Our future may change in the next 30 years with human innovations and automation. Our physical and virtual reality would change drastically. You will have the opportunity and the duty to create a better world. In today’s episode, Ben Lytle, the author of The Potentialist, discusses how you can achieve your potential and accelerate wisdom. The pace of life will also accelerate and become more turbulent, but you will see the unfolding of reality through the lens of opportunity instead of anxiety and fear. He also shares that along the way, mistakes may happen with automation, but that’s what automation is, but we can still correct these mistakes along the way as we progress. Tune in to this episode and learn more from Ben as he shares the roadmap to success.
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The Potentialist: Your Future In The New Reality Of The Next Thirty Years With Ben Lytle
I’m ready to carry the light with an unbelievable guest. You got to buckle in for this gentleman that we have. I’m so fortunate to have him. He’s a newly published author. His name has Ben Lytle and he has been routinely ahead of the curve in his career as an entrepreneur, a CEO of a huge company, an investor, and how he has chosen to live.
For several years, he has been paying close attention to the converging forces of change that few people have recognized. He makes the case that life and people will emerge better in the end, but that there will always be turbulent times, difficult decisions, and rough sledding on the way, particularly for those who are unprepared. His book, The Potentialist I: Your Future in the New Reality of the Next Thirty Years, and its upcoming companion books grew out of a project for his adult children and his eight grandchildren. He is here to share with you his strategies, his thoughts, his success, and his antidotes to success.
We are so excited to have you. Ben Lytle, welcome to the show.
Thank you. I’m glad to be here.
It’s so cool to have you, and we are going to jump right in. I hope that’s okay because that’s what we do. I can’t wait to expose and get into your head and mind. I’d always like to start with this very simple question. How do you define attitude, number one? I always want to know who was your very first attitude coach.
From the standpoint of how I would define it, it’s a mindset or a combination of a mindset and a heartset. You meet people who unfortunately have a very pessimistic outlook on life and they tend to project that pessimism. Likewise, you meet people every day who tend to inspire you or make you happy being around them. The first thing you have to ask yourself is which one of those do I want to be? To me, it’s a pretty easy choice. It’s absolutely possible and I love what you are trying to do because you can be influenced by others to change your mindset. That can make a huge difference.
I hear inspiring stories like that every day. My first coach would probably have to be my parents. A lot of people get to have blamed their situation in life on their parents. I get to thank mine because my parents were basically a little above the subsistence level. We had a small ranch. Small and ranch don’t go together where they will. It’s hard to make it pay. We struggled. My parents struggled most of their life to make a living, but they always had one thing for us.Ben Lytle, author of The @Potential_ist is guest on the latest episode of the Get Attitude Podcast with @GlennJbill from the @uofattitude produced by @JasonAaronPro Click To Tweet
My brother is also hugely successful and a self-made multi-millionaire. We talk all the time about what our parents did give us. I can’t count the number of times they said to us, “You are smart kids. You work hard and you can do anything you want to do. Don’t let anything stop you.” What a great way to grow up. We were launched well, so they were my first coaches.
GAPers, the challenge that Ben gave us is, in the next week, tell ten people how smart they are, how much potential they have and you are behind them. In other words, we are going to make a cognizant effort to say those positive words that Ben gave us that his parents gave him to ten other people in the world. Imagine what our world would look like if everybody went out with that intention every single day. You saw what it did for Ben and that’s my hope for our GAPers.
A slight add-on to that. People ask me all the time, “You’ve been a leader. You’ve led big companies. You’ve been involved in where you had to lead a government commissions and things like that. Where did you get those leadership skills?” For me, it’s one of the reasons. The name of the book is The Potentialist. Early on, I have been in management since I was 21 years old.
One of the things that I learned at the outset is that leadership at its core is seeing potential in someone, a situation or a company, and then helping them see their own potential and bring it out. If you do that, you are going to succeed as a leader. It’s very similar to what you said. Look at people and what they can be and help them discover it. It’s a great way to lead.Leadership, at its core, is seeing potential in someone or a situation or a company, but particularly in someone, and then helping them see their potential and helping them bring it out on it. You do that. You're going to succeed as a leader. Click To Tweet
This is so in line with what we talk about in our attitude boosters and in my book. I’m curious who was that person that looked into you and said, “This guy has got some potential?” Who was the one that did it to you professionally?
There was a whole series of them. I had a series of inspirational bosses and mentors, and I am a mentor-made man and that is a fact. The first one, I was an IT from the time I was seventeen years old. Fortunately, at that time, I went into it in the ‘60s and everybody in it was young. It wasn’t a very old industry, and I was working at an aerospace company. My boss has over 500 people. He was a whopping 27 years old so it didn’t bother him to promote a 21-year-old over a whole bunch of people that were older than he was. He was one of the first ones who said, “You’ll be my boss someday,” and it turned out I was. He was the first one that saw the potential in me and helped me see what I could reach out and do.
Your resume is extensive and impressive. I know you are a humble man and you don’t want it, but I think for the gravity so people know. Can you share maybe the 3 or 4 biggest titles that you’ve had in your life?
The number one is Dad and Papa. I’m the father of 3 and the grandfather of 8. That’s my number one job always. Second is that I am an entrepreneur who’s on a sixth company and I have fortunately have been very successful. The biggest and the one that most people know of because it’s such a big company is Anthem. I started with the company when it was Blue Cross Blue Shield of Indiana and led its building to become Anthem, which now it’s enormous.
That’s not because of me because I have been gone a long time. They have had wonderful leaders and have wonderful leadership now in that company. It’s a great institution that I was fortunate to help launch. I also built what became the 5th or 6th largest insurance broker in the world at the time, a company called Accordia that was traded on the New York Stock Exchange. What we had is now owned by a company named USI which is a big insurance broker.
A lot of companies in the insurance brokerage industry copied our management style. One of the others I’m most proud of, I didn’t invent the product but a very brilliant lady invented it. I helped it become a national name, SilverSneakers, which is one of the largest exercise programs in the world and the average age is 78 years old. We built that program. We took this marvelous invention by a lady named Mary Swanson. She had a small company and we helped her make it a huge company of this wonderful thing she invented SilverSneakers and it’s thriving.
Ladies and gentlemen, that is who is pouring into us during this show. We didn’t need to know it, but I always think it helps because I know you are going to be gold because I have heard, seen, and read what you do. Did you ever hear of MJ Insurance in Indianapolis?
They are marvelous broker.
That’s my uncle, Michael Bill.
I will be darn. I always had great admiration for Michael Bill and for MJ. When I had Accordia, we tried to buy it and he told us, “No. Thank you very much.” They are a great institution in Indianapolis and Indiana.
He’s been telling a lot of companies that forever. They want them. I can tell you that. You said what a great parents and that’s where it started. I have a follow up and this could be a cool and interesting answer from you. I believe attitude has passed on from generation to generation. Did you know your grandparents? Did they have an effect on your attitude? What was the attitude lesson of the generation before your parents? What did it have on you? Who were they? What did they do? I’d love to know about them.
I knew my grandmothers very well. One grandfather passed away a long time before I was born, and then the other one only lived until I was six. I loved him and thought he was a wonderful man. The main thing that my grandparents passed on, particularly my dad’s mother, she had some great challenges in her life, but she was always a jolly person. She was one of those people. She started every conversation and ended every conversation with a smile and a giggle. There was something about that that I love and my folks were pretty happy folks too. She was especially, a very kind and happy person and she spread that to everybody she met.
That’s so cool and a great lesson for everybody. Enough on the history. Let’s talk about the new book, The Potentialist. It’s powerful. How long did it take you to write it, number one? When did you first say, “I’m going to write this book?” What’s that story?
It took several years and I didn’t start out writing a book. It wasn’t something that I had necessarily aspired to do, but every year, I have a process I have to go through. Every year after the first of the year, I take a few days and reflect on my life. I call it the Who Am I. I process and ask myself, “Am I doing what I want to do with my life? Where could I improve?” It’s my internal goal-setting process. Where am I deficient?
In parallel, going back to my twenties, I have always been fascinated with the work of futurists and science fiction as well whereas science fiction does it looks at the future through stories and fiction. Futures looks at it more analytically. Both of them are looking at the future of the human race. Since I was twenty, I have been fascinated with human potential, my own and others, but more as an individual.
Suddenly, those converged in my early twenties and I became both a futurist and a potentialist. That shaped my career. It made me successful, quite frankly. I don’t think I would have been nearly as successful without that. What happened was I have a whole series of news feeds and innovation feeds like MIT and Wired and so forth.
I track innovation and where it’s going and I began to realize, “Most people don’t get it. We are about to enter an age that is unlike any in human history.” Both the pace of change and the degree to which it’s going to change lives in a positive way I believe ultimately. It’s a great deal but positive. If you aren’t looking at it and you aren’t preparing, it’s real easy to get run over. We know that because that’s what happened in the previous three industrial revolutions.
This one we are in is the fourth one. People in the World Economic Forum call it The Fourth. I realized children and grandchildren, I had never talked to them about this much because we don’t sit around and talk about the future when we are together. We talk about other things. I went, “I got to get them up to speed on this and get them prepared.”
I started to do my thorough research and then write a white paper. I was going to give this white paper to them. They are all very bright folks and walk them through it. The white paper got to be about 3 inches tall, and then it became 2 white papers, and then 3 white papers. Finally, I said, “They are never going to read this the way it is. I need to treat this formally like a book.”
I decided I was going to write a self-published book for friends and family. As I was in the process of doing it, some people around publishing said, “This is good stuff. It’s unique. It’s very personal.” whereas a lot of that stuff is more about global trends, but it doesn’t talk about, “What do I do with it?” I decided that’s what I would do and that’s how I ended up with the book. It’s three books. This is the 1st of 3 books.
What is the general overall theme and what are a few of the biggest points of the book that people can expect to learn about?
The first theme is that life is going to change more in the next 30 years than it has in centuries. Possibly millennia and maybe since the beginning of time. That sounds like hyperbole, but it’s not. I can easily make the case for it. What’s exciting about it to me is we are going to see this enormous expansion of human potential that most things we have thought about as limits to human potential are going to be upended. For example, we are all and somewhat not as much because of medicine, we were historically always been limited by the birth lottery. Whatever we got was what we got.
That’s not necessarily the case anymore, and you can easily see it with medicine because we are living longer. We are defeating the diseases that cut life theoretically short, and that’s going to continue so we are going to live longer lives. The other very powerful force is we are becoming seamless with automation.
If you think about how we have this incredibly powerful brain and it’s a computer. That’s how people invented computers. They project what’s inside them and they create something on the outside. We have this incredibly powerful brain and the cloud effectively has unlimited computing power. The speed at which we have been able to do things using all that power is pretty much governed by how fast we can type and read a screen.
You change that to now where all I have to do is think it. It’s seamless or says it, and I engage all that power. Start thinking about what that could be and what that could empower me to do in terms of basically expanding my human limits into the limp and being aided by automation. Someone might say, “That seems fanciful.” I would ask you, “Are you the same person you were before you had a smartphone?” If we are all honest, we would say, “No, I’m a pretty enhanced critter.” If you went back 200 years, you’d been burned at the state for what we can do with a smartphone. These are powerful enhancing capabilities. If you combine living longer with the power we are getting as we become seamless with automation. It becomes so easy to use. We have access to all that power. That’s how we start to expand human potential.
I have a question. What do you think about Elon Musk’s Neuralink implant? Is that what you are referring to?
There are fourteen companies of which Elon Musk. Neuralink is one that I have counted so far that is working in the area of bypassing where the human brain doesn’t function properly and creates particularly neuromuscular diseases. That’s the same concept except I don’t think very many of us are going to sign up to have a chip implanted in us.
I’m envisioning something much more if you can imagine your smartphone, which has an on and off button, got a mute button, and eye control what happens. Imagine that as a little earpiece behind your ear and all you have to do to activate it is speak or think, but you are in control. You have the same controls. That’s much more likely what it’ll be, but whatever it is, we are headed to eliminating that keyboard and screen limit that we have now.
Where is the screen? Is it going to be in the air in front of you?
It can be in your brain. In time, all of the technologies including holographic are going to be much more cheaper and available. That’s just one. Artificial intelligence is remaking the world as we speak. It’s an incredibly empowering technology, but it needs to be used properly and that’s the other big theme. We are going to have all these capabilities. We are going to be enhanced, but we have to be wise enough to use it well.Artificial intelligence is also going to remake the world as we speak. Incredibly empowering technologies, but it needs to be used properly. Click To Tweet
That’s a big challenge for humanity and each of us. Every one of us has that decision. We all made a deal back when Google and Facebook first came out and they said, “It’s free.” We all went, “No problem.” We didn’t redefine it that they could then use our data any way they wanted to. I don’t think we would make that same deal in the future. We’d maybe say, “I will pay for it but no. It’s my data. Not yours.” That’s the wisdom we are going to have to have as we integrate with automation so that we don’t lose our humanity and give up all of our security and privacy.
What do you think about DuckDuckGo and the possibilities there for totally protected searches?
That’s exactly in the right direction. It’s us maturing as consumers. That’s a product responding to consumers’ concerns, and that’s how things get improved. We create innovations, we make mistakes with them, and then we have to correct the mistakes. If you are thinking about automation and integrating with it, we always say there’s going to be a downside to this. What’s it going to be and can I avoid it? That’s an important part of what automation you accept into your life. It’s nature’s quality control system. We advance, we have problems, we fix them, and we advance again. That’s the way it works.
What was the most astounding revelation as you were doing all the research for these three books? Was there something there where you were like, “That blew my mind. I didn’t have any concept.” What was the day that you found something that just blew your way and what was it?
There were several. One is the whole concept of shared experience. If I can connect in the cloud theoretically, and probably one of the smartest guys futurists surround him. He is a scientist as well as a futurist is a guy named Ray Kurzweil. He predicts we are going to have this by 2035. He’s been pretty accurate. That’s not very far away.
Imagine if I want to, I could be in contact with an aborigine in the Brazilian rainforest and I could say, “Pablo, can I walk with you?” He would say, “Sure.” At that moment, I feel what he feels and smell what he smells. I’m experiencing the rainforest and I see it. That’s a shared experience. That’s not impossible at all. What we have to do is build all the right controls in and make sure it’s safe. That theoretically becomes possible. Imagine what that could do for the pace of learning.
There will be things not as quite as extreme as that in advance. We are already having it with virtual reality and augmented reality. Zoom in its own way, we are sharing and experiencing in real-time. Those things can accelerate learning and it’s why I believe that we can also accelerate wisdom. I know we can and that’s what the cover of my book means, where it shows that information and knowledge is becoming a commodity. We can Google search anything, but it’s wisdom, the human race as to the next master to reach our potential.
How would you define wisdom, number one, and how do you define potential, number two?
Wisdom is classically defined as the art of living well. What it means broken down an everyday language is first of all perspective. What happens to folks when we are not wise? We lose perspective. We become overwhelmed with the action or the demands. We lose perspective of what life is or how I can work our way through this.
The first thing is perspective. You go up above, get a bird’s eye view, and look back to who we are. Who am I? Inside you and I are a hunter-gatherer. We only stopped being hunter-gatherers thousand years ago. Part of my brain still acts like a hunter-gatherer. Somebody is going to eat me and kill me. We have to start to look back at who I am, look at now, and then look forward.
When you do that and you do that as a practice, you will be wiser. The second half of it is to take what was timeless. What timeless truths are out there? There are so many. That’s why people love quotes. Every one of those is a timeless truth and they resonate with us because they live inside of us. We know they are the truth. You got perspective timeless truths, and now you have to apply it. It’s all the capacity for wisdom until you apply it, and then when you apply it, now you have done something wise. Wise people aren’t always wise because it’s transactional. They may have the capacity, but sometimes, they will make huge mistakes, but the idea is to develop that capacity for wisdom.
You’ve heard this before. Some people are transactional and some people are transformational. That’s the relationship that everybody is looking for. Not a transactional but a transformational relationship, even on a one-hour show.
The thing is this can be taught. The Greeks were doing it hundred years ago. Sometimes, that’s one of the truths of history. Sometimes, we forget what we once knew. That’s why the renaissance was important. It brought back some from the classical age a lot of things, and the same thing is true now. We have forgotten the importance of wisdom in our life and having wise people run our governments. We have wise people leading our corporations, but we can do that and we can catch up.
You mentioned potential. Each of us has our own individual potential and we can discover it. It’s a process of self-discovery and then applying it. The old work saying, “Discover who you are and then live it.” That process is very old. There’s a lot out there on it. I have been studying it for many years and real art is then living it. It has an interesting relationship with wisdom because the wiser you get, the more you want to achieve your potential. They are interrelated and they feed off each other.
In your experience in life, who is one of the wisest people that you’ve met, and what was their attitude lesson? What did they say to you that changed things for you?
There are a lot of teachers in literature. You can learn so much from good classical literature, both fiction and nonfiction. Living people, a couple of my mentors. One was a guy named Sharad Desai. He was Hindi, but he was very much an Americanized Indian, and loved both cultures and honored both cultures. He became a friend and a mentor, and he became a consultant that I used in helping build a high-performance team. That’s the one that the same team that built Anthem and Accordia, those two New York stock exchange companies. I think he contributed greatly to that. He was an amazing source of wisdom and inspiration.
What did he say to you? What was the language? What was his attitude? Can you give us a peek into the words and the thoughts that he had so our people can feel like maybe they knew him almost as you did?
Let me describe him. He was a short man and he was blind. He was a very successful dentist and he got macular degeneration when he was only in his late-30s or early-40s. He converted. Went back to school and got a PhD in Psychology, and then did management consulting. He did work with groups. There are so many things that he said to me. One of my favorites because it changed me. I was in my mid to late-30s. I was a single dad and I was fretting one day. I have never been a very fearful person.
I was fretting about whether am I doing a good job. I was going to law school full-time. I’m trying to be a single dad. I was questioning myself and he said, “You seem like a very strong man to me.” I said, “I think I am.” He said, “Don’t you think you can handle whatever life serves you up?” I rocked back in my chair and I went, “I think I can.” I have never even come close to having fear or fretting again. I said, “There’s my answer. I can handle whatever life serves me up. I’m ready.”
If you are going to give us one other guy or one other gal, who would that be?
The other guy who did have a profound effect at least on my business career, he taught me how to be a CEO, was Lloyd J. Banks. He was the CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Indiana, and then the associated group before me. He’s the one who decided to promote a 36-year-old CIO above two layers of management. I was the youngest officer out of probably 30 officers in the company, and I had been at the company the least amount of time. I’d been there six years. Many of them had been there 25 or 30 years, and he took that risk on me to give me that chance. He’s in heaven now and I’m sure he’s looking down saying, “I made a pretty good call.”
Tell me when you said he taught you how to be a CEO. What were rules 1, 2, or 3 of his how to be a CEO course? What did he say to you? What was the story that would help us understand that?
He taught me a whole series of things. First one is he looked and carried himself like a CEO. He was one of those people that if you walked into a room, you go, “That guy runs something.” He had that gravitas about him. Another thing I admired about him is he taught me very quickly. He said, “You move fast, and that’s good. This company needs somebody that’s going to make it move faster, but don’t equate good decisions with fast decisions. Don’t make a decision you don’t need to make before it’s time. The best decisions are the ones that are ripe.” I love that word. That’s always stuck with me. He said, “You’ll know it. Trust your gut, but make decisions when they are ripe and don’t pick them when they are green.”Don't equate good decisions with fast decisions. Don't make a decision you don't need to make before it's time. Everything has to be. The best decisions are the ripe ones. Click To Tweet
This is a little thing that I do with each and every guest. The book is called The Potentialist. I highly recommend that you buy it and read it. I’m sure that it is on Amazon, and you can find it if you Google it. The Potentialist I: Your Future in the New Reality of the Next Thirty Years. We have heard about the people that have shaped your life.
We have talked about your book, but one thing that we always know about our guests is that there’s a wealth of knowledge in you and in the life that you’ve lived. I always close our broadcast or our show with this thing called Knowledge Through The Decades. If you’ll have a little fun with me, Ben, I’m going to take you through your life in the period of when you were born 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, or 60. You might be 70. I’m going to ask you what the attitude lesson was if you can go back in your brain and remember. You probably don’t remember when you were born, but you probably remember when your kids were born. What do you think the attitude lesson of birth is?
I have instincts and I have a body that I have to first take care of before I’m going to pay attention to anything. If there’s one thing that defines little ones is you got to make sure they get fed and they sleep.
GAPers, if you want to fulfill your potential, here are two good ideas. Eat right and sleep right. We haven’t had that answer. I had a feeling you were going to give me gold. That’s why I didn’t say anything. That’s so good for our people to think about and reflect on. Ben, I’m sure you got to have a memory of when you were in 3rd or 4th grade when you were 10 years old. I’d love to know what school did you go to when you were ten? What is the story or what was the occasion? What was your attitude lesson? If you remembered learning something at ten years old, what was it?
You picked a perfect age. That was a transformational year for me. We had lived on this ranch. It felt remote. It probably wasn’t that remote, but it felt like it was in the middle of nowhere. There were no kids close by to play with. We worked like dogs. Even as little kids, you worked hard. Somewhere before I was ten, my dad had always been a carpenter in the winter because in the winters in Texas, it’s cold and you can’t do much outside anyway. He’d become a very good carpenter, and so he decided to become a full-time carpenter and a part-time rancher. We moved into the local town of 20,000 people.
Suddenly, I could get everywhere on my bicycle. I could get to the movies, see gazillions of friends, and get to the swimming pool. It was wonderful. To this day, I’m an avid biker. One of the things I do, and everyone who knows me would tell you this is that if I get on that bike and I get less than 100 yards from my front door, I’m smiling. I am smiling because that movement is freedom to me. When I get on my bike even now, I let everything go. I don’t worry about a lot, but I let everything go and I am free. That was a transformational experience for me, that ten years old. I never forgot.
That attitude lesson is motion creates emotion. That emotion is very positive for you. You’ve anchored that. I can tell you if you want to improve your attitude, get your butt on a bike and start paddling. I have never met anybody that’s been biking that isn’t smiling or doesn’t feel better after they have ridden. That’s such a great thought. What’s the name of the little town that you moved to?
You are twenty years old. It sounds like you might have been at Texas A&M at Kyle Field, possibly watching a football game or something.
The school I went to was East Texas State University. It was part of Texas A&M, but it’s now on the A&M campus. Back then, it was a freestanding university. It’s about 15,000 students. I was working by twenty, which was normal at the time I grew up. I was married. I had two kids. I’m starting a school, working nights for an aerospace company as an IT, and going to school full-time during the day.
Twenty was one of those transformational years because I had to go save some money. My parents couldn’t help me with the money to go to school. I had to save the money to go to school and find the right job that would allow me to, but twenty was great because I started this new job very quickly. Within a year of me going there, this boss Larry Sweet taught me. He was my first great mentor and saw something in me. At 21 years old, I’m a supervisor, initially over about 15, ultimately about 65 by the time I left. I graduated 4 years with a 3.0 plus and raised two kids. It was a wild ride. I didn’t do a lot of sleeping in those days, but it was a wonderful experience and it truly launched my career.
Would you say the attitude lesson there would be fortitude from you? How would you describe the attitude lesson when you were twenty there?
I was asked to give a speech and I picked the subject of the impossible becoming possible. It has defined my life and my business strategy, my investment strategy, and a lot of things around believing what other people would see is impossible. A lot of people back then said, “You are going to kill yourself. You can’t raise two kids, go to school, and work full-time and you got a demanding job. How is that going to work?” I said, “I think I can do it,” and I did. Ten years later I did the same thing with law school, which was even more difficult.
The mother of your children, did she pass, or did it not work out? What happened?
Both. We married very young and it didn’t work out but we stayed friends. We were always good friends and she passed with breast cancer when she was only 44. A real tragedy.
That’s quite a remarkable story. I didn’t have you pegged for a guy that had babies at twenty, but I had the same experience as you did. We are kindred spirits in that.
They have grown into incredible adults. I’m so proud of them. One is usually a successful entrepreneur on his own. One has a great job in healthcare. The other is a financial planner and a real leader. He loves his clients and does a good job serving his son. My grandson is his partner which is great fun to watch. That’s another tradition. We do family partnerships pretty well. My daughter is a teacher and she teaches little ones. They are all incredible people. I’m proud of them.
They got a good dad. There’s no doubt. Let’s go to 30 years old. Do you remember being 30? What’s your attitude lesson at 30?
At 30, my career was doing well. I was by then in line. I was one step below the Chief Information Officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Indiana. By then, I had a couple of hundred people reporting to me. I was going to law school at night, which was difficult. I was a single dad and it was a challenging time, but I did it. I don’t regret it. I loved that experience and I was growing up. I also then had met Dr. Desai. He was working inside my organization at that time. He was a great mentor. I like to say, whereas Lloyd Banks taught me how to be a CEO, Dr. Sharad Desai taught me the finer points of being a human being.
The attitude lesson there is like our Attitude Booster number five. Have a mentor and copy them but there are a lot of different things. What would you say to the person reading this right now? I’m wondering what question did you ask yourself? What mantra did you say to yourself? If there’s somebody reading this now that I have a feeling is a single parent, maybe in law school or is in nursing school that’s working two jobs or trying to bridge the gap from who they are, what kept you going? Was it faith, a belief, a mantra, or a powerful question? How did you do that? That’s what people want to know.
Part of it was that I was learning and growing. I believe we only have two states. We’re either growing or have begun dying. If you stick with that, always make sure that you’ve got plenty challenging you to grow. From that, you are going to feel healthy and you are healthy. If you watch plants, plants are growing. They are healthy. If they are not, they are dying. That’s staying where you are growing.
I didn’t know for sure at that point. I didn’t know whether I would end up practicing law, combine the fields and become a specialist in computer law, or continue in the management ranks. I said, “I don’t have to have it all figured out. I have got a good thing going here right now.” I also had a fabulous mentor again in that boss. A guy named Gene Hinkle. He was an incredible mentor to me.
There’s almost too much opportunity in the world. Bob Proctor was a mentor to me and he’s multiple sources of income. When you said, “I didn’t know if I was going to be a lawyer or CEO, and what I was doing,” the thought about this continuing to grow and seek is certainly a strategy that works for the over successful. Let’s go to 40 years old. Do you remember turning the big 40? Where were you? Do you have a lesson or a story from when you were 40 that can help our readers?
Forty was where I would wear a lot of everything I had been building to come to bear. At 40, I was named to succeed Lloyd Banks who was CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield. I was designated by the board to succeed him in two years when he retired which I would be 42. I could have said, “That was cool.” I asked Lloyd. He agreed and then he said, “You should ask the board.” I want to develop a strategic plan. There’s more to this company than what it is and what it could be and he said, “Do you have any idea what that is?”
I said, “Not sure yet, but I know that we are limited in one state right now, and there’s no reason for that. We have got the capability to do more. We have got a limitation of what we can do without more capital.” As a mutual insurance company, the only way you can raise capital is to raise rates, and we didn’t want to do that. I had to figure out a way to do both of those things. That led to the creation of Anthem and Accordia. It’s that two years of diving in and seeing what could we be. It’s where I started to feel I’m in my stride. The one thing I had learned by then, and I would again encourage your readers is pay attention to what lights you up.
Pay attention to what you are good at and what you are not good at. I did a lot of experimentation in my 20s and 30s. I still do it but of figuring out what is it I’m good at and what is not so good for me, even if I wish I was. For example, I am terrible at doing something where you have to do it as you did, but a little bit better. I was a disastrous golfer. I became a private pilot, but thank God for everybody else, I got out of the sky. Who in the world needs a creative pilot?Pay attention to what you're good at and what you're not good at. Click To Tweet
That is not a good skill. It’s not a good thing for creative people. It’s stupid. The same way I experimented with all these things, but that’s not my forte. I have to pretty well say, “I can do that. I can have some fun, but I’m never going to be great at it.” Creativity and coming up with ideas other people might have missed, believing in the impossible, and then having the tenacity to break it down, not leave it as an idea to say, “I’m going to go implement this thing. I’m going to make this thing work.” That’s my forte. You don’t have to be everything. Be good at something.
That’s so good. For the readers, what I heard there was it may be time to take an inventory. At 40, I need inventory. I need to see where we are. I want to do a strategic plan. GAPers, if you haven’t taken an inventory of your life, business, relationships, problems, and health, now is the time to do it, and you learned it from one of Indy’s best.
That’s what I mentioned back earlier in your program, the Who Am I? Talking maybe around your birthday or do it after the first year, either whatever resonates both with you, and take it seriously. A few days, if don’t have time or if you have to work, try to do it on a weekend. As you said, the inventory of your life. Assess where am I going. What is it that I have got to bring to this world that I want to let flourish? I promise that. If you take that seriously and you do it year after year and you keep a few notes, you can go back and reference. You can see your growth and it’s very inspiring.
We are up to 50. Do you remember when you turned the big 50? It’s always a monumental year. I was curious. Did you have a party? Did you go travel? What was going on at 50 and what was your attitude lesson at 50?
When I was 50, I went with the whole family. They gave me a surprise trip to Colorado. We went up in the mountains and so forth, but the real gift wasn’t 50. It was 52. Although I made the decision at 50 or around in that age. I don’t honestly remember if it was 49 or 50. I made a decision that most people thought was crazy. I’m sitting on top of the world. I have built now two public companies in ten years. They are both very successful. We are preparing to take Anthem public and I make the decision. At the peak of my career, I’m going to leave and do something else. Literally, a lot of people thought I was insane.
They thought, “Poor Benny is having a midlife crisis.” It had nothing to do with that. I’d been thinking about this for years and I’d developed this idea. It wasn’t my idea but a great mentor of mine. He was a financial mentor, and he gave me the idea of refinement. Refinement, he said, is when you figure out how you need to live the lifestyle you need to be happy. You figure out the price of that. You get that much money and you stick it in savings or in investments, and it’ll pay you enough that you can support that lifestyle.When you figure out what you need to live, you need to live the lifestyle you need to be happy with and figure out the price of that. Then you get that much money, and you stick it in savings or investments, and it'll pay you enough that you can… Click To Tweet
You are now a free person. You can spend the rest of your life refining and being everything you want to be. That’s what I decided to do. I went out to see each one of my grandchildren born and be part of their lives in a serious way to be partners to my children and not be somebody they saw at holidays. To become physically fit.
I set out to become optimal fitness for my age, and I’m still there and to work with my sons and daughter. I wanted to be part of their lives. My sons and I have done businesses together and travel the world. I have done what I wanted to do but I made a big decision at 50. I’m going in a different direction.
Who gave you that advice?
It was a guy named Gene Tanner. We owned a company that he ran called Raffensperger Hughes on the circle. Gene was an incredible financial mentor of mine, and he gave me that idea when I was in my early-30s. It’s in the book. It tells you exactly how to do it.
That’s called refinement. I almost feel like you need to write a whole book on refinement. Ninety percent of the people I know could use a course and a book on that. That’s absolute gold and beautiful. That’s so good. You’ve become refined and now you turn 60. What was that like turning 60 and what was your attitude lesson at 60?
The biggest change for me at 60 was starting to see my perspective. It was like my perspective before. I thought I was at 50,000 feet. Now I’m at maybe 70,000 because I could see more how things worked in the world. I’d had a lot of experience in big jobs, multiple industries, and government service. I knew a lot of very successful and powerful people. I kept good notes all those years about what all that was about and it started to come together for me. I didn’t make a lot of big adjustments. One of the big discoveries in that period is, I want to share with your audiences, if you go back and study as I have for literally years, it’s the Arc of History.
You hear people talk about the Arc of History. What is that? That’s these events that reshape humanity, and there’s some good work out there on it. If you go back and study it, one of the things you see is that the thing that lifts the human race to a next higher level of civility and living well above subsistence living is innovation. It’s always innovation that makes a huge change.
I’d always been an innovator, but now, I began to even sharpen my view on what innovations could make a huge difference. What’s happened with technology, particularly artificial intelligence in the cloud, is now you can develop technology much cheaper that can change the world. Take a couple of examples. GPS, Amazon, and Uber. It literally changes the world. You can have an enormous impact by focusing on places where innovation can make all the difference. That sharpened what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.
Most people don’t want to impact the world. There are very few people like us, and that’s the way it is.
I’m glad you brought that up because the creed of The Potentialist, the very simple way I try to live that evolved for me a few years ago and it’s what kicks off my day and it’s what closes my evening. I will do my best to be my best and leave the world and the people I meet along the way a little better than I found.
Where did the little come from? I’m trying to have an impact. I believe that. It’s Mother Teresa who said, “Little things done with love change the world.” I fully believe that. My biggest contribution when it’s all said and done is the love and the guidance, whatever it is, that I have been able to give to my grandchildren particularly because I was wiser.Mother Teresa said, “little things done with love change the world.” Click To Tweet
I did my best as a young father, but I have to give my kids credit. They probably taught me as much as I taught them, but my grandkids, I have had a positive influence. That’s the first place we start. I don’t have to change the world. I have to make sure that the people around me like my parents did for me. I’m loved and they believe in me.
That’s all you got to do. If you go to the grocery store, the lady and the person is checking you out. You look across and you make sure they know you see them. How is it going? They like the new checkout system or whatever it is, but you see them. It’s not small talk. You are letting them know I see you because a lot of times, they don’t feel seen. Those little things like that make all the difference in the world.
We have in our book the Ten Attitude Boosters, and literally, you have hit on all ten. Number one is be nice. We talk about the ability to compliment others, see the beauty, and see the potential in every person that you meet. Every time you interact with somebody, their day is a little bit better. I got to get you to 70. I want to respect your time. Are you 80 yet?
This will be our last one. Tell me what you did on your 70th birthday, and what is the attitude lesson from turning 70?
One of the things about it is my kids and my grandkids know me. For my 70th, we got together as a family and we went to Flagstaff. It’s a couple of hours from here and we spent a couple of nights up there. We did an aerial obstacle course. There are trees and we are walking through all kinds of stuff and it’s very challenging. Me and one grandson were the only ones to do the entire course. Knowing my kids and my grandkids, they probably threw it for me to make me feel good. It was a great way I felt. I’m 70 but I’m not going to feel 70 or act like 70. I’m who I am.
I started and owned a business at 23 and all my partners were 14 or 15 years older than me. Many of my dear friends and my mentors are all hitting 70. I always love when I get to interview somebody because it seems awfully young now. It’s getting close and I’m like, “70 is not old. It’s young.”
It’s not people’s imagination. One of the things about when life expectancy extends is when it gets longer. We never think about it but the stages of life extend like if you were to stretch a rubber band that had colors in it. It stretches. Kids are growing up slower, getting married later, and having children later, but midlife is now stretched, so 70 is the new 50. It’s not everybody’s imagination.
There’s a great good news item in that. In the future, if we continue to expand life expectancy, my experience is people are at their peak, wisdom, and desire to do good work for other people as well as themselves from about 45 to 70. Now imagine that period of life 40 years long instead of 20 years long. Because of the percentage of the population that will be older as the population ages, a bigger share of the population will be desiring to do something good and have the wisdom to do it. That’s an exciting possibility.
I have wanted to ask you this and this is going to be totally off the train. Regarding biology, health, and all that, there are lots of studies that male testosterone levels are drastically reducing in a rapid way. Have you heard about that? Was that in the book?
It’s somewhat disputed. It’s gotten a lot of controversies, but the study results are not real pure. Having said that, we have had falling birth rates now for many years, and we are now at a stage where the developed world is all under replacement rate. You have to have 2.1 children per female to stay flat. There’s not a single developed country in the world that’s there. Everybody is below. That’s why you are suddenly starting to see there are not enough pilots. We have a real doctor shortage coming and virtually every specialty. You may have noticed there was a news report that Army recruiting is now 25% below its goal which is armed forces recruiting.
This is going to be a very new world that none of us have lived in before. It’s been arriving for a long time. A guy that I knew very well wrote a book in 2004 called Fewer. He’s a scholar and he laid out exactly what’s happened. We are going to all be asleep and suddenly, we are going to wake up and there’s not going to be enough people. We have never lived in that. There are good parts to it as well. That’s one of those forces of change like automation and medicine that are converging to change the world that we live in.
If you are reading this and you believe that the world is going to be a different place and if you open your eyes and look around the world, it is rapidly changing. You need to buy the book The Potentialist I: Your Future in the New Reality of the Next Thirty Years. I am going to literally, after this conversation, buy a carton of them. I’m going to buy 24 and get them to my kids, my grandkids, and my business partners.
This is so relevant. The science and the potential of it are great, but Ben, getting to know you, getting to know your story, and hearing your antidotes of life, that’s what makes this show the award-winning show that we have so fortunately been awarded with. It’s having great guests like you. We always like to close our show for you to stand up and give your motivational speech and your message of hope to those people that are walking on the beach, driving in their car, or walking their dogs. What’s your message of hope for our GAPers and readers to close out our show?
Don’t fear the future. Embrace it. Don’t be pessimistic about the future. You’ll be blind to the opportunities. Modern communications and unfortunately, some business models and political models want to only feed us bad news and it distorts our view. I would tell you from traveling the world, the vast majority of the people of the world are good people.
They want what you want and I want. They want to raise their families and have a good life. Don’t lose sight of that and be excited about it. Be pragmatically optimistic. If you study it as I have probably more than about it. Certainly anybody you are going to meet or talk to, you will come away saying, “I wish I could live another 100 years to go through this one.”
Ladies and gentlemen, that’s the one and only Ben Lytle, the author of The Potentialist. Ben, thank you so much. It was an honor to talk to you. You are now an esteemed member and alumni of the show.
- The Potentialist I: Your Future in the New Reality of the Next Thirty Years
- Ray Kurzweil
- Connect with producer www.JasonAaron.pro
About Ben Lytle
Ben Lytle has been routinely ahead of the curve in his career as an entrepreneur, CEO, and investor and in how he has chosen to live. For several years, he has been paying close attention to the converging forces of change that few people have recognized. Ben makes a compelling argument in this first book that this convergence will reshape life as we know it and every human being as they know themselves today. He makes the case that life and people will emerge better in the end but that there will be turbulent times, difficult decisions, and rough sledding on the way, particularly for those who are unprepared.