Now that you’ve entered the world of adulthood, it is time to start writing your own story and create the life that you want for yourself. There is one problem, though. No thanks to the global pandemic, there is very little room for error in your search for career alignment and fulfillment in an economy that is still trying to find its footing. Consultant, speaker and author, Fred Stuvek Jr. talks about this challenge in his new book, Don’t F*** This Up, which he introduces in this interview with Alicia Dunams. Sparing no detail, he talks about the things he talked in his book that are of interest to anyone out there who is coming out into the world of adulthood and employment or anyone who just had a new lease in life to start anew. Everything will work out sooner than you think, but until then, you can’t f*** this up. Listen to this episode and learn what you have to work on to do that.
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Don’t F*** This Up With Fred Stuvek Jr.
How to Create The Life You Want
In this episode, we’re going to be talking to Fred Stuvek, who wrote the book, Don’t F*** This Up!: How To Get What You Want In Life.
Welcome, Fred. How are you?
I’m fine, Alicia.
I’m excited to have you here on the show. We talk about writing your own story, and we are writing our own story each day at a time here. Why did you write the book, Don’t F*** This Up!?
I’ve always spent a lot of time giving advice to people, particularly young people. It got to the point where people would say, “Where did you get that from? Did you write a book?” I gave a talk to a Marine Corps unit a while back. When I was done, several came up and said, “Where can I buy your book?” I’ve been urged by several people to write one. After I sold my business, I had the opportunity, it was on my bucket list. I always say, “I want to do this. I’m going to do it, but I want you to write something that was a bit different and something that was going to help people give them guidance, direction, a sense of purpose so they can understand where they need to go and do it in the right way.”
You talked a little bit about the Marine Corps. Let’s back up a bit and give the audience some context on who you are and what you’ve been doing in your life and how you have the experience, the tips and the foresight to write a book?
I was born in Morgantown, West Virginia. I grew up in Southwestern, Pennsylvania. We had four seasons there: football, basketball, track and baseball. I participated in all four seasons. I have a very big sports background. I decided to go to the Naval Academy. I had a lot of offers for football and my parents wanted me to go elsewhere, but I decided to go to the Naval Academy much to their consternation. I played football there. I lead there as quarterback for three years. After that, I had the privilege of serving my country and I transitioned into the civilian world where I’ve had a host of positions, both domestically and internationally. I was involved in an IPO. I’ve started my own company up and sold it. Now, I wrote this book and I’m talking to you.
You have a whole bunch of experience. That’s the give–back, especially when people get in their particular age and stage of their life is, “I have all this experience, I’ve done all these things. How can I give back? How can I pay it forward?” Indeed, you’re doing that with Don’t F*** This Up!: How To Get What You Want In Life. How are people effing things up? Are you seeing any patterns?
Not with everybody, but if it’s with any person, it’s going to have a big impact on their life. One of the things in the book that is very important to my first chapter is belief. You have to believe in what you’re doing and you have to be a good fit for it because otherwise, you have a mismatch. Let’s say that you’re doing something for the money, it’s in sales and you’re an introvert. You may do okay for a while but eventually, that mismatch is going to come back and haunt you later. That fit is very important too in that belief because there are going to be times in your life where you are challenged.
I always say that the biggest issue or challenge in life is adversity. When you find something that you believe in and it’s a good fit for you, that staunch belief will help you weather those storms, which will come and they all do. It’s taken care of the lows and not get too excited during the highs. Many people do something for the wrong reasons. They do it because, “I want to get good money. My parents told me this. It’s a fantastic job and it’s cool.” Oftentimes, when I’ve talked to a young person, I said, “Why do you want to do that?” They go, “What do you mean?” I said, “Do you believe in it?” They said, “I think it’s okay.” My takeaway here is to find something that you believe in that’s a good fit and get good at it. If you do that and persevere, your chances of doing well are much better than the other way around.
Finding something you believe in and getting good at it. That’s one of your tips. I know that your book specifically is for graduates and people who have a new lease on life or starting something new. In this particular reality that we’re all in, in terms of COVID-19, I know a lot of people feel like the rug has been pulled up under their feet. There are people losing lives, obviously losing family members, losing jobs, financial adversity. What do you do when things look like they’ve gone totally downhill?
It’s a matter of perspective. Don’t hold a pity party for yourself. You think, “The world has created this series of events. It’s raining down on us. We’re in trouble.” Look at the class of 1916. What did they have coming? World War I, the Spanish flu, then the Great Depression, followed by World War II. If you look at that in terms of where we are and what has happened in the past, we were not in bad shape. This is something we’re going to get through. It’s a test. There’s going to be a new norm at the end of it. Time and science will take care of it.
The first thing is to take a deep breath, maintain a sense of perspective, be willing to suck it up and understand that, “It’s not going to be easy, but I’ll get through this.” You have to be realistic as well. For example, if you’re looking for a job, it’s going to take a little longer. The last thing is don’t give up, persevere. What did Winston Churchill say? “Never, ever, never give up.” That’s the type of mindset that you have to have. If you want something and you believe in it and you go for it, it will eventually happen. If you think about the people you know and somebody who wanted to do something, how many of those people that wanted it, pushed for it and worked hard for it got what they wanted? Just about everybody.
The ones that said, “This is not fair.” You’ve got to get rid of the word, fair. Life isn’t fair and you have to stop saying, “It’s going to be all right.” As a parent, you tell your child, “It’s going to be all right.” It is and it isn’t. It’s going to be all right if you work hard and do the right things and associate with good people. If you don’t make good decisions and have good habits, it’s not going to be all right. You can’t go on lose control and expect the world to take care of you.
You have to believe in what you're doing and be a good fit for it. Otherwise, that mismatch will come back and haunt you later. Click To Tweet
What I’m hearing you say is definitely go over the victim mindset and getting in a place where you create. Instead of being a victim of your circumstances, what does it look like to create your circumstances? I love that you give the historical context because we’re in our reality and thinking about ourselves. It’s important to have a historical context that our parents and our ancestors had so much more things stacked up against them. Life is getting easier. Is gratitude something you talk about?
People don’t know how much you care until they see how much you care. The opportunity to express gratitude and to say, “Thank you,” can go a long way. A sign of character is if you treat the janitor just like you treat the CEO or the president. I remember one time, I was in Istanbul with my son and there was a boy pulling a cart up, he had fruit and all these things on. He’s going up the hill. It broke, all the fruit went down the hill, he got all upset. I went over and I spent about probably half an hour picking the fruit up, helping him get the cart up and people were looking at me clucking and shaking their head. That’s not the right type of attitude. I think you need to help people because sometimes that could be you, your daughter, your son, your friend. It doesn’t cost you anything to say thank you. People like to be shown appreciation. We need to do more of that versus what’s going on now.
What are some of the other tips in terms of Don’t F*** This Up!? What’s paramount?
When I talked about fit, I think there are two issues there. Number one is alignment. You have to look at, “In terms of the skillset for this job, for this vocation, for this sport, how do I fit in? How do my skillset and personality align with this? What are the gaps?” You have to fill in the gaps and you do that by 1 of 2 ways. You either number one, train for it and get better or number two, you develop coping strategies. If it doesn’t match up good, then you should try something else. For example, if you want to be a professional golfer and you can’t drive good, you can’t putt good and you get nervous and can’t get over that. You can still do it, but make it a hobby and do it on weekends. Don’t try to make a living doing it.
I see that idea of fit is important and alignment. You gave the golfing example. When you’re not aligned with a profession or with a new circumstance or a new relationship, how can you tell that there isn’t a fit or an alignment?
The first thing is on Monday morning, you wake up and you go, “Oh my goodness, I have to go to work.” On Friday afternoon, you say, “Thank goodness, it’s the end of the week or it’s Friday.” If you dread going to work and you’re happy leaving it, that’s a good sign. That’s more than a clue. That means that there’s something that’s off and you need to take care of that. How much of your time you spend at work? Maybe, a third of your life is at work. If you’re miserable at work, then that affects your balance. That is going to spill over into other parts of your life. The last thing that you want that to do is to spill over in other parts of your life and affect other people because that has nothing to do with them if that’s about you. Don’t take it out on them.
In that particular situation, if you’re dreading to go to work on Monday morning and if you’re completely thrilled that the week is over, what would you suggest for that person to do?
One of two things, you have to look at either a career change or maybe some type of arrangement on where you can fulfill a job enrichment. Maybe you like the profession and the industry, but you don’t like what you’re doing. Some people see it as a sign of weakness, but I see it as a sign of strength and courage. There’s nothing wrong with asking someone for help. Go to your manager or your boss and say, “I don’t particularly like this. I’d like to do this. I’d like to do that,” be proactive. If it’s a career change, then it depends on what’s going on in your life. Do you have a family? Do you have children? Are there others who depend on you? That is a consideration because you have to keep that income stream intact. You can do it 1 of 2 ways. You can do this gradually or suddenly. Gradually is if you have responsibilities and you have other people that are depending on you. Then you come up with a plan and you take it a little bit at a time, but you have to get started. You can say later, “I’m going to do that tomorrow or next week.” That’s called procrastination. As we all know, sometimes later becomes never. You have to take that first step.
I know you cover discipline a lot in your book and that is something that I get to consistently work on. Have you heard her ever heard of StrengthsFinder or CliftonStrengths? It’s a 34–element assessment and discipline is almost close to 34 for me. I saw my top five, which are superb. I’m like, “What are my bottom four?” Discipline being one of it. What are your thoughts on helping people create more discipline?
They said discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment. You’re not always motivated, so you have to be disciplined. For example, I work out every day. There are some days when I don’t even feel like going. Those are the days that you need to go. You need to push yourself. In terms of how you develop discipline, I have a section in my book about how to develop discipline. The first thing that you have to do is you have to have goals because if you don’t have goals, you don’t know where you’re going. Those goals give you a sense of direction like a GPS.
Once you have your goals, then you have to come up with a process and a plan with objectives and timelines to get to them. You have to track that and you have to routinely assess it and adjust as needed. You have to develop good habits and make good decisions. All of that fits together. If you don’t have a goal, if you don’t have a process, if you don’t have good habits and you’re not willing to be flexible and you get discouraged easy, you’re probably not going to be very disciplined, but you can be disciplined. Discipline is a skill that you can learn like anything else.
It is indeed a skill. I definitely have goals and I achieve my goals. One of my top strengths is an activator. I like things happening very quickly. If it’s a quick way to get there, I’m good at delegating too. I delegate discipline.
Thomas Jefferson said, “The only way to make a man or a person trustworthy is to trust them.” You have to be comfortable with letting go and you have to delegate. If you’re in a leadership or management position, you have to know how to delegate and who to delegate to and how much overwatch you need and how much you don’t because everybody is different. What motivates Alicia may be a deterrent or a demotivator to someone else. It’s like with management or leadership. There’s no one size fits all. You have to adjust to the circumstances and the individual.
What are some other tips in the book that you can share with our audience on how to not F this up?
Don't wait until tomorrow to do the things you need to start doing now. Click To Tweet
I talked about perseverance. I would say associate with good people. When I say good people, it doesn’t have to be likeminded people, but it has to be people who are talking about goals, dreams and support you. One of the pitfalls that people get into is they associate with a likeminded group of people. They’re in their little clique, they’re texting each other when they’re only 10 feet away, and they have their own little circle going and that’s fine. As soon as they start to get outside, that may be going to night school or trying to do something, it interrupts a social schedule and becomes a problem.
If you’d have people like that, you don’t have a circle, you have a cage. You have to get someone that supports you and can help lift you up not drag you down. It’s also good to associate with different people and other people who may be have a contrarian opinion because once you get out in the workforce, that’s one of the problems. They shock the law as young people. They’ve been in high school, they’ve been in college, they’re in their group. All of a sudden, they’re thrown out to the real world, into the corporate world or wherever, and someone disagrees with them or doesn’t like what they’re doing. They have a real problem with that because they haven’t been criticized much. They’ve never had someone take issue with anything they did. They have problems with that.
You have to be able to accept criticism because the only way you can get good is to get that feedback. I remember, one time I was in high school and it was a week before a big game, I couldn’t do anything. The coach is yelling at me, “You’re not picking up the secondary quick enough. Your foot work is bad.” Finally on Thursday, a day before the game, I went up to the coach. I said, “Dad, what is wrong?” He looked at me and said, “Son, don’t worry when I yell at you, worry when I stop.” It’s how you do. It has to be in the right way. It has to be done in a constructive way and it has to be done with the right tone of voice too, with the right type of person because you cannot criticize five people all the same way because everybody’s different. Alicia, you look like you have pretty thick skin. They could say, “Alicia, this isn’t working, you’ve got to do better.” You’re going to go, “That’s fine.” If this was maybe Anne, who’s not that way, she might get upset. You have to treat everybody differently, but you have to be able to not only give the criticism but to take the criticism in the right way at the right time.
Feedback is love. A part of life and growth, as you mentioned, is being able to receive feedback. If you’re the giver of feedback, it’s the tone. How do you phrase it? When you’re receiving it, let it sit with you, “What is this person saying?” Everything in life is feedback. If someone is giving you feedback, this is an opportunity for you to grow. That’s something important to look at. What else can you share with our audience? What are some of your favorite tips?
Another one would be if there’s something that you want to do and it’s something that’s on your bucket list, then go ahead and do it. Don’t wait until tomorrow because sometimes you tend to put those things off. If there’s something that you think that you need to do, start now because what does it say, “Today is tomorrow you worried about yesterday?” I mentioned in the book one time, the issue of having an MBA came up. I didn’t think I needed an MBA, but I was in a meeting and somebody said, “Stuvek, you have an MBA, don’t you?” That upset me. I left the meeting, I drove to school and I said, “I’m going to night school for an MBA.” They said, “You have to take the GMAT.” I said, “Never mind, but I’m starting tomorrow night.” You just show up and started taking the courses. Eventually, they let me in. It took me two years, but later I was glad I did it because when there was a position that came up, one of the requirements is an MBA. I‘ve always wondered, “What would’ve happened if that box hadn’t been checked?” Don’t put something off, get it done now, you’ll be glad you did. Even if it takes a while, take one small step at a time. After a while, that all adds up like compound interest. The next thing you know, your bank’s full.
When you have the inspired thought, get into action because the time is going to be spent anyways, you might as well be doing it improving yourself and developing yourself.
That’s where the discipline comes in. You have to be disciplined and sometimes you have to do what you don’t like or don’t want to do. It’s not always happy and joy. Sometimes it’s tough and you’ve got to go through that, but sometimes it’s not always the end result either. It’s the journey and the process that makes you stronger and gets you there. You have to enjoy the journey as well.
Tell us where we can find out more about you and your book?
I have a website, it’s FredStuvek.com. I have my two books on there. I have blogs, articles, interviews, and podcasts. If you have any questions and you want to contact me, I’m a keystroke away.
Thank you, Fred. I appreciate you.
Thank you, Alicia.
- Don’t F*** This Up!: How To Get What You Want In Life
- Blogs – Fred Stuvek
- Podcasts – Fred Stuvek
About Fred Stuvek Jr.
Fred Stuvek Jr. has achieved extraordinary success in diverse realms. Born in West Virginia and raised in Pennsylvania, he has been inducted into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame for achievements in football, basketball, baseball, and track. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy, after lettering three years as quarterback for the Midshipmen.
After service as a Naval Officer, he transitioned to the business world where he has held senior leadership positions in private and public companies, both domestically and internationally. Key successes include an international medical imaging start-up that led to a successful IPO, and forming a private medical services company, which he subsequently sold. From the playing field, to the war room, to the board room his leadership and accomplishments have given him a distinct perspective and a results-oriented mindset.
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