387: Make Better Conversation: Key Lessons To Connecting With Anyone

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BECOME A CONNECTOR THROUGH CONVERSATION

Everyone “knows” the importance of communication, but how many of us are actually good at it?

Having great conversations is both a science and an art. Learning to make conversation in ways that allow you to connect with anyone takes work and practice. But the dividends pay off massively in the relationships you’re able to cultivate and grow.

Fred Dust, author of “Making Conversation” shares his insights about how to have interesting conversations and build better relationships.

Scott Anthony Barlow
Tell me a little bit about where your career began.

Unknown Speaker
And well, you have to recognize that I I just, I never believed I'd have a career at all, like I was, I was, it's like, it never even occurred to me that a career and the career was possible for me, I I went to school really wanted to be an actor, believe it or not, like, and everyone in my school went on to like, be cast and like, you know, every single soap opera and movie and whatever, like and, and I, I very quickly learned that's not what's going to happen. And so I was a very disappointed 17 year old, like, sure I wasn't gonna have anything and, and went to school and changed directions about my schooling like 18 different times, like I was studying revolutionary politics and South African politics I studied. And then I decided Finally, I wanted to do art and art history. dropped out of school multiple times went to different schools, like it's like, I mean, honestly, it looked like a pretty much like a train wreck. Getting ready to happen. I found work, working cobbling together a career working with artists who are focused on diversity, inclusion and race and in the 90s, and was able to build something that I can't even tell you, Scott, like, I think I've made maybe $8,000 a year. And then I got paid like with artwork, which turns out by the way to been great in the long run it just at the time, and then was about to go back to school for grad school at for art. And then was like, maybe I should do something more practical, like architecture and did went into architecture, hated the practice. And so then I just wrote IDEO, and was like, hey, do you want to hire an architect and David Kelly was like, Sure, come come work with us. And so that was like, that's what kind of got me to like the 20 years idea that I that I did, but there was also a lot of transitions in that as well. So

Scott Anthony Barlow
so hold on back up for just a second. What even prompted you to write it at IDEO in the first place.

Unknown Speaker
I like many saw the nightline video and like all my other fellow students, we're trying so I had to work my way through colleges, all of those colleges. And so I actually am at Berkeley, I was a designer for Old Navy. Remember Old Navy Old Navy, you know, like that I saw everybody else was like doing really fancy stuff for like, REM cool house and famous architects. And I was just doing retail stores for Old Navy. But it turns out that when I graduated, that was like, the thing people needed people to retailing, like desperately so my thesis advisor hired me, even before I graduated from school, so I never been graduated out of school to work on his retail. And then I kind of the beginning was like, Yeah, I think because extra is where it's at. Like, it's like, it's kind of like, the culture is not that nice. Nobody listens to their clients, like basically like, they're all they're all kind of like trying to do their own work. And I was like, I put this place idea would be pretty cool. And just just to give you a sense, my boyfriend at the time, was a graphic designer. His dream job was to work at I, yo and he was like, don't even dare you when you're young never hired. Like, they're so rigorous. Like, I know, people have been hired for like, haven't been hired for years. And then I've been in whatever. And I wrote this someone called me they're like, can you come in tomorrow? And I had the job in two days. It's actually it's why I think are my I broke my foot. My first breakup boyfriend and I broke up is because that was that was like, he was like, cuz he applied for like, years and never got in. And then like, I just, they just were like, sure. Come on in. We need you. So totally. Yeah. I mean, Scott, it's, it's, it's so what's so hard to realize about transitions, and I think it's important to recognize is that part of it's like, just good timing, you know, and it's like, and and, and I will say that, like, I'm abnormally lucky. And people often say that people who are abnormally lucky, often it's because they could they face the world with a kind of stance of like, why not? You know, it's like, what, what do I have to lose? And I'm sort of stupidly brave about things. And but, you know, when you're going through these transitions so much, it's just like, the right time, the right place, you know, and you know, you hit the right thing. So, and I'm sure you've talked to quite a few people who, who've said things that were sort of similar to that.

Unknown Speaker
Well, I have

Scott Anthony Barlow
is the short answer. However, this is a fascinating topic, to me almost re root, in some ways reverse engineering, what creates that luck, you call it luck. And I do think that there is a luck element to it, as near as I can tell, in my humble opinion, and just giving, being really fortunate to have lots of conversations with people about their paths, and what pieced what the piece different opportunities together. But I'm also curious, I heard you say, you know, I'm sort of stupidly brave in some ways, or have been stupidly brave. What do you think led up to that whole stupidly brave or just, you know, going for it anyways, there's, there's probably something that I'm getting.

Unknown Speaker
Yeah, it's funny, I have, I have grave tattooed on my over my heart, and it doesn't say stupid, be brave. It's like, and what I actually often call it like, because so many people, by the way, don't self identify as brave, right? Like, it's not, it's not, it's not a common quality. And so, if you ask people about courage, they won't, they won't necessarily say that their courage. So I sort of feel like, it's like, it's just kind of the willingness to put yourself out there a little bit like, and it's kind of like an everyday kind of bravery. But what I would sort of say is that, um, you know, there's a theory behind luck, which is that people who believe that their luck, lucky and have second psychologically, are tuned to spot opportunities in a faster way, and be willing to kind of reach it so. So I don't say luck is like, his magic. I do believe that there's actually there's probably a psychology that it has made me feel lucky. And so one thing I can say to your listeners is, like, start by pretending like you're lucky, you know, it's like, and that that helps you. I mean, I did that. I came out by one day, sort of saying to myself, I'm gonna start by pretending I'm gay, just for a day to sort of see if that makes me feel like I'm better. And it and so I was like, and so so if you're, if you're, if you're, if some of your listeners don't feel like they're lucky, just just try it on Friday, pretend like you You see everything is kind of like a lucky thing and see how that plays out. And I love that concept. Yeah. Sorry for me really quickly. Just to answer your question, please. You know, my mom had a serious stroke when I was 24. And her father had a serious stroke when he was 30. And he adopted and, and so I've been pretty much sure that I was on a time limit. And, and so that so at 24 is when I was like, Okay, I'm going back going back to grad school, you know, I can't just kind of like, play around anymore. And, and that's time limit has made me like move a little faster and a little more aggressively. It's also made me be like, I want to meet everyone I can meet on the work in the world, right? Like, I want to, like, I want to talk to everyone and know what everybody is thinking, which has a lot to do with the book, why why making conversation becomes a critical piece of what I do. But, um, but I think that's it, you know, I mean, and here's the thing, Scott, we all have a time limit. Right? So it's like, so mine just happened to be more apparent. But it's another reason why I would say that, having really thinking if you're in transition, to like, Don't slow yourself down, because you know, Time Time is of the essence, you don't, you don't have forever. Um, so so that, that helped me quite a bit, and probably spurred me on to be a little bit more ambitious than I would be otherwise.

Scott Anthony Barlow
That's really interesting, okay, also makes me think about this. I was a weird little kid, well just get that out there. So I remember, when I was seven or eight years old, I remember, you know, like sobbing for all intensive purposes. And I'm like, I only have so much time. It's not something that a little kid often is thinking about in many different ways. So what's really weird for me is to see how much that type of outlook has actually helped in many different ways, or the reasons that you just described like it, it makes being aware of that time limit or being aware of that exploration, as he called it is very motivating in different ways.

Unknown Speaker
I think that's right. And it's like, I will, I will be honest, like many of the key transitions in my life have been triggered by watched by losing somebody or losing something and realizing I had to kind of think about moving forward. But as a little child, it was like, I had a weird thing. I was afraid of the night sky. And I couldn't I couldn't stand what looking at stars. And the main reason was like, I just couldn't handle the notion that I was never lived long enough to build account every star that existed it just like so. But it reminded me of my mortality. Yeah, my father was also an astronomer. And so I think I had like an aversion because I had a great question my father but and but I now love the night sky. And I'll tell you why. I think he should be contemplating a night sky, especially right now at some point. But um, but yes, and I was I was in your kids.

Scott Anthony Barlow
way. Okay. So keeping going on that on that frame, my, my son, who is turning 10, next week, also goes through those same things he has for the last couple of years. Less So on the next guy, but more so on the expert, this idea of exploration, like,

Unknown Speaker
of course, it's a it's a, it's a real thing. I mean, and by the way, I thought I was gonna call out something that you're doing, it's really interesting. One of the principles that I have, or one of the things I've been doing a lot during pandemic is basically you people about who they were at Wells. And, and, and I do that, because it's like, let's let's, I'm dealing with something where we're dealing with an idea, it's like, it's a white woman CEO who's like tall, gorgeous, beautiful. And there's like a black woman, head of HR who has to deal with diversity inclusion, and we're trying to get them into dialogue together by asking them what who they were at 12, you often unpack things that you wouldn't get otherwise. So suddenly, the white woman CEO who's tall, blonde, and beautiful, she reveals that she was Hall at 12 and was made fun of viciously for her entire life, whatever. And suddenly, the black woman diversity inclusion, or the black woman CEO, or whoever it is, his eyes like is like, oh, when I was 12. I am. I just discovered my hair and had so much pride, because I felt strong and emboldened. And so when you get to see each other in that way, you can have a different kind of conversation often so so you did something very skillful with, with the way that you thought you managed your conversation there. Call it out.

Scott Anthony Barlow
I really appreciate that. Thank you for the kind words. And also, that's, you know, just to get a little bit behind the scenes, too. I love that as an approach and technique, partially because I'm just naturally curious about,

Unknown Speaker
Hey, I'm legitimately curious

Scott Anthony Barlow
about your background, and it fascinates me How, how people kind of get to their present day, but also for, you know, knowing that other people are going to listen to this conversation too. It helps to, like you said, it helps to go down paths that we never would have talked about, and I find that you might have a different conversation.

Unknown Speaker
Well, and Scott, it's actually interesting, because you also, like let's, if I if I told you why it was a 12 it's also a transition question because it's interesting, like it welds through about 14. I was like, a closeted gay kid. My father wanted the perfect child. I dated the cheerleader, and I played soccer like that's, that's, that's who I was. And in order for me to kind of even explore that notion that I might be gay, I had to construct what I call a formalized running away. So I applied to a school in France, and got got a scholarship to go. And basically spent a year in France, essentially out, like as a as a gay as a gay kid, and then went back into the closet when I came back into the US. But so, ironically, even then there was transitioning happening, you know, so like, let's remember, it's transitions aren't just work, like, sometimes they are, but sometimes they're about who am I, at my Zen identity? Who am I as a person. And so, you know, there's a lot in there.

Scott Anthony Barlow
Let's talk about that for a minute. We don't actually say that's something that, you know, when we get to help people through big career transitions and life transitions, arguably, behind the scenes, when we're working with people one on one, we get to see those changes of identity. And we talked a lot about that in our internal team. But we don't really talk about that on the podcast a lot, I have realized, as you and I are having this conversation, that it's not when you're going through these types of transitions, one of the things that isn't said or isn't apparent, is you're shifting identity, a lot of the time, not all the time, but a lot of the time. And in many ways to be able to make a successful transition, whatever is whatever individuals are defining this success. There's this observation that we've seen that you literally have to become a different person in some ways. And that's something that we don't talk a lot about. So I'm curious as to your thoughts on that, because you've gone through a lot of transition.

Unknown Speaker
Yeah, well, you know, and it's funny, because I don't know, the book, love people read it, or like, it's 200 pages, but it's pretty sprawling because it covers like a lot of different lives does, and, and I sort of feel like, I've been fortunate enough to kind of accumulate life after life. I feel like people are like, wait, I don't understand, like, you were an actor. Wait, I don't understand, like you were a chief political scientists, like if you're a business and like, if you if you met them, they're like, they're like, they're way younger than me. And they're like, they're like, they've been like, my neuroscientist, just so you know, has also been a Soviet ecologist, a satellite specialist. He was a Disney Channel star, he was a model, he was a producer for the Kardashians. He's, he's a data guy, and that, and now he's my neuroscientist. And so it's like, I just love that. Like, it's like, I just love when it's like, I mean, more is more, right? It's just like, it's like, it's like, it's like, How lucky to have so much experience. And he gives me like, I can't fit anywhere. I'm like, Who cares? Like, it's like, You're like a super genius because of what you do. But um, so I think my strategy this year, you would love and she's, she's that she's kick butt. And so I think you're right, and I'll give you I'll give you a really specific example. Like, we, when my brother died, my brother died when I was, I don't know, I think in my early 40s, in a car accident, and we weren't very close. And so that was a very hard thing. I went through a pretty hard part. And at that point, my husband lived in Los Angeles, we had a house in Los Angeles, all of my work was in Washington, or New York, that I had a house in Cisco. And I was driving to work that week after I he died. And I broke down. And I was like, I have to go back to LA. Like, I have to, I have to see my husband, and who wasn't my husband at the time. And at that point, I was like, You know what, and this is stupid. Like, it's like, why should I spend my life not living with the person that I love. And he was like, I don't want to go to San Francisco. And I was like, I can't move to LA. And so for a full time, so we picked up and moved to New York, and New York. I suddenly was like, I'd always identified as California. And suddenly, I was like, hyper New Yorker. Like, I was like, eating everyone like networking, like crazy going to every party going to every Gala. And that hadn't been me before that like it's like, I was like, I was more like just hung out with my friends and stuff like that. So, so it was fun. And that shift and identity, which is now me, like, I'm also fueled a lot that happened in a conversation. So yeah, you can and by the way, that's okay. Like, as an artist I used to work with us once said to me, try on every mask. And she meant it, like, grow a beard, grow your hair long, cut your hair short, shave your head, you know, it's like but but she also meant, like, anything you want, like trying any mask you want. So I really, and that idea of masks. Scott can help you in a transition sometimes to be like, let me just try this on. You just see what it's like. And then I can always take it off again if I want to, you know, so that's like, it's a nice safe way to experiment.

Scott Anthony Barlow
So then I I love that idea. And actually that's been it puts words to something that has been very Useful for me personally, over the last 2025 years or so is that idea of try on every mask. I've been doing that I didn't necessarily have a way to articulate it at the time I was doing it. But that's really what was happening. And I found that to be a very useful way to think about transition and experimenting with what could be right for you. And so I

Unknown Speaker
love that. And it also,

Scott Anthony Barlow
you know, brings up a whole different

Unknown Speaker
idea of,

Scott Anthony Barlow
well, I guess, a whole different line of questions that jumped into my head for your story, and makes me curious about like, what were some of the, what were some of the other masks that you tried on along the way? And what ultimately led up to you leaving idea because you spend time with?

Unknown Speaker
Yeah, I mean, so I'd slide on. So first of all, I, I built a practice. So I came in as a designer I tried on the Moscow designer was great. And then I came in, and then I became a project manager. And I tried that on the scrape. Then I tried on business development, that was great. So that was really fun for a while. And then I basically started building businesses. And so I was like, Okay, I can be like, sort of, like mini CEOs, like as I started these new businesses. And so we built the space design practice. And that was great. But I was just going to call with somebody who used to work for me. And I was like, like, senior, most executive at Google. Like she's like, doing like amazing stuff there. And different different masks. She's like, yeah, she's wearing really well. And, and then I was like, well, we have all this stuff. That's like, our nonprofit work and our philanthropy, philanthropic work, and our government work. And it was like, let's bring it together and build a business, which meant that I was leaving behind what I knew, which was architecture and space design and service design. And something was like, Yeah, I can design government. Why not? You know, it's like so. So we built this, what ended up being one of the largest practices at IDEO, and had all the organizational change, and had all of the work that we did with the Obama administration. We had I had my phone just went on this morning with the former Greek Prime Minister, I used to work with him on his and his what his work on during the Greek crisis. And, and I had to say, like, I can do this, I can, by the way, there's some masks that I wore, and some I didn't. So I was in Washington, I went into I went, I was all over the White House, I would have dinner in the lunch lunch in the canteen downstairs below the White House, I was in room. And but I was like, Yeah, but I'm not I'm always gonna wear my jeans. Like, it's like, I'll never wear a suit. I tried one day to wear a suit. And I was like, can't do it. And so basically, I was like, Hey, I'm gonna show up in jeans and clogs, or whatever I feel like wearing and you're gonna be okay with it. And they've been fine. But the White House was like you do you? You know, it's like, Elizabeth Warren was like, was a client of mine was like, Yeah, you're, you're all good, like, wear your jeans. And so I'm even now. So that's the other piece of it. Scott is that trying masks, but if if they don't feel comfortable, like if a suit makes you feel cold, which it actually I would always uphold wearing suits, like literally, like I was like, I was like, it's too cold, I can't figure it out. And then don't wear one. You know, it's like, just like, it's like, don't be afraid to, like, be you too, you know, it's like, it's like, don't don't, you know, like, sitting here and running close, because I haven't achieved such things. But that's that's the way it's gonna show up today. So but so I think there you should know the things that are you, you know, and but that are kind of core to you, but also between the time the other stuff that that might be new or interesting.

Scott Anthony Barlow
I think it's really difficult to understand yourself if you don't try all those other things. So let's see how far we can push this mask analogy, I suppose. But I mean it standing up really well. The if you don't have that if you don't have those experiences, then it's gonna be really difficult to have something to stand on to say that Oh, yeah. Like everybody else is dressing them suits as they go to the White House, but like blue jeans. Yep,

Unknown Speaker
yep. Right. So I work I wore a suit the first couple weeks and was just like, this is not working and you're not getting the best meat. You know, it's like so it's like, and I remember being in this thing with like, like Emmanuelle. I think Zeke Emanuel, who's doing healthcare work. And it was in the White House Conference Center, and I was like, in a seat and I was just, like, deeply uncomfortable and like, they just weren't getting and then they did another meeting the next week, and I was like, yeah, forget it. I'm gonna wear jeans and then I got called to the White House when Biden was doing the gun violence work right. So it was like we were doing the stuff after after Sandy and Sandy Hook and Newtown but it's like and then we I wouldn't work. I was like, I'm not gonna work. And it was great. It was like it was it was way better. And so, you know, you have to kind of tune that. But by the way, I want to say some masks. And first of all, culturally speaking, masks have always allowed us to kind of try on different things. It's why Halloween is such a beloved thing, right is that we get to something be a different person for a different day. That's why we all become rich. It's actually why like, when you're single, you're always you always get a date on Halloween, because you get to be like, the person you're not like, it's like, you can pretty much always like, you know, get fine, find the perfect person. But and what's interesting about that is that's culturally speaking, masks also helped us literally, I've seen people do it in conversations where they wear masks, and have different kinds of conversations. And, but also, mouse, trying to mask is a principle a book, right? So if you remember in the book, it says, name things, right, or give us a visual metaphor for things. And so by saying, I'm gonna mask you're actually giving, you're clarifying exactly what it is you're doing. And that visual, I mean, obviously seems like you're fixated on a little bit, as am I now, like that visual really helps us because we're basically like, Oh, we can. It's a visual metaphor, but it's like, so simple, that it really clarifies. And I really encourage us to do that in conversation as well. It's really, it's, and unfortunately, some people who are really good at using visuals. Like, let's, let's, let's name one, the wall, you know, Trump's wall, like that, like he has a really good visual, he's really good at it. And it's one of the reasons why he's able to kind of like, so so essential is things that that that it comes down to these kind of really weird kind of black and white issues.

Scott Anthony Barlow
I think that this is something that this might actually, I'm surprised that we came around to here. So quickly, this might be actually my favorite concept in the book, maybe partially because I love making up words or terms or naming things is one of my favorite things to do. However, you know, I found this particularly helpful to get further in a dialogue that really is meaningful, which is one of the things that I know that you, I'm going to say almost stand for at this point, for lack of a better phrase. And here's an example. Okay, so my team and I realized somewhere along the way, that when it came to not finishing things, we were all feeling apprehensive about talking to each other because we were all a little bit embarrassed in some different ways. And that we hadn't finished the thing. And we hadn't like we've left it to the last second and you know, hadn't asked for help or hadn't done something else. And it caused us not to be able to talk or made it much more uncomfortable when we get so we started realizing like this is a real issue on our team. Like we we just we can't do business like this, we all really like each other and we all you know want to be here, but we're all having the same problem. So they're like, hey, what what can we take that we all know something about that creates this visual image in our mind that we can agree upon is how we're going to ask for help. So we literally took like, the bat signal for Batman and said, Okay, here's, here's the language we're all going to agree to when I am feeling uncomfortable, and slightly embarrassed. But I know that I need to ask for helping Be courageous about it anyways, I'm

Unknown Speaker
going to say, hey, I

Scott Anthony Barlow
need to raise the bat signal.

Unknown Speaker
That is like, that's a genius example of it. Right? So it's like, so it's like, it's a name that it's meaning something it's like, it's like, it's a visual analogy. It's one it's culturally kind of well well known, and his coaching and woman for like, historically. So you can say that across generations, right? Like, you can say that to someone you know, who the bat signal is, like, in a comic book that they read, like, you know, back in the 40s, or whatever. But so it's what's interesting about that is that, um, it's a, it's a great way of it makes it safe to kind of have that conversation because you're like, you're like, Okay, I'm admitting it. And so I love it. When groups name things together. I think there's a really basic example I gave him the book that I really that that it was fascinating for me was, you know, I had to do at some point, I took on a three year project that idea to figure out why there was the volatility in the business because it was like there's the curves up and down in the business. That's that's true of most consultancies. And so I spent three years doing that that's that's one man sky war like it's like the fact that I was the one who was doing all day like everyone was like, you're the crater that but then I was like, doing all the data analytics and business analytics on this. And I am are leading the team that was doing that and I started that project by calling it business forensics. Like I was like, we weren't we were clearly dying. And we need to figure out what the forensics were that were making it making things work and, and it was a bit that comes with very serious, quite dour, pretty, pretty much a downer, as you can imagine. And as we started to get things getting with it, we were like we can fix this. I was like tons of like not Call it business forensics, nobody's liking that. It's like a bad name. And so we changed it to business fitness, because that was something that people could really aspire to. And like they can really kind of think about it. But in retrospect, and I only thought about this while I was writing the book is that in retrospect, those names serve their purpose. So when we say called a business forensics, we were saying, we're gonna die. Or like, we're dead, you know, there's like, yeah, take take serious, like, really focus, understand what happened. And so like, you know, you know, there's like architectural forensics, which is like, when a building collapses, like, what, why didn't it collapse, and, and then when we call it a business fitness, it was fun. And it was something we could aspire to. And there were clear goals, and everybody was like, we're getting business fit. And that was, and so it did both. It was really, it was like a really, really good thing. It's like, so um, so it really it it. It mattered? And did you want to talk about why I left idea?

Unknown Speaker
Is that the idea?

Unknown Speaker
I'm having a lot of fun, we're

Scott Anthony Barlow
going a lot of different places. I do want to talk briefly, I want to talk briefly about why you left IDEO. And then I want to there's some, there's some pieces I'm fascinated about that I think you did a phenomenal job with in the book that I want to ask you about. And we will come back there Don't worry. Yeah. Why did you? Why did you leave it here?

Unknown Speaker
But what was it like? Everyone's dream company? Like how could you I mean, I looked at you for a couple of reasons. And I think these will resonate for your for your listeners. And I left, in part because the election happened. And all of my clients, like who were big NGOs, Planned Parenthood, AARP had to focus on basic human rights. Obviously, it wasn't working with the government anymore. The last project was a surgeon general, but he got fired. And I do through the work that I had helped to do with business fitness had sold itself, which we needed to do it, I decided to focus only on major major companies. So not focus on the kind of weird work that I liked. And it became less free and risk taking. And for me, at least, like people didn't, didn't like let me take the risks that they let me take all the way through the process. I unfortunately, in the in the process of doing business fitness became sort of known for somebody who would go in and shut down offices. So and by the way, like shutting an office, they say it makes you grow in mind, but it doesn't make you a better person, to be honest. Like it's like firing 40 people, like maybe something that's like really a powerful thing, but it doesn't make you and by the way, my heart goes out to everyone who's having to do that right now. Because people are having us out left and right. And also my heart goes out to all the people who've been fired. And whatever it's like, it's like, there's, there's no, there's no good part of that process. And I have a friend who just had to do a major layoff and I was like, you'll never feel good about yourself. Don't try, like it's like, it's like it'll it'll you'll do it. Don't Don't try to make it an okay thing. And so, at some point, I was like this is this is I'm not feeling the job, I'm not feeling joy. And also, I was feeling a little taken for granted. Like, I felt like, I had done all this stuff and wasn't given the kind of freedom I didn't become the global Managing Director, and all kinds of stuff like that. And I was like, I'm good. I can do this. Like, it's like, and but at some point, I have to like, leave. Because I was like, what's me? And what's ideal. I just couldn't I couldn't separate it. And so I was like, Oh, don't think that it's beats you. It's actually idea. And I was like, I think it might be more than me than just being idea. I think it might be something in me. And I found out it was it was me. And so it's like I've got a lot of ideas in me. I love ideas still, like I still talk to I need to talk to x ideal people. But it's like, this is me and I had to find me. And and that's that's kind of the work I've been doing for the last couple of years. Does that make sense?

Scott Anthony Barlow
It totally makes sense. It also makes me wonder what was there in an event or a set of events that really triggered making the final decision. I get what the lead up was that totally makes sense to me.

Unknown Speaker
What Yeah,

Scott Anthony Barlow
clinched your decision.

Unknown Speaker
I mean, it's like I'll, I'll lead. Let me let me let me think about how how I can be most respectfully honest knowing that this is going to be public, but it's like, but I feel like I had a little I had a backlash moment. I was I was the managing director of New York location without all the lights. I like didn't think that New York was gonna was doing great my business perspective. And I had a little there was a rebellion against me, and it was fine. Everybody was like, no worries. Like you can do whatever you want. Like, it's like we don't want you to If nobody wanted me to go, like, it's like, um, but it left a really bad taste in my mouth, because it's like I it was like, it was two people in a group of like, you know, 50 that did it. And I'll tell you, I have a friend who's a white woman and a mostly an organization that she really diversified. And I had to, I had to talk with her recently, because she decided to step down as the CEO of the organization. Yeah. And I was, like, you know, I did two things, I was like, this sounds a little bit more like bullying than it sounds like, which, which was, it was kind of what I felt was happening to me. And then and then it feels like, I'm, like something else. And I was and I said to her is, like, try on what it feels like, not to go to work. Like, so it's the same thing. It's like the same thing I said earlier, like playing the mask of being gay or trying the mask. And so it was like, trying to mask of like, you're not going to go to work today, and you're not going to be bullied by this person. And so, I sat down to my career navigation meeting with, with my CEO, and my CFO who I adore. And they, I was like, you know, they were like, they were like, don't leave, like, stay for a year. And I was like, you know, I could stay for a year. But then I lose a year. And so I was like, maybe I will, maybe I won't. And so I was like, give me a month, I took a month tonight, and then I quit. But I think what's interesting about that is that, um, and because they really didn't want me to, they really didn't want to go. And so um, but what was interesting about the, the, that that moment was just basically a, here's an interesting fact. So McKinsey has this interesting thing, where at 50, they're probably they're like, really encouraging you to leave. And by 55, if you're not, if you're not out there, basically, like we're gonna, like, we're gonna just pay you a year. And we think you should just go out because their belief is, if you don't, if you don't become something different, by the time you're 55, you're not going to be you're never going to become something different. You'll always be a McKinsey person. And so I talked to a partner of McKinsey, who basically told me that story. And this happened to me when I was 15. When I when I was going to die, and I was like, wow, you know, it's like, I leave now. And I find myself, you know, I'm sitting here now, it's like I'm, or I don't. And suddenly, I found myself at 55. And I can't get out. And all my friends were there now at 55 or more can't get out. Like they just can't, they can't imagine themselves and something else. So. So it was interesting. You know, like I said, we go through transition over and over and over again. And Was that too much? Right?

Scott Anthony Barlow
Was it too much? It maybe it's too much in that I have 14 questions running around in my head, and that we're probably not going to have time to get to all of them. However, this concept of I'm going to call it getting out well, you can Yeah, getting down become before you become almost too vested or can't imagine life differently. We it. I mean, we delve into what happened behind the scenes a little bit earlier. But I'll tell you that one of the things that we see again, and again and again, is by the time we start talking with somebody about a career transition, so many people who've been like, yeah, I've actually been thinking about this for eight years. Yeah. And they haven't done anything about it. Initially, when they started thinking about it, they maybe took a little bit of action on it, but then they stayed, and then they got into that point of no return. And then only when it got bad enough to the point where they just couldn't do it anymore, in some way or another. Then now, three years later, eight years later, sometimes we just talked to somebody the other day, 15 years later, and now it's like, Hey, I can't ignore this anymore. But they were in that point of no return that you're talking about.

Unknown Speaker
Yeah. And, Scott, that's a really interesting thing, because I sort of feel like, and by the way, this also relates back to the book, which is like I sort of feel like that's a place where you really need to trust your gut. Like, as you know, one of the first proper commitment is basically like, commit to the conversations that you're in convincing the people you're in the conversations and that you're in and, and by the way, it feels like it's unsafe, and nobody's actually like making a plan for the conversation. Don't right and so I'll give you another interesting weird example. Like I, I was up for an amazingly interesting job. I got the job. I was like, I was literally the, the CEO, I flew out to the Bay Area. This was like this was last year. And and it was I was like a small nonprofit that I was going to do something really transformative with like, they were like, unbelievably excited. And weirdly, I hadn't met anyone except for like a couple people on the board. So I was like it was it was a very strange sequestered little search. And as we got into it, they realized that And there's no answer I never graduated from from grad school like, so I like it's like, and so and and I'm pretty transparent about that often when I lecture, I'll just be like, yeah, I never graduated. And I'm fine with that. And I do do that. And it's like, but the problem is that over the years, it gets slippery. Because like, sometimes like the time, you'd still say, oh, Fred just got a BA in architecture. And it's like, hard as hell to get back to do so like weird stuff. So that came up, like the day I was flying out there. And they were like, this is not okay for us with our organization. And I was like, I get it. And they're like, but it's okay. Just come in, meet with the board and the staff, and you're going to be so charming, that they're going to, they're going to let you go on this. And I was like, that's not a plan for a conversation. That's actually like you just relying on me being super charming. And I was like, unless you can guarantee me that there's a plan that we're going to put next. And that's the plan, like, that's not a plan, and then I'm not going to go in the room. And so I resigned. And so, because I could not agree to a conversation that was gonna make me feel unsafe. And without there being some kind of rules in place to make that conversation.

Scott Anthony Barlow
Let me ask you about this idea of No, I don't. Well, yes, it is weird, unfortunately. I would say unfortunately, that more people don't look at it that way. Because I believe that it creates far better interactions, conversations, relationships that result from those conversations. And this idea of building a conversation plan or creating a conversation plan is something that I, I wish I could say I always get that. However, you know, I started finding a need for a way back when I was in HR leadership, and started to recognize that, as was, I don't know, you talked about people getting getting fired, you know, as it was having those types of really what should I call them? Important interactions with people that changed how they look at their their job, or how they looked at the organization, recognize that when I went in and just was charming, then it wasn't working out very well. Apparently, I'm not as charming as I think I am. But when I went in with a plan, when even when it started, like I'd pull out and just literally do three bullet points of what that was my first plan way back when, but I recognize now that that is so powerful planning beforehand, it changes the course and dynamic and interaction. So tell us about this idea behind the plan, and what can people do to plan for conversations?

Unknown Speaker
Yeah, and you know, and so let me let me be clear, as I send a book, like, not every conversation needs a plan, maybe more, more than more medium than you think, you know, I would say but it's like, you know, gossip and chatting, and all those things like Don't, don't overthink those things. Those are amazing. Just do it. That's fantastic. But but but there are conversations, and there's sometimes cousins that you think are docile and charming, and whatever they're actually not. And they actually probably need a little bit more thinking behind them. So, and I still like the really simple construct that I put in the book, which and I call it a conversation notebook, which I know is and it's just one small thing, because it's like, I think a lot of people don't like the word journaling, including me and like it's so overused now. It's like so like journaling, or like diary didn't feel right. So it's like, it's just a notebook. You know, it's like and, and what I what I've asked him to do is to keep track of the conversations that they felt like really worked, and what it was about those conversations, what what's their hunch about? What made that conversation work? And what were the ones that didn't work? And what is their times? And that becomes a really great inspiration source. So my book is that for me, right? Because it's like, basically, it's basically a, it's a notebook of all the things that worked and didn't work, and, but it's like, I think it's more useful if you have your own. So it's like, you know, you can please buy the book, you can see you can definitely steal mine, but it's like, and you should, but also build your own like, what what are the plans that what inspires you? What feels natural to your voice? You know, so it's like, we talk a lot about like, this idea in the book of, of using your real voice, like, it's like, it's like what's authentic to you? Like, if you don't, don't be mean, you know, or don't be you like, be are you Scott, no, you be you. But like, it's like that that's what you're doing is like it's kind of thinking about how what's gonna feel most right to you.

Scott Anthony Barlow
Something I wanted to ask you about? Well, so this it has a little bit to do with the plan, but also something that you said earlier, which is not not every conversation needs a plan. Not every conversation really requires that, right? But you talked about this idea of picking the conversations that you want to commit to, right and that's the first time I've heard it. That idea in that particular way, and you talk about, you know, what types of conversations those even are to define that tickle. Yeah. Tell me about First of all, where the idea of picking the conversations that you want to commit to came from? And then what are those conversations that you should commit to or take the time to, you know, build a plan around or declare as important or whatever else it might be?

Unknown Speaker
Yeah, and, and stuff that's really interesting. And I will tell you, I made it up. And what happened is, I was giving a lecture on the book that because I often have to talk through things to kind of work out what was right for the book. And so I didn't give a lecture. And I, it was really, there was six seeds. There was not commitment, which is the number one, which is the first diversity. And so I could tell that everybody thought the 60s were amazing. And they were like, like, you know, everybody's got their phones and they're taking three. Like, I'm like, working and my lectures are highly visual, and like, whatever. And they're impromptu. But at the end, somebody asks a question like, well, what happens when I hate somebody or somebody hates me? Or there's a political divide? It's so deep that we can't even do it? Or how do you imagine doing this in America today? And I was like, Oh, right, somebody should be asking. And I was like, I don't have an answer. And I was, like, I, that's when I said, you need to commit. Like, it's like, you have to commit to the person and commit to that conversation. And keep your values in check. Like, hold them back for a little bit. And, and what's interesting is that applies to almost everything. So it's a, it applies to politics, you know, so it's like the I have conversations with people who are very different from me, you know, it's like, it's like, so you're Trump or Fighting, fighting, voting, friends, whatever it is, I'm really a political though. I'm not a fan of whatever, but it's like, but um, I, I love I love us. I mean, it's just like, it's like, but but what I would say is that I'm, I, I can no, you know, so it's like, I have to talk to a very senior state's person, a former potential president. And, and early on, like, tell her people in the pandemic know, she's gonna turn on her zoom, she's gonna get on zoom review, he doesn't want to write and, and so I was here the other day, and there's like a guy's bow hunting on our property. And he had this big Trump sticker on his truck, and he's out there with his son bow hunting. And I was like, Oh, I probably don't want to go talk to them. And I was like, Wait a second. If I can go, if I can tell, like a former potential president to turn on the resume, I can talk to my Hunter. And so are like this Hunter. And so I just, I like one town is like, Hey, what's your name? What's your son's name? Like? It's like, what do you what are you looking for? And like, it's like, I was like, maybe in the future, just ask if you're in 100 property. We're totally cool with it. Maybe some venison, you know, it's like and, and we had a great conversation. And it was like, it was lovely and loving. I know his name. Like, he knows my name. He knows my husband's name, my son's name. And so that's like, I'm just gonna commit. And that's that, that takes some bravery. And but but but it but it was, it was it was a good moment. What I will say, and I think it's actually really applies to a lot of people who you might be talking to, is that, if, and if you're finding it, people who so often, like I asked us on boards a lot where people like, I don't really believe in this organization. I don't really believe this organization can make it work. And but it's important for me to stay on the board, because I'm like, the naysayer that helps people kind of realize, like, what, what the truth is? And I'm sort of like, Yeah, no, get off the board. And it's like so and so I want to I want to say that if you happen to be in a company organization where you find yourself being the continuous naysayer, and that might be telling you something, it might be telling you that it's not the right organization for you. And you might think you're invaluable because of that, but it might be sort of like, and that's not. And so, it's different

Scott Anthony Barlow
than committing to the conversations when nothing is not, it can feel like that's what that means. But it sounds like that's not what you mean, when you say

Unknown Speaker
that. That's right. And so what I would say is like, um, and that was like a living book. So commit to the conversation. And if you find that you're you can't commit, then get out of the conversation, it's gonna make a lot better for everybody else like and and it'll make it better for you too, because then you'll be in one less conversation. So I would say that if you're in an organization where you feel like you're finding yourself in a place where you're like continually grappling with, with being contrary, you may actually, in fact, be having an issue where you really don't feel committed to what that organization is doing. Or you feel like they it's not committed to you. So, um, so I would say like, commit until it doesn't, but if it feels unsafe, don't like them, then get out. But if you're a voice of difference, hesitate on getting out because we might need you more. You know, so if like, you find yourself being the only, I don't know, gay man are white like gay man on a on an organization's board, like maybe don't step off, you know for that for the moment, but it's like, so I just think we have to be really careful with it but but it's it's, it's essential. Last thing I'll say spot is during the pandemic. If you can't commit, then it's one last one less meeting for you so awesome. Just like don't go. It's like, if you're not essential to the conversation, don't go. Like it's like you need more time.

Scott Anthony Barlow
I feel like that is a that's a really interesting note to transition out of this conversation on in some ways, I feel like the pandemic is training for prioritization in some ways. But I just want to say before we go here that first of all, I appreciate how you look at conversations. And just just to be clear, named the book again, it's called making conversation, seven essential elements of meaningful communication. And also, thanks for thanks for making this conversation. Super fun. I appreciate it.

Unknown Speaker
Let me Likewise I thought you did a fantastic job like it like you get it you get like a solid a on making conversation. So that I feel

Scott Anthony Barlow
like that means a lot from someone who wrote a book on making conversation. So I appreciate that very much. And we are off officially at this point. But I

Unknown Speaker
two things. Actually,

Scott Anthony Barlow
you know what, we didn't capture it at the beginning, can you tell just really quick so we can snap a audio clip of where people can find out more about you or where they can get the book? Sure.

Unknown Speaker
Yeah, please. And if you want to find out more about me my work or the book, just go to my website, making conversation calm and check it out. You might also subscribe to what will be a newsletter, but in fact, is going to be a new curriculum that we're going to be putting out through WhatsApp. And so it'll be like a 32nd. How to make conversation every day. curriculum. So so stay tuned for that. Nice.

Scott Anthony Barlow
That's exciting. That is, that is I like the link the ingenuity around that. My second question is just how can I How can I be helpful to you?

Unknown Speaker
Um, you know, first of all, you're already being helpful. And and just to be honest, even reading the book is like, is like a joy, as you know, like, when you write a book, I don't know if

Scott Anthony Barlow
you've read, but yeah, a few books. And we're in the process of writing another one. We were very nice books,

Unknown Speaker
and now we're doing a much bigger one. Oh, good. It's like, I mean, you know, it's hard work. And so you're like, just like, your like your, your value, anyone who actually reads it. But um, I will say, Well, first of all, we don't care when you drop it. So you can drop it whenever you want. Like, it's like, I know that my publicist is really exciting. And they have reasons for saying like later, but it's like, if it's if it's valuable man, or, or whatever you tell me whenever you want to do it.

Scott Anthony Barlow
I think we're slated for if I recall, correctly, I think we're slated for a month and a half out to

Unknown Speaker
whatever you want. Like,

Unknown Speaker
I appreciate

Unknown Speaker
that. Like we have, we have like, we have stuff booked through like 2021 at this point to the end of it, but I think that, um, that so that's one thing and then yeah, I mean, that's, that's when you're gonna do it, then it's just like asking people to buy the book because is the biggest thing. I mean, right now, our biggest issue is you need to show pre order numbers. And because we need to kind of get stuff out there. So for it so one thing you could do for me Actually, Scott is if you've read that book, and you're and you're and you've got followers, either on social media or whatever, you could, you could actually just ask people to preorder the book. I mean, if you felt like it, like you just be like, I read this book, I thought it was great. Do you

Scott Anthony Barlow
have um, do you have if you can send me or have someone on your team send me a link to directly where to preorder so yeah, we're getting that right then I'm happy to do that. I enjoyed the book immensely. I don't I get a lot of books. I don't enjoy every single book that I've ever read immensely. I usually find one or two good things out of it. But I actually really enjoyed your book immensely, especially as I'm sort of going through the process of writing another book for myself. Oh,

Unknown Speaker
yeah. Good. Well, I mean, I I'll tell you like the two tricks got me to writing fix, you've probably noticed already is like 800 words a day. Like that's like, like literally, like just go 800 words like just like, do it and then because 800 words are used to get like two pages. And then the other one is I got this from like an Uber driver. Oh, yeah. In LA like this driver who, who basically was like, right where you are, so don't feel like you're right, like so. So basically, it's actually turns out it was cribbed from Shonda Rhimes, who basically is like, there is no writer's block. You have to write where your head is. So don't feel like you have to be writing In one chapter, if you're waiting to be writing another one, appreciate that.

Unknown Speaker
Yeah, and next time I get to

Scott Anthony Barlow
get the main You're my first call then

Unknown Speaker
yet well, I mean next time I get to the middle of Washington, middle of nowhere, Washington.

Unknown Speaker
Wonderful to meet you and

Unknown Speaker
yeah, I would love to stay in contact Have a great one for you to hang on. I like right

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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