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SM 7 | Challenging Conventional Wisdom

When faced with a big career decision or taking a risk to enter into the unknown we are often crippled by fear.  This could be fear of being outside of our comfort zone, fear of not being capable or valuable, fear of being ‘found out’, and/or fear of failure.  Many of these fears are not actually that warranted or that scary but we build them up subconsciously in our minds.  However if we stopped to pause and look at our fears in the daylight, we would realize that we can choose how we respond to them and how we rise to face them and eventually transcend them.  Chell Smith knows a lot about rising to the occasion and taking risks!  As the only woman in the boardroom many times, she is used to constantly challenging conventional wisdom.  On today’s podcast, Chell joins David Jensen and Cecily Chambers to talk about the importance of taking risks, and thriving in change. She also talks about combating imposter syndrome, beating cancer twice, and always having a sense of play in everything you do.

Listen to the podcast here:

Constantly Challenging Conventional Wisdom

We have Chell Smith. She has had a very robust career in business consulting, holding roles such as CEO at Capgemini America, Americas Innovation Leader at Ernst & Young, and SVP Global Head of Consulting at Cognizant. Chell is moving into her next chapter as an executive coach. Chell is a total boss and, as a budding CEO myself, it was amazing getting to chat with her about her path. We speak with her about how she navigated being the only woman in the boardroom, the importance of taking risks, and thriving in change. She talks about combating imposter syndrome, beating cancer twice, and always having a sense of play in everything you do. I found Chell to be incredibly insightful and inspiring. I know you will too. Now on to our chat.

Let me start by saying, the purpose of our show is outlined in our tagline, “Rebels with a cause.” We’re interviewing people that have made a difference in their business life, their cultural life, their personal life by breaking the rules sometimes or bending the rules or drawing outside the lines. That’s what we’re keen to talk about with you, Chell. As I’ve known you for many years, from day one, when we first had lunch, I feel like we both identified ourselves of that outsider status of how we can go in and make change for the good. Sometimes you have to work around the edges in order to get to the center. That’s our mission here in the show. I think Cecily is going to start. She’s got the first question for you.

Thank you for joining. I’m very excited to have you. You have a very successful career and undoubtedly been the only woman in the room in the board room many times. I’m curious, what is your secret sauce? What is one thing or several things that have kept you going in the face of resistance or adversity?

I do think one of the things that help is when you have an outsider’s perspective. When you know you’re the only person sitting at the table with this particular point of view, it gives you a confidence and an edge if you let it. What happens is a lot of people don’t let it give them confidence. They go, “What’s wrong with me?” instead of saying, “There’s power in this different perspective.”

Can you talk about some specific examples where you’ve let that power lead and drive a conversation, and ultimately change the result in a big way?

This is one of the things where being an outsider has its pros and cons. It gives you this different perspective, but it also limits you a little bit in the way you are able to challenge the norm in the room.

The conventional wisdom or the norm in the room.

Typically, what I’ve done is try and frame my perspective in a question. If you use questions, people aren’t intimidated by questions. They are intimidated when you come strong with a point of view. What I’ve always tried to do is work hard to say, “I see what you mean by that, but what would you do in a situation where?” There’s some kind of framing of a question that would cause people to think, add a different element to the dialogue, and it helps direct the conversation.

It shifts the conversation from what the conventional wisdom is to something possible, another conclusion or outcome.

The big trick to that in my experience is you’ve got to do it in a way that people can hear it. If you come at full force, they shut down and don’t even hear the message. You’ve got to be very careful that you’re framing it in a way that the listener, your audience or your target can and will listen to what you’re trying to say.

One of our hypotheses as we have been on this journey interviewing people, and there’s a book tied to all of this, is starting to document ways of how you have those breakthrough moments and what does that look like and ultimately come up with a pedagogy. One hypothesis we have is borrowing from the startup world of minimum viable product. It’s this idea of in order to create change, you need a minimum viable collective. That minimum viable collective is made up of what we believe in three persona types, a hacker, a hipster and a hustler. We’ve had an interview where he challenged us to say, “Maybe there’s a fourth. There’s a heretic. There’s a critic that’s always challenging you.” We might add a heretic as well. We wanted to get your perspective on, does that make sense? Does that resonate? If so, which one of those are you?

It does resonate because there have been so many studies ad nauseam that there’s power in diversity. Having those different perspectives is widely collected or accepted even if people aren’t always comfortable with it. I’m probably the heretic. I think you’re going to have to add that fourth.

Tell us about why you’re the heretic.

It’s that I am constantly challenging the conventional wisdom. It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing what you’ve always believed and sticking with what’s worked in the past. That treadmill and that human behavior love to get us on. That’s not the way I operate.

People aren't intimidated by questions; they are intimidated when you come strong with a point of view. Click To Tweet

On that front, we had forgotten but was reminded as I looked at one of the articles when Consulting Magazine was recognizing you back in 2011 as one of the breakout leaders, but women leaders as well. You had started in plastics and as you talked to a recruiter, you didn’t want to be downtown or at the consulting firm. What made you do that? You spent the majority of your career doing both.

At that time, my perspective was the consulting wasn’t a real job. It was just people who came in and talked their way out of the thing.

They still do in many ways, but they do add value though. We’re not going to be beating down on the consulting business.

What happened was I met with the company. They had interesting problem set. They were going to build a new product for the insurance business. This was property and casualty insurance. What they were going to do was it was going to be sold through companies. As a benefit, they could offer a little bit discounted rates on home, auto and inland marine insurance by buying it from your employer and putting it on a monthly deduction out of payroll. It seemed like a fun challenge. Nobody was doing it at that time. In that end, they doubled my salary.

Money can be a good driver of change.

I had been changing jobs every 18 months to 2 years up until then because I’d get bored. The thing about consulting was once I was in it, now I got to change problems I was working on all the time without changing companies.

That I can personally relate to. In that regard, you and I are very similar. I was trained as an architect, problem solver, but I get bored very quickly if you’re on a tenure building. Wanting to find new challenges and new problems to solve is partially what big consulting in particular is about.

This is an important point though because I was reading an article and Chell was talking about her time at EY. She mentioned three things that had kept you engaged throughout the time. You said the people, the constant challenge, and the constant change. There are a lot of people out there that are afraid of change. This time has had to make people become more open to change and figure out ways to adapt. You seem to thrive off of change. You’re a master at constantly having to innovate and find new perspectives. Does this come naturally to you? Can you give some tips to our readers on how to be more open to the unknown or finding fresh perspectives?

It came out of a conversation with my father. I had been offered a role that I didn’t think I was ready for. I was intimidated by the idea of it and the consequence of taking the role. My father and I are having this conversation and he said, “Do you trust the person who’s offering you the job? Do you think he’s setting you up to fail?” “No, I trust him and I don’t think he’s setting me up to fail.” Here’s the question that made the biggest difference. He said, “What’s the worst that could happen?” “The worst that could happen is I’d get fired.” He went, “Can you get another job?” “Yeah, I can get another job.” “Then, you’re good.” It was that whole perspective of, “What’s the worst that could happen?” David, you’ve probably heard me say this when we’ve been in stressful situations, “Good news. Nobody’s going to die.” When you keep that perspective of, “What’s the worst that can happen?” There’s a joy and a release in accepting like, “We’re going to roll with this next punch.”

It allows you to help to minimize the fear. What happens is your father is asking that question because then you’ll understand that that’s the only worst thing that could happen, instead of all these things that you don’t clearly articulate in your head and it becomes this emotional thing. Cecily, will you talk about your journey as an entrepreneur and as a builder of businesses as well.

I worked for someone else in a similar business as what I do now. I had fear around it in terms of starting my own thing. I felt like maybe I wasn’t capable. Maybe my old boss would be upset at me. Was I a bad person for starting a competing business? All of these different thoughts went into my head. Finally, I got to the point where I wasn’t happy where I was. I felt I needed to spread my wings. I had this moment of my partner and my parents saying to me, “The risks are low right now. What’s the worst that can happen? You try your own thing. If it doesn’t work out, you get a job somewhere else. You’re completely employable.” I think drilling down to, “What’s the worst that can happen?” mentality, going there, seeing your fear, integrating with it and facing it is a great way to go about taking these risks. The opportunity is not in the traditional path or the thing that you’re doing every single day. Opportunity is in the unknown.

This is something in my experience that is particularly acute for women. Women in the work environment tend to be much more risk averse. You hit on something else that is a key thing that holds women back a lot. It’s when you talked about, “Will my boss be mad at me?” Women want to be liked. When you can move beyond the, “I need to be liked,” into, “I need to be respected,” it’s tremendously freeing.

It was freeing to both me and my old boss because once I started my company, I did it respectfully. I didn’t take artists. I said to her, “I love you. We can both have our own paths here. There’s enough work to go around. I’m getting to do everything that I can to show you that I’m respectful.” That was very freeing for her too.

It makes me think, I was watching on Netflix this Dolly Parton biography. There’s an interesting moment about her early career when she’s relying on men to get ahead. There was a show, The Porter Wagoner Show, from the South that she co-hosted with him. What happened was she outgrew him and became more popular than him, but he didn’t want to let the golden goose leave. The very famous song that Whitney Houston made such a success that Dolly Parton wrote which is I Will Always Love You was her ballad to him to say goodbye. What struck me in that conversation you had is women have this larger onus on them to explain why they’re leaving or why they’ve outgrown a situation versus men are like, “I got a new job. I’m going. Sorry, you figure it out.”

SM 7 | Challenging Conventional Wisdom

Challenging Conventional Wisdom: Being an outsider has its pros and its cons. It gives you this different perspective, but it also limits you a little bit in the way you are able to challenge the norm.

That’s an interesting dynamic, the difference between men and women in business. Dolly is an unbelievable businesswoman. She even performed a song earlier in her career called Dumb Blonde which is, “You might think I’m a dumb blonde on the outside, but don’t underestimate me.” That’s what she’s lived by. Can both of you talk a little bit about that dynamic, that experience where you have to show up differently in a business situation where men would be, “This is business and I’m going to go ahead and take the risk,” versus you having to explain yourself of why you made a choice or why you think business should go in a different direction?

I know this will sound strange when I say it, but being the only female at that point in time was an advantage. Men were awakening to the fact that they needed more diversity, that they had to support women. I got away with things. That was a point in time, but now that women are more plentiful, I don’t know if Cecily, you feel like you have more leeway and can get away with more or not? It’d be interesting.

I haven’t been in the corporate environments that you’ve been in. Maybe it’s a different situation, but in my business in the generation above me, I saw women cutting each other down a bit more because there were these coveted spots. You had to adopt the dominant culture’s view of women in order to be in the spot and hold this coveted role.

For our audience to understand, that’s in the entertainment world representing artists and influencers.

It’s in entertainment and potentially in art too. What I’ve tried to foster in my generation is that there are several other women that have started businesses around the same time as me. One works with me at my old shop, and then she left and started her own agency two years before me. She was very encouraging to me. She took me to lunch. She said, “You got this. If I can do it, you can do it. Don’t be afraid.” Even though I would be starting a business that could be a competing business to her. I did the same thing with another woman that had worked down the hall from us before, that was then thinking to start her own business. I said, “You got this,” all the same stuff.

To this day, we have created this group where we’re able to ask each other questions about how to negotiate things or, “What’s your perspective on this?” That has been very empowering for me and for them as well because as women, we do need to support each other. We need to ask each other how much each is getting paid if you’re working at a company and you earn a salary. You ask each other these questions because men have an open dialogue about these things and women hold back. They don’t want to be seen as being rude. They don’t talk about some of these things and it keeps us down.

I’m wondering if this is the evolution of industries at a different pace because the generation of women that were before me were very much that way, “I fought tooth and nail to get here. If you’re going to get here, you’re going to do the same.” When I came in, I was lucky timing-wise that Ernst & Young launched their Women’s Leadership Development Program and I was in the inaugural class of that. That was with women like Leslie Firtell, Sue Chevins and a bunch of tremendously strong women. Because we went through it together, we were very much about the sisterhood of it, about the support for each other, about how we help each other through the challenges. It’s not so much the challenges at work. We were all talented professionals who knew what we were doing. It was more about the challenges of your life and work, children, aging parents, health problems, whatever it might be. It was more about how do we help each other through those kinds of challenge.

It’s having that support network because a lot of the support network that men get is on the golf course. While they’re doing business, they talk about parents, wives and kids in schools. There’s not been that natural place for men. It’s not that women don’t play golf, but it’s been slower for them to get invited onto the golf course as we all know. All we have to do is look at the former CEO of IBM, Ginni Rometty, who before she retired, got invited to be part of Augusta National. She’s one of the first women to get a green jacket. I want to talk a little bit about imposter syndrome. We’ve talked a lot on this show about imposter syndrome because outsiders sometimes struggle with it and sometimes, they don’t. In general, if you’re an outsider, you’re always looking over your shoulder constantly like, “Am I okay? Am I doing the right thing? Can I step up and make change?” I love to get your perspective on imposter syndrome from your life experience, Chell.

When I was younger, I had that. I remember my first day at Ernst & Young, and this was back the first time, not the second time. I remember thinking, “What am I doing here? These people all went to better schools. They’re all smarter. They’ve all done more. This is a disaster.” As you get more track record behind you, you build more confidence. If I could encourage young women, I would say, don’t let that be the thing that holds yourself back. Don’t let yourself be the obstacle. More women stop themselves more than their environment stops them.

They stand in their own way.

It’s not even consciously. That’s the problem of it.

Subconsciously, they’re not in touch with it.

DJ and I have talked about this because I’ve been in my industry and I’ve owned my company for a number of years. We got lunch or breakfast with a friend of ours and he was going deep into some of his childhood psychology stuff and his fears. I started to talk about a few of my fears and DJ said, “That sounds like you could have imposter syndrome.” I started to look into it and I was like, “I guess I do have that.” I’m saying that because I want people to be able to identify that no matter how long you’ve been in the game, you can still have an element of this. It’s very important to be conscious of it and to understand that when you dip into those thoughts, that’s a lower octave thought. You can choose to have a higher octave thought at that moment.

It also exists with men. Even people like Jack Welch talks about as he moved up through his career, there were these moments in thresholds where he had to stop, look around and go, “How did I get here?” In essence, it’s imposter syndrome, “Do I deserve to be here?” You find the fortitude. Men are enculturated. They’re designed that they might have those feelings for a short period of time, but they quickly put them away, especially if they’re very type A and assertive business people. They’re like, “No, I can conquer this.” I think that’s also part of an enculturation difference.

It's so easy to fall into the trap of just believing what you've always believed and sticking with what's worked in the past. Click To Tweet

If you can focus on the work instead of the situation, you’re much better off. Focus on the problem at hand. Don’t get so caught up in your own head that you don’t get to work on the problem.

Anytime I have been in my head or gone down a certain rabbit hole in my life, my mother who I often talk with and consult with will say to me, “Don’t focus on anyone else. Focus on yourself. Come back in and focus on yourself.” That’s important too to not always look around at your peers and compare yourself. Focus on hard work and putting one foot forward in your greater vision.

The last time I did that in my career where I looked around and said, “What am I doing here?” was when Capgemini asked me to come back to North America to be the CEO of the North America operations. This was a business that was losing 7% revenue quarter over quarter. It was minus 10% profit. They had been laying off people. I was going to be the fifth CEO in four years. It had been a revolving door. All of a sudden, it was like, “How can I fix this? All these guys with these pedigrees haven’t been able to.” What I did was I said to myself, “What is it that you have that they didn’t have?” What I had was the network of the people because this was the home practice I grew up in. I knew all those partners and they knew me. If you can also turn it around and ask yourself number one, “Somebody asked me to do this. Why? What is it they think I can do that I maybe don’t think I can do? What am I bringing to the company that is unique?”

It goes back to your father’s first advice and question of, “What’s the worst thing that could happen if you’d get fired?” Let me go in, but going to that next level of tapping in, what is your differentiator? Can you talk a little bit more about that? That’s interesting. You had a connection with people, so you were able to invoke change with them. You were able to make more of a team versus possibly a top-down approach that previous CEOs that were running the business had where they were like, “Do this.” You were able to tap into what motivated them.

When the chairman and the group CEO asked me to take the role, they said, “Think about it overnight. We’ll have lunch tomorrow and bring us your thoughts.” I spent the night talking to friends and writing down, “What would be the plan?” The plan was, step one, restore the trust and confidence of the partner group. Step two, restore financial stability. Step three, get the business back to growth. That was my three-step plan, straightforward and simple. I got to lunch and I’m going over the plan. They go, “We like those steps, but you’ve got the order wrong.”

You’re like, “No, I’ve got to start with the people they’re going to deliver.”

I said, “I can’t do this by myself. If I can’t get that partner group to come along with me, there’s not a chance that we’re going to fix this.” It’s a typical French crumble.

Also, that’s what sets you apart. What they were doing wasn’t working and maybe they had the order wrong.

Their order was part of their failure. Related to this is this idea of ambition and does it come with a sense of rebellion? Do you believe ambition comes with a sense of rebellion if you’re an ambitious person?

It’s interesting, that word ambition. I don’t believe I’m an ambitious person. I am very outcome-focused. Whatever it is I’m doing, I am focused 100% on doing that to the best of my ability. What happens is when I’ve done that, opportunities present themselves.

You don’t go looking for them and you don’t set your sights on them. You perform and through performance, you get rewarded or get new opportunities presented.

Maybe I shouldn’t admit this, but I never had a career plan. I went from job to job. It was like, “Do you want to do this next?” I’m like, “Okay. Yes, I will.”

That speaks to her adaptability and this love for change that is very unique to Chell.

SM 7 | Challenging Conventional Wisdom

Challenging Conventional Wisdom: Be careful that you’re framing your message in a way that your target audience can and will listen to what you’re trying to say.

We’ve had a number of people that we’ve interviewed. I’m thinking of Kario for example. He’s a very talented actor turned musician, turned cultural influencer, screenwriter. He talked a lot about he was very ambitious early in his career. It’s almost what you’re saying. At a certain point, it flipped where he didn’t rest on any laurels, but he let the laurels speak to his next chapter, project or experience. Part of the reason that we asked this and we’ve talked about this is he was one that said his ambition got in the way. You don’t see yourself as an ambitious person per se. What about ambitious people that you’ve worked with? Do you think they have a sense of rebellion or do they have a sense of upward?

The problem with ambition, the way I’ve seen it in the work environment is when people get so focused on a specific destination, they close themselves off to possibilities. There’s less innovation because they’re one-track minded. You may have seen this, David, in senior managers or managers who are hell-bent on being a partner. They don’t even care how they get there, what their area of expertise is. They just want to be a partner. To me, you’re missing the forest for the trees there.

I agree because what they focus on is the mechanics of getting there, their numbers, ratings, ranking, book of business they’re building versus, “How am I making change for my clients? How am I impacting and bring stories back to the transformations that I’ve done for somebody else’s business, which is what I’m being paid to do?” I do think that it’s those people who focus on the latter versus the former that are more successful. The other ones ultimately become almost like being counters. “I did $5 million or $10 million of business. Doesn’t that qualify me to be a partner?” What real change did you make? You might have gotten that revenue, but what was the margin? What was the profitability? What was the impact?

What was the value proposition for your client?

Those people are very focused on the destination and they’re not being present in their lives and enjoying the journey there. I hope that with COVID and everything that’s happened that people are slowing down and understanding, “What are my priorities in life? Where can I be more present? Where can I enjoy the ride more? Where can I have moments of joy?” Life is not guaranteed. You might not even get to that destination. Why not be present in the moment.

This whole COVID situation has been a great reminder of what our priorities should be. For most of the people that I know at least has been a real kick in the head in terms of, “Am I focused in the right way? Am I worried about the right things? Am I spending my energy in the right ways? Am I spending my time with the right people?”

I think that’s universal given that it’s a global pandemic. I spent the majority of my summer in the UK. It’s a very similar feeling and expression and talking to people I know that live in Asia and for everybody globally. It’s not just one part of the world, where if it was SARS, it impacted smaller groups of people. Everybody has had to take a pause and look at their lives. You’re in a middle of a change too. You aren’t ambitious. You’re not looking for your next gig, but you’re starting a new chapter. Tell us about that.

The opportunity presented itself to leave Cognizant and I decided I was only going to work a couple more years and don’t think there’s going to be that much fun. I’m a builder of businesses. That’s what I like to do and that takes investment. It’s clear that all businesses are going to struggle on the investment front. The services, firms in particular, that have been hurt by this whole COVID situation. It was like, “Let’s think about this and do something different.” It was funny when I started, the whole thing was, “I’m going to take the summer off.” It was the 1st of June then it was in Labor Day. “What am I going to do?” 21st of October, still no plan. I am talking to people. I think what I’d like to do next is executive coaching. Number one, there aren’t enough female executive coaches. As a female, I’d love to help mentor and bring along younger women, but I think younger men could benefit from a female coach as well. It’s that element of a little bit of pay it forward.

I love your comment about men, especially young aspiring business leaders that can get a different point of view than how they have been enculturated. Many of them have gone to the traditional routes of business school or they’ve got sports team, metaphors and experiences about building the team. They don’t have necessarily that women’s point of view, especially as there are more women leaders that they have to interact with. Maybe we’re announcing the launch of your executive coaching here on the show.

It would be fun. I do have experiences that are unique and that may be helpful to other people. The struggles in business are pretty much the same. You’re dealing with revenue growth, cost optimization and people. People are what’s going to consume 90% of your energy, and then you got to spend the other 10% working on revenue.

If you can look back at your younger self and give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Take a risk.

Elaborate on that a little bit more. You are not ambitious, but you’ve been a risk-taker. Risk-taking has rewarded you. Let’s talk about a place where it didn’t work, where you took a risk and you failed.

Maybe a mistake that you made that you have learned from?

This whole COVID situation has been a great reminder of what our priorities should be. Click To Tweet

There was one project in particular. It was a very challenging technological problem. This was in the transition from PowerBuilder to C++, the beginning of object-oriented programming. It was a challenging technological venture as well as challenging client situation. It was a client that was in the computer business. They wanted to build a brand-new online ordering system. They were trying to move online. Their sales were down. This was save the business project. We assembled a great team and went after the problem. The client couldn’t make decisions fast enough to allow us to get the work done in the time and budget that we put in. The project did not go well. It wasn’t successful. We ran late and we were over budget. It’s not at all the kind of thing that you want.

For me, this was the biggest takeaway when all was said and done. I had focused so much on the beauty of the technical solution and not enough on the client and the personalities of that executive team in terms of how we were going to get it done. The technical solution was brilliant, but if you can’t get the people to buy in and use it, and get through the process in a rapid enough fashion, you’re not going to be successful. That was the point where I was talking to my dad and I said, “Something’s gone horribly wrong with my career.” I’ve always been reading the latest books on competitor theory and all the latest technology and now, I’m reading about emotional intelligence.

That’s a big component of it. Even going back to what you said at the start where as the outsider and the woman in the room, you had to ask questions where people could hear them. I think knowing your audience is an important part to success.

Ultimately, it’s about people. It’s all about if you can’t persuade and embrace people who are part of this larger team, you might have the best technical solution, you might have the most artistic response, but you ultimately don’t succeed. That’s something that I also had to learn early in my career as well. It’s about the people management component which is a huge risk mitigation. You might have a crappy solution, but if you’ve got everybody agreeing that it’s the best thing in the world or there’s a purpose, you’re successful.

Isn’t that what an MVP is?

Minimum Viable Product, good enough. The flip side to that question is looking out many years from now, what advice would you give yourself now, especially given you’re starting a new chapter?

Probably, stay in the moment, stay present. I’m in a fun place right now where I don’t owe anybody anything. I have three great grandchildren and two great kids. I can do what I want and when I want. I want to be in the moment and enjoy every bit of it, even when my trainer is kicking my tail in the morning.

One thing I loved about you when I was doing some research is that you seem to have this sense of lightness or joy or playfulness that you’ve carried throughout your life. I was curious if that is something that you have always had or if it’s something that you have adopted later in life.

I had a very specific set of experiences around that that brought me to that. When I was 35, I was diagnosed with cancer. I went through the whole treatment, chemo and radiation, and seven years later, it recurred. They told me then that I had a 10% chance of surviving five years. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by those numbers, but I stepped back and said, “10%, that means 1 in 10. What can I do to be the 1 out of the 10?” Literally, I created a project. I was the project. I assembled the team around me. I had my doctor from USC, an alternative medicine specialist, yoga instructor, nutritionist, alternative medicine specialist. We did conference calls every week.

The whole thing was, how was I feeling? What was working? What didn’t seem to be having an impact and how were we getting to the outcome? I will be forever grateful to my doctors at USC who suspended disbelief or convention to join those calls. I’m sure they thought I was a little nutty. At the same time, they signed up for the program. Once you’ve been through something like that, the rest of the stuff is pretty easy.

You have a whole wellness future as well. You’ve never shared that story with me. I’m listening a lot to Dr. David Sinclair out of Harvard about anti-aging and a whole host of people like Dr. Copeman, and much of what they talk about is exactly what you’re describing, especially with things like cancer survivors and looking at the root cause instead of going down a traditional oncology path saying, “No, I’m going to broaden the way that I address my cancer.” People who are MS through diet and exercise have slowed the MS process. There are all kinds of examples.

There’s this guy I love, Dr. Joe Dispenza. He talks about how you can change your brain waves. You can change the neuro pathways in your brain by thinking different thoughts. He’s had these seminars that he’s done where people with MS who haven’t been walking were all of a sudden walking at the end of it. It’s like epigenetics concept.

I think at the end of the day, that’s it. How do you bring your whole self to whatever it is you’re doing?

I’m working with a client who is very focused on having their manufacturer and they have plants. They have been dealing with COVID because the plants haven’t shut down. At the same time, they want people to show up with their authentic self not just in words, but truly in all ways. They’re in the wellness business. They’re in vitamins, minerals and supplements, which their business is exploding due to COVID. Their whole thing is, “We need to live this at home more deeply. Allow our employees to also embrace our mission in the world, which is around wellness.” That’s been part of their whole authentic self-campaign. You’ve got another business here. You’ve got executive coaching and a wellness business here.

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Challenging Conventional Wisdom: The problem with ambition is when people get so focused on a specific destination that they close themselves to possibilities.

I found a health and longevity doctor here in Naples. It’s amazing what he’s done and how great I feel. I still have some lingering effects of not the cancer, but of all the treatment. It is amazing.

Can you talk high level at the protocols he’s using with you or that you’re doing?

He does complete hormone panels and complete blood work. It’s all about getting hormones, testosterone, progesterone, thyroid, everything tuned, and not tuned for your age, which is what a lot of them do, but tuned to what’s optimal based on your body type. The whole thing is to not say, “You’re whatever your age is, let’s get you there.” It’s about, “Let’s take you back in time with levels.” The other thing he does is with human growth hormone. That’s one of the big problems with aging. Your body slows down the production of human growth hormones, but we all know what happens when you take HGH. That’s not good. What he has is these peptides that stimulate your body to produce human growth hormones naturally.

It’s about taking it back in the human growth hormones. There’s this research around your brain and the ends of your DNA that are like the ends of shoelaces. Those ends of the shoelaces, what happens is they erode over time. Like shoelaces, the DNA starts to unravel. When that happens, that’s when a lot of things like aging and disease processes start to kick in. What can you do to slow down and stop the unraveling of those ends of the DNA strands? I’m on a couple of different supplements that are designed to do that.

This is exactly what Dr. David Sinclair and others are talking about. There’s a whole other show we can do with you on this. I find this fascinating myself in terms of hormonal therapy and exactly that approach, which is how can you take supplements that encourage natural production of things like HGH and DHA for testosterone production in men, which is to me the path forward versus trying to take synthetic stuff.

I’m very passionate about alternative healing and alternative wellness as well because I’ve had my own health journey. I have a wonderful naturopath and acupuncturist and all of these things that Western medicine was not able to provide.

That comes back to that whole take a risk and be open, trying the alternatives.

Chell Smith, thank you so much. This has been fantastic talking with you and we look forward to continuing some of these conversations.

Thank you. I loved it.

Take care.

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About Chell Smith

SM 7 | Challenging Conventional WisdomChell is a seasoned executive with a long and successful track record of growth, transformation, and innovation.

In her last role, Chell joined Cognizant to lead Transforming Client Relationships (TCR), a critical initiative for Cognizant as they looked to maximize their impact with clients and in the world. By focusing on brand promise, the experiences clients have interacting with them, and the value delivered, Cognizant made significant progress to change the way their clients perceive and engage with them.

They then asked her to combine this critical initiative with the leadership of the Global Consulting business. The combined ambition was to change the way the organization engages clients; with a specific focus on helping clients execute digital strategies at enterprise scale. She joined Cognizant from Ernst & Young, where her last role was as the Americas Innovation Leader. In past roles with EY, she served as the Americas Markets Leader and the Business Advisory Services Managing Partner. Her focus with EY was to build the growth engine for the Americas advisory business, leading it from $30m to $1.1b in just 5 years. Prior to her return to EY, she was with the CapGemini/EY organization for 15 years. Chell held a variety of global postings including head of Technology Services and Managing Director of Global Operations which included responsibility for Sales, Global Accounts, Industry Sectors, Service Lines, Marketing and Alliances. Her last role with CapGemini was as CEO of the Americas, the largest strategic business unit of the group, where she led a financial turnaround of the operation. Chell has significant experience building and leveraging scaled global capabilities to support market-leading growth, a constant for her since 1995. She has also sponsored and led significant sales, markets, and delivery transformation initiatives.

Chell attended the University of Minnesota in the school of Management Sciences with a concentration in Management Information Systems and was a member of the board of advisors for the IT Services division of the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) and has served as a director for several private and publicly held organizations in the professional service space. She was given the Consulting Magazine Award for Leadership in 2011, named one of Consulting Magazine’s ‘Top Global IT Power Brokers’ in an April 2004 cover story and was named one of the 25 Most Influential Consultants in June 2004. Other feature stories on Smith have appeared in The New York Times, Business Week, The Chicago Tribune, and The Orange County Register.

 Chell spends her free time golfing, reading, cooking and traveling. She loves the water and can most often be found at the beach.