self-Reliant Leadership” where half the proceeds go to the Special Operations Warrior and Green Beret Foundations.
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Transcript & Time Stamps:
Joining me for a second time from Portland, Oregon is Jan Rutherford. Jan Rutherford is the Founder of Self Reliant Leadership, an executive and military veteran program for leaders who are selfless, adventurous, and possess heroic aspirations. He entered the US Army at age 17 (weighing 114 pounds), and spent six years in Special Forces as a medic and “A” team executive officer, and three years as a military intelligence officer. In addition to having over 25 years of business and healthcare experience, he is the co-host of The Leadership Podcast, and the author of “The Littlest Green Beret: On Self-Reliant Leadership” where half the proceeds go to the Special Operations Warrior and Green Beret Foundations.
Can you talk about the process of writing a book?
On the cover of the book is a picture of me receiving my green beret. I was about 115 lbs at the time. At the time, I thought to myself, ‘If I ever write a book, I’m going to include this photo to show all the people that didn’t think that this was possible that they were wrong.’
Over the years I had an idea that I wanted to write a book about leadership. In 2006 on a business trip to Hawaii, I started writing the book. It was finally published four and a half years later in 2011. I had an editor that didn’t end up lasting because she didn’t end up being helpful. Eventually I hired an editor that really was able to help me bring the book together. Unlike an article or a blog, when you’re writing a book, you’re really thinking about it all the time. I knew I would need to be vulnerable and share more personal stories from my past experience.
If you were doing this again today, how would you keep track of all your thoughts?
I had notes all over the place. I highlighted books and notes. I had several journals. What I would do differently today would be to spend more time on the outline. I would really want to think about the beginning, middle, and end of each chapter.
Do you have any recommendations on finding the right editor?
Find an editor that has edited similar books. In my experience, there are two kinds of editors - editors that can check your grammar and punctuation and editors that actually understand the story and audience that you want to get at. That’s the sign of an editor that knows that it’s really about the audience and the big picture idea of what you want to convey.
When you’re writing a book, you’re sacrificing and committing time to that project. But after that, you have something very substantial that you can show people that you’ve done. Even if you don’t want to publish a book, I really encourage you to write. If I was hiring someone, I would look at someone’s LinkedIn profile. If someone is publishing original ideas and articles, that’s a good sign to me. Even if you’re not a great writer, you have important things to share with those around you.
During our crucible expeditions, we set aside four hours for what we call the solo challenge. We ask people to journal about what they learned each day and what their priorities are for the next day.
When I was a junior officer, we had a retired Colonel come speak to us and told us ‘All great men have kept journals.’ After that I started to keep a journal myself. If you keep a journal, you start to notice patterns over time that will lead to self-improvement.
In my own journals, I captured a lot of things my kids said when they were young. I have all that as a historical record of all these memories.
For people that want to write a book, do you recommend finding a publisher or self-publishing?
Self-publishing these days is easy. For 99.9% of books, you will not make money. Even for books on the New York Times Bestseller List, the author likely didn’t make a ton of money off that book. So unless you're a major author, you’re going to do all the marketing for the book yourself.
When I published my book, it was for me and my family and to establish credibility for myself as I built up my public speaking business.
If people want to go the publisher route, how much does that cost?
I paid for some things and the publisher paid for others. It wasn’t incredibly substantial. I make a couple dollars off each book that’s sold. A donation is made to the Green Beret Foundation from the sale of each book as well. What greatest thing you’ll get out of publishing a book isn’t the money from it but the journey of going through the book writing process.
If you think you want to write a book, tell the people around you. That will keep you motivated toward finishing the book. With all the other things going on in your life, it’s easy to set the book writing aside.
When my grandson was born, my daughter took a picture of him holding the book. That was really cool for me to see. It’s nice to think that when I’m long gone, that book will still be here and my grandkids and great-grandkids will be able to read it and know a little bit more about their heritage.
Jan is the founder of Self Reliant Leadership. Jan - can you share with us more about Self Reliant Leadership’s crucible experience?
Every February, we select veterans to participate in our program. This year we’ll do three crucibles - Alaska, Colorado and Moab, UT. The group is half veterans and half corporate executives. The veterans are in the transition process and are wanting to jump start their career outside the military. The experience looks to bring the executives and veterans together through the challenges they will face in the wilderness.
Leaders are constantly testing themselves. Chances are if you’re doing that, you’re constantly failing. Are you bold enough to do that? To put yourself through that, knowing that you’re going to grow tremendously. Are you living a life that you’re proud of or are you settling for something that is comfortable? I would urge you to step out of your zone of comfort in order to make forward progress.
Do you have any advice on how people can push themselves beyond their comfort zone?
Think about what you want to achieve in your life. Are you moving toward that? Think about what you would do if you knew it was impossible to fail. You’re here to make yourself better and push yourself. Think about the communities and people that you want to serve and put yourself in that direction.
Bill George found that one thing leaders have in common is that they are constantly testing themselves. And you can’t test yourself in your zone of comfort so push yourself to get outside that. You might at times get the imposter syndrome. But that’s a good sign that you’re pushing yourself.
I’ve had plenty of failures throughout my career. What I’ve had to learn is that it’s easy to ruminate on failures. But you have to change that playlist in your head. To me, that’s resilience. I also think that those failures are the way we gain wisdom. When we succeed and things are easy, we’re not usually reflecting or learning as much.
Do you have any advice about starting your own company?
You can do analysis paralysis forever. The best market research you can do is just get out and sell your product. You have to truly believe that your product or offering is going to improve people’s ideas.
Writing the perfect business plan just doesn’t cut it. The most successful people really know their customer base. The best way to do that is to get out and talk to potential customers.