From Aspen, Colorado

Louise snowboard

So here I am happily sitting in a plane headed back to San Diego. My brain is slightly jolted and today were like the proverbial ground hog day as I was supposed to leave Aspen and the Winter Leadership Summit yesterday only to be snowed in and hence another day of camaraderie, sharing and learning in the idyllic snowcapped mountains.

A special shout out goes to KC Gooding the team at the Jaywalker and to Amanda Marino and her team at Next Level Recovery for putting on a thought-provoking conference which focused on leadership in behavioral health and that honored Dr. Judith Landau with a lifetime achievement award.

All the speakers were stimulating and gave participants plenty of information to arouse their curiosity.

I was fortunate enough to do the opening keynote and those of you who know me know I love to walk around the room and engage with others. I am not a podium kind of women.

While having a doctoral degree in leadership, I chose focus on a topic that invited you into an introspective journey designed to help you articulate What your why is and to trust your crazy idea.

Here is the excerpt of my talk.

What’s Your Why?

Hello Snowmass!
I am blessed to be in this most beautiful setting with all you wonderfully talented humans who seem to all be here for something we “apparently” have in common – we are all leaders.

Leadership Art

You are all CEOs, Founders, CFOs, Heads of Marketing, Visionaries. You may run a Treatment Center. You heal people or you run businesses that help people.

I’m here to ask you WHY.

What is YOUR why?

Your very personal, maybe only you know, maybe you never realized it, but your very true and authentic REASON you are who you are and do what you do. In my colleague Greg Champions’ terms, you each have a “playbook “about who you are and what you do.  Let’s dust it off and make sure we are not resting on our playbook laurels, we need to dig back and remind ourselves of our why.



I am not a CEO. I do not own a treatment center. I am not a CFO.

I am Weezie – I am Louise. Dr. Stanger. Mom of 3 VERY diverse daughters. I was a young widow. I’m a wife again. And now, I’m a Fierce Senior aging exuberantly!

And I’m just getting started — when I grow old, I am going to set up shop at the Sunset Marquis and offer services at Nightingale Music studio in between enjoying soul cycle and meeting great folks and potential clients for you all there!

Let me get back to my Why:

For many years I was a university Professor a decent teacher, working with students many who had problems with families who did not know how to navigate. I thought it was cool to be part of a university.

Yet in 2004 I found myself on the brink of disaster. I was miserable at a university I had coveted going to. I stuck out like a sore thumb (WHY?) I was an outlier even though I brought millions of dollars in I was horrible at my administrative job. I was always a great collaborator, yet an administrator was a different story. In Jim Collins words the author of “Good to Great” I was definitely in the wrong seat on the bus.

In my eyes, I was falling. I was failing.

I was reluctantly heading towards HR and an exit out plan. Who has ever been invited to leave knows that this is often an ego-shattering event. Well, faced with uncertainty, I dusted my bruised ego off and thought about what was my “Why.” The last large grant I had was a Parent Based Intervention to Reduce High Risk Problematic Behavior. The last successful student group was award-winning, “Student to Student – a Peer mentoring program to reduce Problematic Behaviors.”

And I had been lucky enough to have been mentored by Dr. Frank Pickard (you know Vern Johnson’s best friend, author of Family Intervention former head of Springbok (Doug Lyons did you ever have the chance to experience him) and was always doing interventions on the side.

And my own family like many of yours had a vibrant, rich and tumultuous history of mental health, death by suicide, substance use disorder and a host of other maladies that I could draw upon as a minefield.

In my personal life and my career, I was good at navigating chaos. I found myself having success helping students & families thrive. I was always passionately working in collaboration with others by being part of a team.  I have always done interventions with someone else and have remained egoless as to who is: first or second chair.

I was born on a faultline of trauma and had mentors from camp counselors to CEOs that helped me navigate at many different stages of life — they helped me Fall Up.

As I stirred all of this together, I realized my WHY.


My “why” was simply and powerfully helping families thrive and heal in an intergenerational way (probably the exact tool, human resource that would have benefited my upbringing and early life).

My mantra became Keep Falling Up. Just like Nelson Mandela, Richard Branson, and Dolly Parton. NO GREAT LEADERS SUCCEED WITHOUT FAILING FIRST!

Today I remain passionate about my Why.

I love collaborating with so many of you here and working as part of an intergenerational team with your families. -Cirque , Seasons, The Manor, Jaywalker, JFlowers, Start Up Recovery , Guest House, The Pointe etc. I have teamed with Adam Finley and others in delivering intervention and have been energized and enthused by working with Maks Ezrin and YPM in being a part of creating TWW

trust your ideas

I still give every family I meet no fault insurance, that means they did the best could do with the knowledge and resources they have and now they can learn to do something different.

In doing so I surround myself with an intergenerational team of leaders from many different fields that assumes no one is more important .  I do assume we all have different talents and look at all this thru our own kaleidoscope. I also always am interested what can I do for you that will make your job easier and I maintain a curious eye.


So WHY do YOU do you what you do?

Leadership has no easy answers, it is an art that cannot exist without great followers. Last year Gary Fisher all of you know from Cirque was honored. I remember last year giving a talk at the Manor, thank you Nancy Koplow which was the the first place  I had ever had a CEO sit in on my training for two days straight. Later I learned Gary mentored him.

This year you are honoring the one and only Dr Judith Landau whose why has been clear in elevating the field of intervention and training many of us who are in the room.

Today and in the days that we are here together on the slopes and in the glory of the hour and solitude of your hearts I invite all of you to articulate your why. Be sure and look for trail markers along the way.

As they will appear.

That trail maker may be sitting next to you – Look around this room and just soak up all the talent that’s present.

And breathe that in

You have arrived

You are a leader

Make it your mission to meet new people this week Find out their why and share yours

And I have given you a handout that asks you to share your WHY and what is your Crazy idea



As promised, I collated all of your answers and learned the following. Almost unanimously you did a deep dive and when all was said and done said your why in one way or another was to “help others and to leave the world a significantly better healthier more connected place.” (Oren Mattensen-One Chicago)

To do so you all agreed we all need to do a deep introspective dive of who we are and how we want to make an impact in the behavioral health care field. 

And for all of you I trust that you will  Keep doing what you are doing. Keep exploring and being curious. Take care of your dear selves  If you are stuck that’s ok ,there is plenty of help out there for you too,  keep seeking mentors that can help you, know the path may be rugged at times and yet keep Inspiring change and above all Keep Falling Up.