Scott Mann | Retired Green Beret on Leadership, Afghanistan, and Grief


  • What do Green Beret special forces do and how do they differ from other special forces?
  • What qualities make a leader?
  • How can everyday people become a leader in their own life?
  • What, in leadership, breaks his heart?
  • How does Scott feel about the pullout in Afghanistan, having worked directly with the Afghans for several years?
  • What is Scott’s take on grief and suicide prevention in the military?

Scott and I address these questions and more. He also opens up about the moment he planned to take his own life.

Grief has shaped Scott into a leader that is not only one of skill and mastery but also one of emotional intelligence. Grief has so much to teach us, as Scott Shares, and it is possible to find a path to leading a life of purpose through the pain.

Listen to Scott’s journey of leaving tracks and hear the possibilities that could also be there for you in your life.



Victoria Volk 0:00
Thank you for tuning in to grieving voices. Today my guest is Scott man. He spent 23 years in the United States Army 18 of that as a Greenbrae, where he specialized in unconventional, high impact missions where he forged bonds and solve problems using values and leadership skills that moved people around the world to stand up for themselves. Since retiring Scott now teaches the same skills and communities and businesses where trusted leadership is more valuable and more vulnerable than ever, empowering local leaders to restore trust and create human connections in places where it doesn’t seem possible. He has appeared on CNN, Bloomberg, Fox and Friends Fox Business News, Newsmax and dozens of syndicated radio shows including National Public Radio, Wall Street Journal radio, Fox News Radio and the Jim Bohannan show. His op eds have appeared in the Tampa Tribune, Washington Post and small worlds journal. And he is a high performance breath coach, also certified by Dr. Belissa. Branchenet

Victoria Volk 1:05 Did I say that right?

Victoria Volk 1:06 Got it right. All right. Thank you so much. That’s quite the quite the resume

Scott Mann 1:12
That 50 Cent’s will get me a cup of coffee.

Victoria Volk 1:14
Thank you for bringing your wisdom to my listeners. I’m been really excited about this conversation, especially in light of what’s obviously been happening in Afghanistan. And I know that’s a lot of your experience. But I do want to start at the beginning. Because I’m really curious about you as a person. Did you always feel like a leader?

Scott Mann 1:39
Oh I feel I didn’t always feel like a leader. In fact, I often don’t including right now, I often felt like I should be leading. You know, I felt like I should be playing a bigger game like there that I should did, I should try and lead. And that was there was always kind of a, an urge for that or a drive for that. But then it was quickly followed by the reluctance of should I actually be doing this? Am I the right person, all of those negative head chatter things that we feel when we do step into the arena and actually try to do it?

Victoria Volk 2:13
Did you have leadership emulated for you as a child as you did?

Scott Mann 2:17
I did. Yeah. That’s one thing that I was truly blessed with. I was surrounded by by leaders. My father would worked in the US Forest Service for 42 years. He he fought big, wildland fires and very humble man from Appalachia, but yet great leader. And same with my mom, you know, she was a civil servant. She was a public school teacher, her entire life. And you know, she emulated leadership for me every day at my school. I mean, she was one of my teachers in a very, very small school. So and and, frankly, in that small school, in that small town in that little logging town in Arkansas, great leaders in my school system and in my community. So I had the opportunities to just see a lot of really, really fine leadership on display all the time. Didn’t have to look far to get examples of what it looked like.

Victoria Volk 3:07
Did you always know you wanted to be in the military?

Scott Mann 3:11
From a very early age. Yes, I wanted 14 years old was when I started to really move that direction. I happen to meet a Green Beret named Mark who came into our soda shop when I was sitting in there one day and it was a transfer transformative event. It really he sat down with me and talk to me about special forces or the Green Berets and what how they work by with and through other people how they work with indigenous cultures. And that’s very different than the seals and the Rangers in that Green Berets are relationship based connectors. There. There’s a degree of lethality in what they do. But it’s it’s typically to work by with and through indigenous people and help them stand up and fight back. And and that really appealed to me. I think it was because I was such a runt as a kid. I was very, you know, I was very small kid. Even though I felt like I should lead I seldom felt like I had what it took always on the outside looking in. So that was a very appealing thing to me. You know the whole do oppressor live bear slogan of the Special Forces forces which means to free the oppressed. I just I obsessed over it. And from that point at 14, I just that’s all I ever wanted to do.

Victoria Volk 4:26
And you did it.

Scott Mann 4:27
Yeah Yeah In fact, I told him I have three sons, Cody Cooper and Braden. And they were at my retirement sitting next to my wife after almost 23 years and I told them I said, you know, the one of the best things is that I get to look at you guys and say that I actually did what I dreamed of since I was a kid and it was better than I thought I would be. It would be when I was a kid and and that’s, that’s a great thing to be able to tell your children.

Victoria Volk 4:51
I just got goose bumps. That is that is I love that. Have any of your children I don’t know if they’re older they can enlist Are they about it or have it?

Scott Mann 5:02
So we have three like I said three boys. We just became empty nesters a couple of weeks ago, right as the whole Afghanistan crisis developed, so we haven’t really had the opportunity to chase each other around the house fully yet, but we, that’s on the docket. But you know our boys, Cody is the oldest and he’s an infantry lieutenant in the army. Now he’s a platoon leader. My middle son Cooper is a junior in college and is pursuing an FBI internship. And my youngest son Brayden is a recently graduated senior, and he wants to play for the Yankees. So we’ll, we’ll see how.

Victoria Volk 5:36
Wow that’s awesome Um, so in your mind, what makes a leader

Scott Mann 5:47
I think a leader, you know that my vision of leadership is what I call rooftop leadership. And it’s a rooftop leaders, rooftop leader, that’s the type of leader that I saw on display in Afghanistan, all the time, in my final tour, where these Green Berets would go into these villages, these little teams of 12, in villages that had been through severe, persistent fear, uncertain uncertainty and prolonged isolation, 40 years of conflict and escapable shock. And they would work with these local communities. And whenever an attack on the village, they would live right there, they live locally, whenever an attack would come, they would go up on the rooftop, the team would have the house they were staying, and then they would fight back in the village would do nothing, they would stay below and just hide. And you know, so when risk was high, they would go up to that rooftop and they would make a stand. And then when when it was over, they would come back down. And they would spend the next day out in the fields working alongside the Afghans. They would sit with them and tribal churros drink tea, build relationships. And so they were building trust when risk was low until eventually, you know, one by one, those farmers went up on their houses and fought back. And that approach to roof leadership that I call rooftop leadership, that ability to inspire people to stand up on their own. You know, that’s what a leader is, to me, a rooftop leader is someone who has like a crystal clear vision of a better world. And even if it doesn’t exist yet, and they have these dynamic interpersonal skills that inspire other people to help them build that world. And when things get hard, that leader goes to the rooftop, even when nobody follows them, and stands up for it. And that’s to me in this day and age. That’s what we need more than ever.

Victoria Volk 7:32
And you have a TED talk about this, right?

Scott Mann 7:35
I do. Yeah, I did. I’ve done a couple of TED Talks. The first one I did was in Santa Barbara. I believe it was I want to say it was like 2017. I’m not certain but it is on rooftop leadership. And and that approach, it’s evolved a lot for me since then, and I think as it should for everybody. But yeah, yeah, it’s I encourage people to watch it, because I think it gives a perspective on it. Because the good news about that kind of leadership, Victoria is that it’s for everybody, like you don’t have to have a title to lead. In fact, I think the leaders with titles these days are not exactly doing the best job in the world.

Victoria Volk 8:09
Perfect segue into what I was gonna, where I was gonna go and that I just read a Forbes article talking about empathy as being the top skill for leaders, how research is showing that empathy is one of the skills that is required of leaders. And actually, it said that empathy is the most important leadership skill, according to research. And there’s two ways to approach that. And you can either with cognitive empathy, like what would I be thinking if I was in that person’s shoes? Or how would I feel if I was in that person’s shoes? Do you feel like empathy is something that’s lacking? Especially maybe in the military?

Scott Mann 8:53
I think it’s lacking across the board. In fact, I would even go as far to say, maybe lacking in the civilian world more than it is in the military. You know, I’ve spent a decade now working in corporate America, nonprofits, small businesses, you know, so I’ve gotten a good look. And I’ve stayed with the military and law enforcement. I think, if you look at the military, let me give you an example. Okay, when Afghanistan fell, and those at risk Afghans were left in the lurch, who ran into the breech and got on their phones and started to try to help them. Veterans, right veterans who understood the moral injury of abandoning someone or leaving them behind when you promised you wouldn’t? Right. The civilian population, you know, did not run into the breach. Some did a few did. And that’s not a that’s not you know, that’s not lambasting the civilian population. I’m simply saying that the the preponderance of the response came from combat veterans who you would think based on the Movies and everything else, right? lack empathy and or, you know, the Door Kickers. And that’s true. But the reality is, that’s why I wrote my play. Last out, most people have no clue what the demand signal is on a combat veteran that they are men and women who are family individuals, they, they have a very, very soft spot in their heart for the for the, for the people who suffer through those wars. Anyway, I think that empathy isn’t short supply. I think that empathy is in short supply. And I think I agree with that article. In fact, if you wouldn’t mind sending me that article, I’d love to see it. Because I talked about this a lot. Dr. Benjamin Hardy talks about this in his book, personality as a permanent, he talks about the importance of being an empathetic witness of bearing witness to people, you know, as we come out of this, as I love the title of your podcast, and as we come out of this pandemic, you know, the longest pandemic in our history, we don’t know the journey that people have been through, we don’t know what they’ve endured, we don’t know where the grief lies below the surface, and where the where the healing still needs to occur. And I believe that one of the most important things that leaders can do and you don’t need a title for it is to be an empathetic witness to simply bear witness to the journey to the person in front of you don’t judge it, criticize it, listen to them, as if your life depended on it, you know, try to see the pictures in their head, the pain, the goals, the dreams, and really get an understanding of it before you even open your mouth. You know, I think if more of us did that, we wouldn’t be in a much different place these days. And that’s not a Republican or a Democrat thing. That’s a leadership thing.

Victoria Volk 11:37
Goose bumps again, absolutely, wholeheartedly, I will send you that article actually came someone. I had thought someone had liked it on LinkedIn. And I definitely when I send it to you read through the comments, as well, because there was actually a leader in there that mentioned how I think he means sympathy. Like he kind of changed the it’s not empathy, it’s sympathy. And I had to put in a comment, and I said, You know what, though, a lot of the times when people offer sympathy, it’s not sympathy, it’s pity,

Scott Mann 12:07
It’s pity, and it’s actually it’s actually for the person who offers it. Exactly. It’s a way to make them feel better to put 10 cents in the jar. And that’s not empathy. Let me break you. Can I can I riff on that for just a second? Yes, absolutely.

Victoria Volk 12:22
I’d love to.

Scott Mann 12:22
So one of the things you know, one of the things that we do at rooftop leadership is we really focus on you, we take the Green Berets skills that we learned to read Human Terrain, to read human nature. And one of the problems that we that I see in society today is we’ve lost connection with our nature, we’ve lost connection with what I say is below the surface, if human nature is an iceberg, you know, 80% of our humanity is below the waterline, it’s but it’s what you can’t see. It’s that 250,000 year old, meaning seeking emotional, social story animal who struggles in other words, we’re a mess. And you know, we are we are story creatures, we are emotional creatures. A lot of people think we’re thinking creatures who happen to feel. But the reality is humans are feeling creatures who just happen to think. And so when you talk about cognitive versus emotional empathy, it to me, it’s hands down emotional empathy. Because that’s how we navigate the world. We navigate the world through emotional responses. Cognitive responses are secondary to that, and they are important. But if we don’t have access to our own emotions, and if we can’t, to some degree, feel what the other party feels. Not only is that unhelpful. I think it spells disaster for our species. Because it’s actually how we’ve evolved socially, to the top of the food chain. It’s actually what got us to where we are. And I think that we are now on a path with these machines, with the blue screens with mass technology, that we’re actually going into almost a mechanistic state where we are we are trying to become machinelike. And we’re losing our relationship with the natural world with each other. And we’re disconnecting. And I think that if we start to, if we tell ourselves, that it’s actually about cognitive empathy, instead of emotional empathy, we’re going off the side of a cliff.

Victoria Volk 14:20
I 100%. Agree. And to your point about the iceberg, what’s under the surface is our grief, at the at the root of all of the issues in our lives and every repetitive problem that we see in our lives reoccurring. It’s, it’s grief. And I think grief is what causes us to disconnect from ourselves. And if we’re disconnected from ourselves, how do we connect with others? You know, because we’re always thinking about what’s going on with us, rather than being able to, I think, do you think this is something that can be taught like you’ve been doing this a while now can this truly be taught or do you think when you when you come and you do a presentation you speak to these organizations, the follow up. Are they implementing what you’re what you’re saying? Or is it just kind of? Yeah. Okay, there you go there.

Scott Mann 15:08
Yeah, yeah, I think it can be taught, I 100% believe it can be taught. The problem is we’re navigating the world right now and a lot of instinct. And it’s instinct that’s informed by the tip of the iceberg, which is the modern transactional world. And it’s only a couple of 100 years old, you know, what we’ve created in the modern world for ourselves, it is punctuated with abundance, and, you know, freedom of thought and individuality. And that’s great. But it needs to be rightly understood. You know, there needs to be a connection to our communal past, there needs to be an under a connection to, as you said, you know, our grief, the fact that we struggle, the fact that we, we navigate the world telling ourselves a story, the fact that empathy and reciprocity are a biological inheritance that actually allow us to build groups that overcomes obstacles in life, like all of that stuff, those are a biological imperative. You know, we have to understand that those are innate human needs and traits that are for us to use. So they can be in first we have to recognize them, we have to recognize what’s below the surface, we have to recognize that 80% of our human nature, we don’t even see it, it but it’s it’s in our tribal past. And we need to tap back into that we need to understand that without purpose, we die, we need to understand that the emotional temperature in the room is one of the most important things to pay attention to as a leader, both in yourself and in others, we need to understand that we are social, that we if we socially distance from each other fine, if that’s the way we’re going to handle the pandemic fine. But we also need to understand that there’s a level of collective madness that will settle upon us for two years of being apart from each other. And it’s going to manifest in certain ways when we come back into the sunlight. It’s not bad or good, we just, we don’t need to politicize it, we just need to understand it, we need to understand that. If you don’t if you use PowerPoint to communicate an idea with 70 slides, they’re going to forget 90% of it in 30 seconds, because it’s working memory. If you tell them a story, they’ll remember it six years later, right? I mean, and then finally, like you said, the grief part, we are creatures of struggle, we are a community of suffers, it’s how we, it’s how we’ve made it through the world. If you understand that, and you tap into that, then you can actually leverage grief and struggle and you can repurpose your scars in the service of other people, you can actually find a way out, that brings not just you into the light, but everybody around you. And so Absolutely, it can be taught I’ve been teaching it for a decade. And I’ve seen people in the darkest of places move into a different position based on purpose based human connection. It’s authentic, it’s what we should be doing. But it requires cognitive awareness, and a change in mindset away from this transactional mass technology world that we’re in, and an embracing of, you know, basically a foot above and a foot below the waterline.

Victoria Volk 18:06
You see, in the veteran community especially, I often see a lot of stories coming out of that where people are making something out of a mess that they experienced the grief that they experienced. And I know, grief is what do you think is the difference between a soldier who is a Griever? And a civilian? Who is a Griever? Can you make a distinction between that?

Scott Mann 18:31
maybe the only distinction would be that loss to a warrior is by design. In other words, you know, you’re going to lose people. And not only are you going to lose people, in certain lines of work, like the line of work I was in, you’re going to take people’s life. I mean, let’s not sugarcoat it, you know, you’re going to take people’s life, and people are going to your people are going to die who are not intended to die. I mean, there’s just a whole you know, war is a horribly, ugly, caustic, corrosive thing, and anyone who glorifies it or makes it otherwise, to me is disingenuous. No one hates war, more than a warrior, if they are in it for the right reasons, and if they are in it with their heart. All that said, when it comes to the grief when it comes to the loss when it comes to the pain, there’s no difference. I mean, there’s no difference at all. And, you know, people have come up to me and they’re like, Well, you know, I lost my mom, but that’s nothing like what you’ve went through. I’m like, what? It’s exactly it’s, it’s your it’s your journey. It’s your pain. Don’t Don’t equivocate it like it you know, just because I chose to go into the professional arms doesn’t make my loss more or less than yours. It’s just it’s just a path I chose to walk. And unfortunately, there is a level of loss that is by design. We can debate the morality of that all day long, but the loss of the loss and You know, that would that would be the main difference, I would point out, but But I will say, and I did another TED talk on this that I hope you’ll check out. It’s called the generosity of scars. And it really speaks exactly to what you’re talking about. Because for me, you know, when I got out of the military after a couple of years, that’s when it really came home to roost. For me, I didn’t do a good job of grieving, I didn’t grieve at all, I just pushed it down and went back into the fight for another deployment. I, you know, I didn’t want that stigma to be attached to me, I didn’t want to have to stop doing what I was doing, because then I’d have to face it, you know, and so I just pushed it down, and I just pushed it down, and then finally, got to the point after my, my retirement, that my kids would, if I walked in the room, they would just get up and leave, they didn’t want to be around me, my wife and I didn’t speak, you know, my life was crap. And it was because I had just denied myself, all of that grieving until finally, you know, I found myself standing in a closet holding a 45. And, you know, had my son Cooper not come home, and he did, I wouldn’t be here, there’s no doubt about it. And, you know, that’s not an easy thing to talk about, even to this day. But what what I’ve learned from that is that, you know, I can’t deny myself that, that struggle or that grief, and there’s a process that has to be that you have to go through and I still go through, I’m going through it now with the Afghan situation. And you know, it is a, that there is a path. I mean, there is a journey, where our scars that are below the surface can be repurposed. And I believe that with all my heart, I believe it with all my heart, I believe it’s actually rocket fuel for leadership. I believe some of the most phenomenal leaders in the world are the ones that have been scuffed up the most.

Victoria Volk 21:48
Thank you for sharing that personal story. Do you feel like the military is doing better in supportive? Soldiers? I think because here’s the thing. Two years ago, I was at a VA mental health summit. I’m a veteran myself and I went to this and I had a booth Grief Recovery. I’m a grief recovery specialist. I had a booth there. And I was listening to the breakout speakers and there was about suicide. And there’s two soldiers that had shared their personal stories. And then they had social there was a room full of social workers, lots of social workers. And there was one speaker and but over time, like even the breakout rooms, I never the whole entire day. I never once heard the word grief. They never said the word grief. Yeah. And it just blew my mind. It blew my mind. I mean, I was surprised, but I wasn’t surprised, you know, but it was I was I was really disheartened and sad when I left there, too.

Scott Mann 22:45
Right. I think you met you bring a great point. I don’t think in that context, that there is a lot of forward movement. I will, here’s what I will say. I do think that, you know, unfortunately, 20 years in Afghanistan and Iraq, you know, we got pretty good at, you know, how we honored our fallen and, you know, the memorial ceremonies and the team would would take time to grieve together. And, you know, there was some of that, but I don’t think to your point, you know, the the more deep dive kind of work that you take, you go through this thing and the right way to process it to metabolize it. No, I don’t think that there. I think that the chaplaincy does the best it can. I don’t think the VA is anywhere near where it needs to be on that. I mean, even just dealing with trauma or survivor’s guilt, or all those things. I mean, I think the preponderance of the work is being done by people like you on the outside, and my nonprofit hero’s journey, which teaches warriors to tell their story. And you know, what part of me says that’s okay. I think that the private public relationship, I think the government’s overwhelmed. I think the military is overwhelmed. You know, and I don’t think they’re going to catch up in our lifetime. And now my son’s a soldier, and he’s had a friend who’s committed suicide. And so, you know, there’s no time for a roof top leader doesn’t wait for someone to give them permission to step into the arena. That’s, that’s what I always tell people, like everybody was with Operation pineapple. They’re like, Wow, man. How did you guys do it? I’m like, What are you talking about? Like, we just, we just, we saw, we saw a gap, and we ran to the gap. I mean, that’s what I do. I didn’t have a plan. I still don’t have a plan. In many ways. I’m so far out over my skis. All I can do is look at the ground and go man, that’s gonna suck when wildland, you know, and a lot of times, that’s where leadership lives. We’re so far out over our skis, and we’re just like, yep, that’s gonna hurt. But you don’t that doesn’t stop you from doing it. And I think to your question here, it’s going to be you. It’s going to be me. Nobody else is coming. Right. If we’re waiting for the government to fix our problems, we are going to be woefully disappointed. regardless of political party, we are going to be woefully disappointed. The only way that things like this are going to get addressed is if you and I do it.

Victoria Volk 25:09
I’ve been trying, I’ve been trying and trying to get federal and government contracts. It’s, it’s not a, I’m not a licensed social worker. So I kind of got door slammed in my face and

Scott Mann 25:19
Don’t quit try, no, don’t quit try, because you know that the victories occur at a much smaller level, you know, and again, this is just a 53 year old dude talking here on metrics, right. And I think the metrics that we tend, we tend to assign to ourselves are these vast metrics of lives saved? And I mean, the reality is, you know, it’s it’s incremental, the impact, you’re already making a huge impact, you’re making a huge impact. Listen to me giving you advice, but like, you’re making a huge impact with this podcast with what you’re doing. And you know, it’s oftentimes, that it’s the it’s the impacts that we don’t even see that are really making a difference. And it turns out, you’re, you’re you’re, you know, you’re you’re making big bass hits the whole time. But, but I hear you on those on those working with the government and getting the doors open. It is maddening. It is maddening. But just don’t quit. You know, I mean, because we need you in the game. Because if you don’t, like my dad says, then who will? You know? And that’s the larger question we need to be asking ourselves is not not who am I to do this? But who are you not? Because if you don’t, you know, what’s the cost of that?

Victoria Volk 26:26
Oh, one of the ideas I proposed or one of the thoughts I proposed, one of the psychologist at this health summit was, why is there not like some in a study screening? Are you familiar with the ACE study, I’m not adverse childhood experiences. So the more basically what the ACE study has, comes out, like it’s research over time, right. And so they have found though, that the more aces or the more adverse childhood experiences that you’ve had throughout your childhood, the more likely you are, the more likely and the more susceptible you are, to suicidal thoughts, to depression, to addiction to mental health issues, all of these things. So let’s say you were an orphan, as a child, or sexually abused or, or neglected, or like all these horrible things that many children experienced. But often I have found and I’ve seen, and maybe you can agree to this or test to this to who joins the military. Often it is young men and women who are looking for a way out who are looking for a way out of their life experience, who are looking for discipline guide structure and escape. Yes. What are they escaping? Probably really tough circumstances and situations that they just don’t know what else to do. And so you’re putting a weapon in the arms of someone who probably is very much a Griever, who has trauma, who you know what I mean? So then you go on deployments and several deployments, trauma after trauma after trauma after trauma. And so I feel like in my bones, in a study evaluation for someone who wants to enlist would be a very good thing. That’s fascinating. You know, cuz she’s a psychologist, she knows about the ACE study. It’s a roomful of social workers. But none of this stuff is talked about, it just drives me crazy.

Scott Mann 28:28
Yeah, well, you’re in the right place. You know, I mean, that’s, that’s, that’s, that’s leadership. And, you know, that’s what I try to rail on is that’s, that’s what a rooftop leader does a rooftop leader is going to put herself squarely in the place where she’s unreasonable.

Victoria Volk 28:45
I listened to it was your you had a podcast episode? Navigating the toxic churn of life in business? I really liked that one. But also your TED talk. And I was just I’ve been thinking a lot about before we were actually getting on here to talk that I don’t feel like a leader. And just what you spoke to in the beginning, how you you never felt like a leader either. But you felt like you know, you had like this urn inside of you. But I’m curious. What, as a leader today breaks your heart today.

Scott Mann 29:24
Oh, my god. Um, I would say at home, what breaks my heart is what I call division ism. You know, it really is the veterans dilemma is that, you know, Sebastian Junger writes in his book tribe that, you know, warriors, American warriors, are more than prepared to give their life. They’re prepared to die for their country. They just don’t know how to live for it. And he goes on to say, how do you live for a country that’s tearing itself apart at every possible level, politically, religiously, socio economically, you know, I mean, literally ripping itself apart. So everything that you go off to defend and keep abroad is here, right? I mean, you have people bashing themselves over the head with axe handles, because their guy won or their guy lost. Forget the fact that their guy’s an amateur, you know, forget the fact that their guy, as far as leadership goes, is nowhere near the caliber of a leader in combat in my assessment, right? We assign agency and power to these leaders who are vibe designed, dividing us. I mean, when’s the last time you saw a formal leader literally embody the bridging trust that wants to find this nation, right, that bridges beyond in groups and out groups and ethnicity and religion and finds a way forward to bridge and connect? I mean, that is how highperformance cultures stay intact. You know, and, and in my assessment, that division ism, that dividing that conscious division of people in order to attain one’s agenda, one’s limited agenda is the saddest thing happening in the country today. And the fact that we’re giving our agency and our power away to leaders at every level, who by design practice division ism is is immensely saddening to me. The second thing that makes me sad as a leader is the what’s happening in Afghanistan right now is the fact that we are you we are moving toward a level of moral injury that we don’t even understand that is going to follow us home and is going to sit on our collective soul for many, many years to come. It’s very, very hard for me to to watch that. And it makes me sad,

Victoria Volk 31:49
I would gather that you’re against the pull out of Afghanistan.

Scott Mann 31:53
I am not necessarily against the pull out of Afghanistan, I think it was poorly planned, poorly executed. I think that we could have had a much different outcome in Afghanistan, had we been more forward thinking. And had we been really focused on what our goals were there, I wrote a book called game changers, going local to defeat violent extremist, I wrote it in I think, 2013, it was about a mission that we did in 2010. And it was all about working locally, it was all about working with local Afghans to help them stand up on their own, and kind of what we talked about at the beginning of the podcast. And it was all about the local approach. And and not trying to, you know, Project, a liberal democracy on a primarily tribal culture, there’s a way to go about this, that we didn’t have to do that. We didn’t need 100,000 people on the ground, we probably needed 10,000. And all most of them Green Berets, there was a different way that we could have prosecuted this effort much more like Colombia or the Philippines, that was a lower signature. So anyway, probably not the point you wanted to get into. But my point is that there was a way that we could have done this, it would have required a long term commitment, but it would have been more around capacity building, because that country has been decimated, you know, their their ability to resolve disputes to farm. It’s been decimated by four decades of war, and they need some help at a local level. So if we’re not going to help them, look at what’s happening now, people are hanging from street lamps. They they’re being hung from street lamps, they’re being executed in front of their children. Like, how does that not make the news? How is that not genocide? You know, and that’s the alternatives. You know, that’s the alternative to what we were doing. So I don’t know, I just think that was the wrong answer.

Victoria Volk 33:45
And here’s the thing, too, we have military bases all over the world. What is the difference? If we have a presence there? Yeah, we can say it was peaceful. Yeah, for the most part.

Scott Mann 33:56
I mean, if you look at the number of people who were hanging on to jet on the wheels of jet aircraft falling off, rather than stay in a country, they knew what they were staying with. It’s terrible. And now, you know, we’re trying to make some kind of sense out of it. We’re trying to help people get out trying to get help people get settled here in the United States. And it’s a hot mess, because the government is frankly not that involved. They’re just not that involved. So it’s mostly a private sector effort in a country that is completely taken over by the Taliban. So you know, is the options are very limited, winter is coming. And, you know, there’s going to be a point where this is no longer a tenable solution, we’re gonna we’re gonna end up leaving people behind and it’s not going to end well. And that’s it. That’s that is a very saddening thought for me to think that we leave people behind in the 10s of 1000s that we promised we wouldn’t.

Victoria Volk 34:51
As of today, you have a GoFundMe to raise funds. Correct? Still,

Scott Mann 34:57
We no we’re actually working now and we never intended to be this, we are now we’re a 50123. And that was not going to be, that was not the intent. We are now because we want to, we want to help as many Afghans as we can. We can’t We can’t you know the deal. Like when you first become a 501 C three, you can’t solicit funds for a while, so we can’t can’t take donations right now. However, if people want to help, and I appreciate you asking that the the 501 C three that I was operating, and still afraid before all this happened, I was telling you about helping warriors tell their story. It’s called the hero’s journey. Th e H E R O E S, the hero’s And it’s a cool little nonprofit, and it helps with warrior storytelling. We’re putting a film out on Afghanistan, this Veterans Day. And right now that little nonprofit is actually covering the cost of pineapple. So if you wanted to make a donation, and you wanted to help us help Afghans, and you want to help us honor a promise as veterans, you could go there and make a donation. And you can know that you’re, you know, almost all of those proceeds are going to go towards the either the Afghan resettlement Afghan safe passage, we’re helping our veterans cope with this very, very difficult situation.

Victoria Volk 36:18
Thank you, thank you for leading, for leading the way in this. It’s amazing.

Scott Mann 36:24
Well, it’s to your point when you talked about and I appreciate you saying that you talked about like not feeling like a leader, I feel that all the time. I feel it right now. I woke up this morning feeling and I told my wife I said, you know, to be in this game, as long as I’ve been in this game, I don’t feel like I’m leading very well, right now I don’t feel like I’m doing what I need to be doing. And I think that’s, you know, that’s the reality of leadership, I think when we’re in the game, and the stakes are high, and we’re trying to make an impact bigger than ourselves, it is it is not going to feel like an endzone dance. And if it does, we’re probably deluded, we’re probably believing our own press our own hype, and it’s about us, you know, it’s not going to feel that way, it’s going to feel clunky, we’re going to feel like we’re out over our skis, we’re going to feel like, you know, we’re gonna feel somewhat frustrated. Like we’re ill prepared. I mean, that’s actually what leadership feels like. And if you talk to anybody that plays at that level, they’ll tell you, that’s, that’s what it feels like. And it doesn’t mean that it has to suck, it just means that we have to make peace with that, that that discomfort in our belly, that we feel when we’re leading, it just means that it matters. And and and that that resistance is always going to be there chirping in our ear telling us we’re not good enough. And every day it has to be fought in new, it’s a new battle every day.

Victoria Volk 37:39
I agree with that. Just to for me personally, kind of feels like Mount Everest, like I’m climbing Mount Everest.

Scott Mann 37:45
Yeah, yeah, one step at a time.

Victoria Volk 37:48
So can you go a little deep into your personal story of, of what was your, what have been your grieving experiences that have really impacted your life and shaped you to be the leader you are.

Scott Mann 38:04
Um, I would say the grieving experiences that have probably shaped me the most have been the loss of friends who died doing what I asked them to do. You know, losing friends sucks, losing soldiers sucks. But when you lose them, you know, in a way that where they just, you know, they gave you a smile and said, roger that, sir. And ran off to do what you asked them to do, you know, willingly and, you know, enthusiastically. And then they don’t come back, you know, and the next thing you do is, you know, you detail their mom, or their their wife, that to the best degree that you can, you know, how they died. And then you have to own it. You know, you have to own that you have to and you never really, I just don’t think you ever really get over that. And for me, that was a just a ton of guilt that I had to I had to find a way to make peace with I had to find a way to repurpose, I had to find a way to metabolize. For me, it was writing my play. Last out elegy of the Greenbrae that’s going to be a film on Veterans Day. At last out film calm. And again, all the proceeds go to help Afghans but that that process for me Victoria was was cathartic. It was it was using story to tap into that deepest level of grief that I had. I mean, there there were some levels of grief, just you know, in in loss of time with my children and loss of time with my wife and you don’t get that back. But you know, the profound grief or profound loss was at the level of, you know, asking someone to do something and then willingly doing it voluntarily doing it and then they don’t come back, you know, and that for me in the process that followed that was life changing, almost life ending?

Victoria Volk 40:04
And did you feel like that? Because I know there’s so many resources now, like today in the Veterans Administration, there’s many resources there that actually I just had my yearly checkup not that long ago. And the questions have changed very much in the last year. But one thing that struck me was when she was asking me these questions, the first thing she said was, now these are really uncomfortable questions. So if you don’t want to answer, don’t feel like you have to answer. And I’ve been stewing on that since I left. Because as a grief recovery specialist, I’m sitting here thinking, now this is me. And I’m not saying yes to these things, because they don’t apply to me. But if I’m sitting in this chair, and I’m being asked these things, and the answer is yes. I’m not telling you because you’re not a safe person, because you just told me you’re uncomfortable with how I might answer. And so I recognize that I think one of the shifts to that needs to happen is just this grief education in the VA. Because at that level of where they come in, just to the for a yearly checkup, because people lie will lie through their teeth, because they have a promotion coming up, or they. I mean, maybe you even personally did that. Just so you know what I mean? I don’t know. But surely, you know, people who have,

Scott Mann 41:31
Oh, sure I did whatever I had to do to stay in the deployment. You know, and I even talked about that, in my film last out, like I, I did whatever I had to do, to stay in the fight. You know, that was the first priority. And if that meant, deceiving, you know, the psychiatrist so that I could keep going. And that’s what I would do. And I was very good at it. And then in even deceiving my family, upon my return home, you know, trying to hold everything together trying to be whatever it was, I was supposed to be in this new world. Yeah, and there was not, I mean, there wasn’t a lot to choose from in terms of resources, at least that I was aware of. And I don’t think that I would have anyway, I you know, I think now hopefully, that people like you who are getting the word out Eric and others, and hopefully my TED talk, the generosity scars, the play the film, you know, we’re really trying to not just make a case that mental health is part of the journey, but also that, you know, for for veterans, and anyone who endures trauma, that like there’s a certain there’s a certain level to that, that should be expected. And, and and that loss is profound, and and that we all, all of us are holding on to something that we need to let go of. Thank you. Yes, all of us, it doesn’t matter whether you served or not. And that’s the actually the under the overarching message in the in the in the film, is to let go. You know, it even says it on our little green bracelets that we wear, because because that is, you know, at its core, that’s the thing is we’re just holding on to stuff this residue, you know, that that we need to let go of. So I think it’s great that you’re taking this on the way that you are and you know, just keep going.

Victoria Volk 43:25
There was an article recently because I get the VA newsletters and things and there was an article by the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He’s the most senior enlisted service member by position in the United States Armed Forces and the principal Military Adviser to the Chairman, on all matters involving joint and combined total force integration utilization, basically, the top dog S E AC Ramon. Yeah, I know. You know, he wrote have has this article about soldiers, four part series about Afghanistan veterans and how they can get through how they can get through what’s what’s going on, and how to feel like how to address what’s happening. And his overarching message is that be proud of what you have what you did mattered. And, but he talks about his own experience with PTSD and seeking treatment and help and I think that’s, that’s what needs to be scream from the rooftops, right of the leaders in leadership is I’m getting help. It’s okay to get help.

Scott Mann 44:33
No. Yeah. And it’s not happening. For the most part, I mean, for the most part, and and, and honestly, a lot of these general officers and senior enlisted advisors are jacked up, like they’re hurt and, you know, and they’re not getting help and, you know, that’s a big that’s a big that’s something important that I think the more leaders can demonstrate and just live into it again. I hate to keep harping on the film, but we hit this so hard in the film, it’s like This is a reality of the longest war in our nation’s history. It’s a reality of combat, it’s a reality of leadership. Like if you’re in the business of, you know, soldiering or being a Marine, like, this is part of it. And we’ve got to talk openly about it. And right now we’re not

Victoria Volk 45:15
What is one message you would like to say to those listening who may or may not be a veteran, about how to become the leader in their own lives, in their own communities in their own homes? Like, where do they where do you start,

Scott Mann 45:30
Nobody’s coming. It starts with that is recognized, nobody else is coming. Right? If you’re waiting for somebody to come down and fix it, or handle it, they’re not coming. And you know, that for me when I when I learned that in combat, when I recognized that, okay, whatever we’ve got right here, this is it, this is how we’re going to get it done. The men and women to my left and right right now the resources that are at hand right now, that’s what we’re going to get it done with. And I’m not going to sit here and wait for someone to come rescue me or, or wait for someone to give me permission to lead my family or to lead my community or to lead my school or to lead my business. Right, we have agency and that is a biological inheritance, that is a gift from the higher power the universe, however you’d like to think about it, we have agency in our lives that we have all of the innate resources and skills and gifts that we need to lead, we do not need a title, people follow the person who is relatable to their pain, and relevant to their goals. That’s who we follow, we don’t follow the person with the title we don’t follow when the chips are down, we follow the person who is relatable to our pain, and relevant to our goals. Right. And as long as we’re working to try to make people feel safe, and connected, and that they have a shared future with us, they’re gonna follow, they’re gonna go and you just got to be you know, and so I would just that first recognition, and then nobody’s coming, just just let breathe into that, accept it, and then just focus on being relatable to people’s pain and relevant to their goals. And you’ll be surprised what you can build.

Victoria Volk 47:06
What gives you the most hope for the future?

Scott Mann 47:10
My kids I mean, I always talk about leaving tracks in the world. You know, my dad always says that he says, We should leave our tracks, which to me are those indelible impressions that, you know, don’t serve the people around us. They’re the they serve the people who follow us. It’s our legacy. It’s the it’s the, it’s the it’s the it’s the tracks that we leave in the earth by building capacity in our business or, you know, deep relationships with friends that that last long beyond our time. But it’s also the young people and not just necessarily our children, but but how we how we hand off the world to our kids. And, you know, I that gives me the greatest hope people talking trash about this generation. I think we’re in great hands. I think that the kids, the young folks that are going to lead us into the next ridge line, I look at my own boys I and I have nothing but confidence in them. You know, I have nothing but but but hope for for us, because I think they’re the ones that are going to fix it. I think they’re the ones that are going to take it on. And so the question is, how do we do the best handoff possible to our children, and make sure that we set them up for success, because we’re not the ones our generation is not going to fix it. And we just need to accept that. And but we can do a lot. But how do we responsibly handed off to our children so that they can take it to the next mile?

Victoria Volk 48:34
I think they’ve seen enough contrast to recognize what they don’t want for their future. And there’s been plenty of it.

Scott Mann 48:43
Yeah, I think they know exactly what to do.

Victoria Volk 48:46
What is your message to soldiers? Like on how to find their voice? I know you have, you know, that’s a big part of your work. But yeah, just for this podcast for the purpose, what would you say?

Scott Mann 48:57
I would say for any warrior, you know, your voice is everything. You know, your voice is your point of view, that your purpose, it’s your outlook on the world. And you know, when you leave the military, they don’t get to keep that. But that doesn’t get turned in with your ta 50. You know, your voice and your purpose and your story. You brought those into the military, they were forged and developed further in the military. But you get to take those with you. You know, your voice, your point of view, your purpose, your outlook on life, your story, that’s yours, and that those are the greatest attributes of what you build for your next journey, the next chapter in your journey, and that’s all it is. It’s just another chapter your identity is far deeper than marine Navy, Army or Air Force or Coast Guard, or law enforcement or EMT, your identity is far deeper than that and that and the development and the refinement of your of your purpose and what you’re building and your story. It continues and you have to give yourself permission that it’s going to change Can you even if you’re a Vietnam veteran, if you’re a Korean War veteran, the moment you allow yourself to believe that way, the next chapter in your story starts, and that the next outcome of your purpose will be felt by the people around you. And I really believe that

Victoria Volk 50:18
How do you maintain an equilibrium? Like, because I imagine as a leader, it’s, there’s a lot of stress, it’s high pressure, things like that. But what would be your like? How are you managing stress? I imagine it looks different than what it used to. Or maybe it isn’t, I don’t know, how do you manage stress and maintain that? What does self care look like for you? That’s a better question.

Scott Mann 50:43
I have this acronym that I use for self care, that’s called R four. And it is regimen, ritual, rigor, and recovery. You know, I think that regimen is you know, and what that gives you is it gives you resilience over resistance and it has to be done every day resilience being the ability to just stay in the fight and be happy resistance being that self sabotage that will take you out if you allow it to it’s the negative forces in our body. So you know, I believe that going back to the our four so the first being read Benjamin you know, having a rhythm for your life where you know, Jocko Willink is right, discipline equals freedom. So what what are what are the things that you do to address mind body, spirit and craft every single day with regimen, those should be, that should be a rhythm that is populated by rituals. And those rituals should address mind, body, spirit, and craft. So for me, I get up in the morning, I do 25 Push ups, I hit my knees, I pray I do my cat cow breathing exercises, I drink 20 ounces of room temperature water, like I have rituals throughout my day that I do not change whether I’m at the Marriott in Texas, given a talk or whether I’m at home with my wife money, I’m going to do those rituals every single day that discipline equals freedom. And then I do them with rigor, I don’t do them casual, I don’t do them, like, you know half assed if I’m going to go work out in the gym at 10am, because that’s in my rhythm, then I’m going to give it everything I’ve got found gets put up, I apply myself to it the same way I did when I was a Greenbrae. And then finally, recovery. You know, I have to build time in micro recoveries every day where I’m doing, you know, deep breathing, turning the lights off in my office just being present, sitting on the dock with my wife, those are all micro recoveries. And then macro recoveries, you know, long weekends, vacations, these are the things that are scheduled in our planner, you know, where we actually sharpen the saw and get off grid allow ourselves to do you know, two to three, seven day recoveries? I think all of those, that’s that’s been the rhythm. That’s been the process I’ve used for, gosh, three decades, it’s what I teach high performers in my mastermind. And it works. It’s allowed me to play at a very high level, with a lot of pressure, and a lot of loss and a lot of guilt and all these other things and still be happy.

Victoria Volk 53:06
I love that great tips. Yes, thank you. Thank you for sharing that. And what is one thing that grief has taught you?

Scott Mann 53:14
Oh I think probably that there is purpose in pain, you know, that there’s, there’s there’s actually, you know, there’s there’s something on the other side of grief that will serve other people. You know, and and that will give you a level of self actualization that will make you better than when you went in. And if you just trust that process. That’s exactly how it will come out every time.

Victoria Volk 53:43
I absolutely agree. Is there anything else you would like to share?

Scott Mann 53:47
No, I would just say I love what you’re doing. And wherever you are, in that period of grief, just know that there is you’re not alone. And that there are a lot of people out there that care about you and need you around in this world, and that there’s a lot of value and good that will come from your pain and your struggle. Should you choose to apply it in the service of others, and that time will come it’s not right now maybe, but that time will come and when it does. There’s a higher place for you in the world. And I just you know, that’s how I’ve stayed alive. It’s how I’ve navigate the world. And I think the world needs it. People need they need your leadership. Through the grief. They need grief, informing what you do and say, because it’s authentic, it’s relatable. And that’s what people are hanging on to right now. They’re looking for leaders they can relate to. And so your grief brings with it a level of authenticity and safety that will serve others and it may not feel like it right now. But it will when the time comes.

Victoria Volk 54:47
Yes family would rather suffer with you than without you.

Scott Mann 54:50

Victoria Volk 54:50
Yeah absolutely. Well, where can people reach you where where do you hang out on social or where can they best find your well

Scott Mann 54:59
I mean We’re on you know, anything rooftop leader, we’re on Facebook, Instagram, I think the place where people could really get some stuff that might build on what you’re doing is rooftop leadership, calm. You know, there’s a lot of information, there are podcasts, the rooftop podcast is weekly, and we dive into a lot of the stuff you’re talking about, I think it’s a good supplement to what you’re doing. So those would be the areas that I would recommend. And finally, last out, Go check it out. I mean, it’s gonna be an amazing film. It’s all combat veterans. It really gets after a lot of the stuff that we talked about today. I’m in it. My acting debut at 50 years old. So check it out.

Victoria Volk 55:38
I look forward to it. And thank you so much for your time today and your wisdom and your experience that you’ve brought to my listeners. And just thank you for your time.

Scott Mann 55:50
It’s my honor. I appreciate it. Thank you so much.

Victoria Volk 55:53
And remember, when you unleash your hearts, you unleash your life. Much love.


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