We had the good fortune of connecting with Karl Shallowhorn and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Karl, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
My entire professional career has been built around taking risks. When I was in early recovery I decided to pursue alcoholism counseling as my first professional job. Interestingly enough, I was hired however in retrospect I was not fully equipped to handle the position. This continued to be the case as I changed jobs over the years. Every time I applied and was hired for a new job I was taking a risk since I didn’t have a strong background in the area that I was to be working in. The biggest risk I’ve taken was most recently, in September 2019 when I started my consulting business. I had never run a business before but I was determined to make my mark. The first risk involved was working full-time while laying the foundation for the business. From September to December I “flew under the radar” and did not share my new pursuit with the CEO from my workplace. Finally, I took a big risk and requested a meeting with her when I told her about my plan. Surprisingly, she didn’t give me any push back. And she even offered me the opportunity to stay connected with the organization as an independent contractor but limiting the number of hours I worked there. I was able to “have my cake and eat it too.” This proved to be very important since it has provided me with guaranteed income as I build my business. Personally, two of the biggest risks I’ve taken center on my lived experienced with bipolar disorder. The first was when I met my wife (who I’ve been happily married to for 26 years) and I had to disclose that I lived with this condition. It was almost a deal-breaker for the relationship but fortunately, she too took a risk and decided to pursue the relationship. The rest, including two wonderful adult daughters, is history. The second risk also centers around disclosure of my mental health condition. I did this in a very big way. In 2008, when Britney Spears was in the media for what appeared to be some kind of mental health-related episode, I decided to write an op-ed piece for the Buffalo News in which I asked the question, “Why don’t we hear more positive stories in the media about people living with mental health conditions?’ In the article outed myself as living with bipolar. At the time I was working at a local small, private college. At that time no one knew that I had this condition. It caused a stir in the campus community and was the catalyst for me going on to dedicate my life to mental health advocacy and education.

What should our readers know about your business?
I specialize in mental health education and leadership development. The foundation of my business is centered around my long-standing history of living with bipolar disorder and addiction. I’ve also held a variety of professional positions, from frontline to administrative, where I’ve had to both work under very stressful circumstances and also learn how to best manage my work relationships in a healthy manner. I am also a 2019 graduate of the Health Leadership Fellows Program which is an initiative of the Health Foundation of Western and Central New York. What separates me from others is my combination of personal lived experience, clinical expertise, and mental health education-related background. I’ve been able to combine all of these things to become adept at providing services with a sense of familiarity that comes with living with a combination of behavioral health conditions and working in a variety of professional settings. I’m most excited about my book and Mastermind program, entitled Leadership Through the Lens of the 12 Steps, is a tangible representation of what I’ve learned in my career. I’m now sharing this with others. I got to where I’m at today through many years of hard work and help from others. I can honestly say that I haven’t done it alone. However, I will say that one of my character traits is perseverance and that this quality has helped me to stay focused on my goals and to not give up, even when times are tough. By no means has this been easy. I’ve had many ups and downs through the years. But despite all of this I’ve had an upward trajectory that has brought me to where I am now. I was able to overcome the challenges by having great support from mentors, family, and friends. All of these people have been able to help me to get through many difficult days. One of the primary lessons I’ve learned along the way is to not run away from problems or situations that are seemingly insurmountable. There are always solutions. Another lesson I’ve learned is that making mistakes is inevitable and that this is okay, as long as we don’t keep making the same ones. One major lesson I’ve learned is that people are capable of doing more that they think they can. I’ve seen this in my life as well as in many others I know. It’s important not to be held back by one’s self-perceived limitations. I’d like the world to know that I’ve been able to rise up, against all odds, and become who I am today. When I experienced my first major psychotic episode at the age of 18 my life hung in the balance. It took many years to bounce back but I did. It was through these experiences that I gained my sense of tenacity and grit. I don’t give up easily. I have been able to take all of this to create a brand that embodies these principles and is devoted to helping and educating others.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Without a doubt, the first place I would take them is Niagara Falls. It’s a short 30-minute drive from my home. You can view the falls from both the American and Canadian sides. I’d also take them to the Elmwood Village which is an area that is both residential as well as having businesses and restaurants along Elmwood Avenue. One of my favorite spots on the “Elmwood Strip” is Revolver Records, an indie record store that sells new and used vinyl. Buffalo is such a great town for food and, of course, it’s known for chicken wings (or as we simply call them “wings”). There are any number of restaurants that serve wings but the one I’d take someone too is the Anchor Bar, which, as legend has it, was the first place that wings were ever served in Buffalo. Another place I would take them to is Oliver’s which is an upscale restaurant that specializes in nouveau American cuisine. Oliver’s has had a long-standing reputation in Buffalo for fine dining and it has stood the test of time. Buffalo also has a first class art gallery, the Albright-Knox, which is currently undergoing a multi-million dollar renovation. The Albright Knox is home to a wealth of artistic treasures, both classic and contemporary. Personally, I don’t drink however that doesn’t mean I can’t take someone to a local bar. There is an area of Buffalo known as Allentown which has many small bars, some of which offer live music. Also, as far as live music goes, the Sportsmen’s Tavern is legendary. It’s an intimate spot that features a wide range of musical acts, everything from jazz fusion to classic rock cover bands.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
First, I want to give a shoutout to my wife Suzy who has loved and supported me unconditionally for over 28 years and my two daughters, Sarah and Lillie. Next, I’d like to give a shoutout to my cousin Carolyn who has been there for me throughout my life. Also, I’d like to give a shoutout to my friends in my 12-Step fellowship who have been a source of inspiration for the 32 years I’ve been in the program. Finally, I’d like to give a shoutout to Anne Constantino, CEO of Horizon Health Services, the behavioral health agency in Western New York where I was a client in the early years of my recovery and the where I later worked and learned so much about the field of mental health, and Dr. Lavonne Ansari, CEO of the Community Health Center of Buffalo, both of whose commitment to the Western New York community is so incredibly valuable.

Website: http://shallowhornconsulting.com/
Instagram: shallowhornconsulting
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/karlshallowhorn/
Twitter: @kshallowhorn
Facebook: https://www.linkedin.com/in/karlshallowhorn/

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