It is essential to find your purpose in life and share it with others. However, you can only find it if it creates a positive emotion in your life. If you’ve been struggling to find your purpose, you need to tune in to this episode. Today, Catherine Kontos sits down with Mark Demos, the Founder of The Legacy Forum. Mark holds retreats and coaches families through complex transitions. He believes that having retreats increases the coaching relationship because it’s up close and personal. Learn more about how Mark helps people find their purpose through his retreats in this insightful conversation.
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Find Their Purpose To Transform Their Life With Mark Demos
We have Mark Demos, Founder of The Legacy Forum, where he helps people who are serious about their lives, families and legacy. He is an executive coach, psychotherapist, minister, speaker, and the author of The DNA Code: The Forensics of Purpose, Passion and Performance. When we first met Mark, I was so eager to get you on the show because of everything that you do, your values, and how you have used your talents to transform others from ground zero up. It pulled me to you to get to know you more and show you off to the world because there should be more people like you. Welcome to the show, Mark.
I so appreciate it. I remember that conversation well and how much we shared in terms of values and in terms of reading pathways in life in terms of how we wanted to help people. It’s two minds and two lives that are dedicated to making lives bigger, better and more meaningful. I greatly appreciate the opportunity. Thank you.
You founded The Legacy Forum. Tell me a little bit about how that came up, what made you found The Legacy Forum and what’s its purpose and mission?
I went to Seattle in 1991 and it was during that time that I started doing executive coaching at a much younger Microsoft. I was working with venture capital companies, working with early-stage startups as well. A lot of my work tended to move towards not actual executive coaching but to deal with the lives of these executives on a much broader scale.
A lot of these executives who were at Microsoft had children that were my children’s ages and they track with each other in school, and when they got to high school, that inevitably with many families became issues with their teenagers and then young adults. It was during that time that I had bought a house down the road from Microsoft or I had a house down the road from Microsoft. It’s on a lake that stretches from one side of Redmond to the other, which is where Microsoft is.
What I would do is I would have these executives come down to my house instead of going up to Microsoft, sitting in an office or even sitting in another office I had, and we would walk out into the dock. We would spend hours down there very often, sometimes on the deck if it’s raining but we would start spending a lifestyle spending, not that hour, not now on the phone but taking hours and sometimes a day at a time to work with in-depth issues. Related to relationships, family, integrating their own work and careers into the big picture, and start to think about legacy as more than how much money am I going to make.
A lot of these people were making a lot of money being early at Microsoft, and then being there 5, 10, 15 years and longer. Being able to give their families everything in terms of money but these families were shattering, breaking apart and coming by the scenes. Kids getting on drugs, the adults abusing substances and relationships just shattering it.
It was during that time that I started to work in extended periods but I also was invited by a friend of mine who had started a financial planning firm right when Microsoft had started. He invited me out with one of the early founders of Microsoft to the San Juan Islands, which is a magnificent place. It’s in the Puget Sound, goes up towards Canada, and we went to a private island and he asked me to come and more observed.
He worked on financial issues and on values statements with his family. I got to see how valuable spending extended periods of time with these families and people. We spent about four days there but if you were to do that in the office, it would take a year what they did in those four days. It was a combination of those factors that I wanted to start The Legacy Forum. I did start The Legacy Forum and it was to get people to get to a place, and in a venue where they could focus and look forward in life and say, “This is where I’m at. This is where I want to go.” That’s a long answer.
You realized at that point that an intensive immersion of a program that you can offer them would likely be life-changing for them. Is that where you started thinking about like, “I need to do retreats for these people?”
I did and we started to work with some very wealthy families the high net worth and ultra-high net worth. A lot of them had venues that we could go to that took them away from what they did in everyday life. That was important with all the distractions people have in general, being able to retrieve and go away. It’s not retreat in terms of I’m losing at life. It was sometimes they were but very often, I was bringing them away from life to a place where they could focus.
They could talk at ease, at length and with someone who was invested in their future and had expertise. I’d have helped a lot of people through the years and they trusted me to be able to help them talk and work through these issues. It was getting away from the noise, getting to a place where the most important things of life could get talked about.
Retreats make your relationships with others go on steroids. It advances it fast.
Do you find this impacted them long-term or would they go back after the retreat and go back to their old habits?
Most were changed because what their retreat did, was foundational. Setting long-term goals was foundational in building a far deeper relationship with them. One of the things that retreats do, it allows you to be up close and personal with people. In many of these retreats, they were at the homes and other homes that these families had.
It was not simply going to a hotel. There were times that they would rent a place down in the Florida Keys, on Nantucket or places like that but being able to get with people, spend time with people, they get to see and trust you as well. It creates a very different relationship rather than seeing people in their everyday clothes and situation, so that trust element is deeply impacted.
The difference is that instead of seeing them an hour like a session, it’s usually an hour. Every couple of weeks, once a month, whatever it is compared to all day, all night, seeing them in very different behaviors from the morning tonight for a weekend and you’re there. You’re there for every emotion that they’re feeling and any thoughts they’re having. It makes a huge difference and it impacts their lives in a very profound way. After all these retreats that you’ve done, how do you feel about your relationship and your coaching relationship with them? How has it made a difference in your business and your relationship with them?
It’s a decent analogy. The relationship essentially goes on steroids because it advances it. Not steroids in the sense that you’re hyper and you’re going a bit crazy but it advances it to a great extent and advance it a long way down the road. You’re able to talk about things where very often a client is thinking about, “My hour is about to end or the session is about to end.” This opens everything up.
Beyond that, once you establish that relationship and they start doing what you’ve talked about in an away setting, and then you work with them afterward when they get back into real life, where everything has to be played out that you’ve talked about, that support ongoing is what ultimately makes a success.
It’s like going to summer camp, very often you can fall in love, and everything’s grand and wonderful. The emotions are good but the reality is what happens when you leave and you go back home, work and whatever influences you have back at home. The accountability and the ongoing conversation, it has a real context. I see a deeply impacting relationship and long-term work, and ultimately, making for a successful relationship.
How many people are at your retreat? Is it a lot of different people? Is it very close-knit? How do you offer your retreats?
It’s different for every one of them. I’ve done individual retreats where I’d been with the one-person executive, and we’ll go up the mountains, ocean and wherever. On a boat sometimes and we’ll spend a few days. Sometimes those are for very personal issues. There’s a crisis in relationships and need to get away and be able to talk by themselves.
Sometimes it’s a couple. Sometimes it’s an entire family, which is what we’ve done quite a lot of and couples. My wife works with me. She’s been a therapist for many years. Sometimes we’ve done it with companies as well with executive teams. I did a lot of that in Seattle with a lot of the startups and the venture capital companies would want me to help, with the team-building with new teams that were trying to learn how to function together and be able to do things in a formal, formalized way, but yet in an informal way as well.
We were profiling and learning what people did, whether they could do it better, and in what certain senses. We profile their strengths and interactions. When you take and use that to build the teams in real life, that works. You’re seeing them in real-life situations. You can get a lot of good information from their interaction, and also from them personally. I’m not sure if that answered the question.
That’s the thing because some people think of retreats as mostly yoga and meditation but retreats very, it could be one-on-one with somebody for a few days or it could be a large group in a corporate setting. It depends on what the goal is at the end of it all with your clients. You’ve done that. You’ve you take what they’re going through and you know exactly what they need and that’s great.
The other thing I know about you really well is your transformation is incredible because you do focus on finding their purpose, their legacy, what are they leaving behind? What will people remember them by? I find a lot of people, that’s one thing that they struggle with is, “What’s my purpose? Why am I here? What am I supposed to do?”
They struggle with it so much so that they’re almost paralyzed by the question. What I’d like to know because, in any type of retreat or counseling therapy, this is key to igniting a life back into these people and get getting them excited and back on their feet. What is it that you do that makes them find that purpose or discover it with you?
What’s been central to my work throughout my entire life is helping people understand why they are here. There are a number of different ways to approach it. We approach younger people to the extent that we try to help them profile talent. What do I do well? What can I use in terms of my talent, to give to other people, to impact and make their lives different?
For younger people, and we have worked for a lot of people in retreat settings, is helping them understand what that is. What we find in wealthier families very often is that it’s a bigger issue than in families that have much less or families that even struggle because they have a sense that they don’t have to discover what they have and what they haven’t. The important part is what they have to give to other people and make their lives bigger, better and different.
When you don’t know what your talents are and not just talent, it’s talent. It’s broad profiling of who they are and you get them to own it distinct from their families, fathers, very often from their mothers and family name. They have got a self-identifying because I have a basic formula, which says, “Design determines purpose.”
That is when I know what my unique capacities are, and I get to discover, own and be grateful for them. When I get to see how I can impact other lives, I do feel a sense of purpose. It’s understanding that design that determines the purpose but the purpose is found when I give those talents to other people, it creates passionate and positive emotion in my life.
It’s the same application with everybody. You look at a family and you look at a family that’s struggling, it’s helping me go back to remember what built this family in the first place. What were the unique strengths and capacities? What were the things that attracted us to each other? What are the things we have to give to each other?
I’m a firm believer in not always going back to try and understand how to build a better future. When you understand what you have now to give to the lives of other people and I make a deliberate choice to do that, I feel a sense of purpose. I do have a purpose in that person’s life. That’s not to tear down, break down and criticize. It’s there to see that person with all the stuff of life but to see the very best in them and to encourage that best to be given to other people.
That’s crucial. It doesn’t matter how much money you have. If you are not giving of your talent, not giving money, giving you to the lives of other people one-on-one closeup, you will lack a sense of purpose. It doesn’t matter what title you hold if you had $1 billion in the bank.
You got to be up close and personal, knowing what you have to give and being able to touch the lives of others with what you uniquely have the capacity to do. It does vary but very often in talking about purpose as well, people get to the ’50s and ’60s and started looking back and wondering, “What have I done with my life? Have I simply been part of a process that’s rewarded me very well? What even are these rewards worth? When I look at the next 5, 10, 15, 20 years of my life, and what now?” Often people would have made up for that lack of engagement in real life.
For people who are older and have the means, it’s trying to help them know that life can matter. It doesn’t matter what part of life you’re at. When are you going to stop? When are you going to think deeply, honestly, and in gratitude about how do we move forward, as an individual, a couple, and a family to be able to do things as a family together? That really mattered, that using the talents and the unique capacities of that family to go and touch the lives of other people. Ultimately, that’s where it resides.
People have to strip themselves of all the judgments and all the programming. They’ve had all their lives to figure out who they are after so many years of doing for others, is for others, image, and all of that. I don’t think there’s anything more productive, for lack of a better word, than being in an intensive moment and searching, looking, finding, and doing whatever you need to do, like actionable behaviors where you can find that purpose. How long are your retreats usually does it take? Is it a few days or is it weeks?
You find your purpose when you give your talents to other people because it will create a positive emotion in your life.
We’ve gone up to a week, and then we continue those sometimes by spending a lot of time in the home and then reconvening. We’ve got one of the family in Vermont, Nantucket, and then San Francisco, all the same family, that along with the same purpose. Essentially discovery and essentially how do we make our lives matter?
Some have been repeats over the years where it becomes a thing once a year, where you sit down and you evaluate. You look at where you’ve been, what you’ve done and it really is saying, “How do I be more?” I don’t want to idle at this stage in life at this point in life. “How do I make it even better? How do I get a sense of why I matter in this world as the runway gets shorter in a sense?” It is important that people keep that in perspective because we don’t know when it ends. It could end any day. What about now? What’s happening that I’ve given thought to that gives my life meaning and purpose, and hopefully, I can repeat tomorrow.
I love that you do that with your clients, that there are some that come back to you every year and you do a realignment like, “Where are we at now? Where are we going?” Life does change. Your goals do change and sometimes, our purpose even changes. That’s amazing and more people should do that. They have to be conscious that we’re dynamic and always evolving. Very good, Mark. How’s that feel?
I think about your life, the wonderful opportunity, and the use of who you are to create these opportunities for people and for this work to happen. What a great purpose to facilitate this happening and what a wonderful place to be in your life as well, you create the environment and take away all the planning issues and everything else so people can focus on the most important issues that are taking their lives to that point.
What would be the advice you would give to another transformational coach struggling to catapults their clients to that point of the a-ha moment of, “I know who I am. I know what I want.” What would you tell them?
Act on it. A lot of people are scared to step out and act. I’d see a lot of coaches just keep talking and they talk about the action points but it is being able to get people sometimes going with them to enact the things that they’ve talked about. People lack courage sometimes. People still don’t believe that they have the capacity to do certain things.
Sometimes it’s applying for a different position, changing careers. They feel scared to move from where they are, and sometimes it really is. I believe in almost more active coaching and pushing people when they have all the information and they know what direction they should go. There are times to be silent and there are times to say, “You’re wasting your life. It’s time to move on. It’s time to leave that if you ever want to find what you are deeply and desperately looking for.”
Coaching in terms of style, who coaches on and how they read people, there’s always very different. There are different philosophies to coaching. It’s to know as a coach, where you have created the most impact and trying to model something that you’re not in trying to model a certain type of coaching that maybe doesn’t fit who you are.
You need to coach yourself. Let go of those things. Where have I created the most impact and most movements? When I look back at my clients and see, what is it that I said and did for them that had the greatest impact? There usually are patterns to that. There are types of clients. There are ways of approaching that have got people to move, engage and come back and say, “I’m so grateful. Thank you for what you’ve done.” I’m not sure if that answers the question.
It does answer the question because you’re giving guidance to other coaches that are maybe struggling a little bit. Maybe they know a lot of it but sometimes there’s a little message that’s in your words that will impact them and make them understand. I believe that the connection is the most important thing with your clients, connecting deeply with them so they can trust you fully, and they really listen after they listen and it makes a difference.
That type of listening, it’s not just, “I’m hearing you. I’m listening to you,” and anything you say at that point, they’ll act on it, hopefully. That’s the whole point about being a coach. It’s always great to have that client that’s like, “You’re doing everything I’m telling you.” You see them go from 0 to 500 in a blink of an eye and that’s amazing.
It’s also important. We work with a lot of people the addictions. We can work with them closely and we can get them in a retreat setting. We do rehabs within the context of the home. A lot of our clients have been the concept behind many rehabs. We do detox and rehab in the home. We don’t send them away. It’s all medically controlled with a psychiatrist and some detox for the nurse who does it.
When you can get people away after that, when they are thinking clearly, and you can begin to connect with them in that environment and an away environment for a short period of time, at least, it does build that trust. You get again to see them and allow them to tell their stories, where they’re not simply sitting in a group telling their stories.
You can have a small group there or you can even have close friends who are there to support them and say, “When we leave this place, we are going to be there to encourage you, support you and we’re going to hold you accountable to certain goals. We got to be there not to watch so much but we’re going to be there to encourage you in the everyday flow of life.” That has been very effective through the years.
It sounds like a big hug like we got you.
It does and it gives confidence to people. That confidence has to be supported once you leave almost immediately. Sometimes people have got to think through what they’ve done in the retreat and they can journal on you just to find out how people basically express themselves and what support they need. We’re planning an intervention at the moment but that intervention is going to be coupled with the entire family going away. I’m trying to determine what support do we think we’re going to need, how life works in the evening, how retreats sometimes work unless they’re structured. You have no idea.
When you have retreats, know what the purpose of the retreat is. Get to know as much that person as you can, all those people prior to. Once you are finished, do not leave people by themselves. This is not just about building a long-term business. This is about the long-term growth of people who are saying, “I’m committed to growth. I’m coming to this thing. I want more in life.” That’s a great joy to see them live it out in real life.
I find that there are different types of retreats. Some of them can handle a lot of people but what you’re doing is something that would be more transformational the smaller the group because follow-up is very important. If someone can handle 10 or 5 people, whatever it is, then they shouldn’t be doing that type of retreat because there is the follow-up.
You have to be able to zone in on each client and focus to their needs, and make sure the follow-up continues along with them. What you said, it’s not a business. It really is not, especially when you’re dealing with real transformation like you are. It’s not just about creating a retreat for money. It is the impact that you will have on each individual and with their transformation. What you do is incredible. Like I said at the beginning, I really admire all that you do, whether it’s people that want to partner up and collaborate with you or even clients that are searching for what you do, how can they connect with you?
They can go to The Legacy Forum website. It’s TheLegacyForum.com. They can call me. I’ve always had my phone number out there for people to call. It’s on the website. It’s Seattle number (425)492-4300 and I take people’s calls. I’ve always been open. We don’t have a big client base because we work with people very intensely.
People understand and know that. When we work with clients, I’m available or my wife is available. We have other therapists are available but we work primarily as a team. I’m always the quarterback of all of it. I work a lot with individuals and couples. We do larger treats as well. We’ve done retreats 20, 30 and 40 people. That’s not huge. Most of those are more training-oriented, even though is I’ve pulled back from a little bit. I like the deep interpersonal real talking about meaning, purpose, connecting, and making life work.
Is there anything you would like to offer to the readers?
I wrote a blog about loneliness and the tragedy of what loneliness is resulting in. This is not just an open call to anyone to call. If they want to connect, email me and reach out and spend half an hour, and then I’ll talk to them. I really will and I’m deeply committed to connecting with people who want to make a difference in their lives but I’m not willing to connect with people who are not willing to give to other people. If I give something to someone, I want that person to know that they better be committed to passing on whatever I give to them. That’s always the part of the invitation. Don’t call me if you’re not willing to pass on. If I encourage you, you figure out a way to do that to someone else.
As a coach, you need to enact the things that you talk about. Step out and act.
Being afforded that’s the best way to do it. I’ve read your articles and they’re fantastic. They’re very meaningful, deep and get you thinking. Thank you for that.
I appreciate that. Thank you.
Mark, it was a pleasure speaking with you. I thank you for taking time off your busy schedule to be with us here. You added so much value to all the readers on the show. I thank you so much for being here. I wish you much success and much transformation from here on forth. I hope to reconnect with you again.
I hope so too and I hope we can find a way with all the craziness that’s still going on to be able to do something I do. The one thing I’ve learned about you since I’ve met you is how deeply committed you are to people. How professional you are in everything that you do. It’s of the highest professional standard. It just is, every email and contact. I’m always grateful for that. In a world where people seem to be so much shaky, you’re not.
That means so much. Thank you so much, Mark.
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- The DNA Code: The Forensics of Purpose, Passion and Performance
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About Mark Demos
Mark Demos is the founder of the Legacy Forum where he helps people who are serious about their lives, families, and legacy. He is an executive coach, psychotherapist, minister, speaker, and the author of “The DNA Code: The Forensics of Purpose, Passion, and Performance”.