• Thrive Inc.

Finding the Dragon Fire Within with Dov Baron

We’re taking a break from our Beauty of Conflict Teams series this week as we have an amazing guest joining us on the podcast. This week, we’re interviewing the incredible Dov Baron and he joins us to talk about dragons – who they are and why they’re so important in the world.

Dov Baron is a bestselling author and has been named one of Inc Magazine’s Top 100 Leadership Speakers and a number one Fortune 500 Podcast Host. He is one of the Top 30 Global Leadership Gurus and he believes the world needs more dragon leaders who are committed to living their purpose, standing in their truth, and empowering others to find their fire to do the same.

Join us this week for a fascinating discussion about identity and the importance of living authentically. We discuss why curiosity and courage is the key to success and how finding your dragon fire within will enable you to feel fulfilled and make the difference you want to make in the world.

If you want to make a difference for either yourself and your career, or your team and your organization, be sure to reach out to us and sign up for coaching! We can come and do a book club or simply visit with your team! Don’t worry about physical limitations – we work really well virtually, too!

If you enjoyed the show, please share the podcast with your family and friends, or post a five-star review on iTunes. Rating and reviewing the show helps spread the word, which means less friction and suffering for everyone, and who doesn’t want that?

Listen on Apple Podcast | Stitcher | Spotify

Learn More:

  • The difference between achievement and recognition.

  • Why your identity is so powerful.

  • The importance of being authentic.

  • What healthy conflict looks like.

  • How to stop comparing yourself to others.


Full Transcript:

CrisMarie: Welcome to The Beauty of Conflict, a podcast about how to deal with conflict at work, at home and everywhere else in your life. I am CrisMarie.

Susan: And I'm Susan.

CrisMarie: We run a company called Thrive Inc, and we specialize in conflict resolution, stress management coaching and building strong, thriving teams and relationships.

Susan: Now, we know, no one likes conflict, not even us and we’ve written two books on the topic. In our work over the last 20 plus years we’ve found most people avoid, manage or diffuse conflict. The problem is when you opt out of conflict in these ways you miss the creativity, the connection and the possibility that lies in conflict.

CrisMarie: We also know 2020 has been, well, let’s face it, a stressful year. And what Susan and I realized is all the tools that we’ve developed and utilized around conflict apply directly to uncertainty which is what we’re living in now.

Susan: In this podcast we have tools, concepts and interviews that will help you cope with the stress and uncertainty of conflict, of Covid, of social justice issues and yes, even politics. We hope you’ll walk away from this episode with some fresh ideas that change your day, your week and even your life.

Hi. We are going to take a break this week from our Beauty of Conflict for Teams series because we had an opportunity to interview a special guest, Dov Baron.

CrisMarie: Dov Baron is The Dragonist. Inc. Magazine’s top 100 leadership speaker, number one Fortune 500 podcast host, Entrepreneur Magazine’s contributor, Loyal Authority, guiding us in how to recognize and nurture dragons. And you might wonder what a dragon is. Well, it’s top talent that are hidden in our organizations. Besides being a bestselling author of One Red Thread and Fiercely Loyal, How High-Performing Companies Develop and Retain Top Talent, Dov has been named one of Inc. Magazine’s top 100 leadership speakers to hire.

And is one of the top 30 global leadership gurus. He believes the world needs more dragon leaders committed to living their purpose, standing in their truth and empowering others to find their fire to do the same. And I think you’re going to enjoy this episode. We talk about how we get stuck in wanting to be loved through our production, what we’re doing, the difference between achievement and recognition, which is really what we crave.

Susan: He’s just a fun guy to listen to. He’s a force. He’s passionate.

CrisMarie: Of nature.

Susan: He is a dragon.

CrisMarie: He is.

Susan: And he will tell you more about that in this episode. So please listen and share what you get out of it as well.

CrisMarie: Enjoy.

CrisMarie: We are thrilled today to have Dov Baron on our podcast. And we were earlier on his. We’ll share that episode. But he is a leadership speaker. You’ve really profoundly been involved in the leadership field for many, many years, I mean we were…

Dov: A couple of weeks now.

CrisMarie: We were digging back into your background and reading about your stories, your life transformational stories. So The Dragonist is your current brand that you’re really talking a lot about. We want to talk about that today but welcome, Dov to the show, the Beauty of Conflict.

Dov: Thank you so much ladies, it is a pleasure and honor to be here with you. I loved our conversation when you guys were on my podcast. And I’ve been really looking forward to this one. I love what you guys are about. And I am really looking forward to serving you and your audience in any way that I possibly can.

CrisMarie: Excellent.

Susan: My memory is when we actually did ours there was another big – it was a monumental kind of eruption like all of much that 2020 was. At that particular time I think it was when there was a lot of the social justice issues coming up, protesting and things. And now we’re six months out of that and we’re into an election cycle in the States that has never ended and continues to just demonstrate the level of distrust, and division, and we have. Now, I don’t think it’s the same. You’re up in Canada, right?

CrisMarie: British Columbia.

Dov: Yeah, I am but as you know I am asked as a pundit to speak about American politics. I follow American politics. I speak on American politics. I speak on leadership but it’s in the business and in the political sense. And so I have followed American politics since I was 10 years old which is now what? 18 years.

Susan: Okay, I’m going to go with that age because that would put me in a similar category.

Dov: Sure. Prematurely grey.

Susan: Yes.

Dov: So yeah, I mean so I keep my finger on the pulse. And here’s an interesting thing about it is that the great analogy is a fish cannot describe water. And I find that very often people who live in the United States are not fully aware of their own political situation because they’re living in it. And so I have the advantage of being somewhat more objective that keeps me away from the extreme left or the extreme right.

CrisMarie: Well, we’re in the water but we know it’s very polarized and turning more divisive. And I know you get asked this all the time from an outside perspective, can we actually recover from this polarization in our country do you think and how?

Dov: Well, I don’t think it’s possible to recover from polarization by looking at it as polarization. But that’s the biggest challenge with it. The biggest challenge I see and you guys know this because you’re experts in conflict. But the biggest challenge with it is any time we’re approaching any form of conflict with right, wrong, left, right, good, bad, nobody wins. So I have a little Instagram post that I put out which said, “The media is telling us that we’re extremely polarized. But the truth is the majority of people are politically homeless.”

That’s the truth of it. And so if we address that, so as a guy who was recently arrested, I think maybe even today or yesterday by the FBI, as a participant in the riot on The Capitol, the storming of The Capitol. The right news is claiming that he is associated to BLM. BLM said they don’t want anything to do with him. They’ve never wanted anything to do with him, he’s a nut job.

Now, but he’s a really great example of how we come together because people have said to me things like, “Well, the extreme Antifas are violent and the extreme right, the Proud Boys are violent. And why are these people driven by violence?” They’re not. They are not. They’re driven by exactly the same thing and that’s how we bring them together. So what are they driven by? They’re driven by a form of anarchy. Now, what does that mean? We’re not going into crazy politics here. We’re just looking at a simple form.

When Trump was elected many people said, “He was elected by a bunch of white supremacists etc.” And I said, “No, he wasn’t, he was voted in by exactly the majority who voted for him initially, we’re exactly the same people who voted for guess who? His enemy, Obama.” And they’re like, “What are you talking about?” Obama said, “Yes we can”, to hope and change. The people who voted for him were many people who had never voted before. They wanted something different.

They saw the political system as corrupt, that it is driven by lobbyists and there’s the money in politics that is perverse and they wanted that out so they voted for Obama. Well, guess what? He’s a corporate democrat. So he failed them miserably. Now, so they went, “Okay, let’s get a guy who’s not a political guy who’s talking about draining the swamp.” Yeah, but that’s what he talked about, use that rhetoric. And as a result they voted for him.

So when we look on the extremes what we see is an anarchistic driven movement which is we think the system is messed up and is run by money. The idea of the American Republic was just the same as the Romans which is a government of the people, by the people, for the people. And it’s become a government of the corporation, by the corporation, for the corporation. Trump’s as guilty of that as any corporate democrat. But the point of the matter is that on both sides they’re being fueled by this rhetoric which is actually saying, “I’m on your side.”

And as I wrote about in 2015, the biggest scam ever pulled on the American people was a guy born with a gold spoon in his mouth, he said, “I can represent you.” It’s craziness.

Susan: Now, though I am appreciating where we’re going with this. I also do want to get out of really kind of the extremist, the polarization, even the politics of this because I do think that is where sometimes it’s so easy to sit in a living room somewhere and say, “Those people are…” And really the work I think that we have to do if we want to get out of polarization is turn it back around to where am I living that polarization out? Where am I not speaking? Where am I being an extremist or right, wrong or good and evil?

And I mean I think that it’s a political question to ask, it’s also a leadership question to ask and it’s also a deeply personal question to ask. And I think your career, I mean I loved reading your bio about where you’re – you were already doing what you were doing. But then you had that fall that seemed like it was life changing. And that actually seemed like the moment you turned more inward to your own inner, what is my core here, is that?

CrisMarie: Tell us that just for the listeners, Dov, because that was a powerful story to read, I know it happened a while ago.

Dov: Okay. So even in what I described politically, what it is, is I believe you’re absolutely right, that it’s an internal journey. But it’s also the external journey of seeing myself in the other. And that’s why I wanted to point out the extreme left is the extreme right. The extreme right is the extreme left. And so for me, just to give you the context of what was being brought up is in June 1990 I had already been a speaker for six years. I traveled every major city of Australia, Canada, the US. I had spoken all over the place. I was as successful as I’d ever been.

And I, to give you context, you should know that by then I was, June 1990 I was already 32 years old. And I had started my personal journey looking inward through therapy at 19. So I was not new to that world. I already had 13 years of being deeply embedded, taken trainings, workshops. I was a therapist. I’d been all of those things so it wasn’t like I was new to that journey. And like I said, I was very successful.

And in June 1990 I was an adrenalin junky. That was my drug of choice. And so I did all kinds of crazy shit all the time including free climbing. So on a particular day I decided to go to a place called Brandywine Falls in British Columbia is where pretty close to where the 2010 Olympics were. And after climbing down to see this beautiful 200 foot glacial waterfall decided that a friend and I should go behind the waterfall and see what it would be like, which is kind of crazy in and of itself. Because the power of that water can pull your arm off quite literally.

We went behind and we managed to get behind that, it was a very difficult thing to do. But when we came out I was full of adrenalin so instead of going and hiking back up which is about a 45 minute hike I said to my buddy, “Let’s climb the face.” And he’s like, “We’re soaking wet.” And I know. Well, mountain climbing people think it’s crazy. It’s not, you have equipment. You’re fine. Free climbing people think it’s crazy. It is but you’re well trained and you have chalk and you have the right shoes.

Free climbing while soaking wet, that is insane and you could definitely put me in that category because that’s what I began to do. And at about 120 feet I reached for a rock that dislodged a bigger rock, that came hurtling down, hit me in the face and sent me down at maximum velocity onto the boulders below, not gravel, not grass, boulders that smashed me to pieces, or as I like to say I fell a 120 feet from a self-imposed pedestal and landed on my ego. My face was smashed to pieces, the gory details don’t matter.

But the recovery process was of course as you can imagine brutal, but the recovery process physically was far less than it was emotionally. So you’re absolutely right, I was turned inward again. If you’d have asked me 10 minutes before I fell on my own purpose, yes, have I done my inner work? I would have said yes but there’s a whole other level to that hero’s journey. And that turned me really deeply into the cave. I think I danced around the Jungian cave but I’d never sort of gone into the back and that’s what it did. I spent 18 months in that very dark place.

So yeah, I had to look at everything that I was righteous about and discover you know what? Nothing’s true unless it’s tested. So one of my sayings is if you believe it, it doesn’t mean it’s true. It means you believe it. So you probably adopted it from someone and unless you can question it, it’s not really yours. So I had to question everything.

CrisMarie: Wow, powerful. And I mean I know that some people don’t even understand having that inner work, some leaders. And to have that level of forced exploration because you’re in so much pain is powerful. And I think it sounds like it’s led you to this whole dragonist, finding your dragon. And so can you tell…

Susan: The dragon’s lair.

CrisMarie: Yes, inside the back of the cave there.

Susan: I love that, back, yeah.

CrisMarie: Can you talk a little bit because I think a lot of times when Susan and I are coaching teams and leaders, even to encourage, people are so worried about being perfect, getting a raise, climbing the ladder, that external journey.

Susan: Their personal brand.

CrisMarie: Getting their personal brand that one, they’re not even recognizing how much leverage they have, how they’re creating their reality inside of themselves and how they can work with that, understanding themselves and creating a whole different experience of their lives. And they don’t also understand how, like I didn’t, I didn’t understand how I was affecting the people around me. So can you talk more about that?

Dov: Yeah, thank you. I really appreciate you being willing to go to that depth. Again, my opinion, I think that we live in a goal oriented world. I mean you know that as a sportsperson, alright. We live in a goal oriented world. We live in a world of objectivism where the high priestess of that is Ayn Rand. And personally, this is my opinion, it might piss off a few people but I’ve never done that before, so it will be the first time. I think Ayn Rand was a narcissist and I think she’s extremely dangerous to our culture. But she is held as the high priestess of neo capitalism.

And so people become very driven by an externalization of who they are in their achievements, in their identity of achievements. And this individuality that America was built on and I love that but not at the cost of humanity which [crosstalk] what we’ve got. So the people I work with, the leaders I’m working with are those people who have achieved insane levels of success. They might be political people. They might be leaders in the world. They might be CEOs or athletes, and entertainers, and Olympians, whatever it might be. And they go, “Alright, what’s next?”

CrisMarie: Is this all there is?

Dov: Is this it, really? And they then will often fall into a dark depression, and drugs, and alcohol, and other destructive behaviors take on place. And then they have to look inwardly. And the people I work with, I always describe them as extremely courageous because if I ask the average person in the street and say, “So tell me the most important thing in life to another human being?” And they’ll tell me things, blah, blah, blah. And I say, “Well, what’s more important than that?” And they go, “Well, I guess life itself.” Everybody will get to that.

And I go, “What’s the one thing in life that’s more important than life itself to the individual?” They go, “God.” And I go, “No.” And they go, “What?” I go, “Your identity.” People will die for their identity. They will strap bombs to themselves and blow themselves up. They will take out a school because of an identity. Identity is the most powerful thing. My clients confront that. My identity is I’m an Olympian, I’m a multi medalist, I’m a CEO, I’m a billionaire, I’m a political leader, I’m a whatever it is. Oh shit, what if I’m not?

They confront that so they can find what I call a dragon fire within them which is their need to serve in the world. And if you want to know what it is, you want to serve in the general sense, it’s the thing you needed. Bring to the world the thing you needed. And that’s what that work is. That’s what dragon fire is. You find that fire within yourself that has become disenfranchised in order for you to become successful. We reintegrate it. The focus is never to be more successful but it’s always what happens.

These people become more successful because as you said, that’s where the resource is but they also become deeply fulfilled.

Susan: So what was your dragon fire, what was it that, you know?

CrisMarie: What is?

Susan: What is? Your red thread too, because I read that part of your book. I like that concept.

Dov: Thank you.

CrisMarie: Prolific author.

Dov: Yeah, a little bit. So like I said, the day before I fell if you’d have asked me have I found my purpose I would have said yes, because I want to help people, who doesn’t? Unless you’re a dick, most people want to help.

Susan: We have some of those maybe. But let’s just leave it at most would say they want to help people.

Dov: I want to help people. And if people say to me, “I know my purpose is to help people.” I’m like, “Get in line dude.” That doesn’t do anything. So I was doing that same thing and I was good at it. And I had done some great things. But when I had to look at it there is a story that I tell and it’s that I was seven years old. By the way I did not remember this into my 30s. I worked hard on my therapy and I was never able to get there and in my 30s it came to me after I had fallen.

And I came down the stairs into a narrow hallway as a seven year old boy and the front door was open, it was summertime. The front door was open and the light that was coming in through the door was blocked partially by my father’s silhouette. My father’s 6’1, he was a reasonably built guy, blocking out a lot of the light and I just intuitively knew it wasn’t good.

And I said, “Dad, dad, where you going?” And he sort of stalled for a half second, turned around, walked back towards me, crouched down, put one hand on my shoulder, then the other hand on my shoulder and then ruffled my hair, almost like knighting me, ruffled my hair and said, “I’m going now son, you’re the man of the house.” Now, I had siblings and my mom who was in a very, very dark depression. And in that moment my childhood was evaporated. Talk about a setup for imposter syndrome.

So I always wanted someone who could see me beyond what I was doing because I began to do, I became, you guys will understand this from psychology, but I became loved by production. The more I did the more I figured I was being loved. So I could cook by the time I was seven. I learned to do dishes. I mean I was ironing. I was doing all kinds of crazy shit kids shouldn’t have to do, but I was doing all that stuff. And the good thing was when I mopped the floor my mom would praise me but then it would become expected.

So I mopped the floor, mom was like, “Okay.” So I have to do a new thing, and then a new thing, something else.

CrisMarie: Something else.

Dov: And then I realized I was living my life that way. I was living my life loved by production. And so what I had to look at to find my dragon fire was what am I really looking for? While the answer of course in the simple form is I’m looking for love that is not by production. Okay. But what does that mean? Well, for me I had to look at – and this is a clue I would give everybody I want you to think about the movies that make you cry. I really want you to think about that. So there’s a show, you may be familiar with it called This Is Us. Do you know that show?

CrisMarie: Yeah.

Dov: I love that show, I really love it. Really well written, always got to have a box of tissues, always. Me, tough guy, alright. Snot bubbles. But there’s a scene in the first season where for those of you who don’t know, there is these parents, they have triplets, one of the babies dies and they adopt a third child. They are white, their kids are white and they adopt a black kid. And it’s about the realization of the adoptive father realizing by the time his kid’s are about 10 that this kid doesn’t have any connection to the black culture and he realizes he needs that.

So he takes him to a karate class and in the karate class the karate teacher is a black guy, has all the dads because it’s supposed to be in the 70s, 80s, all the dads on the floor in a pushup position. And he asks the sons to get on their backs. And the dads have to do pushups with the kids on their back while he gives this speech. And the speech is that we will carry you on our backs, we will hold you in strength. Well, holy fuck, I mean snot bubbles, all that because that’s it. That is it.

My job, my purpose is to see the dragon fire in you, to see the disenfranchised parts of you and bring those home and how do I do that? By holding a vision of you that is inclusive of all those disenfranchised parts and I will hold it while you fight me to tell me it’s a lie. And I will hold it until you are strong enough to take it from me. That is my dragon fire. That is what I do with every leader I work with, whether they’re male or female, gay, straight, pink, purple or striped, it doesn’t matter, this is what it is.

This is what it is. And so what I say to people all the time is, “If you really want to understand this even from a place of dealing with conflict.” I have a central philosophy that guides my life. And you know it’s all about curiosity for me. When people say, “Well, how do you get to that?” It’s very simple. Everybody I meet is trying to feel better.

Susan: It’s a good point, yeah.

Dov: About what, I don’t know. But I need to be curious about that. Everybody is trying to feel better and we’re achieving these objective goals to feel better. And the problem with it is, it works but for a very short period of time, then we go onto the next one. So my job is to help them feel better through internal work so they can hold that disenfranchised part of themselves, that dragon fire and then bring a gift to the world. A long way of answering your question, I apologize, it’s been a long one, but.

CrisMarie: No. I love that, even when you described that scene, Dov, because I imagine that’s not what – you didn’t have your dad to hold you up, so no wonder you want to give that to other people. That’s very powerful.

Dov: One of the things that I know about this and I hear it all the time from my clients and it comes spontaneously and I don’t think I’ve had a client who’s never said it to me. Every client’s said to me in some way, shape or form, “Thank you for seeing me.”

CrisMarie: That is so powerful.

Susan: It’s such a gift and one that is so missed I think in people’s lives, actually really being seen.

CrisMarie: We talk about, and this is Haven, over in British Columbia. We talk about recognition versus acknowledgement.

Susan: Versus achievement.

CrisMarie: Achievement, excuse me, recognition versus achievement. And what you’re saying, we keep trying to fill this hole, if I achieve you’ll see me, you’ll love me, I’ll matter. And really we want to be recognized just for who we are as a human being. And when that happens it’s such a relief. It is so – I mean it’s a cracking open relief to know that somebody sees me. I don’t have to perform to make you see me.

Dov: We’re so busy trading our authenticity for approval that we don’t even recognize that that’s what we’re doing. I always say like when my wife and I do couples work. And I’ll say, “How do you think people meet?” And they go, you know, and they tell me all the ways. And I say, “And what do you think happens when they meet?” And they’ll tell me that. And I’ll say, “No, here’s what really happens.” And they go, “What?” And it goes like this, “Hi, who do you want me to be?” That’s actually what’s happening. We don’t show up as us, we show up and because our brain is that way.