Name: Eric D. Becker
Title: Founder, CEO, Chairman | Life Science Global Advisor | Development Committee
Organisation: A Diamond in the Dirt Foundation | MilliporeSigma | The Nonprofit Cooperative
Published scholar, published photographer, published designer, published songwriter, poet, athlete. A multi-talented professional entrenched in the disciplines of visual art, digital media, architecture, construction, Hip-Hop music, poetry, philosophy, ice hockey, theoretical AI & machine learning applications, ecological practices, and social services (adoptions, foster care, orphans).
Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!
I hope Eric's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
As a leader, at times the challenge is the expectations that others have of you to either figure out a resolution or find others who can, regardless of its difficulty. In this process, the challenge provides stepping stones towards a newfound discovery about yourself. This discovery, as a leader, becomes an addiction as a way to constantly push yourself, charter new territories, and develop something novel and authenticate. The difficulty now becomes knowing when to ask for help instead of thinking every problem is one that you, as a leader addicted to self-discovery, can solve.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I was a natural-born leader since middle school, as some teachers enlightened me to this reality. One in particular, my 6th or 7th grade English teacher, told me "When you talk, people listen." This was either before or after I let her read a book that I was writing. It also came from leadership on ice hockey sports teams. It was further developed from me standing up for others who were getting bullied, as confrontation where I come from is inherent.
As a result, you learn as a leader that sometimes the path you choose is often hindered by obstacles. These "obstacles" upset the order that others will to, desire to, or participate in through the bad faith of others. Sometimes, being a leader means that you take the responsibility of hardship in order to protect, defend, and/or liberate others. Not everyone is cut from this cloth. Others will to stay silent in the background and avoid confrontation. As a leader, you aren't given this luxury, and you are willing to be the face of failure when it's victorious in your pursuits.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
Well, I am currently in that "Elon Musk, lose everything in order to gain everything" phase of launching a for-profit startup called BioFam Services. Once again, this hardship isn't for everyone. Many aspects need to be in your favor in order to achieve such a leadership endeavor. You have to have a financial support system, you have to be in a solitary living space for your best focus, you have to sacrifice your personal life in order to alleviate distractions, and you have to have the resources to market yourself, your brand, and your intentions in order to be successful. But a quote comes to mind:
"the 97% who quit end up working for the 3% who didn't [quit]."
I used to wake-up early for those 5am gym sessions but not so much in my current phase due to this causing my production levels to decrease during the lunch hour. As a leader, you must be cognizant of yourself, your capabilities, and what leads to your best production levels.
Currently, I often stay up late because it's the best time to think, to meditate, and to visualize. Being up at all hours of the night reminds me of university, sacrificing my mental health in order to achieve a not-so-easy goal or milestone. This sacrifice is needed. The darkness is needed for the star to shine!
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
Former Colombo Crime Family capo turned religious pastor, Michael Franzese, has a saying: "do what you do best and allocate the rest."
As a leader, you have to be aware of your pros and cons, strengths and weaknesses. This means finding the right professionals to build a team around helping you create and develop your company, your mission, your business model, your intellectual property, and your company culture. I remind myself to be involved in all aspects and facets of my business but to also find and put trust in those who can develop the idea, product, or assignment better than me. Coming from where I come from, it's hard to trust people because it makes yourself vulnerable. But this vulnerability imbues trust in the right people that are meant to be there with you in the trenches who operate in good faith. So vulnerability is a lesson learned.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
I do not have a book that speaks directly to my leadership ethos or methods. My primary reading resources are scientific journals and magazines like The Scientist, Lab Animal, and Lab Manager published by Nature.com and SpringerNature.com.
But some of my favorite books are medical scientific thrillers written by Dr. Robin Cook. Additionally, I love books written by Walter Isaacson like The Code Breaker and Einstein. The Code Breaker is a book about Dr. Jennifer Doudna and the CRISPR software she co-founded with Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier, who the both of them won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for in 2020. Walter Isaacson writes his scientific books with incredible detail. As a Master of Architecture professional, we are taught the beauty lies in the details.
Another book I am currently reading is Automate Your Busywork by Aytekin Tank, who is the CEO of Jotform. The book is about creating methods for improving your work habits and production levels through automation. In other words, 'work smarter not harder.' We at A Diamond in the Dirt Foundation are proudly in partnership with Jotform.
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
First, be comfortable with being alone. Meaning, you have to spend a lot of time with yourself to create and develop your thoughts which lead to the success of your company or career trajectory.
Second, you have to be willing to sacrifice your personal life for your professional success and safety. Less time socializing and more time you spend with family and close friends of many years. The more time you waste chasing your vices [drinking, partying, chasing your attractions], the less time you have to develop your mind, body, and soul.
Third, you will hear a lot of "no's" but don't be discouraged. Actively expand your professional network using LinkedIn, Google Scholar, Academia.edu, ResearchGate, and other social media outlets. Constantly search for others who share your thoughts.
Continuously listen to people in a higher position than you who you are inspired by and research their history, background, and why it worked for them and how that could potentially relate to you. Even if it means that you need to strategize a move to a new city, state, or country, go where you're celebrated and not tolerated; especially if you are from a small town plagued by small city mentalities, which is one of the biggest detriments to being a leader. The other is self-doubt. There's an entire world out there outside of your comfort zone.
"...The most important thing is this: to be able at any moment, to sacrifice what you are, for what you will become!
- Eric Thomas, PhD - The Hip-Hop Preacher.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
Inspiring at-risk students at Niagara Falls High School to want to pursue an architectural degree after I came to speak with them. I was involved in Reverend Bob Heisner's Project WNY self defense program. Through the Advantage Afterschool program, Blackbelt Master Bob Heisner and I found joy in inspiring these at-risk high school students to not venture down the dangerous and slippery slope of their surroundings. But, instead, find inspiration in the positive activities, outlets, and teachings that will help them become the best versions of themselves.
"...friends come and go but banners, they hang forever!
- Kobe Bryant #MambaMentality