I have a good friend, Barb Kern. Barb is a Business and Project Analyst for the CNA Insurance Companies. She knows that I am working on a book determining what success is and how to attain it. Although the book is still in the research stage, Barb thought that I could gain valuable insights about success by interviewing the most successful person that she knows. That is how I got to meet and interview Ken Daubenspeck. Barb was correct about Ken's insights, although he redefines what success is for him.

Ken Daubenspeck Al: Our mutual friend, Barb, thinks that you are extremely successful. What is success, and how did you become successful?
Ken: Success is a very strong label; it is not a label that I would use for myself. I wouldn't say that I am successful. Success for me isn't one thing; it is a thousand little things. It is like waves. It is working right now and then it goes away. I think that is the wonderful gift of life-that you aren't always successful. I really mean that. I hope that I never define myself as successful. A friend of mine once said to me, "You don't ever want to be done-for when you are done, you're eaten." Therefore, I think that I reject the term success. I think that if I ever were done, I would be dead. For me, there is a deadness about success.

Al: If success isn't a label that you wish pinned on you, what is your philosophy of life? What is that guides you?

Ken: My philosophy of life is aliveness. Aliveness is when you can smell all the smells-the good and bad smells. When you can hear things and all your other senses are heightened, that is being alive. To me when you feel alive that is close to how I would define success in life. It is being in the zone or in the flow. It is total aliveness. It isn't in making money. Lots of people can do that, but they are often dead to being alive. Aliveness is success.

Ken Daubenspeck Al: When I interviewed John Astin who was doing a one-man play of Poe here in Chicago, I asked him about the meaning behind the poem, Eldorado. I thought that I knew what Poe meant, but I wanted to hear Astin express in his words what it meant-striving for the acquisition of your quest. However, Astin thinks that Poe meant that Eldorado is found in the process not the destination. That's sounds like what you are saying-not the obtaining but the pursuit.
Ken. I agree. I think that Poe is right. Success comes in fighting the good fight-not necessarily reaching the goal.

Al: Barb Kern told me that when you and I meet for the interview, I would find a mirror image of myself in you. I asked why? She said that you and I will never be satisfied. Is that true?
Ken: Perhaps, she is right. But I see a psychological difference between striving versus purpose. It is all about commitment. Most of us, especially men, die emotionally when we strive without purpose. The striving helps us survive, but it doesn't help us to be alive. For example, making lots of money can help us survive, but it certainly doesn't make us come alive. Success doesn't have to do with the acquisition of things. I feel sorry for those people who strive for money: their wiring is all screwed up. Striving without a real purpose for living doesn't really get us anywhere. There's so much more possibility to draw from life. For me, success is defined by ones ability to live truthfully, trusting life, and affirming that life is there to nurture you and not to harm you. To live with a purpose-that is living success. That provides aliveness for me. Living with aliveness produces not things but an inner peace. Also, when you are alive enough to notice another person's suffering and you reach out to them in their pain-that also is aliveness.

Ken Daubenspeck Al: How do you differentiate between a goal and striving?
Ken: I think that for me goals and striving are the same. They both come out of scarcity. Scarcity makes people into millionaires. There is never enough money; therefore, the scarcity drives them to make money.

However, what is the ultimate scarcity? Time. We are all afraid of dying. I have goals, but they are there because of my feeling of a deep-seated scarcity.

Al: What is your purpose in life?
Ken: It is playing with all of the chips at every moment. That's what life is all about. That is more important than obtaining all your goals. Again, that is what Astin thinks Poe meant in Eldorado.

Al: Okay, then what is your purpose for your children?

Ken: It is easy to want to give to your children what you didn't have when you were growing up. Again, that desire comes out of scarcity. My purpose for my children is to imbue them with the ability to love and be loved. That is harder than it sounds. For example, I want them to love themselves enough so that they can love others. I want them to be alive. I don't want them to be afraid of life. I want them to have courage as they face what life brings, and I want them to be truthful.

Whether or not my children go to college is really up to them. They will have the resources to attend if they choose to do so. We present them a buffet of opportunities. Although we expect them to do chores and learn a musical instrument, my real expectation for my children is a way of being-not a list of things they ought to do or not do.

Ken Daubenspeck Al: Tell me about your formal education.
Ken: I went to DePaul and received a Bachelors of Arts in Resources Management in 1989. I am a nonconformist and needed to find a college that would fit me. I don't like to be forced to comply. It has always bothered me to have someone in a superior position make me swallow some bit of knowledge and then regurgitate it on command. DePaul's program is competency-based. They said to me, we want you to be competent in fifty-six areas so that you can understand, explain them, and create original work based upon these competencies. We don't merely want you to repeat what the professor said in a lecture. We want it to come out of you. So, DePaul and I set up the fifty-six competencies, and I satisfied them fully.

Al: Barb told me that you married a friend of hers. Tell me about your wife and family.

Ken: My wife is Rima. She is Lithuanian by lineage but born in Argentina. Her mother left Lithuania during World War II and went to Berlin. But when the bombing started, the family went to Vienna, Austria until the end of the war. The family finally immigrated to Argentina. Rima and I met at an EST seminar. She came out of nowhere, came up to me, stretched out her hand, and introduced herself. We started to date in October '84 and were married June '85. Rima and I have two girls.

Al: I know from Barb that you work with computer executives but really don't know what you actually do.

Ken: I am an executive search consultant. I place information technology people, executives, and management consultants. In doing that, I help employers put together a system that does a better job selecting, attracting, and retaining people. People aren't fungible resources simply to be used. Rather, they are multi-dimensional human beings. If you don't take care of your people and recognize them as human beings, you won't be able to keep them.

Ken Daubenspeck Al: After your work and life is finished, how would you want you epitaph to read?
Ken: "Here lies a compassionate man."

Al: When Gene Siskel interviews someone, he always asks what is that person's favorite movie. He says that it tells much about the person that he or she might not readily reveal. What is your favorite movie?
Ken: Same Time Next Year.

Al: Why?
Ken: It is a psychological movie rather than an action film. It deals with a maturing relationship between two people and their stages of growth. Another one would be On Golden Pond. Both of them deal with honest relationships that endure during good and bad times. You remember the book, The Velveteen Rabbit. Both these movies deal with pushing toward a loving relationship and becoming real just like in The Velveteen Rabbit.

Ken Daubenspeck Al: If they made a movie of your life, who would you want to play you?
Ken: Anthony Hopkins. He obtained success early in his career-before he was ready to handle it. As a result, he had bouts with alcoholism and gambling. However, he was able to overcome those addictions and go on to even greater success. He is a remarkable man.

Al: You are a many-faceted person. Do you play a musical instrument?
Ken: No. I can't even keep a radio in tune.

Al: Well, if you can't play music, what kind of music do you like?
Ken: I love classical music. There are times that I like to listen to Baroque music and other times I like Wagner. I also like balladeers. People like John Denver, Steve Winword, and Tracy Chapman-I like thinking music.

Al: Barb said that you are also a painter.

Ken: For me, the reason that I paint is because it is very private. I don't have to perform or produce. I know that when I am stressed out, I can be very much in the moment and totally present. The oil and the canvas can be time-stoppers, and I love it. My work falls somewhere between impressionism and expressionism.

Al: Who are the artists that you most admire?

Ken: Monet. But the person I love the most was the man who use to take Monet out early in the morning in that flat boat and hold the boat still for hours while Monet waited for just the right light. But Monet is my favorite painter. Incidentally, Monet and I share the same birthday, October 23rd.

Ken Daubenspeck Al: How old are you?
Ken: 45.

Al: Are you familiar with William Turner?
Ken: No, I'm not.

Al: Sometime, check out Turner. His later paintings start to move toward impressionism. I think that you would like him. In the meantime, thank you for your time and willingness to be interviewed: it was a good interview. Don't forget to get tickets for the Renoir exhibition.
Ken: I've already gotten the tickets.


To read John Astin's interview and article, just click on both these hyperlinks:

Edgar Allan Poe-Once upon a midnight

John Astin's Riding to Eldorado