The Geek's dilemma is that geeks typically do not get trained in leadership or business.

Have you ever asked yourself: Why is it that top experts who are really smart, top in their field, and passionate, perhaps to the point of obsession, often do not get the level of success that is in alignment with the level of their talent? We lovingly call top experts who are both passionate and very knowledgeable about their subject “Geeks”. Think of this term as a high praise without any notions about how socially outgoing these experts may be because that tends to be all over the map for this group.

Dr. Stephie Althouse, Geek Guru, founder, and CEO of Top-Notch CEO, was invited to speak on 6/13/2017 about “Overcoming the Geek’s Dilemma” at the University Club (San Diego’s premier business club) in downtown San Diego.

P5 Radio wanted Dr. Stephie to give a brief recap of her talk because the geek’s dilemma is at the heart of why so many top experts have much less success with their talents and skills than they could. Knowing about the geek’s dilemma could help you or a beloved geek in your life. As it turns out, everyone knows a geek.

Here is the podcast of the interview:

If you prefer to read the interview here it is:

Robert: Hey everybody, this is Robert with P5 Radio. Today’s guest is Dr. Stephie Althouse. Dr. Stephie is the founder and CEO of Top-Notch CEO, and so that’s She’s a repeat guest; she’s one of our favorites. Good morning, Dr. Stephie.

Dr. Stephie: Good morning. How are you, Robert?

Robert: I am pretty good. It was fun to talk to you this morning. Before our call, we always do a little conversation before we record these podcasts. You just got back from a speaking engagement this morning. Maybe you could tell us a little bit about it. Sounds like we can do a recap of that.

Dr. Stephie: Yes. That’s a great idea. Thank you. Yes, I had the honor to actually talk to some awesome business owners at a premier business club in downtown San Diego. It’s called University Club, and we have a group that’s called BNG 360, so Business Networking Group.

Robert: Awesome. And you talked to them about the geek’s dilemma, I think, which we talked about in our previous broadcast. But I think what’s interesting is this audience was not a geek audience. In other words, so you were talking to non-geeks, but before we get into that, maybe it would be good to just quickly tell our listeners what is the geek’s dilemma.

What is the Geek’s Dilemma?

Dr. Stephie: Absolutely. First, I want to say that one person out of the audience actually professed to be a geek and actually proved that, which was pretty funny. But all the others said that they know geeks in their life. We’ll get to that in a minute. The topic of the talk was “Overcoming the Geek’s Dilemma.”

So what’s the geek’s dilemma? I drew a chart [a picture of a timeline]. You can imagine on the left side I drew a little dot, and that’s when you were born. And now as we’re going to the right, you’re getting taught by your parents, and you’re getting taught by your teachers. Eventually, you come to this question, the “what am I going to do when I grow up” type of question. And then, you pick a specialty and you go to some kind of geek school. So, I have a Ph.D. in chemistry. I went to geek chemistry school. And then you get out of that and then you go about building your career. Then I drew a big chasm. It looked kind of like the Grand Canyon. So, you’re standing on the one side of this chasm of the Grand Canyon, and then on the other side of this chasm is wealth. But wealth, I drew it like a three-legged stool. One leg represents money, and the second leg is the impact of your work. The third leg is the quality of life, which we had a conversation about what that means. That means things like health and the ability to spend time with the people you love, etc., whatever that looks like for you.

Robert: Right.

Dr. Stephie: So that’s the geek’s dilemma. There’s this chasm. I also said that sometimes you know this chasm is there, and many times you don’t. So I shifted the metaphor a little bit and I compared it to a glacier. So, when there’s snow on top of a glacier, you don’t actually see the crevasses underneath. So you may be walking along thinking that it’s perfectly fine and safe, and all of a sudden you fall into a crevasse. It could be a deep one. That is what the dilemma is for geeks.

Everyone Knows a Geek

Robert: And then, what I love is that I think you asked everybody if they knew a geek, right? Or managed a geek or worked with … How did that go?

Dr. Stephie: Oh, that was really fun. So, as I said, one person admitted he was a geek. It was really funny.

Robert: Boasted.

Dr. Stephie: And the others, I hadn’t given them yet the definition that I use [which is] that geeks are really top experts who are extremely passionate about what they work on, and that they’re very, very knowledgeable in the area that they work in. And it doesn’t matter what the subject is, really. It has nothing to do with socially awkward. So it was a little unfair of me to ask the question before I gave the definition because I think more people would have raised their hand had I given the definition first. But notwithstanding that, everyone raised their hand or pretty much everyone raised their hand when I asked whether they knew a geek. I said it may be your colleague or your neighbor or your friend. It may even be a person you birthed. And that got a lot of laughter, so maybe your own child is a geek.

Robert: Right. But everybody knew a geek. I mean, that’s I think the bottom line.

Dr. Stephie: Everyone knows a geek, no question.

Robert: Everybody knows a geek, and-

Dr. Stephie: And it could be your employee, for that matter.

Their Dilemma is Your Dilemma

Robert: Absolutely. And then their dilemma is your dilemma. What I think is powerful about this whole topic is that by identifying the geek’s dilemma, you’re really helping an awful lot of people either think through their own situation or, if they’re a trusted advisor or a friend or a parent of a geek, understanding this geek’s dilemma. Even knowing about it I think is very powerful. Maybe you could share some of your experiences with the geek dilemma and share some of those.

Could You Share Some of Your Own Experiences with the Geek Dilemma

Dr. Stephie: Yes, great. Thank you. So, I’m going to make this real quick for time reasons, but basically, I am a recovering Ph.D. chemistry geek. That was my geek school. I went initially onto the academic path and then realized along the way that I wanted to do more than writing papers, even though that’s awesome. I honor everyone who does that and contributes to our overall knowledge that we gain and enhance through research.

But I wanted to make a more immediate difference with the research and innovation that I’m involved in. And so then eventually I came to San Diego. That was in ‘97. I joined a small high-tech firm. We grew quite rapidly. I brought in money through writing grant applications and all of a sudden was confronted with writing a paragraph about our commercialization plan for the technology I was asking for money for developing it. And that got me thinking about it, so I got extremely interested in that. And then fast forward eight years later, I actually quit my job there. By that time the company had been acquired by GE Security and we became a little appendix to a very large corporation.

So I started my own business. And I shared that the first three years were really hard because I had to overcome the geek’s dilemma myself. So really, everything that I’ve developed comes out of that.

I Ended Up Becoming a Turnaround Authority. After That, I Was Invited Into Other Companies That Weren’t High-Tech Per Se. But I Found the Geek’s Dilemma Again Over There.

Plus, then I shared that one of my clients who I had helped get a $1.2 million grant, they all of a sudden asked me to run their company. I was really startled by that invitation at first. Then they made me a really good offer and I looked at it and eventually accepted. And then I found out that the company was extremely close to bankruptcy. I shared that at that time our son was only five months old. I was a first-time mom, so it was extremely challenging. It was basically either sink or swim. So, we swam. And we raised revenues by 41% that first year. So I ended up becoming a turnaround authority and I shared that I was invited then into other companies that weren’t even high tech. But I found the geek’s dilemma again over there. For example, a glazing company, very technical stuff when you really learn about what they do.

Robert: What specific things have you helped or solutions have you put in place for clients, I guess? Now that they see the dilemma, how have people successfully overcome it?

Now That They See the Dilemma, How Have People Successfully Overcome It?

Dr. Stephie: Well, in a nutshell, it is leadership and business knowledge that hasn’t been trained or hasn’t been provided in geek school. You could, of course, stop everything you’re doing and get an MBA. I asked people to tell me what they thought it costs. They said at least $50,000 and we estimated that it could easily go up to $200,000 to do that. Then you have to basically stop what you’re doing for two, three, or whatever many years, and that may be a solution.

[In contrast,] we provide a solution where one of the solutions costs less than $3,000 and it costs only about one-and-a-half to two hours of effort per week for 12 weeks. That’s three months, and that’s our Top-Notch CEO Coaching Circle. We have various programs in our academy called Top-Notch CEO Academy. One solution [we offer] is very systematic, proven, hard knocks based, not all theoretical stuff. Business training and leadership training and coaching in a group of, say, around six people. The next solution is one-on-one business coaching, and of

The next solution is one-on-one business coaching, and of course, leadership plays into that. The third solution we offer is we go into companies, usually larger companies, and provide hands-on executive support. We call that Visiting CEO.

The third solution we offer is we go into companies, usually larger companies, and provide hands-on executive support. We call that Visiting CEO.

So groups, one-on-one, and Visiting CEO are the three solutions that basically make it possible for just about any geek or company that has a considerable number of geeks to engage with us and overcome that geek dilemma.

And I Know That You Offer a Free Consultation

Robert: Super. And I know that you offer a free consultation. They can book that with you on the website, which is In that, you can go over personal examples that you can’t share with us I understand for privacy reasons. But, we’ve got just about two or three minutes, so what do you think is the major take-home for people that are listening and getting intrigued about helping people solve the geek dilemma or solving it themselves?

Dr. Stephie: Well, here’s the thing. Geeks contribute a lot to the world with their talents, skills, and passions, or at least they have the capability to do so. Yet, there is this geek’s dilemma that we just talked about that often silently wastes a lot of the impact and the wealth and the wellbeing that could result from the capabilities of these geeks. So, my take-home is you may be a geek yourself, or most certainly, you have geeks you love in your life. If I may be selfish for a moment, and it’s actually not that selfish, help us with our mission. Help us get the word out to your favorite geeks in your life because our mission is literally to support them to overcome the geek’s dilemma and that’s what we’re here for.

Robert: All right. So, I encourage everybody to reach out to Dr. Stephie. You have the website address, it’s I think she’s a fabulous resource for anybody that loves a geek, knows a geek, is a geek, or is married to a geek or, I think I’ve covered all the … Or is the parent of a geek or an employer of a geek.

Dr. Stephie: We’ve got them all now.

Robert: I hope that’s everybody. So, in the name of geeks everywhere, I encourage you to reach out to Dr. Stephie. Dr. Stephie, thank you very much for coming today.

Dr. Stephie: Thank you.

Robert: All right.

Dr. Stephie: Yeah, thank you for having me on again. I appreciate it.

Robert: Bye bye.

Dr. Stephie: Bye.