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About Ray Eickhoff 

Fan of DiSC assessment, Clifton Strengths assessment, Patrick Lencioni Five Dysfunctions and Ideal Team Player. Passion for the next generation of leaders and managers to be a guide in developing the soft skills needed in being a servant to those you lead. Avid musician, cyclist, hiker, and gardener.


In this episode, Steve and Ray discuss:

  • The freedom to find meaning even in difficult circumstances 
  • Putting empathy before advice 
  • Asking powerful questions instead of giving advice 
  • Taking a courageous step 


Key Takeaways 

  • External factors don't determine us living a life of meaning. We have control of that, whether we are aware or not. When we let external factors be the reason for why we are what we are now, we surrender our power to create our own reality. 
  • Empathize and drench yourself in another’s pain as best you can so that you can truly understand where they’re coming from. However, don’t let the both of you dwell too long on it, there is a time to move. Help them take the next step towards progress. 
  • If you feel that somebody wants or needs your advice, instead of telling them what to do, why not try and ask them a powerful question? The resolve to change will be stronger if they come up with the answer to their problems themselves. 
  • Be the hero of your own story. Take a courageous, brave step toward where you want to be. It doesn’t have to be a huge step, as long as you continue to step up. 


“After being with that person and being present… maybe walk with them on that move, but sometimes it’s just helping them take one step… We often linger way too long in empathy and there’s a time to move.” - Ray Eickhoff



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Ray Eickhoff: Compassion Before Advice

I am back with you with someone on our show that I consider a friend, a colleague, someone that I admire deeply and someone I've known for quite a while. Readers, here’s my good friend, colleague, mentor and someone I look up to a great deal, Mr. Ray Eickhoff.

Greetings from Northeast Seattle, Washington, the Evergreen State and the Emerald City. Steve, I'm grateful to have this opportunity to hang with a dear brother and friend. You're a mentor as well. This is a brotherhood or something going on.

I'll be the one asking you stuff. You get to be the one that gets to enlighten us to as to who you are. You mentioned gratitude. We do a lot of this on the show. I'm always fascinated by any given time and season of life. What was it when you woke up that you are grateful for? Sometimes we do and sometimes we don't but if you did, off the top of your mind, what is it?

I took a little different turn. Normally, in coaching and mentoring, we go for the grateful things or blessings, “Thank you for my wife and my children, for the mountains and the sunrise and the opportunity to spend a little time with my brother Steve.” One morning I had a little move in my spirit of looking for a challenge or an obstacle that I faced and that I overcame and was grateful for what I'd learned in having to go through that difficult time. I don't know if you've ever done that before but it was an interesting little pivot. Grateful, yes but it was a challenge that I come out of. It's had a few struggles at work but I was grateful. I am learning much from that. It was a little different pivot for me.

You and I both have a lot of sayings in our minds, sentences and verses. You could probably help me with this. Somebody one time said, “You're either about to go into a challenge or in a challenge or just coming out of one.” That was somebody's view of life. I don't remember who said that.

I've been thinking around about the meaning of life and the challenges, the obstacles and finding that meaning and the challenges of not letting those destroy us or take us away from this life that we're to live out, that we have control over our stories and what we get to live out, not being a victim or hopefully not being a villain. I'm a big fan of Donald Miller. He released a book called Hero On A Mission. It talks about living this and across the nation bike ride was ending. I went into a bookstore in DC. I was led to Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, the psychologist.

We actually have control over our stories and what we get to live out, not by being a victim or a villain.

He talked about how that was a pivot point for him in coming out because of his story. This bike ride was ending. He was getting a little blue about it. He found this meaning in life. He was coming out of the holocaust terrible things but Frankl didn't let what happened. He pivoted to an optimistic attitude of overcoming and not becoming a victim of the suffering that he had. I've grasped that. There are truly true victims and terrible things. The holocaust was one of those things but not letting external factors determine us living a life of meaning that we can internally, you and I both love the around mindset and things but we have control over that.

I wrote down the question, “What external factors am I still allowing in my life to have some span of control?” The word control is funny to me. That's a terrible question to ask someone why they're stressed. I've learned to ask about stress differently. I don't tell someone anymore, “Don't be stressed.” I've told my clients, “Telling people to not be stressed is a terrible thing to say to somebody.” I'm inviting people, my clients, in particular, to together let us learn to relate to stress differently and that's a different thing. Your question is good. If you ask someone about the why, they'll start to go, “It’s because my kids did this. It’s because work did that.” Most of us experience stress and if we're honest, we will tag external things.

Your point about Viktor Frankl is well-taken. If he didn't allow something horrific to impact his spirit in a way where he was able to navigate and live through that, the point of that is that I wonder what things in our world in life that we no longer have to say, “It's because of this and that. He said this and she said that. They did this.” Those are all external to us.

How do we move out of that victim mentality? That's a terrible place to be when we're letting external things, events or people determine the meaning that we have for our lives. It meant a lot as I read through the three-step platform that Miller got out of Frankl's writing around that we have to take an action to create something, be it a worker doing a deed of some type, getting off your butt and doing it. Go out and experience something. Encounter a person or maybe it's the wilderness. Get up and climb Mount Hood and or Mount Rainier right up here in the Northwest, something that captivates and pulls you out of yourself into that greater experience.

Certainly, as we finished talking about flipping and having this optimistic attitude around the challenges, sufferings, obstacles and problems that we have. It's inevitable. It's going to happen. I love the way that that was brought into simplicity. In biology, there's this term of irreducible complexity, which is great. What are the basic moving parts? You have to have a minimum but you don't need it anymore. As an example, biology uses the flagellum. The living thing only has seven moving parts. It doesn't need 8 but it would not exist if it only had 6 like what Frankl did. He boils it down to those three things, that irreducible complexity.

I'm easily distracted by the DISC behavioral assessment. I'm a very high I. I'm easily distracted but that's part of who I am. I'm able to create that way. I’m always thinking and creating. It also helps me to gain clarity, which is a big word that I love to embrace. Where you have helped me a lot is over all of these years since we've known each other, “Let's boil it down. Let's make it clear here.” Clarity's a real driving virtue or a verb for me in much of what I've done. Has it centered me and got my feet back down on the ground? I've accomplished a whole lot more since I've embraced clarity.

We got to get to a little bit of what you do and where you've been in your history but as I told you before, I come in with all these questions I'm ready to ask you. Even with what you went through, we could go down that trail. Let me go down one trail and then we're going to let him tell us why he's on the show. You've got such a cool background and you've been doing this work for quite a while. It is such a cool history.

It's not necessarily a challenge for you but as you talk about that, I've wanted to publish another book. I wanted to call the book Just. I'm not going because, in my mind, it's a little bit of a parody and irony. It also tinges a little of cynicism, which is why I don't want to write the book. It's based on the theory of, “Just do this or that.” I love clarity, simplicity and irreducible. When you are not in a good space and you're anxious and this and that, finding simplicity is not simple.

I don't disagree at all with the theory and the concept of telling someone, “Make that simple. Do this. Do that.” I have been reading some dissertations and some white papers on various processes and mental processes. In the end, many of them point out the issue and then say, “We'll do this,” Nancy Reagan is saying, “Just say no,” or Nike is saying, “Just do it.” Sometimes people who are in pain or struggle think, “Just do this.” Talk to me about that. I love the simplicity and complexity. How do we move in and out of those seasons according to Ray Eickhoff?

I would not discourage you but I would encourage you to still consider writing that book. I love that you take both sides of thought. I almost sense and I'll speak to you that maybe you were moving more into being discouraged about those things, “Just do it,” versus the encouragement that you have deep in your heart for me and many others of writing it out of a platform of encouragement because the Barnabas of the world to many people, it may be that little flip for you of encouragement, bravery and courage part to inspire others to look.

I didn't want to lose the fact that I want you to consider thinking about that, waiting upon it and pondering Just. I go back to the story as we live through this. It’s an important part of us as we listen and are present with people that are stressed or going through a struggle so often. We're all a little bit different in the way that we're wired, think, move and act. I have found that always in those situations, I have to remind myself, though I want to skip over it because I don't like pain but I must and want to enter in with empathy before I ever ask anybody to take any action. I want to feel their pain and be there with them.

TII Ray Eickhoff | AdviceAdvice: Enter with empathy before asking anybody to take any action.


I'm not there to offer any advice at that moment but to be present, feel their pain, share a tear with them and hold their hand. I believe and found in my life that I need to start there with family, friends, coworkers or stranger that I can see that looks lonely or isolated that I can be present. There is that moment then when some people linger way too long in empathy. It's important to start there to be present. It may not be something big but after being with that person and being present, what's one little step? It doesn't have to be big but we do have to move to be able to help someone take that movement.

Maybe you walk with them on that move but sometimes it's helping them take one step, a phone call, writing a note, taking a walk, whatever you might entering into, giving yourself away by volunteering for something to get outside of yourself in that situation. Maybe that's the simplicity that I should have talked about you helped me to understand. That's why I love talking with you and being with you because we bounced these things off of each other. I go, “That's what I meant by that.”

You're helping me even write a book. I thank you for that. I don't know if I will write that. The idea is I did have some negativity about it because I can feel myself getting frustrated when I hear, “This is the issue and challenge.” Just do that or this. There is advice before empathy often in our world. You're writing the forward of the book there. Empathy before advice but not so much empathy that we don't help.

We often linger way too long in empathy. There's a time to move.

The book Just, “Just do this. Do that.” I find myself doing it. I find a lot of leaders in organizations do it, managers and parents. We partly do it because it's expedient. You see somebody that's struggling, “Do this.” You see a salesperson, “Make more calls.” I sometimes think in the spirit of that's not that's necessarily wrong but it's certainly not empathetic. It undervalues certain mental processes that people might need to go through, which is back to your point of empathy but it's not necessarily wrong. There are some simple things. I like the one small step and going out in nature. Some things are beautiful about that, provided that we honor people's processes.

“Just do this and that.” Nike can get away with it. It's a cool slogan. It takes action if we need to go but I wonder if some people don't need to have a maybe deeper understanding. We can write the book. The book was going to be Just Do This and then behind it, I would've said, “Instead of just do that, how could we add empathy? How do we have some understanding?” I'm back on your thing. You could do that. I wonder if it makes it too complex. There's the balance. We'll write the book together.

One of the things that I learned very early on in our relationship and knocked me off of my confidence stand a little bit with you is that when I would bring something up or talk about something, you taught me how to ask powerful questions. You would listen and you listened well. You then would give me a challenging question to move me off my doldrums.

I was in neutral and I needed to make a move. I've used that in my leadership and coaching, both personally and professionally, to learn to ask after listening powerful questions because when we do that, people begin to come to an understanding of often them creating their next step by asking that question versus me telling them what to do with advice. Isn't it incredibly heartwarming? The deepest part of who we are is when we ask a question and someone answers it. They take ownership of it because it came from them. It wasn't me telling them what to do. It reminded me of Michael Bungay Stanier. Have you ever read some of his coaching books?

TII Ray Eickhoff | AdviceAdvice: By asking powerful questions, people begin to come to their own understanding of the next step versus telling them what to do.



He's great. His favorite question is, “What's the real challenge here?” He simply listens. We have seen this and know it. People will typically give us a true answer but it may not be at the real heart of the matter. Michael Bungay Stanier goes, “That's great, Steve. What else?” That two-word question. It is holding the layers back. I've used that in my coaching and leadership development. My Ray record is seven times I asked, “What else,” until we got to the heart of the matter. Hopefully, that can help some readers. What's the real challenge here? You'll know when Ray's giving you the heart of the matter in my response.

I want to come back to that technique. Let's pause for a second. This is the most I've ever gone. There might be readers going, “Who's Ray Eickhoff? Why are we reading this cat?” Usually, I do that a little bit at the beginning but it's a show. Who knows where it might go? I would love it if you were able to synthesize irreducible complexity. Make it as simple as you can but also complete for us. Tell us your story. How'd you end up here? What do you do? Why are you doing it? Where'd you come from? You've got such a cool history. Give us the down and dirty as succinctly as you can.

I was born and raised in the Seattle area with my mom and dad whom I'm very grateful. They're old and they live right next door to me. I was the oldest of five kids. I loved athletics, music and leadership all through middle school and then eventually into high school. As a musician, I auditioned and received an all-tuition scholarship to the University of Washington as a vocal major. I was going to go following my mom's footsteps who had gone to Eastman School of Music. She grew up in Pullman. My dad grew up outside of Seattle here. His family was from Nebraska originally. His dad was a radio operator, an amateur entering the war, stationed in Juneau, Alaska. He was going to go back to Nebraska.

He came out of Juneau into Seattle. Grandpa Red was a high school band director and found a job here in the Seattle area. They never went back to Nebraska. I grew up here with musicians on both sides of the family. My mom can't quite hit the high notes but a brilliant culture of Soprano. She sang amateur through here but never went on to anything professionally because she met dad up at Mount Rainier National Park, got married and had me right off the get-go. I was going to go to the University of Washington and follow mom's foot, live out her dream. It’s an interesting little transfer.

I had a knock on the door one day as I was doing some solo work. It was a couple of guys who had a band that was looking for a third member because they were a trio who had to go take care of his family back down in the Bend, Oregon area. I'm pretty whimsical. I went and listened to these guys. I love what they were doing and I left school, which was one of the interesting little turns because I had to go tell mom and dad that I was dropping out of school to go run away with these two strangers and play in clubs all up and down the West Coast.

My dad, an old German from Nebraska, was very stern. He went through the roof. My dad's about 6’5. My mom's about five 5’2. I've always loved telling this story. As I was getting berated by my dad, my mom was standing a little behind and to the side. She caught my eye and looked at me. While dad was going, I looked at her. She did say it out loud but she mouthed it, “Follow your heart.” I did. I went on the road. I loved this guy. I had two great friends out of this. Had a blast. Eventually, it came out.

I was going to go back to school to be a high school choral director like my mom. I wound up stumbling into real estate on the weekends. I enjoyed that but then I stumbled into mortgage banking back in the mid-1980s. I began a career as an originator and eventually a branch manager. Through the course of that, I was able to meet Steve Scanlon in the late 1990s or early 2000 through a coaching company that you worked for. We became a part of First Horizon when we created this little side hustle called the Circle of Excellence with Michael Vansky and Daniel Hardy.

It was a wonderful experience and that's where coaching entered my life. I coached my people, learned the power behind that, loved that and then moved. I'm a loyal guy so I’m not a lot of different companies but eventually met a guy named Steve Jacobson on a recruiting call. I was happy where I was but how often do you get to meet the CEO? I had a couple of guys that worked for me that had a small office outside of Seattle. I met with Steve. I loved the guy. A lot of energy and we eventually went to work for Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation as an Area Manager up here in Seattle to grow the Northwest because Steve saw the potential of this market up here.

At the end of that interview, Steve asked me, “I'd love what you're doing and I'd love to have you come and see if we can grow this up here. If there's anything else you could do, what would it be?” I immediately knew what it was because I pondered this. I've always wanted to bring coaching to the masses within a company because often time coaching is for your executive, C-Suite or top producers.

I wanted to be able to offer coaching to the gatekeeper in Casper, Wyoming or a processor in our business, an underwriter or somebody on the corporate team. Steve went, “I love that idea. Let's go grow the area.” Off we went. A couple of years later, one of the great challenges was we were coming out of the mortgage meltdown in ’08 and ’09. I called everybody I knew. No one ever turned me down for an interview but over 2 years, I didn't hire 1 single person. I get an email one day from Jake and my nickname's The Bald Eagle. The initial is BE. He was like, “Be, you and me, noon today. Be there.” I went, “It was a good run, Steve.”

I got a little knot in my stomach but I immediately also flipped that. I wasn't going to be a victim of that. I started that way but I've always landed on my feet. There's another chapter here and what's it going to be? The phone call wasn't about taking my role away or anything else. That was still there if I wanted to do it but during that two years, I was beginning naturally coach people through corporate, other managers and people that I met within the company. Steve and Jake recognized that.

He went, “I want you to know you're making a difference here. You've got some influence around coaching. Would you consider coming over on the corporate side and doing this? Pray about it. Talk to your wife Tracy and get back to me.” Tracy went, “That's your lane.” The next day I said, “Let's go.” Off I went. I did that for several years. Many ago, Jake, along with a couple of other people went, “We have so much talent here. Let's start our coaching entity.”

Fairway Ignite got launched. Christmas Eve of 2022 will be our sixth anniversary. Internally, we're coaching our people, our Fairway employees. Here I am at this point talking to you as doing it full-time on the executive team for Ignite, retired out of the Fairway mortgage side of things but we're closely knit. I get to coach people. I have a deep desire for our Millennials and Gen Zers who are very quickly moving into all of these leadership roles. My real passion is around the soft skills of leadership. Often people on a Friday, because they're doing something well, they get the promotion and they start on Monday but we don't train them.

We don't teach our people about feedback, motivation and how to communicate effectively from person to person. I love helping people to at least recognize these things so that we don't set them up for failure as they're moving up the ladder if they want to do that. I love communication, coaching and helping people to know it's different being a manager and a leader in the world. I want to set them up for success. They still have to choose to engage the skillset but at least I can help make them aware of that. That's what I get to do.

TII Ray Eickhoff | Advice

Advice: We don't teach our people about feedback and motivation and how to communicate effectively from person to person.


With all of that experience, history and the fact that you coach people, let's say it's been a tough year as you look at it. Are there any recurring things? Could you find one you would call an encouragement? People, situations and brains are diverse. All kinds of things are different in people. If there were one common thing that you knew could be fruitful for people in the mortgage space or real estate in 2022, what pops into your mind? It's way more than that but what's one thing that you would say, “If you could maybe think about this. Focus on it?” Help us.

I want you to think in terms of not being a victim of the market or what someone has done to you, whether it's a betrayal or leaving you behind. I want you to think about this. I'm a big fan of Donald Miller but it rings true with me that I have to speak it out and share this with people. I want you to move out of not being a victim of the external things that are going on. I want you to move into being a hero of your story. I want you to be a hero. If you've been living that hero and you've lived that out, it's time to be a guide.

Move out of being a victim of the external things that are going on. Instead, move into being a hero of your story.

Luke had Obi-Wan. We look at these situations to know, “I want people to move into a hero role.” What's interesting is that the hero was probably a victim. Something happened to them. If you're in business, what's caused you to go into neutral, sliding the weight that you've lost your energy and your passion? What is it that you need to go out and experience to move out of being a victim externally and internally to be courageous? It’s time to be brave. It's not easy to make that move but when you do, that's when things begin to turn around.

I want you to think in terms of what is it going to look like for you to be the hero of your story. I've explored the story more. There's got to be something for the hero in it for them to be able to make the move and take that courageous next step. However, it ultimately affects the community. Being a hero, you're going to change not just your life and there's something in it for you but it's for a community, family and team by you making that move.

It's that greater extent of taking that step as a hero into moving it. What does that look like? Is it going out, being courageous and calling in our business the top real estate agent in your area that you have a limiting belief, “They would never talk to me?” What about making that first phone call? What's that going to look like? When was the last time you called all of your clients and didn't ask them for business but see how they were doing? Taking that move outside of yourself.

We're all a bit mildly, sometimes boldly narcissistic but it's not. It's when we get outside of ourselves that I see the transformation happen. The lizard brain of, “No. It's time to go outside of yourself. It's living to be the hero of your story. It is where I'm coaching a lot of people and I hope that resonates with everyone out there. Let's be heroes. There's something for us because we need that to take the courageous, brave first step. It affects a whole lot more people when you're a hero.

It's when we go outside of ourselves that transformation happens.

Thank you for all of that. That's what's cool about a blog. People are able to go back and some of what you were saying there bears reread. There were some questions in there like, “Where do I need to take a bold step?” Even exploring where it is that got you where you are. I like the way you talked about it. It's not accusatory. We all play the victim from time to time. You claimed that you were doing that and had come out of it. The exploration of when and how we do that, there is so much there. We are going to have you back on the show. We've got a lot more to do together. It’s grateful to you. I feel bad like I’m cutting it off but we got to go. Ray, thank you much for being here with us, for your wisdom and for all that you do. Keep doing it for as long as you can. It sounds like you've got good genes to do that for a long time.

I feel like Moses. I've been out in the mortgage wilderness for many years.

Thank you for your time. Ray had some amazing insights but it doesn't matter what his are. He even pointed to this. It matters what are yours. What causes you to have a motive, which is motion, action and what is it in us? Thank you for helping us discover that, Ray. We are grateful to you.

Also, for you. Thank you for this opportunity.

We'll see you next time.


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