I’m absolutely over the top about interviewing someone who comes from the same humble roots as I do, and who has risen to the top of her profession … not with luck, but with extraordinary talent and hard work. Lise Suino (my big sister) is CFO of the Houston Grand Opera. She’s had equally high-profile gigs as Deputy Director of Administration and CFO of the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens and, perhaps most notably, at the Apollo Theater Foundation in Harlem, first as CFO, then as COO. She started the New York portion of her career as Senior Vice President of Special Projects at The New 42ndStreet, Inc., where she was a key part of the team that helped transform Time Square to the vibrant, prosperous business center it is today. In this interview you’ll see some of what makes Lise so inspirational to be around. Putting all family bias aside, I can say she truly rocks!
This "interview" is actually not an interview at all, but a story. It's actually a draft of a chapter from an upcoming book I'm working on. In the chapter, I talk about John Kuchinski, who's been a long-time judo student of mine.
John's been through a lot, and I like to think I've been present for much of it and at least a little bit helpful. The story is incredible, and it continues to this day. I'll get out of the way and let it play out for you here.
So You've Got a Skinned Knee?
When people tell me about the trivial things that keep them from coming to the dojo, I reflect on one of my long-time students named John Kuchinski. John is one-hundred percent blind due to brain surgery he had when he was about twelve years old. He started judo in college and, eighteen years later, he’s still training with me at the Japanese Martial Arts Center. He’s achieved third-degree black belt in judo, and he’s shockingly good at both the standing and groundwork aspects.
John’s very outgoing. He talks a lot of trash, tells a lot of stories, and is almost always a very positive influence in our judo program. His seoi nage (back-carry throw) is so wicked we call him “Doctor Ippon.” That’s a neat play on words, because “ippon” can mean both “one-arm” – as in “one-arm shoulder throw” – and “one point” – as in, you just won your judo match! But that’s not the end of his story, not by a long shot.
About nine years ago, John started having circulation problems in his left foot. Judo got difficult because his foot would turn white and get very painful. Still, John showed up and trained. We would hold him by his shoulders and spin him around to get blood into his foot, then he’d go back to judo. Eventually, however, the circulation problem got so bad that John could barely train. The health of his leg was threatened. His doctors advised him to get an arterial bypass. In this gruesome process, they would make a huge slice in his other leg, strip out a few feet of vein (or artery, I can never remember the difference), and implant in it the other leg.
My readers and students know I'm deeply committed to understanding the mastery process and helping people leverage it to accomplish great things. As part of my own learning process, I ask acknowledged masters not just what they do for a living, but why they do it, and how they've been changed by the process. Their answers are interesting and inspiring, and they often provide impactful lessons for others on a growth trajectory.
So it makes a lot of sense to interview my friend of several decades, the extremely fit Don E. Prior III. About eight years ago Don, who has always been highly focused and motivated, transformed himself physically, losing 60 pounds in 6 months and becoming an inspirational role model for many people in both our lives.
Don owns Network Services Group, an IT company he built from the ground up to a million dollar company. Together, we also own Michigan SEO Group, where we help great businesses get the word out about what they do and become even more successful than they already are. As much as I'm grateful for the fact that we've built a successful business together, I'm equally stoked about the atmosphere we create at work – an energetic, high performance environment where we take a genuine interest in the physical health, mental health, and life trajectory of the people who work with us.
Readers of this interview will be able to understand some of what makes Don so inspirational to be around as they come along on his journey and what he's learned along the way.
My readers and students know that I’m deeply committed to understanding the mastery process and helping people leverage it to accomplish great things. As part of my own exploration of expertise, I find myself asking acknowledged masters not just what they do for a living, but why they do it, and how they’ve been changed by the process. Their answers are always interesting and inspiring, and often provide impactful lessons for others on a growth trajectory.
So I feel very lucky to be able to interview writer and photographer Tom Clynes. Tom travels the world covering science, the environment and education for publications like National Geographic, Nature, The New York Times and Popular Science, where he’s a contributing editor. His writing and photos have also appeared in The Atlantic, Newsweek, Scientific American, The Sunday Times Magazine (London), and many other publications. He’s the author of two books that should be on everybody’s bookshelves, Wild Planet and The Boy Who Played With Fusion.
As an adventure keynote speaker, Tom brings audiences along to some of the most dramatic and intriguing places on Earth. His keynote presentations combine his authentic personality with extraordinary stories and photos. Listeners are captivated and inspired. Readers of this interview will also be inspired by Tom’s journey from where he once was to where he is today, and how he’s changed along the way.