Waking Up Leroy

A close fishing buddy of mine loved to tell stories that supposedly happened to “good ole boys.”  My favorite is this one about Leroy.

A man who wanted to be a truck driver had to pass a series of tests to get his license. Before the last meeting, he asked the examiners, “May I bring my traveling companion, Leroy? He goes with me everywhere I go.”

The examiners said, “Sure. No problem.” 

The day of the final meeting came, and the examiners presented this would-be trucker with a challenging question. The examiner said, “You’re driving your truck when you come around a curve and see another truck on the one-lane bridge immediately ahead of you. You’re traveling sixty miles per hour and there’s no way you can stop in time. What would you do?” 

“I’d wake up Leroy,” he answered.

“Why would you do that?” 

“He’s never seen a wreck like this one!” 

An application? When you conclude a speech to an audience which has provided you with new insights, you might say, “Thank you for awakening me to the great things your organization has done.”

Doing the Familiar in an Unfamiliar Way

When our son Josh graduated from college, to celebrate in a special way the whole family spent three weeks in Australia. We rented a car for part of our stay. Driving in Australia is a challenge. Getting used to the rotary and unusual words on road signs was a little unsettling, but the part that was most difficult was driving on the left side of the road with the steering wheel on the right side of the car.

As a driver, when I wanted to turn right, I found myself turning on the windshield wipers. Shifting gears was even worse, for I tended to want to pull on the emergency brake. The way I learned to cope was to just stop signaling altogether! No doubt that endeared American drivers to the Australians in my path.

In addition, I had to be careful passing people on the right because I would get too comfortable in that lane. Suddenly I’d see a car coming straight toward me and realize that even though I was in the right lane, I was actually in the wrong lane. I could not get very involved in conversation because of that. As I gazed at the scenery the car would just naturally float to the right side of the road.

Driving effectively there took great focus and concentration. But I knew I’d achieved success when I got back to the airport in the states and took my keys to the right side of the car to drive home!

Doing the familiar in an unfamiliar way can discipline you to pay better attention and learn to focus.

Daniel Boone: Speaking for His Life

Rarely is a speech a matter of life and death, but once with Daniel Boone it was. In Daniel Boone: the Life and Legend of an American Pioneer, John Mack Faragher tells of a time when Boone was speaking for his life and the lives of the other 26 scouts taken prisoner by the Shawnees.

According to Faragher, the Shawnee tribal Chief Blackfish gives him an opportunity to address the issue of why they should not be killed. In essence, Boone gave this argument in front of the tribe. “You have got all the young men. To kill them, as has been suggested, would displease the Great Spirit, and you could not then expect future success in hunting nor war. If you spare them, they will make you fine warriors, and excellent hunters to kill game for your squaws and children.” He went on to persuade Blackfish of the value of adopting the young men rather than killing them.

At the conclusion of his speech, a vote was taken, and their lives were spared. When you adapt to the needs of an audience, you will have a good chance to persuade the audience to accept your recommendations.

Arriving in Style

I spoke in Charlottesville, Virginia, a few years ago, checking into a hotel about two hours before my speaking engagement. Since I needed to be at the engagement by 6:30 and it was a 15-minute ride, I requested a cab for 5:30, allowing myself plenty of time.

After freshening up, I returned to the lobby. No cab.

The hotel clerk told me that the cab would arrive at 6:00. I was a little anxious by this time and started pacing. Six o’clock came and the cab did not. I was getting desperate.

I asked the clerk if I could hire one of the staff to take me. He said, “The van just left for the airport and there is no one here now but me.”

I looked up and down the hall to find anyone I could grab and plead for a ride. No one.

Then the young man behind the desk—clearly a problem-solver—simply handed over his keys and said, “Take my car. I won’t be going anyplace until 11:00.” 

I said, “Are you serious?  You don’t know anything about me.”  

He said, “You need a ride, and I have a car—take it!”  Then he told me the model of the car—a rather old Mazda. He said, “Now the radio is on loud, so you’ll want to turn it off.”             

I ran to the parking lot. When I found the car, I also found he had the seat so far back I could almost lie down as I drove. I practically vibrated to the loud sound of rap music as I drove out of the parking lot. I didn’t even bother trying to lower the volume as I sped off. Well, as much as you can speed off in a 1979 Mazda. You might say I “ambled” off. I made it to my speaking engagement with less than five minutes to spare.

When I got back to the hotel at 10:00, the young man did not want any money, although I insisted on a nice tip. What he was most interested in was how well my speech went. And I told him it went great because of him.

I probably learned more than my audience did that night because of this young man. He taught me the value of helping someone in need, without reservations. I could tell for him this was no big deal. A man needed a ride and he supplied it. I hope I, too, can be that spontaneously responsive to those with unusual needs.

500 Miles

This is not the “500 Miles” Peter, Paul, and Mary sang about.

No, this is the 500 miles my high school classmate and friend, Bob O’Neal, is biking to our 50th high school reunion from Stone Mountain, Georgia, to Bedford, Indiana. When he first emailed me, he was more than half way there. He was trying to average 100 miles a day.

Bob always had a sense of adventure and he still has that spirit at age 67. He got lost on the first day, having not yet traveled ten miles. Then the weather turned sour on him.

Once back on the road he was jumped by a pack of four dogs. In his words, “They had good tactics, with two coming at me from each side.”  He eventually wore them down and they dropped back. Besides admitting that he has a pretty sore backside, Bob is persevering—and with a sense of humor. He ends a journal entry by saying, “Before I bike to my 75th reunion, I plan to move to a nursing home that is within a mile of the reunion location!”

In his last email, when he was within 100 miles of his goal, he wrote, “Would you like to buy a bike?  I’m walking home!” Always joking about something.

Bob illustrates that age is not so much a matter of chronology, but a matter of mental attitude.