Disrupt Yourself or Be Disrupted

July 20, 2021

My book, Expo­nen­tial The­o­ry: The Pow­er of Think­ing Big has been a jour­ney of over fif­teen years of research, inno­va­tion, and lead­er­ship to define what it will take to be a leader in the future. Fol­low me to learn more and grow your­self per­son­al­ly, pro­fes­sion­al­ly, and organizationally.

My jour­ney to dis­cov­er the expo­nen­tial the­o­ry began when I was 20 years old. I dared to sneak into the Uni­ver­si­ty of Notre Dame’s Career Cen­ter in hopes of land­ing an inter­view for a Chica­go intern­ship, even though I didn’t even attend the uni­ver­si­ty. How­ev­er, while at Notre Dame I dis­cov­ered a poster of Semes­ter at Sea and fell in love with the idea of trav­el­ing around the world. That day, I didn’t get the intern­ship, but I start­ed on a new adventure.

Less than a year lat­er, I left home to cir­cum­nav­i­gate the world, ven­ture into the unknown, under­stand the world, rein­vent my poten­tial, and expand my own self-lim­it­ing box. I flew to the Bahamas and board­ed the SS Uni­verse, a 554-foot ocean lin­er built-in 1953. As I depart­ed, I knew I would not be in a famil­iar envi­ron­ment again until I had it made it all the way back around the world. At that point in life, I didn’t know a sin­gle per­son who had trav­eled out­side the Unit­ed States, let alone any of my fel­low trav­el­ers on this voy­age. I stepped into a new world and began chal­leng­ing myself in new ways every day.

This was my first step into explor­ing the uncom­fort­able, with no safe­ty net. My great­est peri­od of growth began by board­ing the SS Uni­verse that day. My growth came when I real­ized I was all alone, and I con­tin­ued onward and chose growth over com­fort. I was already a thou­sand miles from home and still head­ed fur­ther away. I won­der if an astro­naut head­ed toward the moon might feel the same way.

The excite­ment was sub­dued by the FEAR (False Evi­dence Appear­ing Real) I was expe­ri­enc­ing. The expe­di­tion moved me in and out of 12 cul­tures on three con­ti­nents over 120 days. Near­ly half of those days were spent in the open waters in a giant social exper­i­ment, while the oth­er half was spent explor­ing new coun­tries, peo­ple, lan­guages, and cul­tures. Every day opened my eyes to some­thing new. New places, new sit­u­a­tions, and new peo­ple, all forced me to con­tin­u­ous­ly rewire my brain and grow. In doing this, I start­ed to open up the lim­it­ed beliefs from my mod­est mid­west­ern upbring­ing. I was recre­at­ing my world­view and I was doing it quick­ly. My dreams got big­ger! Sud­den­ly, for the first time, I believed that I could accom­plish great things and make a dif­fer­ence by step­ping up to chal­lenges that pre­sent­ed them­selves. My path had been forged and unfold­ed in front of me as oppor­tu­ni­ties mag­i­cal­ly pre­sent­ed them­selves as my thoughts began to play out in the real world. I start­ed devel­op­ing my pur­pose. I start­ed attract­ing the peo­ple and oppor­tu­ni­ties I need­ed into my life. The path becomes clear when your pur­pose is clear.

How­ev­er, past anchors and con­di­tion­ing pre­vent­ed my box from expand­ing too quick­ly. For exam­ple, my high school Eng­lish teacher had said to me, “Aaron, you are nev­er going to amount to any­thing,” and I believed her. My con­fi­dence had been shak­en. I grad­u­at­ed in the bot­tom half of my high school class, with col­leges only inter­est­ed in my abil­i­ty to play soc­cer. Soc­cer was my chance out of a career in con­struc­tion, a like­ly pro­fes­sion for a mid­west­ern high school grad­u­ate. Thank­ful­ly, I was recruit­ed by many col­leges for soc­cer, ulti­mate­ly mak­ing the safe choice to stay home and attend the school that my high school soc­cer coach start­ed coach­ing. I thought that was the best option for me at the time.

In col­lege, my thirst for knowl­edge accel­er­at­ed. I grad­u­at­ed with hon­ors in three years. I con­tin­ued to grad­u­ate school to earn a degree in Latin Amer­i­can Stud­ies as I con­tin­ued to see a big­ger world. This would open the door to my ulti­mate edu­ca­tion goal, get­ting my MBA from the Thun­der­bird School of Glob­al Man­age­ment. I achieved that 10 years lat­er. Look­ing back, I now real­ize that intel­li­gence has noth­ing to do with for­mal edu­ca­tion or a class­room. Iron­i­cal­ly, I found I learned more about life, and about how to excel in a life, in my time spent out­side the class­room. As Elon Musk has said on many occa­sions, “Don’t con­fuse school­ing with education.”

While these expe­ri­ences served me well, I rec­og­nize that this is not everyone’s expe­ri­ence. My expe­ri­ences built the nec­es­sary con­fi­dence for me to open the door to many oppor­tu­ni­ties, includ­ing becom­ing the Entre­pre­neur-in-Res­i­dence at Thun­der­bird and even­tu­al­ly this expe­ri­ence opened the door to many oth­er Uni­ver­si­ties and even­tu­al­ly led me to Sin­gu­lar­i­ty Uni­ver­si­ty at NASA Ames cam­pus in Moun­tain­view work­ing with some of the most expo­nen­tial entre­pre­neurs in the world. It also opened the door to facil­i­tat­ing inno­va­tion around the world with com­pa­nies like WDHB, Hyper Island, and Kaos Pilot. Just as a shark will only grow to eight inch­es in a fish tank but will grow to more than eight feet in the ocean, I was soon swim­ming in a much big­ger world.

I was obsessed with learn­ing. I was curi­ous how the world works, entrenched in a world of inno­va­tion with some of the best com­pa­nies in the world. I also took near­ly every course I could find, and rarely turned down any oppor­tu­ni­ty pre­sent­ed to me to explore new ways to think. I con­tin­ued to expand my beliefs, pur­pose, and vision. I trav­eled, explored, and put myself into chal­leng­ing sit­u­a­tions. I want­ed to see who I real­ly was and what my poten­tial could be. I grew my con­fi­dence to lead and leaned into dif­fi­cult con­ver­sa­tions. I con­tin­ue to chal­lenge myself to take on more.

For years, I looked for a sign from the out­side world. How­ev­er, it wasn’t until I start­ed to take a deep­er jour­ney with­in that I real­ized I already had the answers. Through a series of lead­er­ship devel­op­ment cours­es, I stopped look­ing to the out­side world for val­i­da­tion. I learned to say “no.” This helped me to avoid burnout and led me to take an intro­spec­tive jour­ney, which led me to Bali, Indone­sia to spend time with some of the world’s great ener­gy heal­ers. My ener­gy need­ed recharg­ing. I spent a day with a laugh­ing Shaman, fast­ed for two weeks, and I spent time in a Bud­dhist monastery in silence. I also spent time in iso­la­tion in the wilder­ness. I real­ized my own self-love and self-worth were only set by myself. I became mind­ful and embraced the joy of miss­ing out (JOMO). I shed excess own­er­ship, weight, and sim­pli­fied my whole life. I final­ly found free­dom, liv­ing by my own terms.

I con­tin­ued to trav­el, learn, grow, and edu­cate myself, to learn how to talk to myself, to inno­vate myself, and to reimag­ine myself. As the world is a per­fect pic­ture of our own imag­i­na­tion, I became aware of my own inten­tions and my own fears hold­ing me back from becom­ing every­thing I want­ed to be. I was free to just be myself, and I accept­ed that I was good enough. I stepped into the present moment for the first time.

My new iden­ti­ty was set. I con­tin­ued to cre­ate my future in a push and pull between my grow­ing and lim­it­ing beliefs. A tug of war that with some pos­i­tive self-talk, led me to per­son­al, pro­fes­sion­al, and orga­ni­za­tion growth. I became an adven­tur­ous para­troop­er that dropped into com­pa­nies to solve incred­i­bly dif­fi­cult prob­lems with facil­i­ta­tion, design think­ing, and sys­tems think­ing. I designed the per­fect role for myself, and over time grew into think­ing big and I stepped up to any chal­lenge pre­sent­ed to me.

I began to embrace the pow­ers of expo­nen­tial the­o­ry before I had a the­o­ry for it. I took respon­si­bil­i­ty for the cre­ation of my out­comes. In my career, I’ve cre­at­ed a dozen com­pa­nies, three non-prof­its, a half-dozen edu­ca­tion pro­grams, and three accel­er­a­tors. I lost peo­ple mon­ey, made peo­ple mon­ey, and exit­ed sev­er­al star­tups. I con­tin­ued to fail for­ward, learn, make mis­takes, and grow.

On the jour­ney, I become a glob­al inno­va­tion facil­i­ta­tor work­ing with com­pa­nies like Daim­ler, Coca-Cola, and Google, learn­ing and grow­ing from some of the great­est cor­po­rate lead­ers in the world. I worked on projects that cre­at­ed bil­lions in bot­tom-line rev­enue. I trav­eled to all 50 states and over 90 coun­tries. My lim­it­ing beliefs fad­ed, and I found myself in the mid­dle of wicked­ly com­plex prob­lems and began to dis­man­tle them and cre­ate solu­tions with rel­a­tive ease. I began to impact the world in an expo­nen­tial way. I found my pur­pose-to inspire those that I crossed paths with to think big and find their pur­pose. I began to sur­round myself with the right peo­ple, and I made sure they looked at the world the way I want­ed to see it: as an opti­mistic, big thinker. This led to the writ­ing of this book.

Down­load a free pre-release chap­ter or pre-reg­is­ter for our Expo­nen­tial The­o­ry course, and be part of the first group we help reimag­ine the future of lead­er­ship through explor­ing expo­nen­tial theory.

In addi­tion to the book, at Expo­nen­tial The­o­ry we have sev­er­al oth­er ways that we can help you imple­ment big think­ing into your ven­tures includ­ing work­shops for your team, strate­gic plan­ning facil­i­ta­tion for your lead­er­ship, tai­lored speak­ing engage­ments for your con­fer­ences, exec­u­tive coach­ing for your­self or your lead­ers, join our expo­nen­tial accel­er­a­tor for inno­va­tors and entre­pre­neurs, and our online cours­es, Expo­nen­tial The­o­ry, and the XMBA, eXpo­nen­tial Mind­sets, Beliefs, and Attitudes.

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  • I just wanted to say thank-you again for speaking at the event at McGeorge School of Law on Monday. I had excellent feedback from students who were encouraged by your presentation. These days especially, law school can become an environment where discussions about careers become dreary, discouraging, and full of doomsday predictions. It was exciting to see students energized about what they can accomplish and how to accomplish it. I am sure future leaders of the Federalist Society at McGeorge would love to welcome you back.
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    Federalist Society at McGeorge
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    Federalist Society Chapter, William & Mary School of Law
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    Indiana Institute of Technology
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    CENTERLINE Federal Credit Union
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    M&A Advisor
    Fox & Fin Financial Group
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    JD Candidate
    Brooklyn School of Law
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    Philip Howard
    Federal Society President
    Florida International University
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    MicroAge and WPO Disruption Chair
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    Duffy Group
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    EE, MBA, President
    Titus Innovations Inc.
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    Social Media, PR, and Compliance Nerd with 20 years experience. CEO, Published Author, Professional Speaker
  • Aaron Bare developed a Custom Disruptive Workshop for Coca-Cola’s Largest Cross-Functional customer team.  This 3-day program included disruptive innovation sessions, how best to organize disruption, and used change to align the entire team on accountabilities & goals that would drive results. He was able to disrupt the way the organization was traditionally thinking by introducing several techniques that will enable the team to become change agents, while deploying several new meaningful projects that will drive the team’s collaboration, team strengths, and focus based on the customer & Coca-Cola’s objectives. He provided an environment that allowed our associates to understand the speed of change, the skills & capabilities required to be an integral part of our customer’s growth, and gained the alignment of the team to commit to each other to be their ‘best’.    It was a huge home run for our team and the outside thinking was just what we needed….
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    VP, The McDonald’s Division, USA
    The Coca-Cola Company
  • In August, 2012, Aaron Bare presented and facilitated a dialogue on “Disruption Influences on Leadership and Innovation” to our annual corporate strategic planning retreat.  Aaron’s presentation style is comfortable and conversational, yet provocative and stimulating.  His interaction with our team left us full of ideas, and wanting more!  Our firm is committed to deploying our “energy and ideas for a better world”.  Aaron talked about how “disruption is innovative leaders being the change they see in the world.”  We have embraced his ideas and are using them to bring as we seek to inspire positive social change and create a better world. We highly endorse Aaron as an outstanding presenter, thinker, entrepreneur, and innovator.
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    The Phoenix Philanthropy Group
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    MBA, Strategic IT thinker and implementer who solves complex application, infrastructure, people or project issues
  • Your presentation amazed me. The whole time you really had me at the edge of my seat.  Aaron I know that you mentioned that you wanted to be surrounded by people that don’t want to live life just as it is. If there is anyway I could become one of those people in mentorship, or helping in any area. Your talk impressed me and to have even a few moments of your time would help me 10x. The two hour presentation has already boosted me 100 times more than I would have been.
    Startup Entrepreneur
  • Aaron was employed by our Credit Union Board of Directors to assist in the process of choosing a new name for our organization.  We were evaluating 3 different organizations to assist in this process and choose Complete Strategies. He was very professional and knowledgeable in all facets of the process. I would highly recommend him his work to others.
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    First Data Independent Sales Electronic Payment Services
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    David Gallello
    Senior IT, Operations and Marketing Expert
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    Doug Bruhnke
    Growth Nation and The Global Chamber
  • Thank you for making this understandable and actionable. Enjoyed the evening.
    Startup Entrepreneur
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    The Idea Gardener LLC
  • Buzz Mouth! What can I say! Aaron Bare has molded Buzz Mouth into THE cutting edge entity for helping businesses and individuals breakthrough and occupy the space they covet by delivering the right message at the right time with the right tool to targeted audiences. Buzz Mouth has harnessed a unique mix of social media, brand positioning and collaborative consulting which is unmatched by others in the business arena today. Aaron and Buzz Mouth were invaluable in helping to put Brand Aspirations on the map. Why wait for 2020, when you can be there now with Aaron and Buzz Mouth!
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    Founder Brand Aspirations
  • I have known Aaron for almost 15 years and he is one of the most dedicated people I have ever worked with. Aaron is focused on building mutually beneficial partnerships and has an exceptional business mind. He also has wide experience in evaluating human performance and has become a leader in this area.
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    Meeting Consultant
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    Lewis & Clark University
  • Aaron Bare’s presentation about the dynamics of the marketplace and our potential as entrepreneurs opened an entirely new set of possibilities for us. Welded to legal theory, we too easily forget about the reality of business and the dynamics beyond the staid examples of our hypotheticals. Law cannot possibly keep up with changes in technologies and global markets. Success will require vigilance for opportunities and a tolerance for risk. Mr. Bare’s fresh presentation breathed fresh thought into our law school, a perspective we direly needed.
    Nicholas Chidiac
    Federalist Society, George Washington University
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    Turning Pointe Wealth Management
  • Though some of the information I have heard before, most of your workshop was newly found knowledge which I am implementing right away. A) I practiced a “question” approach with a potential new customer today, and B) I have made a conscious effort, and have been successful, in not using “but, can’t, or try” even once today. I constantly read/hear successful people saying how their mentors have been instrumental in their success (this is where I would normally use “but”), I have yet to find my mentor. I would love to continue our conversation and explore the opportunity of you becoming my mentor. The refreshing difference that I noticed in your approach is that you have practical advice and suggestions, unlike my experience with business coaches who have a great conceptual ideas. Please let me know what would be the next step for us to proceed.
    Startup Entrepreneur
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    Small Business Consultant, Efficiency & Productivity Consultant
  • Thanks for the seminar today at BLS! Some very interesting ideas on how technology can/will change the legal profession.
    Jed Bernstein
    JD Candidate
    Brooklyn School of Law
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    Process Corporation, Rocky Mountain Region
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    Creative Thinking for Exceptional Businesses
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    Aaron Boothby
    Federal Society President
    University of Akron
  • It was such a pleasure meeting and hearing you speak on Thursday at the ASU event about pitching and all of the little elements that truly make a difference when doing so.
    Arizona State University
  • Aaron is a big picture thinker, who thrives on creating new ideas and cutting edge technologies. He has the unique ability to also relate these concepts to others with both passion and ease.   I’m always happy to work on projects with Aaron and Buzz Mouth – he fosters a fast-paced and innovative environment.
    Laura Fursman
    Executive Assistant, Blogger, Artist
  • Aaron Bare and JobingTV have been instrumental in the recruitment efforts at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center. Their outstanding ability to present the St. Joseph’s spirit in each of our Jobing TV segments has been phenomenal.
    De Anne Russell
    SPHR, Manager – Arizona Service Area Talent Acquisition and Employment Branding
    Dignity Health
  • I had the opportunity to work with Aaron on multiple projects during our EMBA program. Aaron immediately stood out as an individual with innovative ideas, exemplary business acumen, and a great knowledge of social media. Aaron has always taken the time to share his wealth of knowledge with the members of our class and has inspired the creation of entrepreneurial ventures because of it. I highly recommend Aaron Bare.
    Robert Vega
    Marketing/Digital Strategy Consultant
    Southwest Kidney Institute

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