Great leaders that lead themselves, effectively lead others. This is the law of growth that Dennis Shaver has always believed in. Dennis is an American entrepreneur who began his career as an hourly manufacturing employee at General Motors Corporation. He rose through the ranks after earning his Bachelor’s of Science degree, and held key leadership positions with several big companies like PepsiCo and Frito Lay. Dennis grew up on a dairy farm and learned about the energetic force that creates life from his natural surroundings. He shares how he’s been able to take those wonderful values and lessons and apply them to his business career.
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The Law Of Growth And How To Lead Others Effectively with Dennis Shaver
I am so grateful to be here in this moment to and be alive. I feel blessed in so many ways to be with you and to be able to do what it is I’m doing, which is to speak about things that are on my heart and be around people that want to do good things in the world. We talk about pivoting. It’s a lot of things in different contexts. It can mean many things. Sometimes it’s about the mind and how it is that we think differently. Sometimes it’s what we do with our bodies. Sometimes it’s what’s going on on a spiritual level or on an emotional level for us. Wherever I’m meeting you in this moment, whatever you happen to be doing in this moment, I want to acknowledge you for being here, for participating in the way that you do, and for getting some value, extracting something important from whatever it is we’re talking about and putting that to use in your life. The greatest way that we make a difference is by taking something we learn and modeling it in the world in a good way and in the best way we know how, and then impacting other people who might do the same. In the longer term, we see we see things changing in ways that we can’t even imagine that are beautiful. Wherever I’m meeting you right now, I’m meeting you in gratitude and appreciation. I’m blessed to have a guest on our show today. His name is Dennis Shaver. I’m going to share a little bit about Dennis then I’ll leave space for Dennis to fill in the blanks. It is important that you hear a little bit about this gentleman, and then you’ll hear from him, which is much more important in the moment. Dennis Shaver is an American entrepreneur, an Amazon international best-selling author and a former Fortune 500 leader. Dennis specializes in empowering entrepreneurial leadership in corporations, education, established businesses, startups, and aspiring entrepreneurs. Dennis began his career as an hourly manufacturing employee at General Motors Corp. After receiving his first BS degree in Business, Dennis was promoted to several GM divisions in various management capacities. Dennis also held key leadership positions at PepsiCo, Frito-Lay, and The Clorox Corporation. He did a number of other things. Dennis, you have been in business a long time. I could spend the next five minutes detailing the companies that you’ve worked for and provided services for consulting. Share with me what’s missing to that bio that you want people to know about you. Share a bit about what you’re passionate about in this moment and this season in your life. Welcome to the show.
Thank you very much. What’s missing on this is I was born and raised in a big dairy farm in Michigan. There are seven brothers in our family, and I’m the middle child so I have three older brothers and three younger. All seven of us boys were born in nine years. Sometimes I wonder if my father decided rather than buying another tractor to just have another son.
I’m trying to figure out the math on that, whether it was more or less expensive, the tractor versus the kid.
We learned how to work hard. We started at age five to be an entrepreneur in the dairy farm. My first job in the dairy farm at age five was to take care of the baby calves. What I appreciated most and what excites me about life now as well is possibility. Back then, when you stayed in the kitchen while the older brothers are up milking cows and finally it’s your chance to go out to work in the barn and be an entrepreneur, it’s so exciting. To see the baby calves born, to see them growing, to help them grow, and see the cycle of life, and then also learn about the cycle of life on the dairy farm, was absolutely amazing. We had the four seasons. We had winter time where you’re taking the time to focus on contemplation of this past year, what we could have done better, and then plan out the new year for a great harvest next year. Then in the springtime, we’ll learn how to till the soil and prepare the land. Once we prepare the land and till the soil, then you plant the seed. When you plant the seed, you nurture the seed. There’s a gestation period. You eventually see these little sprouts growing up throughout a thousand acres of land, little green sprouts growing up. To see the magic of a seed after a couple of weeks, to see green sprouts coming up, is so exciting. Many times you want to harvest right away, but there’s a gestation period for about 80-some days before that crop grows up. During that time if you have fertile ground, chances are you’re going to have weeds. You don’t want to water your weeds, you have to learn how to pull the weeds and then eventually get to the harvest. Fast forward into life now, I take those wonderful values and lessons of working hard in the dairy farm into a life in business. For example, the seed is a thought. The gestation period is having faith and believing it’s possible. The fertile ground is possibilities within our mindset. Most importantly is when we water the weeds, we don’t want to be thinking bad thoughts. We need to let go of those bad thoughts. Eventually, we get to the harvest, and that’s the outcome. It’s about the journey of nurturing that. That’s where we learn and grow.
What’s amazing is in just a couple of moments, you were able to take childhood memory, and not just memory, because you worked hard as a kid. You were put to work and got to learn from natural surroundings. You get to learn from nature, not just about life itself, but about what’s the energetic force that creates things in life. You didn’t say it, but I’m assuming what you mean is that thoughts are creative. There’s a force and energy to thoughts, and they ultimately produce things. It’s the law of attraction. You put it into a natural context as a dairy farmer, being on that farm and growing up. When did you know that? When did that become a knowing for you?
When I left the dairy farm, I wanted to be a businessman. Even though I love the dairy farm, being the middle child, their advice is, “Why would you leave? This is a big business. This is our family farm.” I wanted to reach out and rise above and become a businessman, so I had a grocery bag of clothes, $87, and I baler twined that to an old bicycle’s handlebars and rode to the city from the country, from the rural farm area to the city.
You’re in Michigan right now.
I like being back here at the time being because it’s a time of reflection. I get a lot of work done and prepare for all the traveling for speaking events. Going back to leaving the city, one of my first jobs was to apply at General Motors. Back then to get a job at General Motors was, “Wow, to make that kind of money.” I was so excited. I went in and I interviewed at GM. They hired me in five minutes. I said, “Can I ask why you hired me so quickly?” He says, “Young man, I’m glad you asked. First of all, you were raised in a farm, right?”I said, “Yes, sir. I was.” He said, “Forgive my French, but farm boys work their ass off. They have never been paid before. We know you’re going to be committed because you work until the job is done.” I said, “Yes, sir. You’re right.” That was my first job. The third day on that job, I’m loving my job. I’m thinking I get to go to college and make this money and it’s all exciting. All of a sudden somebody yells over to me. I’m welding on a truck and the guy says, “Excuse me, young man?” I said, “Yes, sir?” I stopped working, ran over to him and I said, “What can I do for you?” The guy has bifocals, a time watch and a clipboard. He looks at me through his bifocals and he says, “Son, you’re working way too hard. You need to slow down.” I said, “Why? My boss told me to get my butt working out there.” He said, “You’re going to take jobs away. I’m the union guy.” I thought to myself, “Are you the guys that are taking the money out of my check every week? Why do we have a union?” I had no idea what it is.
You could’ve gotten yourself killed there or beat up at least.
One of the things that my father taught us boys in a dairy farm was action. It was all about getting things done. One day, there was a hot summer day in Michigan and I’m out doing what we do best, and that is getting rid of one of our key resources, cow manure, out of the barn. I’m pitching the manure out, I’m taking a breath and I’m wiping the sweat off my forehead, and all of a sudden my daddy walks in. You don’t want to be standing around when your father walks in. I was standing there, and all of a sudden he says, “Son, how are you doing there?” I say, “I’m hoping and praying that I get this barn clean by short time. He takes a puff of his Marlboro and he says, “Son, you can hope and pray all you want, but it’s not taking your hands on that shovel and start pitching, because then the barn’s going to get clean.” That was the way I lived my life when I left home. When I went into the corporate world, I realized that not everybody is that action-oriented. There’s other ways of working with people to empower them. One of the big lessons I learned is I changed that. I got from action to ready, aim, and action.
You’ve been a leader in business for some time. That was your programming. That was the modeling. It was a work ethic model that your dad was instilling in you. When you became a leader in business, was that the ethic that you instilled in people? Was that your leadership style? If it was or wasn’t, was there a pivot there? Did you learn something? Has that been your teaching to others since that time?
I was a very young guy back then. When I helped start up the Saturn plant for General Motors, they said, “Dennis, you come to us with a different perspective. You have this can-do attitude and you always seem inspired, excited, and ready to get things done.” I said, “That’s how we were raised.” If you want something in life, get up, and make it happen. You can’t hope and pray for something to happen. You got to get out there and plant the seed, till the soil, and make it happen. I’m ready to jump in and make things happen. That philosophy as well as a can-do attitude most importantly as a team because with seven brothers and our family, we worked as a team. There’s no I in team. We were always working together. That came natural, and that worked in companies like General Motors, PepsiCo, Clorox and even business startups as well. It came naturally in terms of that methodology and that thinking, empowering people, and finding the best in people. There’s an opportunity for a lot of leaders in our large corporations, realizing that to be a great leader is to effectively lead others to effectively lead themselves.
Some of the things that in my experience have been impediments or have gotten in the way of that have been is when things get tough. Having a good positive attitude is one thing, but it means something else when you’re tested by adversity. When we talk about pivots, a lot of times the pivot is a way to describe a change in direction because something went wrong or didn’t go as planned. I know that there have been challenges in your life. We all have those stories. I’d love it if you’d share one of those challenges or one of those pivotal moments. What was it that you learned in the process of pivoting or making a change in your direction and how did it lead you to where you are today? What is it that you share with people today?
First of all, I was married to Georgia Lynn, a wonderful lady. We were so connected. One day in the fall time in Michigan, I was laying in the same bed with her and it was a hospital bed. They had just pulled the tubes out of her to help her breathe. She had a unique form of leukemia and we had just lost our infant, which would have been a daughter, because of this journey she was going through. She had leukemia. I’m lying in the hospital bed with her with all the wires hooked up to her and were embracing each other with our family around. We could say in those moments is how much we cared for each other. Nothing else mattered about challenges you might have had in life. It was all about to be here right now, and to be completely in the moment. When that moment came where she stopped breathing, I had to get out of the hospital bed. Walking away from the bed, I’m feeling so lonesome. It was the loneliest walk I’ve ever taken. It was the loneliness walk where nothing mattered, nothing interested me. I just wanted to be with her but she wasn’t there. She was gone. Her body was there but she was gone. Her light was so bright but it was gone. As I walked away and as the time started passing, it was very challenging for me to find a way find a way to see the light because I was expecting the light to come from what we had together, but I couldn’t have that. All I could have, the light from her, was the smell of her perfume bottles or the beautiful dresses in the closet to the trinkets that she had around our place. What matters most in this moment and from this moment forward is to appreciate and embrace what was so awesome, and magical Georgia Lynn and I had years ago, and have that as the light moving forward that is within me and all that is me. That was the pivoting point when I realized that if it is to be, it starts with me. Those words alone allowed me to take a deep breath and to adjust myself internally. Breath is amazing. First of all, I love my life. I love life. I love the opportunity to be here and I saw it happen to somebody I love so much and she’s gone. The lesson for me and the opportunity for me is to step up, stand up and be grateful for what is and evolve and move onward and upward. Those words, if it is to be, it starts with me, has been my blueprint, my formula, and my roadmap. It makes me appreciate life so much because whatever happens in my life is all based on how I respond or react to it.
When you say it starts with you, what’s the next thing that occurs? Is there something that occurs after you say that? What does it mean to you to start with you?
For example, I was driving to Oakland University here in Auburn Hills, Michigan. I’m stopped in the middle of the road because there’s a lady ahead of me that stopped. All of a sudden, she puts it in reverse and starts driving backwards and drives right into me and smashes into me. In that moment, this, “if it is to be, it starts with me” popped in my mind. I thought, “What’s happening right now?” Everything that happens, no matter what’s happening, even though it wasn’t my fault and my ego was jumping up as well, I knew there was my opportunity to say something. As I opened the door thinking, “Be cool, be calm. Don’t go throwing at her that it’s her fault. Just say, ‘Are you okay?’”“Are you okay?” She’s like, “Thank you so much. I thought you’d be so pissed at me.” I’m like, “I can start that way. Let’s be problem solvers, not problem makers here.” What’s the solution? What’s possible here? It’s those types of things. It’s the thought that I choose from this moment forward. I can’t change the past. What I can do is create and be part of cultivating what is possible. What is possible in a scenario like that is that I wanted to cultivate to think higher thoughts. Be the example. Like Gandhi says, “Be the change you wish to see.” If I add gasoline to a fire, the fire gets bigger. It depends on what fire you have. A fire of passion for somebody is one thing. If it’s a fire of pissed off at somebody for running into and you’re adding to that fire, that’s not helping the situation. I look at life that way. How am I contributing?
It’s so profound what you’re sharing. I truly believe that the most important pivots that we make are pivots in our thoughts. We think about the things we do, what’s our choice of livelihood, and there are so many decisions. We’re making decisions all the time, consciously or unconsciously. We’re making decisions each and every day, and almost every minute of every day, we get to choose how we make those decisions. Do we make those decisions with love? Do we make those decisions with fear? That choice is a pivot. That mindset is a pivot, and you got to make a choice. Somebody backs up out of the clear blue and bangs into your car, there’s a reason to be upset for sure. I don’t know that anybody would be okay themselves if they weren’t upset in that moment on some level, and yet the pivotal question you asked yourself was, “How do I want to start this discourse? Do I want to react, or do I want to respond? That consciousness allowed you to pivot your thought to one of, “We’ll get to the insurance soon enough. I want to check in and see if this lady’s okay,” and she responded accordingly. She met you. You showed up with love or you express something that was of a loving nature and she responded accordingly with love.
Being a man in business, I remember being raised with a bunch of boys and we would talk guy talk. The thing is that as we evolve in life. I appreciate you sharing about love. I believe there are two emotions. There is love or fear. The more we focus on what it is we desire versus what we don’t desire, the more we get what we desire. I’ve written a quote recently that goes like this, “Whatever you focus on most shows up most often.” The more I focus on what it is to be of service and to help others help themselves, that good karma and that goodness comes back to me as well and it spreads. It becomes viral. Where I choose to be, even in leadership roles in companies, is to be an example. Of course we’re going to trip and fall. We are human; that happens. To know how to evolve forward from there, you can catapult forward versus being stuck in the muck. It’s easy to blame and judge others and ourselves and be stuck.
Is there anything else that you want to share in the way of a pivotal moment or a pivotal experience that would inform in the area of either entrepreneurship or business? You’ve gained a great deal of wisdom from the time you are a young boy to the point where you’ve got this incredible credibility as a leader. Much of what you say resonates at a deep level with me. Is there another pivotal moment or experience you want to share?
I have worked with some large companies and also I started several small businesses. There’s one business that was a product development company. We did a lot of work for large companies in terms of designing products for them and making prototypes and going into manufacturing. Eventually, a lot of aspiring inventors show up at my door and say, “I got this great idea. It’s a million-dollar idea. Can you help me with it? You have a manufacturing plant. We could go into business together. It’s a million-dollar idea. Then I could retire.” We’d hear this often. The stories that I heard though were profound. One particular day, I got a call from a gentleman. I’ll just call him Mike. He comes to me, walks into my office, and he says, “The patent attorney loves you guys and suggested I go to you to get manufacturing costs for my new invention.” I said, “Sure, come in. He sits in my office, hands me this thick patent, and he said, “I just spent $10,000 on this patent. I just got the patent. I’m so excited,” and then he tells me his story. He just got divorced. He’s got two little kids. There isn’t that much money left on his account, but he wants to get his manufacturing costs. I read his patent, and as I get to the patent, all of a sudden I look at this and I’m thinking in my mind, “How do I tell this guy the bad news?” Have you ever been in a situation where you felt yourself in a pickle but not sure how to get from the bad news to the good news quickly? How do you turn it into good news? That’s where I was with this guy.
After all, he was sitting on the chair on the edge of his chair, excited, and this is his million-dollar idea. I said, “Mike, I love your ideas. They’re fantastic. You said you spent $10,000 in this patent. Do you know that you can go to the US Patent Office and it only costs $130 to get a basic patent? This isn’t even manufacturable.” He said, “But here’s the design.” I said, “That is basically an illustration.” This guy, this big grown man sitting in my office, has tears coming down his eyes, and the doors closed. I know he felt embarrassed, he made this big mistake. So many people have come to me that way where they’ve been stuck in the muck with a great idea. The bottom line here is I helped to turn that guy around. We got him on track and he turned a several hundred-thousand-dollar mistake of going the wrong way into a multi-million-dollar opportunity, only because he found a way to ready himself first with the right mindset, and then aimed himself in the right direction with the right skill set by identifying resources that can help him to get the traction to take the most effective action. That formula I call ready, aim, action formula. That is what has worked well in helping people get unstuck on the muck and or get on track with a great idea to get up in their mind, to the market, to profit.
Is that what you do these days? Do you work with mostly entrepreneurs or aspiring entrepreneurs? Is that your market today?
That’s my market. Also I’m asked to give a lot of public speaking events, especially with the one in Singapore called Think, Act and Prosper. That is all about helping aspiring entrepreneurs take the most effective action and get on the right track to evolve the idea forward. The future of entrepreneurship is getting bigger and bigger, and jobs are getting less and less in the future. People need to find a way to identify their true north, and from there, they’re stepping into their genius, and then take action on that genius and turn it into a profitable journey for themselves.
I believe in the power of rituals, conscious habits, in other words, the things we do intentionally to create some new results. I have a lot of negative thoughts and I’ve had them since I was young. My mom had them and my dad had them. I can’t break the habit of thinking about things in a negative way. I’m seeing the classic glass is half empty. I get angered easily. I can go sideways in my thoughts quickly. Even when I’m feeling good or it’s a good day, I can get sideways fast. What are some of the things that you’ve done by way of creating a new habit, conscious habits, or rituals? Do you have rituals that cultivate better thoughts for yourself or cultivate some other area of your life? Where it’s been? It sounds that even early on, your mindset of “if it is to be, it starts with me.”What’s a ritual or something that you do on a regular basis to help you to think better or behave better?
There are many rituals. There’s one that rings true for me and that’s the first one when I wake up in the morning. I turn sideways and put my feet on the floor as I say “Thank you. I am so grateful to be here.” This is the way to walk life, just with a complete gratitude, because you can’t spell gratitude without u. I look at life that way. The other thing is as I always hum a tune, an affirmation. It goes, “I am happy, healthy, wealthy, loving and successful.” I keep repeating that because I deserve it and because I’m worthy and deserving. I say these things in the thick of challenges and when things are happening, it’s like “I’m so grateful to be here and this is an opportunity for me.” I’m always reminding myself of rising above that type of thoughts that helped me. That affirmation helps me tremendously. The other thing is every morning, it’s getting up and going to the gym at 5:00 in the morning and having that green drink. The green drink is so fabulous. Health is wealth. That habit alone, realizing that what is sitting in this chair is a gift for me to be and do whatever is possible for me to be and do. Hopefully, I’m choosing to steer it in the right direction. One of those is thinking good thoughts, because thoughts become things. The other thing is taking action, doing good things for ourselves and others. The other thing is to be a living example of what other people would like to rise above to, including myself. It’s always about finding ways to think higher thoughts, not from ego. Think higher thoughts about rising above and not succumbing to what most people are saying which is, “That’s just the way it is.”
What you’ve said there is important. It’s the law of growth. The law of growth is that what we think about grows. It’s just a question of what it is that you want to cultivate. You started off with an example of what it looks like for a seed to germinate and grow into something. The best examples that I’ve found and heard that anybody else talk about is the examples that are in nature. Our thoughts are certainly seeds. We plant them in the garden. The ones that we cultivate will grow. If we cultivate weeds, we will get weeds. If we pull weeds and cultivate things that we prefer more, which could be flowers or fruits and we’re doing that consciously, there’s a result that comes from that conscious cultivation. It has been a pleasure to have you on the show today. I would remind myself of something we were talking about earlier today. All is for the highest good. That’s a new thought and a new way to express something that I’m testing myself. What you said as part of your rituals is that you create a mantra, a thought, or a statement, something that you sing that you remind yourself of. We need reminders. I know I need them all the time. It could be we’ve got a cloudy moment, a cloudy day, a cold day versus something that might feel warmer to us. In those cold moments or those cloudy moments, we have a choice. We get to make those choices. You’ve pointed us in a wonderful direction in terms of taking a breath and being able to cultivate a conscious response as opposed to an unconscious reaction. What a blessing. Any thoughts or things you’d want to share as we wrap up today?
I love your book. I read it, and there are so many great things in it. I can relate to a lot of things you talk about. The title of your book is Pivot. It’s so realistic. I just want to thank you. It was such a pleasure meeting you out in California and talk with you. You’re like a brother from a different mother. I’m so grateful for what you’re doing to pave the path to help others help themselves. I’m so honored to be with you here today and to share what we’re sharing. Whatever I can do to help you cultivate what you’re doing, reach out to me.
Thank you. What a pleasure. For everybody out there, I hope you’re having a beautiful day. Wherever we’re meeting you right now, we want to meet you with love, gratitude, and appreciation for you. I hope that more than anything, you truly appreciate yourself. We wake up and that is a special moment, because we take that first breath of the day, that first conscious breath where we realize, “I got another day here.” It could be that you wake up feeling tired or feeling the pressure from something going on in your life, something that you’d like to be different. You can still feel grateful in that moment because that breath is sacred. People will be taking their last breath as you have that thought. That becomes part of your awareness. There will be people everywhere taking their very last breath and there will also be people being born that are taking their very first breath. That is a significant moment. Wake up, take a deep breath, and be grateful. If you do want to and would like to even begin that mantra of declaring out loud, “I love my life.” You get to experiment with that and see how that intention reflects back some results in your life. Some new things show up as a result of planting that seed in the fertile soil of your mind at the beginning of the day. Dennis, thank you so much for the analogies and your experience and what you shared about growing up in Michigan on a dairy farm and stories about your dad and your role as a leader. I appreciated all of it. If you’ve not yet subscribed to the podcast, I hope you love it enough to want to subscribe. You can get to the episodes on iTunes. Please leave a review. We love those five star reviews, but whatever you review is, we love it as well because it’s great feedback for us. You can get to it through AdamMarkel.com. If you’ve not yet joined our Facebook group, the conscious pivoting that is happening on that group, the stories people are sharing, the vulnerability, the authenticity, are so profound. You can go to the Start My Pivot Facebook community. You can get there by going to PivotFB.com and jump right in and introduce yourself to the community and have a lot of fun. We’ll see you soon.
About Dennis Shaver
Dennis G Shaver is an American Entrepreneur, an Amazon International best-selling author, and a former Fortune 500 leader. Dennis specializes in empowering entrepreneurial leadership in corporations, education, established businesses, start ups and aspiring entrepreneurs. Dennis began his career as an hourly manufacturing employee at General Motors Corp. After receiving his first B.S. Degree in Business, Dennis was promoted to several GM divisions in various management capacities. Dennis also held key leadership positions at; PepsiCo/Frito-Lay, A.O. Smith Corporation and The Clorox Corporation in; Engineering, Manufacturing, R&D, Business Development, Human Resources and Organizational Development. Dennis also served as President/CEO for several successful entrepreneurial business startups. Dennis’s passion and true north is empowering others to become a Conduit to their Entrepreneurial Can-Do-It.