Dr. Todd Dewett is a live and virtual keynote speaker, best-selling author, top LinkedIn learning author, and leadership and authenticity guru. He is a widely recognized expert on authenticity, leadership, relationships, and success. Dr. Todd speaks, writes, coaches, and has created an educational library of courses enjoyed by millions of professionals in nearly every country in the world.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
I was born in Kansas City, Missouri but quickly moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota due to my father’s job. After seven years, his job again moved us, this time to Memphis, Tennessee where I stayed through junior high, high school, and college. The biggest defining issue in my childhood was my alcoholic father – a topic I’ve written about and talked about on stage many times. It’s a great story with pain and ugliness that transforms into love and forgiveness.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
That I’m an artist and entrepreneur. Owning those labels took me years as I worked to build confidence and expertise. I feel amazingly fortunate to write, speak, coach, and make courses for a living. My only regret is not starting this phase of my life earlier!
That we all need a mentor and frank feedback. I resisted it for too long due to arrogance and insecurities. When I finally opened up to the idea, what I learned changed me. It was one of my friends and mentors who encouraged me to stop being a professor in order to focus on speaking and related activities full time. It was tough advice – and he was right.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
For me, everything is about people and the power of relationships. I often encounter managers who overvalue tasks, processes, methodologies, and results while underinvesting in relationships. My view is that you only optimize what’s possible when you start by optimizing the relationships around you. You do need to get to know your people. You do need to learn to listen. You do need to compliment your confidence and competence with humility and kindness. You do need to collaborate more than you dictate. These are all people skills. Any suggestion that they are of secondary importance in a career is nonsense.
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?
Before I became one of the most well-known online instructors in the world, I tried to start my own video training company and failed very badly. I started a fee-based video training company – a simple online service with lots of instruction I created around leadership-related topics. It was very public and very expensive. It failed miserably and that stung badly. Over a few weeks, I decided to use it as a learning experience. I put all of the content on YouTube, and it helped a lot of people. It also served as one factor that influenced LinkedIn to work with me to produce more content… and the rest is history as they say.
Another ever-present topic in my life is cancer. It took my father when I was in my early thirties. It took my mother when I was in my late thirties. Twice now it has attempted to take my wife. I’ve talked about this often. Speaking about it and writing about it serve as my therapy. As difficult as the topic might be, it does provide a very meaningful silver lining in that it reminds us to live fully and to live now because life is fleeting.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
You have to understand sacrifice and delayed gratification. Long hours, focus, and dedication are required for any serious achievement. You will be tired, you will be stressed, you will miss events, some people won’t understand, etc. There is no getting around this: you have to sacrifice today to create the tomorrow you want.
Let us not forget luck too! No matter how hard you work or how smart you are, luck still plays a role. Be thankful when you get a break and realize that this requires you to go serve others. You just might be the break they need.
What is your morning routine?
I’m usually up at 6 am. I work at home if not on the road speaking, so I get up, drink coffee, read the news, and respond to essential emails. Within an hour I start writing. My most creative time is the first three hours I’m awake, so, if possible, I use that time to write (a book, a script, a post, etc.).
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
I’ve slowly increased the percentage of time I spend engaging in service activities. I coach others online and in-person and speak at virtual and local events, pro bono (don’t tell anyone). The more I seek to help, the more gain a productive perspective on my work and life. Helping others matters – it’s the right thing to do, but it also helps you…
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
Know the tasks that matter. Work on them when your brain functions at its peak. Reduce distractions. Tell someone who can help hold you accountable for your work. I could expand on these ideas for hours, but these are the core ideas that work for me and for most people.
If you lost everything and had to start from scratch, what would be your plan to rebuild and make your first $10k (optional)?
I’d find a classroom that needs me. I’d find a new audience for whom to speak. I’d write new stories and start sharing them.
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
The Goal by Eli Goldratt. This is a fun business classic. It presented a way of thinking about continuous improvement using a novel-like story. It humanized business for me and influenced me to study business relationships as a huge part of my career.
A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. History is taught by the winners of various struggles, thus what we learn is biased and incomplete. Mr. Zinn wrote this history book from the perspective of the powerless and downtrodden.
On Writing by Stephen King. If you like to read fiction and you also write, it’s essential reading. Aside from practical tips, his personal story is inspiring for any person who wants to chase their dream. Long before he was rich and famous, there was plenty of failure and rejection.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” – Unknown
I used to share this quote when closing speeches. It’s just great advice. Life is to be lived – it’s about experiences. It reminds me to be active and to value relationships and activities more and material things less.