James Maskell: 00:06 Hello, and welcome back to the Big Bold Health Podcast, making health personal and a world of disease.
Jeffrey Bland: 00:13 Well, welcome to the Jeff and Doug Dialogues. I’m Jeff Bland and this is my colleague, friend, and longtime compatriot, and blood brother, Doug Greene. Doug, this is going to be a fun little exercise in our mini-series in the journey of Doug and Jeff down the trail of life.
Doug Greene: 00:29 Jeff, it’s been great to be with you for the last 40 years or so and I look forward to it.
Jeffrey Bland: 00:35 So, why don’t we start off just quickly setting the context of who we are, and maybe I’ll flip it over to you—if you could give us a short Doug Greene biography starting back either in Michigan, or Arkansas, or wherever you want to start.
Doug Greene: 00:53 I’ll try to give a short answer to a big question. I grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, born in Michigan, moved to New York in my early 20s. Then to Southern California when I was 23 and since then, have lived lots of places. Primarily, I have spent the last 40 years in the natural foods industry, 40 plus years, among other things, but it’s been a pleasure to see that come out of the ground. In 1978, the industry sales were less than a billion dollars for the entire industry all put together. And of course, companies like Whole Foods do that in less than a month now, one company. So, I’ve seen it go from a small inspiration led industry to an increasing part of the American economy.
Jeffrey Bland: 01:50 So you know, we’re going to have an issue here that I need to get out right away so that our viewers will be informed, and that is you’re one of the most understated people I know. And, I’m going to have to be your cheerleader because I know you won’t state your own achievements to the level that they are really do. So, I just want to say that I consider you—in the sea of people that I’ve known in the last 40 years, all of who have made remarkable contributions to the development of this natural products industry—I consider you to be the principal person in the field that really was allowing the industry to grow up, to bring new strategic thinking, new ways of viewing itself, new ways of coordinating its collaboration among different people who all had the great idea to change agriculture in America, and bring health to the individual, and empower citizens to make good choices in their health. And a field always needs a leader and there are many, many leaders within the natural products field, certainly, but you are the leader—you’re the superordinate leader. So, you don’t need to acknowledge this or to validate it, I’m just telling you my reality.
So, as we go through this discussion between the two of us I think it’s a very interesting dialogue because I’d like to think that in some ways, in the area of how natural products and natural foods interface with the medical world, was the nature of our relationship. My lineage and background is coming up through the medical side of the world, and there was a place of interfacing that just happened by chance, maybe not by chance—we’ll explore that—for us to meet. And, a collaboration, and a mixture of ideas, and a germination of opportunity between the two of us grew, so that you did extraordinary work in creating the natural products industry; where I’d like to think I had a fairly significant impact upon redefining the nature of what healthcare is and how function plays a role in ultimately, and I’m getting many, in fact, over 100,000 health practitioners to see a different reality about how they practice their healthcare discipline each day. So, my background, like yours, was probably not a linear background but I really had the benefit of very dedicated parents who were always on the frontier of exploring what the next option might be.
Doug Greene: 04:13 Well Jeff, I understand your very important work in the medical world, but you have to know also that you had very important influence on the natural foods industry, and that as we continue to grow and continue to embrace science as the industry got more developed, you were the person that everybody turned to as the authority of checking, “Is the science behind all of this?” And, you need somebody like you. And, I remember in April 1979, meeting you while you were introducing Linus Pauling at a meeting, and I had just landed in Seattle and saw in the paper by coincidence that Linus Pauling was speaking and rushed over to hear this talk. Then, when I heard your introduction I said, “Well, that’s the person I want to meet.” And then, by coincidence, are a lot of the coincidences we’ve had in our life for all these years, at Southern California at a natural foods regional meeting, you were the keynote speaker.
And I said, “Well, there’s that guy again.” You know? And, “Listen to him. He knows what he’s talking about.” And of course, you’re just always a great guy and everybody always respected you for not only your scientific knowledge, but your good heartedness, your willingness to share, and your willingness to just be part of the community. And, even though you towered over everyone intellectually, you were always very gracious with your time, and I’ve seen a million people come to ask you a million questions. I have never seen you be anything but 1,000% gracious trying to help everyone, and that was also inspiring and also provided kind of a role model. So, when you’re that smart and you’re that accomplished, you can still be a really nice, kind person and that’s one of the things I’ve always appreciated about you as well.
Jeffrey Bland: 05:57 Wow. Well, that’s a mutual admiration between the two of us. I feel the same of you and I think the way that you have navigated your life is such a wonderful guidepost for many people coming up in their careers. And, they wonder where their life may take them and they’re a little bit apprehensive because it’s not completely charted out as to what they’re going to be as they grow up—as if either of us still know what we’re going to be when we grow up. We’re still doing it, even at our age today, but tell us a little bit about how your interesting journey went into the publishing industry, and eventually from delivering Wonder Bread in Arkansas, through the publishing industry, ultimately to the natural food industry. I think it’s a fascinating story.
Doug Greene: 06:46 I was just lucky to have a million jobs paying my way through college, and drove a Wonder Bread truck for three years, which I really enjoyed. And, a few years ago I was giving a speech at the Harvard Club and telling stories similar to what we’re telling today, and someone raised their hand and he says, “Well, who are you? What do you do? How do you describe yourself?” And I thought about it and I said, “Well, actually I think I’m a Wonder Bread truck driver on an adventure.”
Jeffrey Bland: 07:14 You are.
Doug Greene: 07:15 And ,it’s a great adventure, but I got to work that for three years. Like your father, I was an accountant at a dairy, at Dean Foods when I was in college, and had worked for a newspaper, and actually worked over 50 hours a week while I was in college and enjoyed every second, but I was always known as the guy with three jobs. But I enjoyed it, and I was learning, and I didn’t really understand what I was building; I think we’re all that way. I think there was always, I’m not quite sure how to describe it, but there’s always something behind everything, and it seemed like I found myself at the right place at the right time in so many different situations. And so, I was always trying to listen for those little cues, as I still am today, as to what’s next and where to go, but I had worked as a waiter in a restaurant and worked as a cook in a restaurant. And so, I had all this food background of understanding how actually food worked, and then I got lucky enough to fall into the trade magazine business, which used to be … Before the internet that was a major, major thing in America, trade magazines. Because, that was really the source of information as to what was going on in your industry, like that daily newspaper for the industry in a weekly or monthly format.
And, I got to work in the grocery industry, I got to work in the sporting goods industry as it was coming out of the ground because there didn’t used to be sporting good chains, and it was really controversial when they had the first sporting goods chains. The same way it was controversial and they had the first natural foods chains, and I had got to see that, and the great thing was in the olden days you got to deal with the CEOs of these companies because they were hungry to find out what was going on and they’d known you’d been things. So, from the sporting goods industry, I got to work with Nike when they got started, and just the guy who had invented racquetball, and all of these different people that I got exposure to. All these hundreds of entrepreneurs doing interesting things, and like anything, when you meet anybody who’s doing something well, you pick up something: how they speak, how they dress, how they think, there’s always something to be learned from everyone on that. And, from working in different industries, and I also had a magazine I was working on in the food processing industry, a food technology magazine by the Institute of Food Technologists.
And, as I discovered natural foods, more of living in Southern California, and having met a holistic medical doctor at a dinner table in Mexico on a vacation; it just got me thinking differently about nutrition. And I remember, I’ll keep him nameless, but a major CPG company based on the West coast, I had a meeting with their … He was head of marketing, who became the CEO and I said, “What’s the role in nutrition here?” Because I was getting into nutrition. He says, “We don’t even talk about nutrition inside of here. We’re in the business of making mothers feel good. They put our product into their kids’ lunches.” I said, “Wait a minute. What’s …” He said, “No, we don’t even think about nutrition.” He says, “You know what? Because our customers aren’t thinking about nutrition and we think about what they’re thinking about.” And, “Well, wait a minute.”
And then I went back to the Institute of Food Technologists at the time, and this was 1978, and I said, “What do you guys think about nutrition?” All of a sudden people that I knew and I worked with didn’t want to talk to me. And I was like, “Well, wait a minute. Who is taking responsibility for nutrition in the world today?” And, I looked around and I didn’t see anybody. I also, having experimented in changing my diet and got very into natural foods, and all of a sudden I started smelling things I hadn’t smelled before, I started waking up with a different feeling and I says, “This is real. This is not marketing hype.”
And I said, “Well, I want to be a part of this somehow because this is really real.” At the time, I was working in all these magazines in the fashion industry and all these different things, and I was looking to focus on something and I felt like I had learned from all of these magazines and I was really, really wanting to do my own publication, and put that to the side and forgot about it a little bit. And then, I was liking the natural food so much I decided I wanted to go into the natural foods industry and work for a company, or a store, or something. Then I said, “Well, maybe I’ll open a store.” I was living in Malibu at the time, which was then a little sleepy country town, you could still rent an apartment for $100 a month.
And, they didn’t have a natural food store, so I thought, “Well, I’ll get the trade magazines and read about the natural foods industry, and then I can open up a really good store here in Malibu.” And, I got the trade magazines and I was a trade magazine professional at that time, and I thought, “These are not at the quality level they could be. And, these articles I don’t understand.” And I said, “Well, if I open a natural food store I can help Malibu. If I do a national magazine, I can help the whole country.” And then, I said, “Well, I need to go talk to somebody.” And, at the time the Thompson Company was the vitamin company in America and was on the back cover of every consumer magazine, trade magazine. So, I had this idea to do this magazine, literally on Saturday, sailing in a sailboat off the coast of Malibu out of Marina Del Ray.
And I said, “I had this idea.” Then I said, “Well, I’ve been thinking about doing products or stores, well I need to, we need to go home right now.” I said, “Turn the boat around.” And, I wasn’t on a boat for five years because I did nothing but work after that. But by Sunday morning, that was Saturday, by Sunday morning I’d come up with the name of the magazine and Monday morning I got on the phone and called the Thompson Company and they said, “We can see you on Wednesday,” and I went in there and talked to Bill Thompson. At the end of a 45 minute meeting he says, “We want to buy your back cover.” I said, “Well, we don’t have a price.” He says, “Oh, you’re a fair guy. You’ll have a good price. And to help you, we’re one of the two computerized companies in the whole industry. I will give you a list of all of the natural food stores in America for your mailing list.”
And I walked out of that meeting and I went, “Oh, this is real.”
Jeffrey Bland: 13:25 He called your bluff.
Doug Greene: 13:26 Yeah, “Here’s a list of stores. I want to back you. How can I help you?” And of course, he went on to become a great, great friend for the rest of his life, and a mentor to you and so many people, to Whole Foods and whatnot. Just a great, great leader who really held up that high vision of what we could be and was always above the day to day pettiness some industries can have in their early formation. And then, started building, and honestly, it took off, it was so surprising. I think we had sold 400 ad pages before we ever published the first issue, which has never been done in the history of the publishing business.
And, you saw that it was ready, and it was … And the interesting thing about that time was if you go back in time—yourself and a lot of the Whole Foods guys, and the Traditional Medicinals—so many people just came out of the woodwork at that time. They were doing something else, but it was all this inner drive to come to this industry because there really was no retail channel in America that really existed. And I said, “Okay.” And, I had the firm belief that if people eat better, they’ll feel better, and if they feel better, they’ll be nicer to each other, and if people are nicer to each other, we’ll live in a better world. It was a simple formula and I said, “But if you don’t have access to natural foods you can’t eat it,” and we were still so locked up in the food that came out of World War II with all the preservatives and whatnot.
So, our initial goal was let’s get this retail network established and built so we can get food to people, and we just met so many pioneers everywhere—from Seattle, to Miami, to Boston, to Sandy Gooch in Los Angeles, all these people. And, after publishing this magazine, at the time I’d only published it for about six or seven months and I thought, “Well, you know, this person in Seattle really needs to meet this person in Miami because they’re doing the exact same things and they’re reinventing the wheel.” And I said, “Let’s get people together for a little meeting.” So, there was a convention, and during that convention for the association, I’ve got like 15 people in a room, and for the first 10 or 15 minutes I thought it was the worst idea I’ve ever had because all the ego is flared and there were some little comments made that I was like, “Oh my goodness.”
By the end of that hour and a half meeting they were all best friends and some of them in that room still take vacations together and are still close friends. And, I saw this energy of shared energy of people that, by the way, nobody came to the natural foods industry to make money, there was no money there. And, I took a 90% pay cut to come to the natural foods industry, and some people thought that I was crazy, and I say there are certain decisions that transcend everything, numbers and everything, and you have to go with your gut on that. I was just like, “Hey man, can I make $1,000 a month out of this thing and survive?” And I had a wife and said, “Can I do that? Yeah. I can see how I can make $1,000 at least a month. I can always get a second job somewhere else to keep this thing going.”
Then, I got myself all cranked up that I was just doing all of this just for the social good and the numbers didn’t matter. Then when it started making serious money later, I had to go into therapy to think about all of it. It was like, “Oh my … Wait a minute. I’m not doing this for the money.” You know? What is this? But then, when I brought everybody together, then I said, “Well, we need to bring more than 18 people together. We need to bring hundreds together to help everybody.” Then I thought, “Well, if we’re going to have that many people somebody’s got to help pay for it; let’s sell a few tables on the outskirts of the meeting to help pay for this.” And, that idea grew until I went and talked to the Anaheim Convention Center, and rented the Anaheim convention, and I signed the contract in August of 1979. And, the first time it was available was in March of ’81 and now Anaheim Convention Center says, “We don’t know how you talked us into renting to you. We would never rent to a startup. We would never … Natural foods. What is that?”
Later, we started doing a show also, that we have on the East coast in Baltimore, and for years the Baltimore City Council says, “No, natural foods is not going to make it. We don’t want to rent you the convention center.” So, we had to go make giant presentations about the natural foods industry to the people in the government and in Baltimore, and of course, now we’re … The Natural Products Expo is the largest convention in the history of Baltimore and happens there every year. They’re great people, but that was unusual in those days. People still thought natural foods was like this weird, culty-thing, maybe. And then, at the Anaheim Convention Center, you know, we opened the doors the first day and a wave of people, and we were so excited, and you were there, and the pioneers—I think I personally invited almost everyone that came the first year.
Unfortunately, the second day of the convention Reagan got shot just as the convention opened, and everybody left because nobody knew what was going to happen, and there wasn’t the internet to be checking things, and everybody went home or went to their hotels to watch things on TV. And, we really didn’t know if it was a success or not because it was such a big change, but by the second year we had it we’d figured it out. And now, it’s been going 39 years and this last event a few months ago had in excess of 85,000 people attending from all over the world, and giant delegations from all over the world—it’s the meeting in the world for the natural products industry, and that’s just grown into so many things, and created so many adventures and other products.
It’s been a great industry to work in, and I have to personally say, I have met so many fabulous people in that business that have been very gracious, like yourself, and have helped out so much. And, I’ve learned so much from so many people and so many entrepreneurs, and we’ve all learned, and there’s a group of us that would take camping trips, and river rafting trips, and whatnot, learning, sharing information. And still, the people that I knew in 1979 and met then are still some of my very, very best friends. And, they’re all in their own way still trying to change the world to make it a better place.
Jeffrey Bland: 20:05 So, there are so many extraordinary components and textures to that compressed, extraordinary achievement. And, I think I’ve just confirmed with your brief history what I said at the beginning—it takes a leader to start an industry, and there are many people who play a role and are important, but there always is a central person that is the founder of the idea, and I really think you validated my preposition. The interesting part of this story relates to Doug Green’s personality, Doug Green’s experience, and why you would undertake that, and we’re going to explore that. Because, as I’m listening to you I’m also thinking of my experience, which you know, grew up in a different way, but obviously we had so many points of contact and convergence of how we were seeing the world and what we were trying to accomplish with our unique backgrounds.
And so, in my case, I think I had two major features that probably were involved with my deciding that my role as a university professor—that I had always aspired to be and finally was able in 1970 to get my first university appointment as a professor of chemistry and environmental science at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington—that there were really probably two outside people and a third person inside, that were the most important for my development. Obviously, the first inside person was my father, who I had already mentioned was always a person, he and my mother both to say, “Whatever you wanted to do, you should do and we’ll be here to support you, but it’s your life and you need to get the most out of it that you can.” So, they were always encouraging both personal development, and then I had the license and the right to seek out and to achieve whatever I wanted to if I could only identify what my interest and my passion was all about.
So, I was passionately supported through my childhood. Then I had two outside figures that were so I think instrumental in my development. One was in my undergraduate years I was fortunate to have been picked up at the University of California Irvine, which was a brand new University of California campus—I was in their first graduating class actually in 1966, and I was picked up by a Dr. F. Sherwood Rowland, who was the head of the chemistry department at the time—would later when a Nobel prize—and he was the father of the understanding what fluorocarbons did to the ozone level. So, I got this dual experience with him as my senior thesis advisor, about both chemistry and about environment, and global issues. So, I always saw the connection of the globality and the global application of interesting concepts within chemistry. Because, he was really a physical chemist and you might say it was very esoteric studying in mass spectrometry how fluorocarbons reacted with molecules like ozone, and from that then he developed this broad understanding of the effect that the Freon was having on our ozone layer.
So, that was number one and of course number two, you already mentioned, it was my extraordinary fortune of having met Linus Pauling early in my career, and he taking me under his wing, as he did tens of thousands of other aspiring young women and men in science. And, that ultimately led me into a sabbatical—a two year period in ’81 and ’82—at the Pauling Institute, Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine in Palo Alto, where I really had a chance to have my office right next to him, and really learn by example as to what … From both he and his wife, Ava Helen, who was an extraordinary woman of substance herself and a visionary.
And in fact, he credited her really with his second Nobel prize in peace. He said, “She should have really been the one that received that award because of her advocacy for global peace.” And, one of my favorite gifts I got during that period was a photograph taken by Ava Helen in Albert Schweitzer’s Compound in Africa of Schweitzer, Einstein, and Pauling at the same table talking about how they were going to get 30,000 signatures of scientists on a bill to take to the UN to stop atmospheric testing in nuclear weapons. So, it was a really powerful education for me and came at an important time in my life; I was about 40 years of age at the time. And, as I was leaving actually my sabbatical, this is about the time that you and I met, and we met in ’79, so this is early ’81, ’82. And, as I was going back to my university professorship and taking my family back to Washington state from Palo Alto where we’d been the last two years, Dr. Pauling being a very wise user of language, very economy in his language, said to me, “So Jeff, is your classroom big enough?”
And, as I was kinda walking out the door to get in the car to take my family back to Washington, I thought, “Wow, now that’s a pretty profound thing that he’s causing me to reflect on. Is my classroom big enough?” And of course, what happened in that drive back to Washington state, back to my tenured faculty position where I was actually very much appreciated by the university president; it was a private college. I could teach anything I wanted: I had classes in the philosophy department, in the business school, co-teaching with the biology department, in environmental sciences, clinical chemistry. I had the biggest research group in the university at the time, highly funded. And as I drove back to this position … Oh, and my kid’s college education would all be paid for as one of the side benefits, which is no small thing these days.
And then, I recognized what he was saying was really true. And, by the time I got back to Washington, I recall going into my parents’ home, who lived in Gig Harbor at the time—I had moved my parents up from Southern California to help with the grandkids and my dad take early retirement. So, I sat in their living room and I said, “Well I’m back. It’s so nice to be back.” And my parents were very pleased to see the family back and I said, “But I do have something I want to tell you.” And they say, “What do you got? What’s on your mind?” I said, “Well, I made a decision. I’m giving up my tenured faculty position and going to start a company to teach doctors how to do preventive medicine.”
And, you could have heard a pin drop. It was like you sucked all the air right out of the room and-
Doug Greene: 26:33 How old were you then?
Jeffrey Bland: 26:36 Let’s see, so I would have been 42. So, my dad caught his breath and then, he was a very pragmatic guy. He was an aerospace engineering and an accountant, so he’s very by the rules, and very square edges, and everything was neat, and orderly, and precision. So, he looked at me, he goes, “You’re kidding. Right?” And then, there was a momentary silence, and then my mother sitting on the other side of the living room, and she said, “Stu, I don’t think he’s kidding. I think he’s serious.” And, from that conversation emerged one of the most important sentient moments for me as a son. They wanted to know why I was doing this and putting the family at jeopardy, and I had kids and all these kinds of things. It turns out my dad always wanted to be a university professor, so I was living vicariously. His vicarious dream.
So then, when we got through all that stuff, an hour or so conversation, then my dad was very quiet for a moment, he says, “So Jeff, you know nothing about business.” And I said, “Well, that’s true.” And he said, “Well, I know about business. I’m an accountant by training and I know about the numbers.” And he says, “I guess that means I’m coming out of retirement. I’m going to be your business manager.” So, my dad and I had a chance to work together. My mother became a copywriter for our emergent company, and we started this company, Healthcom, which then over the next years—next actually nearly 30 years—grew up to become the largest practitioner-focused dietary supplement and nutrition products company in the United States.
So, it was all born out of really, A, being challenged by mentors that I had that I really respected. And B, for them giving me the self-confidence that, “Somehow he’s going to make this work. Somehow giving up the security of a university professorship job with tenure was going to pay dividends for me in the long-term in terms of my growth, and development, and ability to create goodness.” So, I think we shared that, and maybe in different ways as to how we got there, but in fact, I remember it so clearly—my first job, I was the highest-paid university professor in 1970, hired by the University of Puget Sound. $10,500 a year—10,500 with a family of four. So I thought, “Someday my dream would be to make $20,000 a year so I could take my family on a vacation.”
So, I taught in the night school, I taught extension courses for the police force, I taught at the military base, I taught summer school. I did everything I could to try to gainfully make a living for my family while I was developing my skills. And, I look back and I say, “It was the best incubator I could have possibly had.” Because I’ve never really had a boss. I had a department chairman, I had a university president, but really I was pretty much a free spirit and operator as to how I was going to take this opportunity and make something out of it. I can either just have my same notes every year, teach the courses, do a little research and travel on for the next 40 years until retirement, because I was 25 when I started, or I could take this as an opportunity to learn, to grow, to interact with other faculty, to absorb, to be taught. And, I went to courses by the other faculty members to learn what they were doing in philosophy and in history and took the history of jazz course from a great music musician in the music department. I was taking courses in the religion department about the theological ethics related to technological development.
So, I was getting a broad-based opportunity to enrich my skills, and that ultimately led me into team-teaching, and led me into recognizing there was a lot more than just the periodic table about chemistry and how it would apply to solving problems of personal challenge. So, I think both of us grew up as insatiable searchers, right? I think as I’ve known you, you’re a quintessential example of an insatiable seeker. Always looking for information, seeking out the most valid places you can find that information, not being bounded by convention—I think these are things that you and I have shared that probably have given us a little bit of the risk of our life, but also paid huge dividends in terms of returns. So, were there moments at all in your travels where you questioned whether you were stepping over the edge, or did you always feel pretty confident that you were directed?
Doug Greene: 31:13 Well, I think there was a lot of times I thought I’d fallen over the edge and had made giant errors in the process, but I think that’s part of the journey. I just want to comment on one thing you said that, you know, we always wondered, “How did all these people get into one body when we talked about you? How do you have this amazing athlete, this amazing musician, this amazing academic and this extraordinarily nice guy, gentleman? How do you get all those people in one body?” We always wondered about that with you because you always were the most talented guy around, and that was a huge inspiration. Going back to the risk, I’m not sure where it came from; I think I was born at risk and got used to it. But, I’ve always learned steer into trouble, if there’s trouble, you don’t go away from it, you go right into it because if you’ve got trouble you might as well deal with it now, because trouble just gets more trouble if you don’t deal with it.
And, I also learned that if you don’t have risk, you don’t have reward; there’s a direct relationship. And yes, you can run your life on the lowest minimum thing, and survive, and have your tenure, so to speak, in whatever you do, but is that what we’re here for? You know? A lot of people think that entrepreneurs are giant risk-takers and I don’t necessarily find that to be true in some ways, in some meanings of the word, because you know, you as an entrepreneur realize you’re responsible. Whether that’s just you, paying for your food for your family, or whether you have an employee you’re trying to make their salary, or 10 employees, or a hundred employees, you’re responsible for a lot of things.
After I’d been an entrepreneur for years—and of course when I was an entrepreneur, I’d never heard of the word entrepreneur. I was just trying to do something good in the world and was just a small businessperson, and the entrepreneur word got very fashionable and everybody’s talking about it—I remember we had some great conversations about that, but I was just always looking to what’s next? What needs to happen? And not so much what do I want to do? Often, I think that’s important in the equation, but what wants to happen here? And, I believe that people really want to eat better, and more importantly, I believe that people really wanted to feel better, and that if you could provide tools and access for that it would be great. And again, going back, nobody got into this … None of us ever dreamed that it would’ve turned out to be the economic engine that it is and whatnot.
That’s what I really like about all the founders that I know is they all came out of the purity of their heart in doing that. I was very lucky to have so many great mentors in my life from the age 14, a Chief of Staff of a hospital, Dr. Peter Thomas, who took me under his arm and for the next 50 years mentored me. And Armand Simone, who’s one of the co-founders of the Delta Faucet, the people who invented the single handle faucet. Jim Autry, the great writer and poet, and businessperson who was president of Meredith, and has just been truly a fantastic human being in my life and has taught me probably more than anybody. Also, Sir Lawrence van der Post out of England, the great author, and philanthropist, and activist. He was organizing women’s conferences in the ’50s and a conference on the environment in the ’50s. Although, he called them wilderness conferences at that point in time, because the words hadn’t been developed yet.
But, I’ve always looked, the same way when I walked into room and spotted you, is I’ve always thought if you’re in a room and somebody asks an interesting question, or somebody is doing something interesting, after the meetings over, go say hello, go visit, connect a little bit to see what chemistry is there. And, I’ve always been on the outreach for really interesting people and they’re all around. I’m still meeting them every week. And so, I think that’s a really important thing. It’s something I also try to pass on to people I work with, and my kids, and others is just that always be looking to meet new people.
Always put yourself in new situations and always be searching for what’s new, because if you really want to be good at something you’re … If you read any of the biographies and whatnot about people that have accomplished a lot, they’re looking at every direction for every little thing they can, because going back to the risk thing, it’s not taking big risk. It’s taking a little bit of risk maybe every five second, but you take these little steps, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, and at the end of the day you think, “Wow, look, you jumped way over there.” And say, “Well yeah, I jumped over there, but I went a quarter-inch at a time, and at the end of the day looks like I did a big jump, but it was really thousands of little jumps.”
And so, I’m always trying to think, “Where can I get some risk in my life and where can I make myself vulnerable?” Because if you come from this fear-based model and you’re tightened up, there’s no room for anything to get inside of you to grow, to be better and it’s not easy to let yourself be vulnerable. It’s a skill you have to continue to work on and that’s part of the risk thing I was talking about earlier. I just met a lot of great people who have done things and Stephan Rechtschaffen, also the founder of the Omega Institute, learned a lot from him. But I could list off a hundred people here I’ve learned things from that have helped me. So, always, whether I’m sitting on an airplane, or what, I’m always looking for, “Hey, who’s here to meet? Who’s looked …” And my mom had the greatest comment of all. My mom, who had more friends than anybody I’ve ever known in my life, and great friends, she would say, “Well, if you want friends it’s really simple. Be a friend. If you be a friend you’ll always have friends.” And I’ve tried to live my life that way, and not what can I get from this person, but how can I help this person? And, it goes lots of directions.
Jeffrey Bland: 37:28 Yeah, I’d like to close out this first episode of our series by acknowledging you in three ways. They’re all interrelated. You used several times the word entrepreneur. I had never had that word used, surrounding me, until you one day, many decades ago, because I thought of myself as a university professor and you said, “Jeff, you’re quite an entrepreneur.” I thought you were swearing at me in French. I thought, “Entrepreneur. I got to go look that word up. Why would this Doug Green, this person that I think is one of the greatest business creative minds that I’ve ever met, why would he call me an entrepreneur?” Then, as I started to explore that question, then I recognized there were certain characteristics that you embodied that I really admired. For instance, you were the first guy to turn me onto Wired Magazine in its first issue, which I have continued to read ever since its inception, because it stimulates all sorts of thinking out of my box. It creates the necessity to broaden the base of understanding.
You also said something which has been a model for me and you started doing it. You teach by example and you said, “I always go to one or two meetings a year that are completely out of my field. I’m a foreigner in that. I don’t have any friends. I know nobody. I’m just a badge in that sea of people and I sit there, and I see what I can learn because every time I do that, I get a new connection to a new opportunity.” And, I started to do that. I moved away out of my science comfort zone, started going to one or two meetings a year that we’re in different fields. And, over the course of 30 years that means a lot of meetings with a lot of new groups, a lot of new thinking, which then makes you read in different places, have different language systems, extends your scope of understanding. Those were skills that you gave me, which are part of the entrepreneurial mindset, and I just want to really tell you how much I appreciate that. So maybe this, at the end of our first episode, is a good place to do a wrap, but we got lots more to talk about. So, hold on here for our second episode to come.