Use Your Inner Thrive Guide to Make Impactful Change: A Chat with Nick Smarrelli, Former CEO of GadellNet

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This is a podcast episode titled, Use Your Inner Thrive Guide to Make Impactful Change: A Chat with Nick Smarrelli, Former CEO of GadellNet. The summary for this episode is: <p><strong>"Courage is a big word and I encourage people to take big life leaps. Sometimes I feel like the hardest thing is just that first step."</strong></p><p><br></p><p>After 12 years at <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">GadellNet,</a> <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Nick Smarrelli</a> recently left his role as CEO and passed the proverbial torch to a former colleague. He knew he wanted to lean into the visionary part of his profile and create a unique vision for his life.</p><p><br></p><p>In this episode, <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Rebecca</a> interviews Nick about how he came to this point of leaving a job, career, and company that h<em>e</em> loved to create a new path and how he found courage in the realization that he was replaceable. Nick shares his challenges and lessons learned through his internally guided journey and his sense of joy in his new role as a College Professor.</p><p><br></p><p><strong>In this episode, you’ll learn:</strong></p><p>1. Exploring how to take the first step in making a career change through courage, strength, and vulnerability.</p><p>2. How to create a unique vision for each aspect of like and building the skill-set to make hard decisions.</p><p>3. How to celebrate mistakes and successes, and cultivating an environment where ideas can be shared and taken seriously.</p><p><br></p><p><strong>Things to listen for:</strong></p><ul><li>[00:12&nbsp;-&nbsp;01:14] Intro to the episode</li><li>[02:55&nbsp;-&nbsp;04:00] Nick shares the career pivot he's making</li><li>[04:46&nbsp;-&nbsp;05:40] Finding the courage to take big life leaps</li><li>[10:19&nbsp;-&nbsp;11:48] Leading the life you want to lead, not what others need from us</li><li>[12:38&nbsp;-&nbsp;14:57] What is the guidance practice you(Nick) are using now?</li><li>[17:42&nbsp;-&nbsp;19:32] A mistake Nick is grateful for now, but was challenging in the moment</li><li>[23:27&nbsp;-&nbsp;27:28] Creating a psychological safe environment for people to work in</li></ul><p><br></p><p><strong>Resources:</strong></p><p>Learn more about Rebecca and her work: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p><p>Get your copy of Write Your Own Story: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p><p>Listen to Rebecca's Audiobook Write Your Own Story: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p><p><br></p><p><strong>Connect with Rebecca:</strong></p><p><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p><p><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p><p><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p><p><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p>
Intro to the episode
01:02 MIN
Nick shares the career pivot he's making
01:04 MIN
Finding the courage to take big life leaps
00:53 MIN
Leading the life you want to lead, not what others need from us
01:29 MIN
What is the guidance practice you(Nick) are using now?
02:18 MIN
A mistake Nick is grateful for now, but was challenging in the moment
01:50 MIN
Creating a psychological safe environment for people to work in
04:00 MIN

Speaker 1: (singing)

Rebecca: This is Write your Own Story, three Keys to Rise and Thrive in Life and Business. I'm your host, Rebecca Fleetwood Hession. Hey, it's Rebecca. Some of you may not remember this but the infamous show, Seinfeld, ended kind of abruptly after a wildly successful nine years. And my guest today, Nick Smarelli, has a similar kind of story. After a wildly successful career as the CEO of GadellNet, with a list of awards that we'll get into just a little bit today, he knew it was time for him to pivot, to make a change. And you know around here, we're always talking about our inner thrive guide, and I couldn't wait to talk to Nick to find out how his inner thrive guide notified him that it was time for a change and how he's doing since he made the jump. Here we go. So Nick, you are clearly writing your own story, so I want to get into that today. I'm glad you're here.

Nick: So happy to be here.

Rebecca: My first really powerful question is now that you are no longer a full- time GadellNet employee, what is the person who was previously responsible for updating your LinkedIn awards doing now with their time?

Nick: There was a wonderful little streak. I think it was 2020 or 2021 where it felt like for about three months, it was insane, and it normalized again but it did feel a little surreal for a while.

Rebecca: I pulled up your LinkedIn just to peruse through and I was like, I've not yet experienced someone who's literal First page is awards. It was fabulous. Congratulations on doing amazing things as a leader. So let's just tell the listeners a little highlight. 10 times on the Inc 5, 000 Fastest Growing Company list. 10 times. That's insanity. Best IT consulting company, 11 times. Best Places to work from IBJ, best and brightest, exceptional workplaces, 40 under 40. Congratulations. What an amazing career.

Nick: Thank you. Yeah, it's crazy.

Rebecca: And you're just getting started, because it's not like you're some old crusty getting ready to go down. Young, exciting career and you're making a pivot. Tell us about this.

Nick: Yeah, it's been kind of a whirlwind and the last 12 months has been the biggest change that I've certainly gone through from a career perspective, only because I don't have a perfect answer of what's next. I've made career shifts before and I've done big leaps, but I was always leaping to a very solid next place or at least a place where I knew where I was going, and now I'm leaping and I have a general direction. I feel like I've really had to lean into the visionary part of my profile, which is I have a vision of where I want to go and I have absolutely no idea how I'm going to get there, and that feels super strange. But yeah. No, so I left my previous position as CEO of GadellNet in July. Passed the torch to overall my leaders and my managers but the actual CEO title to our former president who now became president and CEO of the organization, an individual I had the opportunity to work with for eight plus years and couldn't be happier for him and the team that he gets to work with every day.

Rebecca: Well, the reason I reached out to you and said let's talk is because when I heard that you were making this leap, I love that you are being internally guided. It's not that you're jumping to something specific. You just had this call and it comes in different shapes and sizes. From what I've heard you talk about on other podcasts recently with Tiffany Sauder, who's a friend of the show, that your body was telling you things, you were just getting this feeling that it was time. And we talk incessantly, I talk incessantly here about our inner thrive guide knows what's best for us and if we have the courage to listen, and it sounds like that's what's been happening for you.

Nick: Yeah, and I think courage is a big word in the whole thing. It's one of those things where I encourage people to take big life leaps and just to do it. Sometimes, I feel like the hardest thing in almost everything is just that first step, and I think for me, I was afraid of ever taking that first step, of having that first conversation or even saying the words out loud that maybe it's time for me to make a change. That was scary because that wasn't the plan necessarily. It wasn't part of this beautiful ideal plan that I had assembled of what that timeline looked like. And so I think for me, that was incredibly scary, to make that first... I would say that first step was probably the hardest step of crystallizing, is this really what makes the most sense? Even though there's not that perfect beautiful next step.

Rebecca: You are rattling your brain's sense of security and safety in a gigantic way by doing that, because you don't know. Our brain is always trying to fill in the blanks of what comes next and when we don't know what comes next, the uncertainty gives our brains this red alert signal that something is wrong and unsafe. And luckily as humans, we have the ability to create new patterns and work past that, but what I've heard you say on other shows is it does feel strange. It does feel kind of wrong in some ways, just every day now needing to fill your days versus your days coming at you and responding to the needs of the business and the people and the market. Now, you are creating versus responding.

Nick: Absolutely, and I think that's scary and I think you mentioned a few things that had to get deconstructed, but I would say the biggest thing for me was an identity that I'd created for myself. I had done the same thing for so long and I'd identified as the role, and really splitting the role versus my identity versus the vision of where I wanted to go and making those into essentially three pieces and seeing, does the role fit the identity of where I want to be in the grand vision of what I'm trying to achieve? And I think the reality was it wasn't serving that purpose anymore. It did for so long and it was arguably one of the best experiences of my life, but it stopped serving that place. And to me, I believe part of being a leader is making space for others to have the experiences that somebody made a space for me. There's a lot of people that had to step aside or to trust me to do something and it was just my turn to do that for others, and so it worked out in a really positive way for the overall situation, but deconstructing the fact that I no longer was the leader of the company, that was a crazy reality.

Rebecca: I remember that day vividly, when I left my 20- year career with the Franklin Covey Organization to start my own business. It was a pivotal day that I will never forget. I can tell you, I was sitting here. I can tell you the weather, I can tell you what was going on outside because I had that, " How will I know if I'm good? How will I introduce myself?" Just very weird practical questions that were going through my head about shifting this, how much I had put my identity into, I was a top performer at Franklin Covey with the world's thought leaders, traveling the world to, " I don't know exactly who I am now," and that weird feeling that follows, so I feel for you and with you in this moment.

Nick: Absolutely. And the funny thing about it is you don't realize how many times per week somebody asks you, " What do you do?" or, " What's your job?" And it just is so instinctual. Before, it was, " I had the pleasure of serving an organization, doing cool things, blah, blah." I had my little 20 second spiel about what I did, and now, I'm kind of like, " Well, I teach. I consult." And you see them, just their faces just kind of going dull and, " All right, you've bored me." It's not as crystal clear as-

Rebecca: inaudible turtle dialogue more than I think it's what they're thinking, because our uncertainty and insecurity just gets absolutely minded, skyrocketed. I was like, " Okay, so I sold$ 35 million but am I still good just because I don't have that title?" And it became the catalyst for the work I'm doing today, which is we should carry around our gifts and talents and then decide, where do I go? And use them to serve, instead of identifying so closely with a particular role or company that we lose our sense of self. And what I love about you being such a well- known leader in our community here in Indianapolis is quitting has become kind of in vogue lately.

Nick: It certainly has.

Rebecca: We had the great resignation, we had quiet quitting, whatever we want to call it these days, but what is different and inspiring about your story is you didn't leave because things were bad. And I want to really highlight and inspire people to say that sometimes, we get called when things are really good. It's okay to step out and explore, so I think your story is so inspiring, to lead the lives that we want to lead and not always responding to what somebody needs from us.

Nick: I think it would've been easier if that were the case. And obviously, I have the delight of looking at things in hindsight. So I look at the last 12 months and really looking at the decision was made probably around 12 months ago, GadellNet on a whole has performed incredibly well in the past 12 months and that's been great. That's just been refreshing overall because you make promises, especially when you're leaving, that this is going to be better, and to see the organization actually perform better is equal parts exciting, but then it's also you've got the other side of things where you realize you're also replaceable, and I think that's an interesting thing too. And it's liberating that you can be, but it's also a reminder when you're looking at creating the life that you want, so many people I've spoken to is, " Well, it won't work without me." And I argue, I was an important part of the organization. I'm a humble person but not enough, but the realization is people move on, the organizations move on. You are replaceable and that is, like I said, it's humbling to know that. To know that I think I have a legacy and my fingerprints are on a lot of stuff that still exists and I'm really happy about that, but the organization has moved on. It's nimble, and so taking those big leaps, not letting yourself feel like you're an anchor is such an important part of the journey in my opinion.

Rebecca: I love that. So now that you are creating versus responding, and what we know about you is you're an intense kind of guy. You don't just run, you run 100 mile races. You don't just win one year, you win 10 years. That is a part of your gift, who you are. So when you take that intensity and turn it inward, that sounds really scary. How are you letting this thing unfold? What's the guidance practice that you're using now? Because I've got to believe that you're a, " I have certain ways that I do things" kind of person. What's the practice for this for you to discover what's next or just explore what's there? How's it working?

Nick: Again, I knew foundationally of some ideas. I knew I had a calling and I think that's really important to note, is I had a calling to teach in some way. It was the obvious part of my job when I was CEO that I enjoyed the most, and we had a formal leadership academy where I had an opportunity to teach there. We had formality around that but for me, the parts of my day where I felt like I was sharing or inspiring or teaching were the parts of my day I loved the most, and that was obvious. And so I had an opportunity to become a professor at Butler University and I've been doing that and absolutely adore the time that I get there. That that's been an easy part, and thankfully, that has served to be a nice little baseline. That is my consistency that draws day to day is I have that.

Rebecca: There's something on calendar you've got to prepare for.

Nick: Exactly. I have something and that gets me up. And then the rest has been, and again, I'm really leaning heavily into, I'll call it community, but resources. Through my master's program, I've had the opportunity to meet some incredible people that have provided wisdom beyond. Free wisdom frankly just by connection that has been incredibly powerful for me of really mastering each part of my next steps and saying, how do I create a unique vision for each part of my life? And when I say that, I think my work life, my family life, my community life, my pursuit of wisdom, faith, et cetera. You look at each of these and think, what are my values around that? What's the vision that I want to lead to? And then how does it wrap itself into something that I can shuttle thousands of opportunities through and say, " How does it fit this filter and is it something to work forward to?" And that filter took me six months to build, and it's still very much in process. I'm more socializing it now of saying, " Am I missing anything? Is this representative of me?" And using that filter to decide, how do I decide what's the most appropriate next step? And so I've needed the help of others to really define what that looks like.

Rebecca: I am constantly saying to clients, go to that place of what are you good at that you love to do? Now, let's take that because that's the core of who you are and build from that. And so teaching was that thing for you that you were then able to launch to the next thing with university. I love that. I don't think we allow what we love to be enough of our career guidance.

Nick: Yeah. And again, I have to say, again, I'm coming off of first day so I've got the first school day vibes still going through me, but why I love teaching is there's a joy to me. Again, you look at flow state where the hour and a half, I teach a three- hour class as well, that goes by so unbelievably fast for me because I'm in this just really focused state that I just really enjoy. But it's that giving back in a way that's so powerful to me of sharing stories and failures and wins and the good side and the bad side. Because again, you mentioned the awards and I kind of cringe up a bit because I just know, the other side of that is all the dumb things that I did and all the things that weren't great and whatever, so it's something I probably need to work through is the other side. And I love that teaching requires me to share both of that. Of the" This is how you should do it and this is what I did the first time and how bad that was, and look at what I learned from it," and trying to accelerate that maturity process for the individuals that have the opportunity to be in my class has just been so neat. And it really makes me celebrate the really good times and the really bad times in a way that... Because when you're going through them, they feel hard and they feel overwhelming, and then you reflect upon them and then you have to teach it to somebody and all of a sudden you're like, " Oh, man. This would be such a boring lecture if I didn't have this great failure story that is making this textbook so much more compelling," and I'm so happy to be doing that. So it has been great to do something that you love that fits so beautifully with a vision of investing truly in others.

Rebecca: And the ability to share that authentic context to the textbook. To me, learning without context of some human authentic story is a really rough way to go, so you're able to provide that for them. So you mentioned it so I'm going to go there. It's one of my favorite questions. What mistake are you really grateful for now that really sucked in the moment?

Nick: I'm going to answer that in probably a bigger mistake, and I'll call it the aggregation of a lot of mistakes, is the belief that I as a leader always had to be perfect has forced me to, in the past, I would say make the wrong decision on things or to lose sight of the bigger picture on behalf of a fear of being seen as not worthy of being in the role. And I look at a few moments or a few times and I'm thankful for the people around me who, as they got to know me better, checked me on those situations. But I would say looking at the times where I wonder, why did I make that decision? It was usually out of a fear of being truly vulnerable in the role that I was in. And I regret that and I feel like I've learned from that of just understanding that part of leadership, and I caught it at the end, is being okay being human and flawed and asking others for help. And so I wish I would've known that more and I look at smaller things that I did that I wish I could go back and just be the voice in my own head to say, " Think bigger than this." And I feel like I wish I could go back and do that.

Rebecca: Wow. I love that so much, and I feel the cultural expectations that exist today are that people only want that authentic, I made a mistake, that here's how I'm fixing it kind of leader versus the aspiration to be perfect that nobody ever feels like they can live up to. And so I love that you shared that. I think that's a really important leadership lesson for everybody moving into the future of what leadership is going to require, which is very different than what it's required in the past.

Nick: I think so, and I think finding that balance of understanding what vulnerability is and what vulnerary is shared, but also still being strong and still being purposeful and still being visionary, and balancing those two is a skillset that I'm working on and coaching people through and thinking about how you do better as a leader. Because there is a higher degree of vulnerability and authenticity, to your point, that you need more and more, but also having that strength to make the hard decisions. I think 2023 is going to be, and I say this somewhat tongue in cheek but the statement was by a few economists is from a CEO perspective, is you have to do hard things without looking like an asshole. That's what's going to be hard for a lot of leaders is doing the right things on behalf of the business, so still being strong but also sharing in your journey along the way.

Rebecca: I agree, and it's interesting, I coach both CEOs and people that report to CEOs or other executives, and what's so fascinating when I hear people's stories is many CEO, top leaders, presidents will say something similar to what you said, that I'm not sure how much vulnerability to share. There are times I'm really scared or there are times I'm unsure and I don't know how much of that to share, and they paint this picture that might look a little too perfect. And then when I talk to people that report up to that level, they'll say, especially those that have left organizations, they'll say to me, " I just wish they would've said I made a mistake and here's how I'm fixing it, and that would have had so much more credibility for me if they just would've admitted that mistake." And so there's the rub, right? People want it but you're not sure how much to give because you want to appear strong. I think that's both art and science.

Nick: There's no question, and I agree with that fully and that's a good story.

Rebecca: I wish that we could package it up and teach it together. We'd be gazillionaires serving everyone all over the world. If you figure that out and need a partner, I'm available to-

Nick: You're the person? All right, well...

Rebecca: Yeah. Tell me that.

Nick: I think what I've had the opportunity to do, both in my journey but then obviously talking to so many others as we're all figuring it out, and I think that has been the most liberating factor in all of this is I have a very good community of people in similar roles and we're all figuring it out. We're all flawed. The companies with the perfect stories aren't actually perfect and the companies with the flawed stories are actually just doing the best that they can as well, and we're all just in it trying to do... I don't know many, many people who don't love their employees and aren't working in the best interests of them, and sometimes, it doesn't manifest itself in the right decision- making processes, but everyone does care and we're all trying to figure it out together. And that has been the best part of the journey, is really sharing that with others. It's not only being vulnerable to your team but being vulnerable to other people in similar roles, is you learn so much more that way.

Rebecca: Yeah, a hundred percent. So one of the things that I'm believing and seeing and reading about that's going to be so important moving into the future of leadership is the ability to create a safe environment for your team, psychological safety, where they can really show up and be themselves and make mistakes and bring ideas, and that you're really collaborating as humans. You've obviously been able to do that or you wouldn't have had the success that you have had? What are some of the things that you feel like you've done that create that kind of psychological safe environment for people to work in?

Nick: I think the first thing does have to come from, I think, the way that I show up to work as a leader. I think you don't realize that you are on stage all the time as a leader and I think understanding that part of it. So I remember at some points during obviously coming off of the last two and a half years with COVID, sharing my stories about my fears with COVID and what I'm going through from a family perspective, and sharing circumstances that were happening to my greater family and how that was affecting me in terms of how I was showing up at work. And I think sharing some of those stories with others provided space for people to share their stories and to realize that there's more depth in the CEO and as a result, there's more depth in our executive team, and they shared their stories and I think that was an incredibly important starting point. I think for us is celebrating the right things. For us, you can celebrate the times where people are perfect or you can celebrate the times that people are honest and talk about that with equal amounts of enthusiasm as you are about something that's a little bit more concrete. And celebrating those that spoke up and sharing, " Hey, this was an opportunity. We thought we made the right decision but this individual or these individuals spoke up and here's how we're going to pivot as a result of that," and really sharing in the fact that ideas are brought up and it's communicated back that this was a submitted idea from an employee and we're going to give that back to them. I think taking ideas seriously has to be important as well. We always try to reiterate, if somebody was asking for Skittles in the break room, that needs to be treated with just the same level of urgency as we need to redefine the way that we do performance management, as an example. Because the person who asks for the Skittles may also have this other business changing idea, that they're watching you to make sure that you actually listen, so giving space to have people provide their input and giving forums and different communication vehicles by which to do that. Some people love to share personally. I think with a remote or hybrid environment, you've got to get a little bit more creative in terms of how you bring on that feedback, to allow it to be centralized, allow it to be re- shared to say, " Hey, this is the themes that we're hearing from the teams. This is the themes that we're going to be taking action on. These are things that we're hearing that we're not taking on action on." Either it's late or we're going to be pushing it off for a few quarters, or this is why we choose to continue to move forward, because not every idea is good. I always share during our state of the company addresses a few of the ideas that I came up with that the executive team completely nixed and said, " I am the CEO of the company and even I have terrible ideas." So not every idea is always a good idea, and letting people have that space and seeing me just acknowledge that, because if you don't, then people start to feel like their voice isn't heard or they don't feel safe speaking up, and if they don't feel safe speaking up, you're missing out on some really good ideas. Because at the end of the day, there's 200 and some people in the company. That's 200 great ideas. If you, the one CEO of the organization, are expected to come up with more ideas than 200 people, that seems absurd to me.

Rebecca: I love that. When you said the Skittles example, I thought of the writer for the rockstar that submits the, " Here's my list of things that I want you to have in the green room." And so just crazy request are made just to see if somebody's actually reading it and paying attention. It's much like what you just shared. It's, " I'm going to ask for Skittles to see if they're listening, and if they really are listening, then I might share a little bit more depth of what I really am thinking or caring about." People don't just walk into your office and dump their inner most ideas or secrets or challenges. They're testing the waters to see if it's a safe place with some smaller conversations, and then do you earn the right to get to the depths of what they really care about?

Nick: That's well said, absolutely. And I think it does escalate and I think giving the space for people to have that conversation I think is absolutely paramount, and opportunistic as well. Like I said, there's so many great ideas out there and harnessing the power of the many is critically important.

Rebecca: Okay, so here's a question that I ask all of my clients as we're helping them identify their unique gifts and talents, and going back to the early days of who they are and making sure that we can see that thread of who they are following through their careers and their lives. So what was 14- year old Nick doing for fun? Because 14 years old is when you start to have some autonomy. You don't have to ride with mom and dad to the hardware store and you get to choose more of your friends and the things you're doing, even if you're alone in your room, whatever. You're choosing more for you, so what were the things that Nick was up to at 14 that you were really enjoying?

Nick: That's great. It's funny, it kind of makes me smile because I'm trying to laugh. So it's freshman year of high school at this point. I was an athlete. I was a soccer player, I swam. I had not gotten into running yet. Actually, in fact, I hated running so you couldn't have forecasted my hobby 26 years later in terms of what I was doing at the age of 14. I had an incredibly strong and diverse group of friends. I didn't fit in any particular genre. I feel like you get the kind of cliche high school stories where the cool people, I was definitely not a cool person. I don't think I was a nerd. I think I was just the guy that was sort of friends with everyone and I was hyper curious about everything. So I was actually in choir, so I sang because I liked music at the time and that was the only, I would say, instrument that I was capable of utilizing at the time. I loved school. I was very curious at school. I thought I wanted to be in politics at the time, so at 14, I actually went to Washington DC, got a chance to do this little national program where they take a bunch of kids that want to be part of Congress at some point and so I remember doing that, because I knew I wanted to give back and I loved the idea of public service and I think I never went back after that. I think that was the beginning of the end of my political career, at the age of 14. It came and went quick.

Rebecca: What was it about it that stopped you from that pursuit?

Nick: I think the reality of my personality, which is the thought of being hated by let's say 49% of my constituency, that's a hard word to say, felt overwhelming. And there's certain people that could let that rub off their back and I am not that person. So I care too much about creating consensus that I would never get anything actually done. So that was not my jam.

Rebecca: I love the self- awareness though. That's the key. So I'd love to dig in a little bit. Let's just go to the soccer. What did you love about soccer?

Nick: So I am not a gifted natural athlete. There's certain kids, when they're five, you throw a ball at them, they catch it, they chuck it back. If you threw a ball at me at five, it hit me in the face. I'd have to go running after it. What I liked about soccer is it allowed me to play with these individuals because I hustled. I had to hustle and work harder than everybody else on the team who had actual skills, and I loved that. I loved the community of it. These were individuals that I had grown up with since the age of five. We've been playing soccer together since we were five, many of whom are still good friends of mine, so I loved the team community aspect of it and I knew I needed that, so it was fun. I played up until senior year of high school and then I did leave. I think at some point, hustle can't overcome lack of actual skill at some point. But I loved the outdoors, I loved moving, I loved hard things, and soccer is a perfect way to do all of those things all at once.

Rebecca: Okay, so the juxtaposition of swimming, is swimming is a very individual sport versus soccer, very team oriented. What did you love about swimming?

Nick: I liked that there was a perfect correlation between effort placed in practice and nutrition and strength training to performance in the pool, versus, to your point, team, where I was beholden to how everyone else is playing and who we're playing against. And I love the perfection of, " I'm going to swim this race in two minutes and then if I do this, this and that and I try this, it's going to be a minute 55." It's very measurable, it's very self- accountable and I liked that. And all of a sudden, I think I realized by the latter part of high school that I liked individual sports as part of a team. So I liked still some of the team aspects, but the reality is I liked going to my dark place of working hard and getting to that just really painful spot that you get into endurance sports alone, and I liked that part of it. I loved testing things and seeing if it made a big difference on time, versus soccer, it just wasn't as immediate in terms of is this working or not?

Rebecca: So let me tie everything you just said into what I think I know about you from what I've heard and people that know you that has made you a fantastic leader. So people who love soccer like that idea of, " I've got to respond to what's coming at me, but I love the team aspect of it. I love that we're working together and I'm serving in some way," and there's variations of it but soccer is specifically a sport that people love that. They love that I've got to respond and I don't always know what's coming next, right?

Nick: Yep.

Rebecca: Swimming, very much what you said, your intensity to cause an effect. You later became known for building the most amazing systems and processes inside an organization that created more reliability for the business. Is that fair from what I've heard about your leadership style?

Nick: Yeah.

Rebecca: So this unique combination, and then you add the music. Anytime somebody has this love of music, there's this connection to humanity in a very soulful sort of way because it touches us in that way. So if I take those combination of just those three things that you've shared, it seems like a natural way that you took those things about you and created this leadership style that said, " Look, we're going to go hard at this thing. We're not just going to win one time. We're going to win 10 times, and we're going to do it because we're going to know cause and effect in the systems and the processes, but we're always going to be able to respond to each other and be serving, and how can we help one another?" And I just always think it's fascinating that 14- year- old you already knew what kind of a leader that you were going to be.

Nick: I think you skipped to day 20 of a therapy session in a single podcast with figuring me out a bit. That's actually a really astute way to look at it, and I will say, sometimes it feels like sometimes if you look at those as a triangle, sometimes the triangle is biased. It's not a perfect equilateral triangle, that I feel like sometimes we cared too much about the people and forgot about the systems and we did too much systems and metrics and forgot about... But I like that tension of the three of those things and how if perfectly working together, they do build what I would hope was a decent leadership experience.

Rebecca: You set up perfectly the framework that I use, which is called Business is Human, which is the business needs are to control, measure and optimize. Our human needs are personal, emotional, and social. When you know as a leader how to bring those two together so that you can add value, be relevant and make an impact, that's the smizzle.

Nick: Yeah.

Rebecca: That's where we're all trying to get to as leaders.

Nick: Yes. And the cool thing is I've not met anybody who does that perfectly so it's always a journey to get there, and that's the coolest part about it, I think. In my opinion, leadership, you're always trying to get better at it because you're never feeling like you're perfectly nailing it.

Rebecca: Well, I am excited to see where your journey takes you and I hope that you'll come back and report in on how things are going and what you're learning about yourself and what you're up to. I'm really excited for you to go on this internally guided journey that you've allowed yourself to go on.

Nick: Well, I appreciate that, and thanks for being a part of it. Thanks for, again, even jus helping me understand where I'm coming from. I learned something from this and so I appreciate the time very much. Thank you.

Speaker 1: (singing)

Speaker 4: Thanks for listening to this episode. I would love it if you would leave a rating and a review on Apple Podcast and then go to wethrive. live. First thing you'll see is a place to drop your email and join the movement. I'll send you tools that you can use to thrive in life and business. Hey y'all. Fun fact, if you like the music for the podcast, that is actually my son, Cameron Hession, and I would love it if you would go to Spotify and iTunes and follow him and download some of his other music. My personal favorite is TV Land.


"Courage is a big word and I encourage people to take big life leaps. Sometimes I feel like the hardest thing is just that first step."

After 12 years at GadellNet, Nick Smarrelli recently left his role as CEO and passed the proverbial torch to a former colleague. He knew he wanted to lean into the visionary part of his profile and create a unique vision for his life.

In this episode, Rebecca interviews Nick about how he came to this point of leaving a job, career, and company that he loved to create a new path and how he found courage in the realization that he was replaceable. Nick shares his challenges and lessons learned through his internally guided journey and his sense of joy in his new role as a College Professor.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

1. Exploring how to take the first step in making a career change through courage, strength, and vulnerability.

2. How to create a unique vision for each aspect of like and building the skill-set to make hard decisions.

3. How to celebrate mistakes and successes, and cultivating an environment where ideas can be shared and taken seriously.

Connect with Rebecca:

Today's Host

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Rebecca Fleetwood Hession


Today's Guests

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Nick Smarrelli

|Advisor | Professor | Investor | Coach