Seth Kahan, founder and CEO of Visionary Leadership

Seth Kahan is the Founder and CEO of Visionary Leadership. As a leadership and performance improvement authority in the Grand Challenge space, Seth has helped over 100 CEOs and other high-performers achieve large-scale change, innovation, and growth.

Listen in as Seth explains the process used by Visionary Leadership to solve Grand Challenges by working with organizations to define their Common Agenda, create an alliance of partners, and implement a game plan at a Design Summit.

Seth also shares how his upbringing and experience in street theatre cultivated his passion and skills for solving intractable problems.

Finally, he shares his strategies for getting hundreds of people from various organizations engaged and excited to tackle their Grand Challenge while allaying their fears.

Episode Details

Show Notes

Seth Kahan is the Founder and CEO of Visionary Leadership. As a leadership and performance improvement authority in the Grand Challenge space, Seth has helped over 100 CEOs and other high-performers achieve large-scale change, innovation, and growth.

Seth defines a “Grand Challenge” as “a big systemic issue that resists superficial solutions. It’s usually hard for a single mind to grasp because it’s systemic.” Climate change and lowering the stigma around mental illness, he says, are two examples of Grand Challenges.

Seth helps organizations define and articulate their intractable problems, thereby giving them the confidence and the resources they need to attack those problems.

When taking on a Grand Challenge, an organization’s first step is to create a Common Agenda or the core, agreed-upon outcome. They must then ask the question, “Who else is invested in that common agenda?” These will be the partners that make up their alliance and, often, these partners are not usually who one would expect them to be.

Seth, for example, worked with the American Nurses Association (ANA), whose Common Agenda is to “measurably improve the health of America’s 4 million nurses and, by extension, the country’s.”

The ANA found a valuable partner in the U.S. Army, who see the deterioration of nurses’ health as a national security threat. Harvard Medical School also joined the alliance since they had been conducting the biggest longitudinal study on nurses’ health in the world, and looked to tap into ANA’s 4 million intended participants to supplement their existing 8000.

Once that network has been established, Visionary Leadership holds an event called a Design Studio. Here, the leading thinkers and activists in the industry come together to review and optimize the proposed game plan as well identify key leaders among that group to join the Steering Committee for the Grand Challenge.

From there, working groups are formed to address tactical issues such as metrics, funding, social outreach, coordination, logistics, and other factors specific to that field.

Finally, nine months after the Design Studio comes a Design Summit that brings together hundreds of people from various organizations around the United States focused on addressing the Grand Challenge. The game plan is shared, and everyone is offered a role to participate in the agenda.

Listen in as Seth goes on to share how his upbringing and experience in street theatre cultivated his passion and skills for solving intractable problems.

Finally, he shares his strategies for getting hundreds of people from various organizations engaged and excited to tackle their Grand Challenge while allaying their fears.


Amanda Setili (00:05):
We all want to do work that we love. And as leaders, entrepreneurs, and employees, wouldn’t it be great to create workplaces where work feels like play, where people are tuned in to the changes going on in the world, around them, where they’re constantly learning spotting new opportunities and taking action to go after them. I’m Amanda [inaudible]. And this is the fearless growth podcast where my guests and I will explore the mindsets and choices that lead you and your organization to outstanding performance. Today. My guest is Seth Kahan. Seth spent much of his career at the world bank where he worked on complex global problems. Spanning many different cultures is now a nationally recognized expert on grand challenges. Welcome
Seth Kahan (00:54):
Thank you, Amanda. It’s great to be here.
Amanda Setili (00:57):
Tell me what a grand challenge is. Many of our audience members may not really understand that term. Sure.
Seth Kahan (01:03):
Grand challenge is a big systemic issue that resists superficial solutions usually is hard for a single mind to grasp because it’s systemic. So for example, climate change or social justice are examples of grand challenges. So it’s a big, bold goal that I help organizations to define and articulate where they lead alliances or networks of organizations to attack.
Amanda Setili (01:29):
To me, the two key ideas are that it’s a difficult problem that spans many aspects of, of the world and people, and also that you build alliances. So tell me about the alliances and who really initiate something like this and how do they, how do they think about who needs to be involved and how do they kind of harness the forces to attack the,
Seth Kahan (01:55):
So an organization that is in an arena where there is an intractable challenge. So for example, I worked with the American nurses association on nurses health because we know that in every category, except for smoking nurses are worse off than the average American. So in terms of obesity, stress, sleep, all of that, they’re worse off. And yet of course, nurses know what they need to do to be healthy. If anybody knows what you need to do healthy, it’s a nurse. So, but there’s this clearly there’s this gap and the gap is impacted by everything from hiring practices to you know, mores and taboos in the nursing profession to mindsets, to policies and hospitals, all kinds of things. So that’s an example of an intractable problem and the American nurses association took it on because that’s their target audience are nurses. So normally you’ll have like a host or backbone organization that sponsors a grand challenge in their domain.
Amanda Setili (02:51):
And what other entities did they reach out to, to help them with this?
Seth Kahan (02:56):
Well, when you, when you take on a grand, one of the first things you do is you create what’s called a common agenda. And basically what that is, is it’s the core agreed upon outcome that you’re going for. So with the nurses, it was to measurably improve the health of America’s 4 million nurses. And by extension the countries that was their common agenda. So then you ask the question who else is invested in that common agenda and those become your partners. And they’re not necessarily the kind of organizations that you would think of. For example the U S army became one of our partners. And the reason that they did is because they see nurses’ health as a national security threat. If they can’t serve the war fighter with a healthy nurse, then they’re in trouble. So, and I didn’t even know that I had no idea that the U S army would see nurses’ health as a national security threat.
Seth Kahan (03:44):
So they became a major player with us, Harvard medical school joined. And the reason Harvard medical school joined was because they were doing the biggest longitudinal study on nurses health in the world. And they had only 8,000 participants. Well, we had a target of 4 million participants. So even if we failed miserably, we could stand to multiply the number of participants in their study. And so they were invested in it. So you see how these people have very different conceptions of why the health of nurse of a nurse is so important. One of them wants to actually plum the health of nurses and gather data. Another one wants to make sure nurses are healthy to serve the war fighter, but would they joined our Alliance. And they were part of this network of which is today hundreds of organizations that are supporting healthy nurse healthy nation.
Amanda Setili (04:31):
So what does the structure of this look like? Like how would is there a steering committee that’s within the initiating organization and did they have monthly meetings or is everything handled through some kind of online tool where people coordinate? How does
Seth Kahan (04:49):
So an organization decides that they want to take on this initiative? So, you know, the CEO of the American nurses association decided she wanted to measurably improve the health of America’s nurses. Right now I’m working with the Huntsman mental health Institute. The Huntsman family just gave $150 million to create the Huntsman mental health Institute at the university of Utah. And one of their core initiatives is to lower the stigma around mental illness on a national scale. And so that’s their grand challenge. So you can see again, how the grand challenge is centered inside an organization that has a mandate that’s relevant and that, you know, identifies, this is an area we want to have an impact in. So the reason I’m using the Huntsman’s now is because I can tell you exactly what it is I’m doing with them, because I’m doing it right now.
Seth Kahan (05:36):
So one of the first things we do is that we have to identify in general, what is that common objective? Then we hold an event and it’s called, I call it a design studio. I actually have structured this event. I’ve led it for several organizations. And what the design studio does is it brings together the leading thinkers and activists in the space. So for example, at our design studio, we’re going to have the CEO of the American psychiatric association. We’re going to have the CEO of the American psychological association. We’re going to have the chief medical officer of the association for suicide prevention. These are all of the, there’s a list of about 15 or 20 of these people. And they’re, they’re the leading thinkers in this space around stigma and mental illness. We’re going to convene them. And we’re going to share with them a draft game plan for how we would implement this grand challenge.
Seth Kahan (06:26):
And I can talk more about how that’s developed, and there’s two things that are going to fall out of this design studio event. One is that that draft plan is going to jump a quantum leap in its quality, because we’re going to have this amazing brain trust of people who are going to review it and provide substantive input. The second thing that’s going to happen is that we’re going to identify leaders among that group who will join our steering committee to steer the grand challenge. And when we talk about a steering committee, we’re talking about it in the usual business sense that you have a group of people who will do the strategy, they’ll identify opportunities to be seized, challenges that have to be overcome. They’ll steer the process. So that’s the first event. And that happens usually right away, like within 90 days of when a grand challenge is formally launched, you have this design studio, you pull together these leading thinkers and you meet then what spills out of that, our working groups and the working groups take on issues like metrics funding, social outreach, coordination, communication, you know, specific to this field.
Seth Kahan (07:28):
So as you can imagine, working in mental illness is a different group of people than working with nurses health. So you want to, you want to develop metrics that are specific to lowering the stigma around mental illness. Then about nine months after that design studio, you have a summit and I call it a design summit because all of these events are collaborative in nature. They’re not about telling people what we’re doing. They’re about engaging people in what we’re doing and using their input to make it better. So the word design is always present. The design summit will involve hundreds of people in organizations, and it will bring together all of the players in the United States who are focused on lowering the stigma around mental illness. And we’ll share our game plan. We’ll, we’ll come up with a way for everybody to participate in the Huntsman mental health Institute, just like the American nurses association becomes what’s called the backbone organization. So they have a skeleton staff that provides basic coordination and communication, but they don’t do a lot of the work on the ground. A lot of the work on the ground is done by the partner organizations and activists who joined the grand challenge.
Amanda Setili (08:37):
Many people do you anticipate would come to the design summit? It sounds like a huge conference.
Seth Kahan (08:41):
Yeah, it is. Probably, you know, a couple hundred people is reasonable.
Amanda Setili (08:47):
And then the skeleton staff, what would, in your ideal scenario, what would that consist of? How many people would that be?
Seth Kahan (08:54):
It’s, you know, it grows over time. So initially it might be say two or three equivalents of full-time staff, but usually it’s a, there are pieces of people, right? So you have a marketing communications person. You, you must have the CEO involved. So I’m working very closely with mark Rappaport. Who’s the CEO of the
Amanda Setili (09:13):
Huntsman mental health Institute. And so as the initiative grows, so does the need for the skeleton staff, but it never gets outrageous. I mean, I anticipate that when we’re in full swing, we’ll have somewhere between four and five people working on this, you know? Yeah. So this is a way for an organization that sees an intractable problem to have a huge impact on the world and the problem simply by being a organizing point or a kind of convener of other experts and other people with resources and passion, it sounds to me like, yes,
Seth Kahan (09:55):
That’s a good way to say it. Although I will say that the word I’m not sure I would use the word simply there. And the reason is because the grand challenge has a major impact on the organization that takes it on it becomes one of the primary initiatives and it kind of changes the flavor of everything that goes on in that organization. So when the nurses, for example, took on healthy nurse, healthy nation they were doing many other things that had nothing to do with improving nurses, health, but healthy nurse, healthy nation ended up penetrating and permeating all of their other activities. It became part of their identity as an organization. And that’s an important thing to be aware of. So this is not like a project that’s isolated that has traditional milestones, and that has a clear execution, a deadline where we can say, we’re done, it’s around a commitment to addressing an issue that is basically holding back society or your, or your audience from achieving their potential. And some of the grand challenges that I’m starting to work on now include things like climate change. So we’re talking about things that are holding back civilization.
Amanda Setili (11:07):
Do you ever see a conflict between the grand challenge objective and the other objectives of the organization like profitability, other demands on their time? How does that work?
Seth Kahan (11:20):
Well, no, there’s not a conflict between it and profitability because a grand challenge, well executed becomes a major marketing tool for the organization. In fact, healthy nurse, healthy nation was responsible for the largest contribution level of the, the foundation for the American nurses association. The there’s a lot of positive press that comes out of it. So it’s definitely, it adds to the esteem in the marketplace of an organization. Now does it change? Does it compete for resources inside the, to the extent that the organization is not aligned with their grand challenge? Like for example, if there were a program in the AMA the American nurses association that was not aligned with nurses health, that there would be a conflict eventually, and that would have to get ironed out. Right. And what you of course would hope is that it would emerge aligned with nurses health, but it’s like a thing that runs through the organization and everything that’s not aligned with. It has to deal with that.
Amanda Setili (12:23):
Well, I could just imagine that something else is not necessarily in direct conflict with it, but it just hugs resources away from it. So with nurses, obviously the potential shortage of nurses due to burnout and the COVID situation has to be, I would think pretty top of mind for them right now. And maybe I would just think that all of their mind share suddenly gets shifted to a new thing. And it’s at risk of forgetting about or deemphasizing the original goal of nurses health, but how do you see that happening?
Seth Kahan (12:59):
I think that nurses wellbeing is a hundred percent aligned with nurses health. And I think, I think that in that particular example, I know that I’m actually working with the national academy of medicine on clinician well-being in the pandemic. And one of the things that we see is that we are right now in an unsustainable relationship with frontline healthcare workers and the burden on frontline healthcare workers is not going to switch off at some magic date in the future. We’re going to be in this situation for a long time. So as a country, we are experiencing an unsustainable relationship with our frontline healthcare workers. Something like 40% of frontline healthcare workers right now are either quitting or contemplating quitting, and we’re not filling those jobs fast enough. So we have to go through a transformational system, change in how we do healthcare in this country, or we’re not going to have any in 10 years. And that is fully aligned with nurses health because those nurses need to be healthy. They, they need to be, you know, revitalized, refreshed. They need to be walking into that job full of energy and vigor and and ready to deliver their best performance when it’s needed. And so in a situation like that, you could see how the grand challenge is going to shift so that it adapts to the exigencies of the day.
Amanda Setili (14:11):
Now, thank you very much. That does make total sense. How do you hold accountable or do you even need to worry about this? The other players that are involved with something like this? Like I could imagine that you you know, get another player involved, but then they have other priorities and they don’t come to your conference because they had a conflict or whatever, is that, is it more just something that you hope people opt in because they’re so passionate about it and you don’t really need to worry about the accountability factor?
Seth Kahan (14:39):
Well, the common agenda is the accountability mechanism and you attract people to play at a level that they are invested in that common agenda. So for example, the U S army literally sees nurses health as a national security threat. So they’re going to invest in it appropriately when, when you’re leading a network, which is different than leading a parade, right? When you’re leading a parade, you say, I’m the leader. I know what to do, get in line behind me. And I’ll take us there. When you’re leading a network, you’re actually activating an Alliance of coordinated activity that you’re not in charge of. And the only way that you can do that, you can have leverage in that environment and leadership to achieve your goal is through the common agenda. So for example, let’s say that Coca-Cola came to the nurses and they said, we want to give you $10 million for healthy nurse healthy nation.
Seth Kahan (15:27):
And we want to make sure that every nurse is drinking Coca-Cola well, if the CEO of the Ana accepted that offer, they would lose all of their members because they’ve now just taken an action that is in conflict with the common agenda. Even though they got $10 million, they’re now hurting nurses’ health by providing them with sugar water. So the activities of the host organization have to demonstrate full alignment with that common agenda. And the major players that you have in the grand challenge are invested in that outcome. Like, it’s not okay with the U S army. If we sabotage nurses health, like that’s not okay, that’s, that’s, it’s, it’s such a high priority for them that they’re going to show up and they’re going to do things it’s all. But because it’s an Alliance, it’s all volunteer. So the only leverage you have is the commitment to that goal. That’s it? You just have to pick a goal that people are invested in. So that they’ll give,
Amanda Setili (16:20):
I would think that, that a big part of the upfront investment of time and something like this is just getting to the right people and telling the right story so that they, the people who can make decisions like this to make a commitment to this process that you find them, that you tell them the story and that they, they hear it and they agree. So is there a kind of a sort of a networking and research phase initially?
Seth Kahan (16:45):
Yeah. And generally I’m working with the CEO of an organization. So we work with their professional network. That’s, that’s where we begin the outreach. I have my own professional network from having done this for so many years now. So I, I can reach out to the there has to be a coherence between the organization and the grand challenge. So it makes sense that the American nurses association would do healthy nurse healthy nation. If the American nurses association said, we’re going to stop homelessness, people would say, why are you doing that? Or what special unique asset do you bring to this game? I don’t really understand what the connection is. And, but when you have that alignment, then often it’s easy to tap the leaders in the field. So for example, working with Dr. Mark Rappaport, CEO of the Huntsman mental health Institute, we’ve been able to reach out to organizations like NIH or the American psychiatric association, and go to the very top.
Seth Kahan (17:43):
And that’s true across the board with the players in our, in our group. So a lot of times, if there’s, if there’s that coherence between the organization and the grand challenge it’s chosen, and you’re working at the top, it’s very easy to pull together the leading thinkers in the space. And it’s kind of like having a party, you know, it’s like, everybody wants to know who else is coming. Once you have one or two people that are really stellar in their field then it starts attracting other players like a magnet because they think, oh, that’s where the action is in this space. That’s where I want to be. Right.
Amanda Setili (18:13):
Such a different way. So tell me about the community of practice around grand challenges. What is your vision for that and who should be involved?
Seth Kahan (18:21):
So I’m building a community of practice around grand challenges because I’ve been involved in, this’ll be my sixth grand challenge that I’m involved in. And I believe that the world really needs practitioners who understand how to deal with systemic issues that are complicated and too big for one person to wrap their head around things like climate change and the pandemic and economic disruption and social justice. So I’m building a community of practice right now. And I’m looking for people who have experience working in grand challenges, whether or not they feel adapt. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the space. I’m interested in talking to you. I’m also looking looking to identify researchers and PhD students and academicians of all kinds as as well as consultants who are like me practice in this space so that we can begin to collectively create a body of knowledge. And then I want to make that body of knowledge widely available for free so that anyone anywhere in the world who is taking on an intractable problem will have resources to help them succeed.
Amanda Setili (19:23):
It’s a wonderful aspiration.
Seth Kahan (19:26):
Yeah. I’m very excited about it. Thank you.
Amanda Setili (19:28):
You’ve had some really interesting experiences in your past with doing street theater and the huge project that you did at the world bank to organize knowledge across all different cultures. Can you tell us a little bit about how you’ve used some of those skills or, or viewpoints that you had early in your career in something as difficult as a grand challenge?
Seth Kahan (19:52):
You know, street theater was the love of my life when I was in graduate school. In fact, I dropped out of graduate school in mathematics to start a street theater company. I did my very first performance piece I did on the campus of Indiana university. And at the conclusion of the piece, the audience got up and created their own performance that we all joined in. And it was a huge surprise. I didn’t expect it. They, they formed a conga line and they chanted. I can still remember this. I used to know somebody who used to be somebody who used to know somebody you used to be. I used to be somebody who used to know somebody who used to be somebody you used to know. I have no idea where that came from or who created it, but there was like 150 people in a conga line in this big meadow at Indiana university snaking around for about 10 or 15 minutes doing that.
Seth Kahan (20:40):
And then everybody collapsed in the grass laughing. And I thought to myself, this is magic. We created a performance piece and the audience became part of the performance. And that’s what I ended up working on for the next 10 years in street theaters. How do you engage the audience? Well, that was directly applicable to the work that I did in a large scale organizational change, because what you want is the audience to join in the change initiative. And there’s some of the very same thresholds that you have to cross. You know, like when you’re doing street theater, the first threshold you have to cross is that your audience is on its way somewhere else. So you’ve got to get them to turn their head. Once they turn their head, you want them to decide the next threshold is you want them to decide to keep looking at you because you can get people to look at you by doing something so strange that they’ll run away from you, but you want them to keep it.
Seth Kahan (21:28):
And then you want him to stop, and then you want them to eventually join the event. And that’s the most difficult of all, but it, but I learned how to do it. And so I was able to apply that to organizational change. And that’s where we use that in the knowledge management initiative. And it was very successful to enroll in this case, economist and project managers at the world bank in the idea that the knowledge they had collected was their most valuable asset and could be put to work in creating success in their projects. And so I did events at the world bank. Initially I did 14 events that involve thousands of world bank staff. The first one we did was actually for a very sad occasion. It was in response to nine 11. And I had been working with the internal communications team to develop this idea of large scale engagement in a live event when September 11th happened.
Seth Kahan (22:19):
And they said, well, would you put an event together for this? And I did. And it was extremely transformative for the organization, very powerful. Not because of me, I put the structure of the event together, but it was the people filled it with their energy and the grief and the, the challenge of those times, and the organization really turned a corner in terms of its internal culture. And we’ve got to see the power of an event of what, of, of a live experience with thousands of people around a common theme. And then I did 13 more all around happier occasions over the course of two years. And I really got to see how my whole event mindset that came from street theater was able to be put to work in engaging people’s enthusiasm and harnessing them around a theme.
Amanda Setili (23:04):
I wish I had that skillset. So that sounds fantastic. Do you ever encounter a situation where the objective may not be as inspirational and exciting to people, but it’s something that just needs to get done. And in that case, how do you get them excited and engaged in the process?
Seth Kahan (23:25):
Well, the answer is definitely yes, when I was at the world bank, there were a few events that I was asked to do that people were like, what people are going to come to that. So then you resort to some basic human like feeding people. We did an event where we had a free ice cream that really got people to come out. And it was very successful. We did a, the world bank went through a transition where it support staff basically stopped being support staff and became experts in the systems of the bank. But, you know, the old style support staff was basically, you know, 1950 style secretary, right. Did everything for their boss. And the banks said, we’re not going to do that anymore because of technology and everything. Now everybody’s expected to do their own email, to do all of their own administrative tasks.
Seth Kahan (24:12):
And so then the question was, what are we going to do with these 1100 support staff that we have? And we said, well, they’re already the experts in all of our systems. Let’s just move them over there so that they can really, you know, get our systems running to a different level of performance. And that was a huge transition for the organization. And there was a lot of fear around making that transition on all sides, because it was a system wide change. And I did an event that helped that process along facilitated that transformation and to get people to come to the event we served free ice cream and it worked, people loved it. Everybody was having fun, standing around eating their ice cream bars. And then off we went now I use a lot of performance principles, you know, like for example, my events were 45 minutes long.
Seth Kahan (24:59):
They might involve 4,000 people, but I never wanted the people who were watching him to be thinking about their feet. One of them to be thinking about what is that guy talking about? Why is this interesting? How do I get involved? And so we would, and of course you can imagine in an organization getting coordinating across numerous leaders to have the entire thing, be 45 minutes or less, it can be really challenging, but I wanted it to be engaging fast paced, you know, enthusiasm generating. And so, so when it was, I’d bring some of those skills into creating these events.
Amanda Setili (25:31):
So that’s a good example because you know, having that many people with their jobs dramatically change is pretty frightening. First of all, they had a strong relationship with their boss. They knew exactly how to, how to do a good job every day. They knew they have actually a position of power in a sense, because they can be gatekeepers and now you’re going to put them, I’m just visualizing and this great big pool of support people. So it’s scary. So do you have any techniques to share for how to dispel or allay fears when you have that level of underlying anxiety and fear in an organization?
Seth Kahan (26:10):
Well, anytime there’s a big transformation like that, especially one that’s going to change people’s roles or the environment in which they’re working. You have a lot of fear not the least of which is because many people have built their careers against the previous cultures backdrop. And now when you change the context, you can change what’s in the foreground and people would get concerned about losing the progress that they’ve made or the esteem that they’ve garnered or the, whatever. They want to hold on to that. And so it can be extremely challenging. I think that the best way to deal with fear is to first of all, is to allow it into the room. So people ask questions and if they express their fear to have people in the front of the room or the facilitator somebody who’s comfortable working with an emotional response and not someone who tries to shut it down, because if you push fear underground, it will inevitably come up and bite you in the rear.
Seth Kahan (27:01):
But if you can bring it into the room and transform it in the moment that’s one of the most powerful ways to do it. And at the very least, you need to allow people to be who they are so that they can find their way into the new world. And that means they have to confront the fears that they’re going to have. Now, when I say allow the fear, I don’t just mean, okay, so you’re scared. That’s great. Let’s all experience being scared. I, you know, that’s not what I mean. What I mean though, is that you honor it and respect it and then help people to find solutions. Some of those solutions can be ready-made. They can be things that you bring into the event information to be shared or new, new structures that people can use to make the transition.
Seth Kahan (27:42):
I believe greatly in support and communication in a major transformation. I believe that there’s some statistics that show that the budget for a large-scale change initiative needs to allocate 3% to communication and support. It’s not a lot of money, but in my mind, it’s non-negotiable and not having it is a deal breaker for the success of the change initiative. So you need to, you need to be ready to, you know, if anybody’s trying to do the right thing in the new role and they, and they get lost or don’t know what to do, someone needs to be there to hold their hand and communicate things need to be communicated clearly repetitively so that people know, oh, there’s places I can go. This is what my new role looks like. This is how it works and so on and so forth. So there’s this combination of support, communication, and allowing people to be their full selves in response to a change that needs to happen. Yes.
Amanda Setili (28:31):
Very helpful. Thank you so much, Seth, is there anything that you’d like to say about how events in your childhood or family life have influenced your decisions about investing time in grand challenges at this point in your life?
Seth Kahan (28:43):
Well, I had a pretty rough childhood. There was a lot of mental illness in my family. My mother was a schizophrenia and I blew out of the house at 16 because my house was not a pleasant place to live. And I think it really it created an experience for me of recognizing that life can be super challenging. And I had to figure out how to kind of build my own foundation and to start living as an adult when I was 16 years old. And that that really changed the, the orientation that I had around you know, life is not always easy and that sometimes we have to rise to complex challenges that feel bigger than we are. On the positive side, my father did a lot of amazing things. He was a university professor at the university of Texas in Austin, and I got to see him lead very significant initiatives that really made the world a better place through his teaching experience. And he was an exceptional role model for me in that regard. And I think that I really picked that up and I’m really run with that spirit
Amanda Setili (29:44):
Today department. What was
Seth Kahan (29:48):
He taught journalism? And in the he, he pulled together a million dollar grant. This was in the 19, late sixties, early seventies. So a million dollars was more then than it is today. And he ran two cohorts of graduate students teaching them how to be mental health PR professionals. And we designed a series of PSA’s public service announcements that were shown on national TV. And that was part of that, that was really fun. And it also showed me that I could do something that was really fun and it could have national impact. So actually went to a retreat with him and his graduate students. And we storyboarded these, I think there were like 10 PSA’s and then six months later, I was up late at night watching probably Bela Lugosi, which is what I used to do as a teenager. And you know, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula or something like that. And boom, there was one of our PSA’s on national TV and I was like, oh my God, I helped design that. And that was really exciting and empowering to see that, wow,
Amanda Setili (30:47):
That’s a great story. That’s a great story of inspiration early in your life and also challenges early in your life that led you to be more courageous and more committed for the rest of your life on really making a difference. So that’s super cool. Well, Seth, thank you so much for being a guest. I feel like we just barely touched the surface of all that you’re doing with grand challenges, and I’m really excited about your community of practice, because it sounds like a way for you to vastly expand your influence and enable other people to do the same. So that’s absolutely wonderful.
Seth Kahan (31:24):
And if I could just say, if anybody is interested in joining my community practice, come visit me on the and there’ll be a sign up thing on the front page. So I’d love to have you there, and I’d love to be in touch with you.
Amanda Setili (31:37):
Very good. We’ll put that in the show notes as well. All right, thanks so much for coming, Seth.
Seth Kahan (31:41):
You bet. Take good care of man. Thanks for asking me. Bye bye.
Amanda Setili (31:47):
Thank you for listening to fearless growth. You can find out more about the show at [inaudible] dot com slash podcast, and you can listen on apple podcasts and Spotify. If you like what you’ve heard, please take a moment to write a review and give us a star rating reviews matter so much in helping others find us. Thanks for your support.

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