232: The power of empathy - with Dylan Sessler
Meet Dylan Sessler
Dylan lost his father when he was 6 years old to suicide. In the aftermath, he struggled through a number of difficult experiences to include domestic violence, bullying, and suicide ideation. At 18, he joined the military as an infantryman and deployed to Afghanistan by 22. Dylan's personal struggle with PTSD, trauma, and the difficulties during his childhood brought him to the brink of life at just 25. He built Invictus Development Group to help others overcome adversity and choose to live.
What is your message and the goal behind what it is that you're trying to do?
I'm writing a book that that pretty much states it. The title of the book is, “Defy the Darkness.” So many things that I've been through in my life have really just brought me to the brink of life, of happiness, of sadness. I've seen every emotion from the bottom to the top. And the one thing that I want to help people with is to find a way to move forward. To progress their lives and defy that the pain, the struggle, the suffering, the darkness, everything within and take that step forward.
What brought you ultimately to start Invictus Development Group?
It started with my book. The, the idea of writing this book has been in my head since probably eight or nine years old when I actually learned to start writing. I just felt like I needed to write down my story. Not necessarily for other people at that time, because it was it was really just me and my way of expressing myself was always through writing and I just felt like I needed to write that. So I did it here and there but I never really focused it on a book until about four years ago when I started. Invictus Development Group came from the necessity to want to build a platform for that book and for the message of giving people the information that I have, because I've overcome all of these things. I've overcome so many mental illnesses that I've struggled with that it's time for me to build something that can stand up to my message.
Can you share with our listeners one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences that you've had?
My favorite is it started back in University of Wisconsin whitewater when I was going through my undergrad. I started just going to the veterans lounge to, you know, I guess I had just gotten home from Afghanistan, it was just like, I'm looking for a place that kind of fits me. I met a number of people there that had really changed the trajectory of what I'm doing now. I started undergraduate research on interviewing veterans about what they have encountered in terms of successes and failures of entering into college life and moving forward after they're in the military. I didn't know it when I was doing those interviews, but they changed my life because a number of those interviews got to a depth of talking about suicide talking about you know, depression, anxiety. PTSD, some very difficult stuff that that I didn't expect to actually go into in those interviews. Later it would come to come to a point where a number of those veterans called me later on, like six months down the road, two years down the road, send me messages years down the road talking about how I saved a couple of their lives from suicide.
How do you stay in front of and best nurture your network or your community?
Honestly, it's always tough, right? You can build a network, but the long times between connecting with people can really eat into that network because some people will forget you. But I think one of the biggest things that has helped me is the power of empathy. People will forget what you say to them, they'll forget what you can do for them. But people rarely ever forget the power of your story and the power of your ability to communicate with them, and the emotion that you gave to them. If you have the ability to be truly empathetic, and truly kind and offer who you are as a person, rather than your service or whatever you're doing at the time, people will remember that and you can go years without talking to them.
What advice would you offer the business professional who's looking to grow their network?
First things first is to understand yourself, right? I'm still even in that space of stepping into the entrepreneurial space and I wouldn't even consider myself an entrepreneur but taking a step into that space if you don't have an understanding of who you are and what you want to do. Not even in the business sense but in the in the long term. Who do you want to be type of mental understanding. You're going to be lost in that chaos of what the business world can offer you. And, and having that ability to just square up to who you are and face what you can and cannot do. I just think is so fundamentally important to building relationships and building a network 100%.
Between digital and traditional networking, which one do you find more value in?
I honestly think digital. The ability to market anything has its own place. You can write a letter which is perfectly viable and there's people in micro pools. Writing a letter will have an impact, writing a tweet will have an impact. For me making a tick tock will have an impact. Whatever niche you're in, is going to have a specific like, Twitter is going to work better for you or email is going to work better for you. For me, right now I've grown in the last three or four weeks, from zero to 5000 followers on Tick Tock in no time at all right? Like my Tick Tock has doubled and even tripled all of my other social media accounts combined. I mean, it's just the power of my message. And if you leverage your message in the right way, and you market it the right way it's going work.
If you could go back to your 20-year-old self. What would you tell yourself to do more of less of or differently with regards to your professional career?
That's, a great question. Especially for me because my professional life didn't really exist. I was really a full-time student at 20. And then not long after that I went to Afghanistan. So as if I were to go back, I would say, to have more of a professional life. To actually step into learning how businesses were run at 20. And I think that I feel like I slacked a little bit because the army paid for my school and I utilized that. I served and I feel like I've earned what was given to me, but at the same time, I didn't utilize my time enough for what I could have. And I wish I would have done more.
We've all heard of the six degrees of separation, who would be the one person that you'd love to connect with? And do you think you could do it within the six degree?
I would love to connect with Gary Vaynerchuk. I love what Gary's doing. Even now with COVID-19, he's posting up live videos where he's bringing on people every morning for Tea with GaryVee and just talking about pretty much the same mindset of empathy and kindness. It's awesome to see someone that has the same mindset as me, but a very different path to get there. I think if I sent an email or made a comment on a picture or even spoke up at a conference, he was here speaking at, that's just the power of Gary's that he would bring you on, for just speaking up. You wouldn't even need to use the six degrees of separation. You just need to straight up contact him, and I think that's pretty incredible.
Are you reading any interesting books right now or interesting podcasts?
I am not actually. I really took a dive back in March to learn people and learn the people that follow me, specifically. So what I've been doing is focusing, like hyper focused on finishing my book. For four years I wrote four chapters in my book. And I got him from Afghanistan in December, COVID-19 hit in March, and I finished six chapters in a month because of COVID-19. And that's what I've been, like hyper focused on. That is my inspiration. Looking at my book as the potential to help one more person.
Do you have any final word or advice to offer our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
Just one thing, be empathetic over the long run. That's it.
How to connect with Dylan:
Tik Tok: @invictusdevgrp