Blain Wease felt like a misfit from the very beginning of his life. He’s a natural risk taker who didn’t fit in with his family, at school, or a “traditional” job. In adulthood, he found the freedom to be himself and is now thriving as a father, husband, and entrepreneur.
- “A lack of risk for me equals boredom and boredom creates a tremendous discontent and dissatisfaction internally because I have to be challenged.” – Blain Wease
- “I can’t fake interest, I can only create interest in something if I see purpose in it.” – Blain Wease
- “So much of the academic world, to me, has no purpose. It’s learning for the sake of learning, which I don’t relate to. I don’t have a grid for that.” – Blain Wease
- 1:02 – Being a Canadian with an American mind
- 2:42 – Growing up in a house without risk
- 8:11 – Finding an outlet for risk-taking
- 12:57 – Changing the future of the education system
- 20:59 – Letting your kids fail
Mothers of Misfits: Welcome to the mothers of misfits podcast Join me for conversations about how to advocate for our kids in a one size fits all world Be sure to subscribe So you never miss an episode
[00:00:16] Emily Melious: Hello everyone! Welcome back mom community. So today we are talking to Blain Wease. He’s the founder and president of Provincial Development Group, a Nashville based professional services firm established in 2004. Provincial works with wealth management firms to equip their leaders to lead more effectively, build, scale, and realize sustainable growth. With Blain, we’ll be talking about what if feels like to be a misfit as an entrepreneur. So welcome Blain, glad to have you!
[00:00:47] Blain Wease: Thanks, Emily. And thanks for the invitation to be joining you today.
[00:00:51]Emily Melious: Of course! Well, we’ve known each other for a couple of years and I’ve gotten to see your incredible, innovative nature and how that plays out in the business world, but being an innovator hasn’t always, been easy for you. In fact, you felt like a misfit from the very beginning of your life. You described it as being a Canadian, which is where you’re from, growing up with an American mind. What do you mean by that?
[00:01:20]Blain Wease: Well, to fully get into that, that’s a deep conversation, but for the sake of your podcast, you know, there’s a, there’s a unique sense of national pride in Canada. And, this is just my humble opinion, but I think sometimes Canadians have little man syndrome, and they compare themselves to their neighbors to the South and it creates some internal angst.
[00:01:45] And so, for reasons that I don’t fully understand to this day, I was always fascinated by America from my early teen years. And I really had a strong sense that I would live in the United States and very much wanted to. And, after meeting my wife, I was able do that. The two were unrelated, I didn’t have a game plan to meet an American woman and get married, but I really just had an internal sense that, I would end up in the United States and, I have a great love for the nation and, continue to, have a great appreciation for the country.
[00:02:20]Emily Melious: Yeah, you just knew it in your gut that you were destined for something a little bit different, , and that’s pretty incredible that you knew that at such an early age. But speaking of misfit, not only did you feel like a misfit, when the sort of mindset of the country you’re in, you also felt like a misfit within your family.
[00:02:41] You say that your family’s highest purpose is to eliminate risk, but yours is to pursue risk. In fact, you actually have a physical reaction to no risk, which I don’t think a lot of people could say, right? So you’re clearly wired differently from your family. What was it like to grow up in a household that didn’t operate like you.
[00:03:06]Blain Wease: I think when you have that paradox of risk adverse, living with what I call risk necessity, it’s just very easy to have misunderstandings because the two are so unrelatable and it’s a difficult thing to navigate. Of course, now I’m looking back and I have language for these things, then I didn’t have a language.
[00:03:29] So I knew there were differences, but I didn’t understand the nature of them, I didn’t have a framework to process. And so, it’s easy to feel misunderstood on both sides, especially when you don’t have a construct to view it through and maturity to analyze it with.
[00:03:48]Emily Melious: Of course. Yeah, in my work, I see a lot of tension and conflict in families, that’s caused by different operating styles. And oftentimes, rather than being viewed as, oh you problem solve differently, you know, you approach the world differently. It feels more like a personal assault, you know, I’m being disrespected.
[00:04:13] I’m not being appreciated. I’m not being listened to. And that can be very toxic for a family and actually very damaging. So I can appreciate their struggle in that. I love that you just said risk necessity. Flush that out a little bit more. What do you mean by that phrase? I think that’s a cool way to put it.
[00:04:35]Blain Wease: Yeah, well, what I’ve come to understand with the help of my wife, and people around me is my most difficult condition in life is boredom. Like that is my kryptonite. And so a lack of risk for me equals boredom and boredom creates a tremendous discontent and dissatisfaction internally because I have to be challenged. And, I talked to someone several years ago and they said this to me. Blain you can’t choose what you’re interested in, but you cannot fake having an interest in something you’re
[00:05:17] not interested in. And that was profound because I had always felt this degree of internal consternation around certain things.
[00:05:28] And I just, I couldn’t fake it. I didn’t have the ability to create an artificial interest. But I was so naturally given to be interested in the things that really peaked my interest. And so having this understanding and this framework of, I can’t be bored, that’s the worst condition, which made traditional education incredibly hard for me.
[00:05:49] I mean, I just. I had such a difficult time in school because I was perpetually bored and boredom. again, was this terrible plot to feel trapped in.
[00:06:00] Emily Melious: Yeah, and it also makes me think of this concept of serial entrepreneur. I’ve worked with many of those kinds of folks. And oftentimes the outside world can be quite critical of the path that they take, because people will say things like, wow, we watched you fight tooth and nail to get this startup off the ground and finally get stable.
[00:06:24] And that’s the point at which you get bored and move on and decide to go back through this same, hard journey? And for the rest of the world, it may seem like just this crazy cycle of jumping back into the uncertainty of it all. But I think you just described so well that it’s a need and that’s what keeps you engaged and challenged.
[00:06:47] And, it’s when something finally becomes stable, there’s nothing more for you to do there. And, and there’s really actually wisdom, I think, in knowing that that’s the point where it needs to be passed off, because if you were to stay in that situation, you’d sabotage it. Exactly.
[00:07:05] And the instability becomes so disruptive that nothing really sticks.
[00:07:10]Blain Wease: And Emily, if I can, there’s another element to this for me, that was unique. And I never understood this as well, but. I grew up in Canada in a town that was highly, highly unionized. And an unintended consequence of being in that community is unions create a tremendous amount of sameness.
[00:07:30] So the architecture, very, very, very similar. Like you can literally drive through a neighborhood, and you have 200 homes that look virtually identical. And you have this ripple effect where everywhere you go, you create sameness and, quote unquote, quality. So I had the dynamics of growing up in a family that was risk averse, and I lived in a community that was risk averse because the union had had this massive impact on literally the culture that I grew up in. And again, I never realized that until looking back and thought, why is some of this cultural element difficult for me, until I connected those.
[00:08:08]Emily Melious: That makes complete sense. How did you find positive outlets then for your need for innovation and risk-taking? I see in kids in particular that don’t have this level of self-awareness, they have this energy and it’s either going to come out in positive ways or negative ways. And when we squelch the positive opportunities, we usually start to see more of a disruptive child or what we label as such or, we start putting some of those dis-words on their behaviors. How did that play out for you? Cause it looked like a lot of your environments were not conducive to the way that you naturally operate.
[00:08:49]Blain Wease: Yeah. Well sadly, because I didn’t have the character that I would have liked to have had. And I didn’t understand myself I did not have a framework and, I love my family, I’ve got a great family, but one of the things that wasn’t valued in our family, looking back as much as it could have been, was self-awareness. because I think on
[00:09:09] some level self-awareness
[00:09:11] was perceived as self-centeredness.
[00:09:13] And there was an aversion to being self-centered. And so I was self-centered in many ways because of these conditions, but I didn’t understand why, I didn’t understand the root center or the origin of it. And so it just created a lot of anxiety growing up. I use this example because it’s powerful. You don’t realize how heavy gravity is until you’re out from underneath it. And so when I was able to come out from underneath the gravity of anxiety, because of these things working internally, I had no idea of this burden that I was shouldering for decades. But now I feel a lot of freedom and I feel like I’ve got a lot of understanding and that’s why I think what you’re doing here is really helpful because, I didn’t have a resource like this. I didn’t know of anything that could produce clarity or this framework or understanding like you’re discussing.
[00:10:12]Emily Melious: That’s awesome, and so encouraging. Thank you for that. My mentor, Kathy Kolbe, defined success as the freedom to be yourself. That makes me think of your example with gravity. A lot of people are walking around with tons of additional weight. I actually coached a woman, a very, very successful international executive.
[00:10:36]She was in HR, but she was not a classic profile of a manager, if you will. And I remember, I mean it’s seared in my brain, that she told me before we went through the coaching that we were doing together she said, I was so afraid to be found out. And she’s wired a lot like you, you know, very entrepreneurial, very tactile, hands-on, bottom line, short cutter.
[00:11:02] And that just hit me to my core, that she’s been living her whole life afraid to be found out, because the situation she was in didn’t necessarily value who she is at her core. And she wasn’t living in a free way, she had all that excess gravity, if you will. It definitely is something I think a lot of folks can relate to. Going back to your experiences in school, my dad also very entrepreneurial, you know him, that’s how we first met. He talked about literally getting sick. He would get nauseous. He would come home from school and actually throw up because school was such a difficult environment for him. And I think he would just was constantly fighting himself and it created a physical reaction. Can you identify with that?
[00:11:53]Blain Wease: I can, and it’s so fascinating that you bring this up because about, eight or ten years ago, we had a high school reunion and it just happened to correspond with a trip back to Canada to see family. And I walked in the school, and I could feel my internal world change. Like it took me right back to, I feel burdened and I physically had a reaction to it. And I like for the first time I’m piecing together Oh this is that connection to this tremendous internal tension of I know it shouldn’t be this way, but it is. Back to what I said about interests. I can’t fake interest, I can only create interest in something if I see purpose in it.
[00:12:39] And so much of the academic world, to me, has no purpose. it’s learning for the sake of learning, which I don’t relate to. I don’t have a grid for that. And so that experience helped me Catalyze what you’re talking about, because it was so visceral.
[00:12:57]Emily Melious: So, if you could have your way and change the educational system tomorrow, what would you do to have it work better for the “Blains” of the world?
[00:13:09]Blain Wease: Yeah. Well, that’s a very complex and thoughtful question. I think, the way that teachers get ready for education is so you prepare for average,
[00:13:25] Cause that’s your benchmark, because you have children who are very bright, you have children that are not as bright so you’ve got to target the middle. You have children that are very athletic, some that aren’t, right? You’re programmed to target the middle. I don’t have all the answers to the question and I know we don’t have time to get fully into that, but the things that are most powerful are like, Co-op programs or work programs where you can go to school, have education on the basics, but also have real-world experience.
[00:13:51] Here outside of Nashville, our son’s involved in EIC, it’s literally an entrepreneurial program where students get together and create a product and a company as a part of their education. I would have thrived in something like that. And it would’ve made the other aspects of my education more bearable because I would have had something to look forward to. So I think things like that are tremendously important. But I also think that a family that can understand these dynamics and help coach their children around these things and engage with the teachers to say hey, this is who Blain is, This is how he functions, that’s just the way it is.
[00:14:29] The more you can help shape that narrative in that context, the more helpful it’s going to be to the student and the teacher, especially if the teacher is receptive to the realities of these types of topics.
[00:14:41]Emily Melious: And I’m a product of that. You know, I grew up knowing this information about myself. My parents are similarly wired to me. So while not every part of the classroom setting played to my strengths, I didn’t question my value as a person. I didn’t question my abilities. I didn’t internalize that as something being wrong for me because at home, I was told, hey, sometimes it’s not always going to work so easy. Sometimes you’re going to hit headwinds and friction, but you still have something so wonderful and perfect to offer to the world. And that, I agree with you, that’s such a huge starting point, foundational, and something we absolutely can control because we can’t always control what’s happening in the classroom. But if we give our kids that gift of knowing their value and knowing that they have something to contribute no matter where they are, again, I’m living proof of that really working. And something else you said that I’d like to touch on is that opportunity for taking risks. Our educational system on the whole is to teach people to be risk-adverse, right?
[00:15:51] You know, I tell a story about my son, Mason my oldest, he’s seven, he’s in the gifted program. The gifted teacher was giving him sort of brain teaser exercises, and one of them was to work this 3D puzzle.
[00:16:04] I don’t know all of the parts of it, but she said, here are the blocks and here’s what you’re trying to accomplish. So he’s wired much like you and what did he do? He jumped in and started trying things out, right? And with trial there’s error. So he wasn’t getting it right the first time, he was kinda messing up. That’s fine. That’s his creative process. But, the teacher said, Mason, wait a minute, stop, step back, slow down, make a plan, strategize so you can get it right the first time. And I was so sad when I heard about that, because for him, like you, that’s not productive, it’s de-motivating. It really cut off his creative process and, life doesn’t always work like that. And there are certainly times where we want to be risk averse and we need that too, but I don’t think that the educational system as it is allows students those times to go mess up. Get the wrong answer 10 times before you get to the 11th time, or maybe you never come up with the right answer, right? Whereas those kinds of environments that your son is in, that sounds like that allows them to flex that entrepreneurial muscle and really is that positive outlet for those students.
[00:17:29]Blain Wease: Yeah. Emily, if I can, the most powerful example that’s helped me bring clarity to this is this. I’ll use a car company. When general motors is developing a new Corvette, which they just did last year, they have an R&D department and the R&D department purposely makes mistakes, right? They’re purposely testing things, they’re finding out where things fail. They know that they’re going to have a low percentage of success on purpose Here’s the beauty of this example the same company has a manufacturing department Their goal is zero defects. Here’s what we do that is a colossal mistake. We take the mentality of the manufacturing department and we superimpose it over R&D and say, you play by the same rules we do. You have the same goals that we do, you measure success just like we do. And it doesn’t work. So what’s given me tremendous liberty is the concept of, in my life, there are manufacturing settings where my goal is zero defects. But there’s a lot of my life that’s R&D where I’m experimenting, where I’m doing things on purpose that I know are not going to work because I’m testing the limits of things.
[00:18:40] I’m a boundary pusher, and I really have to watch that, right? And I grew up skiing and I thought this way. Most people I knew would define successful skiing as skiing all day and not falling. I defined failure as skiing all day and not falling because if I do that, I never got better.
[00:19:00] And so I wanted to fall because falling was the only way I didn’t want to get hurt necessarily but I wanted to fall because I knew that that was my R&D And I didn’t want to take a manufacturing mindset to the ski Hill. And this concept of identifying it has been transformational for me.
[00:19:18]Emily Melious: Loved the concept of skiing and falling, which also makes me think of something that hits home for me, because I am personally a risk taker as well. That’s how I’m wired to operate. But I’m a mom, and I’ve got to say from self experience, it’s really hard to be the mom or the parent of a kid who defines the skiing success as falling as much as you can. You know, that mama bear moment of, no, no, no, don’t fall, or, don’t fail. That’s really hard to contain as parents. Honestly, the Blains, the Emilys, are some of the hardest kids to parent because it’s necessary for them to mess up. Now, I think the lesson there is for parents to help with the guard rails, right? So within these boundaries, those are okay mess-ups. Those are the ones that don’t totally wreck life or your future. And then here’s the places where we just don’t go cause that really is dangerous either to your health, to your safety, to your future. But man, that’s one thing to say a whole other thing to do is to establish those boundaries and really step back and watch your child fail.
[00:20:33]And even the concept of, steady job. I’ll hear a lot of parents of people wired like you saying, why can’t you go just get a steady job? Why can’t you just stick with something? I mean, even with hobbies. My well-intended mother made me play piano because it was valued to see it through, but I was bored. I was over it. I wanted something new. So, you’re a dad and so the tables have turned for you too. How are you sort of managing that whole mindset of protecting your kids, but yet giving them the freedom to be themselves?
[00:21:07]Blain Wease: Yeah. So I have the advantage of this. Perspective looking back. So one of our sons is very risk averse. He’s the other end of the spectrum. I really like your example of guard rails, because here’s the distinction that ties into your question. My guardrails are very different than his. And I cannot superimpose my guardrails into his world. He’ll be miserable, literally miserable. You know, same with my wife, she’s a lot less risk averse than I am, which is a tremendous balance and gift to me, but I can’t live within her guard rails in terms of that decision, because that’s risk adverse for me. And I have risk necessity, right? That concept of guardrails, because when you think of guardrails on a mountain road, they’re the same for everybody, but we can’t superimpose that into parenting or into relationships.
[00:22:02]Emily Melious: So well said, and I like that you brought up the reverse. Though if you are the entrepreneur, the innovator, the risk taker as the parent, what I’ll often see is a parent’s advice to the child, particularly in new situations or unknowns, they’ll say, oh just give it a try. Just even riding a bike. Hop on, figure it out, no problem. And that child is thinking, this is very risky, this is very scary. I need to start step by step, little by little and the parent’s encouraging them, you know, do a cannonball into the deep end of the pool. And you’re right, I’ve never thought of adding that to the analogy of the guard rails, which is to maybe bring them in or pull them out depending on where everybody lands. And more importantly have conversations about that as a family. You know, this should be something that everybody feels comfortable talking about and that fosters that self-awareness in our kids.
[00:22:54]Blain Wease: You know one of the things that we’ve done as a family, we’ve made some mistakes, but one of the things that I really appreciate that we’ve done that does foster this kind of thing, Is every new year’s we have this routine and you know teenagers give a variety of responses to it but, we literally go around and we say what we appreciate about what’s unique about each person.
[00:23:17] And we affirm them and we’ve been doing it For years but it’s just this time to go into the new year and reflect back on the past year to recognize we’re all different.
[00:23:28]We all have different things that we value. I’m very different than my wife, I’m very different than my children, but we celebrate what we can celebrate.
[00:23:37] Emily Melious: I love that. In fact, I want to end on that challenge for everyone listening. The holidays are coming up and 2020 has undoubtedly been in tough year for all of us, but taking the time, maybe around your Christmas table or at the new year, to affirm the strengths in one another. And particularly as parents, pointing that out in your kids, letting them know what’s just right, what’s perfect, what’s so valued about them. Those are game changing moments and those truly set the foundation for the course of their life. Blain, excellent advice. Thank you so much for sharing your personal story today and giving us a lot of golden nuggets that we can use as parents and even as professional, just appreciate you coming on.
[00:24:21]Blain Wease: Sure. Well, thanks for having me. I often talk about a lot of other business subjects, I haven’t had the opportunity to have this kind of discussion and I appreciate your interest in having it today.
[00:24:32]Emily Melious: Yeah, well hey, boredom is not good, right? So we had to shake things up.
[00:24:38]Blain Wease: We’re living the message.
[00:24:39] Emily Melious: We sure are.
[00:24:40]Mothers of Misfits: Thanks for joining us for this episode of the mothers of misfits podcast Make sure to subscribe So you never miss an episode We also invite you to visit us at MothersOfMisfits.com