Blaine Bartlett is an international bestselling author, top executive business and leadership coach, keynote speaker, and entrepreneur. He is the President and CEO of Avatar Resources Inc., a company which mission is to provide resources and services that foster Compassionate Capitalism. Bartlett is also the host of the podcast Soul of Business and the author of the bestseller Compassionate Capitalism: A Journey to the Soul of Business.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
I grew up on a farm in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. My childhood would be considered by many to be bucolic and lower middle class. My dad was a serial entrepreneur who started his various businesses on handshakes. He and my mother were business partners as well as life partners for over 50 years and, as role models, provided great lessons about hard work, responsibility, perseverance, and integrity. At the age of 9, my first “job” to earn money for school clothes was helping my dad during hunting season by skinning the deer at $1 a deer that hunters brought in to his custom butchering shop. That first season I earned about $100. I haven’t stopped working since then AND my work today is literally the outward expression of who I am.
A second experience again involved my parents and it truly defined for me what is meant by integrity. One of my dad’s enterprises was a trucking firm he started in the early ‘70s. He was essentially a broker/distributor for chains of grocery outlets in Western Oregon. He would take orders and then “buy” and transport the goods from the supplier to the groceries he had as clients. He was quite successful acting as this middle man until the first oil embargo hit. A number of his smaller clients went out of business and dad was left holding the unreimbursed bills for the goods. Rather than declaring bankruptcy he and my mother literally said to us that “we gave our word” and then they spent the next four years paying off that debt. Integrity.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
How profoundly “wise” Nature is as a teacher. It teaches that everything is connected. It is the only true “free market” economy I’ve ever found and learning how that particular economy works has been a revelation. Nature is truly compassionate in the sense that it honors and nurtures inherent connection and it’s not necessarily always gentle. It has taught me that true compassion – compassion rooted in connection – has a very tough, rigorous, and resilient core. It’s an economy that places value on contribution to the whole. Hard “decisions” are made with a view to long term thriving and not just seasonal surviving.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
Focus on the goal. That admonition almost guarantees that any success won’t be sustainable. I’ve found that identifying and attending to the process required to attain a goal is where the focus needs to be. It’s the focus on mastering the elements of the process that develops the habits leading to success.
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
Perhaps the darkest was when my wife of almost 20 years died following a 4-year long battle with a type of blood plasma cancer called Multiple Myeloma. We were partners in everything and her passing posed a truly existential reckoning for me and my life going forward. When she died my world as I knew it also died. We had been married almost 20 years and in the immediate aftermath of her death I noticed something I hadn’t noticed before and it had to do with my identity. I had become part of an idea that was “Blaine and Pam”. If she was part of who I was then, without Pam who was I? Where did I belong? What do I now do? Who is the “I” that manifests the life I’m living? GREAT unsettling questions that I embraced with a passion I hadn’t experienced for years.
As I dealt with my grief I became very aware that “moving on” was not something I wanted to do. We had together created too much good to leave. The idea of moving on and leaving this good behind didn’t feel right. As I wrestled with this notion I gradually came to realize that I needed to find a different way of thinking about what I was dealing with. Moving on or staying stuck in my grief were the only two choices I thought I had and having only two choices always results in a dilemma. I needed a third option and this eventually became the idea of moving forward. I started to consider what I needed to let go of that no longer served me, what I wanted to hold on to that was meaningful, and what I wanted and needed to learn anew. The difference between moving on and moving forward may seem subtle but as a mindset shift, it was enormously empowering.
How to move forward? Wow, I didn’t have a clue, and so I simply started to imagine what I would love – not simply like – my life to be. I knew enough to know I needed to allow time for grieving and I didn’t want that grief to be what defined my experience of living. The question of experience seemed like a good place to start…what experience did I want as my life? Even though the answer was, at first, pretty fuzzy, that question was perfect because the experience I wanted was about love, not things.
I began playing with my imagination and thought about what kind of future I really wanted and what mindset and new paradigms would best contribute to that future. I started to pay attention, imagine possibilities, and intentionally practice new ways of thinking and acting that I felt were in alignment with the new future I wanted to manifest and experience. That future included a new love who would fully embrace my family in such a loving way that they too felt invited to move forward, it included laughter and family vacations, and it included a reinvigorated passion for my work. The one thing I did not do was spend a lot of time trying to figure out how all of this was going to happen. I truly trusted that spending focused time vividly imagining and feeling in my bones that this new future was already real was the key to its manifesting. And, this wasn’t idle time spent contemplating my navel. I was in action; I was moving. The Sufis have a way of describing this kind of action as “effortless efforting.”
Rather than being preoccupied trying to figure out “how” this was going to happen I trusted the “how” would become clear to me if I followed my heart. I experimented. I wasn’t attached to having any particular “way” produce any specific outcome. There were some dead ends and false starts but they were all part of the process. One of the absolute keys for me was joining a couple of small mastermind groups to help with the process. They were invaluable (and continue to be today). They helped me identify what I’d never considered which set me up to practice and integrate new ways of thinking into my daily routines. These new practices slowly began to replace and modify the mindset that was and new possibilities began to appear. As my life began to expand and grow in new directions so did the lives of my family. As they saw and felt me moving forward without moving on, they began to move forward from their own grief. It’s said that time heals. Yes, it does and with intention, focus and discipline, time can be sped up.
The eleven years since Pam’s death have been extraordinary. Like the Phoenix rising, a new life and world have appeared. I met and married an absolutely amazing woman and partner, Cynthia Kersey. My kids, grandkids, and extended family members love her and she loves them. She truly entered my and our lives with grace, gratitude, and love. Being open to the experience of loving and being loved again was important. I let go of notions of “appropriate” grieving time and I welcomed what my heart wanted knowing that defaulting to love is always inclusive and empowering. Cynthia was and is a foundational part of realizing the experience I now have of my life. None of us builds our lives by ourselves. Everything is a relationship and the quality of my relationships truly does become the quality of my experience of life. Other new relationships formed, existing relationships transformed, new business opportunities appeared, and with them, new opportunities to do that which I most love to do – teach.
A new mindset of moving forward was truly the catalyst that enabled me to experience and create what I have today. Developing that mindset wasn’t accidental and it wasn’t left to chance. It was intentional. I took action while being attentive to existing relationships and was careful to not be constrained by them. What did my heart want? What would I love? Elegance – doing things in ways that result in little to no unintended consequences – became my litmus test. I was and still am on an amazing journey informed by “what would I love?”
I know that all of our results are the consequence of our mindset. When I set out to rebuild my life I didn’t start with how. I started by looking inward and wondered what would I love. I thought about what needed to be left in place, let go of, or learned anew. This isn’t a journey for the faint of heart. Changing a mindset is hard work. As the saying goes, “if it were easy everyone would do it.” I found people and a mastermind group to support me on my journey to what was possible.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
Staying curious. I’m an avid learner and voraciously eclectic reader. I’ll read anything that seems interesting…from quantum physics to poetry to business books to historical biographies. Books open worlds and I love being able to connect worlds in unexpected ways. I’ve also eagerly and consistently sought out coaches to work with me for most of my adult life as I moved into different areas that require making a shift in mindset and the development of new skills.
What is your morning routine?
I’m generally up by 5:30 am. The day starts with an hour of exercise and stretching. Then I go to my espresso machine and make a single cup of Americano (the only coffee I have during the day). I take the coffee into my office and meditate for fifteen minutes then read/study for the next 45 minutes. I have a regular check-in with a friend about what’s on the agenda for the day and then I go through my emails. The first part of the office routine is taken up with writing and research. I’ll have a light breakfast (generally an avocado and chicken broth) around 10:30. By then, I’m ready for my podcast interviews, coaching work, and client calls.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
\Daily study. I don’t typically read for the sake of simply checking a book of a list. If a book or topic is interesting I want to become really familiar with it. I mentioned earlier that one of the books I study is The Power of Awareness and I have been studying that small little book daily for over five years. This is one way that I’m rigorous about maintaining the 20% side of my 80/20 rule.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
I tend to follow my personal 80/20 rule: 80% of my time is spent on the revenue-producing activity and 20% is spent on cultivating “stillness” for the sake of letting my soul/spirit’s voice be heard. Creativity is the child of imagination and I find that my imagination is most actively present when I’m engaged in what I call stillness.
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
All of these books speak to the power of consciousness and of the human imagination and spirit to manifest literally anything when freed from the constraints of “common day” thinking. I’ve read Think and Grow Rich more times than I can count and have studied The Power of Awareness as part of my morning routine for over five years.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
“Stop trying to change the world since it is only the mirror” by Neville Goddard.
This is a key quote for me since it always invites me to reconnect to the true source of my experience. It fits into so many other philosophical notions such as Gandhi’s “Be the change you wish to see in the world” and Aldous Huxley’s Perennial Philosophy.
“It’s already happened, I just haven’t arrived” by me.
This speaks to the foundational law that precedes the Law of Attraction which is the Law of Vibration. Everything – literally everything! – has a frequency associated with it and identifying and matching that frequency is the key to manifesting what I want to have/experience in my life.