Earl R Smith II, PhD


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An old friend was fond of saying that most people begin at paragraph two. The point he was making was that the foundational assumptions of any argument tend to be taken as givens by the person advancing it and, as a result, they feel no need to explain them.

But, when such arguments are subjective to the Socratic method, they tend to fall apart. To paraphrase Socrates, an assumption unexamined is not worth holding.

During the early sessions of most of my Zen Mentoring work this issue comes up. It is generally triggered by the very human tendency to create a self-image which is then considered the “real person”. Most of the time this avatar is shrouded in positively value loaded words like honest, trustworthy, intelligent, empathetic, loving and the like. All of these tend to be foundational assumptions about the nature of the self that is busily constructing the avatar. But a single question tends to throw this project into chaos.

“You have developed a virtual representation of yourself and are working to convince the world that that is the real you. Isn’t that the very definition of deception?”

What tends to follow involves a lot of push-back and denial. But eventually the point almost always sinks in. "The statue of you is not you. The virtual representation of the unique person that you are is nowhere near as wonderful and amazing as the person you are." I call this realization a “rite of passage”. I particularly like a verse from a song by Dougie MacLean.

You need that rite of passage before you can continue on
that brave self-understanding you can lean your dreams upon.

It's self-understanding that should be the foundation stone of your being. Zen Mentoring involves a journey inward - a journey of self-discovery. And, along the way, the determined traveler tends to lose much of the baggage which has kept them from making the journey. A sense of shame and suspicion of self-bad-faith are sheared away. Apprehension about what will be found evaporators. The journey from here to there becomes a journey from here to here. And the most amazing discovery is that the moment is perfect and lacking nothing - that there is nothing to gain and nothing to lose. The resulting lightness and freedom tends to generate euphoria and a determination to continue the journey.

The foundation - your self-understanding - is the critical paragraph one in your life. It’s the most important paragraph that you will ever write. Each time I help someone discover and author that paragraph, it is like watching them be reborn. The world opens up for them and a tremendous weight is lifted off of their shoulders.

© 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,