Join us today for the Interview with Ken Stearns, author of Dear God: Letters to God and Host of The Jar...

This is the interview I had with speaker, podcast host, and author Ken Stearns.  

In today’s interview with Ken Stearns, I ask Ken to share with you his journey to becoming the host of The Jar.  I also ask Ken to share his unique understanding about faith and how it brought him to where he is today.  I also ask Ken to talk with you about some of the interviews he’s had and what they have taught him, and can teach you.

Join in on the Chat below.

Episode 1308: Interview with Ken Stearns about His Journey to the Jar

[00:00:00] Scott Maderer: Thanks for joining us on episode 1,308 of the Inspired Stewardship Podcast.

[00:00:07] Ken Stearns: I'm Ken Stearns, and I challenge you to invest in yourself, invest in others, develop your influence and impact the world by using your time, your talent, and your treasures to live on your calling. Having the ability to find our own story and listen to others' stories is key, and one way to be inspired to do that is to listen to this The Inspired Stewardship Podcast with my friend Scott Maderer.

[00:00:41] And this is a man's man. I mean, this is a guy where I'm his son. They were football. This is like football. These are sports people. Like I forget, he was a Letterman in in basketball. And just you start hearing the personal struggles of a guy who the life is perfect on the outside. But it's not, you know, nobody's life is like that.

[00:00:59] [00:01:00] And you know the pain and suffering of losing a son.

[00:01:04] Scott Maderer: Welcome, and thank you for joining us on the Inspired Stewardship Podcast. If you truly desire to become the person who God wants you to be, then you must learn to use your time, your talent, and your treasures for your true calling. In the Inspired Stewardship Podcast, you'll learn to invest in yourself.

[00:01:23] Invest in. And develop your influence so that you can impact the world.

[00:01:36] In today's interview with Ken Stearns, I asked Ken to share with you his journey to becoming the host of the jar. I also ask Ken to share his unique understanding about faith and how it brought him to where he is today, and I ask Ken to talk with you about some of the interviews he's had and what they have taught him and what they can teach you.

[00:01:58] One reason I like to bring [00:02:00] you great interviews, like the one you're gonna hear today is because of the power in learning from others. Another great way to learn from others is through reading. But if you're like most people today, you find it hard to find the time to sit down and read, and that's why today's podcast is brought to you by Audible.

[00:02:19] Go to inspired to sign up and you can get a 30 day free trial. , there's over 180,000 titles to choose from, and instead of reading, you can listen your way to learn from some of the greatest minds out there. That's inspired to get your free trial and listen to great books the same way you're listening to this podcast.

[00:02:47] Welcome to

[00:02:47] Ken Stearns: the show, Ken. Good morning.

[00:02:50] Scott Maderer: It is a good morning. We're recording this bright and early whenever you're listening to it we got through the intro a little bit about your. [00:03:00] Journey through life. Yes. Being in Asia, being in insurance, doing corporate gig.

[00:03:07] I I, we've talked before and I've mentioned we have some things in common of doing the corporate gig for a while, being on planes, airports, hotel roofs, all of that wonderful stuff. And then now you're doing this podcast called The Jar and putting these stories out. Can you talk a little bit about that journey and that transition and what brought you to the corporate world and then what caused you to.

[00:03:30] Ken Stearns: Absolutely. Again, Scott, thanks for having me on the show. This is great chance. I love the I just love the concept of what you're doing and pleasure to be on the platform. And for the listeners, hey, anybody anybody coming home, anybody sitting in the airport right now listening to this, anybody getting on a plane to go somewhere?

[00:03:47] You don't want to go tomorrow for work? You'd rather be at home. God bless you, man. Keep grinding. Stay at it for. If you're in, if you're enjoying it and you know where you're at. [00:04:00] So I'm I'm a kind of a Midwestern kid is my bio and I I call myself a kid still.

[00:04:05] I'm a kid at heart and I did the college thing, went to Carolina left Chicago, went to Carolina, bounced over to LA cuz my sister was there and invited me over for a weekend. Went to Huntington Beach, never went back. . Ended up getting married, having kids, got took this accounting degree to you.

[00:04:24] To the street, right? And I was an accountant for a wee bit, and then I wrote a couple checks for expenses and for commission checks to salespeople. And I realized, man I can do that. And next thing I knew, I got fired by my first three sales jobs, almost got fired from my fourth one, which was a insurance job.

[00:04:43] And just a little bit of luck in that last bit, and I don't know how, but I made it through and then started to perform pretty well. And I ended up with an opportunity to go to Asia. It's kind of a protracted story, but it's basically early internet and I replied to an ad [00:05:00] and I had a particularly like the, that famous line I had a particularly weird set of skills that they were looking for.

[00:05:07] And so I ended up in Asia in 2000 as a a young corporate guy, 40 years old in a starting over because I'm starting from. The bottom, if you would, is an expat, a foreigner working and an amazing next 20 years. An opportunity to live and work live in five countries, work in probably 15 over the time.

[00:05:29] Running insurance companies, helping build distribution a lot focused a lot on sales distribution. My early the early 15 years part of that was heavy, focused on that. And the last five were really focused on senior management leadership, running the companies, and just soul crushing over time.

[00:05:49] For me corporate the corporate world is brutal. The higher you go the swords are bigger. The battle armor's bigger. The players are [00:06:00] gnarlier but lovely at the same time. It's really hard. In a way to articulate it. And I think listeners that are in the corporate world, understand there's moments where it's just amazing.

[00:06:11] There's great at personal achievements, there's great team achievements, there's a lot to keep you in the game and a lot to keep you satisfied. At the same time, I had some creative, I had a lot of creative energy. That was coming out through my strategies. It's funny in a, I look back in a way, I was really good strategist and I could make great stories around what we have to do and why we have to do it.

[00:06:33] And I started real I'm actually suppressing my real talents or I'm allowing them to at least escape through this corporate I ideas. And that was probably part of my leadership shtick, if you will, or my what I brought to the table. Probably part of my stick successful, honestly.

[00:06:51] Yeah, it was my value, right? Not kind of stick, but it was my really, my value. And partly what made me successful was the ability to articulate strategies and things in ways [00:07:00] that other people couldn't to get people to buy into it and to follow along. And then of course, execution. And I became pretty good at all that, but it's still at a cost for me personally, and felt that bubbl.

[00:07:11] I got through a couple of really brutal roles. And at the end of that, this is maybe about five years ago, through the end of a brutal role, I got assigned to a cushy job and it was my last one with that company, with that really crazy high level pressure and performance company and very demanding.

[00:07:32] And so all of a sudden I created it's start. I knew it was gonna happen. They were starting to come out. I was home for a break and with my daughter coming back from, Go through Vegas and I'm like, I wanna buy a guitar. I don't know why, but I wanna buy a guitar and I wanna learn to play. I'm gonna try and I'm gonna commit to myself.

[00:07:49] I'm gonna, I gotta, and I got a nice check. I'm gonna spend some real money on a guitar, something beautiful, and I'm gonna give it time. And I made it a personal contract with [00:08:00] myself. I'm gonna give it two years, have a teacher, and I won't give up until the two years. So at the end of the two years even, it stinks.

[00:08:05] The last six months, I'll make a. Keep going or drop it. And I don't know why, but I just made this silly contract with myself and it's a story of even picking out the guitar was magical. I even had a, I developed a Ken's rule from an interaction with a gentleman that helped me pick a guitar.

[00:08:24] But there I was back in, I was back in Thailand with a really soft job and a guitar, and I found a, And the teacher turned out to be pretty instrumental in my life. Huk, he's a bastard child from a priest in the southern island of the Philippines. Like who, like he and I have about as much in common, zero in common, except this guitar moment where we spend an hour together and we became an R today.

[00:08:51] Great friends. And he was along the way, he said, Kip saying we should write a song. We should write a. I [00:09:00] thought, man. Okay. And eventually I realized I had started a book a while back, a couple books on airplanes. We talked you're writing on airplanes and there's only so much you can do on an airplane.

[00:09:10] And for whatever reason I started writing this concept book of Dear, dear Dad. And it was letters to my father who died when I was 28 and missed all my corporate life. A lot of corporate moments, business moments. And he was a businessman. He'd be so proud or so sh shocked to call your dad.

[00:09:31] You're like, sad, I got fired. Or this, and you'd wanna share those moments. Tony. Anyway, but that book had turned into, dear God. Inspired by my mom, and I don't really remember where or when I started it, but I started writing these letters and they were like spiritual journey not a religious book a, but a very spiritual, very holistic human way of looking at these questions.

[00:09:53] And that ultimately led me down the road to finish the book so goofy is to write [00:10:00] songs. I pulled words from a draft that I had done and I got so excited about writing songs. That I started writing more of the book so I could get more lyrics from my, cuz I didn't know how to write songs, but I could write words, I could write stories, but I couldn't write a song and so I started doing this.

[00:10:18] You couldn't write a song cause that's what you were doing it turns out I was writing, so I, what I ended up finishing, I got so into this construct of the book inspired by the idea, the design of it and the logic to it that I finished the book and. Somewhere along the way, this this idea of what was in the book and the finishing that and using that to be to, it's as a maybe to be a public speaker.

[00:10:45] But along the way I was kinda like this is a very unfortunate title for a public speaker. Dear God is not gonna get me a lot of bookings. Doesn't matter what's in the book, the title is in today's corporate world, Yeah, in America, I'm gonna [00:11:00] be running the church circuit. I'm like and that's not me.

[00:11:03] So I have to be genuine. I'm a business person. That's where I bring my expertise. I don't really know how it happened, but these unintentional ideas, these unintentional acts that I was doing and following, of following the breadcrumbs and pursuing, I don't I wasn't pursuing anything.

[00:11:21] I was just following in a way it's a strange thing. We talked to, told to pursue our dreams, and I think sometimes you don't know what your dream is. It's not always easy to articulate it or even to see it. , especially if you're inside a place where you are really every day burning your energy for your work and your family, your work and your family.

[00:11:41] There's not a lot of personal inspirational space. So creating a dream and following a dream may not be that easy to articulate. So I follow the path, I follow the things in front of me, and I did some unin, I did some intentional things. That led me to a space where I was sitting in Vietnam and I'm writing [00:12:00] this book.

[00:12:00] I've almost got it done. I'm super inspired by the structure to it, and I have this idea of I should also do a podcast. This is early on in the podcast, not so early on. And that idea with this old idea of traveling the country when I retired and somehow these came together and I realized I wanna do a traveling podcast.

[00:12:21] And then eventually the ideas came. Use the book as the questions. And to create. Cuz I'm not a I'm not a podcaster, I'm not a really good interviewer. Honestly, I I never, because I'm good at being interviewed, maybe I thought, but I wasn't a good interviewer. I did not have that skill.

[00:12:37] So I thought pre-printed questions, use questions in a jar. So I created this giant jar, had this jar built, printed 400 questions from the. And that's what I'm doing is I'm traveling the country with this with this jar and these questions and interviewing people one across the country.

[00:12:55] So I'm on 111 cities, 444 people [00:13:00] about halfway through starting back up at the end of March from Atlanta. . But I I think the message for me from the from listening from a corporate you're in the work and you're in a leadership role, is finding, because it's all, it's gonna, you're gonna retire, right?

[00:13:16] There's gonna be a point and one, are you, the question I was asking myself was, what do, what's gonna be my third act? What does my third act look like when I retire from corporate? And that's my persona, right? That is really part of who I am. That's a big drop off. And I don't I want to ha I wanna be somebody before that.

[00:13:38] I want to have a plan. I wanna have that, what am I working towards? It's again, I don't know what my dream is. So I was starting to ask myself and ask the universe, what am I gonna do with my third act? What does that look like? And this is the, and playing the guitar, this intentional stuff intentionally asking the question over doing something goofy, [00:14:00] not knowing the.

[00:14:02] But just committing to it. And I like this momentum idea. You developed little momentums in your life that you know, your job is not a momentum. Your career is I don't quite how to describe it cuz I'm just thinking of this analogy as I go. You are in control when you're in control of things you're doing right.

[00:14:22] You have. Building an energy for yourself in a direction. And corporate is not always something you're in control of. It's more like a gyroscope you're holding.

[00:14:32] Scott Maderer: Yeah. Even if you're the c e o, you're still not really completely in control of everything that's going on in the company ,

[00:14:40] Ken Stearns: or even in your career.

[00:14:41] Especially in your career. In the direction. I and I was in a, I was in

[00:14:45] Scott Maderer: these crazy world or board could let you go at any time, .

[00:14:48] Ken Stearns: Oh, that, and that's what I mean, like you're literally not in control of anything, Scott. and heck, I I remember showing up to an event. I was in Vietnam.

[00:14:56] Great I had burned myself. Just, [00:15:00] I had literally pulled the best strategies ground. The team built these teams. I had done all the dirtiest dirty work for two years, two and a half years, and the place was starting to. , it was on fire. We were literally burning. I had a great team. We were killing it.

[00:15:16] And the next couple years were gonna be, you could see the results were gonna be great. My bonuses were gonna be rocking. I was in the sweetest spot and loving it. And we have this big event, the regional guy comes down we're sitting there and we're about to start and the lights are getting low.

[00:15:33] He leans over to me, he goes, I need you in Indonesia next week. Yeah.

[00:15:38] Scott Maderer: By the way, , I'm moving you .

[00:15:39] Ken Stearns: I'm about to go on stage with 5,000 people up in this audience. It's a huge event. And it is. Yeah. I need you an endo . Don't get too excited.

[00:15:49] Scott Maderer: I, I wanted to call out a couple of things that I'm you said during, That that story.

[00:15:54] And thank you for sharing and I, part of it is I, let me start here. [00:16:00] Cuz like you said, unless you've been in that kind of corporate structure, I don't think everyone always understands, but a lot of people, and I'm not gonna say this is true for everybody. Because obviously I don't think there's any one journey that's true for all people, but I, one of the commonalities that I think you and I have is, It's not that you hated your corporate job.

[00:16:19] Yeah, no. It's not that you weren't good at it. And it's not that you didn't love it in many ways. It's just you knew there was something else too and you weren't a hundred percent sure what it was. You just knew that didn't all of it. Yes, absolutely. Yeah. And I think I said it is there are I.

[00:16:38] Ken Stearns: I have such great memories. I had amazing times, and I've built I've got friendships all around all around the region. There. I still in contact with people And just made so many corporate friends and moments and heck, I just stayed with that same boss. I just spent three nights with him and his wife in Charlotte, North Carolina.

[00:16:56] And this is a guy, he's so buttoned up so hard. He was like, [00:17:00] Marine cor hard. But he's a such a lovely guy now, right? He's such a great human. But it is, it's, there is if there's something more and maybe there's a lot of people that want to finish corporate and just. And and if you can do that or do some, but there should be something inspiring you in life to keep you going.

[00:17:18] There's a third act. And so that third act for you is chilling with grandkids and traveling with your spot partner. So I think we'd need to envision that horizon, I've got this kind of horizon thinking strategy and it's not, it's just a different articulation of old stuff, but it's just thinking about where you can't see.

[00:17:37] What's over the horizon? It's over the horizon you're thinking about and plot plotting that course to make sure you stay on co on course over that horizon. And you've got, you're doing things that give you momentum, right? To stay in that direction. I don't know, playing guitar could be something I might be doing when I'm 80 and I didn't know.

[00:17:55] Scott Maderer: And it's not even about it's about playing guitar, but it's not about [00:18:00] playing guitar. what I mean by that is that's the thing you decided to lean into. Yes. This is not telling everyone go pick up a guitar . Yeah. Don't do that. Actually don't even pick up a guitar cuz it does suck for two years.

[00:18:11] Ken Stearns: It's it's a hard job. It's hard to learn. But the idea. Finding something that you can lean into that you do have control over that does feed that passion, does feed your heart, your soul. And then I also love the fact that you said, I committed to doing it for two years no matter what.

[00:18:28] Scott Maderer: And and again, even the two years thing, maybe it's two years, maybe it's six months, maybe it's six. Yes you that doesn't matter. But that idea of, no, I know I'm probably not going to be good at this and enjoy. Right away, . Yeah. I'm smart enough to know that this is probably gonna suck for a while, so lemme totally commit to it and lean into it and say, I'm just gonna push through and make this.

[00:18:52] Commitment to myself, cuz that's really the only

[00:18:55] Ken Stearns: person you made that commitment. It's the only

[00:18:57] Scott Maderer: one. And said I'm gonna do this long, [00:19:00] and then you did that. And it's that act of identifying something that, for you fed some sort of passion. Something connected to your whole heart, your soul, your mind, your spirit, whatever language you wanna use.

[00:19:14] And that you had control over it, because at the end of the day, picking up the guitar at night or not to practice was up to you. It's not it's not even though you committed to having a teacher, it's not like he followed you home at night and said, okay, now you gotta practice for three hours.

[00:19:26] Or whatever. You had to do that it really was, it's a great, it's a, I think it's a great point. I'll tell the story when I'm gone to. Because it came out to be a an idea, an ideal for me. One of my rules, one of the Chen's rules is is inspired for this gentleman. And so I'm in this guitar imagine the Las Vegas guitar guitar shop, right?

[00:19:49] Ken Stearns: I forget what the name, the ginormous room with literally three stacks high of guitar. So I don't know. It's about 20 foot tall ceiling, big

[00:19:59] Scott Maderer: box. Oh, the only place [00:20:00] bigger is the one in Nashville,

[00:20:01] Ken Stearns: but yeah, . Okay. Yeah. Guitar Center. It's just huge and And this is a nice the acoustic room and I'm walking around.

[00:20:09] I have no idea what I'm doing. And it's super embarrassing. I'm 54 years old. I'm the dork walking around this thing, staring at these and I have no idea who that one, Purdy. , yeah, that one's Purdy. . And looking at the price tags and and I, and I have a couple that I like but I don't, and I wanna make sure I get the right one.

[00:20:26] And there's no one around really. But I see this one guy moving from stool to stool. It's about my age. He's a handsome looking like he just looks pro, he's got the right clothes on. He picks the guitars up, sits in the stool right. Plays it beautifully. And he is moving around and and I just end up like right there in front of him for a second and I'm just, I'm compelled.

[00:20:50] I look at him, I'm like, Hey man can you help me out? And he's sure. And I tell him my story and he's looks at me and he goes, pick the [00:21:00] red. I'm like and he could see my face like, huh why ? He's the red one, the one that talks to you from across the room, the one you can't take your eyes off.

[00:21:13] The one you want to hold, you want to caress it, you don't wanna let it go. I was like, wow. When he said it too I knew exactly which guitar he meant for me. Like I had already seen my. . And I was like, thank you. And I just turned around and went over and grabbed that guitar off the wall and I was done.

[00:21:36] And I felt so great. And it was that to me is the way he said it yeah. Is so AP applicable for so many things in life. It was like, it was sage stuff, I'm trying to buy a guitar and I got a lesson of a lifetime pick the red one. And I think for listeners in life, pick the red one.

[00:21:54] Yeah.

[00:21:54] Scott Maderer: Just lean into the thing that you already know. I, yeah. I I'm a coach. I work with a lot of [00:22:00] people and Yeah. And the number of times that. Part of the conversation ends up with, okay, so you already know what you're supposed to do. Yes. Why aren't you doing it ? It's you just told me what you're supposed to be doing.

[00:22:11] Yes. Don't do it. Just yes. You know that, but it's almost like we have to wait for permission. This is interesting. Is that, It is something like, or that last nudge from somebody that's close to us, that listens to us. You are, you're waiting, I was waiting for permission to buy the one I wanted.

[00:22:30] Ken Stearns: Yeah. You

[00:22:30] Scott Maderer: You leaned into an expert. You honestly don't know that he was an expert, but in your mind he was, regardless of whether he was or not he absolutely was playing. He was, he seemed like he, this guy must know what he is doing.

[00:22:42] Ken Stearns: He was my coach.

[00:22:45] Scott Maderer: And he was, my coach coached you in that moment and said dude, you already know the answer.

[00:22:49] Just

[00:22:49] Ken Stearns: go do it. Yeah. And I was open to the coach. I think the other part was I was open to coaching. I recognized I was over my head in this particular situation and I think people listening to [00:23:00] you, this is something I really wish I had more of. And I found one, he was a head hunter but he was a good coach.

[00:23:07] And I had him my last eight years of the career and I wish I had used him more, leaned into him more, called him more know, I think there is, this is one thing I wish I had done is had more of a coach.

[00:23:19] Scott Maderer: Had more people outside of your own head that were

[00:23:22] Ken Stearns: speaking into your life.

[00:23:23] Yeah they could advise me from an unemotional third party way outside the corporate life, outside my silly little vertical

[00:23:30] of

[00:23:30] Ken Stearns: friends as well, other people, but they're in the same polluted environment in a way. Not polluted, but same constricted environment. So I, I think if you are listening Frame, they're looking at the world.

[00:23:41] Scott Maderer: The same frame.

[00:23:42] Ken Stearns: Yeah. This is so well put. It's, they have the same frame, so they're not really a great advisor. And even the coach was in, he was out, but he was still also a head hunter. So And you often, yeah. I mean you, yeah, there's value in both. There's value in having a mentor, and I would argue at a mentor is somebody that [00:24:00] does have the same frame.

[00:24:00] Scott Maderer: No.

[00:24:01] Ken Stearns: Somebody that is looking at someone he was a

[00:24:02] Scott Maderer: mentor can be ahead of you or behind you but they're on the same kind of curve in some way or in the same world where a coach is often outside of the frame completely. Okay. And they can look back and go because they can ask the questions of the, from a place of ignorance.

[00:24:21] You know what I mean? Which is valuable to have somebody. Wait a minute, because like you mentioned several times, you said things like I was creative, but I wasn't going to be I wasn't a songwriter. I wasn't something who could play guitar. And yet you were playing

[00:24:35] Ken Stearns: guitar.

[00:24:36] I, I, and I was writing songs. You were writing songs,

[00:24:39] Scott Maderer: Yes. But yet in your head, it's, I'm not these things. Yes. And and the coach can say, from outside can often go, but why are you not those? What makes you say you're not those things and ask those challenging questions from outside, so to speak.

[00:24:53] So anyway, that's

[00:24:54] Ken Stearns: my, yeah I was never an author. I think I was writing the book. I think I probably even had it published, and I still wasn't an author in my mind.[00:25:00] You weren't a writer. Yeah, I'm not a writer.

[00:25:01] Scott Maderer: I know people, I can't be writer about two or three books that still say they're not writing

[00:25:05] And it's oh, okay, , what's your definition of writer? Then let's

[00:25:09] Ken Stearns: Let's look up, let's Google this cuz it's Googleable. Yeah.

[00:25:13] Scott Maderer: So let's talk a little bit about you wrote a book called Dear God. And obviously you know that started as dear dad, but turned into, dear God.

[00:25:23] Talk about how your faith journey and the faith journey here does not necessarily mean what church did you go to, because that's religion, that's a different thing, but how did your faith journey intersect with your. Your corporate journey and your transition to being a writer in a podcast Yeah.

[00:25:39] And all of those

[00:25:40] Ken Stearns: other things that you're not . Yeah. That I'm definitely not. Yeah, I I was at Al I was a good old Catholic boy, raised Catholic. I was the altar boy 6:00 AM mass. On

[00:25:50] Sundays

[00:25:51] Ken Stearns: and Tuesdays and Wednesdays, whatever your thing was. And my mom's super very Christian, very Catholic.

[00:25:57] Like I think so [00:26:00] many Catholics kind fell away from the church. Maybe a little too much too soon. And took a long break from anything church related and. I lived in these countries, right? I lived I had this very unique perspective, and so I started traveling.

[00:26:15] I'm I lived in the largest Muslim country in the world, Indonesia. I lived in the largest Buddhist country. I lived in the largest Hindu country. I lived in one of the largest, or worked in and lived in another large country where there was no God. Literally, God was not part of the state apparatus and the churches were frowned upon.

[00:26:35] So I, I have a really unique, weird experience with Faith and all Faiths. I write in my, I think it's on the back of the book or the forward. I basically say I believed in everything and nothing. Spiritually. And the only thing that obviously was there, Was, I'd say the universe showing me this path.

[00:26:56] You, I was writing the book and I had some real [00:27:00] inspired God winks or a guardian angel or red crumbs or validations from the universe. Whatever it was, there's no denying. I was seeing some things that were encouraging. And one of the weird things was four, this number 4, 4, 4, 4.

[00:27:17] And I kept getting this when I was constructing the book. A ton of this stuff really weird. And that's why I picked 444 cities and 444 questions. What the pro the name of the book, or, actually I'm saying the, what I was gonna do, not the book but the podcast and the tour was called Project 4 44.

[00:27:37] For the longest up until I'd come back from Covid and I was in my room one day and I just, the jar hit me because the jar is the centerpiece of the show. It's the jar. It's between live in the jar, the, yeah, the questions live in the jar. People pull it out from the jar. It's be sits between us.

[00:27:54] I had the jars I had the jar. I commissioned the jars to be made. [00:28:00] So they're living, breathing apparatuses of, they're an embodiment of the idea. So the person who did these is also another story. I met him in 2003 in Bali, an American glass artist, and I ended up, he ended up in America at the moment.

[00:28:17] I needed him to make the jars. And a month after he made the last jar, he went back to Indonesia. All these really great things. The interesting part a real quick sharing on the part of the book, the Cut. I think we're okay on time. A little side story on the construct. So very quickly, the book's got four parts.

[00:28:36] The Book of Self, the book of you, the, I'm sorry, the Book of Self. The book of others, the book of all, and the book of you and the book of Self is about year. Yesterday's, your today's and your tomorrows. And that's that inner circle, right? That's this is what is. I think as executives, how we're looking at the past, what's our career about?

[00:28:54] And what are we gonna do today? And again, the tomorrow thing what's tomorrow about? What's that horizon? What's over the [00:29:00] horizon? What are we, what are you doing today to keep some momentum? So you're in control when that gyroscope stops that you're holding. When that corporate gyro.

[00:29:10] You hand it off, what momentum have you built to keep you sustaining and keep you to keep feeding your head and to keep feeding your actions so you have a you've got something going on and it may not be the thing you do later but it's gonna be something, it'll lead to something.

[00:29:27] And the other part of the book, the part is between two people, acceptance, forgiveness, compassion great leadership skills as well. I think something when you're in your, with your staff and you're with people cuz you're dealing with people at work. And those are some things I don't have acceptance doesn't mean approval.

[00:29:44] It it means I can, I disagree with you, but I can still accept you. That's exactly, I can understand how you get there. I may not agree with what you're doing, but I can accept the fact that this is who you are, what you think, or what you believe. And then it's then it's it's love, karma and service.

[00:29:59] [00:30:00] And I think even at a corporate level, this is a good mantra with your, not as a one-on-one

[00:30:04] person,

[00:30:05] Ken Stearns: but more of as a kind of a group, right? When you look at your corporate your whole organism it's making sure you've got that humanity of love, right? That people come to work and they've feel all the things that, the definition behind love.

[00:30:17] We treat people right? You can't talk, you can't talk about. That corporate

[00:30:21] Scott Maderer: and world, but that's

[00:30:22] Ken Stearns: No. . Yeah. Whatever that embodiment is. And when design your policies and when you talk to people, you've got that, you've come in from that space, right? And service in a place of service.

[00:30:33] How do we how do we make sure we're serving our staff and people? Man, if we did those things at work, people would feel it. And the last one is faith, hope and prayer. And that's more of a spiritual side. That was probably as religious as I got in the book. Talking about faith and, but faith is not in the book.

[00:30:52] I don't design it as a spiritual faith in a God or a particular religion. It's, it ultimately comes down to, ironically, my, I think [00:31:00] my storyline comes back to it's faith in ourselves. . And the, either your God or anybody's God really or no, God. Ultimately it comes down to, it's up to us and we are built with that innate faith in ourselves that it's gonna come down to us doing it.

[00:31:16] So it gives you strength. It's terrifying. It's absolutely terrifying cuz you, it's up to you , but it and no one's gonna rescue you, right? And you can't trust on the gods or the spirits to guide you in some particular to give you luck it's not gonna happen.

[00:31:32] It's up to us at the end of the day. And and I think hope hoping things are gonna be better. And I think if you're on the spirit the farther you are on the spiritual spectrum, I think the more you can embrace hope. I think it is I think that one is a bit is a bit of a tentacle there.

[00:31:50] I think so yeah, so that was a construct of the book and. I think it was just a very interesting, the way that it all came together. And there's a lot of corporate, [00:32:00] there's a lot of corporate synergies there.

[00:32:01] Scott Maderer: Absolutely. Yeah. I think sometimes again it's why I made the joke of yeah, you can't talk about love in the corporate world.

[00:32:07] HR will get on you for that . It, it's a different kind of, you. You're not talking about you. Two people. Yes. Yeah. Meet each other at work and all of that. You're talking about the fact that we're treating each other with humanity? . Yes. Again, you started, you're working, you're dealing with people at work and the number of managers or bosses and cuz like you, I was a leader of leaders and all of that.

[00:32:32] Yeah. And I've literally had a manager walk into my office and go this job wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't for all the. And it's that's your whole job it's like literally your job duty is to manage people. It's like

[00:32:46] Ken Stearns: that's the job description manager, if you don't like people, We might have a problem if you, anyway it's that.

[00:32:55] Scott Maderer: But that's literally how and again, we I know why they were feeling that at that [00:33:00] moment and we talked Yes,

[00:33:00] Ken Stearns: absolutely. I'm sure there's a good reason. I'm sure And there was a good reason. But at the same time it's one of those you hear that come out of their mouth and you're like, Really it is your job but but at the same time it is, it's having that humanity of the moment to recognize that both for me to recognize that he was being human in that moment.

[00:33:21] Scott Maderer: And so I Interesting. Didn't yell at him and I didn't bite his head off and I didn't I said, What do you mean? Sit down, let's talk about it. That kind of thing. He needed some love because he needed loving, but he needed a hard time , that was something he could turn around and love on the people that he needed.

[00:33:35] Love on .

[00:33:37] Ken Stearns: This is of true though. I at corporate you do drain. Absolutely. worked with this guy. He was such an amazing leader. He was really, truly, One of the most charismatic he's he could have told people to drink the Kool-Aid. They would've done it. He was really, and still today's a great inspired person and he knew I had that kind of energy.

[00:33:56] That sharing your energy, giving it out and pouring it out and [00:34:00] we're, you do speeches or on stage and you have to motivate and there's, and then go around the room and shake the room and keep the energy going and then out to dinner and go around the tables and he, we were talking in a car one day or at the airport or somewhere and he said Ken, who we give all this energy, we give all this motivation out.

[00:34:20] And it's quite tiring, quite draining spiritually, emotionally, physically. He says who puts back for us? Who gives, who fills our cup? How do you fill your cup? And that was a wow for me.

[00:34:37] Scott Maderer: That'll, that's what burns people out is what they, when they're giving it out and

[00:34:41] Ken Stearns: not refilling.

[00:34:41] Yeah and I wasn't sure. His question was interesting cuz he knew the answer in a weird way. I think I, I think he knew, but I don't know if he was asking me for the to see if I knew but I, it didn't net Dawn on you knew at that point. [00:35:00] I don't know, honestly think he was asking, maybe he was asking for help maybe was, he was asking I but I couldn't imagine if he would be asking for help.

[00:35:08] Oh yeah was from a superstar level, he, for me, I looked up to him as a really, on another level, A level that I, he was gifted in a way I was not gifted. But yeah, I don't know if he knew maybe he was asking for help. But I think great for listeners is. . If you are in that role and as a leadership role, sometimes you have to, it's not always outpouring emotional stuff, but sometimes it's holding back truths that people can't hear.

[00:35:32] There's a lot of tough things we do as leaders, so making sure you fill your cup and you have finding that, and it could be that coach, it could be the mentor we talked about earlier. That can. Phil, just top it off a little bit. But be careful of your make sure you are aware of that as a leader.

[00:35:50] And if you're in that place, it can really lead to burnout that gives people heart attacks, gives you if you're not getting that thing filled back up.

[00:35:56] Scott Maderer: It le it leads to, yeah, it leads to a lot

[00:35:58] Ken Stearns: to burnout. Many [00:36:00] things, right? There's many things. I'm sure it manifests itself in many ways but that there is a drain.

[00:36:06] You've, you are losing fluid as a leader. Right? You've got a hole. Make sure you're filling it up well

[00:36:12] Scott Maderer: And often you're in a position. You're limited in that environment with who you can look to internally. Again, we're back to the, if you know your peers and your quote subordinates, and I hate that word the people that report to you, you have a certain level of interaction and you can't interact in other ways and even your peers.

[00:36:36] You can interact in a certain way No.

[00:36:37] Ken Stearns: Than others. Yeah. You cannot show that face. And if you don't go up the ladder,

[00:36:40] Scott Maderer: you've got limits on what you can. Definitely not , so no matter which way you go, you've almost got to go

[00:36:45] Ken Stearns: outside of, you have to go outside, go find. Yeah. Yeah. I Holy cow.

[00:36:50] If you can't go to your peers, they'll crush you with the information. . And if you go and if you go up, then now all of a sudden that can be held against you.

[00:36:57] You got hr, then HR will be held. In a mental [00:37:00] in a call with a psych ob .

[00:37:02] Scott Maderer: So I wanna and honor of time, we've got a few questions that I want to ask.

[00:37:07] Absolutely. Let's go ask everyone. But before we go there, I've got a quick question for you about the jar. Cuz I, I think this is a unique format. It's something that's interesting, it's something that's different. Would you share and I'll leave it up to you, share a little bit about.

[00:37:22] Maybe either a really good interview you had or a difficult one, or a challenge, or if you had to pick one story, and I know I'm being mean to you. Yeah. what story comes to mind immediately that you would wanna share with the listeners about the jar?

[00:37:40] Ken Stearns: Yeah. I, there's this is since we're talking to leaders there's so many So many good human interactions, obviously that I've had, and so many really inspired leadership in inspired stewards kind of stuff where I'm just I'm amazed at the strength of humanity, honestly.

[00:37:57] How strong we really are in the [00:38:00] end. And there's one that comes to mind. And this gentleman really. Really did have the greatest life. Like he was charmed. This guy's tall. He's ha he's super handsome. Even he's 60. I'm sitting across like a hair is, his hair is perfect.

[00:38:17] He's living in a great neighborhood, in a great house. I hear his story goes to New York, becomes a an ad man makes millions at a. Let's starts out to the big firm, goes to the small scraggly firm, builds it up sells it. It's a dream corporate story, honestly comes back to we were down in Virginia and is where he is from.

[00:38:39] So he comes back home, back to his neighborhood. He's a beautiful wife. He's got the four kids. It's storybook stuff, but it's not right. It's not. Ultimately the story comes out and he finds he's a little bit, and he is got that cough. And know, ignores the cough, and he is still doing this.

[00:38:59] He's got his little [00:39:00] gig going. He is and just keeps grinding and the cough becomes a fever. And then he finds out stage two cancer. And the the journey. And then losing his son to suicide. And this is a man's. is a guy where I'm his son. They were football.

[00:39:17] This is like football. These are sports people. Like I forget, he was a Letterman and basketball and just, you start hearing the personal struggles of a guy whose life is perfect on the outside. But it's not nobody's life is like that. And the pain and suffering of losing a son and especially the, who losing a child, right?

[00:39:40] But as a man, in a weird way, losing that son in the connections. Um, Man, it crushed me, but he was He had such strength telling the story and I think he was, he had faith but he didn't wear it on his sleeve. And I don't know if that's really what got him through or family and support.

[00:39:59] But [00:40:00] yeah, I think it's the message of looking at people around us in corporate life and how they act and what we think about them. The presumptions we make about how they look and how things look from the outside. Yeah. How our own lives look from the outside what people see. I'd encourage people to be more open about what's going on in your life being, I think it's okay to be open with those things and definitely open with your struggles as things happen.

[00:40:25] But remember to the person across from you at the. You might have less than positive feelings for, and work does that at times forces you into situations where you're you don't, may not love that person across the room, or half the people in your at your round table.

[00:40:41] You may not have the best feelings for . Remember they've got their own struggles as well, and they're humans and they're going through life and their past may not reflect their present. And they're doing the best they can with what they've. Usually, and even if they're not great people or great humans, in a [00:41:00] way, they are still doing what they know, right?

[00:41:02] And so give them some grace. Doesn't mean you, you don't have to protect yourself or keep an eye or just know what they're, you know what they're up to. Cuz they . They might be doing stuff wrong, but have some grace for 'em. It's

[00:41:16] Scott Maderer: that w when you realize that we're all walking wounded it's a little easier to begin to go, huh?

[00:41:22] Yeah. It's just a that probably wasn't actually personal. They probably didn't, it's it, I always use the traffic analogy, right? You're driving in traffic and somebody cuts you off. We get mad like it was a

[00:41:33] Ken Stearns: personal attack. He looked in you in the eyes and said, I'm gonna cut you off

[00:41:37] He literally was driving down the road

[00:41:38] Scott Maderer: and went, you know what? I see Ken this morning, boy, I am gonna wreck his day. I'm gonna cut. No, it's not. They're their own little world. They either didn't see you or they were in the hurry and whatever. It wasn't

[00:41:49] Ken Stearns: personal and it's not about you. Most

[00:41:51] Scott Maderer: of the.

[00:41:53] Everything. It's really not usually

[00:41:55] Ken Stearns: about you . It's usually not. It's just not about us . Even

[00:41:58] Scott Maderer: when you now, every once in a [00:42:00] while it is, but 99%

[00:42:01] Ken Stearns: of the time it's not. Yeah, exactly. Most of the time it's not, it shouldn't be about you.

[00:42:05] Scott Maderer: Yeah. The attack is usually most of the time the intent behind it.

[00:42:10] I, the other way I've heard it say is don't ascribe to ill intent. What could just. Basically incompetence, It's it may literally just be they didn't know what they were

[00:42:20] Ken Stearns: doing. , my experience is probably mostly that more often than not, it's actually incompetent. Just not really good at what they do.

[00:42:28] Scott Maderer: Here's one of the questions that I like to ask every guest. My brand is inspired stewardship. I do things, I talk about the word stewardship and like leadership. It's one of those words that we throw around. Doesn't necessarily mean the same thing to everybody. So when you hear the word stewardship, what does that word mean to you?

[00:42:46] Ken Stearns: I really, for me it is there's I get a double, a double vision for me. One is somebody kind of walking like the bow and with holding two people's hands [00:43:00] and just walking in front of them, like the bow of a boat. So it's together, but you're also leading and showing there's that combination.

[00:43:08] And if you're holding two people's hands and you're walking and you're leading 'em, you've got a strength, you have a kind of a determination. And if you zoom out on that if that's your micro view, if you zoom out on that it's the representation of the larger. And your role as a leader is to take this organization, to take the bigger picture, to take that bigger beast and to guide it through these waters, right?

[00:43:35] To be that captain and to take 'em through. You've gotta plot that course. So your job is to bring that thing bring that ship through the canal guide it through with the right trajectory, the right speed Can you see what's in front of you far enough to turn that ship?

[00:43:54] Cause you can't turn 'em on the dime, right? You need some time. You need you want to do this and you don't wanna do it [00:44:00] too fast. You knock over the China, so you gotta you gotta so for stewardship, for me does really embody that, that horizon thinking. And you doing things through the storms where people doubt and you've got a plan and you've, you're holding the course.

[00:44:18] Hold the course and bring people along with you. I love it. So this is my favorite question that I like to ask everybody. Th this might be a jar like question in a way. It, imagine for a moment that I invented this magic machine and with the power of that machine, I could take you from where you are today and transport you into the future, maybe a hundred fifty, two hundred fifty years.

[00:44:42] Scott Maderer: through the power of this machine, you were able to look back and see your entire life and see all of the connections, all of the ripples, all of the impacts that you've left. What impact do you hope you've left behind in the world?

[00:44:55] Ken Stearns: Yeah, it's you know that, that deathbed question.

[00:44:58] Right? , when you're looking back [00:45:00] and what are your, I'm just trying to make it nicer than

[00:45:01] Scott Maderer: you did . Write your eulogy, but

[00:45:05] Ken Stearns: yes, it is the EU question. . Yeah. I'm sorry, Scott. I didn't mean to, I didn't mean to boil it down to the eulogy question. Yeah, it is, it's the way back machine. I, and I think it's different too, even from the, from that one, because it is more inspired you're not looking back from that moment because at that moment it doesn. There is no such thing really as an impact. You've touched people, but if it's a hundred years or 200 years later, that's maybe different, right? It's even more powerful. That's even a harder achievement. I think the first off one, the first one for me is I'm gonna use a, I'm gonna use a Mr.

[00:45:38] Rogers neighborhood. Which is, if it's just one. Just one person I help or I affect in a positive way through the show then I would've done good because the one person it could have in a hundred years that could have some impact. If you think about it. So it is, [00:46:00] I think it's a powerful question the way you ask it, because sometimes in one generation or one lifetime, we won't see the impact of one person, but one person can be a father.

[00:46:11] And the two kids that they have the impact that they can have on their children and their grandchildren. Now you're talking the 150 years, and that could be a powerful, exponential impact. So the idea that not taking time out to help somebody at work, that one person in.

[00:46:30] Helping that one person can make a huge difference. A massive difference exponentially when we look back on it, especially the further we go out. And I hope I hope that the jar does give people the couple things that I set out to do, which is tell their story to be heard and to.

[00:46:48] And to allow other people to hear those stories and to connect with them in a way. And all the people I'm interviewing are still alive, , and still pretty inspirational. [00:47:00] And people can take take comfort in that. And yeah, so that's of what I hope.

[00:47:06] Scott Maderer: Awesome. So what's coming next?

[00:47:08] What's on the roadmap? I know you said you were heading to Atlanta and then what's after?

[00:47:14] Ken Stearns: Yeah, so I've so a couple I've got the, I've got half the show, half the project to do. I got a couple hundred interviews in about 50 cities. So I'm grinding out on that. I am starting, excuse me, my next book Ken's Rules, and these are my corporate rules and I'm gonna use that for public speaking.

[00:47:33] So I'm finally gonna get to my public speaking career. , it was in the queue and things are. Things are aligned. And so I'm working on the kind of speeches or the programs that I would offer and everything. And that'll come from these Ken's rules. 12 rules. We talked about momentum, horizon thinking, pick the red one, , this kind of silly stuff.

[00:47:53] Analogies to regular life. And and that's really it. So write the next book and keep going on the [00:48:00] tour. Build the public speaking thing and then see as people always ask me, what's next? What's what, at the end of the jar, what do you. I don't know. I don't, I'm gonna we'll see.

[00:48:11] And

[00:48:11] Ken Stearns: if people sometimes look at me and they're like, okay, that's I don't think I could do that. But that's what they're doing. .

[00:48:19] But I was waiting whether they know they're doing it or not. That's was waiting for that to draw the shoe to drop, which is but yeah, but don't you know, but when the Boston in tomorrow and says you're going to Indonesia, are you ready for that?

[00:48:32] That's called being alive.

[00:48:33] Scott Maderer: That's yeah. You can find out more about Ken and the jar, the books, everything else that he does over at the Jar. Live and that's the word. The jar. Yeah. Dot live. Of course. I'll have links to that in the show notes as well. Ken, anything else you'd like to share with the

[00:48:50] Ken Stearns: listener?

[00:48:51] No, I think that's I think that's it. It's been a a great chance, Scott. I really I appreciate the time. One one a bonus thing for people, if you [00:49:00] do go to the website, the, you will get a link to the first part of the book of. Which has got the yesterday's today's and tomorrows, and it's a fun read.

[00:49:10] These are each letter's by itself. You can read it on it's about a five minute read per letter. Great. But great. I think there's some good stuff to think about in there, especially for executives to get you your head around your tomorrows and your past.

[00:49:25] Scott Maderer: Download that before they jump on the next plane.

[00:49:27] Ken Stearns: Yeah, absolutely. It's a pdf

[00:49:29] Scott Maderer: and read it on the plane. That's where I did a lot of

[00:49:31] Ken Stearns: reading. Oh. Oh man. I read everything Churchill ever wrote. Oh, on Airplane . And if you've seen Google, that's a pretty good amount. I forget this war book. Some of like his old war history stuff that he wrote just, but, and I looked like a true idiot carrying around a three inch thick book on a plane.

[00:49:52] Scott Maderer: Awesome. Thanks so much, Ken. It was great having you today. I love all of your insights and I hope the listeners get some value out [00:50:00] of it. And then go check out the gar the Jar and see if it's coming to a city near you. You might be able to

[00:50:05] Ken Stearns: find me and be a guest, man. I'm, come on. I'm especially Georgia, Florida Tennessee.

[00:50:10] A Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas.

[00:50:19] Scott Maderer: Thanks so much for listening to the Inspired Stewardship Podcast. As a subscriber and listener, we challenge you to not just sit back and passively listen, but act on what you've heard and find a way to live your calling. If you enjoyed this please do us a favor. Go over to inspired

[00:50:45] Rate all one word, iTunes rate. It'll take you through how to leave a rating and review and how to make sure you're subscribed to the podcast so that you can get every episode as it comes out in. [00:51:00] Until next time, invest your time, your talent, and your treasures. Develop your influence and impact the world.

In today's episode, I ask Ken about:

  • His journey to becoming the host of The Jar... 
  • His unique understanding about faith and how it brought him to where he is today...
  • Some of the interviews he’s had and what they have taught him, and can teach you...
  • and more.....

Some of the Resources recommended in this episode: 

I make a commission for purchases made through the following link.

This is a man’s man, sports people, you start hearing the personal struggles of a guy who the life is perfect on the outside but it’s not. – Ken Stearns

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About the Author Scott

Helping people to be better Stewards of God's gifts. Because Stewardship is about more than money.

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