Dr. Virginia LeBlanc, Founder of Defining Paths, Talks about Profound & Eye-Opening Books
Author, speaker, singer, coach, consultant, and educator, Dr. Virginia LeBlanc is an inspirational and multifaceted intellectual and scholar. Her professional experience spans over twenty years in both the public and private sectors as well as on the performance stage. She employs her broad expertise and exposure to leading thinkers and doers the world over through her company Defining Paths.
Through its consulting, coaching, education, and speaking services, Defining Paths facilitates client focus on healthy, positive change in self and/or business management. Through a people-first developmental strategy to break chains in thinking and operating, Defining Paths transforms client circumstance and trajectory by empowering from the inside out.
Using her experience, Dr. LeBlanc wrote Love the Skin YOU’RE In: How to Conquer Life Through Divergent Thinking, an autobiography where she shares lessons learned throughout her life and career. Besides these books, she also has four accompanying daily meditations, Word of the Day for Divergent Souls, that can be ordered online on Amazon.
Read our interview with her and find out how watching one movie led to changing her way of thinking, the funny reason why she prefers to take “electronic” notes instead of handwritten ones and how she chooses what books to read depending on the situation.
What’s your favorite book and why? Business and non-business, if possible.
This is almost an unfair question… too many great choices out there…
Business: I guess I would choose Conscious Capitalism by John Mackey and Raj Sisodia for the brilliant, reachable, utopian view of free-enterprise capitalism with a mind toward a higher purpose and humanistic virtues in business.
Non-business: The Holy Bible (Modern versions: NLT, ESV, Message) would be my favorite non-business book. Even if one cannot reconcile or completely disagrees with it, it challenges you to a moral compass, spiritual awakening, and/or a willing suspension of disbelief, raising consciousness and causing question of a conditioned mind.
Was there a moment, specifically, when something you read in a book helped you?
YES! I was unfamiliar with Veronica Roth’s Divergent series, until the movie. I was instantly drawn in and captivated by the connotations and underlying social commentary on our conditioned minds and thinking. I found such resonance and finally acceptance of the many diverging paths life has taken me down. Particularly, Divergent, was my take off and coining of “divergent thinking” and birthing of my saying “think without a box”. Processing that it was okay to embrace who I was—an agent for intercession and change who had to be divergent and diverse in a number of ways, including and most importantly thinking.
What books had the biggest impact on you?
- The Art of War by Sun Tzu
- Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson, M.D.
- Our Iceberg is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions by John Kotter
- Conscious Capitalism by John Mackey
- The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle
- Divergent series by Veronica Roth
A mash up, I know…some simple others profound but just as important, eye-opening, and affirming. These and so many more helped change how I see things, my thinking and being, and helped me understand and accept my divergent (differing/deviating) nature and career path.
What five books would you recommend to youngsters interested in your professional path? Why?
Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson, M.D. While an amusing and enlightening story, Who Moved My Cheese? is a simple parable that deals with change and reveals profound truths of nourishing growth and happiness. “Cheese” is a metaphor for what you want to have in life, whether a job, relationship, money, possessions, health, or spiritual peace of mind. The “Maze” is a metaphor for where you look for what you want (e.g., workplace, family, community).
Our Iceberg is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions by John Kotter. This one is a classic, beloved business fable about doing well under the stress and uncertainty of rapid change.
Conscious Capitalism by John Mackey. Conscious Capitalism is for anyone hoping to build a more cooperative, humane, and positive future, a reimagining of capitalism and a blueprint for a new system for doing business through four tenets—higher purpose, stakeholder integration, conscious leadership, and conscious culture and management.
The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle. Drawing on cutting-edge neurology and firsthand research, The Talent Code combines revelatory analysis with illuminating examples of regular people who have achieved greatness. This book will not only change the way you think about talent, but also help you along your path to reach your potential. Coyle identifies three key elements that will allow you to develop your gifts and optimize your performance in sports, art, music, math, or just about anything.
Love the Skin YOU’RE In: How to Conquer Life Through Divergent Thinking by Dr. Virginia LeBlanc. Laugh, cry, and be enlightened as Dr. Virginia LeBlanc brings awareness to real-life matters at the heart of internal and external human conflict—societal constructs and thought conditioning—in Love the Skin YOU’RE In: How to Conquer Life Through Divergent Thinking. In her engaging, inspiring, and empowering autobiographical commentary, she discusses societal mindsets, thought processes, and lessons learned along her path to loving the skin she’s in from the inside out, literally and figuratively. Her coined concept of “divergent thinking” as the essential foundation for revelation, reconciliation, and renaissance in living a forward-focused, successful, and purpose-centered life should be common sense yet groundbreaking!
These books are not only easy reads but enlighten, motivate, and inspire, as well as give a sense of higher purpose and calling. They lend divergent, heroic thinking in an otherwise conditioned, entrenched mindset in how to operate in life and business. They provide keys to the upper-hand and how to live, be, and lead extraordinarily.
Tell us more about your reading habits. How often do you read? What format do you prefer? Do you have any favorite places?
Honestly, I have found that my childhood and school days habits have radically changed, and that’s okay to realize, accept, and admit. As adults, we manage our reality but should remain lifelong learners. When entering my residence, you’ll find shelves of books across genre and music scores; however, my reality involves technology for ease and efficiency. When I have a spare moment, I try to read something but time frames vary. Reading for indulgence happens on getaways and vacations, when I have time to slow down.
How do you make time for reading?
Time is a luxury and commodity in short supply, so any and everything I read I am thinking and processing divergently as to how it may inform and apply in all aspects of my life. Because my time is in such short supply, smart devices are my go to but I love the feel, smell, and process of picking up a physical book; when I can, it is my preference.
Do you take notes or have any other technique for conquering the torrent of information?
Yes, I find the “Notes” feature on smart devices very helpful, in addition to “old school” methods of collecting them in Word and Excel files on my Surface. I also convert and save files into PDF. I often cannot decipher my own handwriting, so electronic means are preferable LOL as well as more easily converted (Work smarter not harder).
How do you choose what books to read next? Do you prioritize books recommended by certain people?
I recommend choosing books 1) based on the need for foundational knowledge, or 2) situational knowledge. The two are interchangeable, depending on the project or business; priorities change. Of course, there are books that I have started and not finished, books I hope to read one day across fields of study, and even classics I have not read. I keep a “bucket list” of books, if you will, that I hear mention of from informed colleagues and friends, at conferences, or that I come across in research and everyday dealings through various mediums. There really is no formula to it.
What book are you currently reading? What are you expecting to gain from it?
I approach every reading with the goal of gaining a new perspective or refortifying knowledge which has guided my success. I am presently re-reading the book of Proverbs from the Holy Bible. It speaks to foundational keys to conquering life as wisdom and teaches invaluable life lessons and strategy to help you move forward with a healthy mind, body, and spirit.
What do you think are three common mistakes made by entrepreneurs? Do you have an example of a mistake you made while building your business? How did you change your mind, what was the thinking process behind it?
Yes, trying to start too many businesses at once to solve multiple problems at once because you can in your mind and on paper. The issue with divergent thinkers is that knowledge, know-how, and exposure can breed such enlightened and forward-thinking ideas and solutions, you just want to get them all out there immediately. Unless you have the time and resources to do so, it is not probable to do so.
My thinking process changed when I ran smack-dab into financial reality and exhaustion. I had to learn to manage my reality, not my dreams or callings, but my reality in health, time, space, and resources.
What common myths related to your industry do you encounter on a day-to-day basis?
Funny thing… I do not encounter them on a day-to-day anymore. I, and so many others who have embraced what I refer to as the “true you”, have broken the mold of “impossibility”. It is possible to go from the performance stage to the Pentagon as well as own and manage your own business. It’s all about mindset, integration, and how you go about it. Mindset informs perspective and perspective is everything!
What is something you believe that nearly no one agrees with you on? (Peter Thiel’s favorite question)
Individuals who consider themselves “generalist” are largely viewed as undecided or unfocused, when the fact is most are keeping their options open and exploring their passions, consciously or subconsciously, exercising divergent thinking that will help them better navigate and conquer life. They are learning and developing transferrable skills which make one more resilient, give options for course correction when life happens, and lead to successful paths in life, if applied. Too often possibilities are precluded because we pigeonhole and compartmentalize children too early and throughout life.
There are many culprits in the proliferation of this myth because it’s how we’ve been conditioned to think, particularly in education.
Links where you can follow Dr. Virginia LeBlanc or find out more about her projects:
All books mentioned by Dr. Virginia LeBlanc in this interview:
- Conscious Capitalism, With a New Preface by the Authors: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business by John Mackey and Raj Sisodia
- Divergent Series by Veronica Roth
- Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life by Spencer Johnson
- Our Iceberg Is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions by John Kotter, Holger Rathgeber
- The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. by Daniel Coyle
- The Art of War by Sun Tzu
- Love the Skin YOU’RE In: How to Conquer Life Through Divergent Thinking by Virginia LeBlanc