#BeBetter Podcast with Michael Kurland

Learning the Secret of Great Leadership with Dallin Cooper

Establish a mindset of empathy and balance

Dallin Cooper is an author, speaker and consultant who is primarily focused on teaching others about ethics, morality, trust, and leadership. In today’s show, Dallin shares why ethics and healthy work-life balance are key components of successful leaders.

Dallin Cooper portrait

“Good leadership is secretly just ethics.”

—Dallin Cooper

Author, Speaker, Consultant

70. Learning the Secret of Great Leadership with Dallin Cooper

Key Takeaways

  • The things that make you a good person also make you a good leader.
  • Your attitude and behavior determine your leadership success.
  • Grit is important but leaders must be mindful of burnout.

Social Links


Dallin Cooper is a speaker and consultant focused on trust, leadership, ethics, and loyalty. Dallin is the author of “Get on the Bull: Developing Attitudes and Behaviors for Successful Leadership.” He has owned and operated businesses of all sizes for nearly a decade and teaches the same principles of ethical leadership that led to the success of his own businesses. He has founded a digital marketing agency Atmosphere Marketing LLC, a dog chew brand Ugly Chews. Dallin lives with his wife and two sons in central Wyoming.

“Don’t run yourself ragged. It’s not worth it.”

—Dallin Cooper

Author, Speaker, Consultant

Podcast Transcription

Michael Kurland: I’m excited to share that. My first book ‘Broken to Better: 13 Ways Not to Fail at Life and Leadership’ will launch on Amazon and other online retailers shortly after. The process of writing this book has been enlightening and energizing. I’ve enjoyed reflecting on my time as CEO of Branded Group and sharing my entrepreneurial journey as well as the lessons I’ve learned and my goal to be better. The book is organized around 13 Be Better Principles. Here is a peek into a few of them. One Be Connected. Business is always about relationships. To be fearless, never be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Three Be purposeful. Create value for your clients and your employees with your products and services by being service oriented. Solve your client’s problems better than anyone else. Five Be generous. Give back in whatever way you can to improve your community and the world. I’m confident that the book will help you to be better for your team, your clients, and your community. After you’ve read it, please consider leaving your review on Amazon and also consider sharing it or gifting it to your family and friends. If you’d like to talk with me about the book, you can reach me at MKurland@Branded-Group.com. Thank you.

Michael Kurland:  Hello. I’m Michael Kirkland, CEO, and co-founder of Branded Group, an award-winning facility maintenance and construction management company that services multi-site commercial properties such as retail, restaurants, health care facilities, and educational institutions. Welcome to the Be Better podcast. Each week I interview thought leaders from a variety of industries who will share their stories and the lessons they learn as they strive to be better for their clients, partners, employees, and their community. Are you ready to be better?

Michael Kurland: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Be Better podcast. I am your host, Michael Kurland. Joining me today is Dallin Cooper, author, and speaker, who just released a book called “Get on the Bull Developing Attitudes and Behaviors for Successful Leadership.” Dallin, welcome to the show. Tell the audience a little bit more about who you are and what you do.

Dallin Cooper: Hi. Thanks for having me Michael, and especially really enjoy the very, very similar leadership book launch dates just two days apart between “Get On the Bull”  and “ Broken to Better” so hopefully those can help each other out. I am a speaker and I’m an author. I’ve started a couple of companies. I’ve raised sheep. I’ve done a lot of things. But mostly right now I am focusing on writing and speaking primarily on the topics of ethics and morality and trust and leadership. So that’s kind of where I’m at right now.

Michael Kurland: That’s awesome. So you just came out with a book that we introduced a couple of minutes ago. And how has that journey been for you so far? How’s the book doing?

Dallin Cooper: It is doing pretty well. This is my first book and it kind of came as a surprise to me. And so it has been a learning adventure, figuring out the publishing process, figuring out the launch process. Of course, if I could go back and start over from this time last year, I think I could do it all a lot better and probably be more successful because I have learned a ton. I look back even just in the last couple of weeks since launching it, and I think, oh, wow, I botched that and I missed that part and there’s a lot of it that’s gone great, too. But any time you do something for the first time, you sure do make mistakes, it turns out. But not to focus on that. It sold well. People are giving good feedback. I’m getting good responses. And so that’s exciting for a first book for sure. Michael Kurland: Yeah, that’s so I want to get into that a little bit more, a little further on down the road. But let’s give the audience a little insight into Dallin Cooper. Who are you? Where did you come from? You mentioned you raised some sheep. You had some other companies. Let’s talk about that journey that got you to the point where you decided, ‘hey, I want to write a book about leadership and morality and ethics.’ Let’s take the audience there so they know who you are.

Dallin Cooper: So I grew up in a town called Riverton, Wyoming. If you aren’t intimately familiar with Wyoming, just think of Wyoming as a big empty square. Right. And then put a dot in the middle of that square. And it’s that dot right in the middle of nowhere. So I grew up on a sheep ranch in the middle of nowhere, Wyoming, and had hundreds to thousands of sheep, depending on the year and, you know, an occasional fat goat, a weird llama, a couple of rescue alpacas, just normal Wyoming stuff. And that was my life and that was fun and all. But I didn’t want to be a shepherd forever. So I went to college. I got degrees in marketing and management. I learned Chinese. I spent a summer living in China, which was a trip going from a town to the big town. You know, Riverton is the biggest city within 100 miles in any direction, and it has 10,000 people in it. In China, my host family’s apartment complex had 10,000 people in it. So that was an adventure going from 10,000 people to 12 million people getting a little bit of a different population perspective. So did that, came back, got married, started a marketing agency, swore I’d never move back to Riverton, moved back to Riverton because that’s how it always goes, right? Do you swear you’ll never go back to your podunk little hometown? And then what do you know? You’re back in your little hometown. It’s a good spot. I’m glad we’re here. We ended up making some really good connections where we were able to sell the marketing agency Atmosphere Marketing, local SEO websites, and stuff like that. But on a Wyoming scale for the small business people that are, you know, ten years behind everywhere else. And so that’s gone well started on an all-natural zero waste Dog Chew Company because you got to do something next after you sell your marketing agency. Also went very well, but it grew faster than I really could keep up with it because I was writing this book. I was trying to do this other stuff, so I sold it very quickly. I only ran it for like five or six months before I sold it. And I’ve kept a stake in both those companies because I care about them and want them to succeed. But I’m not involved in the day-to-day operations as much anymore. So I set out to be a speaker, a keynote speaker on ethics and trust and leadership in these things. And I was going to write a book and it was going to be about ethics. So I’m a firm believer that people have ethics all wrong. All of this stuff about motivation and leadership and relationships, like all of those things are secretly just ethics topics, but everyone thinks ethics is boring. And so I was going to write an ethics book. And instead, I wrote a leadership book. Like it wasn’t supposed to be this way. And I don’t know if the listeners can relate if you can relate, but when you’re trying to do something creative, whether you’re writing a book or you’re writing music, if that’s your thing or painting or drawing or whatever, where you think, I’m going to do this thing, and then there’s just a different piece inside you that needs let out a different creation that is ready and, and it’s, it’s time. That’s kind of how “Get On the Bull” was. I did not set out to write a book about bull riding and, and leadership at first. That wasn’t the goal. That’s not what I was going for. But everywhere I turned, it just kept falling together until eventually, I was like, You know what? Okay, fine, you win the universe. I’ll write the bull riding book first. I’ll come back to the ethics book later. And that was a good decision. It came together very quickly. It just was meant to be in that time. And now I’m working on the ethics book and it’s coming together a lot faster. So I just had to do things at the right time and that’s how Get On the Bull happened. To give a little context, I don’t want to, uh, I don’t know when introducing myself ends and when talking about the book begins, but a little context, the reason it’s “Getting On the Bull” and the reason it’s all this big bull riding analogy is that, again, very Wyoming. My dad was a professional bull rider when he was young, and so growing up he told me a lot of stories about bull riding and he’d use these metaphors to teach me life lessons. And I always thought that was a really fun way to learn things. And it sticks, right? There are a lot of keynote speakers who will use quarterback analogies when you’re talking about leadership and good leaders are like a good quarterback, you have to do this, that and the other thing that everyone’s doing, the quarterback analogy, everyone’s doing the basketball analogy, nobody is doing the bull rider analogy. So I leaned into my dad’s experiences. I got to use some of his old photos in the book. It was just a cool experience to get to reconnect with him, some of his bull riding buddies, just cool stuff.

Michael Kurland: That’s awesome. And if you don’t know anything about me and you’ll only take one thing away from the show, is that I am the segue king. So thank you for that lovely segue into talking more about the book. You introduced it perfectly and you stole one of my questions. So, you know, I thought it was a metaphor. “Get On the Bull.” Right. But it seems like there’s some actual practice to that. So have you ever ridden bulls?

Dallin Cooper: I have not. And that is partially due to my father telling me bull riding stories, all growing up when I was really little. I thought I was going to be a bull rider. You know, I would get my dad had, like, a robe and I’d take the tie. Like, what is that called? The sash. The rope, whatever. Ties ropes.

Michael Kurland: Together, I think.

Dallin Cooper: So I would take that and I’d tie it around his chest and, like, have him sit on his hands and knees and sit on his back. I mean, we’re talking, you know, three, four years old and I’d hold on to it and have him bark, stuff like that. And we went to rodeos. We saw the stuff. I watched his old videos when I was little. I thought, Yeah, I can be cool, I can be a bull rider, but. Turns out all of the bull riding stories end with someone breaking bones or being injured. And I would watch the rodeos and like, people would get taken away in ambulances or, you know, a bull would step on their leg and just, like, shatter it. And I started thinking, like, you know, I sure love my limbs. And my dad’s broken his hands, his hands and wrists like four times or something. And I just thought, you know, I just don’t love pain enough and adrenaline for this to ever work out. So. So yeah, I’ve decided to go a different route from bull riding. I’ll talk about bull riders, I’ll talk about how cool they are and I will stay unbroken.

Michael Kurland: Yeah, I can relate. My father was a football player in college and he played in the sixties. He tore his ACL, and that surgery back in the sixties was gruesome. You know, they drilled a hole in your knee and they tied your tendon in a knot and then sealed your back up with a flap. There was no arthroscopy. So he walked. He walked with a limp for the rest of his life, pretty much. And he had a, you know, same thing, broken nose, wrist. All these injuries, back injuries, couldn’t walk straight up. So I never played football. Not that my book is about football, but I never played football either because of that. So I can take what you’re saying and relate. So then what? You know you got such an experience, such a bunch of different experiences, right? You lived in China. You learned Chinese. You then came back and started some companies and moved back to Wyoming. Why, why the draw to leadership? What made you say, I need to write this leadership book? I know that the universe helped you get to where you wanted to be to write a book. What else? Like what in your mind, through all these experiences, said, this is the book I need to write right now.

Dallin Cooper: So this is something that I think you’re going to relate to a lot. Just based on the few conversations we’ve had in the past, the very little conversation we’ve had in the past. As I said, my passion and it’s weird passions are ethics and morality. And getting people to stop ragging on ethics is boring and lame. Leadership. Good leadership is secretly just ethics. So I was wanting to teach these principles that in my mind I think of as ethical principles, right? Things like honesty. Things like compassion and empathy. Those are just good leadership, right? There are principles that we think of that make you a better person and are also the things that make you a better leader. And so this was a way for me to teach some of those principles. In a way that didn’t have as much of a hurdle. Right. To write a book that is considered a quote-unquote ethics book is something you have to be careful about because just by calling it an ethics book, you’ve immediately turned off like 80% of the world. Because, like, ethics, like, I don’t I don’t want to read about that. But if you are writing a leadership book about how to be a better leader, you’re secretly just teaching someone to be a better person. But you’re calling it being a better leader because they’re the same thing, right? Better people or good people are good leaders. So. It was a way for me to teach those principles in a way that was more accessible, and it worked a lot better with the bull riding analogy, which again just was falling into place everywhere I turn. The bull riding analogy kept coming together and I was having opportunities to talk with bull riders and bull riding coaches, and I was like, Hey, the opportunity is just here. And it just worked so well as a leadership analogy that I thought, okay, leadership it is. At first, I started by saying, This is an ethical leadership book. It’s about teaching you to be an ethical leader. And then the same thing like it just right now, maybe by the time I’m done with my crusade, it won’t be. But right now the word ethics just turns a lot of people off. So we made effective leadership instead of ethical leadership. And I said, okay, well, we’ll tackle them. We’ll tackle the ethics book when I can throw a little bit more weight behind it and maybe I’m a little further in my crusade of helping people realize that ethics isn’t bad. Ethics is just this podcast might be better. And so that’s why a leadership book. It’s because I needed to write an ethics book that didn’t feel like an ethics book, something that taught people to be better with a cool bull riding analogy without making them feel like they were being preached to about morality.

Michael Kurland: I love it. I love your candid honesty and I relate to that. So let’s talk more because you mentioned at the beginning of the show, there were some lessons that you wish you had learned before publishing and launching. And I think those are things that I can probably relate to. So what about publishing? What about launching? Do you wish you knew before?

Dallin Cooper: Oh, wow. You want to talk candidly honestly. That’s it. Don’t be so vulnerable about all your flaws.

Michael Kurland: Yes.

Dallin Cooper: So I would have been and this was one of the issues I ran into. It’s one of the reasons I sold ugly shoes. I was trying to do too much at once. Right. Trying to keep my speaking career going. Trying to start my podcast, which isn’t even there yet. Making YouTube videos, doing all the stuff personal branding-wise. Finished up this book, trying to get it launched in January. I started Ugly Chews the Dog Chew Company. Why? Like, why did I do that? I had just finished writing “Get On the Bull” and we were doing editing stuff like that. And there was just too much, not to mention. My wife and I had our second baby in February. So we have a two-year-old and we are a few months old now. And I was just doing entirely too much as launch day came for the book and it was like the day before launch day. I had almost forgotten. I was like, Oh, shoot, that thing comes out tomorrow because launch day is scheduled so far after the book is done. Because you have to get your proofs and you have to get your editorial reviews, all your stuff. And so the book’s been done for three or four months now, and it’s kind of been set on the backburner while I try to run this new company and take care of this baby and work on all my speaking and personal branding stuff. And I was just stupid and tried to bite off more than I could chew. And I ended up getting to lunch and being like. Wow, it’s too late to do all this prep and the days here and however it goes is how it goes. Have I worked on building an email list? Have I worked on connecting with book reviewers or influencers? Have I been on a podcast, maybe two. I’ve got some plans. They’re like this one where it’s well after the launch date. It was just. I hadn’t prioritized doing all the things I needed to do. And so, you know, you look back and you say, wow, why? Why did I do all those things? And a lot of them have turned out well. But there was so much that could have gone into making sure that the launch was a cool event. That I ended up not doing because I had just booked myself solid. And that was the moment it was, I think July 14th, the day before the launch, I woke up, realized that the next day was my book launch, and I said, I have to sell the stock to the company. Something has to go. And I picked the Dog Chew company. And, you know, that’s been awesome, right? The dog chew company, Ugly Chews has exploded in growth since they sold it because the new owner can give it its full attention. And all of the other things I’ve been doing have been much more successful even just in the last couple of weeks because I can give them my full attention. So I don’t know. That’s probably not the answer you were expecting, but in reality, that’s the answer. The reason that I look back on some of that stuff with regret is that, like, I just did way too much. I bit off so much more than I could chew and thought, Oh, I’ll just run myself ragged. Don’t run yourself ragged. It’s not worth it, guys.

Michael Kurland: I was just going to say that’s something I can relate to with my wife and I are expecting our first child in October, November.

Dallin Cooper: Oh, congrats.

Michael Kurland: Thank you. And that has been the focus of this year for me, is to do less. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen I reference the movie “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” quite often because it’s one of my favorite movies, but I don’t know if you’ve ever seen it, but there’s a scene where the guy is trying to learn to surf and he keeps trying to stand up in the surf. The instructor is like “do less, do less” because the guy keeps throwing his limbs everywhere and then he gets to the point where the guy does nothing. He’s like, Well, no, do more. But I laugh at that because that’s what I’ve been trying to do in the past. You know, it’s seven, eight months now. It’s just doing less than I used to and as entrepreneurs, you can relate to this I’m sure you know your book, your schedule is so jam-packed because you want to get as much into a day because there are only so many opportunities to get stuff done because you’re the one doing it right. And I now have a team in place and I still have that mentality of like, I got to take this meeting, I got to fly here, I got to do this, I have to do that. And, you know, I’m at the point now, and hopefully audience you’ll hear Dallin’s words and my story as well, and just don’t run yourself ragged because what’s the point if you can’t even enjoy the time where you have a book launch, a baby, you know, that stuff is way more important than, you know, booking the next meeting or taking the next call or doing the next whatever, because that stuff will all still be there, whatever. So anyway, we are on a diatribe of doing less now on the Be Better podcast.

Dallin Cooper: Though honestly, what a good way to be better, right? Like with the hustle culture is so pervasive right now.

Michael Kurland: It’s totally a side hustle. You don’t need a side hustle. I mean, some people do, but not everybody needs a side hustle. Right. So let’s talk about the book now. You said it’s doing well. Give me your top lessons, and your favorite chapters. Talk a little bit about the book. Give the audience a little taste.

Dallin Cooper: So it’s I mean, picking a favorite chapter, as I’m sure you know, from your book, like picking your favorite of the 13 principles. It’s like, oh, pick a favorite kid. You know, that’s a hard ask. But there’s a couple that stands out to me, one of my favorites just because it’s my favorite topic. It’s not my favorite topic, but one of my favorite topics, in general, is attitude. So the book is for attitudes and behaviors, and these are things that make successful bull riders, and they’re things that make successful leaders. So that’s why attitudes and behaviors matter. So one of the attitudes is about perspective. And if you read the book, you’ll realize this chapter just kind of becomes a rant, right? I was insistent that in this book, like after the editor gets done with it and whatever. I wanted it to have my voice. I wanted people who read it to feel like they were hearing me talking to them in this book. I did not want it to feel sanitized and commercial or anything.

Michael Kurland: I can relate to that.

Dallin Cooper: That chapter. I mean, it just feels like, wow, it’s getting kind of passionate about perspective and it’s something that I think we’re so bad at. And, it comes in leadership. It comes into ethics with trying to take a second to just a few seconds to consider what someone else might be thinking or feeling. Because we are so wrapped up in our worldview and that’s not evil. You are bad because it’s all you’ve ever known. Right. We only know our perspective, but realize that the people around us, for the most part, are just good people who are doing their best. And when they do something frustrating or stupid or problematic, it’s not because they’re stupid or evil or hate you. There’s so much going on in the background that you don’t understand. Right. Like the coworker that snapped, you may have just gotten off a phone call where they found out that their mother has cancer. Right. And you’re sitting here being like, wow, that’s really starting the day grumpy, try to be more chipper. And that was uncalled for. And it’s like, okay, Joe’s having a bad day and you don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes. And I know that that example feels kind of contrived, but it isn’t. Right. Pretty much everyone you’ve almost guaranteed had had a moment where you got a call or had a conversation where you found out that something terrible was happening to a loved one. Like every person on the planet has had the feeling.

Michael Kurland: I’ve used your exact example before as well. It’s all about empathy and, you know, leading with that empathy and you don’t see your point. I mean, I resonate with what you’re saying, 150%. It’s something that if you’ve never walked a mile in anyone’s shoes, then you don’t know how they feel. And it would not be a mile down the road if you want to take Jack Handy, but that’s a whole other topic. So, you know, I can relate, and yes, that a lot of people have lacked the self-awareness to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. And I completely agree with what you’re saying. So I’m glad that you brought that topic up in your book.

Dallin Cooper: Yeah, that’s and that’s something that I could, you know, rant for hours and hours on. That’s the benefit of being like a speaker and a trainer doing workshops or whatever is that most topics you cover you like. I could talk about that for 4 hours if you needed me to, but I will not rant to you about perspective and empathy for 4 hours. The other thing, just to give you a taste of the book, because to get you some variety before we run too much out of time and. It’s probably no huge surprise that it’s one of the bull rider behaviors. But I enjoyed the section about grit. And bull riders have to have grit because dear goodness, they strap themselves to angry bulls. That is one of the greatest things. Yeah.

Michael Kurland: For sure.

Dallin Cooper: But I had to be so careful writing that section, and that’s one of the things that I love about it, is walking that line, that grit is important, but we don’t want to glorify burnout. We don’t want to glorify pushing yourself too hard and hurting yourself and those around you and trying to help the reader understand where that line is. Like, what is the difference between reckless disregard for your own physical and mental health and determination and grit? And that was a really difficult thing to illustrate. And when I finally got it right, it was probably one of the most, It’s very weird to try to use the word exhilarating in referring to writing, because, as you probably know, most of the time you’re writing a book cannot be described as exhilarating. It’s like staring at a blank page on a word processor and like slamming your head on a keyboard. But when that one came together, it was one of those moments where it’s just like, Oh, like everything feels right. Like, this is it. This is the line between burnout and grit. And it makes sense. And I think I captured it in words and it felt amazing. It was great.

Michael Kurland: Yeah. And I think you bring up a great point because I don’t know how old you are, but I’m in my early forties and I grew up in a time in the workplace where grit was leaned into the way, way, way harder than burnout and empathy. And you’re not going to work that extra hour. Don’t be a Sally or whatever you want to say. Right. Like it was. It was, you know, that kind of thing. Oh, you’re not going to show up after all. You’re going to stay late. You’re not going to get in early, like. And now we’ve gone so hard the other way where it’s like, oh, you know, don’t work. Don’t maybe work only 7 hours and 59 minutes today. Like, don’t do your whole eight-hour day. It’s okay. And there’s a healthy in-between. I think your point and I think that that’s great that you brought that up. So, Dallin, this has been a great conversation. Where can the audience get the book if they would like to pick up a copy?

Dallin Cooper: Amazon because everything is on Amazon. You can also get it on Barnes and Noble and then I know you can get an e-book copy of it and a bunch of other fairly obscure ebook places. I mean, I think like Apple Books and then ones that I can’t even remember the name of. So your favorite obscure ebook purchasing place, there are decent odds it’s there, but mostly Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Michael Kurland: Awesome. And how can the audience get a hold of you if they would like to get a hold of you?

Dallin Cooper: So I am very active on LinkedIn. So if you’re a LinkedIn person, you can find me there. I have a very small YouTube channel. I do it for fun if that’s the kind of thing you’re into. Or you can go to Darling Cooper dot com and find my contact info there.

Michael Kurland: Awesome. Dallin again, thank you for coming on and the audience. Until next time. Thank you for tuning in.

Michael Kurland: I hope that today’s episode inspired you to become a purpose-driven leader in your career or your community. There’s no doubt that when we lead with purpose, we can change lives. If you enjoyed today’s show, I’d be grateful if you would take a moment to rate us on your preferred listening platform. To learn more about Brandon Group’s better experience and how we provide industry-leading on-demand, facility maintenance, construction management, and special project implementation. Visit us at www.Branded-Group.com. Be sure to follow us on social media and you can also reach out to me directly on LinkedIn. Until next time, be better.

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