Welcome to Business Innovators Magazine…Please introduce yourself and a brief thumbnail sketch of your background.
DJS: Hello and thank you for taking the time to share my story! My name is Dr. Jamie Schwandt, and I consider myself a “change agent” and have the privilege of working in a variety of different fields. I am a Captain and commander in the United States Army Reserve, a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, book author, motivational speaker, television show host, loving father and husband, and former foster child. I have served in the military for over 17 years, deployed twice to the Middle East, and have commanded over 400 Soldiers during three command tenures. I currently command 170 Soldiers in Wichita, Kansas.
BI: What would you say is the area in business that you are most passionate about and why?
DJS: We are not the victims of our genes! Using the science of epigenetics, one of my deepest passions in life is improving the lives of the less fortunate. Inspiring children to believe that they can do and be anything is something I am intensely devoted to. Epigenetics is the study of changes in organisms caused by modifications on gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code. I demonstrate to underprivileged children that we can change our genes by learning from our experience. “The moment you change your perception is the moment you rewrite the chemistry of your body.” – Bruce Lipton. I grew up in a life destined for failure. My parents were severely depressed, lived in poverty, made poor decisions, and were addicted to drugs and alcohol. My father committed suicide, and my mother attempted suicide on multiple occasions. I was placed into foster care, for which the inspirational people who cared for me saved my life. Foster care provided me opportunities for success in life. People do not link foster care and opportunity together, however, if used right as it was for me, foster care can provide an abundant amount of opportunities in the life of a foster child. During my time as a doctoral student at Kansas State University, I conducted research on foster care. The purpose of my research was to determine how a foster child could succeed in a life destined for failure. My findings served as the foundation for my first book – Succeeding as a Foster Child. Finding Your Hero (my second book) focused on changing the perception of foster care, where we focus on the positive stories rather than the negative. This children’s book follows my early life as a young boy who was placed into a community of superheroes who went on to save my life. These heroes, who are real people, inspired me to dream big, think positive, and take action! The heroes in Finding Your Hero are my foster parent, social worker, teacher, and coach.
BI: How are you different than your competitors?
DJS: In my mind I do not have any direct competitors. I am not motivated by book sales or speaker fees. Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden once said, “The best competition I have is against myself to become better.”
BI: Please tell me about any recent business accomplishments that you are most proud of and why?
DJS: Inspiring people to dream big, think positive, and take action in their lives is what motivates me. The most important accomplishments in my life are not necessarily business triumphs. Raising my wonderful daughter Ella Katherine Schwandt, along with my beautiful wife Tomi Schwandt, is absolutely my greatest ongoing feat. Outside of my family, witnessing a child in foster care believe in something is a miraculous sight to behold. If I had to identify a business accomplishment, then publishing my two books (Succeeding as a Foster Child and Finding Your Hero) would be number one on my list. Along with my television show, Dreaming Big with Dr. Schwandt. This show provides me an opportunity to discuss challenges with people and inspire others on their path to overcoming adversity.
BI: What Leadership qualities in Leaders do you most admire and why?
DJS: It is amazing how the power of one fundamental skill can make or break an organization. This skill is leadership. “The most powerful leadership tool you have is your own personal example.” – John Wooden. Leading by example is a credo every leader should adopt. Inspirational leaders do not simply tell people what to do; they show you how to do it. Our mantra as leaders in the United States Army is Be, Know, Do. The qualities that I strive to attain as a leader and that I feel are most important are as follows: 1) Have a moral center. Remember that your children will become what you are, so be what you want them to become. 2) Stand for something greater than yourself. If you cannot stand for something, you will fall for anything. 3) Stay away from the limelight. Create a team that wins, not individuals that win for themselves. 4) Protect your team. Be the shield your team needs. 5) Adapt self and team to strengths and weaknesses. Understand your team’s limitations and capabilities. We must be able to make hard decisions as leaders, decisions that will have a deep personal impact on a person’s life. However, there is one important skill that all great leaders should attain. This skill is to remember that it takes a great deal of fortitude to stand up to your enemies. However, it takes a great deal more to stand up to your friends. Be the leader with the courage to confront your best friend when they make unethical decisions.
BI: What has been a key element of your success?
DJS: The key element to my success is using two powerful vehicles in producing miracle grow for the brain: exercising and reading. We now know that our brain continues to grow new brain cells throughout our life. This is the process of neurogenesis. Neurogenesis is directly related with optimized brain function, higher cognitive function, improved memory, and faster learning. Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) is a specific protein typically found in the brain. BDNF acts as fertilizer or miracle grow for the brain and encourages the growth of new neurons/brain cells. Exercise increases our BDNF and serves as an awesome vehicle for neuroplasticity. This is one of the main reasons I exercise every day. I run, at a minimum, 5 miles every morning and do push-ups and sit-ups throughout the day. I also love to read. My goal is to read 100 books a year. I read books on just about any category you can think of. Books on leadership, self-development, quantum physics, neuroscience, epigenetics, exercise, health and fitness, diet and nutrition, strategy, continuous process improvement, inspirational biographies, foster care, and even non-fiction inspirational books. Leaders are readers, and you must exercise your brain as you would your biceps. I am also an audio-book junkie, and I am always listening or reading books. The key is to maximize your time. Think of all the time we have in our life. I listen to books while I exercise, while I am stuck in traffic, traveling, and even in the shower. In essence, my key to success is to increase neurogenesis by exercising and reading.