Why You Need a “Why”- Adam Tank
Miriam: [00:00:00] Here we go. I am delighted to have Adam Tank with us, and rather than me describe all the things he does, I’m gonna let him do that. But you are, it seems like a bit of a renaissance man, and I, I just was very impressed by your work with, you know, robotics and with prisons and with podcasting. So in the most interesting way you choose.
Tell us what it is that you do.
[00:00:28] Intro to Adam
Adam: So this, this is a, I was once introduced at a, at a conference as the Steve Jobs of Water. Nice. And I don’t claim to be Steve Jobs, nor do I think I want to be Steve Jobs, rest in peace, wherever he may be. But I do think that my inclination towards technology solving really challenging problems, especially in the water industry and trying to bring.
Products and services to the masses that are gonna make a meaningful difference in their lives that I do [00:01:00] relate to. Yeah. So when I hear that, I think that’s kind of a cool way to introduce myself. And so I, I sort of like to think about it that way cuz I think it helps position who I am. Mm-hmm. , but by and large.
Tech guy for sure. Entrepreneur for sure. Podcaster, author, and father of one, very happy recent father. She’s eight weeks old. This uh,
Miriam: oh my gosh. You’re a for new dad. Yeah.
Adam: Yeah. So we’ll hear, we’ll hear in the background if she, if she wakes up or not. And then also foster parent too. So have had multiple kids in and outta the house.
None permanent, but those are all important parts of my life. And sort of fill the whole picture of who I am.
Miriam: Wow. I, I love it. This is gonna be a great conversation. How did you get interested in water and tell us what it means to like, make these meaningful changes. I, I, I mean, this was eloquent, but I still don’t understand exactly what it is that you do with technology and water.
[00:01:53] The Water Challenge
Adam: Quite all right. So the, the water challenge, if. The way I like to sort of describe it is that when’s the last time you thought about [00:02:00] what it takes to get clean water to your house or wastewater away from your house? No one thinks about that. By and large, it’s an afterthought, especially in in developed economies and as it turns out, the infrastructure that delivers clean water and takes dirty water away from our homes, businesses, environment is unbelievably complex and by and large, quite.
So the stat that I like to talk about, and I have a whole bunch, but I won’t bore you with those, is that over 30% of the water that’s treated for our consumption is lost in between the treatment plant and our home. Wow. Just gone. It either leaks underground cuz of buried pipes or it’s it’s stolen in some capacity or it’s inaccurately measured.
Enabling the World
So it’s a big problem in terms of people not only having access to water, but places that don’t have access to water, getting access. And if we’re losing 30%, it’s a big problem. So what I do and what I’ve done for the last 10 years of my career [00:03:00] is focus on how do we enable the world to have more clean water.
Mm-hmm. , and the way that I’m doing that today is with a software company that designs this water infrastructure basically instantly using artificial intelligence. So previously, manually it takes hundreds, if not thousands of hours to design these. Unbelievably complex assets, but with software you can do it in hours, and that enables engineers and utilities and people responsible for building this stuff to do it a lot better, a lot faster, a lot more sustainably, and brings water to the masses.
So that’s what we’re up to.
Miriam: I love it. I so years ago I did some consulting with a simulation company, and they were dealing with 3D printing. Okay. And they explained to me that the metals, that whatever it was that was being made were so incredibly expensive that to design a build and then have it fail, were just, [00:04:00] it, it just was prohibitive.
Adam: And so with this simulation software, they were able to. Then project ahead, where are the points going to be? Where this is gonna fail, make the adjustments long before the build was ever made. Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . And I feel like you’re talking about something very similar. Somewhat. Somewhat similar. Okay. Very similar.
Think About It
Miriam: Okay. Well, it’s interesting that you say nobody thinks about this, and I think, I’m gonna say 10 years ago, you’re probably right. People in the developed world never thought about it. But with climate change and the way we’re just seeing disaster after disaster, whether it’s hurricanes or tornadoes or, I mean, we’re supposed to go to California tomorrow, and the place we’re supposed to go, I mean, we’re actually calling people and saying, are there actual roads that we can drive on because everything’s flooded.
So I, I do think that what it is that you do is going to be progressively more in need. Not just for the developing worlds, but for the developed world. And I’m [00:05:00] gonna talk one more sentence and then let you talk, but it’s obvious to anybody who is Mm. I’m gonna go with midlife. Our infrastructure is struggling and the the things that were designed 50 years ago that made our lives incredible, were never designed for the populations that we now have.
Everything is, I mean, it feels a little bit like a science fiction movie where, you know, the machines are starting to break and nobody knows how to fix them.
Adam: It’s true. And that infrastructure, I
mean, you’re, you’re spot on. Especially in water, most of the pipes that were put underground were put in place in the forties and fifties, and they had about a 40- or 50-year lifespan.
And so now we’re, you know, 70, 80 years into that lifespan and everything is breaking. And it’s cracking, and oftentimes it’s in the worst places. So, you mentioned California struggling with the flooding as what’s happening now. One of the problems they have is that due to seismic movement, earthquakes et cetera [00:06:00] fault lines, the pipes underground is starting to crack and fracture as the ground moves, which of course leads to more water loss and of all states, Utah, Arizona, California, in the most significant drought.
Which really is not a drought, it’s just a way of being at this point. Mm-hmm., you’re losing all that water and you’re losing even more because the pipes are breaking. Yeah. And it’s, it’s mass chaos. So, anything we can do to help the utilities, the ones in charge of, of delivering clean water to homes and businesses, anything we can do to help them do that more efficiently is a win for everybody involved, especially us as taxpayers.
[00:06:37] Don’t Play By The Rules
Miriam: Okay. So, there’s some population of my listeners who are going, you know what? I don’t care about water, or this or that. Yeah. Hopefully they didn’t already check out. Yeah, I’m hoping, I’m hoping they’re still here. I find everything fascinating, and I love these opportunities to have these kinds of conversations.
I want to say you’re so much more diverse than even just this topic as I looked at your website and I [00:07:00] loved your conversation about learning language and being childlike. Mm-hmm. Your conversation about the four-hour work week that was difficult, if not impossible for you to attain. Can you just talk a little bit about how you see your own development from, say, a young person who had no idea what he wanted to do, what were the various factors that began to shape your life and I’m interested in self-development, the things mm-hmm., that self-sabotage us and the things that allow us to break out of that self-sabotage. Sure. So, I would love to hear some of those stories.
Yeah. I will tell you that I grew up in a family that by and large were. We’re government workers and very much steady paycheck every two weeks.
Don’t do anything different than that. And so, from day one, as soon as I, soon as I was birthed, basically I was being taught take the, the steady conservative route. And that’s, that’s not only in terms of your career, but [00:08:00] also how you personally act. Clean cut. My dad was military. Don’t, don’t sort of deviate.
No one likes someone who’s a, who’s sort of a rebel, if you will. And so, I grew up thinking that I was going to play by the rules and by and large, that’s what I did. So, you think about the kid that’s studious, that gets good grades, that is involved in all the activities, that does all these things. That’s exactly what I did.
Went to college and basically did the exact same thing that I was going to go to medical school. But what I found out was I was self-sabotaging. By and large, and the reason was is because I always had this innate desire to strike out of my own. To follow my own interests, my own curiosities, especially as it as it related to business and entrepreneurship and sales and sort of, you know, being in the trenches and figuring things out on your own and trying to solve problems that no one else had solved before.
New Way of Being
But I was al, it was always attention for me because that was not the clear, steady paycheck every two weeks. That was the [00:09:00] wild unknown that no one had ever taught me how to play in. What happened and what the, what I will call the biggest point of departure. And what I mean by that is a point in time where I departed from a way of being to a new way of being, and in this case, it was a much, I say more elevated way of being was in college by and large through, through literature.
So, I was introduced to a couple of books in school that totally shaped my worldview. One of those being Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. Unbelievably powerful book, seven Habits by Stephen Covey was another really powerful book, the Power of Now, unbelievably Powerful book. There were so many that it was the first time I.
Ingested a message that truly resonated with me that no one had ever had that conversation with me before. And so, it opened my eyes to say, oh my gosh, there are people out there that think the way that I do, or that perceive the world the way that I perceive it. And those ideas started to resonate within me.
And I would say that was what [00:10:00] really sort of took me out of my own self- sabotage and encouraged me to blossom and become who I am today.
Wow. So how old would you say you were at that point, or how many years into school? And, if I can ask, what’s your birth order? Do you have siblings, et cetera? I have a younger sister, so I’m the, I’m the oldest of two.
You’re the oldest. Okay. Yeah. And I was, I read Think and Grow Rich when I was either 19 or 20, I think I was. Okay. Yep.
That is unusual to be offered those books at the university level. I’ve read them too, and they are extremely thought provoking and a coach that I have, he says it only takes you know, one insight to change everything.
And I think often about that analogy or metaphor of, you know, you’re on the West coast and you get in an airplane, and if that pilot turns that airplane just four degrees this way, or four degrees that way, that’s the difference on the other end of the country of Florida or [00:11:00] Maine.
[00:11:00] Challenges of Expectations
Miriam: And those ideas, wow. You were the first born, which means you bore, I’m also a first born, so you bear a lot of the parental expectations. And how did that go when you said I’m not going to be a doctor, I’m going to do this instead.
Understanding Each Other
Adam: Yeah, it’s, it’s, it still continues to be not a point of tension so much anymore because my dad in particular has come to understand that I can be just as successful and make just as big a difference in the world not going to work for the government or not being a doctor. So, it has gotten much better over time, and it’s been a very conscious decision that I’ve had to go through to build a better relationship with my close relatives, to help them understand where I’m coming from, and then also help them understand that I hear them.
I, I understand where they’re coming from as well and their point. I understand why and I understand how valid it is, and I understand the benefits of, of the lifestyle that they encourage me to, to live. But I’ll tell you, you know, even today [00:12:00] it’s there, there’s always that sort of like chattering in my ear.
Like, why would, why would you do that? You have this other opportunity with your, why would you invest in this? Or why would you, why would you travel? Why would you move to Rio? Why would you do something like that? And I always had to sort of face my fears and say, I know this is what’s best for me and I’m going to go ahead and do it.
Miriam: Yeah, it’s good. It’s a good solid answer. I think what you’re also saying by having that conversation with your close family is that you are not saying the entrepreneurial life is for everyone. I mean, correct. There are many people correct where that wouldn’t work for them and that’s okay. I don’t think any entrepreneur, well, that’s not true.
Some entrepreneurs who are shortsighted would say, come do this. This is for everyone, but anyone who’s done it a fair amount of time, you know, there are pros and cons to each paradigm and there is something really nice about the steady paycheck that happens. Yeah. Whether you get the client or [00:13:00] not, and there’s something that’s nice about having the insurance that’s there et cetera, et cetera.
But there also is something so exhilarating about knowing that you made this, you made this life happen, and you get to make your own choices.
My kids tease me all the time because they’re like, you know, ah, you never work. And I go, I work all the time. I actually work more than when I was hired, right?
People, I work more than I’ve ever worked, but when it’s fun, when you enjoy it, it doesn’t feel like work.
Adam: Right. It’s a, it’s a, it is a real blessing to be able to wake up every day and be working to solve problems that are truly changing the world. Yeah. You hear a lot of tech entrepreneurs, especially, are all about disruption and transformation and all this stuff, but ultimately, they’re building an app that, you know, delivers tacos faster to [00:14:00] people and it’s like, all right, come on guys.
we’re really not moving the needle here. But when I wake up and I know that every time someone runs a design in our software, that someone somewhere is going to get clean water because. It’s incredible. Yeah. And it is exhilarating. I like that. I like that term a lot. Yeah.
[00:14:17] World Without Water
Miriam: So, what does clean water mean to people? I know, and, you know, but what, what does it mean the,
Adam: I mean, the way that I, the way that I like to ask people that is walk me through a day, walk me through your day and imagine you don’t have water. And all it takes is the first two hours of your day to realize that without it. Your life looks nothing like it does today.
Nothing like it does today in countries that, where people don’t have access to clean water, you know, at a tap in their home or even a community, well, they’re spending hours of their day procuring water and then they also have to make it safe enough to drink because if they don’t, they’re getting sick.
So, it’s, yeah, it’s a just an [00:15:00] unbelievable amount of time and, and mental energy and physical energy that’s dedicated to procuring this resource that we, in the water industry call a resource. MM. Should be available for everybody, right?
Miriam: Right. Well, I’m pretty sure after air it’s water. You’re right.
Exactly. That’s exactly right. Yeah. So, I was looking at something, this was a while ago, I think, with the hurricanes in Florida and whatnot, and people who. I mean, I think somebody died from a fairly tiny scratch that they got on their leg, but they were waiting through water and you know. Mm-hmm., we see, we see these flooding things and we think, well, you know, yeah.
That’s inconvenient. And we don’t stop to think, wait a minute, the sewers overflowed there. This them, you know, I was reading something else about, somewhere in California, and it was all the gasoline and just the various chemicals that are now all mixed in with this. And it’s not like walking across a clean river.
[00:16:00] It’s, it’s a problem on so many levels. So, as you know, I always say to people in the military, thank you for your service. I’ll say that to you in reference to water because you are serving mankind. What. Would you say, or why would you say this is important to you? You seem, you strike me as someone who’s fairly mission-minded, even, and I want to get to this down the road a little bit but spending time in the prisons helping people.
Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. , it seems to me that that’s heavy on your heart.
Adam: I, I don’t, I don’t know why water was the thing I latched onto professionally, personally, as a foster parent, as a big brother and big brothers, big sisters as a worker, volunteer in the prison systems. I, I am someone who likes to see people live up to their potential.
[00:16:52] It’s Okay to Live Your Life
Adam: Mm-hmm. , don’t ask me why. Maybe it was because I felt like my potential was repressed in many ways when I was younger, and I don’t want [00:17:00] other people. To live that same lifestyle if they don’t have to. So, I encourage them to go, do, you know, be whoever you want to be. Go and live the life you want to live. It’s okay.
You don’t need permission, just go do it. That may be why, but it’s something that I’ve always felt that I’ve been so fortunate, and you’ve got to give back. It just, again, I, I don’t know why that is, but I just, I’ve always felt like you have to. If you are in a, if you are in a position where you can be someone who gives of themselves, of their time, their talents, their energy, their finances, whatever it is, then you should, you have one life to live. Other people don’t have as easy as you. Why not help others out? Like we’re all in this together.
And I think that’s, quite frankly, I think it’s been, I think that’s been catalyzed by all of my travels internationally too. Being in play, living in Mexico for a summer, working in an orphanage, going to South Africa in Lusutu and seeing this rural population of [00:18:00] villagers and all they wanted was clean water, healthcare education, going into China, seeing it there, living in Brazil, seeing it there.
It doesn’t matter where you are. Humanity, at the end of the day, we all want the same things. We want to be happy, healthy. Someone to love, people to take care of. So, if I can enable that for others, then I’m happy to do so.
Miriam: Wow. That’s someone who has kind of figured out their purpose and they’ve made their job fuel their purpose instead of, you know, trying to muscle their job into something that it can’t be otherwise.
I felt like, well, we could just end the interview right there. That was a pretty. That was a pretty good thing to say. Sure.
How did, how did you get involved in foster care?
Adam: I, so my wife and I, when we got married, we knew we wanted to have a, a family. When a lot of people hear family, they think of that sort of core nuclear mom, dad, two kids.
But family could mean anything. I mean, there’s a wide [00:19:00] range of what a family truly is. There’s no real definition in my opinion. And we said again, we are of. We have the resource to be able to help where we can.
And so, we thought, well, maybe adoption could be on the table. We weren’t set on having biological children, so we said maybe adoption is the route we want to go.
And the more we got into adoption, the more we found that the foster system is by and large, pretty broken. Yeah. And there’s an unbelievable need. Yeah. And in our area, there’s a big need, so why not? We have the space, we have the time, we have the resources, let’s give it a shot. And it’s turned out to be an amazing journey.
So it was, it’s a conversation between my wife and I just saying, this is something we feel like we want to do and there’s a need, so let’s, let’s do it.
Miriam: I love it. So something you did in one of your blog posts, what you compared and talked about learning Portuguese. Mm. You have to become like a child. So you took two different things and you put them together and you synthesize something new out of that, when [00:20:00] you look at what you’ve learned through foster care, how do you apply that through just interacting with people in the entrepreneurial world?
[00:20:10] Becoming Childlike
Adam: There’s, it’s, it’s, I love this. This is such a good question, Miriam, the, and I, I hadn’t thought about this connection until you asked this question, but one of my biggest lessons when I was in Mexico and I was working in an orphanage, and these kids were, you know, they’re orphans. You could consider them foster kids, for all intents and purposes, right?
They, they don’t have their parents around. They’re being taken care of by another entity. In this case, it was a state worker in a, in an orphanage, and the thing that I realized the most was, , you don’t need a whole lot to be happy. I mean, these kids had nothing, nothing. They had everything stripped from them, but they were some of the happiest kids I’ve ever seen on the planet.
And the same goes for the kids that we’ve had in the house in foster care. These kids have come from the most hellish [00:21:00] situations that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. And to see a six year old still beaming, smiling, bright and happy, running around, playing in a backyard, you know, not having a care in the world.
That just goes to show to me that like no matter how bad it is, it, it’s gonna be okay. There’s always a silver lining. It’s just, it’s all about perspective. And so kids oftentimes either, you know, they’re quick to forgive or maybe they’re unconditional lover. Whatever we wanna call it. I feel like in the entrepreneur world, we don’t have enough of that.
It always feels very cutthroat. It’s very fast-paced. It’s always grow in our case, grow, grow, grow. You know, how do you build this business to the point where it’s attractive for someone to want to buy it, and you just have to step back sometimes and remind yourself. Why are we doing this in the first place?
You know, okay, I had to miss a meeting. It’s not the end of the world, or, I missed a flight. It’s not the end of the world. Things are gonna be okay. I’d say that’s the sort of like the one for one transition. Regardless of how bad things may seem, there’s [00:22:00] always, there’s always something beneficial. There’s always something you can, you can move past and get over and get through.
Miriam: Sure. Mm. Such a good space to think about, you know, what is your perspective as you look at this difficult thing or this difficult hurdle? So I am gonna push back a little bit and say I have known other foster parents who have not had maybe quite what you’re talking about. They’ve had just, they’ve had a hellish time mm-hmm.
as they have worked with kids who have just been so messed up by the system.
Something that I think you probably have done. I mean, I’m, I’m assuming, but based on how this little child was acting, you managed to create a feeling of safety, both psychological safety and physical safety. And I, I would, like you mentioned that you know, tech is cutthroat, which I, I have seen that to be.
[00:22:55] Psychological Safety
Miriam: How do you create psychological safety for a little person and for a big [00:23:00] person, , a little person in a big person’s body?
Adam: Sure, sure. So the, the, I’m, I’m gonna try to see what kind of parallels there are. I haven’t thought about it to this extent before, but what I’ll say is that for, for kids that come from backgrounds of trauma, you have to treat them.
A bit differently than you would kids that came from, we’ll call normal’s not the right term, but a more traditional background. And one of the things that you, we’ve been taught to do and we’ve tried to put into practice when it comes to trauma-informed parenting is that you see the behaviors as a result from something that happened to that child, typically in their past. I mean, it has to be in the past. It happened to them in a previous moment.
And what that enables you to do is set aside the person from the behavior and you come to [00:24:00] realize that they’re, they are, although the person is creating the behavior in a way, they are not the same thing.
Person vs. Behavior
They’re not the, the person is different than the behavior that it is. So when you create the space to allow a child to see their behavior, not as them. But as a, as a behavior, as a concept in and of itself, that’s outside of them. And keep in mind, like this is quite metaphorical in a way. So to do this with a six year old is very, is very different
Right? Right. But to provide that space for them to say, you know, this girl, she came in, she, so her, her previous foster parents had said, she’s the most picky eater we’ve ever seen. She won’t eat anything but McDonald’s. Anytime we try to get her to eat a vegetable, anytime we try to get anything, she’s right.
She’s just so picky. She won’t do anything else. So the first day we have her in the house, we’re, we’re, I don’t know what it was that Kelsey and I were, were putting together, but something to have vegetables in and we said, you know, Hey I’ll call her Diane for a purpose of this conversation. Hey Diane, are you [00:25:00] interested?
You know, in, in trying out broccoli court? No. Oh, really? Why? Like, why, why is. She’s like, well, I’m picky.
And we immediately challenged her, that worldview of herself by saying, you’re not picky. What do you mean you’re picky? And she’s like, wait, what? I’m like, yeah, you’re not picky. She’s like, well, my foster parents always told me I was picky.
Like, You can choose, you can be whatever you choose to be. And today we’re not going to be picky. And so, right, we proceed to do that. She started to eat vegetables. And that’s just one simple example of that.
Let Them Have Control
So when it comes to the professional world and with adults, it’s almost similar in a way, and I’m thinking about this in the context of sales calls.
When I, when I get on a, get on the phone with a client or get on a Zoom with a, a prospect, and we’re having a conversation, I’m talking to engineers who by and large are very challenging audience, super conservative, very analytical very skeptical people. The first thing I like to say is if you, if, if you hear me say something that you [00:26:00] disagree with, bring it up.
You’re not going to offend me. It’s quite all right. I’m not an engineer. I’m not a PowerPoint guru. I’m not a software engineer, so I am not the expert in this room. You are the expert in this room. You put the power in their hands.
You let them sort of take control of the situation and the conversation, the way you, the way you want it to go, and you start to create this sort of safety in a way where they don’t see you as it’s me versus them, but it’s us having a dialogue together.
And I think very similarly we did that. Diane in our home where it wasn’t us forcing her to eat vegetables. It was, let’s talk about the situation and who we are, both who both of us are coming into this space and let’s figure out a way to make it work together. And sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
But I’ve found that that typically is an approach that works quite well in both situations.
[00:26:56] Creating a Safe Space
Miriam: Yeah. What, what you’re doing, You’re creating this [00:27:00] space.
Like, Hey, we’re on the same team. Let’s pull in this together. You have strengths. I don’t have. Let’s look at this. I’m open to you. I’m not pulling some sort of one up, one down thing.
I’m in it with you. How can we make this better? Mm-hmm. , that’s what I heard you say. Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . And I can see why that would work with foster children and with software engineers or any engineer. Sure, sure. , you know, when you say, I’m not the expert, why don’t you help me understand this to anybody? Wow. Their walls come down, now they’re talking and they’re seeing you as an ally, not an adversary.
Mm-hmm. . Which to me feels like a perfect segue to the work you’re doing in the prisons. I think that that could be incredibly intimidating and also a space of One where you’re potentially met with hostility, et cetera, and I, tell me a little bit how you got involved in that, what your [00:28:00] experience has been, and Yeah, we’ll go from there.
Adam: So I’ll tell you, I’ll tell you Miriam, because you brought up the, the intimidation factor when, when we are in a prison, that’s the first question that the moderator, facilitator of these conversations typically asks is who in here is nervous? And what you find is that the inmates are actually the ones that in many cases, are just as nervous, if not more nervous, , to meet with you than you are with them.
Interesting. Because they, this, this sort of dialogue that’s created in this environment that’s created for them is like one they’ve certainly never had insight of a correctional facility, but probably outside either because a lot of these folks come from backgrounds where that type of dialogue is just not encouraged.
There’s not a safe space to share your thoughts. There’s no emotional connection. Anytime you did share that type of stuff, you probably got beat up for it, you know, physically or, or or metaphorically. So, [00:29:00] It’s just, it’s a really interesting perspective. When you walk in, you realize, we’re, we’re both on the same page here.
We just want to help each other. As much as I can help you think about the world in a different way, Mr. Or Miss Inmate, you can help me think about the world in a different way too.
The way I got involved with it was that there was a when I was living in California, there was a program called Defy Ventures, which still exists.
Phenomenal organization, and Defy goes into prisons, brings entrepreneurial leaders there and fosters dialogues around entrepreneurship so that when inmates are getting ready to be released, They have a plan of action for how they want to reintegrate into society. And the way that they, they are now thinking about the world is through the lens of business.
Upon release. They also have post-release programs where you meet with people that have just been recently released and the entrepreneurs in the business leaders come to the table and you talk about how are things going? What can we help with? Are you trying to start a business? How can we help you get on your feet?
Those types of things. To be honest, again, I don’t know why I latched onto that in part. , [00:30:00] but it, it certainly has been transformational in many ways, and I would encourage anyone who, even if you’re listening to this and you’re thinking That sounds nuts, or hey, that could be interesting, take a look at some local programs that might exist, because there are quite a few of them that are around, and I think you’ll find that it’s a far less intimidating experience than you might imagine, and far more powerful than you might imagine.
Miriam: Hmm. What would you say for you has been transformational in reference to that?
[00:30:30] You Are Not Your Behavior
Adam: So similar to the you are not your behavior.., Idea. Just because you’ve made bad decisions doesn’t make you a bad person. Hmm. In many cases, these individuals are products of the environment that they grew up in. And I can’t fault someone for ending up in jail or correctional facility if all they’ve ever known is an environment and a lifestyle of bad decisions.[00:31:00]
The only people in their lives that would’ve taught them to do otherwise are probably also making the same bad choices that they ended up making. And so once you realize that people can be molded and and shaped and they can change and they can transform, and there’s not this idea of a rigid persona that really exists, that actually has transferred into my professional career because it significantly impacts your leadership style.
There’s not this concept of like a, of a fixed persona or a person that you’re managing only being able to fill one role or only being, you know, able to do the certain set of tasks or responsibilities over time, you’ll find it’s a little more like clay. You can mold them. They can mold you. It’s sort of a two-way dialogue, and it’s a lot. It’s, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a really fun way to think about your dynamics with people.
Miriam: Yeah. Can you share a story where somebody said something and it, it really blew your mind, or it [00:32:00] changed your mindset in the prison and that, and you brought that mindset out into your work with tech?
Adam: This was a guy who had spent, at the time I met him, it was somewhere like 15 to 20 years behind bars. And I’m not sure what he had done, but to, in order to receive that sentence, that’s, that’s pretty significant.
So it probably was some type of violent crime, I would imagine. And I’m sitting there having a conversation with this guy, and we get done with a conversation and he stands up and he turns around and on the back of his head, the entirety of his skull is covered in a tattoo of his family. Mm. And I’m thinking,
I’m committed to my wife and I’m committed to my daughter, and I have friends that are committed to their families. Never in a million years would I get a tattoo of my family on the back of my head.
That to me, was such an opener because. [00:33:00] Someone might wear a ring to show a sign of commitment to their spouse. There might be other ways you wanna show commitment to your family. You might, you know take time in the afternoon to spend time with your kids or coach their sports teams or whatever.
Level of Commitment
And to me, it’s, here’s someone who spent 15, 20 years behind bars. It’s so easy taking a book by its cover to look at him and say, You know, you’re a bad person or you’re a criminal and, and I can’t see you in any other light to them literally physically turn around and hit you in the face with this is a very dynamic being who is committed to the people that he loves in his life.
That, to me, was just like, totally, totally mind blowing. And so when I thought about the level of commitment, that’s what I think about. When I take it to the business world, because in the startup world, there’s so many times where you’re like, why am I doing this ? This is so difficult. Why would I not want to have that paycheck every two weeks?
Why would I not just do something conservative nor, you know, nor the food’s coming from, et cetera. But I think about him and I think, man, [00:34:00] I gotta stay committed. I gotta stay committed through the tough times. And that that’s the level of commitment that I’m ex, that I’m aspiring to have that public “I am so committed to this and everybody is gonna know it.”
Miriam: Wow. That is a powerful story. Did you ever double back and ask him about that? Like did you get a chance to meet with him again or was it a one time meeting? One one time deal, but I did, at the end of the day, we did this I’m trying to remember the term. Basically you can get up and you can give. Kudos to the whole crowd.
So you might imagine 50 to a hundred inmates and maybe 25 to 30 entrepreneurs business people in the room. And at the end of the day, five to 10 people can get up and basically say thank you to someone in the audience who helped them, you know, develop a new perspective or had a good conversation. And I stood up and I thanked him and I basically said, you know, all of us in here, I’m sure we’re all committed to various things in our lives, but how many of us would be willing to literally tattoo.
On their body in a way that’s publicly facing for everyone. And you know, nobody raised their [00:35:00] hand. And so I think I, I tried to make the point there and give him some credit to let him know that I see that, and I respect that, and I appreciate that.
What did his face do when you were talking about that?
Adam: Oh yeah. I mean, just melted more or less. Yeah. Yeah, I mean, You could see the emotions there. And this is a guy who I imagine does not get very emotional and he didn’t get publicly emotional, but it was just Sure. No. You know what I mean?
Miriam: Sometimes the loudest scream of emotion is the eyes narrowing, like the tiniest bit. Mm-hmm. or, or the eyes dilating the tiniest bit. I would imagine that prison is not a place where it’s safe to show emotions very much. Right. And so they’ve learned to be very guarded. But I think you had to leave feeling like, Hey, I touched this person, but he touched you. So it, it, that feels reciprocal.
Yes. You know? Very, very interesting. Any other stories that come to mind?
[00:35:59] Walk the Line
Adam: There’s a conversations you [00:36:00] had. Yeah. Go online, search it on YouTube and, and a. Look at DEF Y ventures and they did a really cool 3D journey, if you will, of being inside a facility and going through some of these exercises with inmates.
Wow. And there’s this exercise called walk the line, where they have all the inmates line up on one side and all of the entrepreneurs, business folks on the other, and they basically have a step, I don’t know, maybe 10, 20 feet away from this center line. And what the moderator does is ask questions of the group.
Things like, how many of you grew up in a one-parent house? And if that’s true for you, you step to the line and if it’s not true, you stay where you’re at or you might take a step backwards. And so it’s just fascinating to see, not only in many cases how, how much closer to the line the inmates are because you’re asking questions like, did you grow up in a neighborhood where gunshots were, were a normal thing?
Or you know, at what age did you lose your innocence? Was it [00:37:00] less than 15 years old? Was it less than 10 years old? Was it less than five years old? In most cases, you know, the inmates are much closer to line than entrepreneurs and business folks.
Compilation of Decisions
However, inevitably, there always are people who are close to the middle of the line on both sides of the table, and you start to realize that your life and where you ended up today is a compilation of all the decisions that you made up to this point.
And it doesn’t take a lot to steer you in the wrong direct. Yeah. Right. Get almost get you over to the other side of the line. Yeah. So that, that was extremely powerful.
Miriam: That sounds incredibly powerful. I have noticed that the skillsets for entrepreneurs and criminals are very similar. Yes. And I remember a parent asking me one time about a child that they were very worried about, incredibly strong young person, and I said, Honestly, this person could [00:38:00] be an c e o or in prison in the next 10 years.
Yeah. You know, because of just their level of drive and their like, I don’t care what you think, I’m doing what I’m doing. And it, it really does show the, the basic personality if it is kind of funneled and shaped. It ends up in one place or the other. And that should be all the more motivation for us to do the kind of things you’re talking about.
Mm-hmm. helping these kids that are at risk. Mm-hmm. and I don’t know. I find it really challenging.
My podcast lasts. Quarter, I would say last year because it was really both times, both quarters really focused on entrepreneurship and you know, what is getting in your way, what is self sabotaging you, what is keeping you from your next level of growth?
And I feel like 2023 is actually going to be more- how did you get successful and now what are you doing with that [00:39:00] success? Mm-hmm. I’ve turned away a whole bunch of successful people if they haven’t told me they’re doing something interesting. Mm. With their success that serves humanity. Because from my perspective, I mean, I named my company leave better with the idea that you, you come and get help in whatever form.
Means, and you leave better. Hopefully people come to the podcast and they leave better, or they come to my coaching and they leave better. But then for heaven’s sake, the things that your life touches, leave it better.
We’re not put on this planet to just use it, just squeeze it out like a lemon and cast it aside.
[00:39:39] Nature vs. Nurture
Adam: I completely, I mean, Miriam, do you feel like that’s something that you, that’s nurture or that’s nature? That’s something you were born. Or that’s something you’ve learned to appreciate and value over time and encourage other people to do?
Miriam: You know, I, I feel like part of it is nature. Mm-hmm. . I think that as a human [00:40:00] being, I’ve always been concerned about the other.
I feel like a lot of that is nurture because I would say in my family of origin, I think there were some places that were hard and I was looking for ways to make it less hard. Mm-hmm. , but then I also was a person of faith and spent about 25 years in a ministry context where it was always about making it better.
Mm-hmm. . And I remember at one point kind of saying, I, I made a departure from that into therapy and I was like, oh, here I am again trying to make it better.
And then I made a departure into coaching and went, oh, okay, well this is a different way of doing the same thing. I think that many of us have callings on our lives and the context changes, but the calling doesn’t. Hmm.
Instilling the Spark
And so I, I like having these conversations where we’re exploring why do you do what you do? Right? Because I’m pretty sure you’re [00:41:00] probably making good money as the kind of person that you are. And you could have two and three and four houses or whatever, or the expensive car and or two or three or four, you know, I see some of that. At one point I was talking to somebody and I said, look, how many jets do you need? Sure. You know? Yeah, you bet. Yeah. It’s like one jet is sufficient. Now go do some good for someone else. .
Adam: Totally. I, I, I, gosh, I wish I had a good answer because it’s something that I’ve thought about for, again, I don’t know why I’ve, I don’t know why I’ve thought about this, but how do you instill that sense of, let’s, for the podcast sake, we’ll call it leave better.
How do you instill that sense of leave better in other people? If it’s not something that they’re born with, maybe there’s a, a natural proclivity there for some people, and you create the spark that then ignites that, then they go off and they do their thing. But for those that don’t have that, is it even possible to do?[00:42:00]
I don’t know that I have an answer, but what I can say is that for me, and actually through literature and other people that I know who have had a big impact on me, when I see how they’re living their lives. When I see the benefits of living in a way that’s authentic, that is helpful, that’s something that I’ve always said.
That’s what I want. Yeah. And so then I work to get it. Someone hasn’t given that to me. I’ve had to work for the things that I have today, which I’m, I’m proud of, but it’s because I’ve had a desire to, to be that way or to feel that way that I’ve seen other people do. And so maybe that’s part of it. Maybe it’s helping create that North star for people so that they can say, that’s something I want for myself.
Miriam: Yeah, I think for sure some of that. Ha. I mean, that has to be there, you know, like. [00:43:00] Not only, what am I saying, but what am I doing? Mm-hmm. and is what I’m doing inspiring to you to make you want to go into the prison to make you want to go help, you know, create clean water or this, that, or the other?
[00:43:14] Lighting a Fire
Miriam: I, I had a conversation with my son the other day, and he’s in his mid twenties and through a graduate program. and he started doing some organizational stuff that was spectacular. And I, my brain exploded because I’ve been having these conversations, literally his whole life, .
But it took the scenario of graduate school mm-hmm. To light that fire under him and for him to take that and own it as his own. And so I think at some level it was modeled, it was spoken. And then, you know, life created a place where that fire was lit. Mm-hmm. underneath. Mm-hmm. .
You know, like when you hold two sparkler, you can have this one totally going and the other one may or may not, [00:44:00] depending on how old the sparklers are light up, , . And then there’s this moment, you know? And sometimes you get somebody else in there, hopefully before your sparkler goes out, if you have those cheap little short ones.
Mm-hmm. , Hey, get in here. Get in here. Sometimes maybe. Two or three sparklers to light the other sparkler. But then once it’s lit, you’re like, ah, now you own it. Now it’s yours. Mm-hmm. and I, I feel like there is a dearth of people now. That’s not true. I think there are a lot of people doing good. In our world, but I don’t think they’re given the visibility because it doesn’t make good news.
Right. One of the things I like following on Instagram is, and my Instagram is super curated. It only has positive things on it. That’s awesome. One of which is the good news movement, and they just do stories of people doing good things because our brains are being poisoned by this constant news cycle of tragedy and this and that [00:45:00] and Oh, the world’s going to hell in a hand basket and all this stuff.
It’s like, no, actually there are people doing good things,
Adam: Hans. Yeah, I, I’ve, it’s funny you, you mentioned this. I made, I’ve made two posts in the last Mae month on LinkedIn. One was about technology as a force for good.
Technology for Good
Mm-hmm. and I basically, Like, I don’t know, we’ll call it a little mini rant. And I said all the stuff we’re hearing about crypto meltdowns and financial this and the economy and the recession and all like, Just cut the crap. Like, I’m so tired of hearing this. Let’s bring attention to something really cool.
And of course, in my world, there’s a tech guy. That’s what I get excited about.
So there was this, a wonderful video of this suit that this gentleman was wearing, and he was suffering some, some sort of neuro like, like like neuro skeletal disease or disorder where he was just shaking. He could barely walk because it was so bad.
And in a matter of it was like maybe an hour with a suit that you put on that [00:46:00] like pulses your body in different ways. He’s walking steady as can be and it and that actually way. Yes. And actually the, the, the benefits of the suit last multiple days, if not weeks, once the suit is taken off. Oh gosh, now you have to go back and gosh, redo the suit.
But I mean, it was just tremendous. And that post actually did quite well. People were like, yes, yes, yes. This is amazing. More people need to hear about it.
And then just yesterday, or two days ago, I’ll use this term, you know, we think of the term diet as the, as the food that we’re consuming. And obviously the way that our bodies react to the food we consume does have an impact on how you feel, how you think, how you sleep, all those things.
[00:46:36] Information Diets
Adam: But we often don’t think about. Information diets. Yeah. What are we consuming that is becoming the thoughts and ideas that our brains start to process? And so I started to talk about how our information diets are by and large garbage if we’re only paying attention to garbage. And that’s what the mainstream media and most news cycles are supposed to be, are.
That’s what they do because it drives financial drives. Dollars for them is click. [00:47:00] Junk. It’s click bait. So let’s, let’s clean up our information diets and let’s focus on stuff that are, you know, people only doing good. So I encourage people drop links in the comments of good stuff that’s happening. Let’s, you know, spread the word, like share it.
Let’s get people talking about the good stuff. I think it’s, yeah.
Miriam: Oh my gosh, I love it. If you will send me the link to that article, I will put it in the show notes so that people can look at it. Perfect. Yep. I love the idea of the suit and, you know, there’s been a lot of talk of late of eating clean, and so what would happen if 2023 became the year where you’re, you know, the, the content you took into your head was clean.
You know, not in a moralistic sense in like is this positive? Is this uplifting? Are these people doing good with their resources? Right? I’m on the hunt to find people who have money and they wanna use it for good. Mm-hmm. , you know, because [00:48:00] again, I really think you only need one jet if that .
Such a good quote,
Anyway. Oh my gosh, this has been so great. Adam. Thank you so much for your time. I wish we could talk longer. Unfortunately I have something in a little bit. And I know. Busy life as well. Maybe we can do this again sometime. Sure. I feel like I’ve met a kindred spirit. Likewise. So I wanted to just say before we let you share how people can find you, we had a tiny conversation before we started and I had mentioned that I do a donation in your name to one of four charities.
You chose Mercy Ships and I’m so excited. That’s a fantastic charity that gives people free surgeries off the coast of Africa and it’s another little way of doing good. So why don’t you share how people can find you and then we’ll wrap it up.
[00:48:54] Where to Find Adam
Adam: My personal website’s probably the best way. Adam tank.com.
There’s a contact me [00:49:00] form there. Feel free to fill it out. I, I try to reply to everyone, typically. Pretty good about that. If anything that we talked about today is interesting to you, or if not, maybe you just have something you off the top of your head that sparked a thought you wanna send, I’d love to hear it.
So, AdamTank.com nice. I love it.
Miriam: Do you get a lot of like tank jokes with the last name Tank ?
Adam: I get a lot of Thank you very much as yes. , tons of those. That’s excellent Adam, thanks so much.
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