#60 Embracing the Power of My Story

Today's Guest: Doug Brown

Today, I interview Doug Brown who was raised by two very hardworking parents. He was encouraged to persevere and accomplish as much as he could, but that put a lot of emphasis on performance and left less time for self-reflection. There wasn’t much room for slowing down to connect. He says that throughout his various experiences and occupations, he’s never had a fear of the microphone. He never felt anxious about delivering a message and getting the job done. But truly letting himself be seen and revealing his vulnerable side was a completely foreign idea for him.

Doug continued onto what would become a very long and successful career built around fortifying businesses and rescuing and repairing issues for business owners. He worked extremely hard– so hard, in fact, that he wasn’t taking care of himself. He was becoming more and more empty, and his own needs weren’t being met. He fell into extreme burnout and finally knew he needed to make some urgent changes when he started experiencing panic attacks.

After heeding advice of coaches and mentors to explore mindfulness, Doug became attuned to his own place in the world, putting thought into how he wanted his life to look and how he wanted to represent himself. He wanted to thrive, and he was ready to make the necessary changes. Now in his interactions with people, he truly values taking the time to really connect. He believes we accomplish more as humans when we share ourselves with others. That’s what makes the most meaningful difference.


Doug is an executive coach and consultant who helps high-performing CEOs, business owners, lawyers, and other professionals maximize their business growth and leadership success so they can have the freedom to live a fulfilled life. Doug’s story of finding his voice is tied to his career and life journey from the child of small business owners through being a lawyer and into his own journey into the corporate world and becoming an entrepreneur, business builder, and fixer. And over the last 25 years, he’s helped transform multiple seven and eight-figure businesses, from large corporations to family businesses, professional practices, not-for-profits, and professional associations.

Find Doug here: doug@summit-success.com

Watch the episode:

Connect with Doug Brown

Transcript of Interview

Find Your Voice, Change Your Life Podcast 

Podcast Host: Dr. Doreen Downing

Free Guide to Fearless Speaking: Doreen7steps.com

Episode #60 Doug Brown

“Embracing the Power of My Story”

(0:35) Dr. Doreen Downing

Hi, this is Dr. Doreen Downing and I’m the host of the Find Your Voice Change Your Life podcast. What I love about doing this podcast is that I get to interview fascinating people, people who have had journeys, life journeys, and challenges and have come through those challenges. And because what I focus on here is finding your voice, finding your authentic voice. It’s about people who usually have found themselves in other situations, and they realize that’s not who they truly are. And they need to make a change. So the journey, the journey of transformation is what we get to listen to, and I want to welcome my new friend Doug Brown. Hi, Doug.


(1:22) Doug Brown

Hi, how are you, Doreen?


(1:23) Dr. Doreen Downing

I’m always excited about talking to you. You’ve always struck me as somebody so natural and easy, and probably not having had too much of a challenge speaking in public. But let me read a little bit about you so people get a sense of what an amazing journey it’s been to have you come to where you are. Yes. Well, Doug, you are an executive coach and consultant who helps high-performing CEOs, business owners, lawyers, and other professionals maximize their business growth and leadership success.


(2:06) Dr. Doreen Downing

This is the important part so they can have the freedom to live a fulfilled life. That is such an intention to help others have a fulfilled life. Doug’s story of finding his voice is tied to his career and life journey from the child of small business owners through being a lawyer and into his own journey into the corporate world and becoming an entrepreneur, business builder, and fixer. And over the last 25 years, he’s helped transform multiple seven and eight-figure businesses, from large corporations to family businesses, professional practices, not for profits, and professional associations.


(2:53) Dr. Doreen Downing

One more thing I want to say is that’s a lot of life you’ve been living.


(3:00) Doug Brown

I’m older than I look. I know that’s gray now coming on.


(3:06) Dr. Doreen Downing

That’s what I was thinking. You look so young you’ve done all this. Anyway, this last bit is you are a Book Yourself Solid certified coach and your business insights have been featured in public image publications, featured in publications such as the Chicago Tribune, Inc magazine, The New York Post, and wired.com. Well, hope I didn’t botch your intro too much.


(3:42) Doug Brown

I realize that I probably should have given you a third of that. So we could talk more.


(3:46) Dr. Doreen Downing

Well, I did take out one paragraph.


(3:49) Doug Brown

Okay, good. Good, good. Good.


(3:50) Dr. Doreen Downing

But I think we got the highlights.


(3:53) Doug Brown

Got the idea.


(3:54) Dr. Doreen Downing

Yes. What a generous human being and talented and multifaceted. But since today is about your personal journey and what you feel were the early challenges. So let’s just talk about voice and let’s see where you go with that. What was it like finding your voice and what’s been the journey?


(4:17) Doug Brown

Yes, well, first, I’m so glad to be here and share my little story. For me, there were two parts to public speaking because I’ve been doing it for a long time. And the first is getting the confidence to put yourself out there on stage in front of a group before a microphone, whether you’re on a stage or not. And the second is knowing what to say when you’re there and kind of letting people behind the curtain about who you really are. And anybody who knows me will know I don’t have any problem at all being behind a microphone, or in front of a room. It feels like it’s always been that way. I mean, early on in high school. I got to a unique opportunity to do the Dale Carnegie program, those of us who were older might remember that, and through a Junior Achievement in high school, that really taught me the power, the confidence to get up in front of a room and speak and persuade, and kind of led to a bunch of things I did when I was growing up. And then later in life, whether I was doing training or continuing education programs for lawyers, or my favorite job ever, which was being a PA announcer for the local high school, where I was the guy that did the game environment, that was just a blast. So no problem behind a microphone. But there’s the second part of it, which was a bigger challenge for me. And it was always easy when I was doing the game or talking about like how to manage your time or do that kind of thing. But I knew I wanted to move to another level. I wanted to be able to really motivate and persuade people because I’d seen speakers like Doug Lipp from the Disney Institute. I’m like, I want to be as good as that person. So I went and got training on it. And that’s when I saw the real power of persuasion is when you let people inside.


(6:22) Dr. Doreen Downing

You said something just a second ago. First, you said something about being behind the microphone. And that’s just hey, microphone. It’s not scary to you. But you also said something about being behind the curtain. And I had the sense that the curtain was something that a part of you was behind? Is that what you’re getting it?


6:46) Doug Brown

Yes. So when I went to move from doing tactical education things, that didn’t really require letting people in and know who I was when I would show up. But I wasn’t really embracing the power of the story about who I am. And that was a big challenge for me when I went to go to this next level because that’s what really moves people is your story. I didn’t want to let people in. In part, because if I let people in, then I guess I could be judged. And then part of it was my indoctrination as a lawyer. And that was if people see any sense of weakness or vulnerability, they’ll take advantage of it. And, whatever you say, can and will be used against you, kind of thing. And that was keeping me from putting my true self out there to be able to speak. And then later in life, I recently discovered, that there’s actually a link between these kinds of feelings and, high-functioning ADD, which is a superpower and a curse. So it’s been on this discovery, and I’m just, all these years later, like, it’s not just what I’ve done, but how I’ve done it, and what I had to overcome that makes it really interesting if there’s a story behind it. And I never thought, my own story was interesting.


(8:10) Dr. Doreen Downing

Well, it certainly fascinated me enough that I wanted you to come in and share it. And thank you, I think that just this sense of you telling our listeners that there are ways in which we hide ourselves, and there are reasons to, and because I’m a psychologist, I just want to dip briefly into early life, just sometimes the pattern starts really, really young. I mean, you don’t have to, like, tear the whole history apart and go bare but is there any connection in terms of the connecting the dots between what happened later?


(8:53) Doug Brown

I don’t know. I mean, it’s a good question. I think it was always when I was very young, my parents worked for other people. And then they went into their own various businesses, and they always worked very hard. And there was a never give up and just keep moving forward. And just do, do, do, which is how entrepreneurs get stuff done. There’s really not a lot of time for self-reflection. And it’s a little bit of what you give the people what they want. You’ve got to market; you go out and do what they want and the story of what’s going on in the background. That backstage stuff that doesn’t matter.


(9:37) Doug Brown

All it matters is building the business and delivering the curriculum or teaching people how to do things. Without a lot of really self-reflection. It was only in the last 10 years or five years that I was going through this kind of midlife shift of, oh my gosh, how did I get here? And what’s next? And what difference does it make? I’ve got this long list of accomplishments. But there’s got to be more. And when I started to open myself up about what was missing, I wasn’t really connecting with the heart, with people, which is what I think most people really want.


(10:21) Doug Brown

And the thing about public speaking when I help my clients with it is because they’re coming from an intellectual place of here’s what I know, I want to convey my knowledge. And that’s not what connects with people, it’s about the story, it’s about the heart first. And, allowing myself to share that part of me was probably the most difficult part of the journey. It was putting the content first.


(10:52) Dr. Doreen Downing

Yes. And that seems really clear when you’re talking about a curtain on the stage and looking out at an audience and then behind the curtain is so much more. And what I get a sense is, whatever happened to you, that kind of slow dawning that there was more than just looking out, that you had to turn around and look behind the curtain.


(11:15) Doug Brown

I think part of it, Doreen, was I went a long time, many years, more about taking care of everybody else. And wore me down that I was kind of forced into a situation where I had to take care of myself, I had to get introspective and find out what was going on and not just worry about everybody else. Because if I didn’t take care of myself, then I wasn’t any good to anybody else. I’d worn myself.


(11:48) Dr. Doreen Downing

Well, what was that? What was the thinning? How did you…


(11:56) Doug Brown

I think it came when my business has always been about helping people in companies that are in really difficult situations. So I just go in, full speed ahead, and do whatever it takes to try to fix the situation. But there’s only so much energy that anybody has to give in the world before you have to replenish it. And I just got myself to the place of pretty significant burnout, where I was working harder and harder and getting less and less done. And being less and less satisfied. Till I got to the place where I’m like this, whatever.


(12:34) Doug Brown

Somehow it dawned on me with the help of the people I surrounded myself with and my coaches that that path wasn’t sustainable anymore. That I was not going to let myself go through my 50s, into my 60s without ever taking care of myself. I mean, it was just too much for other people. And the reason I was doing all the work was for the family and the community.


(13:00) Dr. Doreen Downing

Well, luckily it wasn’t like a heart attack. And what was your wake-up call.


(13:06) Doug Brown

I think the physical manifestation was when I started having panic attacks.


(13:10) Dr. Doreen Downing

Well, hello, yes.


(13:14) Doug Brown

Which was a real, like, I was taught power through this stuff, just, Buck up, dude, keep going. We’ll rest when we’re dead, but I don’t want to be dead. And I think that’s part of the story that I want to get out and share with people, especially men in their 50s, but not just men, we’re so busy trying to please everyone else and take care of everybody else that we somehow think taking care of ourselves is selfish. And we don’t see clearly how we have more and better to give when we, I guess are more mindful about things and we embrace our own story.


(13:57) Dr. Doreen Downing

Well, it certainly sounds like you have come to learn some really deep why’s. Yes, it’s because this whole image I have of you being muscled and moving into situations with a lot of good energy. But then that energy is like you said…it wasn’t being replenished. Wow.


(14:24) Doug Brown

Yes. trying to I think the key thing, as I learned, as this relates to finding your voice was me getting to a place where my voice and my work is really about helping others, kind of like yours is kind of helping people find their voice but not through how to be a speaker is just how to find yourself doing the work in a way that gives you more energy so that you can have a fulfilled life as opposed to the model that perhaps our parents lived with, where you just sacrifice everything and work until you’re 65, and then you retire and hope that you have enough wealth and health, to somehow begin enjoying life that.


(15:14) Doug Brown

And I’ve kind of rejected that model. And so I think when we’re finding our voice, there are so many people I know, who are stuck in a role, or even a role they built for themselves or company they built for themselves. And they wake up and say, Well, is this it? The decisions I made 20 years ago, I’m smarter now but I don’t have any options. And my message is, you absolutely do. Something to allow yourself to explore it a little bit.


(15:52) Dr. Doreen Downing

Yes. And it’s an inner exploration. It sounds like mindfulness is one of those tools that we have developed that help us navigate our emotions, and navigate ourselves through difficulties. I think that that must have been something that you learned, something about being aware.


(16:18) Doug Brown

I was initially. I still remember that maybe it was a turning point when I was at one of those low points. And my friend and coach suggested trying mindfulness. And I thought, well, what the heck, it’s been around for 1000s of years, maybe there’s something to it. But I was a skeptic, I don’t look at it from a spiritual point of view, I was like, I need a tool to manage stress and make myself better.


(16:49) Doug Brown

And so I forced myself to be open to it. And then I realized how just important it is to be aware and intentional about what’s going on in your head, about the stories we tell ourselves that hold ourselves back. I’m not good enough. I don’t have transferable skills, I’m 50, and I can’t change my course. And all those things are wrong.


(17:15) Doug Brown

But they’re very powerful voices in our heads. And sometimes all it takes is being aware of it, to be able to work with it, and, and even when you want to be a speaker that, well, my story isn’t very interesting to other people. I guess unless you’re a true narcissist, all of us believe that a little bit like my story is just my story. But that’s what we want to hear from other people. We want to hear what their journey was, so we can relate to it?


(17:44) Dr. Doreen Downing

Well, yes, in your journey about being somebody who was able to go into all these situations with probably every intention already, but it’s a different intention now. I think what you’re saying is you’re helping people find, I love those two words you had in the beginning, freedom, and fulfillment.


(18:06) Doug Brown

Yes, and there’s, sometimes the freedom comes from just appreciating where you are and what you do, and the difference you get to make in the world. We get so busy doing all the time, that we never stop to appreciate what we accomplished.


(18:24) Doug Brown

And sometimes when I’m working with, when I’m working with a lawyer-client who’s got a successful business, and they’re miserable, some of it is they just haven’t learned the business skills they need. And some of this, they haven’t just slowed down enough to really see what’s going on. Yes, they’re so focused that it’s an occupational hazard for lawyers, you’re focused on what’s not working, as opposed to appreciating what you’ve been able to build?


(18:51) Dr. Doreen Downing

Yes, I think that in my work as a psychologist, it was initially how I was trained was looking for the pain, and why things aren’t working. But now because of this whole new thrust in positive psychology, looking for what’s working, looking for the best in people. And so I understand what you just said about where you focus is also what you create.


(19:18) Doug Brown

I think, a big shift for me, and hopefully, for our listeners is that we, I first went at it, when I was trying to find my story, my formula, what makes me different, I would look out and say, well, there are lots of people who do what I do what makes mine so special. And of course, people would say, well, it’s how you go about it. And it was really kind of embracing that. And realizing that when I go out and tell my story of moving from all the different things that I’ve done, there are some people who will look at that very negatively, and not be interested in all.


(19:57) Doug Brown

That doesn’t matter if I can reach a few people, people who were really meant to connect with as a speaker as a coach, that’s the true measure. It’s not about that. I look at it as the quality, much more than the quantity. And that helps me get out there and not worry about being judged by somebody saying something that somebody doesn’t like, or think you should have said it a different way.


(20:22) Dr. Doreen Downing

Yes. For people who are just listening and didn’t get to see Doug. He just shrugged his shoulders. Oh, well, they don’t like it or they like it… whatever.


(20:33) Doug Brown

It’s so important. Because if we go on stage, big or small, trying to please everyone. We won’t please ourselves.


(20:43) Dr. Doreen Downing

Yes. I like what you said earlier, too, about the whole point being connection. So if wherever we are, and we’re engaging with people, whether on a stage or in a meeting, or just a conversation in a hallway, it’s the connection.


(21:02) Doug Brown

that’s where I think a lot of people who are trying to be better at speaking can go wrong. And that is, yes, speaking as an art and a skill. And there are definitely, quote, performance things you need to do. But at the end of the day, it’s all about creating a connection with the people you were meant to connect with in your audience.


(21:28) Doug Brown

And if you stop at the performance level, and getting people to say, well, that person is a good performer, you haven’t completed the task, because you don’t want to be a good performer. You want to connect with somebody and have them say that person said something, gave me something, unlocked some thought in my head that moved me forward in some way. Yes, that’s not done by performances.


(21:55) Dr. Doreen Downing

That’s transformation. I’ve called that transformational speaking, speaking in a way that transforms your listener. One of the things that you said to me about speaking and voice showing up, it’s not just about a stage, not just about being somebody who’s delivering a presentation, that every moment, I mean, even now, you and I are speaking. And in a way, we’re kind of public, because we know that there are all these listeners out there. So say more about your thought about life being the stage?


22:39) Doug Brown

The skills that we use, as speakers, understand your audience, understand your message, understand how your audience sees that message in the first place. And what kind of outcome what kind of difference do you want to make, you don’t need to be on a stage or in front of a conference room or making a presentation to do that. When you’re at a cocktail party. Remember, cocktail parties? And you got to go out and be with people. No matter what you’re doing, you are making an impact on someone else. So how you show up.


(23:14) Doug Brown

Especially with an intention of connecting and being in service and listening. Whether you’re standing on your sideline or your kid’s ballgame, or you’re at a cocktail party, or you’re in just regular life situations. Isn’t it better to think about being present than presenting? I just thought of that, that’s good. I got to remember that one. Sometimes I just come up with stuff that was a good one.


(23:45) Dr. Doreen Downing

I know. Well, you’re on fire. Well, you said in service to others, connecting, and listening. You put those three together. And that feels as if we fashioned a kind of jewel, the diamond, the three corners …the listening, connecting, and serving. That feels like the jewel of what I’m getting.


(24:14) Doug Brown

And that applies whether you’re talking to a large audience or an audience of one. And the challenge these days is we are surrounded by negative and can’t do messages. And we’re in such a hurry that rather than listening we’re automatically thinking about what we’re going to say next. And that dead air is a bad thing but amongst all the speaking, there’s not a lot of listening going on.


(24:51) Doug Brown

And that’s what so many people want now. They just want to be heard, like actually heard. And so when you’re making a speech? How cool is it if you’re the speaker, but then you’re giving someone else the experience that they were heard?


(25:09) Dr. Doreen Downing

Yes, I call that listening to the listening when I teach people about how to be in front of, well, usually it’s a stage and an audience. But it’s not the anticipation or looking at them in a way that you’re trying to figure out what they’re thinking, and you’re focusing on their judgment. But it’s like, you’re listening more deeply. And so when you say, when we’re talking about listening to the listening, say a little bit more about that, because what I do is when I drop down into the listening to other people listening to me, I look for their goodness, I look for their heart. And I don’t even see, even though they may be judging me, it’s like, well, I’m shrugging my shoulders now too.


(25:59) Doug Brown

I think that the listening starts well, before you start speaking, if your audience is working on how to be a better public speaker, it’s before you ever show up. It’s talking to the meeting organizer to find out what are the challenges that the people have? Where are they on your particular topic? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in, whether it’s a board room or a lecture hall, and some big speaker will come in, supposedly to drop knowledge on us. And they’ll lose us in the first 30 seconds.


(26:34) Doug Brown

Because they didn’t take the time to understand our group and where we were coming from. I’ve been in those audiences, I’ve been in those rooms. And what happens is, that the person on stage has no clue that they lost us. And so rather than making a difference, we’re sitting here wondering, she didn’t even know that about us. I’m thinking of one speaker in particular who did this. And you can’t make an impact if you do that.


(27:08) Doug Brown

So you want to when you’re crafting your message, you want to be talking to people in the words that they use to describe their problems. As one of my teachers said, you don’t want your audience to nod their head and say he’s right. You want them to nod their head and say, That’s right. That’s the idea and not the person.


(27:34) Dr. Doreen Downing

Well, just listening to you today, I feel like I could keep on pulling out treasured jewels, some gems more and more. Darn it. We’re coming to an end. And I want to make sure that you’ve said what you’ve wanted to say number one, and number two, we need to look at how people can get a hold of you and make sure that there’s some kind of easy way that people can find you.


(28:03) Doug Brown

Yes, thank you. I think you pulled out the big nugget, a few minutes ago. I think the exploration of getting in touch with your own story, and finding out how, and the power of that is probably the most important part of speaking. Because that’s the most important part of the message of connecting with your people. And that requires some introspective work, which I found the pivotal thing for me was having a coach to help me see what I didn’t want to see, including the good stuff that I wouldn’t give myself credit for. Having somebody that could teach me the craft of public speaking and the stage.


(28:50) Doug Brown

And then having a community of people who are on the journey with me, sharing their stories, creating a kind of a safe place for all of us to be vulnerable and get in touch with the most powerful part of our messages. So the big idea is public speaking is not a solo activity, you might be by yourself on stage, but it’s you need to have a team, behind you behind the curtain. And that’s why I so appreciate what you’re doing, with your people.


(29:19) Dr. Doreen Downing

Well, you just wrapped it up, didn’t you?


(29:24) Doug Brown

It’s not any different from the work that I do with lawyers and CEOs. It’s a pretty lonely job. You don’t know who’s got an agenda and who you can trust and you want to make the right decisions and you want to be listening but you got to. That’s why I went into my work as an executive coach because I know how lonely it is to be in those positions and public speaking is part of it.


(29:52) Doug Brown

But it’s also being the very best person you can be, improving your personal performance, resolving the conflicts that you just get so myopic on that you can’t see other things. And that’s the work that I do, help people run better businesses so they can grow, and then it’s got some value, and they do better work for their clients.


(30:15) Doug Brown

So if people wanted to reach out to me to learn more about that, I’m part of a group called Summit Success International. My email address will drop in the show notes. It’s Doug@Summit-success.com. And I also have something for your listeners, it’s one of the most popular downloads people asked for.


(30:36) Doug Brown

Because if you want to learn how to be a better speaker, then you’ve got to have time to work on yourself, and get out of the day-to-day, get out of the weeds. And so the download I’ll give to you in the show notes is my Seven Steps To Tame Your To-Do List. It’s a different way to organize all the things you have going on so you can focus on what’s really important.


(30:57) Dr. Doreen Downing

And what’s really important right now for me is having had this conversation with you and being in the moment, being real present and listening and opening up space so that you get to fill it with your wisdom. Thank you so much, Doug


(31:15) Doug Brown

I’m so grateful for the opportunity and I love the work you’re out doing in the world. Thank you.

Also listen on…

7 STEP GUIDE TO FEARLESS SPEAKINGPodcast host, Dr. Doreen Downing, helps people find their voice so they can overcome anxiety, be confident, and speak without fear.

Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speakingdoreen7steps.com.

7 STEP GUIDE TO FEARLESS SPEAKINGPodcast host, Dr. Doreen Downing, helps people find their voice so they can overcome anxiety, be confident, and speak without fear.

Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speakingdoreen7steps.com.