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Amazing Possibilities!

  • Writer's pictureMatthew Kelly

Former Up with People CEO Tommy Spaulding Interviews with Matthew Kelly


Matthew Kelly:

Hi, I'm Matthew Kelly. Welcome to Profoundly Human. My guest today is Tommy Spaulding. Tommy welcome.

Tommy Spaulding:

Great to be here, Matthew.

Matthew Kelly:

How are you?

Tommy Spaulding:

I just got to speak to your team, I couldn't be better.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah, it was great. I really enjoyed that. It's very powerful.

Tommy Spaulding:

Yeah. I was thinking about it, I didn't want to speak to them before because I thought I'd sweat and it wouldn't be all disheveled, but I got the Holy Spirit so revved up in my heart, just to share my heart with your team. Now I'm excited about being with you.

Matthew Kelly:

Thank you. Thank you. So, there's some tough questions to get started. Are you a coffee drinker?

Tommy Spaulding:

I'm the only one that drinks decaf.

Matthew Kelly:

Decaf.

Tommy Spaulding:

And every time I ask for decaf, they say, "Let me go brew you a cup." So, I always get a fresh pot because no one drinks decaf. But in 2000 I had my last caffeine and I was jittering and said, "I'm done."

Matthew Kelly:

Got it.

Tommy Spaulding:

Yeah.

Matthew Kelly:

What was it doing to you?

Tommy Spaulding:

It just makes me jitters. So I'm kind of clean. I like to drink water and wine and tequila and that's about it.

Matthew Kelly:

Water and wine and tequila.

Tommy Spaulding:

And decaf once in a while.

Matthew Kelly:

There you go. What about favorite food?

Tommy Spaulding:

You know I'm half Italian. Sorry or 48%. I used to say half Italian, but then you get these 23andMe and then they give you actually a number. So I'm 48% Italian, so I love Italian food. But I spent a couple of years living in Japan and I just fell in love with Japanese food.

Matthew Kelly:

What is your favorite Italian dish?

Tommy Spaulding:

Well my mama she cooks chicken parm that will just out arrive by anything. So she got this stuffed bread and baked clams. And then she does raviolis and chicken parm, Italian sausage. That's for the appetizer and every morning. She's the best.

Matthew Kelly:

What about favorite movie?

Tommy Spaulding:

I'm a movie guy, so that's going to be hard. But we're a hockey family. My stepson, Anthony plays hockey. My little one, Tate plays a hockey at boarding school. Our dog is Gretsky. So, I just got to say Miracle. I just love that movie.

Tommy Spaulding:

Just that the 1980 Olympics, how this junior, nobody, just US team takes on the giant of Soviet Union and won straight gold medals and so intimidating. And with leadership and heart, we just watch it over and over again.

Matthew Kelly:

It's a fantastic movie.

Tommy Spaulding:

Yeah.

Matthew Kelly:

Do you have a favorite scene or a favorite line?

Tommy Spaulding:

When the coach, Herb Brooks says, "I'm tired of this Russians winning. This is your time and take it." I'm like running to this screen, "Get me on the ice. I'm ready to fight."

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah. Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

It's just hockey guys have just a gift. I've just dropped off Tate at boarding school, at Shattuck which is like the top hockey school in the country. They won national championships where Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon all went there.

Tommy Spaulding:

We dropped him off and the head coach, Tom Ward who runs the prep team, and then the junior coach Christian and these guys were talking about hockey and I was crying. I was so motivated. Hockey guys know how to motivate.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

And they're so real and so authentic. I was like, "Sign me up. I'll go anywhere." Just amazing.

Matthew Kelly:

So Tate's your youngest?

Tommy Spaulding:

He is, he's 14 and still mourning. He's five days at the boarding school, never seen the kid cry ever, even when he broke his collarbone. Kid has got full love, he doesn't cry. He's been crying this week. He misses home. But by tomorrow, by the time this video comes out, he'll be fine. It's me I'm worried about.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah. What's it like to drop your 14-year-old off to boarding school?

Tommy Spaulding:

Yeah. The only analogy I can give Matthew is when I was in college, I went skydiving and I didn't want to do the tandem with you jumping with someone. If I'm going to do it, I'm jumping out that damn plane by myself. Right? So I did the course where you pull the thing and the zip line and the static line.

Tommy Spaulding:

And when that plane got up there and said, "Okay, ready to jump." I just didn't want to jump. I paid the money. I did the class, it was I'm ready to do it. But when that plane opens, something intuitively is that human body's not supposed to jump out of this plane. They had to push me out.

Tommy Spaulding:

And that's the only way I felt with dropping Tate off. And I get dropping off an 18-year-old kid. We dropped off Anthony at West Point. That was hard.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

But he's 18, 19. But when you're 14 and you're going away, it just didn't feel right. I know he is where he needs to be, and he's going to do well there, but it was painful.

Matthew Kelly:

Now, when will he next come home?

Tommy Spaulding:

Christmas.

Matthew Kelly:

Okay. Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

Yeah. Christmas. Yeah. But I'll see him in five days, four hours and 30 seconds, I'm going to see him.

Matthew Kelly:

Talk to us about childhood. What was your childhood like? Where did you grow up? What was Tommy like as a kid?

Tommy Spaulding:

Yeah. I grew in Upstate New York. I have to be careful when I say that because the Upstate people from New York say I live in the city and then the city people say I live in Upstate. I'm 25 miles north of the city in Rockland county, in a little town called Suffern, New York.

Tommy Spaulding:

My parents were school teachers. My dad taught English for 40 years. My mom didn't go to college. But when I was in high school, went back to college, got a degree, became a teacher. So they were educators. And my sister became a teacher. My aunts and uncles were all teachers.

Tommy Spaulding:

And I think I wanted to become a teacher, but the reality was school was really, really hard for me. And I struggled with dyslexia and just learning challenges, probably had ADHD and ED, I had it all. And they didn't know what to do with kids like me back in the '70s and '80s.

Tommy Spaulding:

So, they had this room called the resource room and that's for the kids with dyslexia and autism and all mental challenges. And that was my room, the resource room. And I hated that room. Matthew. The R word, it was used a lot. And I hate that word. "Where's Spaulding going? He's going to the retard room." And I didn't want to be defined by that.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

And so I wasn't strong. I didn't have good grades. I wasn't very athletic. So, I had to pick something I was really good at, and that was love. And I just love people. And I love the blacks, the whites, the Jews, the smoking section. I can walk in, I didn't smoke, but I could walk in a smoking section know everyone's name. The geeks, the dungeon and dragons people. Remember those people?

Matthew Kelly:

I do.

Tommy Spaulding:

The chess club. Anyway, I became class president and I just really just served that school and really found my confidence outside the classroom and loving and serving people, bringing people together.

Tommy Spaulding:

And then my senior year in college, I never thought I would ever play varsity football. I was a soccer player in the fourth team.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

I just was terrible. But the varsity football coach, Bob Veltidi saw a leader in me. And he pulled me in his office right before my senior year and said, "We need a field goal kicker. Have you ever kicked a field goal? Ever kicked a football?" I said, "I don't think I've ever thrown a football coach." And he's like, "I could kick a soccer ball, it was no different. Just take two steps back, two steps over."

Tommy Spaulding:

So he gave me a bag of footballs and a kicking tee. He said, "Tommy, I really need a field goal kicker. If you can figure out how to figure this, kick a field goal, you practiced during summer, come to practice and tryouts in August 10th and if you can kick 10 in a row, I'll put you on the team."

Tommy Spaulding:

Well, I failed three classes that year, so I had to go to summer school. So, I guess I was to take my bag of football to summer school, and then I would just kick hundreds of them. And I got my leg strong enough. Even today if I took my pants off, which I won't, my right leg is bigger than my left. I just built muscle and I kicked, kicked and kicked because I wanted to be somebody.

Tommy Spaulding:

And I kicked 10 extra points in a row, and I made the team, and I was the varsity field goal kicker. We went undefeated and the championship, the county championship, we were losing to Clarkstown North by two points. I didn't kick a field goal the whole year because Danny Muno was our quarterback, always put in the end zone. I just kick extra points. Didn't kick a field goal the whole season.

Tommy Spaulding:

Last game of the season we played Clarkstown North, they're winning by two. And with 37 seconds left of the game, we had the ball and Danny Muno had to either do a 37-yard wide out to win the game or put me in for a 37-yard field goal.

Tommy Spaulding:

And I was just praying and yelling, "Put Munos in, Munos in. Put the kicker in." And stadium was packed, it was undefeated season, both teams were undefeated. And my parents were there, my grandparents were there. Coach Bob Veltidi. You know he calls them the kicking crew, and my heart was just pounding.

Tommy Spaulding:

I couldn't even walk out in the field. I was peeing my pants. My legs were shaking. And what does the other coach do? Calls time out, it's called icing the kicker. So, now I had three more minutes to think about how I'm going to lose this game.

Tommy Spaulding:

And coach Bob Veltidi, who passed away this year of cancer, he walks out to the field. He was a big man and he just spoke so calmly. And he said to me, "I didn't put you on his team to kick winning field goals. I put you on the team because I believe in you. You're a leader. And whether you make this field goal or not, I want you to know how much I love you, but I really want you to make this damn field goal." And he grabs my mask and he pulls me in and he puts his face right in my face. And he says to me, "I believe in you."

Tommy Spaulding:

And now I never had a coach ever tell me that or a teacher. I was just the resource room kid. We put it through the uprights and we won the game and it was the start of my life, October 11th, 1986.

Matthew Kelly:

Wow.

Tommy Spaulding:

I know that game, got carried off the field. We went to Friendly's restaurant after the game and we never went there. We didn't have much money. So going to Friendly's was a big deal, I think a diner. And I walked in the restaurant, it was packed with people from the game. When I walked in, everyone gave me a stand ovation and I never got a standing, they don't do stand ovations in the resource room.

Tommy Spaulding:

And I just felt like somebody. And then the manager of the restaurant walks up to my parents right in front of me and says, "Your kid's a hero. And here's a booth we saved for you and your kid can have all the ice cream he wants to eat today on the house."

Tommy Spaulding:

I ate a lot of ice cream that night, Matthew. It was just the best day. I kissed my first girl that night too. It was a great day. Yeah. Someone believed in me, man. And that's what I want to do to others the rest of my life, is believe in people.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah. So, how old were you that day?

Tommy Spaulding:

I was 17.

Matthew Kelly:

17?

Tommy Spaulding:

Yeah.

Matthew Kelly:

So, you graduated high school, you go off to college.

Tommy Spaulding:

I didn't go to college. I couldn't get in.

Matthew Kelly:

Didn't go to college. So what'd you do?

Tommy Spaulding:

This international global youth leadership organization called Up with People came to my high school.

Matthew Kelly:

Okay. Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

And I shouldn't say I didn't get into college, I got into college. They just weren't colleges that you could actually put letters on the Jersey and be proud of. And Up with People came to my town and it just changed my life. There was this Up with People show. There are blacks, whites, Jews, Christians, communists, capitalist, young people, singing rock and roll music about building bridges and love.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

And this is what the world needs, is people that are different forming bonds. So after the show, I just walked right up to the stage and, "What kind of GPA, what kind of SAT score, how do I get Up with People?" I had a 2.0 and they said, "We don't look at grades, we look at people's hearts. We want to find people that want to love and serve people." "Sign me up."

Tommy Spaulding:

So, instead of going to Springfield College, I joined Up with People and they changed my life and I just traveled all over the world, went to 85 countries, 84 countries, lived in thousands of host families and went there when I was 17, went there and then I went to college and came back and really expanded my career.

Tommy Spaulding:

And then when I was 30 years old, I became the CEO and president at Up with People, ran it for five years. Just changed my life, taught me how to love all people, all people.

Matthew Kelly:

So, how did you get into doing what you're doing now?

Tommy Spaulding:

Yeah. That's Ken Blanchard and Steve Farber and these great speakers that Steve was on the board of Up with People, a speaker, author. Wrote the Radical Lead, Radical Edge. And then Ken Blanchard, we hired him to come do a benefit fundraiser for Up with People.

Tommy Spaulding:

We had this thing called Celebration of Peace. We had Colin Powell one year. We had Bill Cosby one year before that whole thing went down and we had Ken Blanchard one year. And so like Meg picked me up at the airport yesterday, I picked up Ken and got to know his heart and played golf with him and really spent time with him.

Tommy Spaulding:

And then that night we had our big fundraiser for other people. And Ken was our keynote speaker, but I was the president. And my job was to share the vision for other people to the 1,000 donors in the room. And I shared my heart and told stories and shared my heart and told stories.

Tommy Spaulding:

And when I drove Ken to the airport next day, he looked at me and he said, "Tommy, I've never seen anyone move an audience like you. Have you ever written or thought about writing a book?" I said, "Ken, I don't think I've ever read a book before, let alone written a book." He says, "Oh they've got ghost writers for that. You got a heart, you got a story you should think about doing this."

Tommy Spaulding:

And he hands me an envelope and he says, "Don't open this until you get home." I went home. There was a check for $25,000 made out to Tommy Spaulding not to Up with People, CEO of Up with People, it was made out to me. And says, "You're going to need this for a website. I already called my agent in New York." And Steve Farber helped me with more connections.

Tommy Spaulding:

Before you know it, I met Michael Palgon, my agent, blah, blah. And I had a book deal and the rest is history. And when I went to pay back the 25,000 years later, Ken didn't take it. He said, "Give it away." That guy's the real deal.

Matthew Kelly:

He's great.

Tommy Spaulding:

The real deal.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah. Really good. What's leaving Up with People, what was that like? You'd been doing it for so long, so committed to it. Was it like when you left?

Tommy Spaulding:

Well, it's interesting you asked that Matt, because I've been telling the story for years and it's a true story, but I never told the full truth because I wanted to protect the founder, but I really prayed about it. I thought about it. And the founder's now 98 years old, he's still alive. And I wanted to respect him.

Tommy Spaulding:

But I wrote the story, the real answer to that question in my new book. And he's probably going to be still alive when it comes out next week and I'm just praying it doesn't break his heart, but I really owe my life to him because he founded the greatest mission in the world I thought, at Up with People, and still do. There's nothing more important than bringing Jews and Christians and Muslims, and blacks and whites, and rich and poor, communists, capitalists together, young people to learn to love each other.

Tommy Spaulding:

That's what the bridging mutual understanding of young peoples. I defended that mission when I was a student, staff member, CEO, my whole life, 20 years in that organization. I still love it and still think it's the most important organization.

Tommy Spaulding:

And Blanton Belk was larger than life. He founded the organization, right? Built this worldwide movement and he was my mentor and he was my hero. He was the second father. And he groomed me. When he retired, I replaced him. I was his chosen person to run this organization 45 years later.

Tommy Spaulding:

So, I loved him and idolized him. He taught me how to play golf, taught me how to fish, take me down this place in Mexico. My home in Mexico now is because of him, the love from Mexico. He changed my life.

Tommy Spaulding:

And then I became CEO and president, he was the chairman. And then I saw a different side of him. And I just ... My mom always said never say anything bad about anybody, but let's just say he wasn't the leader that I thought he was. He was that way to the masses.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

But how he really treated people behind the scenes was something that really broke my heart.

Matthew Kelly:

You didn't see that working with him all those years? Only-

Tommy Spaulding:

When I was CEO, when I fully, fully took. And I think if there's been six CEOs of Up with People in its history. I think if you had interviewed all of us, we would all say the same thing, but I had so much respect for him. I just kept my mouth shut. Those four and a half years of being CEO really broke my heart because he wasn't the guy I thought he was.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

And I believe the mission's about to die. It's this close to being done. Up with People's almost gone.

Matthew Kelly:

Really?

Tommy Spaulding:

Yeah. And I really believe if he was a true heart-led leader, truly treated people with love and not ego and narcissism, other people would be on the greatest missions in the world right now, still. So I owe my life to Blanton because, Mr. Belk, because I'm in the leadership space now, not because I will work for a leader that I want to become. I'm in the leadership space now because I worked for a leader that I didn't want to become.

Matthew Kelly:

You mentioned Bill Cosby, got to come back to that for a minute. When you met him, did you have a sense that something was off?

Tommy Spaulding:

I just sensed arrogance and humor. And I have lot of friends that have a lot of humor and sometimes when you're sarcastic all the time and humor all the time, you're hiding something.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

A story.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

And I think humor's great. My best friend from high school, Corey Turer, still my best friend, he's sarcastic and he's hiding something, he's hiding. And we talk about it, right? Sarcasm is the first red flag when you're hiding insecurity.

Matthew Kelly:

And when you confront your friend about a sarcasm and what he's hiding, how does he react to that?

Tommy Spaulding:

I just love him so much. And reality is he's the best dad I know, his boys are amazing and he's been most loyal friend. When he was going through a divorce, I called him every day for a year, told him I loved him. When I turned 50 years ago and we were on the table, everyone's kind of honoring me. He said, "I've known Tommy since Little League and 12 years old. And when I went to my darkest time, that guy called me every day for the rest of my life."

Tommy Spaulding:

So, we have kind of a friendship that he can call me and my stuff, which I have my stuff and I call on him. But you go through your whole life with a bunch of pasta in your strainer, hundreds of noodles. And then they kind of slip out at the end of your life if you got six or seven noodles, and I got six or seven Corey Turers, I'm a pretty blessed man.

Matthew Kelly:

What would you say to someone who has someone in their life who uses sarcasm to hide, who uses sarcasm to avoid intimacy? What advice would you have for that person?

Tommy Spaulding:

Well, that other person's broken and hiding something and got deep pain. And so I challenge you to go to them and say, "I love you unconditionally." And get to know that story. I have someone in my men's forum, I have a men's forum that I love, these guys I love.

Tommy Spaulding:

I got a guy in my foreman, love point anything, amazing husband, father, has sarcasm to hide a lot of it. I know there's a story behind it and I'll find out that story. You just got to keep loving him. Yeah. Keep loving them. These are beautiful people, they're just hiding, they get to mask.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

Everyone hides things. Like my insecurity, I hid it with hard work and just work, I just worked, I worked at it, I hid it. But it's a journey. I just had a retreat this weekend called the Tommy Spaulding Man of Faith Retreat. Had like 28 guys, CEOs from all over the country, high level CEOs come in for the weekend and really learn about how to be a heart-led leader.

Tommy Spaulding:

One of the CEOs, a guy named Jackson McConnell runs an amazing bank in Georgia. One of the most successful small banks in the country. He's been to a lot of my retreats. He's been to my marriage retreat. His daughters have done my leadership retreat. So, he's bought-in. He's bought books, I've spoken to his team, so he knows my heart.

Tommy Spaulding:

The last exercise of the weekend was just a couple days ago I asked all the guys to write a love letter to their wives, because the night before I had surprised love letters. I contacted all their wives, surprised them with the love letter from their wife. So they got the love letter, got to feel that love, and I wanted them to return it.

Tommy Spaulding:

But Jackson didn't write a love letter to his wife, probably because he's been to my retreat bunch of times so he's done it before, but he wrote the love letter to me. I just got this letter on Sunday. Today is Tuesday. So I'm on the plane reading this three-page handwritten letter.

Tommy Spaulding:

And he basically says to me, "Tommy, I bought your books. I heard you speak, you changed my wife's life, my kids' life, my life. I love you. But do you love yourself? I just watch you and you give and you give, you're on the road 250 days a year. And you tell this story about the stadium, all these people of 80,000 people. But I'm concerned about the four people, your wife and your children. They'll be sitting right there front and center stage. You don't spend enough time with them."

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

But he really challenged me, "Do you love yourself? What are you hiding?" And I just wept. And this was a couple days ago.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

Because the reality is maybe I don't, because I had this teacher in high school named Mrs. Dizeni. She was my 10th grade typing teacher. And I told her I wanted to go to college and law school and change the world. And she said I was stupid. She literally said those words, "You're stupid. And there's not a college in America that'll accept you."

Tommy Spaulding:

And I just spent my life proving to the world that I'm not stupid and no amount of books or no amount of houses or no amount money I have in a bank account. And I just go and charge and charge and charge until I got that letter on Sunday, I realize I'm still chasing something that I'll never get. I'm just trying to prove to the world that I'm not stupid, and it's time to stop and get my worth to God.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

Only God.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

Just so my answer to your question back to is I teach this stuff. I read books about this stuff and I'm learning this stuff. I just learned it on Sunday that we got to love ourselves to really, truly love other people.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

And the only one that's going to love us unconditionally is Jesus Christ. Yeah.

Matthew Kelly:

You talked about hockey, you talked about football, do you have a favorite sport?

Tommy Spaulding:

I'm a baseball guy. Because I'm a New Yorker, I love the Yankees. '77 Yankees and Chris Chambliss, Mickey Rivers, Bucky Dent, Graig Nettles, Thurman Munson before he died in a car crash. George Zeber, Reggie Jackson, Lou Piniella. You got Catfish Hunter on the mounds, Ron Guidry, Tommy John, Catfish Hunter. If you grow up with those guys, you just love the sport.

Matthew Kelly:

You have memories of going to Yankee stadium as a kid?

Tommy Spaulding:

Yeah one. We didn't have much money, we went once with my dad and we sat in the cheap seats and I smelled something there. And my dad said it was popcorn. And I learned later that was marijuana. I never smelled it before.

Tommy Spaulding:

My dad was a great guy. He loved his kids. We just never went ... He hated New York city. He hated the Bronx. He would just have a heart attack driving there, parking. It was just too much. And so I never really went, but I watched my TV all the time.

Matthew Kelly:

Now marijuana's legal now in Colorado.

Tommy Spaulding:

Yeah. I don't want to not talk about that. Gosh.

Matthew Kelly:

Why? I'm just thinking maybe you should open a store.

Tommy Spaulding:

It's crazy.

Matthew Kelly:

You could call it Burn Popcorn.

Tommy Spaulding:

Burn Popcorn. But they're everywhere. They're everywhere.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah. So, what was it like sitting in the Yankee stadium as a kid?

Tommy Spaulding:

Yeah, it was amazing. Even the seats right up top, it was just to be there. And when Tate was born, I want him to be in Yankee stadium and they were to tear it down after they built a new one and I took him to one of the last games at Yankee stadium in the back seats. And I got the same section my dad took me, and he's in a baby viewer. I have that picture of him. But he didn't grow up liking the Yankees. He's a hockey guy.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

He wanted be like his brother. So he goes to baseball games, but we have a hockey family. And my wife, Jill, she loves hockey. Our dog's Gretsky. We got a hockey family.

Matthew Kelly:

Now did Jill like hockey before?

Tommy Spaulding:

No. She loves her boys and she just grew up going to all the boys games and she just loves it. But she gets on that TV now and screams and yells. She goes crazy. It's really cool watching my wife fired up for the Avalanche. We won the Stanley Cup this year, which was awesome. Yeah, it's pretty cool.

Matthew Kelly:

You've been to 85 countries, met so many people, who is the most interesting person you've ever met?

Tommy Spaulding:

Wow. Well, I got to live in Europe for a few years with Up with People and lived to Japan for a couple years. Australia. Probably that story I told this morning to your team when I was in business school in Australia. I went over to New Zealand to see the country and one of my mentors introduced me to Rod Dixon who's an Olympian, a great Olympian lives there.

Tommy Spaulding:

And he spent some time with me couple days, few days. And I really fell in love with his heart and got to spend time with his family. And just a guy that won the New York City Marathon, the Olympian, just was one of the most decorated New Zealanders of all time. And he was humble, down to earth and hung out with me.

Tommy Spaulding:

And after my visit took me to the train station. I just said, "Mr. Dixon, I got a question, I spent the last three days with you in your house, your office, your ranch, met your staff, met your people and your wife, kids and been in your home, and nowhere to be found are your Olympic medals. I heard you went to four or five Olympic games and heard you won the 1980 New York City Marathon where all your medals?"

Tommy Spaulding:

And he said to me, "Oh Tommy, all that crap is in a shoebox up in the attic collecting dust where it belongs because I'm not going to be measured on my awards and my medals. I'm going to be measured on the people I love and serve." And he drops me off.

Tommy Spaulding:

I had no idea that 20 years later I'd be writing leadership books, but I wrote about him. And humility is everything, Matthew. You could be so good at what you do, no matter what you do, whether it's hockey or business or the doctor, whatever you do. But if you become arrogant, it's like game over. And in the coaching business says you are.

Tommy Spaulding:

That's the sad part. There's a lot of arrogant leaders in the world. We need more confident, humble leaders. So, I've decided to dedicate my life to building those types of leaders and they start in high school, get them young.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

And then you do your job well and get the high school kids to understand humility, you don't need the coach, the CEOs because they've learned it when they're 16.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

I guess that's why I'm so passionate about working with youth because they're formidable. You can teach a kid how to live a life of others.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah. The big decisions of their lives are still ahead of them. I think very often people will write to me, I'll meet people, "Oh I read your book." But very often they've made all of life's big decisions. Some of them have been made poorly and they're trying to make peace with those poor decisions or unravel parts of those poor decisions or having to live with some of those poor decisions.

Matthew Kelly:

I think what you do with the young people sets them up to make good decisions, and there's only five or six. You get those five or six decisions right and it changes your whole life. So, we're going to talk about the work you do with young people in a minute.

Matthew Kelly:

But before we get into that, you have so much going on in your life. You're writing books, you're speaking, you're doing these retreats, obviously family. What are you most excited about in your life right now?

Tommy Spaulding:

Instantly I go to my career because that's where I spend so much time. I got a new book coming out in two and a half weeks and I think it's going to be a game changer and got a great staff that we're growing our company. I'm excited about that.

Tommy Spaulding:

But I don't want to answer that question that way. I want to be a better husband. Actually my dream in life is to become the guy my wife thinks I am, become the guy if you look at the back of my book all those amazing quotes you get, I want to become that guy. It's a journey. Right?

Matthew Kelly:

What makes you think you're not that guy?

Tommy Spaulding:

Well one, I'm hard on myself.

Matthew Kelly:

Yes.

Tommy Spaulding:

I'm real hard on myself.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

But some gentlemen said something at this Men's Retreat last weekend that our goal in life should allow the people that know us best to love us the most. And that's the greatest litmus test of the world is if the people that know you the best, love you the most, that's most important. And I do think Anthony and Caroline, Tate and Jill for sure love me, and I love them.

Tommy Spaulding:

But my father, Matthew, with all his flaws sat at that dinner table every night my entire life, I have zero memories of my dad not being at the table. I missed a lot of dinner tables.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

And I could argue that I'm still a great dad, a great provider and changing the world, and that's all true. But I missed a lot of games and a lot of dinner tables to build this movement that I'm doing. And I got a great supportive wife and great supportive kids, but I got two more years with Caroline at home.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

I'm not missing anymore games. I gave her my schedule with my agent, "Reroute the plane buddy, we're stopping in Denver. Caroline's got a JV field hockey game at 5:30, we're going to that game." And you see my schedule back there, I'm doing a speech in LA, then flying back to Denver back up, crazy, but I'm not going to miss those games.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

I got two years and I want my daughter to marry a strong Christian man. And my role is to make sure that I model that. She's going to marry what I model.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

So, I've made a lot of mistakes because I put so much eggs in this career. I missed a lot of stuff. And so I am hard on myself, but I can be a better, more present father. And I know I got a lot more in me to be a better husband.

Matthew Kelly:

We were together a few months ago in Vienna.

Tommy Spaulding:

Having schnitzel.

Matthew Kelly:

On Pilgrimage having schnitzel.

Tommy Spaulding:

I love schnitzels.

Matthew Kelly:

How good was the schnitzel? How good was the schnitzel?

Tommy Spaulding:

Well there's not really bad schnitzel. It's just all good. I remember that lunch. It was a three-hour lunch. All my lunches with you are two or three hours. It's impossible not to just dive into our hearts when I talk to you.

Matthew Kelly:

It's good for us, but your family was with you.

Tommy Spaulding:

Yeah.

Matthew Kelly:

And I get the sense that they would see what you're describing differently.

Tommy Spaulding:

Yeah, probably. If my wife was right here, she'd say, "Oh Tommy, you're a great husband, you're a great dad." I just I'm hard on myself, Matthew.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

Probably too hard.

Matthew Kelly:

Why do you think that is?

Tommy Spaulding:

Because I still have a lot to learn about how to love myself, who I am.

Matthew Kelly:

Now let me change your question, if you were coaching someone who is as hard on themselves as you are on yourself, what would you say to that person?

Tommy Spaulding:

I'd probably bench him till they figured it out, that they're enough.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

You know that movie, what's the movie with Hugh Jackman. Help me out there. It was like the dance and singing in America.

Matthew Kelly:

Greatest ...

Tommy Spaulding:

Greatest Showman. Greatest Showman.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

Oh I love that movie. And there's a song on it where the woman from England comes over and sings this song in the theater and he's married, but he's just impressed with this woman. She sings this song called I'm Never Enough. And it's my anthem, I'm never enough. I'm never enough. And it's just moved me.

Tommy Spaulding:

And it's a sad anthem by the way. That's probably why I'm a workaholic and constantly push the needles so there's some positives about being driven. But I think if I was a coach to someone like that, I would say stop and smell the roses and look at all the people around you that just love you, important people around you and be happy who God made you and just go to bed at night, knowing that you're doing good. Well done my faithful servant.

Tommy Spaulding:

Well done my faithful servant comes from God. And you're never enough, you're never enough it doesn't come from God.

Matthew Kelly:

No, I think that is an anthem that a lot of people have on repeat in their life either because they have some sort of broken dysfunctional relationship early in their life that has injected that false belief into them.

Matthew Kelly:

Or we live in a culture where marketing executives are constantly reinventing ways to make us feel like we aren't enough. And so that we need different things or experiences. So, I think it is not an uncommon thing for people to feel like they're not enough.

Tommy Spaulding:

Yeah. When you write books, you're written a lot more than me, it's amazing how you write all these books and then the last days before the book is due to the publisher, God's just gives you these stories. So, I was trying to figure out how to wrap up The Gift of influence. And I was thinking about this dinner that I went to.

Tommy Spaulding:

And I went to this dinner party with new couples that someone wanted to connect all of us. And I sat this next to this woman and her job was she was a hospice nurse. And I said, "Wow, that's an amazing job. My grandfather died in hospice and I'd never helped anyone get to heaven. That was the first time I saw someone die was my grandfather. What's it like?" She said, "Well, I've been a hospice nurse for almost 40 years, 36 years. And so I helped thousands of people get to heaven."

Tommy Spaulding:

Well, she just had me at that and I'm like, "What was that like?" She said, "Well, a lot of sadness because a lot of these people are alone."

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

Most, a lot of them just don't have the loved ones that are there and it just broke my heart. But she said, "But they all say the same thing, every one of them, doesn't care what religion, how much money they have or don't have, or color of skin, they have family there or not there, they were all asking the same three questions."

Tommy Spaulding:

"Well what are those three questions?" "Was I loved? Did I love back? Did I make a contribution? Was I loved? Did I love back? Did I make a contribution?" That's what people were saying on their death beds.

Tommy Spaulding:

So, I wrapped up the gift of infants saying now that we know after a woman that helped thousands of people get to heaven, and this is what they're all saying. Those are the questions that we asked.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

Not how many books did you sell? What was your GPA? What was your SAT score? Where'd you go to college? How much money did you make? Was I loved? Did I love back? And did I make a contribution? I think we all need to focus on that.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

Starting with me.

Matthew Kelly:

Sure. How would you describe yourself to someone who didn't know you?

Tommy Spaulding:

I love, I want to be real and authentic and vulnerable, transparent. There's a goofy side of me. When the kids were really young, I used to put my underwear in my head and run in my house naked, they used to call me naked man, naked man. And then the kids got a little older and I couldn't do that anymore, but the kids miss naked man. They used to love him.

Tommy Spaulding:

They'd be watching the movie and I just streak like fun. And my wife said I've probably better stop doing that, and my daughter's 10, I don't freak her out. But I'm goofy to the side of me that's got a little wit. And I need more of that guy.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

In our business you get in this world where people are reading your stuff. Now you're writing a blog and millions of people are reading your stuff and you feel more responsible and you have to be a little more mature and you can't be more goofy.

Tommy Spaulding:

But I got a men's forum group and I got a small group of friends that just there's lot, I don't have a lot of noodles in my strainer anymore. It's just a handful of people that I could totally be myself with.

Tommy Spaulding:

And I love those guys and I love those girls because I could totally be myself and I'm goofy, funny and prankster. And that's the side of me that I miss. We all take ourselves a little too seriously. And I'm probably guilty of that sometimes.

Matthew Kelly:

You spoke earlier about working with young people and for a long time now you've been doing the Global Youth Leadership Academy.

Tommy Spaulding:

Yeah.

Matthew Kelly:

Tell us about that.

Tommy Spaulding:

Yeah. Well, I remember when I was in high school and I went to my first leadership camp when I was 15 and it changed my life. I didn't get my value from my grades or AP classes or SAT scores or ATC scores or all these schools accepted. That's not where I got my value. I got it outside the classroom.

Tommy Spaulding:

And I think a lot of high school kids are going through that. Maybe they have the grades, but they don't get their value at home. Or maybe they get their value at an athletic field. But high school kids are just trying to find who they are.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

And so when I left up with people, I wanted to start my own movement. So I started the National Leadership Academy 23 years ago. And it's still going on. It's basically a youth program, we have hundreds of high school kids that come to Denver for five days and they learn about love and servant leadership.

Tommy Spaulding:

And we have half them are black, half of them are white, Jews, Christians, public school kids, private school kids, and you drop them off. And you got the public school kids over here and the blacks over here and the whites over here, and the Jews over here, it's awkward.

Tommy Spaulding:

And then you start and by the end of it, 23 years later, we did every June, by the end of it, that Sunday, when you pick them up, you got to peel these kids off each other.

Tommy Spaulding:

And then 20 years ago, we started at the Global Youth Leadership Academy. We take 40 kids to Europe every year. We took 40 kids to Greece last month, no, two months ago. And it's the best thing I've ever done Matthew, because when you coach, you speak or you write, you're having change. But when you're doing the Global Youth Leadership Academy, you get 40 high school kids that are every color of skin, every religion, every background. Half our kids are full scholarship kids.

Matthew Kelly:

Yes.

Tommy Spaulding:

Inner city kids that never been on an airplane before.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

And they come together with kids like our kids and drop them off on Monday. And then the following Monday, when they fly home, they're different. You actually see change and then get phone calls from parents, "What the hell happened? What happened over there? My kids doing the dishes and asking me questions and thanking me for all the hard work of always being a mother. What are you doing?"

Tommy Spaulding:

And I love that kind of stuff. And it's just powerful. So one day I won't write books or speak. I will always work with high school kids. They're the future. And you get a high school kid fired up about making a difference in the world and loving all people. I'm a Catholic, love my faith, but my God, my Jesus wants me to love all people, every color of skin, every religion, every sexual orientation, everybody.

Tommy Spaulding:

And not just to say you love them, but actually invite them to your table, invite them into your lives and actually befriend them. That is what God wants. Not you're going to heaven, you're not, or I'm a Christian, you're not. No, we are called to love and serve all people.

Tommy Spaulding:

Even though I don't say that because LA and G Y a are, it's a non-Christian it's, but they feel it. And by the end of the GYLA, I wish I ... I'll show you videos or pictures. These guys are loving each other, hugging each other. Inner city kids never met an outer city kid. And you teach them that, they have the rest of their life to go out there and become ambassadors of love. It's pretty cool.

Matthew Kelly:

And Greece this year, your daughter was there for the first time. Yeah?

Tommy Spaulding:

Greece was crazy, Matthew.

Matthew Kelly:

What was that like?

Tommy Spaulding:

Oh, first of all, it was amazing because my daughter, Caroline is a pretty amazing person. And I think she struggled in her 17 years because she's got this older brother, Anthony, who is literally King Kong, rip, strong captain of the hockey team, goes to West Point. He's a sharp guy. And looking at that.

Tommy Spaulding:

Then we got Tate who is one of the best 14-year-old hockey players in the country and got an incredible gift. And so she sees that her brothers have this hockey and what's her thing? But she sings, she dances, she's got great grades, she's in the school musical, she's got the lead, all that, but she loves Jesus. She's just got this ... She goes to Bible camp and just loves her faith. She's amazing.

Tommy Spaulding:

But she's hard on me. I got two boys, easy-peasy, easy-peasy. Daughter, one day on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, you knock on the door, "Come on in daddy, how's my day?" Thursdays and Fridays, well I get, "Get out of here." And you just don't know what day of the week you are. And that's just hormones and being a dad of a 16-year-old, a 17-year-old.

Tommy Spaulding:

But she knew about GYLA and we talk about it. But I've made a very conscious decision that when I come home, I'm just Tommy, I'm dad, I'm not Tommy Spaulding. I don't think my kids have read my book. I don't ever talk about my blogs or what I do. I just kind of park my car, come in and I'd just be a dad.

Tommy Spaulding:

She went to the program and at the end of the week she saw the impact, the crowd, just the power. And she walked up to me and she said, "You're a great dad. You're changing a lot of lives. You're changing a lot of lives. And you changed mine this week." That was pretty special.

Tommy Spaulding:

And this GYLA was so cool because I had my daughter and then my daughter's best friend Quinn. Remember Up with People.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

My student year when I was 17, I traveled all over the world with 120 amazing kids, that's my cast year. You never forget that. That's like the 1980s, 1977 Yankees. That team make your friends forever. Well, those 120 people, I still keep in touch with, five of those castmates had their kids in the program.

Matthew Kelly:

Wow. Wow.

Tommy Spaulding:

Not one but five. Then my high school best friend Corey Turer, his son, my college best friend, Garry Dudley, his daughter. My best friend in my whole life, Andy Newland, right, his daughter, right? It was just like the greatest hits of people. And then these inner city kids in Memphis and Salt Lake and just everywhere. And it was just the most amazing thing, best group I've ever had. And it was just life changing.

Matthew Kelly:

How do you decide who gets a scholarship?

Tommy Spaulding:

Well, we're a small organizations. So, I just go to my friends in Memphis and friends in cities and say partner with the church, partner with boys and girls club and they'll help identify the right person, and then that person finds it.

Tommy Spaulding:

But we have a great partnership at boys and girls club. There's 6,000, 8,000 kids in boys and girls club. And we say, "Who's the boys and girls club kid of the year?" The kid that's going to college, the kid that has all the smarts and the hearts, but just doesn't have the funds and the parental support. And we give them that the scholarship.

Matthew Kelly:

Good.

Tommy Spaulding:

So these kids are kids they all want to learn and grow, but some are rich while some are poor. My National Leadership Academy, every year we have kids, they get dropped off on their parents plane. And then we have kids that we literally go to the rescue mission, to the homeless shelter and pick up the other high school kids. That's what's so beautiful about it.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

You find rich and poor, gay and straight, Jews, Christian, Muslim, and you're bringing together and you do community service and you speak from your heart. You bring these speakers and zip lining and trust building. And they just realize that tears are the same color, blood's the same color. We're all human. We all have ... We are all under one God. And we charge him up to be soldiers.

Tommy Spaulding:

I'm building an army, Matthew, of soldiers that want to love and serve all people. We got enough divisiveness in our world. We need more soldiers of love. That's my calling.

Matthew Kelly:

What have the young people taught you?

Tommy Spaulding:

One thing is there's no bullshit with high school kids. They can smell a fraud a million miles away. When you coach CEOs, that's not the case, you can kind of ... But high school kids, they smell bullshit. And so they just demand authenticity, right, which I love.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

So, our staff and I when we lead these kids, we're all in. We rolled up and we're sharing and we're crying and we're leading. And they also forget easy. They have something going wrong, a lot of these kids they have broken families, broken homes, broken dreams, and been let down and they can get back up. I think when you get older, you get hurt and burned, you don't get back as up as easy. They have energy too. I love their energy and I get energy off of that.

Matthew Kelly:

Sure.

Tommy Spaulding:

And they love to learn.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

They're just sponges. And sometimes I get tired of learning because I'm exhausted and I want to just go home and watch my Yankees and TV. And they just inspire me to learn and grow. Yeah. If I'd never, ever wrote a book or worked with corporate America and all I did was work with high school kids the rest my life, I would be happy.

Tommy Spaulding:

I just haven't figured out that, that doesn't really pay the bills. And I haven't figured out how to do that. So that's kind of my nonprofit and that's not where I make money. I make money on the business side.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah. Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

You have to do one to do the others and I'm okay with that. But one day it's going to be all kids.

Matthew Kelly:

You're drawing these young people from very different backgrounds. Some very, very privileged, some had astoundingly difficult lives very early on. In what way are their issues the same?

Tommy Spaulding:

Yeah. I want to answer that question, but I also want to talk about how they're different too, but they're different in the same. For example, I think a lot of inner city kids, and I've been around a lot of them, they think that let's just call it white people, but there are very affluent black people that come to our program. So it's not all white, black, rich, poor.

Tommy Spaulding:

But for the story, there are people in the inner city that might look at an affluent white person and say, "Man, you have an easy life because you got money."

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah. Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

And then you hear their story. "My father went to Villanova. My mother went to Villanova. My sister went to Villanova. I don't want to go to Villanova. And I feel pressure I got to go there. I got to take over my dad's company. My dad's a hard ass and he's not ... 4.0 is not enough. I want 4.5." And so they have different pressures.

Matthew Kelly:

Yes.

Tommy Spaulding:

And they're hanging themself and they're anxiety and they're on all kinds of medicine. And I know this for a fact, there's more white privileged kids that are probably on anxiety medicine than inner city kids. Not that they don't have stresses, but they have different type of stress.

Matthew Kelly:

Right.

Tommy Spaulding:

Because they're poor and they don't have that. But it's not that because you have money that you don't have these issues. They all have issues.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

They all have anxiety. They all have fears. And I think a lot of times we look at the inner city people as the inner city people, they have their challenges and it's the more time you spend the other, we all have different issues. We all have family issues. We all have self-confidence issues. We're all kind of one. And that's why I like getting these young kids together because they love easily.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

They shed off, take off the mask right away. And the kids are teaching them break dancing and dancing the moves and the country music. And everyone's just sharing their cultures. And there's nothing better than really pouring to kids and teaching them how to love and serve, challenging them to be the next generation of leaders.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

In my humble opinion, Matthew, the next generation of leaders are humble and they're genuine. They're authentic. They put others first and they love and they serve all people. That's the generation that I want to ... You're not going to find that in DC, you're not going to find that in most churches, most temples, most synagogues.

Tommy Spaulding:

We live in a divided world and I want to share the other message, a non-political, a non-religious message of love. And by the way, corporate America needs the same message.

Matthew Kelly:

Well people are people. It doesn't matter if they're at work or at home, right?Their needs don't essentially change. You have a new book and I want to talk about that, but let's walk people through how we got there. Your first book was, It's Not Just Who You Know, what's that about?

Tommy Spaulding:

15 years ago, my first book. But I actually am most proud about that one. That's very autobiographical, however you ever say that word.

Matthew Kelly:

You got it. Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

I got it. It's a lot of my story. But basically what that book's about is relationships. How do you build, why we should build authentic, genuine relationships. And we live in the world with such transaction, I do this for you, you do this for me. I help you, you help me. I don't believe in that world.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

To have relationships where you just give and serve and love and expect nothing. So really the book's kind of measuring the five floors of relationships that we all have and challenging the reader that every relationship you have whether it's personal, professional lives on five floors.

Tommy Spaulding:

The first floor is transactional. "Hey Matthew, how you doing?" You say good. And I say I'm good. And it's just kind of that transactional. You can be having a crappy day or I could be having one, but it's just transactional. Here's my deposit. Here's my lot day. Here's my money. It's transactional and bye. It's first floor.

Tommy Spaulding:

We have them every day, hundreds of them, right? Checked out of the hotel and we go the airplane or the taxi driver or Uber drive, we have them all the time, transactions.

Tommy Spaulding:

Second floor relationship is what I call NSW relationships, which is news, sports, weather. "How are the Red's doing today, how the Red's doing in Cincinnati, how's the weather, what's going on?" Like news, sports, weather. It's small talk.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

And small talk's important. You need to have that. Where'd you go to school, where are you from, what's the weather? But some people never move beyond that. They have relationships with their customers or clients or family members that's all small talk.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

You got to move to at least a third floor where you're a little bit more vulnerable, more open. And you ask questions that are meaningful and you get to know someone's story. And you move to a fourth floor. Not only are you vulnerable, but the other person becomes vulnerable as well, and then you really start sharing love and concern and you want nothing from them, right?

Tommy Spaulding:

Then you move to a fifth floor and that's when you have relationships that are just pure love. All you want to do is help the other person be successful and pure authenticity and vulnerability and truth. And those are lifelong customers or lifelong employees or lifelong spouses that stay with you because it's real and authentic.

Tommy Spaulding:

And I wanted to write a book to really challenge people to go deep, to get real that don't live a transactional life. And it's not just who you know, it's not just who you know. It's you got to know people in life. You got to network.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

I have this whole chapter in my book about networking. That's the evil empire, networking. I hate that word. Remove the word networking because networking in my humble opinion is when you meet people to help you. Networking means to meet people to help yourself. So, you should have a net giving mind where you're meeting people to help them.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

I'm not a networker. Humbly speaking, I know very few people on the planet that know more human beings than I do. I believe I'm probably the most networked humans in the world. It's my gift. I don't network, I net give. I meet people, "How can I help you? How can I serve you?" And you keep doing that as a life, and all of a sudden it just comes back in tenfold.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

Just this morning I had breakfast with two of your amazing staff, got to hear their story. We could have easily had a transactional, how are the eggs, that looks healthy, that looks good. One person had pancakes that made me envious because my wife told me no more pancakes. And so yeah, we could have had that conversation, but we were crying.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

We were sharing. It was beautiful. We were straight to the fourth floor. That's real. That's a choice. That's intentionality.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

I wanted to write a book to challenge peoples. We got enough fake people in the world, takers in the world. We need more givers and the best relationships that last, are the ones that give. That's the first book. I love that book.

Matthew Kelly:

Second book is Heart-Led Leader. What is a heart-led leader?

Tommy Spaulding:

Someone that wakes up every day and puts others before themselves. Someone that's truly a servant leader. Someone that truly is putting others before me, before themselves, which is a really hard thing to do.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

And it's interesting, if you think you're a heart-led leader, you're probably not. And when I wrote the heart-led leader, I had a list of 100 amazing leaders in the world, like the Frank DeAngelis and the Sherills and all the people that you read about, these amazing heart-led leaders, Jody Rowland, just Jimmy Blanchard, these amazing leaders that I know.

Tommy Spaulding:

And I called them all and said I want to write about you. By Golly, Matthew, it was like all 100 people all over the world that don't know each other. It was almost like they had a conference call before and said, "When Spaulding calls you, let's all tell him the same answer."

Tommy Spaulding:

You know what they all said? I said, "I want to write about you. You're the greatest heart-led leader. You're a servant leader. I want to write your story." And they all declined, and they said the same thing. You should have heard how I spoke to my wife this morning. You sure heard how I kicked one of my employees out of the office the other day. You got the wrong guy, you got the wrong girl. I got a long way to go.

Tommy Spaulding:

So I realized the greatest heart-led leaders that I know, if you think that you're a heart-led leader, you're probably not. That a heart-led leader is not a destination, it's a journey.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

Every day you got to work. People think because I wrote the book I am one. Oh my Lord, I got so much work to do. Heart-led leadership, that's what that book's about, really leading with love, really living a life where you put your customers, your clients, your employees, your family truly authentically first. And what that does for results is astounding. Yeah.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah. You do a lot of work with CEOs, leaders of all sorts. A leader comes here and says, "Tommy, I want to be a heart-led leader. What do I do? Where do I start?" What would your advice to that leader be?

Tommy Spaulding:

Well, first of all, if someone does that, that's a thing because there's a guy that wants, or a girl that wants to become a heart-led leader. A lot of times I'm hired, it's the chairman of the company saying, "We're a Fortune 100 company. My CEO is a narcissist. Doesn't think he needs help or she needs help, can you come in?" That's most of my invitation.

Matthew Kelly:

Yes.

Tommy Spaulding:

But what I do first is I kind do an audit, right? I kind of ask that CEO, "Well how do you think your peers, your direct reports, your employees think of you?" And they would tell me something. And then I would talk to his direct or her direct reports and her employees. And I asked how they feeling. And nine times at a 10, there's a disconnect there, right? That usually the leader thinks that they're here, but they're not really here.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

So one is just recognition that you really got to work on your heart, but it's such a beautiful place to be in that coaching world now, because 100 years ago, leading by fear, command and control, this a leader knows all the answers, a leader's never wrong. Right? You feared a leader. That was it.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

All leaders. In the sense, when I was talking about Blanton Belk before of Up with People, he was that kind of leader. Right? But leading an organization today, you will not go far at all.

Matthew Kelly:

No.

Tommy Spaulding:

And there are leaders that still lead this way.

Matthew Kelly:

No question.

Tommy Spaulding:

And you have to lead with humility and with love and authenticity and vulnerability and you got to coach that stuff. One of the things I love about hockey, back to hockey, is it's not a sport that you got to kick people off teams. It's not a sport that you have to tell someone, "You're not good enough to make the team."

Tommy Spaulding:

Like Anthony when he graduated high school, he wanted to play D1 hockey. He's good. So he went to Canada. You played in this league called Juniors. These are the best of the best. Anthony played with them, got traded, played with them. And he knew. He calls me Tommy, he's my stepson. "I'm good, but I'm not good enough to play D1. I know where my place is. I'm going to play club at West Point." "Anthony no, you're going to work hard. You can make D1," I'd tell him. "Tommy, I know where I ..."

Tommy Spaulding:

It's interesting you just know, they know when the game's over. And I wish there were more leaders like that, that just knew. I need to know. I need to learn this stuff.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

I need a different leadership philosophy. This command, the control, this fear, this manipulation is not working anymore. Tommy come in and program my heart, teach me how to lead this way. And when you have that kind of client, it's just fun because they really want to grow and learn.

Tommy Spaulding:

But most of my clients, the ones that have broken marriages, broken organizations, and they need me to come in to heal. And usually when you have a broken family, you got a broken company, right? Usually.

Tommy Spaulding:

And so trying to teach grown men and grown women how to love differently has been a challenge. But I really love it. I'm really good at it. I just love doing it because you can change companies. You change someone's heart, you've just changed an organization. And yet you change the family. You changed the marriage. It's really cool work. Yeah.

Matthew Kelly:

Your new book, The Gift of Influence, your publisher sent me an advanced copy so I had a chance to read it. Most people do not think of themselves as influential. What would you say to those people?

Tommy Spaulding:

You are. That's the whole book. Everybody's a gift. Everybody can have influence.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

Yeah. First thing we just got to do is we got to hijack the word back.

Matthew Kelly:

Yes.

Tommy Spaulding:

Influencer, you actually look up the dictionary, how many hits do you have? Social media, how many likes do you have? How much crap can you sell on internet? I don't know the Kardashians, but they're always the target, but internet's like that, you want to be selling stuff and that's not what an influencer is.

Tommy Spaulding:

An influencer is when you change someone's life through loving them and serving them and making a contribution to their heart. That's not how many likes you have. We tried so hard Jill and I, we never gave our kids phones until they went to high school. They were the only kids in the whole eighth grade that didn't have a phone, we have no technology, no video games.

Tommy Spaulding:

We really tried hard to hide them from that. But now Caroline's on TikTok. Now Caroline and Tate's on Instagram. It's how the kids communicate on the skates team. And I just see it's just really eating at them.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

It's a devil in the pocket and I know technology is so important and it's so good. I can travel the world with my family to be on vacation, check in with work. I get the positives. But I think that through 10, 20, 30, 40 years, that we're going to see a huge void in the world with socialization and self-confidence just with social media. It's awful.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah. There's some real mega themes and none of them seem to be good when it comes to the fruit of those things.

Tommy Spaulding:

Yeah, yeah.

Matthew Kelly:

Someone reads your new book, The Gift of Influence, they put it down, what do you want them to be thinking and feeling once they finish reading the book?

Tommy Spaulding:

I'm a storyteller and I wanted to write a book that would really move people. And I have a friend, I won't mention his name, but he's a hard ass CEO, very successful military, Stanford, military hard ass. He just cried through the whole book. That's what I wanted because when you get in their heart and you get them to open up about influence.

Tommy Spaulding:

So the stories just one after the other, right hook, left hook, jab, jab, jab, but just the whole way through. And so the end, I want people to put the book down and say, "I want to make a significant influence in the lives of others. I want to influence my spouse, my children, but my neighbors, people at work, I want to make a difference."

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah. How did writing this book change you?

Tommy Spaulding:

Well, it's impossible not to be changed when you write a book. A couple years ago, a few years ago, John Gordon, our friend was in Denver doing a speech for my nonprofit. And he just randomly said in his speech that the average human being influences 80,000 people in your life, he just kind of said in his talk. And you know John, he just talks, like no slides, he just talks. I love that guy, he's a genius.

Tommy Spaulding:

He says that and boom, it just hit me, the average human being influences 80,000 people in their life. So I did the research. I started to become obsessed with it and sure that research is correct. And they said the average person is 77 years old and if you take 77 years old and divide it by 365 days a year, that's 2.8 people a day.

Tommy Spaulding:

So this research believes that every day we wake up, we meet three new people, 2.8 new people a day. Just think of your day today, when you checked out here and this plan, this coffee shop, this bank, this new employee, and you take 2.8 people a day, times 365 days of the year, times 77 years, which is the average life expectancy of a human or in the world, you get exactly 80,000. I just became obsessed with that. Like 80,000, that's a big number.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

What if at the end of our life, we actually got to meet these people. We don't think about that. We just think about transactions and meeting people, but at the end of our life, what if every single person we've ever met in our life, all three people, actually 2.8 people, times 365 days, times 77 years, all 80,000, what if we got to meet them and say goodbye to them and talk to them. Would we live differently, would we lead differently, would we treat people differently?

Tommy Spaulding:

And I started thinking about that. You know how it is when you write a book, you're obsessed about it. Where will they fit? Will they fit in stadiums? How many stadiums in America? Turns out there's over 30 stadiums in America that have 80,000 seats.

Tommy Spaulding:

And so I started thinking, what if at the end of our lives, before we go home to our maker and we all just walk on that 50 yard line at that stadium and every single person that we've met in our life, all 2.8 people a day since we were kindergartners all the way up to our last breath, all 80,000 people are in that stadium?

Tommy Spaulding:

And we just walk in that stadium, stand that 50 yard line and everyone is there saying goodbye. And I have a couple questions. What's the sound of that stadium? What's the sound of it? I think just cheering and chanting your name, "Matthew, Matthew, you changed my life." Are they just clapping because you made an influence on them and you stopped to hear their story. You've stopped to listen to them. You helped them. You've loved them. You've served them.

Tommy Spaulding:

Or are they booing because you just rolled over people most of your life? Or is it worse? Is it silent? You've been on your phone the whole life, just looking down. And so I wrote this book, it was originally called 80,000. We changed ti The Gift of Influence for lots of reasons.

Tommy Spaulding:

But I want people to think about their stadium. I want people to think and be very intentional when they wake up every day, the influence that they have, that 2.8 new people are coming in their life. And some stadiums aren't going to be 80,000. Some are going to be eight million, 800 million. We're going to need a lot of stadium for you, Matthew, right, which is awesome.

Tommy Spaulding:

But the average person's going to have 80,000 people. And I want people to close my book and say, "I'm filling my stadium with people that I've changed their life."

Matthew Kelly:

You talked a lot about the transactional nature of relationships or even encounters with people in our culture. In the book you talk about showing up meaningfully for people. What does it mean to show up meaningfully for people?

Tommy Spaulding:

We have this transactional tendency when people are in pain, when people are hurting to say, "Matthew, I'm so sorry that your son's going through this. If you need anything, you let me know."

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

That is bullshit. I probably have to edit that out. Sorry. Bullshit, I'll say it again. "If there's anything I can do for you," going through a divorce, kids on drugs, just lost your spouse.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

Right? The cancer. Right. This stuff happens all the time. "If there's anything I can do for you let me know." We say that all the time and that's a cop out. What you're really saying is I care about you, but I'm so busy. So I'm just going to say something that makes you feel that I care. But really, as I hope to God, you don't call me up and ask me something.

Matthew Kelly:

Yes.

Tommy Spaulding:

How many times do you actually call someone up and say, "Remember you said, if I need anything," very rarely.

Matthew Kelly:

Well, because you're putting the burden on the other person to ask you to do something for them. Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

Exactly. Exactly. So my friends are in pain, what time can I come over? I know you're busy, I'm coming over, I want to pray with you. Jill's got a meal for you. I want to do this for you. I got this great book I want to get to you about healing, whatever that story is.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

And you just take, "Here's what I'm doing for you, call up, I'm sorry you're in pain. I'm going to be there for you." I have a good friend whose name is Scott Wetzel. And I want to tell this story right, but it changed my life. He's got boys and he's a great guy. He's banker in town. Great guy.

Tommy Spaulding:

And he and Charlotte raised these kids and his high school student maybe five, six years ago was a victim of cyber bullying. He got really bullied. And these kids were awful, "You're such a wuss. You don't even have jump off a bridge right."

Tommy Spaulding:

And they dared him to go on the bridge and jump. And they were in the bottom of it. "Come on you wuss. You can't even jump off that bridge. You can't even kill yourself right." What do you think that kid did? He jumped.

Matthew Kelly:

Wow.

Tommy Spaulding:

Gone Teddy. And when I talked to my friend years later, he said to me, "I know my friends cared. I know that people were saddened for me, but not a lot of people really came because I think what do you say to someone your son has jumped off the bridge? But you Tommy, man, you mailed me Steve Oberhelman's book on healing. You called all the time, you showed up."

Tommy Spaulding:

Now when people have pain you run towards them. You run right in their life and you run alongside of them. I think our intentions are pure, but I think we get scared and we don't know what our place is. And maybe someone else is bringing a meal.

Tommy Spaulding:

But I told you this last night, I told you the whole Brooke Shield story at the ballgame, you know Brooke Shields didn't go to her senior prom in high school. She was in the cover of Teen Magazine, People Magazine. She was the most beautiful six-year-old girl in the world. She just did Blue Lagoon. She was literally the biggest star.

Tommy Spaulding:

And she was a high school student in New Jersey. And no one asked her to the prom, that's why she didn't go, because everyone assumed Brooke Shields got a date because she's beautiful. No one asked. You know what, if I knew she needed a date, I would have asked her.

Tommy Spaulding:

You can't assume that someone's taking the meal, someone's sending the book, someone's praying, someone's stopping by. When people have pain, intentional, you have meaningful effort to change people's lives by showing up. Showing up Matthew.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

You're really good about saying what you want to do. "You need anything, let me know." That isn't showing up. The people in my stadium they're going to clapping hard because I showed up and they showed up for me.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah, yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

I got a friend Marshall. He was Marshall Paton. He was the GM at the Brown Palace. You've stayed there. It's a fancy hotel in Denver. And he was there forever. He was the Brown Palace. He retired and he called me up one time and said, "Man, I got cancer. I got colon cancer. And I got operation and Pam and I we're just scared. We don't have kids. This is scary for me."

Tommy Spaulding:

"When's your surgery?" He said some date. Put it in the back of my mind, he didn't know this, but I flew down there that morning of his surgery, I called Pam up and I said, "Can I come up?" She's like, "Tommy, please come up." When he wheeled out of that surgery and he woke up out of that surgery and he finally woke up and there was Pam and there was me at his bedside. He woke up, he just cried.

Tommy Spaulding:

I rubbed his feet, loved and got into plane. Had to go somewhere else. I was busy, as we all are. And a year later he takes his motorcycle and he drives it from Scottsdale, he's retired, all the way to Denver. And he liked the trip, but he finally got to my house.

Tommy Spaulding:

He gets off there. He gets in this saddle. He pulls out this gorgeous bottle of bourbon, like a really, really rare bottle. He said, "I wanted to hand deliver this to you. And I wanted to drive because I've never had anyone show up for me like that. I had cancer when I was there at the operating room, you were there."

Tommy Spaulding:

And I can't even open that bottle up. It sits in my bar. I'm a tequila guy now. But I just look at that bottle. And that's that sacrifice, show up to people, right? When people are going through something, get on the plane, show up.

Matthew Kelly:

So powerful. Handful of short questions to finish.

Tommy Spaulding:

Sure.

Matthew Kelly:

If you could host a dinner party with anybody from history, who would you invite?

Tommy Spaulding:

Abraham Lincoln. Hands down. I know I'm supposed to say Jesus, but he'd be second. I love Abraham Lincoln. I love him because he understood what I believe, love all people. He saw their slavery. People are against it. He saw unionization, he saw colonization. He saw a divided country. He saw differences the same we have in our country today.

Tommy Spaulding:

And he knew united we stand, that we had to be together. And he had the guts to do that. That's number one. Number two is the guy failed at everything. Lost legislative, lost state Senate. He failed printer, failed every business, everything's ever done he failed at. And then he became president. Didn't give up. He saved our nation. He saved our nation.

Matthew Kelly:

Destiny.

Tommy Spaulding:

Yeah. He saved everything. Yeah.

Matthew Kelly:

What about if you could be physically present for one moment in Jesus' life, which moment would you pick?

Tommy Spaulding:

I want to watch him on his knees, washing the feet of his disciples because that to me is the most moving meaningful thing. I want to be there. I want to watch, is I want to see the faces of those apostles. I want to see what their, like the shock, like, "Oh my God. Jesus is on his knees washing my feet." How uncomfortable that is because I want to burn that memory in my heart because that's what I want to do every day metaphorically.

Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.

Tommy Spaulding:

Is I want to wash the feet of every human being that comes across. I want to wash their feet.

Matthew Kelly:

All right. Last two.

Tommy Spaulding:

Yeah.

Matthew Kelly:

One very worldly, one very other worldly. What's your favorite material possession?

Tommy Spaulding:

My favorite material possession. Well, I don't have it yet. But my dad, who was one of my heroes has this music box that when I was a kid, my grandmother had an attic that it's like a couple hundred years old. It's old. It's one of those big music boxes that you crank.

Tommy Spaulding:

And when I was a boy my parents didn't have lot of money. My dad got this from his mother and we got in the car and drove all the way up to Vermont. That was a big trip for us, with the music box, to take to this music box guy that could clean it because the drums were broken and it was the brass got all like stained and blackened and it was old.

Tommy Spaulding:

And I think they paid a couple thousands, a couple thousand dollars is a lot of money, a lot of money for my parents, but they paid money, fixed this thing up and you'd crank it and it would just play and the drums would go and all that my dad has then.

Tommy Spaulding:

He had a pacemaker put in yesterday, he's getting old and I want that music box, not because of the value of it, but I want it because it reminds me of my dad and the influence he had on me and those bells go off and the drums go, I just know all the games that he went, all the times he loved me unconditionally.

Tommy Spaulding:

When I was really doubting myself in school, I had a dad and a mom that said, "I believe in you, and I love you. And don't measure yourself on your poor grades. Don't measure yourself on a GPA, SAT score, measure yourself on the lives that you touch."

Tommy Spaulding:

And my dad, every day, Matthew, when I come up from school, he never asked how was practice? How was your grades? Because he knew that was never a good answer. What he'd say is, "How many people did you serve today? How many people did you bless? Whose lives did you change?" Picture as a kid hearing that.

Tommy Spaulding:

And so I'm now an adult and I got kids that are now grown. And I got to tell you, we hired a college counselor for Caroline to help her get into college. And she had to give me her transcript because when I was talking to the college counselor, I had to go over it. And that's the first time in my adult life I've never seen any of my kids' transcripts.

Tommy Spaulding:

I know Anthony got a 4.0. You need that to get into West Point. I knew my Caroline had a great grade, it was actually a 4.5, straight As. I've never been to a parent teacher meeting. I've never asked to see my kids' grades and I don't have any idea what the kind of grades they have because my kids don't know I don't want to know.

Matthew Kelly:

Right.

Tommy Spaulding:

All I want to know is the same three questions that the lady, the hospice nurse.

Matthew Kelly:

Yes.

Tommy Spaulding:

Did I love? Did I love back? Did I make a contribution? That's like ... Not what your grades are, what line are you in the team or how much money you make? We ask all the wrong questions. And I want us to start asking the right questions.

Matthew Kelly:

That's profound. It's great to be with you. Tommy Spaulding hope you'll come back and be with us again.

Tommy Spaulding:

Love you brother.

Matthew Kelly:

God bless you. Love you too.


Matthew Kelly


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