When faced with adversity, one of our knee-jerk reactions is to ask the question, “Why?” “Why is this happening to me?” “Why am I not going anywhere?” Alicia Dunams’ guest in this episode shifts our thinking and leads us from asking bad questions to the good ones so that when finding ourselves in difficult situations, we can come out of it better rather than get stuck. She sits down with Robb Hiller, a CEO, Author, Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst (CPBA, CPVA, CAIA), Growth Curve Strategist, and Professional EQ Analyst. Here, Robb shares with us his book, The Power of 3, revealing the three-fold principle we need to overcome adversity and face life’s biggest challenges: ask, activate, and advocate. Join him as he elaborates these, helping you see through the tunnel and come out of it better than ever.
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The Power Of 3 With Robb Hiller
I’m super excited to introduce our next guest. Robb Hiller. We go way back. He attended Bestseller in a Weekend and we were trying to figure out what year. Let me tell you a little bit about him. Robb is a Leadership Trainer and a Talent Expert, and we’ll get all into that. He’s a bestselling author and a CEO. He’s written several books, which we’re going to be talking about. One is Running with Joy and his book, The Power of 3. Robb has used his experience of overcoming adversity as a way to teach others to do so as well. He has taught this message to thousands because everyone faces adversity, whether it’s a lousy relationship, career issues or any other struggle in life. I’m so excited to introduce Robb.
Robb, it’s great for you to be here. Thank you so much.
Thank you and how fun to come back to my mentor, who got me going in the book business.
Let’s get started with that. Why did you decide to write books? I know you’re on your third book now, but let’s take us back to your first book that you wrote during Bestseller in a Weekend.
I’m sure you remember because you taught it, but way back then, I had a story to share. I’ve been doing this leadership work, evaluating talented people and then doing executive coaching for a long time, but people would say, “Why don’t you put some of this stuff into a book as you teach all of the company this?” I said, “That seems like a lot of work.”
I then ran across an email or something, and I found you. I read about it and all of that, and then I registered for that weekend. Remember we did a weekend. It was Friday night we started, Saturday and then into Sunday. That’s how I got the basic outline to write Stop Barking and Start Leading. That was a long time ago, but that’s what got me launched.
It’s all about what gets you started because now you’re on your third book. Tell us all three books and a little bit of a story behind each of them.
The ones which are significant in that is they share something that everyone needs and we all face. In 2017, I was doing planks in April of that year because in Minnesota, we have something called snow and then it starts to melt. I ran to the club because I was going to try to play golf in the next few weeks because I heard all the snow was going to be gone. I started doing planks and after I did planks 1, 2, 3, I got such pain in my stomach that I knew something was wrong.
I went immediately to the doctor. I went through all the tests. I got a call back in my office and the doctor said, “You have cancer but you have something even we think more than that.” Since we’re in the Minneapolis area, the male clinic is only an hour and a half away. I went to a male clinic, I spent another week and they finally diagnosed everything.
After we sat down after the week of tests, Pam and I, Dr. Preek turned and he said, “You have cancer, but you don’t have two cancers. You have three and these are all deadly cancers.” We looked at each other, pretty stunned. There were tears in her eyes and I tried to break up the tension. I looked at him and I said, “Dr. Preek, it looks like I got the trifecta.” He smiled a little bit and he said, “Yeah, but this is serious. This is Thursday. You need to be here on Monday morning at 7:00 AM in Mayo. We’re going to start doing chemotherapy and a trial drug with you. Please, be here promptly at that time.” That started a day that changed our whole lives because once the five months of chemotherapy started, our lives changed.
As a result of going through all that, eventually, there’s a lot more to it. I basically practiced what I have taught for 25 years to all of these leaders, which is The Power of 3. I taught this I had lived it, but now I really had to live it. I asked Dr. Preek, I said, “Are there any cures for any of these three that I have?” He said, “No. We can slow down the second one. The third will stay and the first one is incurable.”
That’s how I started out life in May of 2017 and had to live my life. When you get those kinds of things, the thing that most people do, and it’s natural and real, is we all ask, “Why is this happening to me? I’m doing all these good things. I’ve got a wonderful family. Three kids. I got a wonderful business and now I have this prognosis.” That was exactly what I taught people not to say.
One of the main principles of The Power of 3 is to begin, which is by asking the right questions. Why is a bad victim question because there are no answers. God knows, but I don’t know. I’m not going to probably get a big revelation. Him coming to speak with me and saying things. That’s irrelevant. It’s what we do with what we are faced with.
I’ve taught for all these years to salespeople, leaders and coaches, begin by asking how and what questions. I had developed this course all with yours. After 25,000 people, I could say, “It’s been reasonably successful.” Now I had to begin by saying, “When we drove home that day and knew that Monday, we were going to start the chemo routine down at Mayo, we sat there and cried, Pam and I.” It is tough to have that prognosis in your life. All the readers that you have, theirs isn’t cancer, but it’s a lousy relationship. a job they hate, a lousy boss, and your kid has gone rogue.
We all have adversity in our life. It’s 100% certainty. I knew this a long time ago, and that’s why I developed that concept and developed it to the point at work. I had to do it. We cried and it was great to do that. It’s important, but then what are you going to do? We began that journey of asking great questions like, “What is it that I could do right now to take a positive step forward, even if it was a little teeny step forward?”
Pam is a great researcher. What she did is she went and learned about all three of these diseases, got all the information, and brought up all the nutritional things that I should be changing and going to. I prayed and called friends. We went, ask what and how questions, maybe some where questions, and avoided the victimization of feeling, “Why is this happening to me?” Why are not good questions in business unless you’re in a robust brainstorm session? It’s designed for that, but 98% of the time, they are.
Thank you so much for your vulnerability and for sharing your experience of your diagnosis. I think a lot of people will be able to relate to that. Even 2020 has been very challenging for a lot of people with the pandemic and the economic turmoil that maybe come with that. Losing jobs and people passing because of COVID and other diseases. I wanted to acknowledge you for sharing that and giving us an actual tool to use coming from what versus why.
A mentor of mine shared, “Don’t ask people why they did something. Ask them what made them do that because why can create defensiveness in someone and what creates more curiosity and inquisitiveness.” Thank you for your share. Let’s talk about that book, The Power of 3. Do you mind sharing some other tips and life lessons from the book or the other books that you’ve written?
I think we’re going through a historic time in our nation, certainly COVID, when everyone was locked down. Now, we’re past the lockdown, but it’s a big-time of change and people are unsettled. If there was ever a time to learn how to do The Power of 3, I think it’s now. There’s so much uncertainty. We have to learn to deal with that. It doesn’t mean we have to love it, but we have to learn how to adjust in that.
When I teach in the leadership sessions, if someone walked through the book and did all the exercises, then it be going through a class with me because that’s how I designed it. I said, “If I’m going to have to go through this, I’m going to write a book on this. I better make it so other people can walk through this ourselves.”
I remember so vividly. The first day that I went through the cancer treatment at Mayo, I got there at 7:00. They put me in a chair. I was thinking this one friend of mine had gone through breast cancer treatment, it was an hour infusion and half-hour sitting there afterwards and then you go home. I was thinking, “I’d be done in an hour and a half.” Ten hours later, nonstop. I had chemo put into me for the entire day and all my sessions were like that.
“Why” is a bad victim question because there are no answers.
At the end, Dr. Preek gave a little pill. You have it in a cup, and he said, “You eat a few crackers ahead of time. You throw this in your mouth and wash it down right away with a glass of water. If you touch it or falls on the floor, you must immediately get Clorox and wipe it up, and never get it on your skin or get Clorox on your skin immediately and get it washed off.”
I looked at him and I said, “Here I know the seriousness of this. Am I putting that in my body?” He said, “Yes.” At the end of those ten hours, I’m driving back home and Pam is driving because I was sick. I remember so vividly thinking, “I don’t even know if I’m going to make it home.” That is an enormous amount of poison to put in your body. I would sometimes turn to Pam and say, “I don’t know if I can make it.” She said, “You can do it.” I would go focus on Pam and I being in Paris together, something of a wonderful time where I could think of joy. Something that would bring great memories. I chose to do something else and we made it home with no incidents. You’re home and you’re exhausted.
That first principle is so life-giving. I can’t tell you. I used it all the time. We’re going through the five months. Before we had COVID, I was wearing a mask. I got tested every Monday and Friday for my bloodwork because I had no immune system. I couldn’t go out a lot of the time. I knew what it was to be locked up. I teach DIP questions, learning how to ask those, Discovery, Innovative and Proactive questions. That’s what I would teach to leaders. I remind myself of it. I use those.
The second principle is activating your God-given gifts. I knew that I had resiliency in my life, that I had a will to live, and I knew that I needed people. I’m more of an extrovert. My wife is an introvert, but I know people were and I liked that. What did I do with some of the gifts that I had? I remember laying on the couch during many of the afternoons and thinking, “Who could I call right now to encourage, even though I am so sick?”
I had in my bones as well. It was painful. I had to take some drugs for that. I would call this guy friend and say, “Roger, how are you doing?” He would say, “I’m doing fine, Robb. How are you?” I said, “I’m all right. How’s work going?” He stopped and he said, “Robb, if I’m not mistaken, don’t you have cancer?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Where are you?” I said, “I’m home.” He said, “I’m going to hang up here. I’m going to be over in twenty minutes,” and he hung up, and then he came over to visit me because he could sense that I was so down because it gets lonely all day.
He comes in and sits down. We spend an hour together and he prays for me as he leaves, but that all began because I activated. There are things in there to help what your God-given gifts are. What’s your purpose? If you know your talent, you come closer to your purpose because you’re given those naturally. It’s the things that you can do without even thinking and they come.
That all came from activating the God-given gift that I already had. That leads into the third, which is advocate. It’s ask, activate and advocate. The advocate section is one of the coolest. It’s focusing on your faith, family, friends, and at work. When you don’t have these challenges like this, a lot of times, we forget that because we’re so busy doing and being, we get home late, we got kids to take care of, or whatever it is. I used a group of 25 executors and I gave them three weeks to do Power of 3. I gave them exercises every week. It comes from the book. At the end, they evaluated how they did themselves. Ninety-five percent of the people said their lives became significantly better going through it and they followed the exercises.
Little things like, “I haven’t talked to my girlfriend in a long time. I went and text her and said, ‘Could we have coffee or at least talk?’” We ended up setting up a coffee and he said, “It lifted my soul so much to be able to do that.” Those are that part. I had people say, “I decided to go back to church. I’ll go.” They went and they said, “It was uplifting. I’ve been missing something and I think I’ve found something.” Those were some of the things, but one of the most meaningful stories that come from the ask, activate and advocate is the one that I’ll never forget.
I’ve been going through chemo for a while and Pam and I drive back home from Mayo. We go to this little town called Excelsior. They are by the Lake Minnetonka. We stop at 318 restaurants and have a little bite and tea. By then, I was enough into it that I could eat something. I was used to all the stuff. We’re next to a mother with two daughters, probably 9 and 11, something like that. They were sitting down and we couldn’t help but overhear them, and they said, “Why did daddy leave us?” The mother was so kind. She turned and said to the kids, “We’re going to be okay. Daddy still loves you. I don’t know why he left, but I want you to know that God is with us, and we will be okay.”
I was thinking she didn’t sit there and diss him. We’re sitting over there. If you can see me now, I have my hair. Back then, I have nothing. I was 142 pounds by then because I lost all my weight and getting down to not a good place. We’re going to leave about five minutes later, we asked for the check and by then, they had gone and left. They gotten up.
The waitress turned to me and said, “Robb, you don’t have any bill.” I said, “What? We want our check.” She said, “No. The lady next to you with the two girls paid for it and she said she wanted you to get well and she’s praying for you.” I’ve never met her in my life. Here she was. Her husband had left her and she was blessing us. What was amazing as you walked out the door, you had to go down some stairs and another door.
Pam saw her and ran over to her, crying and hugged her. They hug for probably a minute and all they did was look at each other, cry and hug. I never said a word other than, “We are praying for you.” That is the element of faith, family, and friends, and those were friends that we had never even met. I think when you do the things like this, other good things can happen to you.
That’s a beautiful story. Thank you so much for sharing. Your three rules are ask, activate and advocate.
Yes. If you do one, it’s better than zero, but if you do all three, I would say it works every time. Again, the way the book was put together, you can go through it and go through a mini class. I did that on purpose. I’ll never forget getting a phone call from Tyndale Publishing. I’d written one chapter and an outline. That’s all I wrote, and I said, “If a big-time publishing firm wants the book, great. If not, it’s too much work, I’m not going to do it.” They called and said, “We’re very interested in your book and what you wrote in that first chapter knocked us over. This is a story that needs to be told.” Eric goes eventually. We finished the book together and it came out.
You self-published your first two books?
No. I self-published the first one and then we finished this next book, and while I was in the final parts of that, they said, “This book that you’ve already thought about and doing called Running with Joy. We’d like to have you do that and release that as well.” I wrote that one. They gave me an editor to help with it. I got it done pretty quickly because once you get into the mode, it’s easier to do. They published that. That came out and that was the one I sent you a photo that they sent me. It’s in all Barnes & Nobles and apparently across the nation now. I sit there and go, “How could this happen?” I think that happened years ago when I went through Bestseller in a Weekend.
I’m so thrilled for you and The Power of 3 and the stories that you’re sharing. When I talk to my mentors and people who are similar to you, that legacy and significance portion of their life, where it’s all about serving and giving back, the Power of 3 is such a significant gift to teach the lessons that you learned. I’m curious what is the diagnosis of your cancer? Are you healed?
We’re having our last meeting with Dr. Preek because my goal was to stay alive to go to my son’s wedding on September 23rd, 2021. I sat down with Dr. Preek, Pam and I, this was my last treatment after that. They did another PET scan, bloodwork, and all of that. He skips into the office. Oncologists are not happy people. They have a tough job. They live with death a lot. He smiled and was excited. I’ve never seen him like that. I looked at Pam like, “What is he on?” He sits down, flips on the right screen, and on the right screen is my old PET scan with all the red down the throat, the stomach area and abdomen, which is all cancer.
He flips on the next screen next to it and we both looked at it, and it’s all blue. All blue means there’s no cancer. We looked up at him and he was smiling. He is fun to see. A Mayo doctor whose expertise is this. He said, “Robb, I’m giving you guys the best news I could ever give you. You have no cancer, and your bloodwork is perfect.”
Bloodwork is important in diseases. He said, “We’ll do checkups initially, every quarter and then every six months, but this is where you are.” I was able to go to my son’s wedding while 142 pounds and pants could barely stay up, but happy and still stayed away from people because I was still in a weakened state. I was able to give a fun speech to my new daughter-in-law and son as a result of doing that.
Life is precious. I am sure the people reading this are going through their dark souls and some tough times. We all do. I know and pray that this message in the book could be of hope to them and a practical solution to get through whatever it is that they’re going through because adversity will always be with us. We were never promised that not to have it. We are promised to have trials and tribulations. Maybe it’s a good thing that we learn how to deal with it the best way.
That is part of the journey, our trials and tribulations. Thank you so much. I want to jump into the speed round and hear from you some answers to questions that I ask all of my guests. The first one is, what is your favorite book?
My absolute favorite book is the Bible because there’s so much wisdom in it. I also like John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, believe it or not, on a little different note, but they’re great books.
If you know your talent, you come closer to your purpose. It’s the things that you can do without even thinking, and they come.
I have not read the Bible from beginning to end, but I use it as a wisdom resource to life indeed. Your favorite author?
One of my favorite authors is John O’Leary, who wrote On Fire, who is an individual who was burned all over his body. Almost died at age nine and recovered enough. He doesn’t have hands because of the accident and has written some wonderful books. Also, I have gotten to know him because of my journey and his. He’s happened to be almost died of not having any skin on him because it was all burned at a very young age, and then me, of course, the other way.
What is your legacy?
Running with Joy got a wonderful message. It’s storytelling from my dog’s standpoint. When people read, are inspired, gain hope and some wisdom, that would be a wonderful thing to do. I’m leaving three great kids and a family pretty well off too.
What are you writing next? Do you have anything that you are writing?
I only do some short articles. Like Tyndale always says, this publication was wondering if you would write something. They have a publicist, and so I do things like that. I’ve taken a little break because that’s a lot of writing to do. It’s unusual to have two books released in a year from a major publisher. I’m taking a little bit of a break, but writing is in my DNA now. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of other things that will come.
What are you reading next?
The book Habits is a good practical book. I have been reading that particular one and then John O’Leary’s second book, IN AWE, and I’ve been reading that as well. They’re two good books.
I’d love to know where people can find out more about you, your books and where they can purchase them. I’m assuming they’re all on Amazon. Tell us where they can find out more about you.
If they go to RobbHiller.com, that’s the author’s website. If you go there, there’s an assessment to take to see how you are doing up at the top, and then if you scroll down a little bit, there’s a wonderful two-minute video that they would be blessed by and enjoy. It’s two minutes on adversity and I think they’ll get something out of that. Barnes & Nobles and Target have the book. They’re a big seller of it, and they sell the book for a little over $12. It’s a hardcover, beautiful book. I’m surprised they came in and decided to compete with Amazon on that. Barnes & Nobles has all the books across the US.
Thank you so much for being here. I would love for you to leave one piece of advice to our audience.
Being encouraged that adversity is temporary if you use The Power of 3.
Robb, thank you so much for being in the show. It’s so wonderful to know your story and to be connected with you.
Thank you for getting me going on all of this. You can take a vow. Bless you.
I received that. Robb, thank you so much for your story and for the blessing you are. Thank you everyone for reading this episode. See you next time.
- Bestseller in a Weekend
- Running with Joy
- The Power of 3
- Stop Barking and Start Leading
- The Grapes of Wrath
- On Fire
- IN AWE
About Robb Hiller
Robb Hiller is CEO of Performance SolutionsMN. He is nationally known for his expertise in talent selection, executive coaching, team development, sales, and leadership building.
He was the CEO of a high-tech company, Minnesota Business Systems, where he developed a passion for acquiring talent and solving problems executives face. After selling the company, Robb started consulting with hundreds of high-tech and medical device companies, including several Fortune 1000 companies.
He was recently awarded the Bill J. Bonnstetter Lifetime Achievement Award for his extensive work in evaluating talent. He has assessed more than 24,000 people in the past twenty-five years. He is a business graduate of St. Olaf College.
Robb and his wife have three adult children and live in Minnesota.