Earl R Smith II, PhD


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There is danger in living on a non-stop endorphin high. In the first place, the human body is simply not engineered for such an existence. But more importantly the human soul requires an alternative to the nonstop, heated rush that such a life entails.

In my mentoring practice I regularly encounter people living peripatetic lives. They are constantly on the run … and constantly under (mostly self-imposed) pressures. Their days seem to run together into a ‘work hard – play hard’ formulation. Most of them seem to be running in place or as the old country song suggests “climbing a ladder that leads to a hole in the ground”.

When you step back and look at such a person’s life and times, it is hard to tell the difference between them and any other beast of burden. Humans as oxen-pulling-the-turning-plow unrelentingly through well-tilled sod. The ox, having made the domestication deal, lives and dies without serious contemplation of purpose or direction.

I don’t want to seem to be denigrating hard work, passionate dedication or dogged determination. All of these have a place in a productive and focused life. It isn’t a question of either/or … but one of balance.

When I was working on Wall Street I noticed that some of the very senior people seemed to have lots more time to reflect than those lower down the food chain. Initially I chalked it up to the intensification of the predator-prey dynamic … the lower you are in the organization, the more likely you would act as prey … the higher, the more likely as predator. Prey is always at risk … predators took their time and picked their spots!

But, over time, I came to have a different understanding. I encountered people still on the lower rungs … climbing the ladder … but with apparently more time for reflection than their contemporaries. And they seemed to be outperforming them in the ‘climbing’. They were just as driven as the competition but their lives seemed to be balanced differently. I began to think about the benefits of cultivating the habit of walling off sheltered time for slow breathing and thinking the higher thoughts.

After leaving Wall Street I started a number of companies and recruited and managed a wide range of team members, employees and partners. As luck would have it, some of these people were dedicated to making sure that they had regular time to think about what they were doing in terms different than just thinking about what you are going to do next. I learned a great deal from them and, as Frost wrote, it has ‘made all the difference’.

Then, while wandering around the high desert in the four corners region, I encountered an old shaman who took the time to teach me about the ‘long body’ … that vision of a human’s existence that sees life from start to present and beyond in one continuous thinking. I came to realize that the old man was teaching me something profound. What I took away from that unendingly hot day and long, starry night has stayed with me. Time is neither a ticking clock nor a beating heart … it is a span of days that begins and ends in oblivion. It is only what we do between the start and finish lines that matters at all.

One of the things that I noticed early on in my work as a mentor was that the sessions tended very early on to take on an almost ‘alternate universe’ aspect. By this I mean that the person seemed to shift into another reality at the beginning of each session. I took to thinking that they dropped their heavy coat and shed the halter, bridle and blinkers as they stepped through my door.

These people clearly wanted to spend time reflecting on this or that aspect of their business or personal life. They wanted to move into the more rarified regions of philosophical reflection and abstract thinking. I realized that they were looking to meet a very human, strongly felt need that was not being satisfied elsewhere in their life. In fact, the process of deciding to engage with a mentor seemed, at least in part, to be predicated on a prior decision to meditate on the larger issues of living.

Because of these thoughts, I understand better my role as a mentor. The Native Americans refer to a ‘spirit guide’. Over and over again I have had the experience of helping a person clear away the obstructions and re-start their lives on a different footing. And I can tell you this above all … this is something that you can’t do on the run or run down. You need to find and go into that quiet time and let it come to you. I will also tell you that the experience of helping another human to do such a thing is one of the primary reasons that I continue to mentor.

© Earl R. Smith II, PhD



It's the most amazing experience I have ever had. I needed to find a new path. A friend recommended Dr. Smith. From the first, it was clear that he and I were going to get along. What was most amazing was the wisdom and perception that he brought. New vistas have opened up and, as a result, a new chapter in my life. There's no way that I could put a value on what he has contributed to my life.

Mentoring Client, CEO and Serial Entrepreneur

Chief - That is how Dr.Smith was introduced to me and, based on our work together, I have come to understand why he was called so. He helped me focus on the possibilities that I had been missing in my life. He guided through developing a new vision for my life. Truly he would be my "Chief" anytime and I will always value his guidance and wisdom. My life is richer because of working with him.

Mentoring Client, NPI Team Lead

Earl is a very wise individual with a lot of experience. He truly understands business and professional development. Earl has a great way of explaining things and getting you to look at things from another perspective. Earl is a tough mentor, but if you can learn just some of what he knows you will come out ahead.

Mentoring Client, Deloitte

“Dr. Smith is a very different kind of mentor. If you’re looking for a warm and fuzzy adviser, this is the wrong guy for you. But if you are dedicated to change and want to be challenged by a very experienced mentor Earl may be just what you are looking for.”

CEO of Croix Connect and Host of ABC Radio’s ‘Taking Care of Business’

“I consider Dr. Smith to be a truly revolutionary thinker and leader. His mentorship has been of great value and inspiration to my own personal and professional development. I was at a point in my life where I felt the need to take a new direction. He helped my sort out the possibilities and showed my ones that I never considered. Working with him has been a truly life-changing experience.”

Partner, IT & Telecom, Defense Solutions

“Dr. Earl Smith is a very gifted and talented thought leader and strategist. I had an opportunity to work with him on various occasions, and found his analytical thought process to be the most creative and illustrative in the industry. He is a great asset in developing business solutions from complex problems and chaos in the every day world.” Executive Director, Global Innovation Summit,