Listen Hear

Think about the last conversation you had with – oh, I don’t know – your significant other, your child, a friend on the phone, your employee. On a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high), how would you score your attentiveness?

I’m giving me a 2.

Just last night, our oldest daughter was talking with me… and I made a comment. She looked at me and replied, “Dad, I literally just said that two sentences ago.” I smiled and said, “I knew I heard it somewhere.” It was a weak attempt to cover my lack of listening.

There are many reasons why this happens (too often for me).

I have other things on my mind. I’m having a strong reaction and trying to manage my response. I’m racing ahead to what I want to say. I’m processing the last few sentences and miss the next ones. Sports is on the television. I’m looking at my phone. I checked out of the conversation. I’m focused on myself and not the other person.

Humans have an inherent ability to listen. Words flow in and out of our ears all day long. Hearing the other person – focusing intently on what they’re saying – is a different skill that takes discipline and practice.

I’m beginning a new habit: put down my phone the next time my daughter wants to talk, clear my head and do my best to be fully present for her.

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Conference Calls

For the seventh straight year, I served as executive producer this month for a franchisor’s annual Conference. Planning these events begins in October and really kicks in come January. There are a lot of moving parts, as you might imagine if you’ve ever attended one.

Instead of a keynote speaker, for the first time the client wanted to hire a comedian to serve as emcee and provide standup interludes. The speaker’s bureau offered 15 people – and none ‘did it’ for me, so they sent a second batch. I saw one name on the list, and without even watching his video clip told my client, “That’s our guy.”

How did I know? Well, I’ve shared his YouTube video – 15 million views – with a lot of folks. It’s one of the most spot-on satires of corporate America you’ll see. It’s also hilarious… and when we played it as part of a funny way to introduce him, the audience roared in laughter.

Throughout our prep phone calls and during rehearsals before each show, he was professional and easy to work with – this despite fighting off a bad cold and nearly losing his voice. Nary a complaint about that, by the way.

Folks who make their living speaking typically utilize canned presentations with some tweaking for the sponsoring organization. He took a different approach – developing several bits to engage with the audience… and even brought along a videographer and created a ‘man-on-the-street’ video with attendees that was hilarious.

So, if you’re looking for a speaker – yes, he has a keynote, if that’s what you want – or emcee for your next event, consider… Tripp Crosby. You can thank me later.

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Just Believe

“I believe. I believe. It’s silly but I believe.”
~ Eight-year-old Natalie Wood in Miracle on 34th Street

Like that little girl in the holiday classic film, a lot of people talk to themselves. In my case, sometimes it’s in hoping that a wish will come true. Often, it’s to reaffirm my positive attitude. Occasionally, negative thoughts pop into my head and, if I’m not careful, lead me down a path of imagining the worst possible outcome.

While the rest of the animal kingdom simply reacts to what’s right in front of it – based on thousands of years of flight-or-flight instincts, the gift of being human is that our complex minds are able to imagine and create new ways of doing things. Thus, we have Starbucks, Google and iTunes today… and some unknown ‘got to have’ tomorrow.

Of course, the downside is our complex minds are able to imagine things that have a nearly zero chance of coming to fruition. That’s why the zombie apocalypse is a thing, could explain why Bitcoin is up nearly 150 percent this year… and might be the reason insomnia impacts more than a quarter of the U.S. population.

Limiting the impact of our imaginations requires mindfulness – a highfalutin new age term that means being able to take a step back from the thoughts whirling around your head and make a conscious choice about your actions.

If you’re awake in the middle of the night worried about an 8 a.m. meeting with executives, rather than dwell on what could happen in six hours, spend five minutes writing down your thoughts, then turn out the light, allow your mind to focus on something that relaxes you… and go to sleep.

This isn’t easy to do. It’s takes practice. Then some more practice. However, if you master the art of letting it go, you’ll get a good night’s rest and be better prepared to address things in the morning.

Perhaps the words from a song by Josh Groban in a much more recent holiday film – The Polar Express – will serve as your mantra: “You have everything you need / If you just believe.”

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Three Decades

June, 1989 – Let’s get in our Magic Time Machine and go back to see what’s happening in the world.

The first HDTV broadcasts take place in Japan. The Solidarity Party is victorious in Poland’s election, setting off anti-Communist uprisings in Central and Eastern Europe. The events of Tiananmen Square are forever etched in our memories.

And… in Arlington, Texas… Kathy and I exchange vows… 30 years ago today. We’ve shared many wonderful experiences…

the births of three children, now adults and soon to all be graduates of our alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin; UT football game tailgating; family vacations to Mexico, Walt Disney World (twice) and a few other wonderful places; Phantom of the Opera in London, limbo dancing in Jamaica and Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley wineries; our favorite restaurants; good health; financial resources; loving family and close friends

Happy Anniversary, Kathy. Here’s to 30 more.

Addendum: When I met with our long-time family priest to schedule the wedding at his church, his secretary came in with the parish calendar. She named several dates and I said, “That won’t work. The Rangers have a game that day.” After three tries, we found one. He later told us that when I left, she looked at him and said: “That marriage will never last, if he can’t give up going to a Rangers game for his wedding.” He had a good laugh… since she didn’t know I was the producer of their cable broadcasts.

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Northern Lights

Canadians have a reputation for being polite… typically acting in ways that are kind and considerate. Having spent more than two months there the past few years working with leaders from the western provinces across the country to Newfoundland, I think that perception is true.

Whether training, facilitating meetings or joining in a walk-around, there were three times I heard someone behaving in a contrary way. From my experience, our ‘friends to the north’ typically see the glass almost full and seek solutions to challenges. I find it inspirational to be around them.

Good for the ego, too, as the evaluation rankings I receive are always high.

Although, one of them did tell me recently: “Take our ratings with a grain of salt. We never say anything bad about anybody.” Maybe I should limit the references to college football, Tex-Mex and ‘Hamilton’ from now on.

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