Surround Yourself With Good People

“Surround yourself with people who are the best at what they do, then let them do it.” Our first Dadage explores the company you keep; the good and the bad. What does it mean for us as individuals, and how does it apply to our family, professional, and social lives?

Episode Transcript:


You know, when I was your age, go ask your mother. I know you don’t like it, it builds character. How many times do I have to tell you? I’m not just talking to hear my own voice



Hello listener and welcome to Dadages. I’m your host Chad Hagle. And if you’re looking for some fatherly wisdom for your career, your family or any other aspect of your life, then you’ve come to the right place. If you want to learn more about Dadages, find additional content, submit questions or feedback to me. Or if you want to know if that mental picture you have of me after hearing my voice matches my real face, visit Thanks for being here. And before you listen to our podcast, please listen to your father.



Well, I see you made it back for episode two of damages. I’m your host, Chad Hagle. I’m so glad you’re here. I sound like an American Airlines “welcome aboard video”. That’s a sure sign that I spent too much time on planes. Maybe that’s a good thing though. My air time is my free time, it seems to be the one time I can avoid distraction or interruption and get my reading and writing done. To share some behind the scenes perspective, I actually compose the majority of episodes one, two, and three collectively, while traveling on a family vacation to Kenya during this past summer. It was an amazing vacation with three generations of my family. But I’ll come back to family travel stories later in this episode, and then share some really detailed perspectives gleaned from my time in Kenya in episode three. I told myself before we went away to Africa that if I could pull together three episodes of this podcast while traveling during a two week period, that would represent a critical mass of work and I would shift from writing to producing. It would also be my litmus test. To prove that I had the capacity to reliably produce content at the proper volume and cadence to fancy myself as a podcaster. The fact that you’re hearing this now is evidence that I met my initial goals.


I hope you’re enjoying Dadages so far. And I hope you keep coming back and finding meaningful content and commentary from me. Just to refresh your memory from the close of episode one, which I just wrote, and perhaps you just listened to. I introduced this first Dadage as the topic for Episode Two. Always surround yourself with people who are better than you are at what they do best, and then let them do it. This is a notion that dates all the way back to the sixth century, when Confucius said, if you are the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room. As part of the law of attraction Confucius believed that if you wanted to manifest your objectives and bring them into your life, you also had to surround yourself with the right people to help make that reality come to pass. In today’s episode, I’m going to break down this concept a bit and apply it to family life, professional life and social life. Let’s dive right into family. I’m going to restate my own Dadage how I see it in a family context. Surround yourself with your family and learn to love them for being the best version of themselves. Even a quick search of the internet provides a vast range of quotes and perspectives regarding family that reveal the unique and different experiences that we as human beings have with our own families, and how they shape our deep rooted feelings about family. Desmond Tutu said, you don’t choose your family, they are God’s gift to you as you are to them. That’s really beautiful, right? But you can also find multiple versions of a quote attributed simply to anonymous that goes something like some of the most poisonous people come disguised as friends and family. Well, this is a particular poignant statement. I’m sure many of us can relate it at some level.


Listener, where are you on the spectrum? Is your family God’s gift to you? Or is your family made up of poisonous people? Or both? Newsflash, families come with conflict. It’s a universal trait. As I said a moment ago, our human experiences with family are not only highly varied, but they’re equally formative and impactful. For the purposes of our discussion today, I’m going to keep to the middle of the fairway and not try to play the rough. What do I mean by employing this golf reference? I simply mean that there are individuals among us who have experienced horrific trauma inflicted by family members, including terrible cases of physical, emotional or sexual abuse, I’m not going to try to touch those subjects nor would I presume to try to offer advice on managing family relationships in such extreme and terrible circumstances. I’m simply not qualified. My advice and perspectives offered today are really geared for those of us that have middle of the road family experiences and only have to endure the requisite and customary amounts of consternation, damage and frustration required of all families, my family, like everyone’s exhibits a healthy amount of unhealthy behavior. I’ll share a few examples of such behavioral patterns to which I’m sure you can all relate.


Triangulation is the first. Triangulation is nothing like Phil Jackson’s triangle offense which transformed the way basketball was played at the NBA level in the 80s and 90s. But it is just as effective at breaking down an opponent, I can assure you of that. Triangulation is when one family member recruits another family member against a third family member to try to call out family member three for something that family member one dislikes. Oh my gosh, Judy, can you believe what your brother did? I don’t think that is consistent with our family values. Do you? This sound familiar to anyone?


Here’s the second – projection. This is when your dad straps the entire family to the living room sofa and makes you all sit through a slideshow of family vacation pictures against your will. Now no, that’s not what it is at all. Projection is when one person takes their own insecurities born from negative experiences or their own negative traits and either accuses a family member of those same things, or anticipates that the family member will exhibit those behaviors or traits in the future. Because that’s all the one doing the projecting knows from their own experience. Projection artists are those family members living in glass houses and hurling stones seemingly non-stop.


Here’s a third behavior pattern – diagnosing or labeling. listener, I’m gonna let you in on a secret, and let’s keep this secret of parenting quiet. When you become a parent, they bestow upon you a PhD in psychology and an MD along with the collective wisdom and knowledge of every psychologist and medical professional that has come before you. That’s why parents know everything. Yeah, we all wish it were that easy, right? While this is a farcical notion, it doesn’t stop some family members, particularly parents from believing that they have the ability to diagnose any condition that can be experienced by a child or an adult, for that matter. I’m certain Jimmy has borderline personality disorder, we look at the way he’s coloring so radically outside the lines of his coloring book. Even worse, individuals who can’t resist this behavior pattern, also have a tendency to shape any set of facts into symptoms to validate and reinforce their diagnosis. This falls under the heading of “you get what you’re looking for”, and is known by psychologists as confirmation bias. I can tell you this is certainly the worst kind of family practice medicine you can find.


With all of these landmines that exists in family dynamics. Why bother? Why don’t we all just run away from home form new circles of friends and never look back? Here’s what I think we’re stuck with them. Right now listener, you’re probably saying Wait, that’s good news. That sounds terrible. That’s like saying, gee, this restaurant makes up for its terrible food by providing poor service to ensure that you have to endure it for as long as possible. I asked you though, to please stay with me and on this one, and I’ll try to explain. There is no bond stronger than family. We really can’t run away from our families. Even if we do physically run away from them. We cannot escape the lasting impact they have upon us as individuals. It’s like the theme of the movie Magnolia. You may be through with your past, but your past is not through with you. If you haven’t seen the movie, go stream it as soon as you can. I think it’s perhaps Tom Cruise’s best performance ever. He’s not the main character of the movie, but it is truly a powerful character portrayal, perhaps second only to his role and Tropic Thunder, another one of my favorites. Make a note of it listener and watch that one too.


So we may be through with our families but our families are not through with us. Any licensed family therapist will tell you that the most common issues that they treat and their patients have at least some basis and family of origin issues. I hear us and our again, where’s the good news and all of this I’m gonna give you three pieces of good news. First, family is your fallback, your safety net, it may not be universally true for all of us. But when you struggle the most in life, that’s usually the time that you come back to your family. And you can count on them to be there for you. After all, if you’re stuck with them, they’re stuck with you also. Second, family is a framework for problem solving and reconciliation. Because of the strength of the family bond, members of a family are less inclined to cut and run when there’s conflict. And again, this is not universally true, but on average, you stand a better chance of working out interpersonal issues in a family setting, because the family bond provides a tether to hold you together until you get through the process of working through your differences.



This can help you learn critical skills and dispute resolution that you can apply to other relationships in your life and for the rest of your life. Third, even when we incur damage from family, that damage can be a foundation for growth. Maybe you don’t resolve issues with your family members, maybe those issues leave a lasting mark on you. Maybe that mark grows into some form of more significant psychological damage. Well, now you have a real chance for growth. Whether you find a great therapist to be your Sherpa up the mountain of personal growth, or perhaps you find an incredibly healthy relationship where you and your partner can help heal each other from the trauma of your youth – either way, that same family that screwed you up, gave you the gift of an opportunity for personal growth and for a meaningful human connection. With everyone else out there in the world, damaged in some way by their family of origin. It can truly be a unifying force. If you appreciate it for what it is. Without a doubt, we will come back to topics related to family and future episodes.


For now though, I’d like to move on to applying today’s Dadages to the professional realm. This is probably where it fits most obviously, always surround yourself with people who are better than you are at what they do best and let them do it. Logical, right? You’d be surprised how much this is a challenge, though, as an entrepreneur for over 25 years now. Wow, that’s a quarter of a century I’m getting old. In my 25 years, I’ve learned a lot of lessons about building and managing a company. This episode gives me the first opportunity to share some of those lessons with you. I’ve built organizations as I said, in my career as a real estate developer, I’ve also built a lot of buildings. But what I enjoy more than either building organizations or buildings is building people.


Over time, I’ve learned not to hire for positions. Instead, I hire people and put together the right job description around them based upon their actual skill set. And even more importantly, that job description can’t be stagnant. If you filled your organization with good people, you have to challenge them and keep them challenged. That means the job description changes over time. Sometimes I like to say that in my company, we may be in the business of building buildings. But we don’t build walls or ceilings for our team members as the capabilities of the individual grow, so to should the scope of their role in an organization. Some of you are shaking your heads right now and saying what about the Peter Principle, the notion that by continuing to advance someone in an organization based upon their capabilities, you inevitably move them up through the organization until they reach the point of incompetence, because only then do they stop growing their role in the organization. Well, you’re right. It’s a real thing. And it happens.


Let me share a story from my own company. I once hired a young woman named Lauren as an administrative assistant. She was incredibly bright, and she really had an understanding for our business and a grasp on our approach to project management. So we expanded her role to include some basic project management. She showed so much promise in that area that we made her a full time project manager and she started to manage some of our key development projects. As our development program grew and grew. Lauren grew with it, she took on a greater and greater role in it. Eventually she became director of Project Management, and not only manage her own projects, but took on a role managing other project managers. Obviously, her compensation grew during this time period. And at some point along the way that dreaded Peter principle kicked in and she started to make mistakes she had grown beyond her capabilities at that stage of her career. So what happened even though Lauren’s compensation had grown it It hadn’t necessarily grown to the level the market would dictate for an experienced director of Project Management. As I said, That was her her new title. Another opportunity came along from another company who saw what she was doing for us and wanted her to be a director level Project Manager for their organization. They enticed her with a greater compensation package. And, frankly, we wished her the best and let her go. And Lauren was an amazing team member, a great asset and quite a find. She had grown with us we had grown with her, it was time for her to move on. Everybody wins. This case study reveals changes in the hiring environment and the relationship between employees and employers that has evolved over the past 20 years or so.


Reed Hoffman, co founder of LinkedIn, wrote a piece with a couple of colleagues in the Harvard Business Journal in 2013. And that piece was entitled tours of duty, the new employer employee compact, here’s what they say in the article. The time has come, we believe for a new employer employee compact, you can’t have an agile company, if you give employees lifetime contracts. And the best people don’t want one employer for life anyway. But you can build a better compact than every man for himself. In fact, some companies are doing so the article goes on to say this is the beginning. We think of the new kind of compact that’s needed today. Although it is most evident in the tech world, we’ve seen elements of it elsewhere. At consulting firms, for example, the chief principle underlying it is reciprocity. Both parties understand and acknowledge that they’ve entered into a voluntary relationship that benefits both sides. I firmly believe in this notion, we’re well beyond the world of lifers, people that spend an entire lifetime working in one company, or one industry for that matter. But if we cultivate an environment that promotes mutual respect, and provides mutual benefit, we can attract and retain good talent for the appropriate length of time, until that mutual benefit has run its course. And as long as both the company and the employee depart better than they arrived. Again, everybody wins.


We’ll talk a lot more about hiring and team building and future episodes of Dadages. I promise you that I found this Best If Used By Date phenomenon to be true of partnerships as well. The notion of finding a good business partner for a lifetime is daunting at best. I have achieved at higher levels throughout my career when I have had a strong partner or partners around me. Now a strong partner is not necessarily the person who is best at everything. A strong partner is the person who is the best fit for you. Partners must complement one another, fill in blind spots, hold each other accountable, and communicate effectively with one another in order to serve as great sounding boards. I think in addition to this pairing of complementary skills, the other essential factor for successful partners is alignment of interests. partners must not only stand side by side, they must be facing in the same direction. They must have the same goals and objectives for the enterprise as a whole. That is equally rare and essential. What is even more rare, perhaps impossible, from my experience is that the alignment of objectives remained consistent in perpetuity. Inevitably, individuals grow and change in different ways and at different times at a different pace. So far, in my lifetime, all evidence has proven to me that it is impossible to sustain partnerships indefinitely. For this reason, when incentives interests and objectives of partners are no longer aligned. It’s time to move on. I’ve been there at least three times in my career. And trust me when I say that dissolution of partnerships can be as challenging as divorces. It takes even more maturity and mutual respect to dissolve a partnership than it does to form or sustain one. Again, forming building and managing business partnerships will be a topic of Dadages to come. So how do you find good people with which to surround yourself? There’s no magic formula, no secret sauce, and certainly no guarantee but offer just a couple of suggestions to you here that have served me well over the years. I’m going to just touch on them, and I sound like a broken record here now ,but I promise that if you tune into future episodes of Dadages, these are concepts we will explore together and far more depth.


Chad’s first suggestion for team building; never hire someone to do something you haven’t already done yourself. There are two equally important aspects to this concept. A, it’s a morale issue. I think it’s professionally hypocritical to ask someone to do something that you’re not willing to do yourself. I find it demotivating and demoralizing to team members when they feel like they’re being dumped on. B, If you haven’t executed on a task yourself, how can you ever know if the person doing it is doing it properly? I’m not saying you have to develop an expert level of proficiency in all tasks or functions of your enterprise in order to hire somebody to perform those tasks. That would be impossible. I’m just saying you better have done it, or at a minimum tried and failed at it, before you hand it off to someone who can hopefully do it a heck of a lot better than you can.


You can’t know if someone is better than you at making coffee if you’ve never made a cup of coffee for yourself. And yes, I’m telling you that you better have made your own coffee in the office at some point in your career before hiring an assistant and making it a part of his or her responsibilities. True story. One time I was interviewing somebody for a job, and I asked them, Is there anything taken out of the equation, something that would be morally wrong or questionable. But is there anything in our company that you wouldn’t do? And they said, I’m not going to make coffee. That was the end of the interview. I’ve made coffee. When you have to make coffee, you have to make coffee. And if you’re not willing to make coffee, you’re just not a team player, and you don’t belong in my organization.


Chad’s second suggestion for team building; hire team members that are good members of a team. Well, hold on Yogi Berra, that’s awfully redundant and reflexive of each ad. Well, here’s what I mean more specifically, there are roles in life that change who we are, there are certain experiences that change our mindset and we grow go through them. Some of these experiences can cultivate better team members. Specifically, I require one of three experiences in the background of anyone I hire into my organization. Pretty much without exception, one hospitality industry experience to military service, or three team sports. I found over the years that there are very important lessons that can be learned in these three areas of experience that cannot be learned anywhere else in life, putting the needs of others ahead of your own, and working together as a group. In my experience as a business leader, these traits are some of the most quintessential for good team members to possess. How may I help you today? Leave no man behind. There’s no I in team. These are the common phrases you’ll hear in hospitality, military and team sports. The people who think like this are the ones I want around me and my company.


So now we’ve talked about this notion of surround yourself with people who are better than you are in the family and professional realms. What about the social arena? To introduce this topic, I’m going to relate it to my experience at Stanford, for me, and I think this was the case for the majority of my classmates at Stanford. I came to the University out of a big-fish small-pond situation. Let’s face it, no matter how big or how cutthroat competitive your high school might have been, it was still just high school at the end of the day. Relative to the great wide world out there. Every high school was a very small pond, coming from an environment where I was always at the top of the class. And, frankly, I could get away with a lot when I was thrust onto the scene at Stanford, I was suddenly surrounded by some of the most incredible people on the planet. My incoming freshman class included Olympians, a Russian concert pianist, soon to be internet billionaires, and of course, Tiger Woods. Being thrust into an environment like that can be many things. intimidating, inspirational, overwhelming, you have to come to grips with the fact that you probably aren’t going to be the best at anything, and you certainly aren’t going to be the best at everything. And if you expect yourself to be or if you try to outwork everyone around you to be the very best, you can really set yourself up for failure, terrible failure.


There are many reasons why mental health has become such an area of great concern. And this crisis of identity in the face of tremendous competitive pressure from peers is just one of those reasons. It’s a big problem on college campuses across the country these days. It really requires a complete paradigm shift in order to find happiness and to find comfort in your own skin. When you’re in an environment like Stanford, you really have to learn to be the best you rather than the best – I don’t know – fill-in-the-blank with whatever you like. Let me restate for you in one more version, today’s Dadages of surround yourself with people who are better than you are. I’ll say it in this way. When you have surrounded yourself with people who are better than you are at what they do best, learn to simply be the best version of you that you can be.


Let me share that once more because I really want you to hear this. When you have surrounded yourself with people who are better than you are at what they do best. Learn to simply be the best version And of you that you can be and one more thing, love yourself for being that. Now the Type A plus folks and tiger moms in the room are saying, wait a minute, Chad, are you telling kids it’s okay to just be mediocre and not try your hardest to be the very best. I’m in no way promoting mediocrity as a virtue and I’m certainly not part of the participation trophy crowd. I’m not advocating for compromise. I’m simply advocating for acceptance, acceptance of reality, self acceptance, and stoic philosophy. This notion is called The Art of Acquiescence. One of my favorite authors, Ryan Holiday, paraphrase the Art of Acquiescence as follows. When the cause of our problem lies outside of us, we are better for accepting it and moving on.


I’m not an expert in stoicism, but I do appreciate the principles of the school of philosophy. If you want to learn more about stoicism, I do recommend Ryan holidays books which cover a number of topics and certainly contain a really good accessible introduction to stoicism. He’s a very prolific writer, and among his titles are the obstacle is the way and the daily stoic. At every stage of our lives. The selection of the people with whom we surround ourselves plays heavily into our quality of life and into our overall trajectory as human beings. Motivational speaker Jim Rohn often said, You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. What Jim is really saying is that we should be conscious in our choices of the people with whom we fill our lives and fill our time because they will influence what we do and ultimately who we are. And Jim kept some good company. While you may not have heard of Jim Rohn, who is most influential in the late 70s, you’ve probably heard of two of his mentees who credit him with helping them achieve their success. Mark R. Hughes, the founder of Herbalife and Tony Robbins, life strategist and motivational speaker extraordinaire, but rather than me continuing to drop big names and trying to impress you, and in the case of Tony Robbins, he has literally a big name. That guy’s what like six, seven.


Let me bring back all of this closer to home back to my own little corner of the world here and Fairview, Texas. This is really exciting for me listener because I’m about to introduce our first guest to Dadages. Without further delay, I’m pleased to introduce my very first Dadages cliffhanger. Please continue to episode to be to enjoy my very first Dadages interview. And before you do remember, dad may not always know best, but he sure can sound like he does.



Thank you for listening to Dadages. If you enjoyed this episode, remember to visit And subscribe to the Dadages podcast to get notified for future episodes. You can rate a review on Spotify and Apple podcast. Why? Because I’m your father and I said so. Just a little respect is all I asked for. I put a roof over your head and food on the table and what do you do? Know Tell me exactly what do you do because I am doing everything I’m paying for everything. No Get back here. Get back here right now.