Chad Sowash
Co-host, The Chad & Cheese Podcast

If you could write a brief note to your 13 year old self, what advice would you impart in it?

I would ask my younger self to continue to invest time with older members of the family. Learn more stories, take more walks, enjoy the time they give because it is a gift you will carry for the rest of your life.

At what age did you become an adult? What happened, and how did you know?

Merriam Webster defines Adult as “fully developed and mature”. By that definition it’s hard to think that we’re ever really “Adult”, right? I mean seriously, fully developed, and mature? I strive to mature day-by-day but where can I find the fully developed mark?

As young “adults” most of us speed through life as invincible and feel that obtaining a certain age in life grant us adulthood. But it doesn’t. At 18, I graduated High School and found myself in U.S. Army Basic Training. Was I now an adult because of the possibly of being in harm’s way? No.

Months later, as I was carved tightly into a hill receiving mortar and AK-47 fire in the jungles of Panama, was that the point of adulthood? It really wasn’t.

How about when I got married at 19 or I bought my first house at age 23? Nope, neither.

I believe those accumulated moments, and many more like them, were points of maturity during the journey we call life.

What I can tell you is that I do clearly remember the point in which I realized that I was living. Why? Because I started to identify real fear and responsibility. I was in my early 30’s and boarding a flight, by now I’ve used several modes of military and civilian transport, but this commercial flight was ominously different. Instead of feeling excited to experience the feeling of flying, I felt real anxiety for the first time. There was pressure in my chest and the thoughts of sheer flying pleasure was replaced with a single question, “What if I don’t make it?” I remember a few years earlier flying through massive turbulence in a puddle jumper, small plane, on its way to Roswell, New Mexico. The plane’s sudden drops and tilts didn’t bother me and as a matter of fact I physically acted like I was on a roller coaster, laughing like an idiot. In this new reality, the plane had merely shut the doors and my chest was tight. What was going on with me? What had changed? Why was this flight so different? In short, it was a baby. A little girl. My daughter was less than a year old. She flipped a switch in my brain. She was giving me reason to care about my next breath and helped me understand the wonder and fragility of life. It took years to fully understand and embrace those feelings, Let’s just say I’m stubborn, but I’ll never forget that day. On that day, my eyes were opened to something in this world more important than my very own life and or vanity. That reason. That girl. Now, that young lady was the point when I started to realize what living life felt like. I hope that’s as “ADULT” as it gets.

If you wrote a ‘user manual’ for how people should interact with you, what would be the top three things that would be useful for them to know?

1) Brevity 2) Levity 3) Drink!

What is your untrainable superpower?

I believe grit would be my superpower, but it wasn’t bestowed upon me by a glowing crystal or far away planet, rather it had to be infused into my soul.

Merriam Webster defines grit as” courage and resolve; strength of character”.

Grit, in the 1980s’ could be encapsulated from a line of the movie Remember The Titans, “Water makes you weak”. My coaches’ need to push their players past their boundaries was not followed by a Gatorade and a snack. This set me up nicely for military service which measures grit through rigorous training. The military allowed me to continue pushing my body past it is perceived limits just to prove to myself and others that it could be done. Primarily ego-centered, no doubt.

Later I was given the opportunity as an Infantry Drill Sergeant in the U.S. Army, I needed to be the sheer epitome of harsh resolve for others. This was the hardest of tasks and no because grit was paramount for me, but because a great number of the young men I was training would be on the battlefield in a few short months or weeks and grit could keep them safe and/or save their lives.

Grit in Corporate America takes the form of perseverance and problem-solving. Grit is mostly mental, not physical, and it finds itself manifesting in everything you do, and not only during business hours.

Grit is my superpower because I was lucky and/or stupid enough to embrace it at a young age.

Have you always had the same political beliefs? If so, why do you think you have held them so long? If not, what event caused you to change your view?

No. My wife Julie and I were on different points of the political spectrum. I was more of a moderate conservative and she’s a progressive liberal.

It took Donald Trump to become the Republican Presidential candidate for me to really start digging into my soul for the answers to very easy questions that I made complex. It pains me to say that it took the possibility of a TV show host, racist, possible tyrant – and the Republican contingent losing their collective spines – for me to actually start the reflection process.

Why?

I was privileged enough to have a mindset we were all equal and that anyone can “pull themselves up by their bootstraps”. What I blinded myself from was the ability to realize that not everyone was born with boots or straps. Equity is not granted just because you were born in the United States and unfortunately basic human rights like healthcare are just out of reach for those who need it most. It took a tyrant and a very strong and smart partner to help me answer questions I never really asked and now my eyes are more open than ever.

What I blinded myself from was the ability to realize that not everyone was born with boots or straps.

In the last few days, what news has given you most cause for alarm? In the last few days, what news has given you most cause for celebration?

1) A Minneapolis Police Officer killing a man in broad daylight and thinking he could get away with it because the man was black. 2) Protests all over the world in support of George Floyd and BLM.

Name a well-known person you admire and explain why you hold them high esteem?

Barack Obama.

I had two opportunities to vote for President Obama and I failed in both cases. Why? I’ll boil down to: 1) White privilege, I didn’t believe the message. I was wrong. 2) Empathy, my inability to actually put myself in someone else’s shoes. I was wrong.

President Obama has the ability to lead through carrying empathy into every single day, every room, every situation, and every moment. No matter what race, creed, or nationality is in attendance. His ability to lead with empathy enabled me to understand that this is our role as humans on the green Earth.

What is the best purchase you’ve made recently? Why?

VineBox is a wine service that mails a box, hence VineBox, of 9-12 different glasses of wine in glass tubes. The box and presentation aesthetics are superb and the wine is even better.

Needless to say, Julie loves it.

Cheese or Chocolate? What kind?

Chocolate. Dark. from Sweden – pre-COVID 🙂

If you were a giant mega Monster, what city would you rampage first? Why?

Tokyo. Looking to taking down Gozilla!

If you were to survive the zombie apocalypse, what role would you play in the new society that would follow?

Zombie hunter.

What are the three books that you would unhesitatingly recommend to others? Why?

Dan Pink – A Whole New Mind

I heard Dan Pink speak at an event in Washington DC in the early 2000s’ and was instantly hooked by his newest (at the time) book called “A Whole New Mind” which is an incredibly sexy way to start sliding the workforce discussion into overall economic impact. The focus of the book revolved around the major influence of Asia, Automation, and Abundance, moreover how new “right-brained” jobs would be the gateway to the future. A Whole New Mind was a different way of thinking about people, jobs, and global economics and gave me the passion to find more connections between the workforce and global economic impacts throughout my career.

Malcolm Gladwell – David and Goliath

The very basics of this book are quite alluring. I mean the subtext of “Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants” automatically makes you want to know more, then combining Gladwell’s ability to apply science and data with revisionist history makes this book a must-read for anyone who has ever been a misfit and/or underdog who has battled a giant. That’s nearly all of the human race.

Douglas Atkin – The Culting of Brands

Simply said, The Culting of Brands by Douglas Adkin is the bible for brand marketing professionals. Douglas helps us step away from the “commercial” narrative or definition of brand and starts the realignment of your brain with what really matters. Belonging.

What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever been given?

Advice to every civilian team I’ve led: In a perceived crisis 1) Step Back 2) Breathe 3) Ask yourself – Did anyone die?

What's a skill that isn’t on your resume, but your former bosses would recognize as one of the reasons you are successful?

Grit

Who was the best person you ever hired? Why were they so good?

Seth Flater. He didn’t just complete the project, he’d come back with several ways to possibly make the process, project or product better. He was thirsty for answers.

Have you ever been the weakest member of a team? How did you handle it?

Yes, on several occasions. You find the individuals who are performing and you learn and adapt.

When it comes to our work and industry: what scares you most?

Our inability to adopt in a timely fashion. Smarter and more nimble departments will take over this segment of the business if we don’t understand the importance of talent.

Who will be the winners & losers in our industry in the post-Covid19 world?

TA leaders who understand the nimble ability to scale will be the winners, everyone else will be in the fetal position creating excuses on why they couldn’t scale to meet the needs of the organization.

Do you have a secret tip, tool or trick that’s contributed to your success?

In a world of fakes, be who you are and you’ll shine through the others…

Name one person who has had an extraordinary impact on your career. What did they do and what did you learn from that person?

My dad, he taught me how to be a business professional that listens before I speak, to have a firm handshake, and to look people directly in the eyes when engaging. Most of what I’ve learned I continue today, but it really seems to be a lost art. Quick story: My very first closing call, I finished the pitch to a GM and then the room fell immediately and awkwardly silent. As I drew breath to speak my dad, who was the Director of Sales, moved his hand toward me as to say “don’t say a word” and after another nerve racking minute, which seemed like eons, the GM signed and became a customer.

Who would you recommend to do the next 20 Questions With … ?

Julie Sowash

What’s the one question that I should’ve asked you, but wasn’t on this list?

How’d I scored such a cool gig with such a hot wife?

Name one person who would you like to read these answers

My mom and dad

Thanks to Chad Sowash, Co-host & Producer at The Chad & Cheese Podcast, for contributing to The Recruiters Tribune. Tune in to the best recruiting podcast on the planet, here

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