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  • Valerie Hope

Ep. 100 - Time To Come Alive: “Stand Out To Stand Up” With Dr. Mark Rittenberg, Founder Of University Of California At Berkeley Executive Coaching Institute

Not Quite Strangers | Leadership

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Time To Come Alive: “Stand Out To Stand Up” With Dr. Mark Rittenberg, Founder Of University Of California At Berkeley Executive Coaching Institute

How do you know what causes you want to stand for? What motivates you to speak up? More importantly, what impact does it have on you and other people? Every episode, we have an opportunity to become ever more conscious and connected. As a result, we’re more creative by reading interesting conversations with people whom I admire and learn so much from.


In just a moment, I’ll introduce our special guest for this episode. A quick reminder, if you have not already subscribed to each episode, please do so by going to That way, you’ll get an email in your inbox whenever a new episode is released. You can also subscribe on YouTube. That way, you’ll get a notification anytime a new episode is published.


This is quite a special episode on many fronts. One is because it is the 100th episode of the show. When I started this back in the summer of 2018, little did I know that I would meet some phenomenal people, have some wonderful conversations, and more importantly, find ways to tap into what makes me come alive too, which is having these amazing conversations. Tune in for more. There's likely going to be a pivot after this. I’m not even sure what that looks like. I'm always looking for what makes me come alive next so you'll be in on it as soon as I know.


In this episode, we have a very special guest, one that I have had the pleasure of meeting and connecting with. It's been several years. Dr. Mark Rittenberg and I have been friends. We met when I went to the Berkeley Executive Coaching Institute for training. Mark is the Founder and the Godfather. He's a leadership evangelist and a soon-to-be author.


He has been all over the world evangelizing and standing up for all things leadership. Mark, you've been such a wonderful role model to me and many others, not only in our Berkeley community and our family but also beyond. I was so glad when you said that you wanted to be on the show. Welcome. What else should we know about you?


I am a human being, to begin with. My life work has to do with the fact that I consider myself probably the most flawed human being I've met with all these things. I have great qualities and great talents but also I have so much to work on. It’s the idea that I have all these different personal challenges in my life to do with my interpersonal skills, work-life balance, and all those kinds of things. I feel that I am a treasure chest of skills and tools for other people because it's the work I have to do myself.


We are here to learn what we are here to teach. Flawed human being, welcome to the club. Mark, first of all, I wanted to start by saying you're one of the people who I know in my experience anyway who was the most fierce, loving human being when it comes to something that you believe in. Not only do you have a sense of justice but also in principle. I don't hear it or see that as self-serving. I notice and hear you so much speak on behalf of others and in the service of others. I want to start with that and find out more about where that comes from. How did that manifest itself for you?


One of the easiest answers is being born in the ‘50s and a child of the late ‘60s or early '70s. We grew up very much with the values of one people, one community. Let's help each other. I even remember a song by the Jefferson Airplane where the lyric was, “Come on, people. Smile on your brother. It's time to love one another right now.” We sang those songs in the streets of San Francisco in the Summer of Love in 1967.


Being at Berkeley as a student, our work wasn't about classes. It was about social justice, civil disobedience, and the war in Vietnam. Many nights were spent in the student union painting posters and getting ready for the justice gathering. We were getting on the bus to Delano, California to protest the way that Mexican workers were being treated in terms of The Grape Boycott, Cesar Chavez, and all these people.


I was exposed to so many unbelievable people who were pillars of justice, beginning with President Kennedy. I remember when he spoke at Berkeley in the '60s. I was a little kid but I still remember being in the Greek theater and all my friends, parents, and neighbors were hearing these words come from this incredible man who said, “Ladies and gentlemen, we are here and this is our moment. We're going to build a whole new world together.” I was watching these strangers hugging each other and shouting for more years in 1962.


There was one terrible night. I can remember the date. It was June 6, 1968. We were watching the California primary. It's Bobby Kennedy at the Hollywood Ambassador Hotel. Everyone was smiling and cheering. The last words I heard were, “Thank you, California. Thank you for the victory.” It was on to Chicago. Three minutes later, our lives changed forever. Also, the shooting of Martin Luther King.


We’re losing all of our heroes, icons, and people who meant a lot to us yet their teaching stayed with us and we carried on the journey. To me, the sense of justice and the underdog comes from that very early Berkeley training. Also, stand up for the underdog and those who are less fortunate than you. There's always somebody less fortunate than you. Maybe they need you to stand up and give voice to their humanity and their right to exist. That's very much where all that comes from.


There's always somebody who's fortunate than you and they need you to stand up and give voice for their humanity, for their right to exist.

Mark, I get that that was part of the water you swam in those early days in Berkeley. It's such an interval part of the culture but what was it about those messages? What was it about those particular icons and heroes that moved you to take that type of action?


First of all, I saw that we were making a difference. Suddenly, there were millions of us in the street marching, pushing people in wheelchairs, and helping people who were blind go on the march. We began to feel that we were changing the world. We weren't just changing the world on a political level. We were changing the culture and the whole way people were responding to each other. There was a feeling of we, it wasn't about me.


It even contrasts the world then and now. We went to University and graduated. I'm not sure we plan to ever get a job and that even came up. It was something of finishing, putting a backpack on your back, and going to see the world. It was all very welcoming in those days. Sleeping in hotels in Amsterdam, Istanbul, and all kinds of wonderful places, like Prague, was $1 a night. Suddenly, we’re friends with the hotel owners.


There was a whole feeling that the world was redefining itself at that time and that we all matter and are all connected. Although we're in a very different era, I'm still finding myself in many situations, particularly during the pandemic, where people are so willing, anxious, and grateful to create the power of human connection. “I don't want to be alone. I want to feel part of the greater good.”

Not Quite Strangers | Leadership
Leadership: People are so willing, anxious, and grateful to create the power of human connection.

That's very much the feeling of where we are on the last day of October 2020. I do feel that we're reliving a time in this country and the world when people are caring about people on a profound level. One could say, “Yes but.” You can always say that but where's the positive energy for what's going on? That's very much how I see it.


One of the things that drove you was you're feeling that you were making a difference. For you, what difference was it that you wanted to make for you looked different than what you intended or began with?


The first big difference was finding the Vietnam War was over and it was living with us day by day. How do I stay out of this? How do I avoid getting killed? How do I not support a war that has nothing to do with me or us and is wrong on all levels? It was amazing during The Grape Boycott. We were not buying grapes at Safeway, Lucky, and all these places. Cesar was on his hunger strike where he could barely move. It changed the wages and living conditions. All changed.


I believe in boycotts when there's absolute growth injustice. If we even look at the freeing of Nelson Mandela, that didn't happen for any reason other than the Free World decided to boycott South Africa. We're going to boycott until you stop treating Black people or the majority of people in the country as third-class and fourth-class citizens. This country belongs to everybody. It doesn't belong to a few people in privilege.


By isolating South Africa as a nation, ultimately, Mandela was freed in the early 1990s and the rest is history. It's hardly a perfect country but it's not anything to do with the level of discrimination, anger, and lack of decency towards all people that it was in the days of the White government. Those are my proof that things can change and become better if we save the course but the whole idea is to not give up. Keep going.


Hubert Humphrey was a real hero of mine. I remember the speech he gave at San José State in the ‘70s when everyone had felt like, “There’s no point. We couldn't change the world. We’re failing.” He said these great words to the man from Minnesota, “Don't opt out.” “Mr. Vice President, what does that mean?” He says, “Don't give up. I haven't given up. Keep at it. We'll get there.” I subscribe to the power of hope and love. To me, hope and love are the medicine the world needs and it's always needed. It can never be taken away from us.


Hope is the medicine the world needs now.

I appreciate that so much that I made it my last name.


One of my absolute most cherished behaviors which is hope is your beautiful last name. It’s gorgeous.


I inherited it from my father so yes. It’s this idea of being able to take a stand for something. You mentioned believing in boycotting. The impact that has on people to reflect on what's the right thing to do and shift behaviors is very powerful. I had a discovery of myself. It's a long story but the short part of it was I remember having a flashback when I was in seventh grade. I was living in Hawaii at the time. That's where my dad was stationed.


We were hanging out during one of the recess and break times. I usually had a small group of other girls. We hung out and walked around the school together. I remember Brandy Whitesell was hanging out with me and a few others. Some other girl came over and started asking Brandy why she was spreading lies about her and there were some rumors. The next thing I know, this girl takes Brandy and body slams her into the concrete and a fight breaks out. I froze. I didn't know what to do.


Brandy, if you're out there and this is still in your memory, I am so sorry. I had no idea what to do at that moment but what I realized is that although I have a strong conviction, hope, love, power of human connection, and all those things, there was a moment in time when I didn't know how to opt in. My question to you is when you look back at your life and the things that you opted into, what was the driving force? What did you see or do that had you go, “This is something I'm going to stand for?”


I have been on the same journey. There were times I didn't stand up. I hated myself for not doing that. It’s the things that I saw that were wrong. I’m writing my book Leadership Is Love: The Power Of Human Connections. I am looking at stories in my life to do with bullies and people that were bullied. I was bullied but not as badly as other people. I saw people bullied.


I was telling a friend of mine about a young man named Frankie Cancilla. I haven't seen Frankie in many years and I hope he's still on the planet. I remember Frankie being very positive and being a great singer and actor. He had a lot of feminine characteristics. I assume he was gay, I don't know. Watching the boys in my high school take him down and make his life a living hell.


One day, Frankie wasn't there anymore. I don't know if they moved out of town or what happened. That's why I say, “I hope he's still on the planet.” It's those moments of why I didn't stand up. I don't think it's a case of punishing oneself. It's just the next moment that comes up where you need to stand up or give a voice. That's what's important.


I remember my first trip to Israel as an overseas student when I was twenty. I was standing in line at the airport for something. There was a woman who jumped the line and everyone said, “No. Stand in line. You can't jump the line or cut in.” She was an Israeli woman. I still remember the words that she said, “Ma ata hoshev, what are we Arabs?” I went forward in my very broken Hebrew and a tiny bit of Arabic but mostly English.


I said, “You don't say that. That's an ugly thing to say. That is a horrible thing. That's why there's trouble in this region. You said, ‘What do we think we are?’ We are to live in peace and harmony. The Arab people are our cousins. We treat them with family respect. To say, ‘What do you think, we are Arabs,’ what a horrible thing. Shame on you.” She stood still for a moment, turned to me, and said, “I'm so sorry. You're right.” In those kinds of moments, it's so important to stand up, intervene, and not let things go.


Growing up in the era of social responsibility, civil rights, and civil disobedience, the training was amazing. It's funny to think that Berkeley was a famous school in academics. I remember the teachers in 1970, one by one coming onto the platform, with long hair looking like The Beatles, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, The Rolling Stones, and this one guy, John Evers. He said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I have nothing to teach. What you're going to learn out there is much more important. Come here and sign.”


“It's the honor system that you're going to spend the semester taking up the needs of a disadvantaged individual, disadvantaged family, or less fortunate people. I want you to track in a journal everything that happens to this family and these people. Send me a paper at the end. I'm going to give you an A because what could I teach you that would be more important than that?”


I still remember taking the bloody bus to San José because I couldn't afford a car. The bus from Berkeley to San José took me two hours to tutor these young African-American kids who were failing in school terribly. I had to get there by 2:30 so I took the bus around 10:00 and spent three hours. Their mom was so grateful. She made us all dinner. I didn’t get back until midnight.


I remember coming home on that last bus from San José to Berkeley with such a feeling of well-being. It’s not about how wonderful I was but how wonderful they were. Whenever I found myself committing the act of service to those who were less fortunate than me, I always got five times back whatever that was. We are one community. I keep having these experiences in my life all over the world.


I remember my wife and I were in London before Christmas a few years ago. We were looking for something nice to do. We had a free Sunday night. Everything's dark in London. There were no plays on Sunday night. They said, “There's a Christmas concert at the Royal Albert Hall.” “That doesn't sound like my scene exactly.” He said, “You may be surprised.” We go over to the Royal Albert Hall. This magnificent hall seats 8,000 people. The shootings in Paris had happened a few months earlier and some other stuff has come down in Brussels.


We're in this hall and they suddenly start to sing the Hallelujah chorus. What I think of as emotionally unavailable and muted England, everyone's taking hints, singing, and praying. The feeling in the Royal Albert Hall that night with 8,000 people was like, “We will not be defeated nor silenced. We will fight for freedom no matter what it takes.” You never know where it's going to turn up.


This is why I keep encouraging my students, particularly at the business school. I said, “Don't just read business books. For God's sake, read novels, self-help books, or a country you've always wanted to go to. Go out to dinner at a restaurant where you've never even imagined eating this food like Ethiopia or Afghanistan. Get to know the people who run the restaurant.”


Even in these challenging times, the restaurants are serving food outside and we're all there. It’s the level of connection with neighborhood restaurants and businesses, not the big people or the rich ones. It’s the ones who are barely making it. It's a whole new level of connection. We're supporting our local person who is trying their best to make a living. Their food is delicious. Let's rejoice in that relationship.


Everybody, find a place to go eat that is locally owned and run. Thank you for that, Mark. It's a great start if you haven't done so.


Take it right to action. I'll give one part of my training and I call it training at Berkeley. It was talking about out-of-the-box things with Angela Davis and the whole gang. I was in the last class of the late Psychologist Carl Rogers who created Unconditional Positive Regard. Do something good for people without any payback and expected reciprocity. It’s somebody who needs something like a note, smile, or gift.


We didn't have very much money but his final assignment to us was he said, “Go across the Golden Gate Bridge,” which in those days was $0.50. “I want you to pay for yourself and the three cars behind you.” “Are you crazy? I barely have enough to get through the week.” “Pay for them and watch what happens. Write it up.” Here goes nothing and there goes that $5. I gave it in and looked over on my right-hand side.


The windows were down from the 2 cars that I paid for and 3 cars in the back. They're yelling, “Thank you”. They're giving me the high five in the air and stuff. From paying for somebody's bridge toll, they couldn't get over that somebody cared that much. It is about caring and that comes down to three things, intimacy, compassion, and commitment. I'm looking at those three areas as a beautiful formula for the new leader.

Not Quite Strangers | Leadership
Leadership: Intimacy, compassion, and commitment are the three areas of the beautiful formula for the new leader.

Two things came to mind when you shared this one. I used to work with an organization called Up with People. We were traveling all over and I was part of this advanced group. We were sent to La Grange, Illinois. We were driving around Chicago in this rental car. The highways were jam-packed and the traffic was so slow. We were jamming out to music in the car. We're in a great mood. You can feel the tension with all the cars around us.


We weren't paying people's tolls but we were writing on these signs and said, “Would you rather be walking, smiling, or honking?” It was so beautiful to see a flash of someone's concentrated frustration turn into a soft smile. Their eyes lit up. It’s such a small act that from the inside of our car, we’re able to project outside. That was the memory that you brought back with me.


It is so beautiful with what you described from the Up with People. It's the absolute gift that you gave the people, which are the gifts of appreciation, compassion, and empathy. “I know what you're feeling. We're all feeling the same way. Suddenly, I feel seen and heard.” Many people have said for years, “I feel invisible. I don't think it matters what I say.” They retreat into a very small life and personality. They believe it doesn't matter whether they're here or not. We're trying to turn all that around.


Mark, tying that back to something you said, I'll share this anecdote. One of my younger brothers was a Marine officer for many years and one of the things he says is, “In training, they train Marines to go towards the gunfire.” Most human beings instinctively move away but they're trained to go towards it. Not to go towards with some zeal, like you're going to go and kill everybody, but to discover and uncover what's happening and how can they take over the situation.


I get from what you're sharing and all these different examples is that you're a man who goes towards the gunfire when you hear and see it, but for those people who feel that they are not seen and heard, that they don't matter, they don't have that kind of voice or the education, or they didn't grow up in that environment, what advice would you share with them that enables them to uncover the courage, compassion, and commitment that's needed?


First of all, although it sounds a bit cliché, charity begins at home. What's going on at home with the family? Particularly, during the times we're in. Are we having family meetings for what it's all going to look like when this is behind us and it will be behind us? I have absolute faith that this will be a chapter that we’ll look back on where we learned a great deal.


One of my clients said, “I'll try the family meeting. We're in pretty good communication but I'll be glad to do it once around Sunday lunch.” He has three sons, daughters, and a wife. They’re a happy family. He works for the National Security Commission. He said, “Please say what's on your mind the most important thing for all of us to hear.” He started with his first son. He’s on’s name is Ron.


Ron said, “Dad, you don't laugh anymore.” He said, “It hit me like a ton of bricks.” “What do you mean?” He said, “You're not here. You may be here physically but you're not really with us. You're not in connection. You're not listening to your granddaughter when she brings home a beautiful painting. They were all sheltering in place and she painted this painting in nursery school that was her Grandpa. You didn't even say thank you.” He said, “In that moment of that family meeting. I changed my life.” I said, “I’m missing the movie and I'm not going to miss the movie any longer.”


If we take a look at the workplace, let's face it, most of us are going to have to work for the better part of our lives unless we hit the big one on Powerball. This is not my language. This is the language of our time. I get people to look at, “Am I in a toxic environment where my leader is unavailable, does not connect or cares about my well-being or my family, and just cares about the task, or am I in a life-affirming environment where the leader and the culture of our team and our company are very much based on care, compassion, and positive energy for one another.”


The good news I can tell you is that there are enough life-affirming environments around that may not pay the same as you're getting. There's always sacrifice but you need to decide, “Who do I want to be at the end of the day? What do I want to be remembered for? Do I want to be in an environment where I'm not seen, heard, or recognized, or I don't feel that I'm able to make a real contribution? Is that what I want to be remembered for? I lived a life that didn't matter and wasn't there.”


In writing this book with a great friend of mine, we were observing so many things. They were both life-affirming actions and actions where other people were shutting other people down. Here’s my coaching to those who find themselves in a situation where they're not able to find their voice. When the time is right, it's time to move on. You're worth more than that. You are a treasure to the universe. We're all here for a unique reason. I don't believe anyone's here who's not supposed to be here.


We all have a unique contribution to make to the greater good. That's how I see it and I keep seeing it, Valerie. I am an instructor at Berkeley where the teachers required classes. In January, I'm going to have over 300 new MBA students from 19 different countries. I'm in heaven. It’s 300 beautiful young people who want to make a difference. That's what it is. I'm in undergraduate school and soon to inherit another 1,000 students who want to make a difference.


Each of us is a treasure to the universe. We're all here for unique reason. We all have a unique contribution to make to the greater good.

I get to tell you about this new group of leaders, 18 years old and 19 years old. You're old enough to be my grandchildren. This group cares deeply about humanity. I corrected their papers and it said things like, “Professor, thank you for helping me find my honesty and vulnerability. I've been wearing a mask my entire life. I never dreamed I'd come to a class at Berkeley where I could take the mask off and be myself.”


“I'm feeling so free. I have so much more energy. I have such an appetite for learning. Thank you for creating the community.” I didn't do anything. All I did was teach the class but they are so loving to each other and caring, even more on Zoom than live because we know that we can't reach out and touch. We can't hug each other. There's even more effort towards being kind.


I'm not a huge astrology type of person. I'm an Aquarian. We have a very idealistic point of view. One of the things I've heard a lot is that we have been shifting as a world and humanity from what they call the Piscean age, which is command, control, and secrecy, and moving into the age of Aquarius, which is about freedom, brotherhood, and love. That's what you're describing.


We have a new generation of people coming into not only the workforce but the community, and leadership roles who are embodying some of that love, freedom, and brotherhood. What I'm curious about is you're a man of a certain age. You've lived in a certain time in your life. There's an era that was marked distinctly by all the movements that you explained.


The world turned upside down with a huge swath of our global community. There are a lot of causes that one can get behind. It’s anything from social justice to racial inequality. You talk about the environment and the political scene. You name it, there's a cause. Based on your experience, living in a time when there were also a lot of options, how does one discover where they want to have a voice? How does one rise to the occasion and walk towards the gunfire in an area that means something to them? How do we do that?


I love that expression. I'll quote you, “Walking towards the gunfire.” It's such a strong image. To me, part of leadership is love. Find your passion. What are you passionate about? We ask that question in a lot of our workshops. I'll be asking that question in my class as they do presentations about their businesses. What it is they’re passionate about? What does their business offer to the world, by way of product, process, or whatever that ignites their passion?

Not Quite Strangers | Leadership
Leadership: Part of leadership is love.

What do you care about? Do you care about creating a device for diabetics so they don't have to prick their skin ever again and can always know what their sugar level is? Do you care about creating a situation for women where they feel they have the tools of empowerment to get equal pay for equal work in those days? What is your passion? Are you passionate about being a teacher? Do you want to become a teacher? Do you want to become a teacher of small children?


To me, it's about what you are passionate about and having the courage to go toward that passion. It brings us right back again to the power of human connection. If I can talk to one person, we can be pure coaches and be there for each other. You can be my sounding board and I'll be your sounding board. There’s a great chance that we're going to cross the finish line to our needs. We need each other. We can make a difference.


I'll never forget being at an amazing conference in the ‘80s of the Black Association of Telecommunications Workers. It was a magnificent conference with thousands of African-American telecommunicators working from AT&T and Southwestern Bell. At a Sunday non-denominational prayer service, the message from the speaker was, “As long as you have one person to lean on, I will be free. It doesn't matter who they are. It could be a grandmother or a child but there's one person in my life. I am not alone. I have one person who will be there for me and I will be there for them.”


That's a baby step for me. That's what it's all about. Do not feel alone and be alone. We have absolute colleagues and friends. We can be there for one another in the most amazing ways. A company I worked extensively in South Africa controls the railroads, shipping, and airlines. There was accident after accident on the train tracks all over the country. People were getting hurt and some were getting killed.


We instituted a cheesy program called I am My Brother's Keeper, I am My Sister's Keeper. You are responsible for your brother and sister no matter who you are. You might be the VP, CEO, or someone. We're all responsible for each other. Within 40 days, there were no more accidents and casualties because it's about taking responsibility for one another and the greater good.


I want to go back to something you said. You mentioned leadership, love, and the whole power of human connection. Often when we have the word leadership, in the past especially, the word love did not come even close to it. If it did, it was usually a lawsuit in between. I want to hear more about what is it that you're seeing that makes that such a force multiplier when you bring those two together. When you have a program like I'm My Brother's Keeper and My Sister's Keeper, which inherently is about loving and caring for one another, how does that inform these places that have kept the idea of leaders and love pretty far apart? How do you reconcile that?


It's all a choice. Therefore, leaders who love their people. I'm observing a lot of meetings where people are not beginning in the old way of the agenda but starting, “Let's go around. How are we all doing during these times? What's going on at home? How's the family?” The emotion in ordinary people is evoking. I can see that some people by hearing the question, “How are you doing,” are almost ready to cry because nobody ever asked them that question and no one ever cared. It’s the idea that people are so much more appreciative. It’s the power of appreciation, acknowledgment, and apology.


I'm finding that when the leader role models that as his or her authentic self, not the flavor of the month, it takes me 3 to 5 seconds to tell if it's the flavor of the month. If it's real, they've embraced the fact that we are all part of humanity. We're all members of the human race and we all deserve a decent life and a better future to be safe and grow ourselves. If the leader models that, it's going to spread like wildfire and come out with team members treating each other the same way and then treating other people the same way.


I'm not even willing to take a corporate contract if the top people are not modeling what I call loving behavior. By loving behavior, I divided it into these three areas, intimacy, passion, compassion, and commitment. I heard from a wonderful man I interviewed. I have a new coaching client and we're doing a massive leadership study to find out how we can be of help to this guy. It's very simple. He said, “Empathy is so important but compassion is empathy plus action right from the joy of happiness.” I'd read it but it never went in. With this lovely guy I spoke to, it went inside. It's the act of empathy but it's actionable. To me, a big part of leadership is love.


Mark, for those people who don't know you and don't have the benefit of hearing so many of your stories, when you show love whether it is a client, a project, or family, how do you express it? What is your action that shows that you love and care for the people or the things around you?


I had three women mentors and the third one was Dr. Angeles Arrien who passed away on April 24th, 2014. She was incredibly an important person to me. She's been my coach for over ten years. What I learned in that coaching program was, what does it mean to show up and choose to be present? What does it mean to be present and not be all over the show distracted, taking that phone call and talking on that phone when you're having a conversation with somebody else? Why is your phone more important than what's going on at this moment?


The second one was to come from heart and meaning. Are you open-hearted or closed-hearted? Are you full-hearted? You are truly there. Are you strong-hearted? Can you give feedback both positive and constructive but from a loving place? Do you love the person? Therefore, I can tell you things that I see that you may want to take a look at in that way.


Truth-telling without blame or judgment. Never blaming people, being judgmental, or trying to let your temper go over the top. Ange told us, “It's a great thing.” I said, “What do I say if I'm getting angry?” She said, “Say, ‘I've reached the height of my festivity.’” It worked. I said, “That's amazing.” She said, “Add when they look at you with a very perplexed look, ‘I don't trust what's going to come out of my mouth so I'm going to take five.” It's magic. Nobody gets hurt and I get to cool down.


Be open to the outcome. I have this life, which has been full of joy and sorrow. Like so many people, I have up and down. Life is not a dress rehearsal or a bouquet of roses. I learned to be open to the outcome and not attached to the outcome. Don't write the last scene of the play before the play evolves with what is happening, per se.


That's very much in terms of learning to be with people. I knew something before I met Ange but once I met Ange, everything changed. I was able to get rid of my judgments and become much more focused, which is important as a leader. If you love the people, focus and give them your time, and not be resentful of the time they're taking.

Not Quite Strangers | Leadership
Leadership: If you really love the people, give them your time and don’t be resentful of the time they're taking.

My main love language is quality time. Speaking of love, this marks a very special occasion. I'd be remiss if I didn't call out your beautiful wife, Ingrid Gavshon, who's also been a guest on the show. It is your wedding anniversary.


Thank you so much.


Congratulations to you both. I'm going to put you on the spot, Mark. What are you doing for this anniversary?


She doesn't know it yet but we're going to have a little walk up in the hills and swim at The Claremont Hotel where we got ourselves a little lane. We're going to go from there up into the Berkeley Hills and go for a walk. We're going to talk about our love for each other, what the years have been like, and what we're looking forward to as we move forward into the next period.


We're probably going to have dinner and drinks with a friend who came to our wedding. It was a very very beautiful ceremony. It was October 31st, 2012. It was our second wedding. The first one was at Ingrid's sister's house early in the year and her dad was there. It was lovely that her mother came over for the Civil ceremony. We're living here and we want to help Ingrid’s citizenship but it was the day the Giants won the World Series.


We're at City Hall with 25,000 fans all cherried and leave it to San Francisco for everyone in City Hall to be dressed up for Halloween. In this town, you can dress up in a costume. The Justice of the Peace was dressed like a witch and she was like, “I now pronounce your husband and wife.” It was so lovely. A friend of ours, Vanessa, was present so we're probably going to go over. Everything is a story of relationships. IBM put an ad in the paper in 1968 every Sunday. It said, “In business and life, it's all about relationships.”


This friend that Ingrid grew up with is from a very upper-class family but none of that mattered. What mattered was that Ingrid’s mother made the children beautiful sandwiches to eat at school. This friend of theirs didn't have the beautiful sandwiches and was buying her lunch at school. Elaine Gavshon, Ingrid’s mother a blessed memory, sent along an extra sandwich for Vanessa so she'd be as happy as her kids. Vanessa considered Ingrid's mother to be her second mother.


That's the love that you have in life. That is phenomenal. As we close, what else would you like to share with us?


There's so much. I enjoyed speaking to you. First of all, we already know as a graduate of our Coaching Institute, you're an exemplary coach. It barely describes what you are. You are so outstanding but also a natural teacher. The natural teacher brings out the best in people. I had no idea what we talked about, leadership, love, and the power of human connection.


I'm telling a lot of stories in my book. Although it's being written during the pandemic, I don't want it to be a book about the pandemic. That's not what I'm writing but there's one story. A composer writes a piece of music. They'll always write a coda at the end of it. For me, the coda is when Ingrid and I went at the very beginning of the lockdown in Alameda County in Berkeley.


A few cinemas were still open. The old cinema on College Avenue had terrible seats but we loved it because they show the best movies. We're just in there. It's a cold night. It's the very beginning of March 2020. A homeless man is standing across the street from the cinema. We parked the car. I'm looking at my wallet and I have $20. That's got a little bit steep but I was like, “You're luckier than him.” I parted with the $20 and went over to him. I said, “Sir, please take this. I'd like you to buy yourself a good meal.”


He looked at me and said, “I don't know how to thank you but I'm fine. Do you see the man standing on the left of the marquee by the Elmwood Cinema?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “He's hungry in a bad way. Would you take that $20 bill over to him? It would make me so happy.” It was as if my world opened up. I couldn't get over a homeless man dressed in rags on a freezing night in Berkeley, California passing on the money to his brother across the street to the left of the marquee. We're about to see a documentary film. All I can tell you is my life changed forever.


I want to end with a quote because it's worth it to live by. Everyone who works with me knows that I'm obsessed with Nelson Mandela. I believe that he's the greatest leader who certainly ever lived in my lifetime. He spent 27 years in prison with no hatred in his heart. When Ingrid did a documentary film about leaders and interviewed President Clinton, she asked, “Mr. President, who was Nelson Mandela to you?” He looked for a while. The glasses came off from the blue eyes, which were shining like the Pacific. He said, “I could say a personal friend and a fellow statesman but Nelson Mandela is my spiritual teacher because he taught me not to hate.”


I’ll close with a Mandela quote which is what he said in 1995. He said, “What counts in life is not the mere fact that you have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” It's about others, reaching out to others, and beyond yourself. I am so proud to be in connection with you, a woman who personifies beyond yourself and reaches out to others. Let us continue the journey for many more years to come.

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” – Nelson Mandela


I receive that. Thank you so much, Mark. You embody those qualities too. One of the things I don't take for granted is the passion that I feel for connecting with people. Although Brandy Whitesell back in seventh grade didn't have the benefit of my ability or commitment at the moment, what that looks like is being able to help people connect, have conversations so people feel heard, seen, and understood, and bring those people who may have different points of view together in a place where their compassion can grow. That's a commitment I have.


It may not look like getting in the fight or jumping into the middle of one but in my way, I feel like I'm getting closer to walking towards the gunfire in a way that creates safety for everybody else around me. Thank you very much for your generous teaching, the guidance that you give, the wisdom that you share, the listening that you have for other people's greatness, and the space that you leave for us to be able to rise into it. I’m excited for those thousands of people whom you've had an impact on and will have an impact on in the coming year in school. What should we know about the book? When is it coming out?


I'm going to have the first draft by the end of 2020. 2021 will hopefully be the year of the book. I promise to send you one of the first copies.


You're hedging a little, Mark.


In 2021, the book will be on a shining cover, I promise you.


Thank you so much for being a part of the show, Mark. For those of you who have spent nearly two years following this show, this is the 100th episode. Who better to end a 100-episode run than you, Mark?


I'm so honored.


Thank you so much. It doesn't even end here. I have the fortune of working with your wife, Ingrid, in the next episode to close out this experience where she'll be interviewing me.


I'm going to be up on camera to hear that one.


I'm curious about discovering whatever there is in the process. Thank you so much, Mark. Thank you all for reading and finding ways to come alive. This ties so much with what you said about passion, Mark. The quote that's driven me and driven this show has been by Howard Thurman. He says, “Don't ask what the world needs, ask what makes you come alive and go do it, because what the world needs are more people have come alive.” Find that something and commit to it. That's the call to action.


Important Links

Nelson Mandela: "What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived; it is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead."


For Dr. Mark Rittenberg, the founder of the University of California Berkeley Executive Coaching Institute, his call of duty is a way of life, not just the name of a video game. His philosophy of bringing love and the power of human connection to leadership may be both inspiring and challenging. Throughout this conversation, he shares the importance and impact of intimacy, compassion, and commitment to others throughout his life.



  • The power of human connection

  • Love and leadership

  • The formula for the new leader



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