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Stan Walking

Podcast with National Director of Cross Generational Initiatives, and TotalPicture contributor, Stan Smith

W. Stanton (Stan) SmithW,Stan Smith

"I denied it to myself. I took the medication, didn't tell anybody and then, of course, a couple of my partners said 'well there is something wrong; you're not as articulate as you usually are, you're not as quick, you're not on the game… so what's happening?'" - Stan Smith.

Welcome to a special Big Picture Channel podcast on TotalPicture Radio with Peter Clayton reporting. Our guest today is a frequent contributor to this show; Stan Smith, National Director of Cross Generational Initiatives at Deloitte. However, our topic today is a departure from what we normally discuss here on TotalPicture Radio, inspired by a video Stan posted to his Facebook Page, titled 'Stan Walking," With the following caption:

"See the results of nearly 4 years of a type of interval training...I am now walking without a cane and heel to toe...this is remarkable as I have had Parkinson's Disease for about 11 years...while not a cure this training regimen appears to be really improving the quality of my life. ... some have asked if there is a "before" clip...unfortunately there isn't but suffice it to say that at the point I started this program (August '05) my becoming wheelchair-bound was imminent...thanks again for all your good wishes."

Many people commented on Stan's Facebook video, looking for more information, and with words of praise and encouragement. It inspired me to call Stan and ask him if he would agree to talk about the personal challenges he's faced for the past eleven years in dealing with Parkinson's Disease. I too had witnessed a dramatic transformation in Stan's physical and cognitive capabilities. I first met Stan in 2004, he walked with the shuffle and dip characteristic of Parkinson's. He used a cane, always. Often, he would pause, searching for the words to express his ideas. A common definition of Parkinson's disease (also known as PD) is a chronic and progressive degenerative disease of the brain that impairs motor control, speech, and other functions. The disease is named after English physician James Parkinson, who gave a detailed description of it in an 1817 work titled, "An Essay on the Shaking Palsy".

Given that PD is "a chronic and progressive degenerative disease," how was Stan's quality of life improving so dramatically? The "training regimen" Stan refers to in his Facebook video is called LifeWaves Cycles Exercise Program. I met with the visionary who developed concept of LifeWaves, (also called SuperWaves), Dr. Irving Dardik, and the CEO of his organization, Alison Godfrey. You'll find a two-part interview with Irving Dardik and Alison Godfrey in the Big Picture Channel.

Podcast Transcript

Welcome to a special big picture channel podcast on TotalPicture Radio. This is Peter Clayton reporting.

Stan Smith, National Director, Cross Generational Initiatives, joins us today. However, our topic is somewhat of a departure from what we normally talk about here on TotalPicture Radio, and it was inspired by a video Stan posted to his Facebook page titled "Stan Walking" with the following caption.

See the results of nearly 4 years of a type of interval training. I am now walking without a cane and heel to toe. This is remarkable as I've had Parkinson's disease for about 11 years. While not a cure, this training regimen appears to be really improving my quality of life.

Many people commented on Stan's video looking for more information or with words of praise and encouragement and it inspired me to call Stan and ask him if he would agree to talk about the personal challenges he's faced for the past 11 years in dealing with Parkinson's disease.

Stan, welcome back to TotalPicture Radio.

Stan: Thank you, Peter.

Peter: Why don't you just give us a little bit about your personal experience in dealing with this disease. There is so much controversy over what the proper treatment of this disease is.

Stan: Thanks, Peter, for this opportunity. I think the first thing is that it's a disease that if you focus on the end result, and it is a deterioration of the nervous system, it's a pretty depressing thing to be told that you have. And you can start yourself off in the wrong direction almost immediately and I did, of course, beginning to first off, think that well I could sort of tough my way through it and no one would know. But of course, some of my partners at work recognized something was wrong and asked me "well, what do you have... what's going on here... are you playing hurt?" I had to said yes.

And fortunately – and this is where I really am impressed with my partners at Deloitte – they tried to find a way for me to work through this and contribute at a high level while still dealing with the Parkinson's. And while I'm on sort of the issue of partners, I might talk about my wife, Roz, who is also a huge partner in all of this, understanding and helping me deal with this all through the process.

Peter: When you first found out that you had Parkinson's disease, what were some of the first indications that something was going on that was not good?

Stan: Well, I think that … I'm naturally right handed, and my arms just getting more and more sore as I use the mouse, the computer and all this and I thought maybe it was my posture or something like that. And then as I was making a speech or something, my right side would start to twitter and twitch and whatever, and then my gait started to be a bit shuffling. My wife said there is something going on wrong here. And I think the third thing that really happened was I was exhausted after every day; I would commute into New York and then come back home and could barely move from my chair, even to have dinner.

It took a long time for it to sink in but when it did, I went to a doctor and he diagnosed it immediately as Parkinson's.

Peter: Once it was diagnosed, what happened?

Stan: Well what happened is that I denied it to myself. I took the medication, didn't tell anybody and then, of course, a couple of my partners said "well there is something wrong; you're not as articulate as you usually are, you're not as quick, you're not on the game… so what's happening?" And because of that, it made me confront it, got a different doctor who was a little more helpful and we began to make some progress.

Peter: Speaking about work, now obviously once this condition started to manifest itself, your ability to travel, your ability to work as a consultant, a lot of what you were doing at Deloitte, really had to be analyzed and changed. Can you talk about that and what procedures you used with Deloitte to be able to continue working.

Stan: Well, I think the first thing was to have a sympathetic set of partners who were able to say "look, how can we best use my particular skill set." So I moved from being a line human resource executive to being in our national office in charge of a couple of major areas.

Peter: One of those major areas you are National Director, Cross Generational Initiatives; tell us about what work is all about and how you have been able to continue working at a very high level as an executive with writing books and going out and making speeches.

Stan: Part of it was to have the right people reporting to me, working with me, the right number of resources so we could do the kind of research that was necessary to give us the firm grounding upon which we could do some innovative work. And by the way, the next generation, or cross generational work, was really part time until about four years ago.

At that point, I was not physically doing well and we decided we needed to move to a warm climate. The firm supported my move to South Carolina, where my staff was virtual but I was able to not have to live in a very cold climate and I didn't have to commute everyday.

Peter: How much has technology enabled you to continue working and what technology has been most useful to you?

Stan: First of all, the technology is completely the reason that I can do this at all. Ten years ago even, I could not have continued to do this work. The sort of net meetings, the virtual, the webinars – that sort of thing – the virtual learning areas have helped greatly and of course, the telecommunication improvements have really helped to the point that we – and when I had it – a staff that was working for me full time, we just met about three times a year in person; the rest of the time it was virtual.

Peter: When I first met you, Stan, which was in 2005, you could not walk without a cane. One of the things that inspired this interview is watching this video where you are not only walking without a cane, but you're able to jog. How did that happen?

Stan: Well, that happened through some great good fortune, through a friend, Neale Godfrey, I met her brother-in-law, Dr. Irv Dardik. His work with the Lifewaves Cycles Exercise Program has been absolutely key to all this. I took it on just as a last wild throw from left field in hopes that something would happen. And my wife was very supportive. In fact, an interesting fact, is the day I met Irv to talk about this, he was more interested in talking with my wife about her view and how supportive she would be, than he was whether I would do well on the cycles. It's a joint effort, if you're in a relationship, to really make this thing work.

Peter: Can you tell us about what these cycles are all about and how this has helped you in recovering some of the skills that you once had that you lost through Parkinson's disease.

Stan: The Lifewaves Cycles Exercise Program, as it is officially called, is a way to re-pattern your body's ability to respond to stress and its ability to recover from stress. I think anyone with Parkinson's knows that having Parkinson's defines being under stress. The program is designed to reshape the heart waves.

Now, it's not just for people who are sick; it's for people that are healthy. It's a way to rediscover health and your body.

The objective is to re-pattern the heart waves so that the variability and vitality and health are enhanced, and the timing of the cycles is designed to accord with the rhythms of nature. Each session consists of 4-7 parings of short burst exercises followed by an immediate and full recovery period. The burst lasts about a minute and sometimes are less, and the recovery takes as long as is needed.

I think, as with any form of exercise, it has to be done a regular basis and with a coach and my coach, I talk to by phone, interestingly enough. I do this system all by phone. There are only two pieces of equipment that I need – a set of stairs and a stationary bike.

Peter: That's really interesting. How long have you now been doing the Lifewaves Cycles Exercise Program?

Stan: Really, as of right now, four years exactly.

Peter: How long did it take before you really started to see some marked improvements over your motor skills and what you were able to accomplish?

Stan: Within six months, I was moving a little bit more easily. One of the problems with Parkinson's is that you start to get tighter and tighter. And just to have the opportunity to move a little bit better as you move around the house, if nothing, and certainly within a year, I was feeling much more like I could walk up and down stairs, which was a big surprise to me.

Peter: One of the things you mention, Stan, is that Parkinson's defines stress. How has this program, this Lifewaves Cycles Exercise Program, helped you in managing your stress?

Stan: First of all, it gives me hope that I'm going to at least hold the line, if not get better, and that changes the frame of reference.

I found in my life any time that I don't have alternatives, I get depressed and angry. If I create alternatives, then I feel much better. So that first of all, just having something that works gets you in a positive direction.

Peter: Tell us about the exercise regime you do; is it something you do everyday, how much do you exercise, how long do you exercise, what's involved?

Stan: What's involved is I work out every other day for three weeks out of the month and one week I have off. That's one of the most important things is the body has to learn how to recover, as well as to do the energetic sort of exercises.

Peter: You had mentioned that this uses your LifeCycles. Can you explain that and what you mean by that.

Stan: I think the scientific explanation you'll have to go somewhere else. What I can tell you is our body, our whole life is a series of waves – ups and downs and whatever – and then during the day, there are times we're more alert, less alert, and this tries to work with the way the body naturally operates. For instance, we do a week of exercise from 6-9 in the morning, and then the next week, we do 9-12 in the morning, then 12-3 we never exercise because that's when the body is recovering, and then we work out from 3-6 one week out of the month.

And the other thing is that it also helps with the circadian rhythms that I'm told, which are the night/day rhythms, they get confused in Parkinson's. Most Parkinson's patients day becomes night and night becomes day, and they also don't sleep very well. One of the big changes was I was sleeping 3-4 hours at most; I now sleep easily 7. So that's a change in the rhythm of life for me and that's about as simply as I can explain.

Peter: That must make an enormous difference to be able to get a descent night's sleep, it must change everything for you.

Stan: Well, it does change everything for me because what was happening before was I was starting to fall asleep at inappropriate times, like in a meeting, like when someone was talking to me and asking me a question – like the first time I met Irv and he started talking to me, I fell asleep while he was asking me a question. These are sorts of things that seem minor but are actually major in terms of continuing to work and contribute.

Peter: Do you feel now that you are on a path to where you're going to be able to continue to work for a number of years?

Stan: I certainly am. I mean I will retire shortly, but that doesn't make any difference. I'll just change uniforms. I'll probably do some consulting on my own and also do some speaking about the Lifewaves Cycle.

Peter: Your attitude, Stan, really has changed from my point of view; you seem much more positive, certainly much more energetic than you were several years ago and like looking forward to the challenges ahead.

Stan: Well, I have. I think first off, I've proven to myself that I can stick with this program and that the program produces results. I've also been able to look back on my life since I've now been in the business world 36 years and seeing I've actually accomplished something. All those together give me a very positive outlook on life and also, I've learned a great deal just about living through this process – living successfully, that is.

Peter: How important has your wife been in this process and has Deloitte – your whole support network – been in your success in being able to do what you've accomplished?

Stan: All of the above have really been very helpful and very supportive. I could not have done this without the support of my partners and the other colleagues at Deloitte and certainly, without my wife.

I think one thing to think about is the people who are closest to you are in some ways affected more than you are, because you're not there anymore to do something as simple as put dishes in the dishwasher because you can't stand up particularly well, or to do other chores around the house, you can't get up on a ladder to change a lightbulb. The people around you begin to maybe feel put upon. My wife is a wonderful person and really resilient in being able to handle the ups and downs. There is no more person more pleased than she that I can now actually load the dishwasher.

There are different small things in life that you begin to be able to do and the ability to do them, it really makes everyone's life a lot better.

Peter: Are you still taking medication?

Stan: Certainly, and always will. This is not something that's a substitute for medication; it is simply an enhancer to your life as you have to take your medication.

Peter: But your medication never did what this has done in improving the quality of your life.

Stan: No, because the medication has a different role and the exercise has a different role. So the two together of 1+1 = more than 2.

Peter: Back to your Facebook video and all of the comments that people posted on your video. Again, this is part of the reason I wanted to do this interview is because so many people are looking for help, looking for ways of when they have loved ones that are struggling with this disease of making their lives better, which you clearly have done. What kind of recommendations can you give people out there in the audience who may have a loved one or may themselves be suffering with this disease?

Stan: I think the first thing is to realize that you can better yourself, regardless of how long you've had it and how extreme the case is. I think you can better yourself by going to and understanding what they have written there about their process. I very much believe that there is a lot there and I'm living proof that by dedicating yourself to this particular program, you can get better.

Peter: Stan, is there anything we haven't covered in this interview that you think is important for the listeners of this show to know about Parkinson's disease or some of the techniques that you have used in being able to successfully deal with this condition?

Stan: Well, the thing that I call the 4 B's, which are:

Be knowledgeable about your disease but not obsessed with how bad it could be.

My wife and I went out and bought a lot of books after I was diagnosed and we started reading and became promptly depressed, almost to the point of doing nothing. There is no reason to dwell on what could happen. What you need to do is know enough to know that you're going to a doctor, taking your medication, and then let's get on with life.

Next is Be compassionate towards yourself and those close to you. Nobody is having fun here, so let's see everyone's viewpoint.

As I mentioned earlier, the people and close in the family are the ones who start to suffer in some ways nearly as much as the person with Parkinson's because you've lost this family member.

The other thing that I might take just a little digression here is we have to get rid of perfectionism. This is not a perfect world. Parkinson's defines a non-perfect world. And we have to find ways to look at little victories everyday where you can button your shirt, or something like that.

And for those that are waiting for the perfect pill or whatever to free them from Parkinson's, or any other disease, I have this saying from Confucius who said "Man who stand with open mouth on hill waiting for roast duck to drop in wait a long time."

So the fact is, is nothing is ever perfect, and so that means be active and optimistic in choosing to fight your condition, be a lifelong learner and if you do all those things, I think you're in good shape to move forward.

Peter: Stan, thank you so much for joining us again on TotalPicture Radio. It's always a pleasure to meet with you.

Stan: Thank you, Peter.

We've been speaking with Stan Smith, National Director of Cross Generational Initiatives at Deloitte. Be sure to visit Stan's feature page in the Big Picture Channel of TotalPicture Radio. That's for resource links and more information.

This is Peter Clayton reporting. Thank you for tuning in to TotalPicture Radio.

About W. Stanton Smith

W. Stanton Smith is currently National Director, Cross Generational Initiatives (CGI) at Deloitte LLP. Mr. Smith joined Deloitte as a principal in 1998. Since then he has served in a number of senior HR roles. With a strong commitment from Deloitte leadership, Mr. Smith has grown CGI into a key strategic initiative with tangible positive business impact over the past nine years.

Mr. Smith has appeared on the Lehrer NewsHour on PBS as a generational issues expert. His views are sought out by major news magazines such as BusinessWeek, Forbes, TIME, and U.S. News & World Report as well as newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal. In June 2007 Mr. Smith received the Work/Life Legacy Award sponsored by the Families & Work Institute; the highest recognition in the work/life field for cutting edge ideas and long-term impact. In February, 2008 Deloitte released his book, "Decoding Generational Differences…fact, fiction or should we just get back to work?" Nearly 15,000 copies of this book have been distributed over the last 18 months. In January, 2009 he was the leadoff speaker at the United States Naval Academy's Leadership Conference 2009. This was the 25th anniversary conference and it was built around his book. Mr. Smith is a frequent speaker and workshop leader for both internal and external audiences.

Prior to joining Deloitte, Mr. Smith held a variety of senior HR positions in the energy, executive recruiting, and professional services businesses. In August, 2009 he will have completed 36 years in the business world nearly all of which have been in HR leadership positions.

Mr. Smith is a native of Houston, Texas. He received a B.S. degree in economics from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and an M.B.A. degree from the University of Texas at Austin.

Stan's Facebook Video

Disclosure: Deloitte is the founding sponsor of TotalPicture Radio.

Peter Clayton

About Peter Clayton

Peter Clayton, Producer/Host, is an award-winning producer/director of radio, television, documentary, video, interactive and Web-based media who has created breakthrough media for a wide array of Fortune 100 clients.


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