Chris Cappy founded Pilot Consulting in 1994, a firm specializing in leadership development, action learning, executive coaching and change/ transition management for companies throughout the world. He has over thirty years of consulting, teaching and speaking experience, and has helped develop and implement systems that create greater cohesion, clearer vision and sustainable growth for global brands like General Electric, Disney, IBM and more. He is the lead author of Driving Leaders, a book that demonstrates how the principles of top-level automobile racing—vision, planning, training, and exquisite execution over a long period of time—can teach us a great deal not only about leadership, but also about life.
Chris brilliantly marries the spiritual with the practical, using his own healing journey in the first 30 years of his life to build the foundation for what he offers now to his clients. His approach to executive coaching is rooted in an intimate understanding of human’s search for meaning, a driving force behind why we live our particular lives, and a critical component in how we begin to build a life of fulfillment, freedom and financial health.
In this conversation, Chris walks us through the adolescent trials and tribulations that set him on the path of seeking at a young age, leading him through martial arts, meditation, yoga, philosophy and landing him at the Feathered Pipe Ranch in Helena, Montana in the 1970s, drinking wine with Joseph Campbell in the Lake Cabin! We talk about his transition from wandering and looking for answers to life’s big questions to how he built a thriving consulting business that allows him to carry out his personal life mission–and help others do the same.
We discuss the building blocks on the path to finding your purpose, explore the experiential learning model he uses to bring companies together and help them relate as humans–outside of their titles, roles and identities–and reflect on the different phases of life, focusing in on what one researcher calls “The Second Mountain,” a time when many people move from career, accumulation and providing for family to putting effort and energy into nurturing community, relationships and giving.
Chris has worked with some of the greatest spiritual leaders and the most focused business minds in the world, and his life story is one of exploration, constant learning and service, wrapped up in an organized reflection–as any fellow Virgo will appreciate.
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Andy Vantrease 00:17
Welcome to The Dandelion Effect podcast a space for organic conversation about the magic of living a connected life. Just like the natural world around us, we are all linked through an intricate web, a never ending ripple that spans across the globe. Here we explore the ideas that our guests carry through the world, remember who and what inspired them along the way, and uncover the seeds that helped them blossom into their unique version of this human experience. This podcast is a production of the Feather Pipe Foundation, whose mission is to help people find their direction through access to programs and experiences that support healing, education, community and empowerment.
Andy Vantrease 01:04
Hi, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of The Dandelion Effect podcast. I’m your host, Andy Vantrease. And today I’m talking with Chris Cappy. Chris Cappy founded Pilot Consulting in 1994, a firm specializing in leadership development, action learning, executive coaching and change management for companies throughout the world. He has over 30 years of consulting, teaching and speaking experience and has helped develop and implement systems that create greater cohesion, clearer vision and sustainable growth for global brands like GE, Disney, IBM, Southwest Airlines, and many more. He is the lead author of Driving Leaders, a book that demonstrates how the principle of top level automobile racing–vision, planning, training and execution–can teach us a great deal not only about leadership, but also about life.
Andy Vantrease 01:53
Chris brilliantly marries the spiritual with the practical, using his own healing journey in the first 30 years of his life to build the foundation for what he offers now to his clients. His approach to executive coaching is rooted in an intimate understanding of human search for meaning, a driving force behind why we live our particular lives and a critical component and how we begin to build a life of fulfillment freedom and financial health. In this conversation, Chris walks us through the adolescent trials and tribulations that set him on the path of seeking at a young age, leading him through martial arts, meditation, yoga, philosophy, and landing him at the Feathered Pipe Ranch in the 1970s, drinking wine with Joseph Campbell in the late cabin. We talked about his transition from wandering and looking for answers to life’s big questions to how he built a thriving consulting business that allows him to carry out his personal life mission and help others do the same. We discussed the building blocks on the path to finding your purpose, explore the experiential learning model he uses to bring companies together and help them relate as humans–outside of their titles, roles and identities–and we reflect on the different phases of life, focusing in on what one researcher calls “The Second Mountain,” a time when many people move from career, accumulation and providing for family to putting effort and energy into nurturing community relationships and giving.
Andy Vantrease 03:18
Chris has worked with some of the greatest spiritual teachers and the most focused business minds in the world, and his life story is one of exploration, constant learning and service, wrapped up in a beautiful organized reflection–any fellow Virgo will appreciate. Without further ado, please enjoy this conversation and help me welcome my friend, Chris Cappy.
Andy Vantrease 03:40
So where I want to start with this, Chris, is–taking a page out of your book–asking you to give me your two minute thumbnail. And this sounds like it’s something that you use in either your work or your personal life when you’re getting to know people. And it just allows people to give a snapshot of who they are, why they’re here and kind of how they came to be.
Chris Cappy 04:05
So starting from this point in time, I’m based in Colorado, between Denver and Crested Butte, which is where I spend most of my time. Last 30 years, my work has been through my company which I called Pilot Consulting, and that is based upon a lot of work in the field that’s called change management, change leadership. We work around the world. I’ve worked in 40 countries. The work is about helping people, helping teams, helping their companies to affect change, and to deal with all of the transitional dynamics that go along with life’s many, many, many changes. And I learned a long time ago this goes back to Feathered Pipe Ranch, when I was there trying to change some things about myself, and learn some things about myself, that it never ends. It’s a never ending journey. I think it goes to the last breath that you take. So the specific support that we offer to a number of not-for-profits, NGOs, as well as a number of for-profits, and fairly large and significant companies, would be in the areas of leadership, coaching leaders and coaching their teams, a strategy, which is what are we going to do to position ourselves and to adapt to whatever it is it’s happening, execution support, which is getting it done, and at the heart of that would be a little bit about my thumbnail. As I, I learned this at Feather Pipe Ranch, I knew it before, but Feather Pipe helped me see. I cared a lot about two things, and that was about a people and the shape of their lives, and how they become themselves, and how they become the best version of them [that] they can be, whatever was given to them to work with, which is rooted in people’s stories. And I have it that every single one of us is a unique experiment of one. And results, outcomes, so that you know, you can affect the things you want to do in your life, you know, personally and professionally. I don’t know if that’s two minutes, but I’ll stop there.
Andy Vantrease 05:56
Yeah, that’s perfect. I do want to get into the story of how you even came to the Feather Pipe and how you found yourself on this journey of seeking. You’ve told me that the first 30 years of your life was getting right with yourself. And I’m curious about that, perhaps because I’m in my 32nd year, and I feel like I’ve been doing a very similar thing. Would you just share some of your personal story as far as childhood upbringing and what set you on this path?
Chris Cappy 06:26
Sure. I’m going to hit this in highlights. Born in Rochester, New York. Mom, Dad, a sister. My dad situation is really at the center of my story. He had a bad accident when I was four years old, and it changed him. And from four to 14, when he, he still survived, he was in a coma for a month. And who he was when he came out was a different person than what I remember about who he was when he went in and…From about four to 14 was my father’s increasingly erratic behavior, drinking too much, disappearing every two or three weeks, and me watching out for my mom and my sister. So my childhood was a little bit of, you know, being a bit of a little man in the family watching out for my mom and my sister and wondering what was going to happen. So that was sort of my first 10 years. And when I was 14, he died. And that he died of a heart attack one day. I saw him in the night. Don’t ask me why I woke up that particular night to see my dad sitting in a chair. And I said, “How you doing?” And he says, “I’m not feeling good. I’m going to go to the doctor tomorrow.” He went to the doctor and that was it. He was having a heart attack. They said at the hospital [that] he wasn’t, but he apparently was. So he’s driving from the hospital, he had a massive coronary. My father was gone. I have a beautiful mother. My mom passed away three years ago at almost 94. And, and she and I connected around this situation. My mother was the one who was “I love you because you’re you. Do what makes you happy.” Which was…She was very gracious, grateful person. And we’re also raised Catholics, I had eight years of parochial nuns, and then four years of Irish Christian Brothers, for high school. In about mid teen years, when my father died, I was really on my own to think my own thoughts and, and do whatever I wanted to do.
Chris Cappy 08:11
I took up martial arts, because I knew I was angry. I mean, I was, I was very angry about probably my childhood, and what had happened, and what I dealt with. And there was all the things that go along with somebody who is, you know, a child of somebody who ends up drinking themselves to oblivion. And that was the starting point for a lot of inquiry. And I knew from my Catholic upbringing, that there was a phrase, you know, somewhere in the Bible, that was, “Seek first the kingdom, and all things will be added to you.” And that coupled with knowing I had to work some things out. So the scene for me was…inner peace, or something, peace at any cost. My joke was that like, “I’d kill for serenity.” I was just so wired up with rage, I suppose, and working it out on the mat. I had a martial arts teacher, and he said, “You’re pretty good at this. But you bring too much emotion to this, you need to calm down.”
Chris Cappy 09:02
I went to Rochester Institute of Technology, which is mechanical engineering, and a great graphic art school, which was where I lived. And somewhere in the middle of that I lost my first true love. I took a semester off from my first year in college the next year, and I hitchhiked across the United States and back through Canada. And one did things like that, one could…Jack Kerouac “On the Road…And that was a four month odyssey that when I came back, I was just way opened up to “Boy, there really are better in different places than where I had grown up.” And I think I wanted to leave the scene of the crime. And while I was there at RIT, the second time, they had coed yoga, and I liked the coed part more than yoga, because there was I think seven times as many guys as there were girls in that school at that time. And the people teaching it where Yogi Bhajans. They were strict yogi. So I took a year and I dove into the yoga along with my martial arts, and somewhere in the middle of that I got high as a kite on a different kind of energy. I was working with full time job. I was doubling up on my coursework to finish faster with my degree so that I could leave.
Chris Cappy 10:06
The day I graduated early, I was in a car, and I’d met a guy from Montana. And he was studying like me, fine art book printing. Long story short, I went and saw him in Montana. He landed a job with the Museum of the Rockies printing an exhibit and Blackfoot Indian teepees, their design and legend. So there I was studying teepees. And Carl Young’s interest in these things, which…I was learning a lot about why we’re here and what are the messages that we get, and his archetypal thinking was on those teepees. So we printed this exhibit. Got it done. And I had 52 Dodge pickup truck. I got in it, and I started to drive around Montana. While I was driving around Montana, and while I was working on that, I heard from a woman, I remember Lynn Dusenberry. She said, You should meet this person in India. She has this ranch, and you should go there. And, you know, so I tooled up there in my truck. And I met India, and I met Tom Ryan, and Heidi. And I just found the place to be remarkably peaceful. And I wasn’t worried about career. I wasn’t even thinking about anything other than I want to be sane, I want to be reasonable. I don’t want to be feeling, you know, a lot of the stuff that had come along with this early story.
Andy Vantrease 11:16
I really wanted to hear that personal story again, because it sounds like such a foundation for what you do now and how you help people go deeper with themselves in order to find that peace within them and find out what they want to do, and some of these things that we’ll talk about later in the conversation. So yeah, let’s talk about the Feathered Pipe Ranch.
Chris Cappy 11:36
’76 was the first real of summer set of programs, and that, I know how to build things. I had had some training as a carpenter when I was in college. And I met Tom Ryan, and I just love Tom. He was this beautiful guy. And a lot needed to be done there just to get it set up. It was just an interesting time to be there in such a beautiful place. I happen to think the places is unique. And I think it’s charged ground. I think it’s a special place. You could see what would happen for people that would come there. Well I kind of became the seminars’ director, which was calling people to, you know, promote and enroll these workshops. That was fascinating because there was many different people coming to that place. Coming for Zip Dobbins. People were looking for their answers in the stars and astrology. And then you had Paavo Airola, famous nutritionists, and people were looking for their answers on their plates, and in their food. John Lilly coming. People were looking for their answers and of all things in isolation tank. That was one of the craziest things up there. Yeah, a lot of exposure to lots of different things. And India, this is, this is an important part for me. And when Indy passed away a couple of years ago, I actually got my car from Colorado, I went up to see her. And I’m so glad I did that. I got to tell her what she had done for me. Two things. She had given me a briefcase, a brand new tan Samsonite briefcase in my role as the director of Holistic Life Seminars and a business card. She said, “Well, you needed, you know, this is your title.” And because I was a printer, and I had all that experience, we made up some business cards to said this. And it was two things that made me start to think about what is it to be in role in this life and to be a professional. Because again, I was seeking first the kingdom, I was doing interesting things. I mean, the people that used to come there, interesting people, there were hundreds of them, you know, these workshops, sometimes would have 15, sometimes 30, sometimes more. Those three years as a director, there was a lot of learning and there was a lot of healing and, and I, I was there becoming a professional, but I didn’t know it. And a few of the workshop presenters in specific I really connected with and that’s part of when I left the Ranch.
Andy Vantrease 13:44
This was really where you started to understand some of those things that you were good at and that you really enjoyed. Sounds like there were a lot of really tangible items that you were picking up at the Ranch while you were doing that seminar work.
Chris Cappy 14:01
Yeah, I’d say so. I, my birthday was the same day as as Crystal’s up at the Ranch. And I think India’s was the day before, September 5. What does that make me? A Virgo. For all I don’t know about astrology. And one thing I did know is I was organized. And I could see that organization was an important thing. And that also I was good with people. I cared about people. And I was good with facilitation in the sense that I could always see what was happening in a broad sense, and find a way into the middle so that different people’s points of view could be heard or expressed. The other thing on the business side of that was, you could see that you needed to have a program which needed a curriculum, and then you needed to have a good presenter or speaker. And sometimes you’d have a really charismatic, amazing presenter who was light on their content. What was compelling and moved people. Sometimes you’d have less so in the presenter but you’d have a good strong structured curriculum. And the third part was you needed a facility, you needed the stage. And the Feathered Pipe, and that room in there, and with the kitchen and the great food, and all the, the care and the love, and the people that came through there to help make that happen. That was sort of like a basic orientation to, “Huh, so this is how you work with groups.” So I, a lot of things were happening there to me as I was, before I even thought of myself as being a professional. It was, you know, why am I here? I mean, the fundamental questions to me, even then, and they always are still today. But I’m much more advanced than having a good feel for it as, you know, “Who am I? And why am I here?” That led to me, by the way, to go to India after I left the Feathered Pipe. Part of the transition was some time in an ashram in India with another teacher Muktananda. But you know, a lot of the underpinnings, if I look back now, the seeds were planted there, because of what I was seeing, and the experience of people changing, and the experience of people growing, and the experience of people suffering, and pursuing better ways.
Andy Vantrease 15:54
Who were some of the big influential players, people that have influenced your life during that time period that really got you to the next phase of becoming a professional and getting into your career.
Chris Cappy 16:08
That, I would pick three. And the first one was Joseph Campbell, who came there for for one workshop, was his work with mythology and the Hero’s Journey. He came because the year before Al Huang had come, whose a really popularized Tai Chi teacher and a beautiful guy. He brought a lot of other dimensions to what martial arts are really about. It’s not about defending yourself, it’s about how you hold yourself, and your experience in life, and your stance into any situation. And Al was teaching with, you know, calligraphy and music and dance. And that expanded the aperture for me for what I really thought about energy work and what martial arts really was about. Because I was a pretty defended guy coming out of my origins there. And I was starting to get opened up in some different ways. And it was fun. Again, talking to some presenters at Al’s workshop, “Hey, would you come back next year?” And they’d say, “Yeah.” And I said, “Who would you come back for?” And this guy, Joseph Campbell’s name came up, and he was busy. And this was before he did any of the work with George Lucas, who make this little movie. Some maybe of you have heard of it, Star Wars. And that came directly out of Joseph Campbell’s rewriting the script there. Oh, it’s a great story. George Lucas spoke at a tribute to Joseph Campbell, and really said that I wouldn’t be here had it not been for him, helping me use the formula of the Hero’s Journey, you know, the reluctant hero. It’s all there. It’s a it’s another whole great conversation. But, but Joseph Campbell came, and he was there for 10 days, and he brought Joan Halifax. He brought, I don’t know, 18, 20 each carousel slides. And he would just talk for four or five, six hours. And this was over nine day workshop, about the mysteries of illumination. And that what we call it. And it was all of his synthetic comparative scholarship in so many different things. And, and I got to hang out with him a handful of nights drinking over at the Lake Cabin. Me and Joseph Campbell just having conversations. And I just, I just thought that was a very special time. You know, his story is amazing. About five years of the depression, no jobs, he decided, I think all go meet a woman named Edith Wharton. I think I’ll learn about the stories of the Iroquois Nation, you know. And he said, “Oh, yeah, and I outlined every book I ever read.” And everything was in that man. His scholarship and his brain just held pieces and put it together. He went into comparative religions, psychologies all over this thing. He had a lot to say about, pointing in the direction. You know, whatever it is, whatever the context of culture, the time the teacher, it’s all one thing. It was all one thing. I mean, I remember him saying this to me, he says, “My purpose here is to be alive. Everything is perfect the way that it is. Who am I to judge?” That’s an interesting way to go at life. So he looked at it…Try that, put that in your pipe and smoke it. That’s a good one.
Chris Cappy 18:48
And, and then besides him and Al Huang, his tea[ching]…I went on after Feather Pipe to help Al set up workshops in Taos, New Mexico, and Switzerland. And I was involved with that for 20 years. I was teaching Tai Chi and studying with him and the guy that supported his group. Jay Goldfarb, beautiful guy, still doing some really great work on death and dying in Switzerland. And then the third one was Amory Lovins. And Amory Lovins was there for two years. Most people don’t know, including many Montanans, that Montana is a nuclear-free state by legislation. And it was just at the time there, there was a group called AERO, Alternative Energy Resource Organization. Jim Barngrover, who was at the Ranch was very involved with that. And we had workshops up there. At the time, I don’t know how it is now, but you could get onto the state ballot referendum using a kind of a grassroots signature initiative. And Amory came up for two times. And he and I connected and his whole work was very much in the national news around foreign affairs. He’s published a paper, “The Road Not Taken,” and it was looking at conservation as being a way to save energy. And he was kind of ahead of his time. But Amory and I stayed in touch. When I left Feathered Pipe Ranch and went to India to study meditation, I got a couple of telegrams, when there were telegram, saying, “Hey, we’re setting up an institute and we like you and what you did in Feathered Pipe. Would you help us?” So that was the next movement in my symphony, the founding of something called Rocky Mountain Institute, which is in the news today, the building of the facility, this zero energy, tough to build crazy idea that we did. And then I was in Aspen, because that’s what he chose to go, which was another “Oh Wow!” Talk about a different way of seeing life. And this is the early 80s Aspen. But I really was in the flow of some, you know, Jimmy Buffetts and Jack Nicholsons…And John Denver was up right up the street from what our project was. It was a different exposure to a different set. More mainstream, more business oriented [than] what I, where I was when I was in my more, I guess, healing place at Feather Pipe.
Andy Vantrease 20:55
What did that transition feel like for you? Or, if you can reflect back on it? Or what were those next movements after the Rocky Mountain Institute, to push you towards how you were going to carry out your your personal mission in a business sense?
Chris Cappy 21:10
Yeah, and that, what you just said at the end is where I’d start. the dawning of a personal mission was really fundamental. So I think, and I know this now deeply that, you know, everybody needs a mission. Everybody’s here for a reason. And that the purpose of whatever God, the Universal Being, The Higher Power, take your pick. Whatever gets poured into each of us, is unique and special. The joke about this is my grandmother said this to me once, “Chris, you are unique and special. Just like everyone else, you are unique and special.” But your particular unique and special, that’s really what the journey is about. That was coming out of my hero’s journey. Every one of us on some level being incarnated in a human being has a journey, and has a way. And to find that way, and to just go inside, so that you can start to see those pieces of you that have relevance, and have purpose, and give you energy, and why you get up in the morning. So the idea of a mission was dawning to me about this time. And when I was in India, I went with a woman who had two kids. I ended up, we ended up getting married. I asked the guru, “You think this is a good idea?” He goes, “Bahut accha, bahut accha.” He nods his head. You know, good idea to get married. We ended up getting married. We were married for 20 years. She’s a beautiful woman. Her name is Peggy Cappy. We’ve been apart for about 20 years. But she is a great yoga teacher. She’s on hundreds of public TV stations. Gifted. And so I had a family suddenly, right, instant family. Call to arms with like, wow, the one thing I have now is serenity, but I don’t have money. And when I was an Aspen at the time, the Aspen Times had written about something called the “smob factor,” SMOB, which stands for Small Matter Of Bucks. And I was working with Amory. And the small, and the insight of these articles., they were profiles of the ski bums from the 60s, the real wild times of Aspen, who were there without money, who were returning in the early 80s, mid 80s was something they didn’t have, which was jobs and money. They’d gone and figured it out. And the insight was, you know, this place is heaven. It’s a material world heaven. Coming back from India to go to Aspen also was quite a whack in the head.
Andy Vantrease 23:09
Wow. I can imagine.
Chris Cappy 23:11
You know, you’ve been there. Culture change, the experience of your culture happens when you come back, not when you’re over there. When you’re over there…My time in the ashram, as I like to say, “It’s the Land of Oz in the land of Alcatraz.” It was a mix to see, you know, the haves and the have nots, to be in a culture in a society that has such a disparity. And you know, firsthand, you get it through the nose. You’re there. And then you come back to go to Aspen, Colorado, which at the time was very much still a powerful place and rich and famous and only dialing that up. Amory Lovins, he saw my situation. And he heads up to me. And he says, “Two words, Chris.” It was almost like “The Graduate” when Dustin Hoffman was approached by the guy at his parents party for his graduation, “One word for you plastics.” You know one word? And here’s this bewildered young guy trying to figure out what he’s doing. For me it was capital accumulation. Amory that to me, “Capital accumulation.” That means you need to make some money. And somehow, I was able to realize as beautiful as a place as Aspen was, it was very much almost like a theme park. Not quite real. But, wow, what a great place to be and be exposed to other ideas further. And the Aspen Institute I was, I was soaking up everything I could. I was able to take my Feather Pipe experiences, kind of half running a facility, and the work that I did working with groups and teaching martial art into a teaching position with Boston University. And they had started a little group called Executive Challenge, which now it’s pretty well known at the time was very new using the outdoors and adventure for team building. And I joined that group in its early days, and I was able to move from Aspen to New England, to New Hampshire, where Boston University has 1000 acre facility. And there I was like, “Man, this is crazy.” And my wife had been to this place. And she had come home and she’d said, “You know that place, you, I know you’re trying to figure out what you’re doing, but that place might be good for what you know.” And it’s outside. And you know, they look like they’re doing something good with people. And long story short, I joined the group. I became a faculty for Boston University for four years, did 100 ropes courses. My first clients were General Electric, Morgan Bank, and Disney. That’s called starting in the right, that was a whole…we teach. But what we were doing was fundamental. I mean, these were great enterprises that were really populated with really smart people. And, but we were doing the thing that was to strip away all the titles and to really look at performance and behavior sets. And what was crazy about those, those silly activities was people hallucinate on them. They would really, you give, ok, here’s your challenge. You got to find the ropes. You got to get up on the board. You got to go over the wall. Whatever it was, get lost in the woods and get on lost, people would really start to talk and we were facilitating these discussions in this very different altered state. It’s out in the woods, you know, but it had everything to do with a number of fundamental things that happen in groups, and that people that are leading and managing, around participation, inclusion, you know, leadership behaviors that work that don’t, problem solving, decision making good communication, all of these things would emerge quickly, from these little simulation, challenge activities.
Andy Vantrease 26:21
I want to dig in a little bit more on why it was so easy to get to these discussions and to get to these fundamentals, when you had people working outside and doing these challenges. Like what’s the psychology behind that?
Chris Cappy 26:37
The research behind it, that I look at him out of the Center for Creative Leadership. And basically, the formula was 70-20-10. 70% of what most of us learn, learn direct by experience. 70% is experientially based OJT, on the job training, of whatever it is you do. 20% tends to come from good boss, bad boss, good mentor, coach. You know, usually it’s people that were positive that were really trying to intervene, that gave you a break, or that backed you up when you were doing something new or different and stretching. 10% comes from structured learning and actual hard content and books and such. And so this mirrored how people generally learn. And I think it was because the context was disarming. It was different. It was not like in the normal sit in your university academic thing. People were literally doing things. And that activates other things below the iceberg of most of us, like our competency, like our sense of being able to show up and perform. You would have people really trying their best in these silly little activities. You know, get as many people up, of your group as you choose on the surface of these two cinder blocks, for as long as you choose. You couldn’t have a more ambiguous challenge than that. And you’d watch a group in a field with two cinder blocks really going at each other and talking about how can we do it. You know, one time, once one guy, he takes a brick and breaks it on a rock, so we have more surface area. You see crazy things that would happen. But then you’d say, “Timeout.” 15 minutes, after 15 minutes of people going in it, then it was the timeout. And that’s the part of learning that also goes along with why this works. And it was reflection, it was named what happened. So the architecture that was first of all, describe what happened. Then you could go into what is it mean to us in terms of living and work in this context of our working together more productively, and being a more effective team, let’s say better outcomes. And then you get into the transfer part, which is how would we take this forward. And then you’d give them another activity. And three days of these canned experiences, which by the way, were designed for sixth graders as the critical skills training, that was the core of how it emerged, for these adults are out there being sixth graders. But it’s the same fundamental stuff of how you connect and what works and what doesn’t. So that stripped away a lot of title, the organization, the complexities, to focus on behaviors, what works and what doesn’t. And that’s at the heart of change. You can talk about change all you want, you can have a vision, you can have a strategy. What’s more interesting is what people are thinking and feeling about those words. And it’s hard, because change is hard. It’s ubiquitous. It’s pervasive. It has to happen. We have to grow to change. It’s all fundamentally there. But the part of us that’s stable and secure, that wants to have everything be predictable, and control things gets in the way all the time.
Andy Vantrease 29:26
Where are you doing these big organizational shifts for these companies?
Chris Cappy 29:30
Yeah, a good example because I was I was involved with them across all of their global businesses General Electric under a CEO who’s legendary named Jack Welch. We were just providing a support to a lot of other broader curriculum around like an MBA tech curriculum. You’re really learning the hardball parts of marketing, strategy, operations, finance, all those things. But this one turned out to be the cohesive glue that held it together. I was observing this with training group after training group. And we were going to New York at Crotonville, which was a famous training center, and wiring it up with ropes courses and river crossings. It was pretty fun time. But then you have these high level executives, men and women who were having the same exact issues. And you know, fundamentally, relationships drive results. It’s a lens that you can look at everything that’s ever happened to you in your life, and anybody can, to look at the quality of an interaction, the quality of relationship, the nature of the exchange that got you to your next place. Or didn’t, or didn’t. You know, we were really emphasizing the social side, versus the technical side. The technical sides important, you got to know your stuff. But what earns you permission to rise higher, when you’re no longer an individual contributor, and you suddenly have a team and suddenly you’re a manager, and suddenly you have bigger responsibilities, and it’s not about you, it’s about them. And that’s a big shift. And we found that this silly set of activities that we got creative with, the more we could theme it as a way to create an experience that people would understand better, because it went into the gut, that would open the door for people to know “the why bother” of change. And what it should look like and could look like and how could they actually transfer it. And you know, out of that comes opportunities for one whole part of our business, which is, you know, coaching around a very specific outcome, like bounded therapy, usually six months, nine months, but to help somebody to really hit at some of the better parts of them. And sometimes it’s driven because somebody has been promoted, and they’re good, and they’re now at a new level, a new level of playing field with more complexity and challenge, or somebody who might have failed and beyond the ropes, and they’re struggling, and they’re still good, but they need some help. And our philosophy that we created a GE was the second chance. You know, Are they good with the numbers? Do they make the numbers? And do they have the values? That was a four box grid that started this whole behavioral change coaching thing. We found that it’s harder for people, if they fail at making the numbers, it’s actually easier to correct if, then if they don’t have the values, you know, Southwest Airlines, we had a long relationship there with, and that was always about hire for attitude, train for skills.
Andy Vantrease 32:10
Is there anything that you found in working with a lot of these executives and high level leaders that were common themes, a block or a common challenge, from an internal standpoint?
Chris Cappy 32:25
Some people want to succeed at any expense. And that’s some hard driving executives would care more about their own agenda than others. And they could get to a point with that. When you go to places like the GE ease and Morgan Banks and World Banks and places that you know, really have high level, I mean, some of the best professionals, best educated people go to, is because they’re strong competitors, and they want to win and they want to have outcomes. There’s a part though, that happens, after that. There’s a great series of videos on the website right now, David Brooks, in New York Times columnist who wrote a book called The Second Mountain. And he talked about the first mountain is all about our ego, our success, our gaining and having things, you know, being more doing more, having more. The second mountain is the one that once you’ve done all that what matters. What’s meaningful in this life? There’s sort of the three M’s of living your life. There’s your medicine, your money, and your meaning. Medicine has to do with physical and emotional and mental health. Your health comes first, and your emotional life and your support, relationships, family and friends. Money is enough to enjoy this life, on your own terms. And that can vary depending upon who you’re talking to a lot. But the difference between having enough money to be in this life and not enough money is huge. It’s a big gap. And the other thing about good healthy businesses is they make money so that they can do things not just to fund themselves, but to find other causes and other charitable kinds of things.
Chris Cappy 33:57
You know, we have a part of our business that it’s about contribution and giving back for the last, man since I was 40, 28 years. That’s why you do this, you know why, I was all about not for profit, and those greedy people. At least that’s what the lens I thought I had was. And by going into it, I realized no, no, this is people trying to live their lives into their best. The meaning part is the one that I find underneath the hood of all of these people. And some achieve it and some don’t. That’s where David Brooks is talking about. Meaning is what juices you. What gets you up in the morning? Why are you here? You know, I’m here to help people in their companies to be and do better. That’s a mission for me, that’s meaningful to me. I hope something that said here in this Dandelion Effect hits somebody ears and somehow they get it, you know, in a different way. You never know. The mission and the meaning, there’s so much research on this ties in with health. People that live longer, know and have a reason about why they’re here. And the funny thing is you can’t look up the god in the sky to figure this out. Somehow it happens within you. Muktananda, that teacher used to say God dwells within you, as you. See God in others. Welcome others with love and respect. It’s an inside out kind of orientation, to discover, and to live into the questions. And this is what Campbell was talking about, to me early on. Whatever it was that came into you, and that part about what’s meaningful, that gives you energy, that’s a very important thing to figure out and to find out.
Andy Vantrease 35:25
So where do you start with people with that?
Chris Cappy 35:29
There’s a lot of ways to do it, I have it that the meaning part is first, that if you if you follow my story, I had to come up with a mission, about why am I here, to then pursue money and then to figure out how to be healthy doing it. You know, I’ve [been] working in 40 countries, and I mean, there’s a lot of plane rides and several millions of miles worth of my air life, you know.
Andy Vantrease 35:51
Chris Cappy 35:52
But it was meaningful to me, because I knew I was helping, I knew I was making a difference. You know, one of my friends and mentors named Richard Leider, does great work on purpose. Any of Richard LEIDER’s work, his website, richardleider.com is brilliant, on really bringing to life some of this. But for 14 bucks on Amazon, you can buy a 52 card deck called “Calling Cards.” And it’s based on some really good research that guy named John Holland did. But it’s where you lay this out, and you go through kind of a forced ranking. And it comes into final few messages about what you’re probably happiest doing. This is more of our fulfillment. Are you living in a fulfilling way? Is this life so far meaningful to you? But I found that that deck of cards, we’ve had fun with it, playing cards with people, because it’s pretty intuitive, and what comes out, often gives people a message. The other thing is to look around. What do you love to do? When does time pass? And you’re wondering what, I was doing this. What, where did the time go? Often those things give you indications. What do others, people, see you and know you, your friends, as being good at? They can count on you. You know, Andy, they can count on you to be a good interviewer. And somebody who’s there, who’s cares who shows up. You know, you’re, you’re somehow doing something that I can tell matters to you. Right? So I think that it’s not as difficult. But, but I do know that a lot of people take a lot of jobs on, or roles, or do things for money with the idea that…You know, it used to be a Goldman Sachs, I mean, there’s a place. You know, we’re going to abuse people treat them horribly, pay them extremely well, and they’re going to be done at 46 years old. That was the average profile, I’m going to go make my money. And you know, they have issues. They’re great people. They’re smart people.
Andy Vantrease 37:39
Yeah, I can imagine.
Chris Cappy 37:41
It’s, so at some point in time, whether it happens early, or in the middle, or you live into it, these questions are ones that don’t have real clean answers, but you live the questions and they process a living the questions themselves, is often when the discoveries occur. And that’s when, you know, another Joseph Campbell thing was he talked about helping hands. I said, “What are they?” He says, “Helping hands, you know, that’s when that’s when you’re in the flow. That’s could be grace could be luck.” Often he said, “I’ll take it either way.” But he said that it’s when you know, that somehow things are unfolding for you. And there’s a feeling of that, “Yeah, this is probably a good thing to do.” And the other thing is not to get stuck. People get stuck in areas where they have lots of things, but they’re not happy. And there’s a lot of that out there. And that’s where this Second Mountain idea…Guess what the second mountain is made of? It’s made of community. It’s made of relationships. It’s made of service. It’s made of contribution. And those things seem to be the things that are directionally correct if you want to be fulfilled. And what’s funny about it, in my experiences, I ended up with money. I didn’t plan on it, but I did. But it had to do mostly with pursuing meaning and mission, and showing up, and just trying to, you know, feeling like I was built for something like this.
Andy Vantrease 38:56
I’m thinking about where I get stuck. I come at it from meaning first and seeking community and relationships, and really wanting to to serve and make a difference. And then I get stuck. Okay, how do I make that into something that provides an income. So that’s where I personally get stuck. Because if it was up to me, I’d like wander around in the woods all day thinking about the amazing nature around us and all of that. But that’s not necessarily the world that we can live in all the time. So I’m curious of where you see most people get stuck when it comes to these three M’s?
Chris Cappy 39:36
It depends on the person, but you know the money one is always a big one. Again, if you’re doing something for only the money, it isn’t gonna last. You’re in trouble. It will not sustain itself. And, and the big payouts, or the big dope deals usually have very secondary negative consequences. You know, and if I think about who you are, I think about one of my favorite interviewers in creation. I’ve listened to her for decades. Terry Gross. Obviously, you know Terry Gross and her program Fresh Air. She’s a genius. She’s brilliant. She has just done the work. You do the work and you find a context that pays, because there are, their out there. Monies out there. And that, you know, to me it was always seek the highest counsel. There was nothing for me, you know funny, Feather Piper Ranch again, calling up a…”Hello, I’m Chris Cappy. I’m living in the woods in Montana. And there’s this little place called Feathered Pipe Ranch. And you’re Joseph Campbell. And we’d like to hire you.”
Chris Cappy 40:28
That, I did a lot of that. And I did a lot of that when I went to Boston University for the four years, that Executive Challenge in that group. I looked at who are the luminaries in the field, who is doing it best, who inspired me. I’d call them up. And then I interview them for information, never to ask them for a job. But to find out who are you. How did you get to be you? Would you give me a little bit of time? And what’s the grind of what you do? What do you love about it? What would you advise someone like me coming into it? Those, those skills connect you, and I think it’s like prayer. I think that’s how you activate the helping helping hands. You know, faith without action is worthless. You got to take some action. But you know, every single domain of professional has some whole set of information that it stands on. And you can see the people that are doing it. And then you start to say is that, is that an area that I’d like to knock on the doors of and show up in, and find to get a break in. I left Aspen Colorado to go live in New Hampshire not even knowing what I was doing. That was a fall from grace. I spent 17 years on airplanes going around the world. I have…For me, it was a pretty good thing. I like to think I got paid to see the world, because I did. And I a lot of great experiences around doing the work. But you know, you got to pay a price. You got to step up and say if I want this bad enough, then I’ll do what it takes. And in India, there was a great discursive thought pattern and Vedantic thinking called “neti neti neti.” Have you heard of that one?
Andy Vantrease 42:00
Chris Cappy 42:01
Sanskrit, “Not this. Not this, Not this.” So I was kind of going through it. Well, there’s a whole universe full of not this. What is this? What is the “this”? So there is a bit of a process of elimination. But you know, every person you meet is a potential ally. I’m here to make friends in this life. I really am. I’ve made a lot of friends. Sometimes we do business together. But first, I’m here to make friends. If it happens that a good friend becomes somebody that I do business with, or we develop friendship, it’s, that’s because we were a good fit. And it was a good relationship, again, a relationship that drove a result. Why? It was a two way street. You know, can we learn together? This is how I think about any opportunity. Can we learn together? Are we a good fit together? Can we have fun together, and bring some energy to something? And can we make a difference?
Andy Vantrease 42:48
You’ve done so many things in your life, and you’ve worked with so many people, it’s very interesting to me this Second Mountain idea, because some of the work that I’m starting to do is working with women in these therapeutic circle formats, and working with women who are in their, you know, 40s 50s and really feeling like there’s this new version that wants to emerge, using a lot of language of like I feel like, “I’m in a chrysalis, and there’s this new thing that’s wanting to be birthed and born.” After your kids have gotten into their teenage years. And for some people, it’s, you know, after a first career, or whatever it is. And then there’s this second mountain, or what’s the second half want to look like. After all of the things that you’ve done, how you would describe the phase that you’re in and what you’re excited about right now?
Chris Cappy 43:41
That’s a good question. If I look at my life, I have it in thirds, my first 30 years had to do with really seeing what was in this guy, and what was what I was given. I’d say the last 30 years had been really putting the show on the road, dealing with the money factor in finding a place I wanted to live and being healthy. And I think I my wheel is turning for the final third. I do a bunch in our community. We live in the Gunnison Valley. There’s 16,000 people here. And that my, my thinking and acting locally part, board on the community foundation, bringing a leadership initiative that’s here, supporting the not for profits to the COVID problems that we’ve been having. Those are things that are actually exciting to me because they’re on the ground. I also happen to be in a new church I call the Church of the Latter Day Dad. And that is that at 60, at 68 I have a seven year old. So I’m in a very different place right now, which is interesting. You know, I went skiing. On the bus, met this beautiful woman from Brazil. Long story short, we’re married now for, my gosh, what is it’s 14-15 years, and we got a kid at this stage of the game. And I get excited about conversations like this. You know, it’s more about contribution. It’s more about giving back at this stage of the game. It’s more about what matters and what’s meaningful. It’s more about still wrestling with my demons. Everybody still has it. My mom when she died at 94, I said, “Mom, is it really a fight to the finish?” And she said, “I’m afraid so, Son.”
Chris Cappy 45:07
But she was fulfilled. She was gracious, she was grateful. She understood some things about how to be and how to live. Those are the things that I keep coming back to. And knowing about people and the shape of their lives, and knowing about their stories. Being what is it, more, more interested than interesting.
Andy Vantrease 45:27
Chris Cappy 45:28
Coincidentally, 2020 was to have been a year off for me. In the 30 years of my really hitting it professionally, I found that every four or five years, I was reinventing the business and learning some new things and a new vector, or a new something I’ve wanted to move into and take the business into. So, 2020 was already on the books for me as just the way it had lined up. I was going to take time off. So I’ve kind of been on retreat this last year, “chopping wood and carrying water” in the Buddhist tradition of the homefront and the community that I’m in. You know, we’re gonna see, I mean, we have such disruptions in society right now with the COVID zoom boom, the real estate explosion, everybody’s moving every place. People are…You have, the opportunities have never been greater to kind of position yourself.
Andy Vantrease 46:14
Yeah, in thinking about all of the change that we’re experiencing right now with COVID, and like you said, the number of opportunities and the type of opportunities that are being presented to us in different ways, can you explain and bring in some of the concepts of change management that you use with companies and perhaps give listeners an idea of how that process plays out in their individual lives and some of the tools that they can use. or the questions that they can begin to ask themselves in this period of transition?
Chris Cappy 46:48
A fundamental question in life is, What do I want? Underneath that is, Why should I do this? What, Why, Why bother, make with this change? Where is this change supposed to take me? A vision, an outcome, something that exists that doesn’t exist today. I wanted to have a truly satisfying livelihood was where I started with vision. And I knew that it was really important to support this family. So, what the change is? Why you want to do it? Why bother? Where is supposed to take you? Next one is, Who? Who are, who are the people that you know, that can support you? And yours, and who is involved in terms of this idea of what you want to do? What, which metrics? Which, which, what would you measure so that you knew you were succeeding? That was another indicator that we found that you had to have something that would show you were making some progress, whether it’s your income, or your set of clients or contacts, but you needed to have a scorecard. And a lot of people would overlook that. And then the last but never least is, How do I do it? What systems? What support what what infrastructure? What will support me? How can I enable this to happen? Some of the things we found that were really interesting in this research, we’re looking at AA and Weight Watchers. And AA helps people to stop drinking. And for some people, that’s a matter of life or death. Once you stop drinking, and you get sober, the next degree of difficulty in the jump is being happy being sober. That’s a whole another level of basically spiritually oriented work. Weightwatchers: it’s a system, it’s consistent, you keep going back, it’s got a purpose, there’s support, there’s a way and there’s a way, you know, it’s almost like a routine and a rhythm to it. But setting up some kind of routine and some rhythm, where you’re funding what you want with time, that what you give you time to is what you value. There’s tools that we have for this, so we developed a whole set of workshops that people could plug themselves into, to get after the What do I want? Why do I want it? Where’s it going to take me? Who all’s involved and implicated? Which metrics and scorecard is going to make sense for me? How do I get this the stand up? And I know it sounds simple, but it actually is a powerful logic path that moves people to, you know, make sense of where they are in their next movement in their life symphony.
Andy Vantrease 49:03
Yeah, absolutely. What are the practices and some of the things that you developed early on in your life with the martial arts and meditation and some more of these reflective practices that you still are using today, that are really big players in that category of medicine and health for you.
Chris Cappy 49:24
One of the things that’s happened for me for a long time, 20 years is I wake up in the night, I’ll often get up and sit for 20 minutes. It could be one or 2am. And I go pretty deep into breathing. And I find that that’s an amazing time for me for some reason, to just listen, get as quiet as I can, and listen. And one of the ones I can do for you. And this is one of my favorites. And there’s related to my work with another whole thing. We haven’t talked about racing a car and being involved in that environment in context. You need to be able to reset yourself in real time. Upsetting things happen all the time. And, oh when I get home, I’ll take a hot tub or I can meditate. I’ll go to yoga ???. Anytime you’re packing that stress with you all day long. And that’s endemic, especially in our hurry sickness culture. You’re packing and you’re loading and you’re carrying stuff you need to get rid of as fast as you can. The analogy that I have is, if I’m driving a racecar, and I’m on the edge, and I’m pushing it, I start to lose grip and traction, I have to intervene. And what happens is, I gotta, I gotta be very precise at that time to get it back. So I’ve kind of been a student of the real time reset, and one of the ones I can do for you right now. So go with me on this thing. Take a deep breath. Right now, wherever you are, see what you’re seeing. Just see what you’re seeing right now. You can still breathe a course. Now let’s take another breath in. Let it go and hear what you’re hearing. Yeah, and then now take another breath in. Let it go, simply now feel what your feeling. And that is coming to your senses. And I found that I do this more frequently in the course of my day, real time mini meditation, to see what I’m seeing, to hear what I’m hearing, and to feel what I’m feeling. That helps me to just get right back on track and keep running. So little things or big things. And whatever the discipline is, you know, the power of three deep breaths is amazing. You know, AA had a program they call it HALT–Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. Any one of those, you better slow down. And more than one, you better stop and deal with it. These are just basic things.
Andy Vantrease 51:47
Chris Cappy 51:48
But these are often overlooked.
Andy Vantrease 51:50
I find it the basic things and the things that are just, you think that they’re so simple to build into your routine, sometimes they’re the hardest to make time for.
Chris Cappy 52:00
And it’s the make time for in our hurry sickens. And more here time seems to be a better way to mitigate stress and perform at a better level.
Andy Vantrease 52:11
One question that I end on typically is just, What drives you? What brings you hope? And what keeps you kind of keeps your fire lit?
Chris Cappy 52:21
Having a little guy who says amazing as my little seven year old is Alan Joseph, AJ, is definitely got me on fire. It’s, you know, some of my friends have said, “Oh, my God, you did this at this age. It’s gonna keep you young.” And I say. “Some days it’s keeping me young other days, I think it’s gonna kill me.” But I definitely would say that this is a cause like any parent would know, that’s larger than me, that’s more important than ever to do, as well as I know how to do. Again, I’m I’m in a deep prayer mode right now. I’m asking. I’m looking for what normally would happen for me in a year of taking time to step back to say, How am I going to emerge? You know, I’m okay with the mystery of that. I found that every time I’ve just been okay with that and taking care of myself and do what I can, you know, attend to what I can control try to be helpful, I know something’s going to emerge next that will materialize, and to follow that next part of a chapter here.
Andy Vantrease 53:33
Chris Cappy, a man of sound advice, transparent storytelling and inspiring achievements. This conversation was so motivating to me, to hear how we use the healing modalities and practices of the ancient cultures to get right with himself, then move through life finding his flow, noticing what doors were opening and how his particular gifts could serve and help others along the way. I found the three M’s to be particularly helpful Medicine or health, Money and material necessities and Meaning–what gets you up in the morning and keeps your fire lit. For me and perhaps many deeply seated in the spiritual world, the idea of business and wealth can be intimidating and come with a lot of baggage. And this conversation with Chris chipped away at some of that external conditioning and really provided a lens into the intersection of those three–how to live an authentic life doing what you love, taking care of yourself and your family, and feel good while doing it.
Andy Vantrease 54:31
For more information on Chris’s work and Pilot Consulting, visit pilotconsulting.com.
A special thank you to Matthew Marsolek and the Drum Brothers, whose music you hear at the beginning and end of this podcast, as well as Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen, who first turned us on to the phenomenon of the Dandelion Effect and how ideas move through the world.
This podcast is a production of the Feathered Pipe Foundation, a 501c3 dedicated to healing, education, community and empowerment. If you’d like to help support this project, please visit FeatheredPipe.com/gratitude or leave a review on Apple podcasts and share with your friends. Be sure to tune in to our next episode in two weeks. We cannot wait to share another amazing conversation with you. Until then, have a beautiful day.