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Welcome to episode #91 of the Morning Upgrade Podcast. In this week’s episode I spoke with Dan Norenberg, a Senior Leadership Coach in Europe.

Top Talking Points

  • How to get to a place where work is play and play is work.
  • How to do the things you want to accomplish even if they seem risky.
  • Tips for being a good leader and having good relationships with your employees.

Resources & Links

Connect With Dan on Linkedin or dannorenberg.com 

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Thank you for listening to this episode of The Morning Upgrade Podcast. If you enjoyed my conversation with Dan, be sure to subscribe to the podcast and please leave a review.

Episode Transcript

Announcer 

Welcome to the Morning Upgrade podcast with Ryan Cote where we feature casual conversations with entrepreneurs about personal development and growth.

Ryan 

Hey, Dan, welcome to the Morning Upgrade podcast. How are you?

Dan 

I’m great. Ryan, lovely to be with you today.

Ryan  

Yeah, I’m excited to talk to you. I know, you talk a lot about leadership. So we’re definitely going to talk about that on the show. We weave in topics related to business and entrepreneurship, so excited, to learn from you on that front. But let’s start off by you telling my audience of morning upgraders you know, who you are, what you do for a living, and then give us one thing that’s going really well in your life right now.

Dan 

One, Dan Thornburg, I’m originally from Iowa, spent 10 years in California, working in high tech companies, and came to Europe for a nine-day holiday, and 20 years plus later, I’m still here. I advise and coach senior leadership teams in Europe, Asia, in North America. And I’d say for me right now, what’s going really well as I’ve, let’s say, found that zone, where work feels like play and play feels like work. So it’s just a really nice blend for me right now.

Ryan 

Are you asking me two questions there? That’s out of my normal question. So my first question is, just for curiosity’s sake, you went to Germany and stayed there for 20 years, what kept you there? Just curious.

Dan  

I’d say my wife now after some time, but I think there’s, there’s a little bit of a backstory to that, because, you know, I really enjoyed my life in the States, and particularly working in California, I was with two technology companies. And when, when the last company went out of business, and I went to Europe for just sort of a refresher, like, what’s gonna be my next big thing in the US. I’d never been to Europe, you know, I didn’t go after high school. I didn’t go after college like a lot of guys do when I was I was really involved in sports. And I played football, collegiate level football. And so the summer was always trading time for me. And it didn’t leave time to go to Europe. When I got to Europe, I was in my early 30s. And it just, it just for me, it was very novel and seeing different people in different cultures. And I went through Paris and Geneva and then got went through Munich. And Munich was a little bit of a, it felt a little bit like Iowa, you know, Southern Germany if you will. And but it was also a little bit like California because it was very internationally driven. And I got back to Paris for my last week of that extended holiday. And I had a dream that night, Ryan, I dreamt that I was 80 years old, looking back at my life. And I thought, you know, I can go back to California and have two and a half kids and two and a half cars and do the thing, which you know, isn’t nice life. But I thought to myself, well, I always will I have regret at some point in my life when I can’t really put a time back on the clock, but didn’t spend more time in Europe. And that was such a thing for me. And I didn’t want to live a life with regrets that the next day I got up and instead of going to the airport and taking the flight back to Munich, I am back to LA excuse me, I went got a train and came to Munich where I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t speak the language. And I didn’t have the legal right to stay here. But it’s one of those decisions that look a little bit, you know, crazy or courageous or want to call it but it was really a big pivot for me. And it sort of changed the trajectory of my life. But I’m very happy with that decision.

Ryan 

Now, what an exciting adventure. I mean, it’s more common nowadays, especially with COVID. But 20 years ago, that’s that probably wasn’t the norm, right? Just making a big change like that. So that’s progress.

Dan  

My friends and my father thought I’d fallen off my rocker, you know, because I was at the start of a really successful career and doing well, I guess you’d say, by some standards. So people thought I sort of lost my mind. And my mother, whose grandparents came from Germany, I think she was sad. I was so far away. But she was maybe happy that this might give her a reason to visit Germany, which she did a couple of times before she passed away.

Ryan  

The other question that I wanted to ask you before I forget, and then we’ll go into your morning routine is you mentioned, you know, work is play and play is work? How did that happen for you? Like, if you look back at it, are there any things you did to encourage that, obviously, follow your passion, but that’s always something sometimes the hardest thing? Is there anything you did to create the situation you’re in right now where work is play and plays work?

Dan 

That’s a really good question. And I’ll be thinking about your question even after we’re finished with this conversation. I probably summarize it by saying it was it’s been a long and winding road. I’m a very results-oriented guy, and I like to have fun. But I always want to do things a little bit a different way. And I think that too, in some respects, what I have today what I enjoy today, what I’ve created up to now is a result of really following trying to do things that were purposeful for me so at times that meant that can be quite painful. You know, a purposeful life can be quite painful and it can be a period of time where you’re not earning a lot of money and you’re looking around at your friends and seeing them be quite successful. But I’ve always tried to pursue things that I felt had a higher meaning, or a purposeful meaning, and even through those famines, I was able to survive, and then later to be able to thrive. So just pursued what I thought made sense, even if it didn’t, and that didn’t always make financial sense. I like the same at the winding road to I think there’s something to be I think there’s a lesson there because I think about my own life, and just like, how did I end up here running this podcast talking to you, it’s like, it’s because of a series of just decisions and trying new things. So I think that winding road happens when you’re trying new things, and, and some things work, some things don’t. And then you end up getting to hopefully, where you’re at where you’re kind of in your zone of genius.

Ryan  

That’s a good point, just pick up on that, because a lot of people will say, you know, well, how do you get started? Or have you come to Europe or have always wanted to live someplace else? 

Dan

I just didn’t know where to do it. And I think it’s, you know, you don’t know what the end game is gonna look like. It’s like, it’s just, you know, having trust stepping forward. I was fortunate in that in my situation is, you know, I wasn’t married, I didn’t have children or dependents that I’d sold my house in California. So I was a little bit of a free spirit. And all I had to take care of was myself. Now if I’m in a situation where I’ve got five or six hungry mouths to feed, it’s a little bit different situation so that I was traveling with a little bit lighter load.

Ryan  

Yeah, that makes sense. There are people that do it with kids. But yeah, obviously, if you’ve got fewer people, depending on you, of course, it’s easier, but still requires courage, it still requires the unknown and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. So congrats on doing it.

Dan 

Thank you. 

Ryan

All right, Dan. I do want to talk to you about leadership. But I do like to talk about morning routines, of course. So let’s, let’s hear about your morning routine. What does it look like?

Dan 

Yeah, well, first of all, I’m gonna say, Ryan, I really appreciate this podcast that you do. And I’ve dug into a lot of them. I think it’s just an excellent framework to help people with something that happens every single day in their life. And you’re asking people to be challenging me and others to be a little bit more intentional. So I just want to call out and say, I really appreciate the work that you’re doing. And you even stimulated me, I just think the morning is a precious time of day. And what I did is I started looking at my morning routines when I knew we were going to talk and I realized that for different situations in my life, I have different types of morning routines. So when I’m doing an executive off-site, I have a type of routine there. When I was writing my book, I had a different morning routine there. When I’m on holiday, I have a morning routine, I have a summertime, and a wintertime, morning routine, which I’d never thought about before until you started, I started engaging with you. So I want to thank you for that. Then what I did is as the Germans say I sort of distilled all those different situations and said, What is common to my morning routine, regardless of where I am or what I’m doing. And there were like three or four things that just share those with you and your listeners. Number one is, that I rise consistently between 5 am and 7 am. Every day, that’s my time. And usually, after one or two large glasses of water because I do believe in hydration. It’s followed directly thereafter by water to double espressos. Another thing which may seem like a small thing is I make my bed, I make our bed. But my wife and I, every day, get up a little later than I do a little bit after six. But the bed is made every day at our house not quite to military standard. My father was in the US Marine Corps, but I make the bed every day. And I believe that’s just a good place to start getting something done. If I’m at home, I’ll catch the evening news, the US news that ran the night before just so I can stay in touch with my mother country. And then by 7:30, I’m usually in a stretching sport routine followed by some I will say meditation, but let’s just say some, some mindful thinking, if you will. And that’s pretty consistent. No matter where I am or what I’m doing.

Ryan  

Here, the MU guests mentioned making their beds, something so simple and something I honestly don’t do. And I think one of the previous episodes, I said I was gonna start doing it. And for full transparency, I haven’t. And so this is going to be the kick in the butt, I need to start doing that. It’s such a simple thing. And of course, I’ll, I’ll tell my kids, I’ll ask my kids to do it too. And I have to lead by example. So I can ask them to do it. If I’m not doing it. 

Dan

Well, two weeks, I’d say do it yourself for two weeks and see how that feels. And then ask your kids. But what’s interesting about this, is throw something in there. My wife is German, you know, God bless just a great woman. And you know that she has a lot of, you know, patterns and disciplines that I’d say are very dramatic. But she’s not interested in making the bed. I mean, she keeps a very clean house and things like that. It’s really interesting that she’s not really interested in making the bed. But I’m really, I’d say passionate and obsessed about making the bed. So it seems to work for us.

Ryan 

I guess just need to make sure you’re making it and you’re very passionate about it.

Dan 

So that’s right. 

Ryan

Another thing you said that I hadn’t really thought about before is because it’s interesting. Like I’ve changed my morning routine over the years. And now I’ve settled in on a very specific 20-minute morning routine. That’s the same every morning. I do whether I’ll be an occasion or, you know, even with the crazy household in the morning because it’s only 20 minutes. So I have no excuses. But I hadn’t thought about you saying that you have different morning routines based on summer, winter, and travel that I think that there’s something, there’s something interesting there. And it makes sense because I think about it like, I’m from New Jersey and the winters are pretty tough and the summers are nice. And so the morning routine in the summer could look different than the winter. So I hadn’t really thought about that. So thanks for sharing that. 

Dan

Well, you’re welcome. I mean, my wife’s routine is really the same. She’s really into routines and patterns. And that’s really, really cool. I like to just be very on my own, there’s some consistency to my routines. But there’s a little bit of variety. I had an office in downtown Munich for 15 years, and I’ve just changed to a more home environment here. But I ride my bike every day to work, it’s about 10 miles. And I rode my bike to work for 15 years, every day in a different way. I mean, there are only so many ways you can ride to work. But for me, that was just a little bit of new stimulus, a new window, a new building a new street corner. And that just sort of stimulated my thinking in the morning. So you know, if your routine is working, I’d say stick with it. Or otherwise, you could just put a little salt and pepper on it and see what happens there.

Ryan

Yeah, exactly. One thing you mentioned before is that sometimes I’m talking to energy on the show, and you made me think of it, you said you go off-site because I know you do leadership coaching. And it sounds like you do off-site meetings with your clients. And so I’m assuming that if you’re going to coach one person or a team of people, you have to come with a lot of energy, right? Because people feed off of energy. And that’s something that I have to remind myself because I tend to be more on the lower energy side, not boring, I don’t think but more just like just even-keeled. But I’m conscious of the fact that people feed off the energy, especially on like sales presentations or team meetings, you want to have energy. And so I’m assuming you bring energy to your off-site meetings. Is there anything you do to prime yourself before those meetings?

Dan

Oh, that’s a good question. I mean, for me, I’m working in my sweet spot. So my work is working with, you know, senior leaders, men and women at the top of the organization, it could be a larger or a smaller and midsize organization, that’s the executive team or the strategic leadership team have a particular function. And for me to be able to do this work, and to be able to work with such talented people who are striving to put their team together in a better way or drive their strategy. I just feel it’s really noble work. Not that I’m of nobility, but I just, I just it just humbles me. And I’ve never, some people are like really bright with mathematics, or some people can hide jump seven feet, I’ve just always been a constant and source of abundant energy. I’d like to think and I think for me, what’s important is to, you know, match the energy of the group. So I see myself as sort of a facilitative leader, I’m not there as a lecturer or as a football coach, telling them how they should work together. These are very, very bright people, sometimes running billion euro organizations or billion-dollar organizations. So I think it’s important that my energy doesn’t become overbearing, but sort of calibrates with them, you know, so I find the right energy level, that’s, I would say, that’s how I work.

Ryan 

Yeah, I mean, like, you’re, you’re working in your zone of genius, that the energy is naturally there, and you’re kind of reading the room and matching their energy. Now, those are two really good takeaways. Thank you. I’ve got one last question for you, then, of course, it’s gonna be about leadership, I’m gonna leave it open-ended for you. Give us some tips, it can be one typically two tips, just end with some wise leadership advice. And then you can share your website with everyone and how everyone can connect with you.

Dan 

Well, put that leadership question that leadership advice in the context of personal development, because regardless of what role we have in life, whether we’re a professional manager, or leader or teacher, or doctor, we’ve all got to lead ourselves. And I think that’s sort of consistent with some of the messages that I’ve heard listening to you and things like that. And I don’t think there’s there’s one tip about leadership these days personal development for me, there’s three that I use in my life, and that I see successful leaders around me using and one is, people forget that they can play with their perceptions. So let’s just say that you’ve been on a sales call, and you thought it was going to go in a good way. And it didn’t matter of fact, it went disastrously wrong, you know, it went terribly wrong. And you’re sitting out in your car in the parking lot, and you’re brooding and you know, but that’s not the reality. That’s just the perception, you can play with that meaning that you can imagine that, that you’re sitting with Oprah Winfrey, and you were an extremely successful person and you’re being asked to look back at one of the darker moments of your sales career, and you recall that moment sitting out in the parking lot and you’re telling Oprah Winfrey about it. So what I’m saying is that that kind of situation lifts me up. So whatever is happening to you, you can shift it you can play with it, you can move it around number one, I think number To me, what’s really been helpful for me and leading my life and helped me get to where I am is, is to really surround yourself with people that you can learn from. And that will challenge you. So, you know, just look around who you surround yourself with. And if you don’t have people around you, that are challenging you to be the best version of yourself, you know, you’re not married to those people forever. So I spent a lot of time seeking out mentors, guys like Dr. Marshall Goldsmith, Dr. Alan Weiss, Dr. Yuri Bush, who have actually sought out and, and have been mentored and coached by them, which has been very, very helpful for me, and you don’t have to pay for that you’ve got the internet now. So you’re getting different kinds of things in the link up there. And last but not least, I’d say, early in my career, perhaps I tried to be too much like other people. And I think it’s important to just build your own life, don’t try to be somebody that you aren’t, just be authentic. Just go through life and have fun, and build your own life. It’s the only one that you get. And it’s better to be, you know, a perfect version of yourself than to be an imperfect version of someone else. And those would be my, my words on that.

Ryan

It’s super actionable, Dan, and it’s such an important topic. I’m glad we had the chance to talk about what leadership is, especially now it’s very much needed. And it’s hard. Honestly, it’s a hard thing to learn. I feel like it’s something that you, you never stop learning. Because, you know, it’s human to human. Everyone’s different. And it’s a tough thing. And I’m glad I’m glad. I’m glad I had you. I’m glad we had the chance to talk and thanks for sharing everything that you did. I appreciate it. Ryan, how can people connect with you if they want to learn more?

Dan

Well, I’m pretty active on LinkedIn. So I’m always welcoming conversations. I do quite a bit of posting and sharing there and always looking interested in meeting people there. I have a website, which is Dannorenberg.com, you’ll find my book, which is a combination of my experiences with over 150 leadership teams on three continents. It’s called Executive Owner Shift: Creating Highly Effective Leadership Teams. It’s available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble and a number of other bookstores or you can go to YouTube and I put some, let me say pragmatic coaching, short clips there that people usually find very, very helpful.

Ryan  

Yep, we’ll make sure to link everything up in the show notes. Thanks again, Dan. And thanks, everyone for listening.

Ryan 

Thanks for listening to the Morning Upgrade podcast. Please subscribe and review. And don’t forget to visit us at morningupgrade.com for more content.

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