If you’ve been listening to me since I started this Sounds of Change blog, you know I’m a classic rock guy – Beatles, The Eagles, Bob Seger, Springsteen. Some of you in your comments on my blog have said I need to get a little more up-to-date. I will work on that and will have some messages tied to some more current music in the weeks ahead.
Today, I’d like to tie in a couple of songs to what’s happening in the United States and in many parts of the world. It’s been a challenging time with some pretty traumatic raw news – the #metoo movement, #timesup, #menext, #neveragain. Young people are speaking up. Women are speaking up. And songs are resonating with the current change that’s going on in society for the good – songs like Sara Bareilles’ “Brave.” I think a powerful line is “Show me how big is your brave” or “Say what you want to say, and let the words fall out.” Katy Perry’s Roar- Eye of the Tiger – it’s a powerful song to exercise to, dance to, and right now. to listen to, as we go through changes in our society and our behavior. I encourage you to listen to these songs and hopefully they’ll resonate with you and help all of us be better people.
You just heard “Lean On Me” – a classic from many years ago. At the end of this message you’ll hear “Count On Me,” a more recent version with a similar message by Bruno Mars.
Whether you’re leaning or counting on somebody, we all need a coach. We all need that person who can give an unbiased opinion on how you’re coming across, at work, at home, or in the community.
How often have you been faced with an issue where you cannot easily come up with the answer by yourself? You’re afraid to ask your peers, or your subordinates, and sometimes even your family members. But you know you don’t know the answer.
Who is that person you can go to who can coach you through your decision-making process, or help you become self-aware of a strength or weakness that you need to overcome or build upon? I encourage everyone, regardless of their age or status or position at work, to have somebody who can give you a brutal, honest opinion on how you’re coming across, and how you can do better. That could be a coworker. It could be a third party who’s not related to your business or your community at all. You can learn it from books, but the most powerful way is to have someone who you can confidentially meet with whenever you need to, to wrestle through the issues you face.
Whether you call it a coach or a mentor or a counselor or a consultant, I encourage you to have that person in your life that you can count on. That you can lean on to make the decisions you face each and every day, at work, at home, and in your community. Take this out with a little Bruno Mars.
You know that song by Simon and Garfunkel – Sounds of Silence is one of my favorite songs from the 60s. The message I want to share with you today is the power of listening.
How often do we have conversations with somebody and we’re not listening?
You might say, “Oh I always listen to people, and I’m a good listener, and I’m polite.” But halfway through that conversation, do you start thinking about what you’re going to say in response to what they’ve just said? Are you trying to solve their problem as they’re telling you their problem? Are you trying to top their story when you should be just listening? You need to give 100 percent of your attention when somebody is talking.
The story about listening that I want to share with you is about Flight 1549. That’s the USAIR flight that Captain Sully flew into the Hudson River. It was about eight years ago. Captain Sully had just experienced total engine failure and he was speaking with the air traffic controllers and the different people that pilots have to speak to as they leave their airport and travel to their destination.
Listen to the transmission that day and you’ll discover the power of listening and maybe the power of not listening. Two examples – one, the pilot Captain Sully was talking to air traffic control and they were encouraging him to land in Teterboro Airport as he was announcing he was going into the Hudson. They weren’t listening. And then when Sully landed in the water or was about to land in the water, he heard his flight attendants saying “brace, brace for landing.” They were listening to the pilot’s directions and they were following the directions. Listening can be powerful in your personal life. It can be powerful in your corporate life too.
Here’s what I want you to do later today. When somebody starts a conversation with you, discipline yourself to listen that entire conversation. Don’t look at your phone. Don’t look at your laptop. Don’t think about what you’re going to say. Don’t think about how this conversation is frivolous and not important to you. Just focus in on what that person is saying and care about what they’re saying. Give it all of your energy until that person is finished speaking and only then do you respond.
Try that today. You might find it’s hard but it’s important.
Some people are concerned about the crazy life we’re living right now especially in the United States.
Political discourse. Concerns about wars. The environment. A lot of anxiety.
But when I have conversations with people about the days we live in today, I think about the 60s – the 1860s and the 1960s. The 1860s in America, when our country was pulled apart into a civil war that took millions of lives. The 1960s, when we had the Vietnam War and the protests associated with it, the assassination of a president and a presidential candidate and of civil rights leaders, the race riots in city streets all across America, the Pentagon Papers, and into the next decade, Watergate. Those were rough times, but we got through them. We’ll get through these.
There was some amazing music written and performed in the 60s – Vietnam protest songs, civil rights songs. Those songs tell the story and helped many of us get through those days.
What are your songs today that help you get through the years that we’re living through now? What drives you to feel good, or to get angry and go do something about it?
What songs give you peace and serenity? Pick the songs that drive you to get through your adversities, and more importantly get you to do what needs to be done.
Send me a message with your favorite song that keeps you going during rough times, or motivates you to go out and accomplish something meaningful. Share that with me in an email or a message or in a comment here on my blog. I look forward to hearing your responses.
I’m not aware of another classic rock song that has a stronger opening than Neil Diamond’s “America.” First, the violins, and then the drum cadence getting louder and louder during the first 30 seconds of that song. It’s powerful, but so are those words.
“We’ve been traveling far. Coming to America. Looking for freedom’s light burning warm. They’re coming to America.”
They’re looking for the freedoms and the benefits and the opportunities and the rights that this country affords its citizens.
It reflects the diversity of America through its immigration program from a hundred years ago, and its diversity today. It’s a powerful song.
It’s used at concerts, conferences and conventions, and significant events in America.
I used it when I spoke before 3000 high school students at a national conference at Indiana University in Bloomington. That music preceded my opening address, and you can imagine how it got the audience fired up prior to my message.
Songs can do that. They will motivate you to get yourself ready, to get yourself pumped up, to get yourself focused. Or they can bring a memory – reminding you of somebody you love.
Another Neil Diamond song I love is “Sweet Caroline.”
Because I’m a father to a baseball coach and a father-in-law to another one. It’s played during the eighth inning at Fenway Park, at every baseball game. And now it’s played throughout America, at Little League games, high school games and college games.
And guess what my youngest granddaughter’s name is? You got it right. It’s sweet Caroline.
Use the power of music to get you to that next level, to get you focused, and to get you centered.
Tell me what your favorite song is in the comments below or send me a message. I’d love to hear from you. Let’s go out with a little bit of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.” Neil Diamond recently announced his retirement due to health. We wish him the best.
Recently my wife and I returned from a trip to Hawaii. My story is about it being 5 o’clock – which means happy hour.
After my wife and I sat down and ordered our Mai Tais, I turned around and saw a wooden sign that said Life Lessons From Sea Turtles.
Swim with the current. Be a good navigator. Stay calm under pressure. Be well traveled. Think long term. Age gracefully, and spend time at the beach.
Now all of these things the turtle does, and I’d like to hope that I do most of these.
Swimming with the current is one that I probably struggle with. Sometimes you need to go upstream. Sometimes you need to fight the currents. Some of your best lessons are learned when there’s a powerful force up against you.
I hope I’m a good navigator. My wife and children would probably disagree, but here I’m referring to navigating and mentoring people in their careers. If you’ve been mentored, thank that person. If you don’t have a coach or mentor, go find one.
Stay calm under pressure. That’s a powerful message.
Be well traveled. If you haven’t traveled outside of the city or state that you live in, or if you’re from the United States and you haven’t been to other countries, you need to get up and get out and see the rest of the world. You will learn to appreciate people and cultures and governments and geography and topography like never before. And when you come home, you’ll appreciate the country you’ve left – the freedoms, the rights and the privileges that you have.
The next message is to think long term. What is that long term career goal that you have? What wishes and dreams do you have for your family, for your children and grandchildren?
Age gracefully. I’m getting up there in age but I’m enjoying every year more than the previous one. As I have life experiences, I’ve come to appreciate the people I’ve met and the places I’ve been. I’ve learned to be much more grateful.
And finally, I love to spend time at the beach. I always have, from the time I was a teenager out in Southern California at Hermosa and Torrance and Redondo Beach. I thought I was one of the Beach Boys. So let’s take this message out with a little bit of surf and music, from the surfing band of the 60s.
I love that song. The topic this morning is glass half full. Some of you might say the glass is half empty, but I’ve always been an optimist. That glass is half full for me.
Sometimes I’ll hear bad news. There were times when something awful happened in my career. Maybe I didn’t get the sales call. Maybe I didn’t get the promotion. But I always believe that I will learned something from that moment, and I’ll take it to the next step. I’ll take advantage of that moment and believe in myself. Believe in the job. Believe in the mission. Believe in my family and that things will be fine.
How often do you hang out with a negative person and enjoy yourself? It’s difficult. Saturday Night Live has a routine – Debbie Downer. It’s a funny routine where the person is always just complaining and always discouraged – never positive.
You’ve got to believe in yourself. You’ve got to believe in your family, and in your job, and in your company, that things are going to be fine. Sometimes you’ve got to work at it. Sometimes each day, each moment won’t be pleasant, but you’re going to get there.
Let me tell you a half empty, half full story. I was raising money for an organization and I had put together a proposal asking for a million dollars.
My co-workers teased me that I had asked for too much money, and that if I had asked for a smaller gift, I might have been successful. But I kept believing that what I was presenting to that company was the right request.
I waited patiently. I did my proper follow up, tweaked the proposal a little bit so it could be more attractive to that potential donor. Eventually, in fact, it was eight months later, that gift happened. And it was a significant gift to the organization, one that kept renewing for six years. It changed that organization’s fundraising model, changed its reach around the world, and it was because I kept believing that was the right proposal. I kept believing that I could get that glass full. Instead of giving up, and saying that that gift wasn’t going to happen.
If you have a belief in yourself, if you have strength of character and a foundation to get you to the next level, it will happen.
But sometimes you’ve got to look at that glass and say “how do I get it full?”
Does that mean I need more education? Does that mean I need a mentor? Perhaps I need to have some counseling. Whatever it is to get that glass full, that’s what you need to do.
So believe in yourself. Do what needs to be done to get that glass full. And take that song that you just heard and use it as a motivator to keep you going and to shake it off.
Listen to the words of This Is The Moment. They are powerful. It’s one of my favorite songs. This is the moment from Jekyll and Hyde. Turn up the volume real loud when you listen to that one.
It talks about taking advantage of a moment, being ready for it. Reach out and go for that star. Maybe you’ll only hit the moon, but you’re going to be successful.
Let me share a story with you. I was a young man. I had the opportunity to take a position on the East Coast. I was a brand new father. It was a very big position, a big advancement in my career, but I’d be moving my family halfway across the country with a new child, taking her away from proud grandparents.
I dwelled on that decision and chose to take that moment and take that job. That positioned me well for the next ten years of my career. Was it a hard decision? Was it an important decision? Was it a life changing moment? Yes, on all counts. It was difficult for our family. It was a hard job for me, and a difficult job for my wife, but we survived. We were better for it. It was a moment we took advantage of.
Here’s another moment in my life that I’d like to share with you. I was working with an environmental organization and we had decided to give an award to an oil company. After some news hit the papers about something that had happened with that company, we made the decision to not present that award.
That was a hard decision to make. I had to take that moment and decide what I was going to do. I informed the CEO that we would not be presenting that award. He called me one afternoon a few days later. I was sitting in the bleachers watching my son play baseball. The CEO introduced himself and he said, “Bruce, I think you’re making the wrong decision. That award is very important to us, and we would like to receive it.”
I said, “No, sir. We cannot give you that award.”
His response was, “Well, this could be a career-ending decision for you, young man.”
I said, “It’s a decision our board and I have made and we have to stick with it because of the principles and the vision and the mission of our organization.”
Did it end my career? Absolutely not. Did I feel better about myself? You bet. Did it affect my career? A little bit. That’s that’s the power of a moment.
We’re all going to have those moments in our family, in our careers, in our life.
Take advantage of those moments, but also make sure you’ve thought it through – with your spouse, with your parents, with your co-workers or whoever might be that mentor, that person that cares about you, that knows you and can help you make that decision.