How do we push ourselves out of our comfort zone? What does it mean to "pimp the system"? Desmond Jefferson explains all of this and tells us about the moment that changed his life.
Desmond did the typical thing in college. He partied, he hung out too late...in short, he didn’t take it seriously. One day after being placed on academic probation (which he never failed a class before), he had to make a crucial decision: is it me or is it them?
He had to choose himself and put himself above his friends. He needed to put his needs first. Easier said than done, right?! Desmond showcased courage and humility during our episode by publicly sharing that he was on academic probation. He had not openly shared this part of his life before our episode. He was vulnerable and wants others to learn from his story.
You can hit a down time and think it won’t get better, but it will. By the way, he focused on himself and was on the Dean’s list. His great advice: Find out what makes you unique. That is your foundation and then build on it!
Desmond is an experienced leader who has successfully worked in the recreational facilities and services industry. He was one of two directors at St. Andrew’s Parks and Playground, in Charleston, SC, working with children.
Currently, he is a Sales Support Coordinator at Floyd Lee Locums, which provides an elite concierge experience to physicians, CRNAs, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and other healthcare providers searching for new career opportunities. Desmond is a graduate of Francis Marion University with a degree in Healthcare Administration. In his spare time, Desmond loves to travel, spending time with family, and watching sports.
Connect with Desmond to learn more about him and his background:
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Keri [00:00:11] Welcome to the reCHARGE®, Your Life podcast with me, Dr. Keri Ohlrich and Kelly Guenther, we are thrilled to talk to people who have made a decision that reCHARGE® their lives often. They push themselves out of their comfort zones and took risks. We want to know about that decision point. Why did they make that decision? And most importantly, how can we learn from them? Kelly and I are passionate HR professionals, and together we co-founded our HR consulting firm Abbracci Group. We have talked to amazing people throughout our careers and listen to them as they made decisions that changed their lives and knew that these inspirational stories would help others. And why did we call it reCHARGE®? It's based on a book I coauthored called The Way of the HR Warrior. And in it we have a leadership model CHARGE which stands for courage, humility, accuracy, resiliency, goal oriented and exemplary. We know that people used one or more of these qualities to help them make their decisions, and we want to learn from them. Now sit back, listen and be inspired by these stories and then do something to reCHARGE® your life. Let's get to it.
Kelly [00:01:17] Hi, everyone. It's Kelly. We're thrilled to have Desmond Jefferson as our special guest. Desmond is an experienced leader who has successfully worked in the recreational facilities and services industry. He was one of two directors at St. Andrew's Parks and Playground in Charleston, South Carolina, working with children. Currently, he's a sales support coordinator at Floyd Lee Locums, which provides an elite concierge experience to physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and other health care providers searching for new career opportunities. Desmond is a graduate of Francis Marion University with a degree in health care administration. In his spare time, Desmond loves to travel, spend time with family and watch sports. So Desmond were so excited to have you on our podcast. We always like to start by asking what show, podcast, book or blog do you go to when you want to push yourself and expand your thinking?
Desmond [00:02:13] Perfect. I want to say thank you guys for having me to be here, and so to answer your question, two books that I have that's on my radar. One I've had since sometime in college. It's by a friend, Jerome Smalls. It's called Small Talk. So this book basically dives into different things that he has encountered in his life. And basically, it's used as a tool and a guide about how he's gotten through those struggles and different things. And a lot of it that that's in this book is relatable to what I have gone through in my life. So sometimes I find myself going back and just rereading certain things within the book just to see how how should I navigate my life, basically. And so that's a great tool that I kind of go back to from time to time. Another one that I have recently started reading is called Crucial Conversations, I believe is by three or four different authors. But basically, as of right now, where I am in the book, it's talking about how to bring up certain conversations and not be afraid to shy away from certain things that you want to talk about within the workplace. So those are basically two things that I have on my plate right now.
Keri [00:03:33] Welcome, Desmond, thank you for joining us. We really appreciate it. What go into the first book, Small Talk. What is one of your favorite passages that you that you go to that you reread?
Desmond [00:03:47] So, you know, the second chapter is actually called Pimp in the System. So basically, pimp the system to me basically just means everything that you do in life has rules and regulations per say to some capacity, basically. So things that you go through in life and the trials and tribulations, basically you have to find a way to. Bend the rules, I guess, to make it, you know. What's the word I'm looking for, basically to make it? You basically the fit to fit those rules and regulations, make them bend to yourself and not others. So yeah,
Keri [00:04:35] I like that. It's because everything is a system and everything how you pay your taxes, how you buy houses and like everything is a system. And so how do you work within it and figure out those rules? And, you know, people often find ways around taxes. You figure out how to work within that system. So I kind of I might have to steal. You're just pimping the system up. Everyone does it. Everyone does it. And and to get kind of political. But but then other people get blamed for doing that, whereas kind of everyone does it right. They like the system. And it's like you're doing it too, by putting your taxes in a company in Ireland. Right. Most people do it all the time. I kind of I love.
Desmond [00:05:30] So, you know, pimping the system. I mean, you know, that chapter in itself was basically fundamental to things that I've tried to try to do with in my life. Basically, improving the system can just mean, you know, finding ways to better yourself and. That's the that's the biggest thing that I take away from it. So how do how do I better myself within the society today and within the rules and regulations that society has put forth to me.
Keri [00:06:02] So interesting. What what about the crucial conversations? I use it because I do know that book. I haven't read it yet. So appreciate that you brought it up. What what are some like maybe the one or two thing, Desmond, that you're like? Well, it's going to be really tough to do bringing up that conversation or what kind of made you uncomfortable already reading it that, you know, is going to be a good stretch for you.
Desmond [00:06:27] So one of the things, basically a back story about how I got involved in this book. So my CEO, Natasha, we she serves on the board for the Chamber of Commerce in Charleston. And there's a leadership discovery class that they put on. And I enrolled and in one of our classes, we talked about crucial conversations, basically, and it could range from anything at work versus learned how to go to your boss if there's a problem within the workplace, how to talk to your boss, if you may disagree with him, how to talk to your boss, if you want to raise or things like that are basically the biggest things that I took away from this book, because it does dove into certain things of that nature. So one of the biggest things that I took away as well is conflicts. You know, I tend to shy away from conflict and especially. Going to a bar or superior of mine and let them know that, hey, I may not agree with you so, but how can how can we find a common ground to agree but disagree? Kind of. So so I'm kind of navigating through that in the book right now.
Keri [00:07:49] Yeah. That that conflict pieces. I don't really think I haven't met people, many who say I love conflict. Like, I can't wait to go right into my boss and say I want more money. There's a few. There's a few. I do know a few who would be like, yeah, I like that. But that is there more in the minority that I think most people like? I don't like that. I don't want to go in. I don't want to do it. And so I think just it's such a good book to read. And because if you don't bring it up or you don't have those conversations, how that festers and sticks with you and that's not helpful for your career, your leadership or your just mental health and your physical health. So I'm glad that you're like, all right, I shy away from it, but how can I do it in? This book is going to kind of help me push myself to do those things, because as I got to ask for stuff, too, you have to ask for the raise. You have to ask for development. You have to put you up there in your career.
Desmond [00:08:50] And so I went this book, too, as well. One of the things that my mom has taught me, one of the many things she has taught me in my life basically is ask questions. You know, the worst anybody can ever tell you is no. So I kind of keep that mindset in reading this book is helping me understand understanding the why of why we need to have these crucial conversations. So I'm taking that approach.
Keri [00:09:17] I first of all, I love that you shout at your mom because I'm a mom of a son. I always hope one day he'll he'll shout me out. I don't have hope for it, but we'll see. But that ask questions. And it is so because there's a couple of things with questions like you said. So what the worst thing they can do is what say no really. I mean that. OK, fine. And in the research world, when they talk about questions, it just by asking it changes someone's brain changes, they start to think about something. So maybe you're the first one who asks. It does mean and they're like and whatever. Right then but then maybe the fifth person asks for the sixth person and they're like, huh huh. Maybe we do have kind of an issue here or maybe we should address something. And so you are just by asking it, changing the way they think, changing the conversation. So you you get the know that, that the best thing that happens is, is you've changed their thinking of it. You've put something in there that is like, oh, I didn't think of it that way. That's interesting that you ask that question and it might just you planted the seed and maybe a year later they come back to it. But you've planted the seed. Just the question.
Desmond [00:10:41] Absolutely.
Keri [00:10:42] So cool. I love it. Keep asking your questions, Desmond. So I got to at that segue way. It's like I'm a professional on that. I'm not. So what is the decision you made now that change the trajectory of your life? And what are some of those charged qualities that you use to help you make that decision?
Desmond [00:11:01] So one of the things that one decision that I made, I guess the biggest decision was early on in college my freshman year, I had to decide. Basically, whether it was me or was it them, and what I mean by that is early on in my college career, I found myself doing things that. Wasn't, I guess, healthy is the right word to use. I was doing things that wasn't of myself. I was hanging out late, partying, doing college things, thinking that I was enjoying myself or trying to make myself believe I was enjoying myself. And after a while, I realized my grades started slipping. I wasn't doing as good as I should have been in college. And I actually I guess for lack of a better word, I took it as a joke. And so I had to figure out whether it was going to be me or whether it was going to be them. And I've always thought of myself as somebody who was humbled. I've never really gloated about anything that I've had in my mind, but. I end up I end up being placed on academic probation after my first year in college, I end up feeling some courses that in me I have never failed in classes through my educational life up until college is when I started feeling classes. And so I started learning basically the humility of things. It wasn't it was a rough patch, it was a very, very, very rough patch operation in college. So I had to learn basically what is going to be me or whether it was going to be my friends. And I chose myself.
Keri [00:13:04] So I. I like what you said. Is it me or them? Right. So am I going to choose myself or am I going to choose what the crowd is doing? And I think that's such a tough decision at that age that you even could articulate. It does mean to mirror them, right? Like the did you even have that? Like because your brain's not even formed until you're 25, and you're a freshman and that's really hard. So for you to have that, that insight, I got to choose myself. Where do you think that, that to me that's courageous. So where do you think that courage came from. Because not a lot. You know, there's a lot of people who screw up the whole college thing and continue and still don't say, I think it's my friends, I got to choose myself. Where do you think some of that courage came from for you?
Desmond [00:13:57] Not wanting to go back and facing my Mom...So so to be honest with you, I think this is the first time I've actually came out and told anyone that I was based on negative information and that I failed classes. So I was actually scared and nervous about having to go back home and tell my mom that a. I'm on academic probation, and there's a good chance that if I don't do good next year, that I won't have financials for the next school year. So basically, the fear of going home to Lemonier might be a college dropout or something. So that that's where it really came from. That's where stem from the most, I guess. So after that, the good side of that, the next year I buckle down. I got away from the guys that I was rooming with and no, no disrespect to them at all, but I just had to get away and do what was best for myself. And so after that, I became on the on the dean's list. I made A's and B's. I got off academic probation. I started doing things for myself, so.
Keri [00:15:09] That, first of all, thank you for sharing that with us and being where we were before we were talking with Desmond, because we always talk to our guests before we start. We hit record and we said the most successful guests are vulnerable and they tell us things and so doesn't. Thank you for sharing that insane academic probation. And when people listen to this, they might not have as much shame saying it and feel like it's OK, because look what you did. You then were on the dean's list, though, right? And so and so you turned it around. And sometimes people don't realize that you've been through a struggle. So they just see you on the dean's list and they say, oh, it must have been easy for him. And so the fact that you can hear your story and say it wasn't and I actually had to remove myself from these from from the crowd to focus on me is really wonderful story to talk about. Thank you for that. And thank you for sharing that. And I'm glad again Mom comes back into it. What how was it then to kind of talk about crucial conversations? What are some of the conversations did you have or not have maybe with your friends, because now they're expecting you to go out all the time. So how did you kind of extricate yourself from those those situations then? And how did you focus on yourself, what you do?
Desmond [00:16:35] So the guys who I roomed with my freshman year at some point, we all attended high school together, so I knew them pretty well, but I knew them enough to go with them. Getting away was the biggest thing, so after after my freshman year. I'd be in room with them in a room with people whom I didn't know, and that was an experience in itself, but it was good for myself to get away and find my own path, basically. Some of the crucial conversations that I had with him, I just have to let them know that know I can't go wrong all the time or I'm studying right now, you know, I have a test coming up. So something along those lines, I never faced any conflict, anything with them because they understood that we're in school and the goal is to graduate, you know, so. That's and then they were appreciative, I guess, of that.
Keri [00:17:44] That that shows that they're good friends, too, because not so good friends, if you like, come on, Desmond, come out. Don't worry, it's don't matter. And I think you said two things from the charge qualities. You really talked about this humility and sharing and going, oh, this is kind of bigger than me. Like, I could fail out of school. Like, I don't know everything. I can't do all this. I can't party and get good grades. So I got to use myself. And I think to, again, this courage of choosing yourself. And a lot of people struggle with that because we want to please other people or they want their friends to like them. And so they don't stand up for themselves and say, no, I have to study and I have to do well because I'm going to lose things if I don't do this. So are there any other some of the charge qualities of courage and humility that that really helped you?
Desmond [00:18:41] I became goal oriented. I was never a person who was I had to go into what I had to write things down. I actually find a whiteboard that had a calendar on it. And I would write like due dates of certain things that that had to be done, whether it was a project that I was doing and whether it was a quiz that tests. So I started writing things down and putting it on the wall that was next to my door. So every time I would come in and out of my room, I would see it and then I would updated on the regular. So I became goal oriented. And that's that's where I learned how to write things down. So you did follow them.
Keri [00:19:28] Well, you did such a good job, first of all, you had me at white board because if I could like fire wall that I could just drive race every day, I'd be so happy. So. But but what you did that was so smart and you probably didn't. You didn't. You just did. It naturally is seen it. So it's by my door. I walk out, I make decisions based on that. I see. Oh it reminds me. Oh I have a paper due tomorrow. Well I can't like you were constantly reminding yourself of what you had to do and how you're going to hit that goals. And that's so critical when you're changing habits to to to remind yourself to see it, to have some kind of tangible thing that you can see is so critical. Do you still do that now? Like, I have some of these habits just completely continued throughout your professional life?
Desmond [00:20:14] Yes, absolutely. So I have a stack of sticky notes now. And so I'm sticking basically anything that's important, anything that I need to remember, a sticky note it until I don't need it anymore. I'll write to do list down on sticky note. Now, as the day goes on or as the week goes on, I'll check things off. And so that's what I kind of do now for say and then if there's no meetings or anything that I need to remember, something like super important, I can't forget. I'll put it in my phone or something of that nature.
Keri [00:20:50] Yeah. So you're still that goal oriented and still doing that, which I just love that that, again, you had this moment where you could have just not done well at college and dropped out. And you do. You chose yourself. And so how is it now, Desmond, to do still kind of think about and not daily, but monthly, whatever about choose yourself first and making sure that you're taking care of yourself before you kind of you know, it's putting on your oxygen mask first before you help others. How are you kind of living with that and managing it
Desmond [00:21:27] So, I mean, I'm always I've always been the person to help one wanting to help others. So sometimes I still find myself, you know, throwing out a lifeline for others before I save myself. So that's kind of a daily challenge, but. For the most part, I do think about myself and I try to put myself first, basically, so yeah, thanks.
Keri [00:21:55] What what advice do you have for people? So now that you've been through this, you shared and you're vulnerable. What advice do you have for others when they're kind of hitting a wall and going, oh, this is not what I planned, this is not going well? What's your advice?
Desmond [00:22:11] So my advice is basically find out what makes you unique in the sense that. That's the foundation basically finding out what what is unique, what makes you unique? That's the foundation. And then you build from that. You started joining different organizations, find different groups to to be a part of or whatever it may be, find things that make you step out of your comfort zone. And then that's like laying the bricks of a house, basically. Then along the way, you end up meeting people who you feel comfortable with, you know, bringing into your home or people who you've you've built with, of course, of time. And eventually, one day you're going to self reflect, are you going to say, hey, you know. I came a long way from where I started, so.
Keri [00:23:12] That so I ask, what is your kind of uniqueness, or sometimes we call it super power, when you you reflect on yourself, what's yours?
Desmond [00:23:22] Mine? Yeah, it's a good question.
Keri [00:23:28] I mean, I got to ask.
Desmond [00:23:31] So what makes me unique is I guess I find the beauty in anything. I try to find beauty in different, different things. I try to stay positive. I try not to get too down on myself when things are getting rough because. I'm a firm believer in that God doesn't place. Too many things on you that you can't bear, and I try to try to remember that from time to time. And there's somebody out there who always has it worse than you, no matter no matter what, somebody is out there, has it worse than you. So I try to find the beauty in different things and find beauty in the struggle.
Keri [00:24:18] I I love that that advice is just it's so clear, it's like find out what makes you unique. I wrote it down and then you build from that and you find beauty in things. And I think it helps you make those decisions like where you went to work or going to Floyd Lee. And because they can find beauty in things and they do they do share your value set. And once you know yourself, once you know what makes you tick and you said you build around that as well as step outside your comfort zone, which I know this podcast was stepping out of the comfort zone. Absolutely. And so I'm just so happy for you because not only did you give the advice, which you're like, oh, I do it because I maybe I do this podcast, maybe I don't. I'm going to do if I got my comfort zone and you shared something that you haven't shared before and you start to get those types of people in your life, then and I really just appreciate that advice. And I know, Kelly, first of all, Kelly uh, daily steps outside her comfort zone. So so are the reasons. I love working with her so much. But that whole Kel, just find what makes you unique and build around that. I just I adore that advice, Kelly. And of course, he writes things down, which, of course, Kelly just loves that, too.
Kelly [00:25:42] Right. You had me at white board for different reasons than Keri. Keri likes a blank white board. I like it filled out with what are we going to do? How are we going to do it? Who's responsible? Always a good thing. I was like sitting here bawling my eyes out while you're telling your story because it feels very much like mine with because I was on academic probation too. And so I could even cry about now. But it's that point where you decide what do you want to do next, right
Desmond [00:26:16] Absolutely.
Kelly [00:26:16] Where you make your decision. I'm going to continue going through this. And I'm going to either go home and tell my parents that I can't do it or I dig my heels and they realize I can do it and I'm going to give myself a chance. So I just love your story. It's amazing. I have to ask you, are you friends with the people that you had roomed with in that you were in high school?
Desmond [00:26:39] So we we still do talk from time to time. It's nothing. No, really expensive because they're out doing their own thing. I'm out doing my own thing. So but we do keep up with each other from time to time. I do still see them on social media, you know, all the good stuff. So.
Kelly [00:26:58] I love it because, again, those people, like they helped you to they helped they were a support for you. They could have easily to Keri's point said, you know what, I can't be your friend. I'm not you know, it's either us or school. And you lose one. So pick one. But the fact that they were they recognized that this was something that was really important for you, that they supported you through. It says a lot. And I feel like if people could get this information and listen to this podcast as soon as they're going into college, I mean what a difference, what an impact it could be because you would save yourself from, you know, like you and I having gone through academic probation. And but again, sometimes you have to kind of hit that bottom before you realize, all right, what do I want to do? Do I want to live with my parents for the rest of my life, what people do? And that's OK. But or do you want to do you want to take a chance on you and realize that you have so much more potential than what maybe you've given yourself? So having the confidence and then employing tools that work for you doesn't I think is beautiful because there's lots of tools out there for productivity time management organization and you can try all these different things and still struggle. But the fact that you found something that was going to help you, you put it near the door so you able to see it every day going in and out of your room. Amazing. Love it if there is. Yeah. Is there for for anyone who's going into college next year as a new freshman. As a freshman. What recommendation is there one thing that you would recommend that people be mindful of?
Desmond [00:28:37] Going to college, I think. Once again, just stepping out of your comfort zone, I think is the biggest thing, finding a group of friends who, you know. You may not know him from high school because of me finding people who are just like you and. Going going with it going forward. And one thing I've actually told somebody before, too, is that college, when you go to college in San Francisco, it's OK. It's, you know, complete college is because certain things happen in people's lives that whether they drop out for a certain reason or they transferred to different colleges and go in college, which may not be the same people who finish college, and that's perfectly fine. Don't necessarily follow them in their path. You know, find a path, find some people walking on and eventually, you know. Playing right and right in college, ball will walk across process.
Kelly [00:29:52] But amazing, and it's OK to be the one in that library at midnight working or by yourself like those, those are the moments that really help you build yourself and recognize that this is important for me. I don't want to miss an opportunity. It's expensive. I need to be mindful of if it's scholarship money or my own hard work money or my parents who help me or a friend, whatever, that every day is is a gift. And what I love most about what you've shared with us today is find beauty in the struggle. That's the quote for me for this podcast. So, Desmond, we so enjoyed talking with you. Thank you so much for your insights, your perspective, your vulnerability. Truly, one of my most favorite episodes has been talking with you. So thank you so much.
Desmond [00:30:38] I appreciate it. Thank you.
Kelly [00:30:40] Absolutely. And if you'd like to connect with Desmond, feel free to do so on LinkedIn at Desmond Jefferson. And I will include all of that information in our show notes, as always. Thank you again, Desmond. Really appreciate you.
Desmond [00:30:57] Absolutely. Thank you.
Kelly [00:31:00] Thank you for listening to the reCHARGE® your Life podcast, please sign up for our newsletter at Abbracci Group dot com and follow us on social media. You can find us on LinkedIn at Abbracci Group, Instagram at WarriorsofHR and Twitter at Warriors_HR. Remember to subscribe to our podcast, leave a review and please tell a friend and be sure to drop us a note on how you are reCHARGing your life. We can't wait to hear from you.