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Episode 28: Duane Cummings

A Sensational Life with Leadership Expert Duane Cummings


Lucas: So, welcome to Bridge the Gap podcast. We are really, really excited. We’ve got Josh and Lucas here in Tennessee and we’re sitting down with a very special guest, as we have every week, but this is a little bit different and so we’d like to welcome Duane Cummings. Thank you so much.

Duane: Thank you, thank you Lucas, thank you Josh.

Josh: Yeah, it’s great to have you with us.

Duane: I’m grateful, humble; it’s an honor to be here with you guys.

Lucas: So, a lot to dive in in a very short amount of time. And so we would like for you to just give us an introduction to our audience; which is in the senior living world, we know that you’re a big advocate for seniors (and) you’re a partner with LeadingAge (Tennessee). So, just give us a little bit of your backstory, because I know that you have your hands in a lot of different things.

Duane: Yeah, so, the quick version is, my mom is in aging care in Glendale, Arizona and in Sun City, my aunt lives right by her. I got a huge heart for her. When you start getting in to that world and you understand, you think differently. And so then I had the opportunity of speaking for Leading Age association, state associations, and it just kept blossoming and now we have this fantastic relationship where I’m humbled and honored to come and to serve that community. Is that alright?

Lucas: It’s perfect. And so we’re interested in going a little bit deeper than that because you have a big background. You’ve traveled the world; you’re an author, a speaker, a coach, an athlete; you’re a CEO. So, unpack that a little bit.

Duane: So, I started out as a professional athlete when I was younger. I played soccer, which back then was kind of this communist sport, and became a coach and I coached college and pro. Then, when my oldest son, who is now almost 30–I guess I just gave my age away–started to turn 10 or getting ready to, I was going to miss his birthday party, so he said ‘dad, when will you love me and my brother as much as you love your players.’

Yeah, so, made a shift and got into the corporate world business wise. That’s where Duke and Duchess, my own clothing line, came about back then. So, we started with $150 and scaled it. At one point, during the ‘.com’ boom, we were the largest importer of men’s accessories in the world, so that was like a big, huge learning curve. Didn’t know anything, but then everybody thinks you’re a genius.

So, that rolled in to come tell your story. So, I began to speak to entrepreneurs, different groups. I started a consulting company because I could help other people not make the mistakes I had made after scaling the company and that turned in to becoming partners in companies like the oil and gas CSF, where I was COO, and we rolled that up and sold it and then arriving at Liter Cast and things like that.

So, I’ve just had lots of fantastic, crazy opportunities. We jokingly say I’ve lived this Forrest Gump kind of life and I’m always embarrassed to unpack it, as you say. I know your audience probably wants more. I’m an Aquarius, I like long walks on the beach. Proceeds from the book all go to charity, so just like you guys, you’re big charity people.

Josh: So, we have to talk about the book later, for sure. We want to know more about that. But, I’m a fan of yours. I follow you on social. We were talking about your shoe modeling and all that stuff that you do. I met you last year at Leading Age Tennessee back this year. (It was) just a shock that I had never met you before, hadn’t been at one of the conferences that you spoke at. But it was really touching, you know, with what you were able to do with our group last year.

So, obviously, you’ve got a soft spot in your heart for aging services because of your mom and that background. But tell us what brought you to the connection with Leading Age. You get a lot of opportunities to speak all over the place. This group, why it’s not the huge audience that you’re typically in front of; tell us about that a little bit.

Duane: Sure. You’re right, I get to speak. I’m very blessed and honored to speak all over the place to a wide variety of groups. In Edmond, Oklahoma, there was a man named John Harned who was the CEO of I think it was called Epworth Villa, an aging care facility. And his son had played college soccer for me and so he said, ‘hey, I know you do different things and different functions. I have this leadership deal, would you come and speak to these people.’ And I was like sure. I had not been around it; this was like just as my mom’s getting in to aging care.

So, I went and there were people from Kansas and other places and I worked with them. And these people were like walking angels. Amazing, you know, you work with them every day. And so they have to go home and refuel and then they come and they give everything they have to the people who are residents and then they…get to work with the families. And I was blown away and inspired. So, then, there was a lady that was there who was doing a Kanas event and she said, ‘hey, you know, would you mind if I throw your hat in the ring. There’s not a lot of budget, but we have an annual event, would you come and speak?’ I said, sure, I was honored.

So, I did LeadingAge Kansas in Wichita, the big town of Wichita. And loved it and loved the vibe. So, then, a couple other people asked, ‘can we pass the name around?’ and sure and different state associations started calling. And I know the budgets aren’t huge. So, we made a deal back then that said if Leading Age ever calls, I’ll do it and whatever the fee is or honorarium they have, that’s just the agreement. It doesn’t matter. Because different state associations are different sizes. So, I just said, I’ll do it.

And I was doing one either in North Carolina or South Caroline and I met Gwyn and so she sat beside my wife and I and we started talking and that turned in to I’m going to be working in Tennessee and Texas is helping us, would you like to come. And she’s been a very big advocate of mine and she shared my book with people. I’ve gone and done events in Tennessee and it’s just grown from there.

I’ve been very, very blessed. Everyone thinks they’re getting something out of it from me. It’s actually the reverse.

Josh: So, last year, without unpackaging everything we just talked about last year. One of the things that impressed me, and I don’t even know if this is one of your speaking topics, but just one of your lifestyle things that I think our industry can use a lot of, is that gratitude. And one of the things that I’ve noticed from you that you practice and you did this on your way in today, I saw this literally as you’re stopping any position the people that are serving us here whether it’s a housekeeper, whether it’s a food service partner, asking what their name is, telling them you appreciate them, that’s very impactful. I took that back to my workplace, implemented that, and I don’t think we often do that.

Lucas and I were talking; this is unique… And what we do, you know this is our passion project, we have day jobs, but this is really fun for us getting to talk to people like you, we normally get to talk to keynotes right when they get off the stage, so this is like, we hope you’re going to give us just a little few nuggets that you hope the takeaway is from what you’re going to talk to the group today. So, nobody, is standing around and we don’t have a whisper 2000 anywhere.

So, yeah, if you don’t mind, what are the takeaways you want the group here today that we can share with our listeners that will be meaningful to them.

Duane: Sure. So, one of the big things is the topic here is a life on purpose. There’s intentionality with that life on purpose. Intentionality is habit and you have to think about it and there’s preparation and it’s very, very important to get such a clear path of what you’re trying to accomplish and what your purpose is so that your gifts and talents line up and then you don’t have to think about it.

So, it’s kind of like getting in a stream or river, you just start going with the flow and to do that, sometimes you have to get a different perspective on definitions. So, a minute ago, early on in this talk or podcast, I said I have to and then I even corrected myself because it’s a get to. It’s not a have to. So, getting people to shift their mind to get to from have to.

The difference in defining things like motivation, inspiration. Motivation is that carrot and that stick and it’ll last as long as there’s reward or punishment there. But inspiration is to be inspired and filled so even when no one is around, if you’re inspired, you’re going to do the work, you’re going to do the right things. For people, that’s going to be real important today.

So, no one knows this, you audience are going to hear this first. So, the way my life works and being on purpose, things kind of seem to everybody else like the universe conspiring or if you’re a believer, it’s God or whatever.

But yesterday, I got into Nashville (and) had a lunch with a friend of mine who’s a music producer who manages a young man named Ray Allen. He wrote a song called ‘Blank Stare,’ have you heard this song?

Lucas: I have.

Duane: So, on Monday, it was on ABC News because somebody videoed him singing it to his mom on stage in Iowa. Did you see that?

Josh: I saw the viral post after the fact.

Duane: Millions of viewers later?

Josh: Yes.

Duane: So, we’re going to show a little clip of that video and then call him from the stage and he’s going to thank the audience members.

Lucas: Oh my, woah.

Duane: Yeah, so mic drop moment.

So, I think being on purpose is about wowing people, getting them inspired, getting them thinking, teaching them a little different way to look at things. And so, we’re going to try to do a little bit of that today.

Josh: Well, so what do you think, if there was one thing- this group obviously, you’re coming in and we’ve brought in, I’m sure at the end part of the day, these people have been packed with information so they need a recharge, they need the nugget that they can take with them. What would you say to them if they got from today’s message, what would you say to our listeners, those that are watching on YouTube, what’s the one nugget takeaway from today?

Duane: The one nugget has to be that purpose should never be work. Purpose should be effortless, it should be clarity of gifts and talents aligning with what you do every day. It’s not a title, it’s not your position in the company. And that’s one of the things I am going to explain to the people in the audience today is I’ve had millions and billions of opportunities to projects or jobs or titles or whatever and all of them have been wide variety, but I’ve always been on purpose.

So, purpose is the one thread that will carry you through your whole life, it’s the one things that you have to make sure you keep ahold of, you have to keep it strong, you have to take care of yourself, and if you just stay on purpose, everything takes place and just works your way and it just makes life easy, you know?

Josh: That’s awesome.

Lucas: I needed to hear that.

Josh: That’s heavy. It’s a simple message, but it’s heavy, you have to take that in.

Duane: I think it’s almost like purpose should be like air. You’re not alive, you’re not breathing and you’re not alive if you’re not on purpose.
Lucas: So, was there ever a moment in your life where you felt lost without purpose?

Duane: You know, that’s funny you say that. At the time, when I was in the moment, I thought I was lost because I was focused on the wrong things. But I was actually on purpose. I needed somebody on the outside to hold a mirror up to me and say no, no, no, my purpose is about serving others, digging a ditch with someone who needs an extra hand or helping a company correct itself or whatever, it’s serving others.

And so, when I was coaching for instance, I was serving others. I was helping young people grow and mature. At the time I thought it was about winning games or championships. I was still going every day and helping them be better young men and better young women or better adults or whatever, but I was focused, my eyes were on the prize. Once you take your eyes off the prize. And you just put your eyes on the purpose. That’s when all the magic happens because then you don’t have to wait until later in life to realize what you’ve done and what an impact that you’ve had. You can just be smiling the whole way instead of stopping at waste stations to look back and I can smile. If that makes sense.

Josh: Wow, that’s huge. So, on top of all the other things that you’ve done, that you’re doing, you’re obviously an author. So tell us a little about what you talk about in your book.

Duane: Well, there’s a series of books and the first one, although it’s listed as fiction, most everyone starts finding out that most of the people are real. Most people in it are real and it’s the arc of my life. So, it’s me flaying myself, falling on my face 30 years ago, and then all the lessons I’ve learned along the way. It’s not profound, found a scroll in the desert somewhere, secrets. But it’s just kind of a reminder and it’s written in such a way that an eight-year-old or an 80-year-old can relate. And most people can find themselves somewhere in the book and see themselves and it’s more of a wake-up for most people. For some people, it’s brand new and it’s like wow you mean they slice bread, I never saw that. But for most people, it’s just a reminder.

Josh: Super cool. So, our fans need to follow you on social. So tell us about your social; how can they follow you?

Duane: On Facebook, I have a Duane Cummings page, it’s my private and they limit that but then there’s a Duane Cummings hashtag of “asensationallife.” So, if you just hashtag “asensationallife” you’ll find me on Twitter…I’m on Instagram, I’m on LinkedIn, so I’m on most social media channels. And we jokingly say it, if you don’t spell Duane D-U-A-N-E, you’re probably going to get like somebody else, not me.

Lucas: We’ll make sure that we spell it right. And so, before we close out and let you get on to impacting all the people here, speak directly to someone who may be listening right now. It’s a podcast and so they may be out walking their dog, they may be commuting, right now and maybe they’re just trying to grasp at the caregiving industry is a lot of ups and downs, you know, it’s not a perfect industry, no industry is, but this one has really particular nuances that I think that you’ve already hit.

So, maybe just speak to that one person out there that is headed to work or headed to an event or headed somewhere that they just feel disenfranchised, I’m not sure this is where I am supposed to be, don’t know what that purpose is, how could you encourage them?

Duane: Thank you for that and thank you for all the listeners who are out there. I would say that there’s that book of the five things people regretted when they were about to pass. And when you talk to people who have wisdom who are sitting on porches or sitting in aging care facilities and they will tell you, man, I wish I’d spent more time helping other people or impacting lives or passing on the things that I know. They never say I wish I accumulated another car and put it in the garage or another closet of clothes or whatever.

So, when you find yourself caught in that wow I’m not making great money, I know that in the corporate world you make a little bit more money, or these hours are kind of long or I haven’t gotten a thank you in three weeks, you’re actually making so many deposits that you are rich beyond belief. You might just not be able to see that wealth at that moment.

Just like when I look back on my life, I couldn’t see that my purpose was really making an impact and so the longer you’re in it, typically you start getting those people that come back and thank you and other families and sometimes you see a second generation, so I would tell them to stay the course. That is if their gifts and talents are that of a caregiver and they have the energy and where-all to pour in to other people. And reach out to people like me because I’ll remind them that they’re walking angels. It’s overwhelming to see that people treat my mom like she’s their mom. It blows me away that the work that the people in this industry do. I hope that whoever is listening to this takes a deep breath, steps back and says wow, the world will change and fall of its axis if we didn’t do what we’re doing every day.

Josh: So, that was one of the whole reasons why we started this podcast because there are so many what we refer to as love stories, just like what you were sharing about your mom and people investing in the lives, we don’t hear about that very much, and so the love stories that are out there, we want to tell. Thank you for sharing that about your mom. What a cool purpose and thank you for investing in all these provider members across the country.

Lucas: Yeah, it’s a unique opportunity.

So, Duane Cummings- author, entrepreneur, athlete, just a giver of your time and your energy and your talents and so that’s very encouraging to us and our listeners and so we’re very grateful for your time and we’ll make sure we connect with you in the show notes.

Thank you for listening to another great episode of Bridge the Gap.

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Episode 28: Duane Cummings