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

Beyond The Lab: Entrepreneurship In Cancer Treatment (Ep.20)

Delve into the dynamic world of entrepreneurship in cancer treatment. In this episode, Ken Schmitt sits down with the amazing Dr. Zeenia Kaul at ReHeva Biosciences to dive deep into her entrepreneurial journey. They chat about how she’s fearlessly taken risks, pushed boundaries, and played a vital role in advancing the battle against cancer, all with the goal of making a genuine impact on people’s lives.

In their conversation, Ken and Zeenia dig into how curiosity fuels innovation. Zeenia spills the beans on her journey, where she’s essentially been a bridge between cool discoveries in the lab (we’re talking about some seriously game-changing botanical stuff) and turning those finds into groundbreaking cancer treatments. The endgame? Giving cancer patients a better shot at a longer, healthier life.

Walking Away From Your Dream Job (Ep.19)

Is your job like gum on your shoe? Then it’s time to scrape that sh*t off and walk away! Jessica Yarbrough left her “dream job” and embraced a non-traditional business model to become a successful growth strategist. It’s time to stop focusing on the what and start focusing on the why. Jessica shares her story and how you too can crush your business goals.

Spicy Marketing Packs a Punch (Ep.18)

Canadian Simon Chou knows how to turn up the heat when it comes to marketing. Host of Marketing on Mars by night and CMO by day, Simon ignored his mother’s advice and lept into marketing instead of taking the “secure job” route. Unlock the untold marketing secrets by listening to this week’s episode. Join Ken and Simon on a flavor-packed journey as they discuss how meaningful connections pave the way for opportunities and collaborations. Get ready to add some heat to your marketing.

Relentlessly Creating Something from Nothing (Ep.17)

Even giants, known for their exceptional branding prowess, occasionally stumble in their branding efforts. In this episode, Ken Schmitt is joined by Lisa and James Fratzke. Together we unravel the intricacies of effective branding, the courage it takes to embrace calculated risks, and the triumphs and trials of crafting a thriving enterprise from scratch.

Having accumulated over 35 years of experience working with renowned brands such as Walmart, Patagonia, and Dollar Tree, the Fratzke team shares with us how to scale, grow, and outpace competition.

Get ready to ignite your entrepreneurial spirit, glean insights from industry trailblazers, and uncover the blueprints for building brands that not only stand the test of time but also leave an indelible mark on the ever-evolving business landscape.

Dining in the Tech Café (Ep.16)

Are you ready to embrace tech and AI? Want to take your customer’s experience to the next level? Ken and Carl Orsbourn, author of Delivering The Digital Restaurant, reveal the recipe for exceptional CX: on-demand frictionless interactions. There is a lot of negativity surrounding AI, Carl will show you how to optimize AI to benefit your business and preserve consumer loyalty while increasing profitability.

Are Twins Better Leaders? (Ep.15)

Being twins and co-leading a successful business isn’t always easy, but Katie Rucker and Jenny Dinnen believe their respective strengths provide unique advantages. Even if you are not a twin, listen and learn how to overcome rivalries and embrace harmonious strategies to enhance your performance in your business and personal life. An effective, balanced leader needs the yin to their yang.

The Sales Zombie Apocalypse (Ep.14)

In a world where AI is increasingly integrated into sales, it is crucial to distinguish yourself as a HUMAN seller. Best-selling author and podcaster, Andy Paul has dedicated his life to teaching others to master their sales craft. He joins Ken at the mic to demystify the selling process. Learn the four fundamental truths of selling from a sales leader with over 4 decades of experience.

“No Man Left Behind”- Surviving Culture Change (Ep.13)

She is often hailed as the M&A whisperer, while she playfully identifies herself as the next French Ambassador. A survivor of three multibillion-dollar acquisitions, Jennifer Fondrevay sheds light on how transitions don’t just change the business, it also changes the story for the people in it. She will shift your viewpoint on the inner workings of mergers and acquisitions and remind us that things are not always what they appear from the outside. There is always more to the story……. so get ready for some good advice on how to not just survive, but thrive.

A Buddhist, a Catholic, and a Recruiter walk into a room…with Jonathan Yung (Ep.12)

It sounds like the beginning of a comedy act, but in reality, it’s all one person. Jonathan Yung‘s upbringing in a multicultural household has deeply influenced his perspective. He actively incorporates the teachings of both the Catholic and Buddhist faiths into his life, forging a unique and blended belief system. For Jonathan, it’s about finding harmony between asking for what you need and expressing gratitude for all you possess. With clients spanning the high-flying tech industry, Jonathan offers valuable insights on fostering diversity within companies. We discuss the significance of having mentors with varying perspectives at different stages of life.

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.