Creating Leaders: Growth And Transformation Through Collaboration With Marc Scheff

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Success is not found in solitary achievement, but in the art of collaboration, where ideas converge and together we unlock the boundless potential within ourselves and others. Join us as special guestMark Scheff, an accomplished coach and art gallery owner, takes us on a transformative journey of personal growth and making a meaningful impact. Mark tells his transition from a successful art career to becoming a coach, driven by his desire to create leaders and foster growth in others. Mark emphasizes the importance of supportive leadership and the pitfalls of organizations that offer only the bare minimum to their employees. Drawing from his own experiences, he shares how empowering others and investing in their growth leads to success and attracts talented individuals. Mark emphasizes the power of collaboration, highlighting how every successful project he has undertaken involved working with others. He advocates for a mindset that celebrates what works well and constantly seeks opportunities for improvement, enabling personal and professional growth. Tune in now and get equipped with making a positive impact in your own life and the world around you.


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Creating Leaders: Growth And Transformation Through Collaboration With Marc Scheff

It is my honor to introduce you to my guest, Marc Scheff. Marc is unique in the coaching world for his deep experience in leadership in both the tech and the art worlds. He leads his clients from plateaus to purpose. He unleashes creativity in his clients, and they explore new and exciting paths to leadership and fulfillment. His clients know what success means to them.

With Marc, they gain the tools to interrupt those already functional patterns to create a deep, meaningful, and positive impact in the world. He is inspired by his clients who seek to create a legacy of social good beyond their own success. He lives in Brooklyn. He has two young kids. He's driven to make the world better for them and make them better for the world. It is truly an honor and a pleasure to welcome you to the show, Marc.

Thank you so much for having me. It was a pleasure getting to know you beforehand. I'm excited for the conversation.

Me, too. One of the things that I love about this place is that we have an opportunity to dig into people's stories and their journeys to get to where they are. It's also about sharing these brilliant people who are out there making a difference in the world. You're one of those people, so I'm looking forward to uncovering your journey to getting to where you are and also sharing the things that are in your heart and in your mind.

As we do on the show, we will talk about your story through what we call flashpoints. These are the points in your journey that ignited your gifts into the world. As you're sharing your story, we'll pause along the way and see what themes are showing up. Marc, I'm going to turn it over to you in a moment. When I do, you can start wherever you like.

In the context of flashpoints, I grew up in Boston. I had a fairly privileged, in some ways, but also very difficult childhood. I was always creative. I was always making work. I had some wonderful art teachers who I'm still in touch with. Miss Purdy is my fifth-grade art teacher. Mr. Buckley, my high school art teacher, in many ways, supported the creative process.

In fact, one memory stands out. Mr. Buckley was very supportive. High school was a difficult time for me. In fifth grade, we made these pots. You roll out a rectangle into a cylinder and then you put a circle on the bottom. You have a pot, which is what everybody did. I had this idea. It was out of the box a little bit, so I didn't tell anybody what I was doing. I thought if I take the top of the pot and bend it over into a smile and then add two eyeballs and feet, I can make a frog. I thought it would be cool.

I started making this thing. If you can imagine a cylinder with two big balls around the torso area, everyone thought I was making a nude woman and started laughing at me and teasing me about it. I was getting shut down. I remember Ms. Purdy telling everybody to back off and see what happens. Wait a second, let the process go, and see where it goes.

Just wait a second, let the process go, and see where it goes.

I did create this thing. She was kind enough to glaze it for me and did a very nice job. That was one of the first instances when I remember someone encouraging space for the process to work and not putting too fine a point on it. Ignoring the critics and saying, “Let the process go, and let's see where it goes.” It's still one of my favorite memories. As I said, it was a traditional childhood.

When I went to college, I went to Harvard. When I was picking a major, it was clear to me that I couldn't pick Art. That wasn't a thing. You don't do that as a career, certainly not if you're going to Harvard. It's funny, my wife was an Art major at Harvard. She was a Classics major as well. She was a double major. I chose Computer Science, figuring I would go out and I would make money. I would take Art classes on the side, and that would be my life. I did do that essentially.

I did get a job in software engineering in ‘99 when I graduated and went out to San Francisco during the tech boom. I got a great job and was doing it. I took an Art class, and it was one of those classes that were a foundations class, so big 18x24 charcoal. They'd put up a ball, a cube, or a basic shape, and put a light on it. We're going to spend fifteen hours drawing, getting every detail you can see, every little mark on the thing.

It's funny. Most people try to avoid those classes or tried to get out of them. They were like, “I already know the basics.” I loved it. I loved being in the process. It didn't matter to me almost what it was. Within a few years, I had gone through a few tech jobs and had a manager who saw that my attention was elsewhere and gave me the opportunity to be on the list of layoffs that were coming. I got a severance package and put a down payment on my art program. I went back to art school.

Another flashpoint was one of my colleagues from my first job who encouraged me to do it. This is maybe a little bit controversial. She had me do the landmark forum, which was my first experience with what is personal growth work. I have plenty of critiques about the program, but I got some great nuggets out of that. I saw an opportunity to create a future for myself.

It was very clear in that program that you can create anything you want in your life with the support of coaches and the community. I found myself leaning more into the community that I had out there, creating some very close friends, and creating some big events that were art-focused but community and music-focused. What that got me to was a love for this work and reading books.

I ended up 2004 joining Men's Circle. This was the big shift, the big connection for me. I was out there every single week with a group of men who were dedicated to people living their purpose. This is where my first introduction to the concept of purpose and some of the books that were out there at that time. David Deida's book, The Way of the Superior Man is a little bit controversial, but there are great nuggets in there if you can filter out some of the stuff that maybe wouldn't hold up.

It was that experience and that community where I got introduced to coaching. This is several years ago. That was when I was first introduced to people who were doing this work, who were coaching. I didn't know what that was. It always seems to pretend to me like, “You're a good person to talk to but what does that mean?” I got to see it on the ground, and people made huge changes in their life.

I certainly did, including finishing art school, not doing exactly the same things that everyone else was doing after art school, blending some of my tech and art skills, being a Founder at a startup, and then joining another company as an artist-tech person. You can almost take it all the way back to Miss Purdy, where it's like, “Get in the process and go as long as it feels good. If it doesn't feel good, get support and see what direction you need to go and take it to a finish.” In terms of where I am now, that was the first flashpoint.

Just get in the process and go as long as it feels good. If it doesn't feel good, get support, see what direction you need to go and take it to a finish.

I want to reflect on, everything you shared was amazing, but this particular thing that you mentioned about Ms. Purdy is a powerful movement right there. There's something about that that says that first, they laugh at you, and then they start to realize that he's up to something that's different, and maybe this person doing something different is onto something.

Everyone else in the in-crowd or in the crowd that is doing the same thing thinks, “It's comfortable here in the normal land.” When you start to diverge from that path and do something different, at first, it's super uncomfortable. You realize that that is also the place where some people like you and myself and others are meant to play so we can develop our craft and become the person we're meant to be.

Uncomfortable is a good word. It was very uncomfortable. I found that thread throughout my life of being curious, especially about what happens in those places of discomfort. To be fair, sometimes you lean into an uncomfortable place and you're like, “This is real. I don't like this.” You can move on to other things.

I always like checking in like, “Is this uncomfortable because it doesn't fit your values or because it's a new way of looking at things that other people aren't used to?” For a lot of people, their reaction to discomfort is not curiosity. It's, “I don't want to see that. I don't want to deal with it, please. Let's not have it in my social feed,” whatever. We didn't have social feeds in 2004, but yeah.

Is this uncomfortable because it doesn't fit your values or because it's a new way of looking at things that other people aren't used to?

There are two Cs that come to mind here, Curiosity and then Courage. Those two Cs go hand in hand in this instance where you have the curiosity of, “What would happen if I did this? What would happen if I go out here and do this?” Before you can do that, you have to have the courage to be able to say, “I'm willing to be laughed at or be wrong or fail.” If you don't have the courage, then it's a simple curiosity that you may not explore.

You nailed it. I didn't even say courage, but those are two of my top Cs. When I work with my clients, I was working with someone who was an advisor to the President, Joe Biden. She's got all her own projects going and developing that sense of curiosity. What would it look like if you put all your attention on one of these other projects? Would that fulfill the values and impact you want to have in the world? If that's true, we can work backwards and say, “What are some milestones along the way that you'd like to hit? What is a small thing?”

It's hard to have courage when you're diving deep into the unknown. If you're dipping a toe past that line, it's a little bit easier. That courage, when you do that enough, you start to develop confidence. Stepping into discomfort becomes a way of approaching life, which reaps incredible rewards. For her, she’s built two national organizations, started raising money, and doing all kinds of things that were stuck before because there was this shying off of that edge of discomfort.

VCP 216 | Collaboration

What you shined a light on is a sense of knowing that at first, it's that discomfort. Over time, you build muscle. It starts to become something that you can see yourself doing more of. I want to get back into your story. You shared a lot about your journey, but I feel like there are some things that we might have glossed over that we need to get deeper into. What were some of the scary moments along the way that had you questioning your path or, “Did I make the right choice?” Tell me about some of those potentially hidden maybe flashpoints along the way that you wanted to reveal.

That keeps happening. Much of my social group was very lucrative. If you were alive from ‘99 to 2003, it was not exactly stable. Companies were falling apart all over the place. I have many friends who are still in that world. It was a world where you could see, “I'll do this. I'll start leading teams. Maybe I'll start my own company.” Even if you didn't do that, you have friends who've been in software for many years and are doing well. Certainly, my parents who paid for my undergrad education were like, “What did we do that for?” Truthfully, that was a scary moment because I didn't know what an art career looked like. I was determined to figure it out.

I figured it out over the course of art school and many years after and continued to figure it out. Even at different points, I started teaching around 2011. That was another moment where I'm like, “Have I wasted all this time?” There's this sunk-cost fallacy we have in our lives. It gets harder as we get older. I'm 46. I'm turning 47 this 2023. The flashpoint that I'm working my way around to was a couple of years ago during COVID.

When COVID hit, my wife and I moved upstate New York with our kids and thought, “Maybe this is our life now.” The part that was hard was I stopped making artwork for a while, months if not a year, and that time was committed, and happy to be committed, to managing the household. The kids were home all the time, trying to figure that out.

Also, it's funny because I had a coach years ago who did this exercise with me. We created a crazy vision for my future. He called it The Impossible Game. That was years ago. In a conversation with someone, I put the dots together. This woman had property and an organization and needed direction for it. I was like, “I have this direction.” What ended up happening is she put me in charge of the nonprofit, and we started building these artist retreats.

It was very fulfilling for a short time, but it didn't work out. The team wasn't the right fit, in my opinion, for the project. It ended in a way that was pretty painful for me. I ended up in this pretty dark place, depressed. I had put everything into this big project that was an old dream and it failed spectacularly. I could point to many good things that came out of it, but there were parts of it that were very difficult.

Thankfully, with the support of some coaching and my wife who’s a very direct, practical person. She said to me at one point, “Take all the time you need. You do need to put your brain on this and figure out what you're going to do next.” What we came to is that I'm not going to go back and do what I was doing before. I'm not going to go back and make art, try to show in galleries, do shows, teach, and those things because I'd been doing that for over a decade at that point. I sat down and used some of the coaching tools that I had developed over the years without being a coach.

I'll be honest with you. I had a huge chip on my shoulder about coaching. I thought it was fluffy. There are all these people out there who are like, “I'm a coach.” I'm like, “I don't understand. You didn't do anything about this. You said you're a coach and you talked to people. How do you charge money for this stuff?” Again, I needed a certification for myself. I'm a Harvard kid. I like certificates. I like an achievement. I was like, “I need an achievement to say, ‘I did do this.’”

I ended up applying to school for art therapy. I got accepted, but in the process of waiting for that, I thought I'd take a coaching course. I knew about coaching. I had done coaching, but I had never had training. I thought, “I could probably learn something.” Within the first few weeks of this program, I saw how deep you can go with these tools, how many tools are out there, and how creative a process it is.

I realized in this whole process that everything that I've done, whether it was doing software stuff, creating community events, going to art school, teaching that back, working with artists, and mentoring artists, I realized that I love making art. I continue to make art and I continue to sell my work. I made a list like, “What are all the things that you've done? I run an art gallery. I get to support artists that way.” All of it was in seeing that a-ha moment in somebody else.

Whether I'm working with an artist, this other client I was telling you about, or a guy who's a tech guy and putting a startup on hold and moving into some new directions, when I see people find that curiosity and that courage at that moment and go, “There is a first step I could take where I could potentially move this forward,” not the whole project. If you're writing a book, you don't sit down and write a book. You sit down and write. The small step is, “I'm going to sit down and write for twenty minutes.” That's achievable. That takes a little less courage and gives you an out.

I'm not saying, “I'm telling everybody I'm writing a book this 2023,” and suddenly, I don't write for a week and I start to have that inner critic start telling me and I shut down and I don't write for more. It becomes a snowball. If I can create some small steps or systems in which I could apply that courage and curiosity, that's essentially what I did with coaching. I got more and more into it.

I'm talking to you about somebody who I met in that program and just met for the first time in person. I flew out to visit him. I'm in his office. That was a particularly difficult flashpoint, a very uncomfortable one where I had a lot of self-judgment, fear, and negative self-talk. It was like, “I got nothing to lose to try something new.” You don't also have to have a terrible experience to do that thinking.

I'm working with a group and they're not all in a terrible place. We’re saying, “This is where you are. Where is your thinking stuck in a certain direction?” When I was in that place, my thinking was like, “How do I go back and do the thing I was doing, but maybe a little bit better?” but instead saying, “What if there was another thing? What is it that lights me up? What am I good at? What might that look like?’ it was amazing to me that it didn't look exactly like a career as an artist. That was on that edge of discomfort.

I love what you're sharing. There's something about what you shared, which I appreciate your vulnerability on this. It's frustrating when you're in that place where you don't know what your next moves going to be. When you're feeling that stuckness, it's almost like you have to pause and inventory all the things that have made you into who you are at this moment and then appreciate them. There's an honoring of all the things that have made this moment happen, where you are, wherever that moment is, but then also thinking about, “How can I harness those tools into the next part of the journey?”

Knowing that I don't have to necessarily throw it all away, I can honor it and use it in a different capacity. What you started to tap into is a sense that coaching has a bit of artfulness to it. In fact, I often talk about this idea that coaching is about artful connection. Every conversation is almost like painting a picture and it's about co-creation of that painting. The thought is that what you got yourself into is a different medium of creating art.

I have a Substack. I'm admittedly a little bit behind on posting my articles there, but it's called The Art of Transformation. You said it. It is a process of co-creating. People haven't done coaching or maybe have had consultants help them with various things. I've had people come and say, “What do you want from the session?” They say, “I'd love for you to tell me how to do X, Y, and Z.” That's not exactly it.

We ask a lot of questions. We listen very deeply. We do challenge and call out and say, “You're saying this, but my sense from the way that you're saying it, holding yourself, or maybe you said this other thing that contradicts it.” That's no judgment. “Let's look at that. What is going on there for you? Is there something that you're not looking at or having a hard time admitting you want to do?”

I had another person who was an artist and we worked together. She's in the group that I'm in now, so we continue to work together. She ended up putting aside one of the kinds of art that she had been doing for many years and thought she wanted to do it because everyone was doing it and she was good at it. She discovered that her real passion was in culture and some of the other stuff that she was doing. Through the process of holding that space for the process of creation and discovery, she discovered for herself what brought her joy and what meant her values and felt like it had more of a possibility for her. Still, a scary thing to walk away from something that's working.

I had this conversation with a couple of people before where it's easier when something's broken and you know that you have to walk away from it. It's harder to walk away from something that's working. That's why oftentimes, there's a facade that gets created around corporate environments where they make it as comfortable as possible for you to not want to leave a situation even though it may not be in your best interest to stick.

I worked for a while at Electronic Arts in Redwood City in California. They do all the sports games. They do The Sims. I was in The Sims department. They had a made-to-order cafeteria. They had soccer fields. You could get your oil changed and your teeth cleaned. It was all on campus. They ran into some trouble in the early 2000s from people whistle-blowing how hard they worked people. I got there and I was like, “No wonder.” You could get breakfast, lunch, dinner, sit outside, go for a walk. It's all here. They don't want you to leave. There are some organizations that do that but are very individually oriented.

I have a friend who's a coach and he's doing some great work with a group. He's focusing on working with leadership one-on-one, but also working with all the individuals one-on-one. Where do they want to develop themselves in the company or even out of the company? Great leadership is about developing people. The courage that you have to have as a leader is knowing that that growth for your great employee might be outside of your organization. The good news is life is long and giving that support to someone can come back later. There may be a time later when you end up in a beautiful partnership on something you see has happened over and over again.

VCP 216 | Collaboration

There are a couple of great books about the art world. One story that stands out was from Seven Days in the Art World. It wasn't actually seven days, but it was about seven different kinds of artists. They did a whole piece on Marconi, who's this brilliant sculptor, painter, and muralist, and merchandises huge. Reading about his warehouse, his workshop where he comes up with all the ideas, sketches all these things out, shows the team, and gets feedback, and that's his zone of genius. He has other people do the fabrication. There are other people who have these kinds of things and people hate it there. “We're worker bees. We're not respected.”

Out of his organization, there are many examples who have gone through that process and gone on to have their own amazing and successful art careers with everything that they learned. You imagine, “That's tough for him because he's losing great people.” No, he's got evangelists out there. He's got people out there saying, “I'm where I am because this person supported me.” Don't think that that doesn't come back in the form of any success.

It's like that old quote, “What happens if we don't invest in people and they stay?” The flip side of that is if we invest in people and they go, that's fine. At least, we invest in them. If they stick around, they'll contribute very positively to your organization. All of that speaks to this creating regenerative leadership. That's a powerful way to think about it.

If you're a leader, if you're doing it right, you're creating other leaders. That's what you're doing in the end. To your point, we've all seen this go the other way where you have leadership or corporations that are giving people the bare minimum to stick around. Those people eventually leave. They eventually find something else. Who do you think wants that job? If you know of a company where someone was super supported and went on to create their own thing and be very successful, lots of people are going to want that job. If you know that this company is a meat grinder, you're going to get someone who isn't maybe as invested in their growth.

If you're a leader that’s really doing it right, you're creating other leaders.

We’re going to get back into your story again. What I want to know is what happens next as you're going along your journey. You've made the decision to get into the coaching world. Tell me what's present for you now? Are there any other flashpoints or things that you want to share about the work you're doing?

As I said, it keeps happening. This is what I'm doing full-time now. Much of my time is spent either with individual clients or the group program, which are both for a good chunk of time. It's a pretty intense program. We meet twice a week, but they get an email with a distinction and an exercise every single day that leads them through a process that I was trained in and that I'm being creative and modifying on my own.

There's the individual. There are groups. I do meet with people regularly who are curious to see, “How could a coach support me?” These are the discovery sessions. The way that I learned that and the way that I like to do it is, and you probably aren't familiar with this, but I don't do sales calls. I don't talk to people and say, “This is how often we meet. This is how much it costs.” In fact, in that first meeting, even if they're super blown open and like, “I want to do this.” I won't let them. I say, “I'm going to send you an email with some exercises to do this week. If you're still feeling this lit up in about a week, book another call. We can then talk about how exactly it would work for you.”

I love that process. It's a two-way thing. They have to get value out of that conversation. If they get value out of that conversation and they are excited to work with me, I also have to be excited about what they're doing and what's possible with them. That's often what that second conversation is. “We had a conversation. We worked on something. What would you want to create over, say, a three-month period? What would be exciting to you? Let's workshop that a little bit. Maybe there's something more we could do or we could fine-tune it.”

That's where things are more or less now. I still continue to go, do workshops, train, talk to people like you, learn, and listen to what are people doing, and how people are creating more, deeper, and impactful service for people. A lot of people, when they're into whatever it is, coaching or something else, we were talking about this in a group that I'm in. There's inside-the-box thinking, which often looks like, “How do I do this but more? How do I scale this? How do I do this so that I'm making more money and working less?” That's all great. Make that a goal. Let's work on it.

Where I'm looking for myself is this. Let's say I was doing all that. What greater service could I be providing? What greater support could I be giving to people? Coming from that angle, it's easier to come back and say, “What does that look like?” To be very specific, I'm doing this group program. It's going better than all of my fears were telling me it was going to go.

As we're in the last six weeks of this course, I'm spending time not even necessarily writing or doing anything, but letting my consciousness, if you will, expand on, “What is the next step for this offering?” It is having a big impact. We have a Discord where everyone posts every day and there's conversation. You can see the transformation happening. “Maybe I should think about this differently. I always thought that I had to do it this way. Maybe I could do something totally different that's scary. Maybe that's the answer.” How do I take that?

What I'm thinking about and talking to a few people about is taking that and bringing it to within organizations. My wife is very connected. She runs an organization that does donor advising among other things and funds a lot of nonprofits. We've had a lot of conversations around how the tools that I use, and everything I do is creative. When I say creative tools, I don't necessarily have you paint a picture. I have had people do that, but it's not necessarily sitting down and doing collage. The tools I use are creative thinking. She's very clear that that's very necessary in that world.

I'm talking to some people in that world and starting to ideate on, “How do I take this program and these tools and bring it to have maybe an even bigger impact within an organization?” I work with some folks who are leaders within organizations and working with this one person who's at a museum. You can work with one person and you can do a lot. If you're working with the whole group, if the whole group has committed and said, “We're going to enter this space. We're going to all be open and nonjudgmental and vulnerable,” you can see some real magic happen. That's what I'm thinking about is next for me.

VCP 216 | Collaboration

What you're describing is the sense of, “How do you expand the pie for you to make a bigger impact and to keep yourself engaged?” You want to be inspired by the work and make an impact on the people. There's a natural progression that people go through and whatever they're doing is to say, “What's working? How can I take what's working and find ways to apply it someplace else, diverge, not necessarily in a way that is so outlandish, but it's a little further afield?” That's great. Before we get to the last question, I have one last question. If you reflect back on the journey you've been on to get to where you are, what is one thing that you've learned about yourself that you think is an important thing to share with people at this moment?

I've learned so much about myself. I mentioned the Men's Circle where I had a lot of support and had coaching and even did some coaching over the years. I transitioned to various leadership and non-leadership positions in the art world and focused on a solo career. I have this coach that I work with and I'll credit him with the quote. I don't know where it came from but he always likes to say, “You alone can do it, but you can't do it alone.” I'm learning more and more of that.

Here's a nugget. Every project that I've done that has gone well, whether it's my coaching or the art gallery that I run, even the group program that I'm leading, I have other people in the group who I talk to regularly. Every project that I've done that has gone well, I've done with other people. I did a project, it was 2008. Someone wrote to me, connected through my wife, and they were doing some stuff with Occupy Wall Street. They were a financially-minded group, and they wanted to point out all the flaws in the financial system. They wanted to do this stack of cards and they called it 52 Shades of Greed. They were like, “Can you do the drawings for it?”

Fifty-two drawings take a while. I said, “Maybe if I do the face cards.” I ended up sharing it with a friend. in that one session, we came up with the idea and he and I ended up reaching out and we got something like 40 other artists to contribute art to this project. We had a fully illustrated deck of cards that we ended up running a successful crowdfunding campaign. It ended up in BuzzFeed and Business Insider and The Economist did a little piece on it. It never would've happened if I had done the art and told people about it.

There are lots of functional reasons why this works. You mentioned the diverge and converge model of rehabilitation and design. That's a big one. When you have a group of people in a room without judgment, getting crazy, getting weird, you do get a lot of great ideas. Logistically, I run this art gallery. It was the same thing. Someone's like, “Why don't you post art every day to sell?” I thought, “What if I detect skills? What if I build a system where I could have a different person post every day?” Suddenly, I've got a couple hundred people, and every single day, someone's posting a link to the gallery online. It's a good marketing tool.

When you have a group of people in a room without judgment getting crazy and weird, you do get a lot of great ideas. 

We get stuck in success in this country, especially with this rugged individualism, this, “I've got to go and do it, and then all the glory will be so great. I'll be able to be generous with the glory I'll share with people.” I'd rather share it right out front. With all of these projects, the card deck, the gallery, and even the coaching group, I'm working with a lot of other people always, whether they're involved with the project or it's a mastermind.

I have multiple coaches at this point and they all have a different focus. I am constantly going to them and saying, “Here's my idea. It's pretty fleshed out. Where are the holes? How could it be better?” We have this thing in coaching, which I like, which is a question that you can ask yourself, which takes a lot of the pressure off of anything where at the end of a project or the end of an experience, you say, “I went to Erickson International for coaching. This came out of that training.” You look at it and you say two questions, “What worked well? What was great?”

Even in that terrible experience that I had, there were a few things that worked well, both me having the courage to share my ideas, and me having the courage to step into a new role with people I didn't know. There were a lot of things that were great. What would make it even better? It's not what didn't go well. It's very different. What can you think of that would make it even better? “I would add this thing into our process at the company. If we got rid of this, we’d have more space for this other thing.” It's about coming up with ideas to improve.

When you have that perspective of there's no failure that can't be improved upon, it takes the pressure off. It's less about, “Did it go well or didn't go well?” It's, “What went well? What would you do differently next time?” Suddenly, you're like, “I'm going to get another chance because I have this process.” I've seen that open people up and have people realize that you can take risks of any size, whatever you're comfortable with.

I have a client that I'm working with who has a big project they want to work on. It's in an area that I'm not an expert in, but what I am an expert in is moving through these things. His first step wasn't to sit down and make the work and start the project, it was to go and talk to people who have done it before. Talk to experts. Talk to friends. See what opportunities were out there and what ideas they've been working with. As you said earlier, it's about connecting ideas. When you do that, you get this big pool of ideas and you start to see connections way more than you would if you sat down with your notebook and tried to come up with something.

VCP 216 | Collaboration

We are at the end. I have one last question to ask you. That is, what are 1 or 2 books that have a big impact on you and why?

There's one that comes to mind. As I mentioned to you before the call, I try to have a pretty even blend with my books. I come from the sci-fi fantasy illustration world. I always read that stuff as a kid and continue to read those books. I love them. I have a set of books that is either nonfiction or socially or politically oriented. There's the personal growth stack of books. Some of them are very much oriented to me developing new ideas for what it is that I do.

If you are a person who is at all trying to have an impact in the world, at all trying to become 1% better every day, the book Atomic Habits by James Clear is a must-read. In fact, I recommend both listening to the audio and having the book in front of you. I have both. You're going to want to take notes. I've read a lot of books on habits and I know a bit about the history of the science of expertise.

There's another book that I like that was different called Peak by Anders Ericsson. He's one of the preeminent researchers in the science of expertise. In Atomic Habits, James Clear takes that research and a lot of the other research, goes, and debunks some of it, but he takes all of it. With everything, he says, “Here's what you can do. If you're trying to become better at X or have a bigger impact on X, here are small steps you can take.”

Building habits is hard. The example of everyone joining the gym on January 1st and they're empty on the third, we take on these big, “I'm going to be this kind of person,” but he shows you how to take it down to these small, manageable steps that are so powerful. If you're willing, I believe that it'll change your life.

As a side note, I did a video podcast. It was supposed to be art-oriented and creative-oriented. We did twenty episodes or something. Speaking of courage, I emailed James Clear and his book hadn't quite come out yet. It was coming out around that time. I said, “I'm a big fan of your newsletter. I've been following you for a long time, a lot of valuable insights, especially for creative folks about leadership.” He joined me in a video interview. I got to interview him. The next day, I saw him in Good Morning America, and my inner critic was going, “What?” I could've not heard anything, which would've been fine. It would be expected, but I got to have a great conversation with him.

I wish we could spend more time talking about that, but we do have to wrap up. I have to start by saying, Marc, thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing all your insights and great stories.

Absolute pleasure.

It was powerful with great insights. I also want to ask where can people find out more about you if they want to learn more about your work.

I do have a website for my coaching. It's Marc Scheff Coaching. There are a lot of resources there. If I were to suggest to someone how you would get a little bit of a taste of my thinking and what I do, there are a couple of ways, as I mentioned. is my Substack. I have a stack of articles that I'm going to start posting there again. There's some great stuff there.

As an aside, @MarcScheffCoaching on Instagram. I rebooted my Instagram because bots killed my other account. I'm starting over there. I've been doing a lot of writing and putting a lot of the kinds of insights you and I are talking about and stories and tools into Instagram. If you were to go to my Substack, I have my newsletter there. I have another newsletter if you want a newsletter that's also a little bit about my journey. Those are two good places to start, but you can find links to all of them on

Thanks again. Thanks, readers, for coming on the journey. That’s a wrap.

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