An interview With John Starling of Smith Growth Partners…

Meeting John at his Mill Centre office was a nice, quiet experience in the midst of a hectic October.

This interview ended up being vastly different from some of the other interviews we’ve done (and not in a bad way). In seeking to gain insight into what John does, I really ended up being the subject of his approach, with the meeting starting off with our initial casual conversation, which touched on Baltimore politics and other local issues, where we caught up a bit (I had met him at a BLEND event), eventually squared by having us share our similarities. It was almost as if I had interviewed a designer and by virtue of what she does, she just starts designing a poster on the spot for me.

John Starling represents a calming, attentive force, helping to craft vision and achivement strategies for companies, as he recounted in our conversation. And while I can’t vouch for his clients, I had a real sense of his understanding, just by the way he listened. Real easy, disarming. Our conversation, in which he revealed that he’s a black-belt and former MP, touched on how he worked to surpass his own limiting beliefs to be a better person for his family.

He has also shared his vision with kids from his Hampden neighborhood. The resident of nine years says that the kids essentially need the same vision training that CEOs need. He reminds them of their path and helps them clear the mental roadblocks that stand in the way of reaching that vision. Converting the meeting into a “Chris Jones Mindmap” working session, John asked me to identify three goals. That actually took some time.

What I’ll say about that here is there’s sometimes a person deep inside you who still lives the life of some past pain or some past failure. (For me, that’s the person who feels like an outsider, an odd fit). That person needs to be reconciled and it’s revealing to meet with someone like John and within a 35-minute conversation reach that point where you’ve shifted to a deep conversation with him—and ultimately with yourself.

Recently I was treated to a webinar that Smith Growth Partners gave on vision, where John moderated. He spoke at length about this process. So, sitting down, how was I not prepared for the self-discovery that he would engage with me? John, who was a part of the company when it was called Smith Content—when their projects revolved more around writing for clients—focuses mostly on company vision and achievment, although the company still takes on has writing assignments.

The comment from his webinar: “Growth [at the professional level] doesn’t come from addition, it comes from subtraction.” stands out for me.  A slide from the webinar below then charts a clear, immediate path to the mindset one should display to themselves in order to be present for what they want.

Screen Shot of The Smith Growth Partner Webinar (c) John Starling

While I’m no stranger to books about vision, it’s resounding to meet one for whom the listening and challenge-confronting is just a matter of course and who helps one talk out the disempowering belief system that has been archived into one’s mind. The most interesting thing about the interview was the mind-bending it would do. The result was an interview with a writer and vision achievement consultant who would really listen to you and help you hear yourself a little more…

Lastly, John’s conversation supplanted the disempowering belief with a new belief. That belief reinforces the sense that my best is good enough to achieve the things that matter to me. The subsequent sense is that I do belong to the endeavors I choose, and engage in the action of taking them seriously by being present to my desire for achievement and actively working toward that achievement.

By AIGA Baltimore
Published October 29, 2010