Insider Interview: Ron Scheidt & Brian Willis

June 1, 2013

Much of what I enjoy about my Scot Harvath character is his actual character. He represents the best of what I see in so many people around me – both in my personal life and in our country.

Our Ultimate Reader Experience novel for June is THE FIRST COMMANDMENT, and in it I really wanted to put Scot’s character to the test. This time, his mission is more personal than ever before, and he is left questioning everything from his government to his most intimate relationships.

We all find ourselves tackling both major and minor issues at different points in our lives. In some cases, how we deal with them all boils down to our training. In other circumstances, our reactions are dependent upon who we are as people – what our character is made of.

To that end, I wanted to bring you two men who have put together a fantastic book that not only examines character, but also inspires action.

Ron Scheidt and Brian Willis are the authors/ editors of, “am I that man?” a collection of extraordinary insights from fathers, sons, brothers, business leaders, soldiers, athletes, and more. I am delighted that they agreed to share their insights with us this month.

BRAD: After reading, “am I that man?” I said that this is the right book for America right now.  I’m convinced of that, but how would you describe this book to readers who haven’t read it yet? What inspired you to write it? (And why use a title in lower-case?)

RON: As Brian has so eloquently stated on the back cover of the book “the book is a compilation of submissions by fathers, sons, brothers, business leaders, military personal, professional athletes, and an Olympic Gold medalist all who share insights and stories about the importance of heroes, role models and mentors in their lives.”
I was originally approached by Brian Willis to do a submission for his book If I Knew Then 2. As I was reflecting on my 20-year career as a Federal Probation Officer I focused not only on my professional relationships but also on those early and intentional relationships that helped define and mold my very character. It became clear to me that without the intentional investment in my life by my brother Bud Scheidt and my coach Bill Hunsaker that I would not be the man I am today. I wanted to honor and publicly acknowledge their influence in my life. During my reflection it also became clear to me that, by action or inaction we can have a powerful and positive influence on the lives of others. As I reflected on Bud and Coach, I asked myself – am I that man? The man that they modeled for me, inspired in me and hoped for me, am I that man that my role models and mentors are.

This book is the right book for America right now because we are facing unprecedented stresses and mixed messages, unprecedented levels of negativity, mistrust, deceit and derision from our governments to our neighbors and (sadly) reinforced through national media outlets to anonymous blogs and postings. This book invokes powerful feelings of gratitude and positivity while simultaneously demanding action that will promote a life well lived, a life without regrets and a positive legacy.

BRIAN: This book is about role models, mentors and heroes. It is about the people who helped shape your life, and it is about the lives you have shaped and influenced, and the lives you will shape and influence as you live out the many roles in your life. It is about self-reflection and self-evaluation. It is about learning from experience. It is about the continual course corrections you need to make to ensure you stay on the path through life that is true to that man you want to be for yourself. It is about being true to you. If you are true to yourself, you will be the man others in your life need you to be, and deserve you to be.
We used lower case for all the words except “I” to place the emphasis, responsibility and accountability where it belongs – on us as men to answer the challenge am I that man?

BRAD: My protagonist, Scot Harvath draws upon different mentors throughout my novels and in particular in THE FIRST COMMANDMENT. You recommend the intentional pursuit and cultivation of mentors. How does someone seek one out?

RON: We all live in the world at large as well as our own personal spheres of influence. Using self-reflection to identify our own skill set and intentional observation it is not difficult to identify young fathers, sons, co-workers, community members etc for whom we could be positively influential. Similarly, using self reflection and intentional observation, it is not difficult to identify our own shortcomings and seek out those that possess the skills, insight, character and attributes to which we aspire. It is my experience that men want to mentor and are generally gracious and generous with their time and talents when approached.

BRIAN: Start by imagining what you can be, do, have and become in your life. Imagine where you want to be 2 years from now, 5 years from now, and 10 years from now. Now look around and ask yourself, who has accomplished that? Who do I look up to and seek to model myself after. Then, take a leap of faith and reach out to that person. Ask them if you can buy them lunch or dinner in exchange for an hour of their time. You might be surprised how many people will be willing to share their time, knowledge and experience. Spend time preparing before you meet with them. Make a list of critical questions to ask them. These are not fluff questions but to the core of the matter questions that show you are serious about becoming better every day. At the end of the meeting ask if you can reach out to them occasionally to ask follow-up questions or seek their advice. Use their time, and yours wisely. Become a student, not a stalker.

BRAD: What is the hardest question/challenge you pose in the book + what is the easiest?

RON: The hardest and easiest question/challenge posed by this book is one and the same- “am I that man?” If we are brutally honest with ourselves we must admit that we often fall short – often embarrassingly short –of being that man, the husband, the father, the son, the co-worker the brother etc that we are not only capable of being but that those around us need to us to be and deserve us to be. It can be a difficult task to identify and focus on our attributes and experiences with raw emotions of failure and disappointment.

Thankfully, by intentionally asking ourselves  “am I that man?” we choose to recognize that we have potential within each of us to modify, adapt, reform and adopt attitudes and behaviors that continue to position us closer to being “that man.”

BRIAN: The hardest question is: “What changes have I made in my life as a result of reading the book?” In order to answer this question I have to have taken action. If I get to Page 144 of the book and have enjoyed all the submissions, but nothing has changed, I have missed the point. The book challenges a man to think, to reflect and most importantly – to act.

The easiest question: What does it mean to you to “Be a man?” This is not an easy question, but it is the easiest question to answer with clichés, and words. If one takes time to examine the question and move past the easy answers, it can be an insightful and empowering question.

BRAD: What are 3 things anyone can do today/this week/this month/this year to take action toward becoming “That Man?”

RON: Three things that help us take action toward becoming “that man” are:

  1. Honoring the past: We need to reflect on those individuals that were influential in our lives. It can be very powerful to reconnect with those people and to thank them for their investment in your life. To say the things that have never been said and that we don’t want to leave left unsaid for another day. A day that neither of us may ever see – that risk is too great. From personal experience I can tell you that the bond between you will become even more personal and deeply satisfying. I can also tell you that life is too short and opportunities will be missed if we keep putting it off or it is too uncomfortable.
  2. Acknowledge the present: the time for action is now- self reflect, observe and act. Develop relationships that you can feed and influence as well as those relationships that feed and nurture you.
  3. Invest in the future: it has long been held true that “it is more blessed to give than receive.” Focusing our thoughts and actions on the needs of the others over ourselves benefits others while being richly rewarding to us in intangible ways.

We need to remember that our journey to becoming “that man” is a marathon and not a sprint, but well worth the running.


  1. Read the book.
  2. Make a commitment to always be a better man tomorrow than you are today.
  3. Take small steps every day to make yourself  “that man” and take time to celebrate the small successes on the journey to becoming “that man.”

BT: For me, one of the most powerful essays in your book starts with the admission of one man’s greatest fear “That [he] will get to the end of [his] life and that [his] last feeling will be regret. What can the acknowledgement of fear help someone achieve?

RON: The acknowledgement of fear and possible life regret is a powerful emotion and can and should be a tremendous catalyst to action. It is NEVER too late to act in ways to improve upon our character and the legacy we are building. In a very powerful and emotional scene from Saving Private Ryan, a seemingly common husband, father, grandfather pleadingly asks his wife to “just tell me I was a good man.” We should all be motivated to examine our legacy as it is being constantly developed in the here and now and to take appropriate actions to ensure that it’s what we want it to be.

BRIAN: It can help you achieve your dreams and live a life free from regret. You must have the courage to acknowledge the fear in order to move past the fear. Courage, however, is never about the absence of fear. Courage is the ability to come to a compromise with fear. Courage is about the ability to be afraid and still do your job, and still do it well. True warriors and men who are true to themselves understand the true definition of courage and start their journey to becoming that man by admitting the fear, embracing the fear, and moving past the fear.

BRAD: Do we ever reach an age/point in life where we stop needing mentors?

RON: I believe that the mentor/mentee relationship is a mutual and lifelong investment. At almost every point in our lives there is someone who is more and better: more experienced, more knowledgeable, more composed, more worldly, more insightful, better connected, better positioned, better suited. There is never a time when we cannot gain insight, encouragement, instruction, and empowerment from those around us. The challenge is to actively identify those from which we can invest in and from this that invest in us.

BRIAN: There is a saying that “When the master is no longer the student; he is no longer the master.” Regardless of our age, station in life or accomplishments, the only way to fulfill our commitment to excellence is to commit to growth. In order to continue grow we need mentors, role models and heroes.

BRAD: Finally, in THE FIRST COMMANDMENT Scot Harvath feels a great deal of guilt for the pain and suffering imposed on his loved ones because of their association with him.  I have to ask, which essay in “am I that man?” would you recommend Scot read and why?

RON: Scot Harvath, would benefit greatly by reading all of the submissions from “am I that man?” What he needs to realize is that none of us ever reaches the finish line in becoming that man. It is a process and not a destination. It is a journey and his guilt is destructive and misplaced. Additionally, it is never too late to take action.

While my own story was the impetus for the title submission, “am I that man?’’ meant to honor my brother and former coach. I believe that the submission by Brian McKenna entitled “Not What the World Would Call a Hero” really embodies the essence of the “am I that man?’’ philosophy. Scot Harvath would do well to read at least the very first paragraph of “Not What the World Would Call a Hero” to realize that “there are no streets or parks named after him, no lasting monuments to memorialize him, nor will his name ever appear in the history books. Still, in his own small corner of the world, he did what he could to make the world a better place.

Certainly we have both positive and negative influences in the world we inhabit but through introspection and action we have the ability and responsibility to tip the scales in our favor to the eternal benefit of those in our lives.

Bud and Coach may have never changed the world, but they changed the world for me.

BRAD: Brian and Ron, thank you. I love your book and hope all of my readers will pick up a copy. It really is a fantastic call to exceptional action.


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