Our guest, Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Scott Mann is a former U.S. Army Green Beret, and he now shares his skills and experience as a storyteller, speaker, actor, playwright and leadership trainer. During this podcast episode, he joined Kristen Brokaw, our host for the Business of Functional Medicine quarterly series, to discuss the importance of emotional recovery and human connection for clinicians so they can combat burnout and build trust with patients.

Scott Mann’s experience in the Special Forces, where relationships were crucial to his survival, has shaped his approach to leadership and communication. He now helps business, nonprofit and corporate leaders develop interpersonal influence skills to bridge trust gaps and engage with others effectively. He also highlights the power of storytelling in healing and fostering connections.

Scott encourages practitioners to share their own stories and ask thoughtful, open-ended questions to build trust and understanding with patients and peers.

Check out this episode to learn more about the following:

  • Scott Mann’s Pre-Engagement Preparation (PEP) technique (demo video)
  • What the world should learn from acting and storytelling practices
  • High performers and mental health issues, and why clinicians must protect their well-being
  • Storytelling heals and is a sense-making tool
  • Why narrative competence may be the most important soft skill for clinicians to foster
  • And much, much more!

Environmental Medicine and Medical Censorship | Ep. 316

Scott Mann: You’ve got to give yourself time to recover. Because what happens is, and I can only imagine for a doctor going in and having to do that work day in, day out, and you’re dealing with elevated situations. There’s no way that you’re not going to wear that. You’re going to wear some of that when you come out. And I’m a big believer in the fact that, for example, when we would do admissions, you’re wearing some stuff, you see some nasty stuff, you do some horrible stuff, and if you’re not careful, you wear it. Even today I work with trauma victims, and if you’re not careful, they feel better and you wear it.

So, how do you metabolize that? That’s how I feel about it. It’s like residue in your body. How do you clear that residue? I’ve categorized recover into two areas. There’s micro recoveries and macro recoveries. I think micro recoveries are what we do every day as we have these tools available to us to do a micro reset. So, I come out of this one really hard conversation. I’m going to another one in 20 minutes. I’m going to do a micro recovery as a reset. It might be three diaphragmatic belly breath, it might be 25 pushups. It might be walk outside and get some fresh air, but we’ve got to have micro recoveries throughout our day that allow us to reset.

But then there also need to be macro recoveries. And these go on the calendar. These are scheduled and these are the ones that usually are the first to go when things get hard. But things like date nights, long weekends, staycations, vacations, a day of reading, sharpening the saw, those macro recoveries that allow us to… A seminar allow us to reset in a big way and it’s scheduled. I believe, in a high-performance world, you have to have both of those and you need to be very deliberate about them and very rigorous in their application. As rigorous in preparation and recovery as you are in execution.

James Maskell: Welcome to the Evolution of Medicine podcast, the place health professionals come to hear from innovators and agitators leading the charge. We cover the latest clinical breakthroughs and health technology, as well as practical tools to help you transform your practice and the health of your community.

This podcast is brought to you by the Lifestyle Matrix Resource Center, who provide a range of options to help you deliver successful, effective functional and integrative medicine. To find out more and to get started, go to goevomed.com/lmrc. That’s goevomed.com/lmrc.

Kristen Brokaw: Well, hello, I am here with Lieutenant Colonel Scott Mann, and hello Scott Mann.

Scott Mann: Hey Kristen.

Kristen Brokaw: And for over 20 years you have been in Special Forces, you’ve been a Green Beret, and then you morphed into a storyteller, a speaker, an actor, a playwright. So, my goodness, how does someone do that?

Scott Mann: It seems all over the place. In fact, my wife Mon says that a good bit. But I think if you step back and look at the through line of all of it’s all around human connection. Ever since I was a little kid, that’s been how I navigated the world. I was a pretty small kid, always on the outside looking in, and it was really my relationships and my ability to build relationships because we moved all the time that allowed me to navigate the world. And then what attracted me to Special Forces that makes them different than Delta Force or Rangers or Seals. Whereas they go in on target, they take a target down, and then they come off the target very quickly. Green Berets work by with and through indigenous people. So, think modern day Lawrence of Arabia meets Magnificent Seven.

It’s very much relationship based, and that really was attractive to me because I just love going to new places, meeting new people, connecting with them, and then working with them across those divides. And then when I got out of the military to sum it up, I looked around and it seemed to me that in the United States, the country that I’d left all those years ago, in many ways because of the trust gaps and the distraction and the disengagement, it looked a lot more like Afghanistan than it did the United States. And I thought, huh, okay, well what if I could parlay those old school interpersonal influence skills and provide them to business leaders, nonprofit leaders, corporate leaders, and help them influence either from the stage a sales meeting or whatever. And that’s what I’ve done for the last decade. So, for me, it’s been just a constant through line, but just different arenas.

Kristen Brokaw: So, let’s go to the beginning. Your story of which I’ve met you on a stage. I watched you speak and I was so impressed. So, you tell the story. Why don’t you tell everybody about how you… Really, what you did as a Green Beret, building those relationships and then how you transitioned to civilian life?

Scott Mann: It was something that I wanted to do since I was 14. I grew up in this little logging town in Mount Ida, Arkansas. Little town in the center of the state, didn’t even have a stoplight. And it just so happened that a Green Beret walked into our soda shop when I was 14, and he turned every head in the room. His uniform was pressed to perfection, big shiny boots, but he was such an unassuming guy. He didn’t try to make a scene. He just sauntered in. And I think that grabbed everybody probably more and certainly did me just the level of self-confidence this guy had. But what was the coolest thing was he actually sat down with me. He actually sat down with me when I asked him… I went up to him and asked him who he was, and he sat with me and he explained what it was that he did as a Green Beret.

And what he explained to me was that they work with indigenous people and they build relationships, and then they go in with 12 and they come out with 1200. And that just really resonated with me. And I think the fact that he saw in me at 14, he talked to me as if I was 24, and I never forgot that. In fact, to this day, if a young person asks me about their career in Special Ops or the military, that’s about the only thing I’ll drop everything for besides my family because it meant so much to me. But anyway, I went on and pursued. I mean, I obsessed over it. I trained and prepared and tried out when I was in my mid-twenties and think I had to go through it like three times. It was pretty rough. But I finally got selected and then spent the next 18 years of my life doing that work, Columbia, Iraq, Afghanistan, a lot of tours in Afghanistan, and at the end of the day, learned to develop this skill for human connection in low trust areas that I still teach to this day.

Kristen Brokaw: Your life depended on it.

Scott Mann: It did. I mean, if didn’t, literally you would go into a situation for example, like in Afghanistan where you would have tribal elders and it might be that that village had a bomb land on it two months prior. And the elder that you’re about to talk to lost his nephew. There was never an apology. Nothing was made. And so he lost his nephew to this faceless bomb that stamped USA on it. And he’s sitting there tickling the trigger of his AK-47. As you’re sitting across from him without your body armor or anything else. And he’s trying to decide if he’s going to dispatch you or not. And you better make a connection fast. There’s no room for being casual about it.

Kristen Brokaw: So, your job is to go into this area and befriend these people and truly get allies so that then you can leave hopefully, and that they can maintain life on their own and stand up for themselves. And that’s got to be a huge fit. And it’s a lot what a doctor is trying, it’s not identical, but doctors are trying to help someone that really doesn’t know anything and say, “Here’s how you are going to change your lifestyle, but to be able to function without me.” So, I think that’s a great connection.

Scott Mann: I think. Yeah, there’s definitely, and I’ve worked with healthcare professionals a lot in this regard in the sense that what you’re really talking about is you’re having to make an initial entry into a high emotional temperature situation. So, that’s the thing about humans is that we’re all primal. We’re ancient brains in a high-tech world. So, when someone is sitting in a doctor’s office and it’s anything other than the normal checkup, probably they’re in an elevated state and that elevated state is the same elevated state as it was 250,000 years ago, the amygdala doesn’t know the difference. So, what I’ve found in a lot of situations, honestly, in high emotion situations, and I think this is true for leaders today, particularly leaders who have to go into these high stakes, high emotion moments, is that person across from you is in an elevated state, which means they’re in fight, flight, or freeze.

And what we’ve seen in those situations is that when the person across from you is in that state, or when you’re in that state, your physiology, you can’t hear. You are in survival mode. Your brain is running that old neural story map of fear-based tracking, and so your ears aren’t even working. You can’t listen really well to the person across from you. So, what I try to tell folks that are engaged in those situations is your first order of business is not your agenda or what you have to say, is you’ve got to bring the emotional temperature down to a parasympathetic state where they’re even ready to listen to what the hell you have to say first. Are they ready to listen? And that’s what most folks are missing these days in these high emotion situations is that the other party’s so jacked up, they can’t hear them.

Kristen Brokaw: Okay, so how do you do that? And I know this is what you train on, but tell us how does a provider or how does any human do that?

Scott Mann: Well, there’s a range of things that I believe are important for this. And again, I learned them mostly through failures. And then you clock and you log your failures and you do crystallized learning and you try it again. What I’ve found, first of all, Kristen, is that a lot of this, a high stakes engagement, has a lot to do with how you prepare. I believe that there are really three main phases to an engagement. You prepare, you engage, you recover, you prepare, you engage, you recover. And what most people do is they go through life on an autonomic rat race kind of basis. So, they’re just responding from one Zoom call to the next or one visit, one office call to the next, and there’s literally not enough time for them to even go to the bathroom. So, when they walk into that engagement, they’re just staying in the engagement mode.

So, they’re in an elevated state in sympathetic state, fight, flight or freeze or just a click away from it. And they’re not preparing. They’re not preparing for each engagement. What I’ve found is that two thirds of a successful engagement is how you prepare. That includes how you prepare. Actually what you’re going to say like your craft, but also how do you prepare your instrument? I would think physicians and healthcare providers, this would resonate the same way it would like with a fighter pilot or an operator is your instrument. In this case is your body, your voice, your mind. How do you bring those into alignment and drop into a state of being fully present and available to the other party so that as soon as they see you, they feel a sense of psychological safety, their emotional temperature comes down? How do you get your instrument ready to show up?

That’s the second part of it. And then the third part is actually I’ve found too is when you can is to prepare the space that you’re going to be in. Is like this is maybe not so much true in healthcare, but if you’re engaging in sales or speaking is have you got in that space ahead of time? Like our mutual friend Bo Eason always talks about like get in there and mark your territory. So, craft what you’re going to say, instrument and space are three things at a macro level that I believe you have to prepare. And if you don’t, then you’re just winging it like everybody else, and you’re probably going to be more erratic and more emotional and more drained. Same way with recovery on the other side, nobody recovers. They just go right to the next thing.

Kristen Brokaw: So, I want to dig into this because this is exactly what… I literally watch them go from room to room to room and they’re probably hearing some really heavy stuff in each of those rooms.

Scott Mann: Absolutely.

Kristen Brokaw: Like oh, I’m so menopausal and I can’t whatever. The next person’s like, “I just got diagnosed with cancer and autoimmune condition,” and they’re lost. So, what do you tell your clients? And some of them probably are in the healthcare industry?

Scott Mann: Absolutely they are.

Kristen Brokaw: What do you tell them or what would you tell them if you’re just sitting in a bar talking to a healthcare person? What would you tell them that they could do?

Scott Mann: Yeah, so I’ll swing it back to prep on one more thing, and I think that’ll close that out and I’ll send you a link to this. But I developed a little ritual that I call Pre-engagement Preparation or PEP, and I actually developed it for special operators, particularly green Berets who have to go into high trust, excuse me, high stakes, low trust environments, and they have to make a connection fast. And a lot of it has to do… I noticed in their qualification course when they were training that they were thrown into these scenarios that were know when scenarios where, for example, a small child in a village had been run over by a vehicle made in the US, tactical vehicle driven by the insurgents that we were working with. So, by definition, by extension, the US ran over that child. So, now this young captain has to go into this room, he has to atone for the loss of this little girl who’s literally on display.

And these are all professional actors. So, he walks in, there’s the little girl on display at the funeral, the whole village is there wailing, the parents are wailing. And this young captain has to go in and he has to atone for that loss. He has to make restitution for that loss and try to keep the parents and the village on his side and it is ugly. And so you imagine this 28 year old young man going, or a woman going in there and trying to do that, and these professional actors just… And they’re all based on real situations. I’ve seen it in real life too. So, what we started doing was, okay, if the captain walks in, he’s already jacked up with nervousness. What if we could bring it way down before he walks in the room and then there’s much more room for him to move and not get into that sympathetic state where he’s mirroring now the party.

So, I came up with this PEP thing, and basically what it is, it’s three diaphragmatic belly breaths. And then you say, I have time, which Jean-Louis Rodrigue teaches. And then you basically ask yourself three questions, who am I? Why am I here? What does this person need from me? And then you answer those questions out loud and then you walk in the room. It totally changes your state. It changes your focus on the other party instead of yourself. You validate your identity and your purpose for going in the room. That I have time slows your pacing down so you’re not carrying the stuff from the last meeting, and it only takes like three minutes. So, I’ll send you the link. I’ve got a little video on it, and feel free to share it. It’s a game changer. It’s changed not just special operators, federal law enforcement and a whole lot of sales teams that I work with, it’s changed. And Ted talkers.

Kristen Brokaw: Oh my goodness. Yeah, I just did it just talking to you right now. Just said it to myself. You’re right. It completely shifts you from sympathetic to parasympathetic.

Scott Mann: It does. It totally does. And the thing is, you can use it. I say use it whenever you change rooms, whether they’re virtual rooms. Even if you’re going home for the day and you’re going to be with your spouse and kids sit in the car, do PEP, because who do we violate our availability and our attention with the most? The people we love the most. Right? So, do PEP before you walk in the house and leave all that stuff out in the driveway. It’s a performance tool for preparation. It’s fast, it’s efficient, and it’s been tested in the most dangerous places on earth. So, I’m a fan of it.

Kristen Brokaw: Right. If it works in Afghanistan, it’ll work in the doctor’s office.

Scott Mann: Yeah, our buddy Bo says, “The difference between a pro and an amateur is a pro knows when to take the coaching.” But then on the recovery side, it’s similar. You’ve got to give yourself time to recover. Because what happens is, and I can only imagine for a doctor going in and having to do that work day in, day out, and you’re dealing with elevated situations. There’s no way that you’re not going to wear that. You’re going to wear some of that when you come out. And I’m a big believer in the fact that, for example, when we would do admissions, you’re wearing some stuff, you see some nasty stuff, you do some horrible stuff, and if you’re not careful, you wear it. Even today I work with trauma victims, and if you’re not careful, they feel better and you wear it.

So, how do you metabolize that? That’s how I feel about it. It’s like residue in your body. How do you clear that residue? I’ve categorized recover into two areas. There’s micro recoveries and macro recoveries. I think micro recoveries are what we do every day as we have these tools available to us to do a micro reset. So, I come out of this one really hard conversation. I’m going to another one in 20 minutes. I’m going to do a micro recovery as a reset. It might be three diaphragmatic belly breath, it might be 25 pushups. It might be walk outside and get some fresh air, but we’ve got to have micro recoveries throughout our day that allow us to reset.

But then there also need to be macro recoveries. And these go on the calendar. These are scheduled and these are the ones that usually are the first to go when things get hard. But things like date nights, long weekends, staycations, vacations, a day of reading, sharpening the saw, those macro recoveries that allow us to… A seminar allow us to reset in a big way and it’s scheduled. I believe, in a high performance world, you have to have both of those and you need to be very deliberate about them and very rigorous in their application. As rigorous in preparation and recovery as you are in execution.

Kristen Brokaw: So, as the leader of these Special Ops, did you recover? Did you and your team recover?

Scott Mann: Not to the degree that we should have. And a lot of this came from that. I stood in a closet holding a 45 caliber pistol 18 months after I got out because I didn’t recover like I should have. And I found myself with this cumulative residual residue in my body that as I lost my purpose and my identity, all of that stuff started to… PTSD, survivor’s guilt, moral injury. It just converged on me in a very horrific way. And I had no tools. I had no tools to metabolize that stuff and process it over time. And I’d been in combat so long I didn’t even know which way was up.

Now we would do… For example, we would come off a mission and you would do an after action review or what we call a hot wash, which is also a very good piece of recovery is when you come out of a high stakes engagement, is to do a quick after action review with your team, go around the horn, what went right, what went wrong, what will we do differently next time? And crystallize that learning. That’s also a form of recovery because you’re processing and getting it out there instead of just carrying it. But that was about it. And you might get some downtime, but you weren’t metabolizing all that stuff you’re wearing.

I think that’s where the recovery’s got to come in, is you got to get to a neutral state where there’s no past, there’s no future. You’re just here right now. I think that’s, even if you get there just for a few seconds in a micro recovery, it’s a game changer.

Kristen Brokaw: That’s why there’s probably so much PTSD. That’s why there’s so much physician burnout, which is exactly what you’re saying is these are providers who got into this just like you did to serve and to do the things that really lit them up. And then they find the day in and day out stuff actually has them. The admin and the dealing with hiring people and emotional stuff that comes with having employees or insurance, or not even taking insurance, but just all the things, right? Takes them away from even doing just what it is that they love.

Scott Mann: Absolutely. And they’re protectors, so they’re carrying… Protectors always carry the heaviest rock sack. That’s just how it is. The protectors always carry the heaviest load. I don’t care what the industry is, the protectors are always going to be the ones that are protecting. And so when you do that, it’s an innate thing that’s in you and you don’t think about it. You just go and you go and you go and you’re hardwired for it. But the reality is, I don’t care who you are or how tough. I mean, I’ve lost… I think I’ve lost 11 friends to suicide, and every single one of them was a special operator, a seal, a delta person. Now you think about that for a second. These are literally some of the most high performing people on the planet, and they check themselves out. Why? I almost checked myself out.

Why? Because there is a point when the cumulative load becomes too much and you cannot carry it anymore. And while we’ve been trained to do these amazing things, we haven’t been trained to metabolize the secondary and tertiary energy that comes off of them. That’s new, those protocols. I’ll give you… You know where I learned most of this? You’re going to laugh, acting. I learned most of these skills performing my play from an entirely different industry that is very, very secular, closed off and is a thousand-year-old craft. But they know more about recovery and preparation than probably any industry on the planet. And frankly, a lot of what they know should be mainstreamed because it’s frigging brilliant.

Kristen Brokaw: That’s exactly where we’re going next. So, as I introduced you today, I said you were a Green Beret and then you morphed into a storyteller, an actor, a playwright, you’re an author, you run masterminds. I mean, you’re a leadership trainer. We glazed over how… Let’s talk about that. So, you were transitioning to civilian life. It sucks. You almost check out as you say. And then what happened and how did you go to really finding your purpose again?

Scott Mann: That’s a great question because I think mental health is a real thing and it doesn’t discriminate. I think high performers are wrestling with it more than ever, particularly coming out of the two-year plus pandemic. And so for me, I found myself again in that really dark place of transition, not just from the military, but from what I had wanted to do since I was 14. So, there was a complete loss of identity, a complete loss of purpose. I was not prepared for that. I mean, I thought I was prepared. I had a good job on the other side. I was writing a book. I retired on my terms, still married, had three boys living at home, so everything looked good. But it was on the inside that everything was just… I literally… My kids would get up and leave the room. And I talk about this in my TED talk, The Generosity of Scars.

They would get up and leave the room because they didn’t know what version of that they were going to get. And it just got darker and darker and darker to the point where I just felt like, okay, it was almost like logical. It’s like I’m not relevant anymore. And grace of God, it didn’t happen. I came really close. But on the other side of that, it was a couple of civilian mentors. Civilian mentors, I want to emphasize that, who actually came to my aid. And one of them, you and I both worked with, a guy named Bo, and he showed me how to use storytelling to heal myself first and foremost. And that was amazing to be able to… And by that I mean to actually go into myself and move through all that crap and find that story that talked about that struggle and made sense of it.

Because story is a sense-making tool. That’s why it’s been around 70,000 years. That’s why doctors, I believe, for narrative competence, for doctors and healthcare professionals, it’s probably the most important skill in the world, because it’s the most primal communication skill we have, the ability to influence and meet your goals in real time through narrative. And I learned that from Bo. I learned it to heal myself. And then I started saying, okay, well, what if I could use story as a delivery vehicle to bridge the civil military gap on what I learned in Afghanistan that could be used in corporate America or on a sales team? And I started using storytelling for that. And so I could tell a story about meeting a village elder who wanted to whack me and make a connection in five minutes. And a physician is sitting there going, “Holy crap. That’s just like a high emotion weight office when I have to walk in and engage a patient.”

Because we listen autobiographically to stories. And so when someone tells a story, particularly if it invokes struggle, we locate ourselves in that story and then we make sense of our own lived experience and the safety of their narrative. And that changed everything for me. When I figured that out and when I figured out the biological reality of storytelling and how it could be used to bridge those gaps, I never looked back. And that’s when I got into all the other stuff that I do because it’s different ways to learn more about it.

Kristen Brokaw: I want you to say that one more time about how we listen autobiographically and why that’s so important for say, a provider to tell a story so that a patient maybe understands a difficult concept or how they then can have hope based on another patient, et cetera. Just say it again, I’m sorry.

Scott Mann: Yeah, sure. No, it’s no problem at all. I mean, it’s because there are so many benefits to storytelling that service in the modern world, and only in the last couple of years just by the imaging of the brain that’s out there in the science, are we able to fully understand and validate the relevance of storytelling. But one of the major components of it that is so advantageous in my line of work, but also in healthcare and really anywhere, is that it involves autobiographical listening. So, when you tell a story that is authentic and it typically follows a path of struggle, goals, struggle, overcoming those struggles and resolution, what happens is the other party listens, autobiographically. They go into a trance-like state. Watch somebody when they’re really good stories being told in a TED talk, they’re like this.

Kristen Brokaw: Yeah, their mouth open. Yeah.

Scott Mann: That’s what we do when we hear a story, we go into a trance state and it’s a parasympathetic response that’s eons old. So, we go into that state and we are completely open, we’re completely open, and the brain has a mandate to make sense of the world, and story is the sense-making tool to do it. It’s a metaphorical pattern matching organ. So, metaphor, story is how the brain makes sense of things. So, when you put your ideas and your information in a story, the brain doesn’t have to work as hard. It can just literally drop into that natural state. And when that happens, the autobiographical listening manifests as the listener basically making sense of their own lived experience, but in the safety and context of your narrative. That’s why if you watch a TED speaker and they’re talking about the struggle they went through with addiction, different people out in the audience are listening.

Some of them are going, “Man.” They’re processing when they were addicted to alcohol. Others are thinking about their mother’s addiction. Some are going, “Man, I hope I don’t get addicted.” But everybody in their own way is autobiographically making sense of what’s being said in relation to their own lived experience. And this creates meaning, it creates context, contextual understanding. It creates long-term memory and an emotional connection of reciprocity. So, the physicians that are great storytellers, the sales teams that are great storytellers, the Green Berets that are great storytellers, they’re going to own every room every time. It’s just the way it is. The transactional ones, people aren’t even going to feel safe around.

Kristen Brokaw: So, let’s talk about building that trust. I mean, that’s essentially, you are a sensei of building trust, connection, story, relationship because your life depended on it. And so why is it important for us as humans, as providers, but even just being a human for us to focus on building the relationship first? Because I’ve heard you say that.

Scott Mann: Yeah. I think you have to get below the… I call it getting below the waterline, right? So, if civil society is an iceberg, and the tip of the iceberg is the modern world, it’s all of the cities that are checking in right now and the different practices that are out there. And it’s also how we respond to pandemics and the recession and the supply chain. It’s all of the modernity realities that we have around us. But that’s only a couple of hundred years old. You know what I mean? Liberal democracies are a couple hundred years old, capitalism’s very young. I mean, these dopamine dispensers that we carry around with us are like 15 years old, but yet they have radically changed our behavior both individually and collectively at scale. But it’s 15 years old. But below the water line on that iceberg is the bigger chunk of the iceberg, and it’s like 250,000 years old depending on your beliefs.

80% of our humanity still to this day. I mean, Jared Diamond in his book The World Until Yesterday, he says that humans are far more traditional than they are modern. So, the preponderance of our humanity is below the waterline. And one of the things that is part of that is that humans are social creatures. It’s our superpower, according to Matthew Lieberman. We sit on top of the food chain, not because we have fur or fangs or claws, but our ability to form connections. It’s an innate skill. We’re driven to do it. What is it? Paul Zack calls oxytocin, the trustworthiness molecule. We’re driven to connect with other humans. It’s how we, not just survive, but thrive. So, at a semi-conscious autonomic level, we’re always looking to make a connection. So, it is a competitive edge that we’re actually driven to do. And my experience has been to include with Pineapple Express, when everything was falling apart in Afghanistan and we had to get Afghans out of there using our cell phones, what did we fall back on?

We fell back on the social capital and relationships that we had built over a 20-year war. And we simply reversed engineered. That’s the sketch behind me that I used to do it, but we just reversed engineered the network and we leveraged the relationships that had been dormant over time. Some were active and we were able to move people and do big things. But that’s not unique to Green Berets. I mean, the reality is in a crisis, the people who are relatable to the pain of others and relevant to their goals, they’re the ones we’re going to follow. And it’s just those are the metrics. I encourage anybody that deals with humans is, am I relatable to their pain and am I relevant to their goals? Because if you are, the odds are that person will follow you to hell and back.

Kristen Brokaw: Wow. Okay. So, I’m going to guess that that’s a big part of what you do when you work with businesses and sales teams. So, when somebody hires you, either they’re working with you as a coaching to be their coach or one-on-one. Tell me a little bit about your business now, because just for everyone’s understanding, I mean, Green Beret, got out, decided to do a TED Talk, then said, I should take this show on the road, created, wrote as a playwright, wrote a play, and had all this connection. And you started healing yourself, and you realized you’re healing so many other people through your play, which by the way is called Last Out Allergy and Green Beret. It’s wonderful. Highly encourage everybody to see it. And how can they see it?

Scott Mann: You can watch it on Amazon Prime. We actually raised our own money and did a low budget film during COVID. And we’re also touring the country right now as part of the Gary Sinise Foundation. If you go to scottmann.com or lastoutplay.com, all the info’s there. It’s a nonprofit endeavor.

Kristen Brokaw: Wonderful. So, I mean, just totally amazing. So, as you’re then healing yourself and doing this play, you are realizing these are skills that now I have where at one time you thought, why should I be here because I can’t do special op stuff anymore? What’s my purpose? Holy cow. My purpose is to teach something that’s so fundamental, but yet so much of us aren’t doing it, because we’re living above the waterline, as you just said, and getting on our dopamine phones. So, I mean, I just made the whole transition for you, but now what are you teaching people that work with you?

Scott Mann: Yeah, that’s a great question. I appreciate it. The enemy, I think that we all face, I call it the churn, basically it is this very novel, new confluence of distraction, disengagement, and disconnection that has the perfect storm. And it’s coming along right at a time when our arena is so volatile and uncertain and complex and ambiguous. So, when you combine all that, plus the level of resistance that we feel as humans, self-sabotage is at an all time high. For example, right now I’m working with a Fortune 500 CEO who suffers from debilitating anxiety when he gets in front of people. It’s a very real thing. So, the churn is that roiling, disconnection, distrust, distraction that you see all the time. You see it in the way people treat each other downtown in traffic. You see the way people act around the political discussions.

I mean, we’ve canceled friends. We don’t go to Thanksgiving. There’s all of this, and it’s new. That was not happening 10 years ago to that level. Our civil discourse, and we go from zero to 120 in like a nanosecond, especially coming out of COVID. So, we’ve gone into this, I call it shadow tribalism. That’s all around us. And so how do you lead through that? How do you move people to action? How do you sell something? How do you inspire somebody when all that’s going on around you?

And that’s what I teach. It is the purpose-based old school interpersonal skills. Whether you’re on a stage, whether you are in front of your boss or whether you’re talking to your teenager that’s been bullied. How do you lead through with those moments when it’s hard with just old school interpersonal skills and both art and science of human connection. I’m a connection coach, basically, and that’s what I love. And all the stuff that I’ve done from acting to writing to TED talks to commercial, all of it is to make me better at human connection so that I can share it with other people and turn them loose in their own arena.

Kristen Brokaw: So, what are some of the success stories, the different types of clients you’ve had? What are some of the things that have come from working with you?

Scott Mann: It’s crazy. I mean, I’ve trained probably 15 TED speakers. So, on that side, I’ve worked with business owners at the small and medium level who are now going on the stage and getting up in front of people at industry conferences and completely disrupting the industry through their storytelling skills. Because they’ve got these brilliant ideas, but they couldn’t nest them properly in a story that was strategic and impactful that just put everybody in that trance state. So, I work with a lot of business owners to disrupt their industry. A lot of corporate leaders who are just dealing with tons of anxiety and high stake situations where they’ve got to cut through the noise and influence fast.

And then of course, I do a lot of work with advisors, financial advisors, physicians, folks that are doing those high stakes engagements where you can’t fail. And how do you prepare, engage, recover on a consistent basis so that you stay in the game and you don’t fall on the ground in a heap when you get to the end of your career. So, it’s a range of coaching. I do some one-on-one coaching. I’ve moved away from that, do a little bit. I run a mastermind that’s pretty darn cool. That’s a mastermind about creating movements. And then live events and corporate training. I mean, those are my jams.

Kristen Brokaw: That’s your wheelhouse. So, if anybody thinks that they don’t have a story. I mean the moral of the story is to tell stories. So, to make connections. But everybody has a story. And I’ve even heard you say a good… The scars from your story is what creates the relationship. So, it’s like the good story is one we don’t want to tell others, but a great story is one we don’t want to tell ourself.

Scott Mann: That’s right. Yeah, that’s right. Really good. And it’s true. I mean, the world is hungry for storytellers who are going to be generous with their scars, who in other words, who are going to repurpose their struggle in the service of others through narrative. And I think certainly physicians who can do that in a range of ways, whether they’re talking to a group of interns and they talk about moments where they struggled and they fell short. But there’s another aspect to storytelling too, Kristen, that I am really fond of, and I’ll share here, and I think it’s very appropriate. Is my discovery in this of several decades of working high stakes environments is it’s often not the stories we tell, but it’s the stories that we ask to hear.

Really, when you are engaging another human and you’re dealing with the churn and high emotional temperature, the act of what Warren Berger calls questionology, thoughtful, open-ended questions that allow the other party to tell you a story or to respond in narrative, almost immediately bring emotional temperature down. They elicit trust almost immediately. And as the person engaging, you’re going to get the full goods. You’re going to learn things. And I know in a lot of physician circles, this is common knowledge, but I tell you, I just went through the cancer journey with my mom and she came out on the other side of it okay. But I will honestly tell you that two thirds of the physicians that I saw firsthand could sure use some questionology training.

Kristen Brokaw: Yes, yes. Oh my gosh. I love that. I love that you said it’s not the story that we tell. It’s the story that we ask to hear. And I’m envisioning that training that you said, you put that act where the actors are around and you got to get this specialized person. First thing they may say is like, what was she like? I mean, I don’t know. Or just something to ask, like asking them to tell you a story. Right?

Scott Mann: So, I asked… One of the questions when we did the village engagement program, we were trying to work our way into these villages, and we were just getting no results. And I finally came up with a question, which was, what was life like before the Soviets came to your village? And all of a sudden their eyes glazed over and they just started talking about, because that was the time before there was war in Afghanistan. They had had 40 years of war, that allowed them to go back to a period when they could go to the mosque and have picnics on the lawn. They didn’t have to worry about roadside bombs. There wasn’t a high mortality rate for their children like it was now in starvation. And they were telling me stories, and I’m like, “Oh my God, man, this guy is telling me what we need to be doing now. He’s giving me the goods.” But it was that one.

And then I shared that question that night over the net, and God started asking it, and we saw an immediate opening. Which brings up another point, thoughtful, open-ended questions, or Chris Voss in never Split the Difference he calls them calibrated questions. But basically these are questions that are thought out. They’re thoughtful. They’re asked with pure discovery as your intention. And then I think those questions when they elicit and they have a good effect, should be shared across professionals and cataloged and part of a database. I think if physicians, for example, had databases of thoughtful, open-ended questions that led to positive outcomes, positive responses, or just increased reciprocity and clarity, why wouldn’t we share those across the formation and use them more? Because then that becomes an element of social capital, a tool that can really promote and accelerate trust.

Kristen Brokaw: Yeah. Yeah. That said so well. So, I will wrap up here. Is there anything else you want to share with this group of providers who are overworked and probably burnt out?

Scott Mann: I mean, other than… Exactly, and I so appreciate that place and what you all do. And while I’ll never understand the scope of it in your world, I certainly have my version of it, and I experienced my version of it. And I will just tell you that if you’re waiting for someone to tell you to not go any further down that road, nobody’s coming. No one’s going to tell you that. You’re the only person that can… I’m giving you permission to lead yourself and practice self-care because nobody else is coming. And please don’t take it to the extreme that I did, or worse some of my brothers have, because they just didn’t figure that out. And nobody’s coming. Nobody’s going to lead yourself like you do. And please take care of yourself because we need you in the game, not just as providers, but as dads and moms and brothers and sisters and sons and daughters. You’re taking care of everybody else, and that’s great, but you got to take care of yourself too. Put your own oxygen mask on first sometimes.

Kristen Brokaw: Amen. Amen to that. That’s awesome. Well, thank you so much, Scott Mann. So, why don’t we tell them? You already told them how they can go watch your play. And I know you also have coaching, so is there… What is that coaching website?

Scott Mann: Well, if you just go to scottmann.com, two Ts, two Ns, there’s all kinds of cool stuff there and a lot of content that you can jump into. I’ve got my own podcast on this stuff. There’s just a lot of content, a lot of opportunities, both, and you can see what we’re also doing for veterans in the play, and we’d love folks to be a part of any of it. If you want to work with me, there’s plenty of information that’ll help you there.

Kristen Brokaw: Thank you so much for your time, Scott Mann, Lieutenant Colonel Scott Mann, and on behalf of everyone listening, thank you for your service.

Scott Mann: Oh, thank you, Kristen. I enjoyed it.

James Maskell: Thanks for listening to the Evolution of Medicine podcast. Please share this with colleagues who need to hear it. Thanks so much to our sponsors, the Lifestyle Matrix Resource Center. This podcast is really possible because of them. Please visit goevomed.com/lmrc to find out more about their clinical tools, like the Group Visit Toolkit. That’s goevomed.com/lmrc. Thanks so much for listening, and we’ll see you next time.


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