You may be tempted to scream -- “don’t do it, Jack!” -- at the outset of this podcast. My conversation with author Jack Gantos, at the Nantucket Book Festival, begins with a choice he made in 1971 that led him to a horrifying year-and-a-half as an inmate in a federal penitentiary. He describes the crime and the time in unforgettable detail. Where did he find the resilience to survive prison, catapult himself to college, and become a prolific and acclaimed author? It begins with reading, which taught him how to “spelunk down” into the emotions. Gantos won the Newbery Medal for his book “Dead End in Norvelt,” and other honors for his young adult fiction and his riveting memoir, “Hole in My Life.” This is a long episode – 50 minutes. I believe you’ll agree that listening to Gantos tell his story is worth every second.
Bob Chapman turned a small, teetering 19th century manufacturing company that served the beer industry, into a 2.5 billion dollar enterprise. He owes his success to a traumatic experience, which forced him to find value that others couldn’t see. He figured out how to protect thousands of American jobs, rejecting the option of cheap, foreign labor. And he developed a new way of leading – focused on empathetic listening -- that he believes can help businesses, families, and our nation thrive. His journey as the Chairman of the Barry-Wehmiller companies is worth hearing and sharing. So is his book, "Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family."
Former NFL Head Coach Dan Reeves, who led the Atlanta Falcons to their only other Super Bowl (and the Broncos to three) takes us beyond the play-by-play. His 101 on the “silent count” – essential for the offense to communicate when the stadium noise is deafening – is a perspective changer. Plus – how to be ready for the Patriots’ master of surprise – Bill Belichick. Reeves shares what he learned playing under the Cowboys' legendary Tom Landry, including what Landry noticed watching game film that others would miss. Cameos from Georgia’s own Super Bowl champ Bill Curry and Nick Buonico
After 52 years of war, on the eve of the signing of a peace deal between
the Colombian government and the FARC guerilla force, I speak with
William Ury, author of a seminal book on negotiating, Getting to Yes. Ury
was part of the Colombian President’s “kitchen cabinet” of peace
advisers. He recounts a risky, secret move, deep in the jungle, that
jump-started the peace process, and an exercise critical to the peace
effort – in effect, writing your adversary’s victory speech, as well as
your own. Ury speaks to us by phone from Cartagena, site of Monday’s historic signing.
Introducing Cathy Salit -- a master of improvisation. Salit started improvising young. When she was only 12, she was so miserable at school, her mother convinced her to drop out and create her own school. She has been improvising ever since. Like any great improviser, when Salit sees a “crappy” situation, she sees an opportunity to create something better. Do you know what happens when you take that improvisational mentality out of the theater and into almost any other workplace? That’s what Salit reveals in her new book, “Performance Breakthrough: A Radical Approach to Success at Work.” What she shares during our half-hour conversation will, I believe, help make your work life a more satisfying production – and your home life too.
“The Sports Gene” author, David Epstein, joins me for a conversation that will empower young athletes, their parents, and coaches. Our launching point is the case of late blooming QB Carson Wentz, the number 2 pick in the 2016 NFL draft. Did Wentz rise to the top despite the fact that he was a late bloomer, or because of it? The answer has profound implications for youth sports. Epstein’s superb synthesis of sports science studies (combined with his personal experience as an athlete) finds that, in most sports, specializing early puts young athletes at a disadvantage as they approach college age. What is the best approach to maximizing a person’s athletic potential? Epstein provides actionable intelligence on the key concept of “trainability.” And it does not depend on 10-thousand hours of practice.
Mary Norris tells me she prefers to be called a Prose Goddess. But Comma Queen has stuck. Norris, a copy editor at The New Yorker for more than 30 years, is author of Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen – just out in paperback. Mary Norris -- with her wonderful sense of humor – helps make us feel more secure in our use of language. She demystifies fine points of grammar and punctuation. She liberates us to break rules that were never really rules to begin with. Her journey -- from a teenager hired to check swimmers for foot-fungus at a public pool in Cleveland -- to published author -- is worth sharing. So is her experience, recounted 23:30 into our conversation, of learning that her brother was becoming her sister (a singer/songwriter known by many New Yorkers) – which leads us back to grammar and the debate over the correct pronoun for transgendered individuals.
Backstage with the pianist who has been called “the hottest classical artist on the planet” – Lang Lang. Featuring a rare appearance by his mom, speaking in Mandarin with such emotion that her son’s translations are barely necessary. Michael first sat down with Lang Lang more than a decade ago, for CNN. Lang Lang had recently graduated from Philadelphia’s prestigious Curtis Institute via China and was emerging as a star. It was the very first international news profile of Lang Lang. Back then,he was not ready to reveal what he shares with Michael now about the struggles of his journey to the top. Lang Lang’s mom shares with us the painful sacrifice she made for the sake of her son’s future. And she movingly describes the piece she most loves to hear her son play and why. He honors her request, for a memorable musical ending to this episode.
The Wavemaker Parenting Wisdom Tour brings you the compelling personal story of Trinity College squash coach Paul Assaiante. He entered a sport without formal training, and took a second tier team to 13 straight national championships. Along the way, through his "imposter syndrome" nightmares, he demonstrated what one can accomplish with single-minded determination, and the collateral damage that can ensue. Coach A shares the painful tale of his son's heroin addiction, and his insights of the young men and women entering college these days: "They look more put together than they’ve ever looked before. They just look perfect. And the first time they face adversity, the fall to pieces like a porcelain doll."
Bill Curry played center in three of the first five Super Bowls, winning with the Green Bay Packers and the Baltimore Colts. One of the great head coaches in college football and an inspiring leader, Coach Curry shares memorable stories of the mind-boggling mental processing that goes on before each snap, the training it takes to withstand the violence of the game, and lessons from football that transcend the sport, including his first huddle with African-Americans and how Vince Lombardi's refusal to tolerate racism helped make the Packers a great team. This episode will help make you the smartest football fan in the room on Super Bowl Sunday.