Ken Clark Leads One of the Fastest Growing Companies in the United States | Episode 42

How can relinquishing control and entrusting people’s journey unto themselves, help you retain staff? What is the mark of a true mentor? What does openness have to do with anxiety and fear?

In this podcast episode, Billy and Brandy Eldridge speak with Ken Clark about leading one of the fastest-growing companies in the United States.

Meet Ken Clark

Ken is the Founder and CEO of Chenal Family Therapy PLC, a collaborative private practice with 15 offices across the state of Arkansas. CFT’s 100+ person staff (which includes both master’s level therapists and psychiatrists) serves over 1,250 clients per week across 15 offices.

​As a clinician, Ken has logged nearly 20,000 hours in the therapy chair. As an entrepreneur, he’s built a company that Inc Magazine named as one of the Fastest Growing Companies in the United States three years in a row.

Visit his website and connect on Facebook and LinkedIn. Listen to his podcast here.

In This Podcast


  • Having the freedom to leave
  • Markers for when people are going in the right or wrong direction

Having the freedom to leave

Because we’ve made it a safe place, it’s where people want to be. That freedom to leave and not be punished or harassed or told you can’t take your clients is why people want to be here and it’s why people don’t leave here. I’ve found that that openness, that lack of control, that relinquishing of people’s journeys to themselves and not treating them as extensions of myself, that is what has propelled our business. (Ken Clark)

As a business owner, Ken has found that by treating the employees at his practice with respect and humility and by making it easy for them to work in the way that best suits them, even if that means leaving at some point, paradoxically makes them want to stay for longer because they know that Ken respects them.

In an environment where competition is kept to a minimum, where the workplace is not toxic, and where employees are able to work with the clients that they would want to work with, they have the room and autonomy to think about their own lives as well as their jobs.

In Ken’s experience, employee freedom and safety breed low-level discontent because they are not in a hyperaware state due to some intense workplace friction.

In the same way, if you do a good job at training them and encourage them to pursue the development of their expertise, they will leave because in a safe place they can consider what their happiness looks like instead of focusing on just surviving day-to-day.

Markers for when people are going in the right or wrong direction

In Ken’s opinion, openness is the noblest human state.

If somebody is open … it doesn’t matter what their worldview is, doesn’t matter what their religious background is, if they’re open they’ll process through it and come to new realizations. The opposite of openness categorically is fear. (Ken Clark)

Openness is a skill. When you lean into openness it equates to leaning into all different kinds of possibilities around a certain situation, and the opposite of that is fear, when people are willfully ignorant, thinking they know everything there is to know about situations or relationships and general life skills.

That willful ignorance in Ken’s experience is a sign that there is work to be done.

Books mentioned in this episode

Sydney Finkelstein – Superbosses: How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent

Rob Bell – Launching Rockets

Are you ready to find the freedom to be yourself as a beta male? Do you want permission and tools to be your best beta? Are you ready to join the revolution to find strength as a beta? If you want to be comfortable in your skin and be the most authentic beta male, then our free beta revolution course is for you. Sign up for free.

Useful links:

Meet Billy Eldridge


Meet Billy, the resident beta male. For Billy, this is a place to hang out with other beta males and the people who love them. We’re redefining what beta males look like in the world. I have learned to embrace my best beta self, and I can help you to do the same. As a therapist, I understand the need to belong. You belong here. Join the REVOLUTION.


Meet Brandy Eldridge


Hello, Beta friends. I am an alpha personality who is embracing the beta way of life. I feel alive when connected with people, whether that is listening to their stories or learning about their passions. Forget small talk, let’s go deep together. Come to the table and let’s have some life-changing conversations.


Thanks for listening!

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Podcast Transcription

[BILLY ELDRIDGE]: Beta Male Revolution is part of the Practice of the Practice podcast network, a family of podcast, seeking to change the world. To hear other podcasts, like the Bomb Mom Podcast, Imperfect Thriving, or Empowered and Unapologetic, go to Practice of the
Hey Beta Male Revolution. I’m here with Brandy today and on the show we have Ken Clark. He’s somebody I’ve wanted on the show for a long time, he’s one of the people that I listen to and learn from, and he just happens to have one of the fastest growing small businesses in America. And he’s a therapist. So, I kind of like that.
[BRANDY ELDRIDGE]: Yeah, it was an amazing show. I’m excited we get to do this. He really talks about some vulnerability that he’s had and some pain that he’s had that has made him a fantastic business leader, but also just the change that it’s made in his marriage, his life. And we get to sit here and listen to him and it felt just like a sage that was giving us wisdom. And it was a really, it was a great podcast. So, we hope you enjoy it.
[BILLY]: Yeah. And so, remember also in my day job, I’m a therapist. And so, you can go to if you’re needing counseling services. If you’re not in our area, you can always give us a call and we can connect you with some of the therapy offices we have outside of our area. Always remember, if you have time to rate and review our podcast, please do on your favorite podcast listening app. Join us today with Ken Clark.
[BRANDY]: Well, we have Ken Clark with us today, and welcome Ken.
[KEN CLARK]: Thank you for having me. I’m honored to be here. Super excited
[BRANDY]: We are honored and I have to out my husband very quickly. We were talking earlier like who our dream guests would be and I said, obviously mine would be Bernay Brown and Dave Matthews together. And he said, Ken Clark. And he has been geeking out about this interview, nervous energy, anxious and so cute because you are his Bernay Brown. So, we are honored to have you. [crosstalk] We just had this conversation because I used the word fan girl and he was like, “You know, when we’re trying to deconstruct roars and really who we are, maybe I’m more of a Buddha fan or maybe a fan boy or just a fan.” And I was like, “Okay, we can say geek.”
[BILLY]: I had to take a deep dive about why that bothered me, I have a good story about you. We met some time back at a barbecue joint. You were having a little meet and greet, a get together where Chenal Family Therapy, your business was and I was invited and I show up and there was this guy there in Hawaiian shirts and khakis and some sandals, and he’s the guy kind of introducing everybody and asking people questions. And I’m like, “Wow, this must like the marketing guy for the Chenal Family Therapy. This Chenal family hires really well. This guy’s interesting.” And then probably about a year later, I realized through looking at the website, it was you and you were the owner of the company.
[KEN]: Thank you. Well, yeah, that was you know, I think I’m probably a sales guy at heart. It’s probably a byproduct of a slightly traumatic childhood and being the kid who can run too fast. So, I had to be good at talking my way out of stuff and things like that. So, I think I’m a salesperson at heart, but I love connecting with people and that’s my favorite part of the job. It’s my favorite part of being a therapist, the first session, just getting to meet and hear the story and all that. So, super glad you circled back around.
[BRANDY]: Let’s get into that. Let’s find out more of who you are and you want to start by just telling us a little bit about your story and how you ended up here and where you are.
[KEN]: Yeah. So, probably I don’t know if any of you watched Family Ties way back in the day, that show that was on TV. Like I was Alex P Keaton, Michael J kind of character growing up. Like I had like The Wall Street Journal under my arm at like 10 or 11 years old. And I’ve always been the person who went door to door, like offering to wash people’s cars for two bucks. And so, I think I’ve always been a bit of a business nerd and I grew up around a business family. And so, I went to college for that and I became a financial planner at a very young age, like 22 and thought that that was my calling and loved that, but actually didn’t love that. What I found instead was, my wife who was working for a youth organization at that point needed some volunteers and I was doing some kind of relational mentoring under her which, talk about the opposite of beta male.
I was the worst volunteer under my wife. Like I would all, even though she grew up in this organization, I knew it all right. And so, but I just loved it. I loved hanging out with these squirrely kids who just needed somebody to love on them and quickly grew tired of working on Wall Street, left that, worked for the non-profit organization, went through the burnout that a lot of nonprofit people do where you just kind of give, give, give, give, give, probably still kind of wrapped up in my own toxic male savior complex kind of thing. But I had a buddy who became a financial, I’m sorry, a marriage therapist and needed a CFO for his local counseling agency and he talked me into doing that. And within a week or two of being there, I was like, “This is what I want to do.”
This is like volunteering with kids and talking to them except people pay you, which is actually better than nonprofit work. So, I went back to grad school and towards, this was all in Southern California, towards the end of grad school, we kind of had the realization that we didn’t want to raise our kids in Orange County doc, where we worked, because all the kids in my son’s kindergarten class had iPhones and I didn’t have an iPhone. So, we looked around the country, I’m a numbers guy at heart, looked around the country, looked at Metro areas and the number of divorces they had and then divided that by the number of therapists in those areas.
So, in other words, where was the most divorces per therapist and Little Rock was one of the leaders and we had ties here. So, we decided to move to Arkansas and open a little boutique practice. Somewhere in that, we just, so much of our success as a practice has been accidental. We started bumping into other really gifted people who did things that I didn’t do clinically, and I had an empty room and said, “Why don’t you just come see those kinds of people here when I’m not using the room?” And that quickly we had this kind of Motley crew of, you know, six or eight, very gifted people doing different things. All of that, it kind of overlapped with my own journey as a recovering borderline and being super resistant to critique and things like that.
And the same thing, and we can talk more about it, the same thing occurred in my business that occurred in my marriage, which was the weird paradoxical realization that the least rejectable person is probably most open to what is wrong with them. They show the highest level of welcoming towards critique, what kind of person, very few people get to be married to a person like that and very few people get to work for a person like that. And so, out of sheer survival and my own desire for better relationships and a better business, I think I’ve always historically leaned into that concept of nobody wants to get rid of the most open person in the room. And so, I’ve, I’ve consistently pursued that. And I think those are probably the origins of my beta maleness.
[BILLY]: Well, and you’re spot on. I love that you geeked out on the metrics of divorce and ended up in Little Rock Arkansas
[BRANDY]: On Chenal right? Like that’s where the name comes from.
[BRANDY]: Yeah. Which is a very affluent neighborhood. And that’s the kind of big joke, that we were running away from Orange County and moved to Chenal where it’s basically the same crowd.
[BRANDY]: I want to go back into what you said that you. You said you really leaned into being that open person. because that’s not something that most people, especially a Wall Street guy would say, and you seem to have crossed that line from the black and white and the duality of one or the other, and kind of found that in-between. What brought you to that point? I know you said you really loved the nonprofit, you loved working with those people and getting paid, but I mean, that’s some inner work to recognize that in yourself.
[KEN]: Yeah, I think it probably emerged in my marriage first and foremost. And let me, by no means, have I mastered this openness thing? It’s one of those daily battles, but you know, I’m head over heels for my wife. I always have been, but there’s a lot of probably verbal abuse that was bred into me that I carried into my marriage. And so, for a decade of my marriage, my wife had books like The Verbally Abusive Relationship on a nightstand with every page highlighted and would try and get me to read, “Just read, just read this one paragraph.” Like, you know, just trying to get me to understand. And over the course of a decade, I watched her kind of unbecome the girl that I fell in love with as she walked on eggshells with me.
Once I became a therapist while I was in practicum, still in grad school, I had these recurrent moments in therapy where I would watch things play out on my couch, that my wife had claimed happened in our marriage forever. And I would see it with this, like just blazing clarity, and so I think my wife talks about it as one of her favorite times in our marriage where like every other day from practicum, I would just come home in tears and apologize, and now I see this, and now I see this. A lot of Jerry Maguire moments in our living room, if you have heard of that movie. But so, that really, and somewhere in there, all that was wrapped around a fear of abandonment and why would I hand the firing squad the ammo they’re going to shoot me with? You know, so, why ever agree with somebody critique of you?
And there was, and just watching these people struggle in their relationships in my therapy room as a grad student, just that longing that people had for the other person just to be open, not even to concede or agree and how much that would actually raise their opinion of this person, not diminish it. And so, that became this kind of intriguing concept to me of what you know, in a world where men aren’t open and don’t want to hear probably, a little bit of a stereotype, but enough true. What spouse in her right mind would get rid of the guy who is open? Like that, it just like clicked. Like that’s the safest thing I could do. If I’m wanting to avoid rejection, is be this open guy. And then as I began leading other people in the workplace, that was immediately apparent to me, thanks to the long suffering of my wife that, gosh, every boss is that boss.
Like you think of every caricature in office space or any of these movies. And it’s just the boss who can’t hear anything, even though the employees are clearly no better they’re on the front lines. And so, what would it look like to work with that guy, alongside that guy? And that’s always been kind of who we’ve been as a practice. And a leadership culture is that leading means you’re at the front of the line. That means that you go first. That means you need to be the best at it. So, what are leaders best at? Not strategy. Not decision-making. They’re best at openness. And I think that propelled who we are as a company. So, a lot of stuff from my personal life bled over to the business, a lot of moments still in the business where I have realizations that come up. And then the worst part is my wife is now a therapist as well. So, I can’t hide behind any therapeutic big words. She’d now call it bullshit. She’s probably a better therapist than me, I think. So, yeah, worlds colliding, as they said on Seinfeld,
[BRANDY]: Thank you for sharing that. First of all, it’s vulnerable, but also that’s like the heart of the beta male revolution. It’s embracing the side of you that says, “I want to be open. I want to be emotionally available for whoever the employees I work with, the employees I lead my family, my immediate family, my community.” I mean, that is what we do on this. So, it just solidifies that you are like, I might geek out on you now because that’s exactly what the messages we’re trying to bring in.
[KEN]: Well, again, I just want to encourage everybody. It feels like a lot of times those things are talked about in these altruistic ways. Make no mistake about it. Those are deeply selfish realizations on my part, but I also think selfishness gets a bad rap, right? Mother Teresa was Mother Teresa, because it felt good to be Mother Teresa, right? I guess that’s why we do these things that we do. And I like being a success. I like having a wife who says, “Wow, this is very different than what I married. And I like it.” You know, like those are all things that feel good for me. They’re, it’s economically profitable to be that boss. I mean, it’s the right thing as well and that’s the fun part if you realize it. But, so often, when I work with men and business leaders and practice owners and things like that I try and undemonize the concept of selfishness. There’s nothing wrong with really liking the results of who you are. And that that’s probably the antithesis of the way I was raised as a male, which is, I’m fine the way I am. Like, I don’t have any problems with it and so, leaning in out of selfishness to me is a great motivator.
[BILLY]: Well, and I think your business speaks to the success of this leadership style in a world where we’re taught dog eat dog, crush the competition, be a hard charging leader, don’t listen, talk down. It sounds like you made a shift somewhere in there, born out of pain. do you think you could be the success you are today, and let’s just say, I mean, in the top 500 small businesses growing in America. You’re up there in the what, top 100?
[KEN]: Oh no, now we’re like in the Inc. 5,000. We’ve been anywhere from 800 or 900-ish to 13, 1400, but we’re still in the top 25%.
[BRANDY]: Congratulations.
[BILLY]: Congratulations. That’s amazing. But do you think you could have grown this company and made it what it is without the shift in your own personal life?
[BRANDY]: Or do you think it’s held you back because you’re not dog eat dog world that you could be in the top 100, if you didn’t care about your employees?
[KEN]: No. I think it’s been our superpower. You know, I, by the way, creativity is just forgetting where you stole stuff from. So, I think that I heard that sound brilliant if Bernay or somebody else let them feel free to raise your hand and say, “I said that first,” because I’m assuming he’s listening to it right now. But the things I speak out on is how so many of the super heroes from comic books and things like that have their superpower born out of tragedy, right? Like, to be Superman, his planet had to blow up. You know, to be [inaudible 00:16:06] his parents had to be murdered. So, my superpower is I think born out of the hurt and sadness in my life. But it does. It’s the thing that the world longs for.
I would say it’s so revolutionary that our employees struggle to accept that we have to give them regular doses of reminder that this is the safe place, because everything in their history of vocational trauma in their own families says that that kindness is an act, it’s a prelude to somebody really manipulating you or something. So, but it’s definitely propelled us. We are I’ll give you an example of it. I don’t do non-competes, which are very common in our industry, but I believe non-competes are anti-feminist, they’re anti-person of color, they hold back the launch of small businesses by creating this mindset that, “You are my asset, and you are not to leave, even though you earn this graduate degree without me and walked your own journey to get here, somehow when you walk through my door and start seeing clients, you’re now mine.”
And what that has, that relinquishing of that, which took me overcoming some fear, like, then everybody can leave, right? And then they’ll just take their clients and I’ll be stuck with all these leases and I’ll be bankrupt. What it’s resulted in is people telling me things like this is the easiest place to come or join because it’s the easiest place to leave. Now the reality is our retention is below national averages. I mean, we keep people longer. We lose people less because we’ve made it a safe place. It’s where people want to be. And that freedom to leave and not be punished or harassed or told you can’t take your clients is why people want to be here. And it’s why people don’t leave here. And so, I found that that openness, that lack of control, that relinquishing of people’s journeys to themselves and not treating them like extensions of myself, that is what has propelled our business.
So, it’s weird. It’s weird to operate without those safety nets, but I live in a world where if I don’t keep my employees happy, they should leave me instead of they can’t leave because they’re afraid of me. And we get a higher level of generativity across the practice because it’s the safest place you’ll ever be.
[BILLY]: Well, and I love that you, it’s beautiful. And you don’t just say this. I mean, you build this into, I was reading through the tenets are. What are they, 34, what you run the business by?
[KEN]: Yeah.
[BILLY]: And there’s one in there that speaks to this, and I’ll probably get it wrong, but understanding your privilege.
[KEN]: Yeah. Yeah.
[BILLY]: And, that you put that in writing, and as a business owner, as a kid who grew up, middle-class, who’s white, you know, I have to understand that some of my success comes by virtue of just the way I was born and I live and I was brought up to be but how do I help open doors and step back and be comfortable in a room and create diversity, and you’re doing that in print, in writing, within your business?
[BRANDY]: Yeah, there’s a lot of things that are unconventional that you’re doing. And it sounds to me that it’s just putting people first. And we hear this a lot. We read this in books, putting people first, but we often don’t see it in real time. And when you say things like my job, which I’ve said, and been guilty of the same thing is to make sure that my people are happy. And if they’re not happy, they don’t want to stay here. I don’t want to stay, if my employees aren’t happy. And even saying, my employees sounds wrong.
[KEN]: I know. I hate it.
[BRANDY]: Yeah, it’s the employees that I get to work with and share this with. And they’re the experts in the area, but if they’re not happy, why would they want to come to this area? But then I also, on the other side, this is just me geeking out as well and asking what you think of this. Sometimes I can spend so much time trying to see if they’re happy and I don’t know if they’re ever going to be happy. And I take that home and like, how do I fix that so they’re happy? And I’ve had to come to this realization, and I could be completely wrong is they’re probably never going to be happy anywhere. And it’s a very small percentage of people.
[KEN]: Yeah.
[BRANDY]: What do you think about that?
[KEN]: And they are constantly dissatisfied which is probably a projection of their fear of abandonment. They’re already experiencing the abandonment without you firing them or just with you not caring about. I mean, they’re experiencing it in advance. And so, there’s those people that you can never please, because they’re always anticipating that. But then I think a lot of people wrestle with what is happy in all aspects. So, some level of discontent is what we work with as humans. You know, there’s that phrase that floats around on Facebook memes from time to time about don’t let yourself on fire to keep other people warm. I think I find a lot of solace in that. I can only do what I can do that I may layover on everybody’s journey.
Everybody’s going to leave my company at some point, including you know, none of us are going to stay here forever. So, I accept that and I accept that this is the cave that they go into, probably the place that more than ever in their life, that they get to go into and wrestle with their shadow, self-look in the mirror. There’s so little micromanagement and power wielding in our organization that it’s tough to blame anybody else for your situation, but you, in our organization. So, I find a lot of people break themselves or some people break themselves against the organization or use our organization as their slingshot into the next thing. I’ve made peace with that. What I found, and this may be what you’re encountering is this really weird paradox that because it’s the safest place that most people have ever been, that also then means they have the most bandwidth to think about their own life outside of the present moment.
In a toxic work environment, you’re just thinking about not getting fired or yelled at in the next five minutes. There’s no room for you. And in an environment where there’s no non-competes and you set your own schedule and you are allowed to work with the clients that you want to work with and if somebody makes you uncomfortable, you just fire them. You don’t even need to explain to me why and make it’s the most autonomy you’re ever going to get besides working for yourself that there’s a lot of room to sit and contemplate your life. There’s room to think what do I not like about this place? What would I do different if I did it on my own? Things like that. And so, I actually found that in some ways, freedom and safety breeds more low-level discontent because people aren’t in that hyper aroused state where they’re constantly just trying to not get run over.
They’re actually able to think. And so, part of the proof that I’m doing my job is people come up with lots of ideas about how it could be better for them or the organization instead of just trying to stay out of trouble. And so, that’s, I’ve come to accept that. Side note, great book that really helped me embrace a lot of stuff, there’s a book called Super Bosses, which is a study of these different people from Oprah to, there’s a football coach that I cannot remember. That’s by the way, probably one of my beta male things, is I couldn’t tell you who coaches what team. But you know, like they look at these people, like this football coach, something like 25% of anybody who’s coached at NFL finals, or you know whatever they call it, playoff game or a superbowl coach under this one guy at some point.
You know, you look at all the people that Oprah launched, and you look at like the woman who started French Laundry, the restaurant out in Napa or wherever, and all these Michelin star chefs that worked under her. And this recognition that if you’re doing your job, people are going to leave you. The better you do your job leading and training and empowering them, the more you’re going to get exits. And those exits are going to be based on what people think they can do better, what discontent they can further rectify in their own life. and so, I made peace, you know, my business is a business, 80% female across the industry, except for the leadership, which is ironically straight white male. But if one of my contributions to the world is I launched a lot of female, or I was part of launching or created a platform to help them launch themselves, female entrepreneurs, like, I’m okay with that.
Like that’s not a bad legacy to leave behind. And gosh, even if they have the narrative of, I couldn’t work there anymore because they buy the Sam’s club, organic, generic coffee, instead of, you know, the Starbucks K-cups like, that’s their narrative of discontent when they leave. Or gosh, you know, “He didn’t give me as much time as he did in the early days.” Like I can live with that. And so, that’s part of how I make peace with that discontent that some people will never be happy. It’s maybe just the opposite that in a safe place, they can really consider what happiness looks like instead of simply trying to survive.
[BILLY]: Yeah. Well, and I can personally attest to, by proxy your leadership style, because I happened to live in town with two of your clinicians, I graduated with one of them, I’m friends with the other and the level of pride and joy they speak of their work experience and their involvement with your company says volumes to me of the type of organization you run, which is indicative of the type of person you are. So, briefly, I wanted to step into your therapy room on your couch and ask you a question that will help me and hopefully help our audience. When I’m looking at myself and my masculinity, or just a person and my unhealthy parts and healthy parts, what are indicators that we’re coming from a place of unhealth versus health? What are the markers I’m looking for that I’m becoming more open and less closed off? I’m moving away from fear and trusting the process.
You hire a lot of people. So, you know what to look for. You sit down with a lot of people. You can probably pick up pretty quick. What are the things you look for when a person’s kind of getting it right, and moving in the right direction? What are the things we look at that like, well, they’re really shut down and they’re going to have to go through some pain before they get there? Do you have any quick takeaways?
[KEN]: Yeah, I mean, to me, I’ve got a couple of sons. So, you think all the time about the people that will marry your kids someday, or be in a relationship with your kids and what the traits are that matter and forever I’ve craved openness for whoever ends up with my sons. I believe openness is the highest human characteristic, like the most noble human characteristic that if somebody is open who’s with them, it doesn’t matter what their worldview is, it doesn’t matter what their religious background is. If they’re open, they’ll process through it and come to new realizations. So, for me, you know, the opposite probably of openness categorically is fear. You know, you mentioned it. And so, I’m constantly looking for how do openness and fear play out in people’s lives.
Are they open? A lot of my interview process even is around can you tell me a story that maybe you wouldn’t want to tell people that you just met, but when asked you’re willing. So, you know, in the therapy room, I think one of the things that I assess for first and work on first is just the skill of openness. Like just reality testing black and white statements and disallowing black and white views. And you know, one of my core conceptions of fear and anxiety and things like that are that they confuse the definitions of possibility and probability. And so, a lot of the work we do early on in the, I do early on in the therapy room is helping people wrestle with possibility versus probability. Is it possible that my wife is going to run off with this guy with six pack abs out here, who’s mowing the lawn? Sure. Is that probable? No. And just learning to differentiate those. And I call those knife skills. I have a sister who went to culinary school and kind of geek out on some chefs. And one of the first things they do when you go to culinary school is teach you how to use the knife properly. Like if you can’t do that, everything else kind of fails. You think it ends up in the salad or something. So, you know, that openness stuff and fear, and how that interacts, those are knife skills when it comes to relationships.
And it goes back to what you talked about, like lean into your privilege. The opposite of privilege is fear. Like the whole driver of diversity discussions, I think, and even why that word has emerged to the surface is because people refuse to acknowledge their privilege. And everybody’s privilege, somehow generates fear for somebody else. You’re the boss, or you’re the new employee, you know. Even among my employees. The new therapist who just graduated, who worked at distinct career is afraid of the older therapist they graduated with who’s got all this life experience and the older therapist is afraid of the young therapist being, you know, hip and knowing what music everybody’s talking about. Like everybody holds privileges somehow, and it generates fear for somebody else.
So, that leaning into openness. Can you see other possibilities? Can you wrestle with the fact that you might not be right? Maybe you are right, but are you even considering the alternatives? That’s where we go first and that’s what I look for as far as in health to answer your question, Billy and really that concept of willful ignorance. The moment that somebody says, “I know all I need to know about this politician or my spouse, or how marriage works, or as a parent.” Like the moment that I see willful ignorance declared, that’s, it’s not terminal necessarily, but there’s a lot of work to be done there.
[BRANDY]: I’m listening to all of this and Billy and I are giving our hand motions of like, mind blown. Just so you know, behind the scenes, we’re like, “Wow, another nugget.” This is amazing. And you speak a lot of openness and I feel our family is, our word for our family is kind like, was it kind, are you being kind? Go be kind today. How did you show kindness? And I hear you saying, you know, for your family and for your own life, it’s openness and openness. And I may have to add that into ours now, because that is a, it’s a struggle for me to be around people that aren’t open. And Billy and I talk about that a lot, but I have my own areas where I’m not open. And when you’re saying this, it’s like piercing the heart in certain areas where I can speak this and be like, “Oh, I’m so open-minded.” And then I listen to things that come out of my mouth, and I think, “Well, that wasn’t being open. That wasn’t thinking outside of black and white.” And a lot of, I don’t know if you’re familiar with Richard Rohr.
[KEN]: Oh yeah.
[BRANDY]: So, he speaks a lot of this duality, which is something I really struggle with because it’s a turnoff when you’re speaking to someone and it’s one or the other, and there’s no in-between, and it’s like, “I can’t go deep with that person. And I can’t connect with that person.” And the relationships I feel like I really connect with and the relationships I hold dear, are those people that can look outside of those black and whites and hold space with me in the in-betweens. And so, when you’re speaking with all this, it just feels good. It makes my heart happy.
[KEN]: Life’s life biggest opportunities lie in the blind spots, in the gray areas. And the old question is, do you have the guts to see them, you know? And make no mistake about this? The only thing I’m really or the thing I’m most open to is that I’m bad at openness. Like that’s the weird, like, you know, if you worry that you’re a bad parent, you’re probably not a bad parent. Like if you’re open to the fact that you stuck it openness, then actually you’re pretty open. So, the main thing for me is not to get wrapped up in how open I am, but the fact that I’m really bad about it with some areas. When there’s a dollar sign attached to it, I’m much better at it, ironically than my wife, you know. We’ve done some like co-therapy and stuff like that and it, I’ve been a therapist for 10 years. She’s been a therapist for a few. She’s been a good human a lot longer and understands people a lot more so that, you know, there’s that natural resistance to, like, “I’ve been doing this for 10 years. Don’t, don’t tell me what I’m missing in a therapy.” So, I have to continually circle back to like, openness itself is what I’m not very good at, but that ironically makes me an open person. Doesn’t it? So, it’s that weird paradox. That tension.
[BILLY]: Yeah. Well, and hearing you talk, I can’t help, but think of another famous Wall Street person that shifted and changed and opened himself up more and helped change the world. And that’s Bill Wilson with Alcoholics Anonymous, the 12-step programs and how he talks of how he was a shut-off human being, and a lot of that for him manifested in alcoholism, but through kind of an ego death and surrendering he was able to level himself enough to be open enough to create this open existing society where people heal. And I hear a lot of that in your story, of course, there’s always ego. We wouldn’t have buildings and skyscrapers, and I love your story about Mother Teresa. You know, you are kind because it feels good to be kind, and there is always some of that, but putting it in check and realizing it, and then moving towards the openness, I think you lay that challenge for us. So, and in doing that what stuff do you have coming up that are going to help people open up a little more? I know you’ve got some stuff in play here. What’s Unstuck With You?
[KEN]: So, you know, like probably like a lot of therapists, like we all have our secret desire to be Bernay Brown or something. So, as the practice has grown and I’ve been lucky and gifted to have some incredible people around me that now help run this entity, there’s more time for me to figure out what I want to share. And so Unstuck With You is this concept that emerged over the decade of doing therapy and then looking back at my own marriage is that there’s all these people stuck in relationships, work or otherwise. Work, family where economically you know, like it’s golden handcuffs, you can’t quit that job. I had a dad who that was probably the case with, or gosh, we got kids, or it’s just too hard to unwrap marriage, or we’re two years into this thing and, you know, mom and dad spent 50 grand on a wedding, so we’re not going to get divorced.
Like all this stuckness. And that’s really one of the drivers of people into therapies. They are now at a point where they can’t solve this problem without outside help. And so, this idea of like, how do you get unstuck with somebody? Like how do you be in a relationship that is something that you would choose instead of something that you can’t unchoose? And so, that’s kind of the impetus of that, of just wrestling with, what does it look like to be liberated again within relationships and have this not be the de facto place that we’re stuck. And so, there’s a website that’ll be up by the time this podcast rolls out, but there’s also an Instagram and a Facebook already running.
If you go and go to Unstuck With You, all one word, UnstuckWithYou. And it’s just, I call it postcards from the journey. It’s just things that, there might be some Bernay Brown quotes in there, but it’s more stuff that strikes me that is just kind of rich, I’m a wordsmith, ultimately. So, you know, I think the first one that went up was Henry Winkler, the Fonzie who said “Assumptions are the termites of relationships.” I was like, “Aw, that’s so good.”
[BILLY]: I read that to Brandy this morning.
[KEN]: And then it prompts my own thoughts. So, it’s, you know, we’re in this collective web of thought, and I think as you know, I hate the whole, I kind of joke. I don’t have any desire to be an influencer. I’d love to be an inspirer, you know, that something that you see makes you run over to your spouse and say, “Look at this. Is our fight from last week.” And then there’s some connection and some universality in that. So, it’s that kind of content. We’ve been selected as the beta class of the New On Zoom platform. So, Zoom is rolling out branded content and webinars people would sign up for. So, we’ll be launching that in January and getting to be part of that and doing workshops for folks. And really the idea is not to be the definitive source of or dispenser of relationship or knowledge and all that.
I always kind of marvel at how about, just about every parenting book basically tells you you’ve been doing it all wrong until you picked up this book? I believe people are very intelligent, very motivated. They were working on their problems long before I showed up, and so if I can add something to that journey even if I’m just, I can use a conduit from some otherwise source that then so be it, it doesn’t need to be about me. So, that’s what that is, and it’s super fun and I’m just excited to get to share and watch people interact with that.
[BILLY]: Well, you’ve, we’re so excited. We can’t wait to check it out. You have already, from afar about three hours away from us if impacted, influenced my life and challenged me to change and be a better person, even when I just thought you were some marketing guy for this Chenal family and Little Rock, and that’s one of probably the most impactful things that you didn’t come in with this big persona and budge on. You were just human and you just happen to own the company, which I found out later. And that was so endearing to me. So, we’ve already fallen in love with your work and can’t wait to see more of it. So, we have two parting questions and I’ll start with mine and then Brandy will go to hers. Just on the fly up until this point of your life, what has been the most painful yet most important lesson you’ve learned?
[KEN]: Probably painful lesson is I am the driver of my own abandonment. You know, the trauma in my, you know, that was part of my upbringing and it shaped me and things like that, that those led me to predict abandonment and then react, pre-act I call it, or somebody else call it, but that I essentially become a self-fulfilling prophecy that you can only accuse your wife so much of not loving you before your wife says, “I can’t do this anymore,” and it needs to get away from it. It’s like the kid in the backseat of the car saying, ‘Are we there yet?” You know, and then the parent finally snap. So, just that recognition that probably I have more say over my own abandonment in this life than anybody else does, and it’s simply by, one of my big phrases is, for myself is just wait. Like, you’ll see the proof that you need from this person that they like you in in just a few minutes, you know, but don’t push. And so, that’s probably the most painful thing is wow, a lot of the things that have hurt me, especially as I’ve turned into an adult were things that I manifested through my own fears.
[BILLY]: Holy shit, Ken, you made my eyes water. Thanks a lot.
[BRANDY]: We’re like holding hands, apologizing to each other, having a moment. Thank you. I have another, I actually have a serious question. So, if you could leave our listeners with some truth of benediction, I hate to say advice because it’s not, but just a truth that you would want to leave them. What would you say to our listeners today?
[KEN]: Well, so I think this one’s mine. I don’t think I stole it anywhere, I might’ve amalgamated it, but at the heart of our past practice’s existence, which is a reflection on my own trauma. And when I say trauma, even just social trauma. I remember going to a party, I finally kind of cracked the cool kid crowd in high school and I showed up where I thought there was a party and the guy that owned the house came out and said, “Hey, this is kind of a private party.” And I was like, “Oh.” By the way, I was allowed to eat lunch with them the next day. Is that weird do out and so, out of that, in my own journey with my wife and where things like sexuality and intimacy and touch and all these things fit into it has emerged this phrase that to me is the cornerstone of all of this or the kindness thing and the openness thing.
So, the phrase is “To be loved without being liked means you’re being tolerated.” And that’s this idea that there’s, that kind of stuck. Like you’re my kid. And I grew up hearing stuff like that. You’re my kid, essentially. You’re lucky that I love you because you’re reprehensible or these different things. And what I really craved was to be enjoyed, to have somebody’s face light up when I walk in the room, to have the crowd declare, “Hey, somebody called Clark. Where’s Clark? Clark’s not here. It’s not the same without Clark.” That sense of enjoyment. And so, that’s become, I think the marching orders for me in this life is, is how do I convince people there’s something more than tolerated out of DNA or economic value or these different things? How do you be present in the present moment and fully enjoy people, because I think that’s what we’re all craving? So, that’s, I think my benediction is to look at your lives and figure out where you feel and where you’re dispensing love without like and to recognize that those situations of toleration are ones that people rebel against, break out of, seek outside affirmation. And if we can care for that, the need to be enjoyed by other humans, a lot changes.
[BRANDY]: That’s it’s beautiful. We, one of our favorite books is a parenting book by Rob Bell, and —
[BILLY]: Launching Rockets.
[KEN]: Launching Rockets
[BILLY]: It’s a [crosstalk] video, but its first tenet is your primary purpose as a parent is to delight in your children. And that spoke to that child in me of just running around as Bernay Brown says hustling for that worthiness. Well, somebody just please delight in me and in unhealthy ways trying to get that, but realizing I may not have gotten all that, but I can give that to other people. And by doing that, it becomes reciprocal and then I begin to receive it.
[KEN]: [crosstalk] This is usually on, we’re doing so much Zoom therapy now where like I cover up the camera, so I can’t see them and they just get the hug. So, Rob Bell used to do some videos called NOOMA. Have you ever seen them?
[BILLY]: Yeah, I love.
[KEN]: There’s one called Rob that, you know, I look at things that drop these little nuggets of change into my life, and now I’m going to cry but there’s a great one called a lump where it’s about his kid stealing something from somebody else’s house and thinks it’s about the lump of clay that he stole, but it’s really his kid when he’s in trouble hiding under the sheets in his room and that lump and going to find your kid. So, if you guys have never seen those NOOMA videos out there, you should go watch them. They’re pretty awesome.
[BILLY]: Well, we’ll link to that in the show notes. I think it’s a beautiful place to end. Ken, thanks so much for hanging out with us today, sharing with us, challenging us as a couple and as people who want to be a little bit better and help alleviate some of the suffering in the world. We appreciate you. Thanks so much.
[KEN]: Oh, I’m honored to be here. Thanks for being a part of this collective web of conversations about what can be different. It takes all of us to have a conversation. So, thank you.
[BILLY]: Absolutely. Look forward to more. Talk to you soon Ken.
[KEN]: Al right. Take care guys.
[BILLY]: Are you ready to find freedom to be yourself as a beta male? Do you want permission and tools to be your best beta? Are you ready to join the revolution to find your strength as a beta? If you want to be comfortable in your own skin and be the most authentic beta male, then our free Beta Male Revolution course is for you. Sign up for free at
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