025: Cliff Hurst: I needed to grasp the essence
Cliff Hurst Show Notes
When Dr. Cliff Hurst was a Consultant and Executive Coach he often was met with a degree of defensiveness and people would put up a mask and a shield to avoid getting real. Cliff found himself spending a lot of time and effort trying to break through their defenses until he changed his methods. Once that happened he was able to have more genuine conversations than he was ever able to have before. And this is when Cliff started a new journey. Listen to Cliff’s story and learn how you might find a new way to get over the hump.
Cliff is a former U.S. Marines officer, boat builder, business manager, salesperson, sales and marketing manager, and OD consultant. He has been around the block enough times that even skeptical MBA students recognize that I’ve got some street cred; more than just “book learning.” And his undergrad students? Well, let’s just say that he’s nearly as old as some of their grandparents. So he receives a different kind of respect.
You can think of Cliff as a late bloomer; but he feels he is blooming now. He entered grad school at the age of 53. Six years later, he earned a PhD. Now, at an age when many of his peers are starting to retire, he’s enjoying a new career as a professor.
Dr. Hurst teaches at a small, private, liberal arts college in the Rocky Mountain West. It’s called Westminster College. It’s in Salt Lake City. Beautiful campus; bright students; and a cluttered office with enough shelf space for most of his books. Life is good.
Cliff is currently restoring a wooden sailing canoe that he built thirty years ago. He hopes to re-launch it very soon. He takes pride in the fact that it will be the only wooden sailing boat in all of Utah. At least he hasn’t seen any others.
In his spare time, he likes to study geeky things and enjoy camping and boating with my wife. He read treatises on things like philosophical hermeneutics and formal axiology. He writes about them, too, in journals that only other academic geeks read.
Tweetable Quotes and Mentions
“Know yourself, choose yourself, grow yourself, and give yourself to something greater than you.” Dr. Robert S. Hartman by Cliff Hurst Click to Tweet
“People put up a mask and a shield to avoid getting real.” – Cliff Hurst Click to Tweet
“Young people…are no longer just looking for a job that pays them well.“ -Cliff Hurst Click to Tweet
“Are we really being deliberate about helping students understand themselves?“ -Cliff Hurst Click to Tweet
“Entrepreneurship should not be just a business school course.“ -Cliff Hurst Click to Tweet
“You don’t have to be a starving artist. Why can’t you be a thriving artist?“ -Cliff Hurst Click to Tweet
“In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.” Thomas Jefferson by Cliff Hurst Click to Tweet
“Negative energy just drains a lot out of you.“ -Cliff Hurst Click to Tweet
“To know yourself, choose yourself, grow yourself, and give yourself you’ve got to look deep inside.” -Cliff Hurst Click to Tweet
“We’re not physical beings having spiritual experiences, we are spiritual beings having physical experiences.“ -Pierre Teilhard de Chardin by Cliff Hurst Click to Tweet
Hump to Get Over
Dr. Cliff Hurst found himself spending a lot of time and effort trying to break through the defenses of his coaching clients. Then he changed his methods. Once that happened he was able to have more genuine conversations than he was ever able to have before. And this is when Cliff started a new journey. Listen to Cliff’s story and learn how you might find a new ways to move onward and upward faster.
Holding him back from being an even better leader
Best Leadership Advice Received
Why don’t you save that for something important. Sometimes we have to get angry but save that for the really big stuff and let the little stuff go.
Secret to Success
Best Resources in business or Life
The fact that I am a life-long learner.
Contacting Dr. Cliff Hurst
More ResourcesClick to access edited transcript
Intro: Welcome to the Fast Leader Podcast, where we explore convenient yet effective shortcuts that will help you get ahead and move forward faster by becoming a better leader. And now here’s your host, customer and employee engagement expert and certified emotional intelligence practitioner, Jim Rembach.
Jim Rembach: Thanks Kimberly. Okay, Fast Leader legion, I have the chance to share with you somebody who I’ve known for a very long time and to me that in itself is very rewarding and exciting, he’s like family to me.
Dr. Cliff Curtis Hurst was born and raised in Georgia. He was the second of three kids. After graduating from the University of Virginia he became a commission officer of Marines and served five years. Cliff is also a boat builder, business manager, salesperson, sales and marketing manager and organizational development consultant. He’s been around the block enough times and even skeptical MBA students recognize that he’s got some street cred more than just that book learning stuff. And his undergrad students, well let’s just say that he’s nearly as old as some of their grandparents, and so he receives a different kind respect.
You can think of Cliff as late bloomer but he feels he is blooming right now. He entered grad school at the age of 53 and then six years later he earned a PhD. Now, at an age when many of his peers are starting to retire he’s enjoying a new career as a professor. Dr. Hurst teaches at a small private liberal arts college in the Rocky Mountain West, it’s called The Westminster College. It’s in Salt Lake City, beautiful campus, bright students and clutter office but still has enough shelf space for most of his books. Life is good.
Cliff is currently restoring a wooden sailing canoe that he built 30 years ago, he hopes to relaunch it very soon. He takes pride in the fact that it will be the only wooden sailing boat and all of Utah, at least he hasn’t seen any others. In his spare time he likes to study geeky things and enjoy camping and boating with his wife. And he reads, okay, what’s it Dr. Cliff?
Cliff Hurst: [Laugh] Geeky stuff like philosophical hermeneutics and formal axiology.
Jim Rembach: And he writes about into them too in journals that only other academic geeks read, and as you can tell I’m not an academic geek, cause I can’t even read it myself. But Dr. Cliff Hurst are you ready to help us get over the hump?
Cliff Hurst: I’m ready to do my best, Jim.
Jim Rembach: I appreciate that. Okay, so, I’ve given the Fast Leader legion a little bit of insight about you, but can you actually share with us what your current passion is so that we can get to know you better?
Cliff Hurst: Yes. It’s being a professor, I think at a fairly late stage in life I’ve found my calling and has come together. I get absolute delight in teaching young people at this stage in their lives.
Jim Rembach: You actually have been teaching a lot of MBA students in and I think you said that you recently just added some undergrads, what’s the big difference between the two as far as how it gives you rewarding joy?
Cliff Hurst: I do teach mostly MBA. Our MBA students are usually working full-time professionals. They attend our MBA program at night, most of them have nine or ten years work experience, many earn more than I do. [Laugh] They’re going to question me to say, “Do you really know what you’re talking about here?” And I think it’s not my academic credentials but my 30+ years of working in industry that give me that credibility. They’re quick to challenge me and I’m quick to say, “Here’s how I see it, take it or leave it.”
Undergrads are different. They’re 18 19 years old, wear a residential small Liberal Arts college. This students are here for four years and totally immersed in our academic environment. They live here, they play here, they get to know their friends here, this is a reformative time in a young person’s life, they’re all in if you will. So, don’t only see them in class but I see them in the lunch room, I see them in the coffee shop, I say Hi to them walking around campus they drop in my office, it’s an emergent experience for them, and I’m taking increase to light in working with undergraduates for that reason.
Jim Rembach: I’ve had the opportunity to work with you for several years on a couple different projects and working really closely, one on one…
Cliff Hurst: Several, that was 20, Jim.
Jim Rembach: Okay, thanks a lot. [Laugh] I’ve always enjoyed the interactions that we’ve had together, as a matter of fact, I’ve even have to stop myself many times to just be more respectful of your time because you have just such a wealth and depth of knowledge on things that both are, I guess you’d say, altruistic, theoretical, but then you also bring that practical application piece to it when you start talking the that street cred component. But if you think about something that you find yourself most often having to help people close the gap on in regards to all those things, what you think it ends up?
Cliff Hurst: To look for the answers to those questions inside themselves, not out there.
Jim Rembach: That’s a great point. Recently for myself had an epiphany associated with the differentiation of what is training, what is educating, what is this coaching and what is mentoring and often times they just get so convoluted and start coming together. I think the whole thing to what you were referring to in regards to what’s inside, that’s the ultimate goal of what coaching is, you’ve got to work with what’s already inside. But even those two generations or not necessarily generations but classifications of students that you were talking about, the young undergrads versus the MBA’s, there’s a whole different type of coaching that takes place.
Cliff Hurst: Yes, they’re both on journeys but their journeys are different, their stages of life are different and their goals are different. The younger people probably don’t even know what those goals are yet and if they do they’re hammered in by their parents, better get a good job to pay back this college cost. So, they’re malleable and they’re open.
Jim Rembach: And part of that too is I think you’re a very inspirational person but you approach it in a manner that is so reserved, for me, I’m not that good. We like to focus on quotes on Fast Leader show and passages and things like that, is there something for you that kind of gives you that inner drive and passion, that you kind of have to feather a little bit to have it come out, what—
Cliff Hurst: Yes, there is but let me go back to you and me first. You said something about I’m kind of reserved and you’re really out there, and that’s one thing I really like about you, because I am reserved. It’s hard for me to put it out there, the way you are. So, I learn from you and get energy from you that way, I just wanted to say that before we move on from it.
Jim Rembach: I appreciate that.
Cliff Hurst: Yeah. There’s a quote that has been in the forefront of my mind for ten years now. In fact, it becomes so important to me that it’s on my faculty webpage that people say, “Who is Cliff Hurst, Prof. Cliff Hurst?” this is one the defining characteristics. I think in fact it is probably the best explanation of what the college education should provide. And it’s a quote from the late philosopher Dr. Robert S. Hartman. And Hartman once wrote that there are only four steps to successful life: Know yourself; Choose yourself; Grow yourself and Give yourself to something greater than you, and I’ve and I spent ten years trying to take that to heart. And I hope the next ten years I’m able to impart that to others through my teaching.
Jim Rembach: That was just so powerful in so many different ways both personally and professionally and I thank you for sharing that. Now, you had talked about the source of that, and I know you’ve done a lot of work in that, would you like to share little bit about that source.
Cliff Hurst: Sure. When I was a consultant and executive coach I use a number of assessment tools to help people understand themselves. And Jim, you’ve been a coach before, one of the biggest challenges you meet is when you’re hired to coach someone, there’s often a degree of defensiveness about, ‘what you have to offer me’—so, you feel they put up a mask, they put up a shield to avoid getting real. And part of the challenge of coaching is to spend part your time breaking through that. I learned of an assessment tool called the Hartman value profile, that when people took it, it laid the framework for a more genuine conversation that I’d ever been able to have before, and could say, “Wow, how did you know that about me, because I didn’t know it the computer did but you gave the answers. And that opening was just so accelerated a genuine communication between me and the person I was coaching and accelerate their own growth in areas they hadn’t thought about that I became really intrigued by it and people ask questions, where does it come from? And what does it mean? And I said, “I’m not sure, it kind of complicated.”
So, one of the driving factors to go earning PhD was to study enough psychology and philosophy that I could begin to grasp the essence of the theory behind that instrument and that theory is called formal axiology, so, yeah, that’s why I’m kind of a geek in formal axiology. And Robert Hartman the man I just quoted was the theorist to develop that theory.
Jim Rembach: And for me, I’ve never even heard the word until you and I—we got reconnected after a certain period of time, and I started learning more about it myself. For me, when you start talking about axiology, and to put it in that street term which I’m more used to obviously, is to me it’s kind of like something that helps people break away from the traditional command and control types of actions and activities and behaviors that we are, unfortunately, so familiar with which squashes a lot of our innovative and great at thinking. Would that be a fair thing to say that it gets us to be able to move away from that?
Cliff Hurst: If you implement it in an organization that way. The theory in it is a guide to self- development but if you create an environment that encourages people to figure out who they are, to choose their best selves and to grow them through their work, that’s when you have—that’s where leadership gets involved and that’s when organizational development results. The tool’s a tool of insight, but what you could do with that insight in the workplace can be extraordinary.
Jim Rembach: And I that’s the piece that ultimately I want to move to is that, it’s great doing it as an individuals but I like the collective components cause that’s when the power can really happen. And so, that for me that’s a kind of connection that I made too and it totally makes sense and thank you for sharing. Okay, so, you mentioned about having—mostly MBA students until now you’re started to teach some undergrads and I know the dynamic is very different but I’m sure that’s giving you such a significant thrill, but is one thing that’s really exciting about the work that you’re doing today?
Cliff Hurst: Jim, I just proposed a three-year initiative as part of our college strategic plan. I don’t know if I’ll be accepted. A lot of other people’s proposed initiatives but this has me really excited. I was introduced last winter to a book, by a man named Aaron Hurst, same last name but no relation, called, “The Purpose Economy,” and what Aaron wrote there—he said that a confluence [11:35] is coming together and we are moving from the information age into a different era which he calls the era of the purpose economy. And that is that young people especially today are no longer just looking for a job that pays them well, they’re looking for some way to bring meaning and purpose to their lives through their work. And they’re looking for alignment with of their own values with whatever that organization stands for and I believe he’s really onto something. Yet, colleges for most part, and I would say ours in general, also do better at teaching young people stuff, here’s math, history, biology, finance, accounting and so forth and we do help them understand, what really feed? Where are your passions? What motivates you? What are you here for on this Earth that you can really tap into your own talents and strengths? And then go find a job that matches those talents, when you can do good in the work. That might sound altruistic but I think it’s very genuine and I’m excited about that. So, I have proposed an initiative to first cobble together and say, “Okay, are we really being delivered about helping students understand themselves? The typical college experiences why you learn academic stuff in the classroom, that we get good grades, sports team and clubs and dormitory life you learn about yourself. I think we can be more deliberate in aspect of it. The second part of this proposal is that we do a better job teaching students how to become employees but that’s only one way to become fulfillment through your career. Another way is to start your own business, to be an entrepreneur, to create something that’s not been done before, so, a part of this proposal is to spread entrepreneurship across our curriculum. I don’t believe entrepreneurship is just a business school course it should be a curriculum of study that drama students, and dance students, and chemist, and computer sciences, can all learn and add to their college experience. They can go out of here and find meaning through creating businesses or joining early-stage startups in a way that I don’t believe yet adequately prepare them to do.
Jim Rembach: I think that’s a great point. When you start thinking about some of the–discipline that people can fall into, I don’t know where I found it exactly, but there was some to the effect of, that average theater student upon graduation will make $21,000 a year. I don’t know where they’re going to live but it’s definitely going to be with several other people. And also think that’s probably one of the areas within the formal academic community that is high risk opportunity. Meaning that people just won’t go into the formal type of education environment at all because of some of those limitations. Are you seeing that it addresses the whole enrollment in piece and where do you see all that fitting?
Cliff Hurst: Why I think it could. I live forward to a day when we can say, artist without the adjective of starving in front of it. I mean, you don’t have to be a starving artist why can’t you be a thriving artist. I think you can if we help young people develop that mindset. I’ve received some unexpected residents from some of the—in agreement with what I’m trying to do is some of the other faculty, the Liberal Arts, I think we can bridge what’s often seen as an intellectual gap between Business and Liberal Arts. I think Business and Liberal Arts, business is as much about people is anything else is. And I believe just because you’re a talented artist that mean you can’t master QuickBooks, in the end basics of marketing and the sales and so forth, you can do that, I want to help facilitate that.
Jim Rembach: The Fast Leader legion wishes you the very best. Alright, Dr. Hurst, now it’s time for the rapid part of our show and that’s the—Hump Day Hoedown. So, this is the part of our show where you give us good insights fast. I’m going to ask you several questions and your job is to give us robust yet rapid responses that are going to help us move onward and upward faster. Cliff, are you ready to hoedown?
Cliff Hurst: I’m ready Jim.
Jim Rembach: What do you think is holding you back from being an even better leader today?
Cliff Hurst: Clutter. I do too much paper. You can see my bookshelf behind me. Paper embodies knowledge and I like knowledge so I have too much paper. But if I don’t know what’s there it’s not helping me access to knowledge, so, I’m out of control.
Jim Rembach: [Laugh] The reason I’m laughing is I have the same problem. If everybody was able to see mty desk you can understand why I chuckle. And for those that don’t know, we’re doing a video calling, Cliff and I can see each other but were only giving you the audio portion so…
Cliff Hurst: Thank goodness. [Laugh]
Jim Rembach: I hear you. Okay, so what is the best leadership advice you’ve ever received?
Cliff Hurst: It came from two sources. The first time I got it, and it’s actually the second time I got emotionally, so I get to hear it the second time. As you know, I went to [16:46] Virginia, I studied a lot of Thomas Jefferson. In his older age he wrote a letter to a young nephew whose reaching adulthood filled with uncle-type advice. In that letter he said to his nephew, “In matters of taste, swim with the tide but in matters of principle stand like a rock.” And that’s stuck with me for a long, long time. I thought I grasped it until one day, I was in my 30’s and I was all hot and bothered about something, I was irritated, I was righteously indignant, something was really just fuming with me and I was getting angry and someone wiser than me say, “Cliff, why don’t you save that for something important? Negative energy just drains a lot out of you and sometimes we have to get angry, we have to get self-righteous sometimes it’s important but save that for the really big stuff and let the little stuff go. So, that’s the best advice I’ve had.
Jim Rembach: That’s awesome one. Okay, so, what is one of your secrets that you believe contributes to your success?
Cliff Hurst: Lifelong learning.
Jim Rembach: What do you feel is one of your best resources that helps lead in business or life?
Cliff Hurst: The fact that I am a lifelong learner. I try to practice what I teach.
Jim Rembach: What would be, this could be a tough one even getting the opportunity to look at your bookshelves and it doesn’t have to be a business book it could be anything, if there was one book you’d recommend to folks, what would it be?
Cliff Hurst: “In Tune with the Soul” by Christina Thomas. Christina Thomas Frazer but if you go to Amazon, it’s Christina Thomas.
Jim Rembach: Why would you recommend that?
Well, if you want to know yourself, and choose yourself, and grow yourself, and give yourself you got to look pretty deep inside. And I forgot who said it, someone famous said, “We’re not physical beings having spiritual experiences we are spiritual beings having physical experiences.” It’s easy to forget that, that book helped me see the truth of that.
We’ll help you remember by putting a link to that book and several other resources on the show notes page that you’ll be able to find at fast leader.net/Cliff Hurst. Alright Dr. Hurst this is my last Hump Day Hoedown question: Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning and you were given the opportunity to go back to the age of 25, now, you get to take some things with you, you get to pick from all of the skills and knowledge that you been able to earn up to this point and take them back, but you only get one thing you got to choose, what one thing would you take back with you and why?
Cliff Hurst: I would listen more fully to people and I would strive to get to know them as people not just as their role in the company or the role in the business I was working them in. And I think that would have made all the world of difference and could still.
Jim Rembach: Thank you very much. Cliff, it was an honor to spend time with you today. Can you please share with the Fast Leader legion how they can connect with you?
Cliff Hurst: Sure. By e-mail, email@example.com and on my website, cliffordhurst.com.
Jim Rembach: Dr. Cliff Hurst, thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom, the Fast Leader legion honors you and thanks you for helping us get over the hump. Woot! Woot!
Thank you for joining me on the Fast Leader show today. For recaps, links from every show, special offers and access to download and subscribe, if you haven’t already, head on over the fastleader.net so we can help you move onward and upward faster.