Real people having real conversations about the intersection of leadership and life.

The Practical Optimist is a heartfelt conversation about the intersection of our personal and professional lives and what shapes our decisions. In each episode, you will hear candid, inspiring conversations with regular people who are industry leaders. We’ll talk about the decisions they’ve made – both good and bad – and the various turning points that made them the leader and the human being they are today.

Hosted by Ken Schmitt

The (Ad)Venture Capitalist with Terrance Orr (Ep.11)

Venture Builder Capitalist Terrance Orr has a knack for motivating people, defining products and services, and embracing the unknown. He has dedicated his life to pursuing innovation and disruption by using his passion for establishing companies and creating job opportunities. During our conversation, Terrance shares his perspective on the future of AI, the significance of storytelling in fundraising for a startup, and why customer insights are critical for driving innovation.

Raised in a small town in South Carolina with only two traffic lights, Terrance was the first person in his family to graduate from college and later obtained his law degree from Northwestern. Terrance currently serves as Head of Network Growth at Mach49.

Are you Ready for a Plot Twist with Nancy Beretz (Ep.10)

We are shaking things up in this episode; rather than hearing from a business leader, we are turning our attention to the classroom. Surprisingly, there are many similarities between the school and the office. Teachers are often our first mentors, and I bet you can think of a teacher who inspired your personal journey. Nancy Beretz, a first-generation Cuban American, has been teaching middle school Spanish for two decades. She opens the door for a peek into today’s American education system and discusses the value of global learning. Listen to how Nancy navigated the challenges of remote learning and kept calm during the uncertainty of the worldwide pandemic.

Shedding Your Corporate Jacket with Laura Fritz-Wilde (Ep.9)

If you don’t like your day job, it might be time to change your wardrobeLaura Fritz-Wilde, Managing Director at BRIDGING NEIGHBOURS GmbH an executive search firm that serves clients in Germany and the Netherlands. Laura and Ken Schmitt discuss “when and why” to wear and shed one’s “Corporate Jacket.” Laura candidly shares her personal experiences on managing motherhood and career aspirations. She delves into how this varies across European countries and impacts women’s career choices and work-life balance.

Attitude, Activity, Everywhere All at Once with Dustin & Nicole Sutton (Ep.8)

Attitude and activity… there are a few things you control that can more significantly impact your ability to achieve your goals.Dustin Sutton,Owner & Principal Broker at Sutton Real Estate Advisors and Nicole Sutton,Founder and Managing Partner at Nexus Search Group, join Ken Schmitt to discuss the importance of communication, balance, and the growth mindset… all crucial for long-term success. Husband and wife from two very different industries, Dustin and Nicole, share life lessons for success. They delve deep into how attitudes toward work, challenges, and opportunities directly affect success.

Global Pathfinder with Greg Dummer (Ep.7)

International man of business Greg Dummer, Managing Director, Strategic Growth at Envoy Global, has traveled to almost 70 countries over the past 30+ years. This week we are reminded of the importance of cultural sensitivity when it comes to international business. Greg talks candidly with Ken about channeling his hyper-competitive personality to become a triathlete while rising to the challenge of being a stay-at-home dad.

Put me in, Coach! Pushing Through the No’s Until You Get Your Yes! With Katy Temple (Ep.6)

This week’s episode we’re getting candid with Katy Temple, former sports anchor and entrepreneur, and the queen of “tell it like it is.” Learn about the day in the life of a woman in the first wave of female sportscasters and the important life and leadership lessons she’s learned from interviewing dozens of professional athletes from Mia Hamm to Junior Seau. Katy’s tenacity drove her to push through the multiple “no’s” she experienced as a pioneer in her field until she finally got the “YES” that launched her successful career.

Career Karma with Maggie Pilgrim (Ep.5)

As a Regional Director in the fast-paced and hyper-demanding world of staffing, Maggie knows the importance of attitude and character in life and career. Ken and Maggie discuss being open to change and evolving should your career (or personal life) take a different path than expected. Maggie shares the 5 Values of Living and how our choices come back to us like boomerangs in real and tangible ways. How can you start living your life with professional karma? Listen in to learn.

When Leaders and Life Throw You a Curveball with San Diego Padres’ Craig Stammen (Ep.4)

Ken’s guest this week is one of the pre-eminent relief pitchers in Major League Baseball: Craig Stammen from the San Diego Padres. Craig has much to share about life on and off the baseball diamond. He and Ken will discuss working together as a team and a family, the value of giving back, and what it’s like watching good leaders lead. Craig reveals how he stays grounded, especially during tough times.

Failure Makes Great Leaders with Larsen Jensen (Ep.3)

Olympic medalist, former Navy SEAL, and Venture Capitalist Larsen Jensen sits down with Ken to discuss why failure makes us better leaders. Listen to Larsen’s incredible stories, from the intense training needed in the pool to his decision to enlist. Ken and Larsen discuss the importance of embracing discomfort to be truly successful in your career. Learn why failure makes us stronger and more determined to achieve our goals.

Elite Athletes, Elite Leadership with Sharon Spooler (Ep.2)

In this episode, Ken sits down with Sharon Spooler, managing partner at Chief Outsiders, a national strategic management consulting firm, and the President & Founder of Spooler Consulting, a boutique management consulting business serving small businesses and start-up companies. Like Ken, Sharon grew up watching her father model leadership and life skills.

These skills helped her achieve her dream of attending Princeton, where she was a member of the basketball and track teams. Stepping into the workforce, she took calculated risks and made a name for herself from the get-go, developing into a dynamic leader and business owner. Ken and Sharon talk about lessons learned and how they have applied those lessons to their leadership and life.

Like Father Like Son, with Kenn Schmitt Sr. (Ep.1)

On our inaugural podcast for the Practical Optimist, author, Ken Schmitt, talks about leadership and life with none other than… Kenn Schmitt… his father.

Father and son sit down to discuss how leadership development is shaped by life. From receiving a full ride to Pratt University at age 16 to dropping out halfway through to moving his family to the other side of the country for a new business adventure, Kenn shares how his life decisions paved the way for the leader, he would become and teach others how to be, as well. Beginning as a franchisee of a Carvel ice cream store, advancing to the District Vice President of Jack in the Box/Foodmaker to a full-time Uber driver who has had over 24,000 riders from 49 countries in his car, Kenn has much to impart about what makes a good leader.