Thursday, December 14, 2017

My Two Favorite Questions

I carpool with this guy to work every morning. It's now that I should mention I leave for work at 4:33AM. Yes, the answer is that it is freakin' early. I should also mention that my carpool buddy and I, complete the wake-up process in differing styles.

He gets up a full hour before I pick him up. He starts his coffee pot! He takes a shower! He drinks his coffee! He reads the newspaper! I think he also does a lot of his personal administration as well, like balance his checkbook and calls his mom!

On the other hand, I wake up 13 minutes before I pick him up. I brush my teeth, throw on my clothes, do a 5-minute meditation and I run out the door. No light comes to my eyes until I actually get to work.

The bottom line is that we are at completely different phases in the waking up process when we greet each other. I'm groggy and just want to be left alone. He's been up for an hour and wants to have a big discussion about the nuclear proliferation article he just read in the New York Times.

I look forward to the Monday and Friday drives because I have the two best questions in the universe in my back pocket. On Monday he gets in the car and I say, "how was your weekend" and if it's Friday I say "what are you doing this weekend".

Think about it: you're stuck in the breakroom with that awkward co-worker; your Aunt Joe Joe just stopped by to say hello; you're on the phone with your mother. All perfect times to use the two best questions ever invented.

I love this question(s) because you're going to get a lot of meat and you don't have to work really hard. Back to my dive at 4:30am. He wants to chat and I want to roll over and get five more minutes of snoozing in.

I throw him this question(s) and he gets to take it where ever he wants. If he wants to spend five minutes telling me about the secret date he has planned for his wife-- he can. If he wants to give me the complete agenda of the weekend activities-- he can. While he's talking, something will jog my interest and I'll usually interject a comment. But I don't have to because the ball is in his court. Because the onus is on the other person and their weekend, you get to choose how much you interplay in the conversation.

But the real reason this question(s) is so beautiful is that it gives you a pretty direct view into someone's life. You might find out that you work with a rockstar as your co-worker moonlights in a band. Your Mom might reveal she's trying to clear her mind by taking Tai Chi. Aunt Joe Joe might tell you she's going to the funeral of her best friend this weekend.

Your teeing things up, so that whoever you're talking to can share about what's important to them and in return you might get a chance to make a connection.

Theoretically, a weekend is between 48 and 60 hours if you include Friday night. If when you ask this question(s) you don't really get a response, maybe the person truly has nothing going on in their life or they don't want to share it with you. Either way, you did your part by lobbing them a softball to try and get a conversation going.

I know what you're thinking - what do you ask the rest of the week? On Tuesday you can still get away with the "how was your weekend" and Thursday you can still go to the "what are your plans for the weekend". On Saturday and Sunday, you can just say, "do you have any plans for the rest of the weekend".

So it's only Wednesday that you're stuck without the two best questions in the universe.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Tyler Fredrickson Survivor Interview

What is it like to be a cast member on the TV show Survivor? My buddy Tyler Fredrickson spills the CBS beans, plus he tells us if he has Jeff Probst's cell phone number.

From time to time I will actually stop writing about the voices in my head and actually ask questions. We will test out my big time theories about questions on actual people. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Philz Coffee Interview

Phil Jaber is the coffee guru of San Francisco. Phil invented the single pour-over cup of coffee(yes, Phil invented it). The ultimate brew-master tells us why his coffee tastes better than rest and how "Ambrosia- Coffee of God" was made!

From time to time I will actually stop writing about the voices in my head and actually ask questions. We will test out my big time theories about questions on actual people. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Sal Castaneda Interview

Sal Castaneda is a Bay Area media legend. He takes us behind the curtain at KTVU and tells us what HDTV has done to his search for nose hairs!

From time to time I will actually stop writing about the voices in my head and actually ask questions. We will test out my big time theories about questions on actual people. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Question Homework

I have never been a big fan of homework (my grades throughout school reflected that.) I went to so far in college to declare that I would never do homework on a Friday or Saturday (my grades definitely reflected that.) I do remember one of my college professors once saying that if I just came to class, I would pass. If I did extra work (homework) I'd get an A or a B.  The same applies to being a good conversationalist. If you only listen to the person you are talking can fake your way through the discussion. But if you go home and digest what that person said to you earlier in the day, you'll remember more of the conversation and you'll be able to have a much deeper discussion with that person the next time you chat.

Occasionally at my work I will walk with someone from the parking lot into the radio station, if we both arrive at the same time. It takes about 10 minutes. One time I was walking with a co-worker who I knew had just bought a house. I asked how it was going, how the process of buying went, if it was her dream house, what they had to do to fix it up. She eventually asked if I owned or rented and then if I was ever going to buy a house. I said funny you should ask, we put an offer on a house the day before and we're waiting to see if it was accepted. I see that co-worker just about every day. Do you know how many times she followed up with me to see if we got that house? Exactly ZERO times!

I thought we had a pretty cool little conversation (as cool as you can have with a co-worker.) I'll give her credit and assume she was listening to me, but as soon as we went our own tidbit that I was waiting to hear back on buying a house went right out of her brain.

Anybody that has ever bought a house knows its a big freakin' deal. Like, your stomach is in knots until it gets resolved. If you have ever gone through the can sympathize with someone who is going through it.

I just kept thinking every time I bumped into her following our conversation, she would check in and ask how it went. She never did.

For most of us, if we don't intentionally review's gone forever.

A counselor once told me that if you get into the habit of replaying your day right before you go to bed, you will be able to notice habits - good and bad. You'll also be able to see the pattern to what your favorite parts of the day are. After undertaking this exercise for about two weeks, I began to realize the favorite parts of my day were always conversations where I connected with people. I shared something and then they shared something back and a genuine connection was made. What the exercise showed me on a practical level was that I was much better at connecting with people -- if I remembered what we talked about.

Doesn't it mean a lot when you see someone you haven't seen in a while and they follow up on something you talked about last time? "How was that job interview you had last week?" How is your cousin Bob that had the kidney transplant?" What it practically means is that they remembered you. Now some people just have a great memory, but others intentionally go away and think about you and your situation, process it and file it away for future use. Just having someone remember your name is cool, but what an honor it is to have someone think about you when you're not standing in front of them.

I am awful at remembering names. I can't remember where I put my keys and wallet half the time. I leave articles of clothing everywhere across the city. The point is I don't have a great memory in general, but man I remember random facts about people's lives that I've talked with and it's usually because I spent time thinking about them after the conversation.

The best part of this homework is that it doesn't take very long to make information stick, One minute or two at the end of your day is all you need to process something and file it away.

P.S. If I could figure out how to make a Wikipedia entry about myself it would read: Never studied on a Friday or Saturday in college and invented the phrase "Lets Do This"!

Who should talk now?

I want to start with a very big disclaimer: I am a big fat nobody! I am not just saying that to be humble. Ask my wife if you don't believe me.

Ever since I was 19-years-old I have been somewhat in the spotlight. When I was a sophomore in college I was an intern for a radio station's morning show.  People that listened to that radio station knew me as Intern Harry Larry. Being on the radio, most people have no clue who you are. But every once in a while, someone will find out and say, "hey, you're that guy that they made eat yellow snow"!

For just about half my life, I've had a job that people are interested in. My first internship out of college was for was a big time radio show in LA and everyone had questions about the hosts. I've been at TV stations and radio stations and I've gotten the, "what's so and so like" question about a million times. People usually want to know about my job as well. We'll call it the "glamoressness" of my career!

I remember the first time that I hosted a real morning show myself. At radio station events people would always come up and want to talk. They'd ask me questions. I always thought that was funny because every morning I would be sharing about myself on the show. So when I would meet fans of the show (yes I had fans), I would always say, "you know all about me already, what about you?"

I have a muuuuuuuuuch lower profile job then I used to, but every now and again someone will come up and want to meet me.  It's always a kooky experience. But the most recent incident involved my mother-in-law wanting to introduce me to her friend because she knew he listened to me all the time. That was flattering. Having someone tell my mother-in-law, "wow, can you introduce me to Larry?"

It was a long time family friend and it was great. And I don't know how to describe the experience, but when you're in the situation when someone wants to meet get this feeling like you want to talk at them. It's like they are staring at you and saying, "can you give me a private TEDtalk about your life please?"

For some reason this alarm always goes off in my head telling me that it's this other person's chance to talk to me, I already got to talk to them when they heard me on the radio. This particular person heard me giving a traffic report and I immediately asked him where he worked and how long it took to get there. It led to a great discussion about his life and morning routine.

A great discussion considering I was about 5 seconds away from giving him a 10 minute lecture on the finer points of being a bonafide traffic reporter. But instead I asked questions of him and in turn I got to put a face to my unknown audience. I get to think of Ed when I'm giving my traffic reports and thinking that he actually cares about what I am saying makes me better at my job.

How many times does this happen in real life? Maybe it's when one of your children asks you a question or a co-worker compliments you or someone you meet at a party likes your profession. We feel as if this person has just entitled us to give them a discourse on the meaning of life.

You know what these people are looking for? Connection! The guy in his car wants to know what the guy giving his traffic report looks like and he also wants someone else to know that he drives for an hour each way to work to provide for his family.

When an actual person is standing in front of you, and starts off a conversation with a flattering comment, they probably don't want a lecture (they can go get that on YouTube). They want a connection! But what do you want? Do you want to feel important and talk at someone and make sure they know you are a big deal and that yes, you do live up to the standard of the compliment they just gave you?

Or....... are you waiting for people to open up the door just a little bit so that you can start a real conversation and make a real connection? It's not easy. Flattery puts us in a mood to flap our mouths about ourselves. Wanting to build connections is a mindset. Stop Talking. Ask Questions. Change The World.

Just in case I haven't mentioned, I am not a big deal. I am in fact just a scumbag traffic reporter!