There are many books on the market that fall into the category of “self-help.” In fact, in the publishing world that particular category is second only to “how-to” books in terms of the number of titles that are generated every year by authors. Th e two categories are related. Th at is especially true of a book published last June entitled Blind Spots, which has a subtitle of equal importance: What You Don’t Know CAN Hurt You. Th e word “CAN” is emphasized on purpose. It reflects the passion the book’s authors have for the subject matter. Th e authors felt such emphasis on the cover would get the attention of potential readers. Th is book was written because its two authors believe strongly in the message and are committed to helping people reach their true potential. For Brian Brandt and Ashley Kutach, the authors, creating this book was at first a way to improve the delivery of a training seminar. Over time, writing the book became a mission.
Ashley and Brian first met ten years ago when they both had children attending classes at Grace Community School. Ashley’s background was in delivering training curriculum at JP Morgan Chase for thirteen years, eleven years of which she spent in instructional design. Brian’s background was the ministry. Th e first fifteen years of his career was working for large, Christian camps, including Kanakuk Kamps and Sky Ranch. After that, he served as Executive Pastor at Grace Community Church.
Although they had different career backgrounds, they also shared a great deal of similarities. Ashley grew up in Los Fresnos, a little town in South Texas. Brian grew up in Lawton, a small town in Oklahoma. Brian met his wife of twenty-seven years, Ann Terese Brandt, at Kanakuk Kamps in Branson, Missouri. Ashley met her husband of twenty-one years, Andy Kutach, in the parking lot of the dorm at Texas State in San Marcos, where she received both her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree. Th ey both have three children: Brian has one boy and two girls; Jeremy (23), Katie (20), and Heidi (16). Ashley has two boys and one girl: Caden (18), Ryder (16) and Willow (14).
During the last four years, Ashley has been working at Mentoring Minds as Vice President of People and Chief of Staff . In December 2019, she completed her Ph.D. in Human Resource Development at Th e University of Texas at Tyler.
Brian earned a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from the University of Oklahoma and a Master of Global Leadership from Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California. After a lifetime spent supporting the transformation of individuals and organizations, he gained a passion for developing stronger leaders and organizations. For the past eight years, Brian has been CEO and part owner of Core Insights, an organization he co-founded with Lisa and Michael Lujan, the founders of Mentoring Minds. “Core Insights is a company providing training, strategic planning and coaching to a myriad of businesses, nonprofits and associations all over the country,” Brian explains. “We work to help our clients in five core areas: Leadership, Communication, Organizational Culture, and Personal Growth.” Core Insights’ greatest strength is in developing people. Th e company employs a deep understanding of adult education and effective training methods to guide employees to “aha moments” in order for them to gain new soft skills. Th e goal is to help their clients to expand the capacity of their teams and the direction of their organization.
Fourteen years ago, as Brian was working on a master’s degree and going through the Leadership Tyler program, he came to a realization that he wanted to make a change in his career. He had a sudden desire to switch from leading within a company, to working from the outside with other organizations and individuals to help them reach their potential. “Th e whole concept of recognizing one’s blind spots came out of that realization. It became part of the curriculum I wanted to use as an outside coach working with the employees of other organizations,” he says.
Prior to working at Mentoring Minds, Ashley spent four years with Core Insights. She was teaching aspects of recognizing blind spots, but this was before she and Brian had discussed the idea of writing a book together. For most of her career, Ashley has worked closely with employees at all levels of an organization. As an accomplished facilitator and development coach, she combines compassion with down-to-earth basics to help people through a process of self-discovery—to improve their personal leadership skills. “I was always interested in helping other people. Guiding people through the process by drawing out information from each individual through the questions I asked has been a favorite part of the job for me,” Ashley says. “I always love watching for that moment when the light bulb goes off , that ‘aha moment’ of excitement that happens when you know they suddenly ‘get it’ and have progressed to a new level.”
The idea for the book was something of an evolutionary process. Ashley recalls, “I noticed by talking with the students in the training that many lost opportunities occurred because people were not aware of the things they were doing that were actually holding them back from achieving their goals.” Brian remembers having discussions with Ashley about what they could do during training sessions to help people to improve their ability to reach their potential. “So many things, so many ideas that we threw out in those discussions, led us to the logical conclusion that creating a book that described exactly what we were talking about could be the answer. Th at is where the decision to collaborate on a book originated,” Brian recalls.
Together, Ashley and Brian first outlined the chapters and sections of the book. “We agreed on beginning the book with a chapter that provides an example of how not recognizing one’s blind spots can have devastating effects. We chose to make each section about a different aspect of recognizing a blind spot and then gave examples from people who had gone through previous trainings as illustrations of what to look for in discovering one’s own blind spots,” Brian explains.
The second chapter uses an example from Ashley’s life to help define what we mean by the term “blind spots.” “It’s really a simple example,” says Ashley. “When I was learning to drive, I discovered that, even if I looked into the side mirrors and the rearview mirror, there could still be a car lurking beside me that I cannot see. I learned it when I started to change lanes after looking in the mirrors, and my instructor said, ‘check your blind spot.’ I turned my head and looked over my shoulder, and there was a car coming up beside me that I had not seen in the mirrors. It was in my blind spot.”
Each of us has blind spots, that we frequently are not aware we have. They are those little weakness, problem areas, attitudes and habits that may hold us back from realizing our total potential. They can result in our not getting a promotion we thought we deserved or having a personal relationship deteriorate without our understanding why. This book explores why a blind spot is most often negative; but it can also be a positive trait you are not aware of, such as a hidden talent you need to discover. Those people who identify their blind spots are more apt to commit to working on them, thereby achieving their goals and becoming more likely to reach their total potential.
“When we decided on how to structure the content of the book, we each chose sections to work on separately. Once we each had done our initial work, we combined them and worked on one another’s parts. It was a great deal of going back and forth,” says Ashley. “It was not something we did quickly,” Brian interjected. “One of us would ask the other, ‘This needs something…do you have an idea?’ There was a period of about two and a half years where it just sat idle. We both have three kids, jobs, and other things that took over our time.”
About a year ago, they agreed that completing the project should be a priority. “By then, I was no longer working full time for Core Insights. We picked up where we left off…made notes and exchanged our existing parts of the project…brainstormed and then worked independently again, sending it back and forth,” Ashley explains.
One of the things that makes this book especially useful as a tool for the reader to work on their blind spots alone is that each chapter includes a list of “Personal Reflections” topics. These are things to think about and ponder that are designed to help the reader gain a better insight into their personal self-observations. These are followed by a series of “Group Discussion” questions that can be used in sharing the material with others, providing an even broader perspective for self-discovery.
The book’s appendix includes a personal Feedback Worksheet; a Blind Spot Action Plan; and a listing of some of the most
Common Blind Spots and Suggested Actions to take to overcome them. Th e book is designed to make it easer for a person who is truly committed to discovering their blind spots, and once discovered, enable them to do something about them.
“We completed the book and sent it to the publisher in June 2019. It was finished just in time for me to go on vacation!” Brian says almost laughing about the state of exhaustion they both felt at having finally completed the project.
“When you change the way you look at things, The things you look at change.”
– Max Planck
“So far the reaction to the book has been very positive, which is very gratifying,” Ashley reports. “We have had several different associations that have invited us to speak at corporate gatherings and conferences. We have heard from individuals who have used the book with their book club groups. One man told me he wished he had the book four marriages ago!”
The topic itself, the idea that one can improve the direction one’s life is taking by simply taking stock in one’s personal blind spots and employing solutions to change them from negatives into positives, is certainly worth the eff ort it takes to read the book. “We have heard many people make the comment that they appreciate how actionable ideas from the book are”, says Brian. “Almost everyone who contacts us comments how the ideas from the book are easy to implement and those who have tried it frequently remark how they have improved their personal relationships at work and other places.”
Brian says that the book has the possibility of making a drastic impact on relationships and career effectiveness. It can improve a career trajectory and make the difference between having a strong relationship or no relationship. Using the principles of self-evaluation and applying the introspective solutions to correct one’s blind spots can put an end to detrimental behavior that might otherwise ruin a person’s relationship with other people.
Ashley emphasizes that the book is not designed to fi nd the fault in other people’s lives. “It’s is all about finding things in yourself. People who need it the most are most likely people who don’t know they need it. Introspection is important.”