Rich routinely works with companies, firms, and individuals across the country looking to establish sustainable change and improvement in their approach to achieving their business and culture goals. Rich is a frequent speaker and writer on topics such as emotional intelligence, leadership, goal setting and achievement, sales/client service, and presentation skills.
Over the last few years, he has been featured through such media channels as Fox News, CBS News, Vice, Reader's Digest, Thrive Global, and has worked with such global organizations as MDRT, Meeting Professionals International, and the Legal Marketing Association. He’s here today to talk about how he uses his experiences as a DJ who has traveled the globe delivering block rockin’ beats to help others further develop their emotional intelligence.
Billy asks Rich:
--Tell us the story about your first wedding DJing gig? What lessons did you take from that experience?
--One of your keynote presentations is an actual dance party where you incorporate your DJ talents and experience into your presentation. How does this presentation help others “tune in” and “turn up the volume” on their emotional intelligence?
--Tell us about the nuances of being a DJ and how those nuances helped you develop a growth mindset that you use to help businesses with their leadership and employee engagement.
--Talk about the importance of reading a room in social and business settings.
--During the pandemic, I imagine you have had to evolve as a presenter. How have you evolved and how are you helping businesses evolve?
--You’ve talked about the importance of having long-term goals broken up into short-term goals. How did you use that to approach your weight loss journey? How did you use those to get back on track when setbacks derailed you along the way?
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Rich: There were like 2,000 kids dancing their heads off and there was one little girl when I played a song that she just was folding her arms and wasn’t impressed and was just staring at me and I couldn’t quit thinking about that one little girl because I wanted everybody to be having a good time. So, there’s 1,999 other kids losing their marbles and there’s this one little girl judging me and I’m like, “Oh, little Katie is not happy. Oh my gosh, I must be the worst DJ ever.” But I think that taught me the value that you’re not going to make everybody happy. Not everybody’s going to love your stuff, and that’s okay, like I am not everybody’s cup of tea but I am definitely a lot of people’s shot a bourbon and I’m okay with that.
Welcome to The Mindful Midlife Crisis, a podcast for people navigating the complexities and possibilities of life’s second half. Join your hosts, Billy and Brian, a couple of average dudes who will serve as your armchair life coaches as we share our life experiences, both the good and the bad, in an effort to help us all better understand how we can enjoy and make the most of the life we have left to live in a more meaningful way. Take a deep breath, embrace the present, and journey with us through The Mindful Midlife Crisis.
Billy: Welcome to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. I’m your host, Billy. Brian is currently in a business meeting so he will join us whenever he has time. Today, we have Rich Bracken. Rich is a global keynote speaker, media personality, and award-winning sales and marketing executive. Rich routinely works with companies, firms, and individuals across the country looking to establish sustainable change and improvement in their approach to achieving their business and culture goals. Rich is a frequent speaker and writer on topics such as emotional intelligence, leadership, goal setting and achievement, sales client service, and presentation skills. Over the last few years, he has been featured through such media channels as Fox News, CBS News, Vice, Reader’s Digest, Thrive Global, and has worked with such global organizations as MDRT, Meeting Professionals International, and the Legal Marketing Association. He’s here today to talk about how he uses his experience as a DJ who has traveled the globe delivering block rockin’ beats to help others further develop their emotional intelligence. Welcome to the show, Rich Bracken.
Rich: Thank you, sir. That was a mouthful. I’m always — every time I hear it, I’m like, I gotta cut a lot of that crap out. And I appreciate the Chemical Brothers dropping there too. Don’t think for one second I’m going to let that slide. That was impressive.
Billy: Absolutely. So you’re my kind of people because I knew you would appreciate that and we were talking off air and I asked you what kind of DJ are you? Are you dropping beats at clubs? Are you a Terminator X type DJ? And we wanted no part of Terminator X because he’s just too epic.
Rich: Oh, Terminator X is one of the first DJs I ever learned of. Him and Jam Master Jay were the first two DJs I was ever aware what a DJ was so when comparing to them, there’s literally no way but, yeah, I loved being — I was nationally touring, I played over in England for a little while but played mostly house music clubs and festivals and stuff like that too. So, yeah, it’s making me miss it a little bit just talking about it.
Billy: Public Enemy is what turned the corner for me musically, like I think when we talk about four corners, Public Enemy is one of my four corners absolutely, like I remember hearing the song “Prophets of Rage” and it played right before the Damon Wayans HBO special The Last Stand? and I had that on VCR and I just would rewind the song all the time. I just listened to the song all the time. I’m like I want every tape, because that’s what it was back then, I wanted every PE tape that I could get my hands on.
Rich: Yeah, so you’ll appreciate the fact that — so Public Enemy was one of mine, it’s like Public Enemy and Arrested Development and some other groups, X Clan were big, I was a big heavy metal hip hop kid starting in middle school on. So you’ll appreciate the fact that Public Enemy was like a big, big part of my life for as long as I can remember. And so, when was it? Maybe like two years ago, three years ago, I was — I’m one of those people that like you’ll probably flip me off in traffic at some point because I’m usually like singing in my car or putting on some sort of a performance and, every now and then, I’ll put my phone up on the dash and record it just because I want to entertain, like that’s my job and I like to entertain. I’ve got my phone up and I’m recording me doing “Bring the Noise,” not the Anthrax version, which I love the Anthrax version but it was the original PE version and so I tweeted it out and I said, “One of those days that I just had to bring the noise on the way home.” I tagged Chuck D in it. Well, Chuck D, so I get home, see my wife and kids and everything else, and then we put the kids to bed and I grab my phone and like my Twitter notifications have erupted and I was like, “What in the world is going on?” Chuck D responded to the tweet, retweeted it, and then started following me. And I still have the screenshot, yeah, I mean, like done, done from the fan boys, like I totally — I lost my mind, man. So I screenshotted the retweet, his retweet, the only thing that it said up top was, “Whoa.”
Billy: That is awesome.
Rich: Yeah, it was awesome.
Billy: That is fantastic. Oh. So we always ask people what 10 roles they play. Outside of entertainer, what are some roles that you play in your life?
Rich: Yeah, so I wear a lot of hats but the ones that are probably most important to me and the ones that I’ve talked about the most are son, husband, father, friend, keynote speaker, positivity consultant, which is what a lot of my friends call me, just their consultant on how to be more positive. I’m a music fan, DJ, MC, and then weight loss success story. So those are the 10 hats that I usually wear the most.
Billy: And we’re actually going to talk about the weight loss success story here at the end of the episode today but let’s start here. You have husband and dad as roles that you’re most looking forward to in the second half of life. What is it that you’re looking forward to in the second half of life when it comes to being a husband and a dad?
Rich: Yeah, my family is the beginning and the end of my world and I’ve got two sons that are just the most fantastic, hilarious, brilliant, sweet kids I’ve ever known. Yeah, I’m biased but, at the same time, they’re just awesome kids. And so I’m excited to see what they wind up doing with their lives. It’s always like if you could look at a crystal ball to see what they’re going to do later in life, I’d be curious to see, but they’re just so full of potential and so full of life and creativity that I’m just excited to just be there to cheer them on for the rest of my life. That’s what I’m most looking forward to. It’s just seeing what happens. It’s like reading a really good book or watching a really good show, like, “What happens? What happens next? What happens the next episode?” Like it’s the best Netflix binge I’ll ever have.
Billy: And how about in terms of being a husband?
Rich: Yeah, I think it’s just the partnership that we have just to make sure that we’re supporting our boys and making sure that we’re having fun with them and my wife is very supportive of me as a business person and me as an individual and so I’m very thankful for the fact that she puts up with most of what I do and who I am but I’m also excited for that second part of life where she gets to cash in that like getting into heaven free in the express lane pass for dealing with me. So, no, I think it’s just those are the most important relationships in my life and I’m just excited to see how things evolve.
Billy: Well, you grew up in Memphis in Kansas City so I feel like the trade-off is that now you’re experiencing Minnesota winters.
Rich: Oh, my God. So, yeah, I will say being born in Memphis, I was born with Southern skin so it’s very thin, all of this brown fat crap, they’re like, “Oh, you know, just if you live here for a couple of years, all of a sudden, you get this brown fat and then it’s not as cold anymore.” I’m like, “You know what? Brown, hell, no, like I don’t wanna deal with brown fat. I don’t think so.”
Billy: I’ve lived here for 44 years and I’ve never heard this term brown fat —
Rich: So it’s a lie.
Billy: Yes, this is clearly because I’ve never heard this term of “brown fat” and I will tell you now that you never get used to it, unless you’re somebody who likes being out in the cold. I know people who love being out in the cold. I know people who like being out in their fish houses. I think people who have fish houses have ulterior motives because they’re trying to get away from their wives.
Rich: I think people that ice fish have ulterior needs is what they — like they need to have their heads checked, like that, to me, is — no offense to any people that ice fish that listen to this podcast. I will say as a Memphis-born, Kansas City-raised guy, that has to be the dumbest sport I’ve ever seen in my entire life. If you want to even call it a sport, like the concept of putting a house on a frozen lake and turning on a heater and drilling a hole in the ice, are you joking me? Like what? That’s me — I still, I refuse to wrap my head around it and I guarantee you somebody will send me an email like, “Oh, you gotta try it. It’s a lot of fun.” I’m like, no, there’s certain things in my life that will never happen, that’s one of them.
Billy: Rich Bracken, positivity consultant, keynote speaker.
Rich: Anti-ice fisher. I will say that I am true to my brand, man. I’m an authentic dude. That’s one thing — I will positively say thank you, I will be polite about it and I will positively say no.
Billy: So what are you looking forward to in terms of being a keynote speaker in the second half of life?
Rich: I will say that I’ve been really working on my craft for the last five, six years, really building my brand, doing a lot of work, building my keynotes and building my notoriety. I mean, it’s — I liken the speaker industry to the way the DJ industry was when technology got really slick and easy. So I started DJ-ing back in like the days of vinyl and bringing in CDs before streaming started and anything digital, but once the technology got cheap and everybody was buying up laptops and different digital mixers and things like that, all of a sudden, everybody wanted to be a DJ. There was even a song called that. So the speaking world is the same way now that everybody’s got digital platforms and social media and everything else and they’ve got an opinion about something and they want to be a speaker, which is great, like I applaud that. If you have a voice, if you have a story, I’m all about that. But it’s a competitive industry. So I think what I’m really looking forward to now is that, here I am, we’ll call it a year 5-1/2, my brand over the last couple of years has really erupted and it’s now at a point where I have one of the best agents I could ever ask for and she’s really taking things to another level and we’ve got some things lined up that are just, had you told me this three years ago what I’m about to go do, like I would have said, “Thank you for the insight. You’re probably an ice fisher too because you’re crazy for saying that, but I hope that you’re correct.” I’m very lucky to do what I do and it’s gotten to the point now where I’m speaking to audiences that have been having set goals to speak in front of but I’m having opportunities now like I never would have dreamed of.
Billy: Well, let’s do this. We’re going to take a quick break and then we’re going to talk to Rich about this idea of emotional intelligence and how he uses his experiences as a DJ to share that story. Thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis.
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Billy: Welcome back to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. Brian is taking care of business right now so I am here with Rich Bracken. You can check him out at www.richbracken.com. You can follow him on Instagram at @richbracken1. You can also follow him on Twitter. He’s also got a podcast called EnRich Your Soul. You can check that out. Rich, you’ve been a DJ in the past and, in one of your podcast episodes, you’ve got a funny story about your first ever wedding DJ-ing gig. So, what lessons did you take away from that experience?
Rich: So many. I think we may need another episode for this one. So the story goes that I was a DJ in college, that’s where — I started DJ-ing in high school, I was living in Memphis at the time in college and I was DJ-ing and I had an agent that was booking me on different gigs and I told him under no uncertain circumstances do I ever want to DJ a wedding. No way, no how, not happening, no. And he said, “Well, I’ll make note of that.” So, time goes by and all of a sudden, he calls me one day and he goes, “Hey, I know you don’t want to do a wedding but I really need a favor. This guy has called in, he can’t do this wedding later on today. Can you cover for him?” I was like, “Sure, fine.” So I wind up taking the gig and I go, and for those of you that are not familiar with an old-fashioned shotgun wedding in the South, it’s basically when there is, we’ll call it a connection prior to marriage that brings about another life that the parents sometimes begrudgingly make the two lovebirds get married, whether they like it or not. So, here I go, I’m setting up for this wedding, we’ll just say the reception was supposed to start at 6 PM and so I’m getting set up thinking I have all this time. Well, people start showing up at about 5:40 and I’m thinking I have like another 20 minutes to get set up. People may show up at 6, they may kind of trickle in after that. So people started showing up about 20 minutes early and I had no idea at this point what the background was of this couple. Photographer walks up and says, “Hey, nice to meet you. I’m so and so. Hey, by the way, do you know the story?” And I said, “Oh, there’s a story? Okay. No, I don’t know the story.” And he goes, “Well, long story short, girl gets knocked up, parents are furious, they’re both like Baptists, Southern Baptists, they’re forcing the couple to get married so like there’s a lot of animosity, this is — you know, whatever you could do to smooth things out and make things chill.”
Billy: No pressure.
Rich: No pressure at all. I don’t want to be there in the first freakin’ place. Normally, when people come in to a wedding reception, like there’s joy, people feel the love, whatever. It was like a damn funeral. People were walking in like putting jackets on the back of their chairs and grabbing like shots of Jack. It was bad. So in walks the bride and the groom and nobody is smiling. Nobody. Like this — I mean, imagine a room of about 150 people, nobody is smiling, barely any conversation, it’s just bad, it’s just tense. And so the wedding reception starts, the bride walks up, she’s visibly pregnant and she said, “Can we just do the father-daughter dance and get this over with? I was like, “Sure.” Now, keep in mind, this thing was supposed to start at 6. It’s like 6:15 at this point, so we’re 15 minutes into the official time of the reception. So I started playing the father-daughter dance here, I do the DJ, like, “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the father and daughter for their first answer,” so they’re doing that and, of course, I have CDs so I leaned down and get a CD and we’re in a glass atrium building, probably about three storeys tall, and I’ll never forget this noise as long as I live. I leaned down to get the CD for the next song and all I hear is, “You dirty effing bitch,” and I’m like, “What?” and I stand up and the groom is like pointing over his — like so he’s being held back, pointing his finger over his guy’s shoulder, like screaming at the mother of the bride. We’re in a glass building, like this thing is echoing. And so, at that point, everybody’s like, “Alright, let’s go get,” and everybody grabs their jackets and leaves. The entire thing, the entire reception lasted 20 minutes. So, lesson number one, set boundaries, and when I say set boundaries, I mean like I should have stayed my boundary with my agent and said, “No, I don’t wanna do another wedding, or do a wedding.” Number two, always be ready for God knows what. And, three, make sure that you are really prepared for the most awkward scenarios. So, me being me, the icing on the cake, and of course I was like 22 when I did — or like 21 when I did this. Imagine there’s a screaming match going on, the groom is calling the mother of the bride every name in the book, and all of a sudden, “I’m like, okay, what do I do?” I played “Kung Fu Fighting.” I’m not kidding you. So like people are like seriously like hitting all the exits trying to get out of this room and all serious, “Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh.” Because I didn’t know what to do. I’m like what do you do in a situation like this? So I played “Kung Fu Fighting” and like one guy walked by and goes, “Thumbs up. Good job. Good call.” But, yeah, it was a train wreck that you just know was going to happen and you just can’t do anything to stop it and so you’re just kind of like brace for it and then it happens. But it really taught me the value of being able to be empathetic but also it was just — I mean, it was just one of those out of control things. I didn’t know what to do.
Billy: That’s interesting because it brings up this first question that I had for you because on your podcast, you have an episode where you broke down all the lessons being a DJ taught you and we don’t need to go through them all and we’ll link that episode in the show notes but one of them is read the room.
Billy: So, talk about the importance of being able to read a room in social and business settings and how did that help you choose “Kung Fu Fighting” in that moment?
Rich: You know, I think at that point, the wedding party itself, the core of the wedding party was beyond help, like there was nothing I could do for them. I was not —that would have been like putting my foot in a hornet’s nest, like, “No, thank you.” And I think at that moment, I think either I was trying to break the ice, whether it broke or it was broken for me, but at the same time, I at least wanted to make one person that was exiting the most awkward reception that they had ever been to, I wanted to give them something funny, to be like I just imagined in my head as people were filing out and that one guy gave me the thumbs up, I’m like, “That dude is going to work on Monday and he’s gonna say, ‘You’ll never guess what happened.’” He’s telling the story of the reception, he’s going, “But the best part was that the DJ played ‘Kung Fu Fighting.’” Like somebody’s probably guesting on a podcast like this week where they’re saying, “You know what, I remember this time when I went to a wedding reception in Memphis and, man, there was a knockdown drag out in the wedding party but the DJ played ‘Kung Fu Fighting,’” and that, to me, ladies and gentlemen, was emotional intelligence.
Billy: Oh, that is fantastic. When you’re up speaking, what does reading the room look like to you? And how do you respond to the stonewalled face?
Rich: I compare the room reading as a speaker to room reading as a DJ in that you have to be aware of what’s going on and I think the one thing that made me successful as a DJ is the fact that it wasn’t about me, like I never made it my show. It was me entertaining people, me giving people an escape, me giving people hope and just relaxation from everything that’s going on, like people came to my club and my festivals and my shows to forget their problems. And so when I speak, it’s the same thing, like I’m not the celebrity up there, I’m just the person that’s up there telling stories and getting people to laugh but giving them hope and helping them be empowered at the end of the session that they can go be better versions of themselves and I share my own humility in those stories, like things that I personally have been through or people that I know that are close to me that don’t mind me sharing their stories. I think in any audience, and I can think of one guy in specific that I presented to a group in Hawaii not so long ago and there was one guy in the room that just wasn’t having it. He was just — like he would have rather been in a hundred other places. The thing I think about when I think about that, because I also tied a story in in another presentation where when I was DJ-ing at a kids’ festival, there were like 2,000 kids dancing their heads off and there was one little girl when I played a song that she just was folding her arms and wasn’t impressed and was just staring at me and I couldn’t quit thinking about that one little girl because I wanted everybody to be having a good time. So, there’s 1,999 other kids losing their marbles and there’s this one little girl judging me and I’m like, “Oh, little Katie is not happy. Oh my gosh, I must be the worst DJ ever.” But I think that taught me the value that you’re not going to make everybody happy. Not everybody is going to love your stuff. And that’s okay. Like I am not everybody’s cup of tea but I am definitely a lot of people’s shot of bourbon and I’m okay with that. And I think it’s the same thing with DJ-ing, speaking, business meetings, proposal meetings, sales meetings, like you’re not going to just blow everybody away. When you see people like that, I always — I’ll lock in on them for a little bit and see if I can’t change their face a little bit or change their mood or if I can break something down, that’s fine, but if I can’t, then I move on. A lot of people get fixated on that one person and like I said, I’ve done that in the past in my DJ world, but at the same time, it’s distracting to you serving the rest of the audience. So, engage, try to do something about it, but if you can’t, move on, it’s okay.
Billy: And one of your keynote presentations is actually a dance party where you incorporate your DJ talents and experience into your presentation. I imagine that will be a lot of fun to be at that presentation. How does that presentation help others tune in and turn up the volume on their emotional intelligence?
Rich: Yeah, the presentation is called Tune In and what it helps to do and understand, and to kind of give a little bit of background on emotional intelligence, really emotional intelligence is how you manage your emotions and your responses to things but then also how you’re interacting with other people, how are you letting stimulus get to you, how are you being triggered negatively or positively, and so with emotional intelligence, I mean, we’re bombarded with stimulus all day long. Any stimulus. It can be an email, a text message, a social media post, a sound, something. I used to be triggered by a meeting that I had to go to and it was 24 hours ahead of the meeting that I had every single week but just seeing that meeting on my calendar was a trigger for me. And so when I talk about those things and I engaged in the idea that emotional intelligence can send your day in any direction within a matter of two, three seconds, so can music. And so if people can be triggered negatively by something and within three seconds, why couldn’t they be triggered positively in the same three seconds? So what I talk with people about in this presentation is that you’re going to have this stimulus, you’re not going to be oblivious to bad moods or sadness or frustration, but when you have those things, if you recognize the fact that you’re being triggered negatively within a matter of a couple of seconds, you can also say, “Okay, I’m not gonna think this,” or if you need to intentionally add something into your day or have some sort of a buffer after that that you can activate, then all the better, and I tell people too like I will listen to music throughout my entire day and it helps me regulate my emotions, it helps me get focused at times, and if I’m in meetings and something triggers me, like I won’t put a song on so I’m not like on Zoom, all of a sudden, just flip on my Spotify, to hell with everybody, but what I can do is I can hear a song in my head and I know within the first three notes of that song, I’m in a good mood. So if I’m hearing it in my head, it changes, it regulates my own emotions. And so with the presentation, I have a sampling machine that I bring up and I play the first couple of seconds of a song. You play that intro to “Jump around” by House of Pain, everybody knows what that is, everybody — you don’t even have to hear the actual major part of the song to know what it is. Same thing with a lot of songs. Within the first three seconds, we hear a song, we’re like, “Oh,” and as a DJ, I would see that. I would be up in the booth and I would play a song and see people visibly respond to something because you played a song and it was a song that they wanted to hear, it was like the most popular dance song of the time and they would just rush to the dance floor. Why is that? Because they had the stimulus of the song and they responded to that trigger. So it’s really how are you using that time and how are you regulating your own emotions, and I use music all the time as a regulator for myself.
Billy: You know, that brings up an interesting behavior change that I think I personally need to make. I was reading this, I believe it was in Jay Shetty’s book, which is Think Like a Monk, if you haven’t read Think Like a Monk by Jay Shetty, all of you out there, it’s a must read. You need to read it. And I think he talks about, instead of using an alarm clock or what have you to wake yourself up, choose a song that puts you immediately in a good mood and I used to choose one of two songs, I would either choose songs that kind of worked into a crescendo so they started off quiet, because I wanted that nice, calm, waking up process, or I would choose songs that I liked but I didn’t love. They were kind of in-between songs because they would just serve as a purpose to wake me up. And the reason why I never chose a song that I actually loved is because I didn’t want to grow to hate that song hearing it every morning when I didn’t want to get out of bed, but —
Rich: That’s fair.
Billy: But I think now, as I look back on it and I reflect on what I’ve done in the past and maybe what I need to do moving forward, just connecting to what you said, I think I need to reexamine that relationship between how music makes me feel and how waking up makes me feel. I should feel the same enthusiasm waking up as I do when I hear a song that I love because it’s a new day with new opportunities. So I’d like that, just in that moment right there, you kind of helped me reframe, because, you’re right, in those first three seconds, you hear those horns of “Jump Around” and you’ve got a big smile on your face, like you can feel the energy hits you right there. Maybe “Jump Around” needs to be my wake-up song.
Rich: Maybe. I mean, I know that Wisconsin fans will relate to this, I know there’s other teams that do this too, but if you go google or go on YouTube and look up “Wisconsin Jump Around” between the third and fourth quarter of all the Wisconsin home games, they play “Jump Around,” there’s, what? 100,000 people in that stadium or something, 90,000 people. It’s bonkers. Or go look up “Virginia Tech Intro” and they play the first two notes of “Enter Sandman.” I mean, I get goosebumps thinking about it. And it is. It’s almost like the old Name That Tune game show, you hear those first couple of notes, you’re like, “Oh,” and it’s just immediately triggering, but what I loved about what you just said too is that it makes me think of the concept of the to/for — I always call it the To/For Theory. So things are either happening to you or for you. And so if you think about like, “Oh, I gotta wake up because the day’s gotta happen to me,” well, you’re also getting to see another day and how many people wish they could say the same thing? So if you wake up with gratitude and you associate that song with gratitude of waking up to see another day, it’s a whole different perspective. I have had the same song on my alarm for, God, I don’t even know how long, like 10 years? And it never gets old but it makes me — it reminds me every single day that I have the opportunity to have another however many hours within my day to make a difference, to do something for myself, to bring joy to my life and the lives of others, and so it’s a reminder of the positivity of waking up, not the, “Oh, crap, I gotta get up and work again.”
Billy: Well, I’m listening to the audiobook of The Power of Habit and they talk about habit is created by cues, routines, and rewards, and I think just examining that cue of what wakes me up. Right now, I’m unemployed so the only thing that wakes me up is my internal clock telling me to wake up, that sort of thing. But if I have to go back to waking up with an alarm clock, I think it would be in my best interest to choose a song that fires me up, that gets me going throughout the day so I liked that. You know, you’re pretty smart for a DJ and those guys, they just push buttons, right, Rich? That’s all they do is they just push buttons and bounce around the stage and tell people to pump their fists.
Rich: A lot of them do and a lot of them clearly are not much smarter than the music that they download so that’s very true too.
Billy: Well, then, I imagine there are similar assumptions with regards to being a speaker and that you’re just sharing empty platitudes that generalize complex situations. So, tell us about the nuances of being a DJ and how those nuances helped you develop a growth mindset that you use to help businesses with their leadership and employee engagement.
Rich: You know, the one thing that I prided myself on when I was a DJ that translates into my speaking roles as well is the backend research and the planning, and while I will say that I have never said like, “Here’s the set that I am playing tonight, I’m playing just these songs,” I’ve never done that because I feel like once you do that, if something goes sideways or, God forbid, the crowd doesn’t respond to one of the songs in your list but you’re going down that path, mentally, you’re going to be anxious. So I think the ability — and I will also say, as an aside, I took an improv class a long time ago. If you’ve not taken an improv class, it’s one of the best things you will ever do for yourself from a personal standpoint, from a business standpoint, but it helped me understand that nothing is so big that you can’t recover from and there is no curveball so strong in life that you can’t hit at some point. And so, with my sets as a DJ, I would go in knowing that I wanted to set a certain mood, but I studied my music so much that I knew it backwards and forwards. I give the example during my last Tune In presentation where I would know the song so well that I could be sitting there having a conversation in the DJ booth with you and subconsciously or in my peripheral, I’m hearing the song and I know based off of the cues within the song how much time I have left in the song. So if you and I are engaged in conversation, I may say, “Hey, can you hold that thought for one second?” I know that I’ve got 45 seconds to transition the song. I know exactly what song I’m playing next, I know exactly where to cue it up, I know exactly where to introduce it. I would introduce it, transition songs, go into the next thing, be done with the song that was just playing and turn back and go, “Okay, I’m sorry, what were you saying?” but I wouldn’t miss a beat because it was all the work that I put in to studying, just memorizing the songs, and I’m the same way with my presentations and how I tell businesses too, like have a plan, have a goal, have something you want to convey but don’t be so rigid in your thought that you can’t shift a little bit when need be. I mean, God knows in the last few years, businesses and people have had to shift all over the place. I mean, we’ve not seen anything like this in our generation’s lifetime and here we are coming out of the backside of it but a lot of people didn’t know how to improv in their life. A lot of people didn’t know how to say, “Hey, look, I still have the same goal.” It’s kind of like, what is the app? Waze? That you’ll tell it where you want to go but it may say, “Hey, look traffic’s gotten bad on this route, why don’t you go this route instead?” It still gets you to where you want to get to, so your goal, your endpoint is still the same, the route is just a little bit different. With my presentations, I will say like, “Hey, I have —” I’m not a big like — the people that put a thousand bullets on a slide, please, God, help me, I am very much like most of my slides have just big pictures and like two words on them and I convey a thought but it allows me to also, kind of bringing back in read the room, it helps me understand what’s working, what’s not. Is this because this crowd more of a jokes crowd, a storytelling crowd, a serious crowd, a motivational crowd? I can pivot anywhere in those slides because I’m not bound by the words on the slide, I’m not bound by the bullet points on the slide, I can do whatever I want. But I know my content backwards and forwards. I know my message backward and forward. I know the goal of what I want people to feel backwards and forwards. So how we start and where we get to are going to be the same but what we do in the middle is gonna be a little bit different depending on the audience.
Billy: Leading up to a presentation, do you take requests from the company so that you can get a vibe of what that crowd is going to be like?
Rich: 100 percent. I always have a pre-planned call with the client and just say like, “Hey, what is your goal for this meeting? What do you want people to take away? What is this — who is this audience? Who’s gonna be in the room? What are they experiencing right now in their life? What is going on in the company? Is there anything going on in the future that I need to know about?” And then I do some research of my own. I research the company, I check out their LinkedIn, I check out their website, check out their social media, and I look for cues and things like that, but I think it’s absolutely critical. Anybody that goes in and says, “Well, I have my presentation and I’m gonna deliver my content,” and it’s the same thing every single time, like, seriously, you’re not going to last very long in the speaking industry. Because if you’re not there to serve the client, you’re missing out. I had a good friend of mine the other day that told me a story that was one of the greatest perspective setters, especially when it comes to being a speaker, because she’s a big, very well-known speaker. She said she was talking to a colleague one time and something came up about speakers that have egos or speakers that act holier than thou and the guy told me, he said, “You know, at the end of the day, we’re just coffee,” and she goes, “What do you mean?” and he goes, “When you do an event, when you go speak at an event, no matter what your fee is, chances are the client is spending more money on coffee than they are on you.” So, at the end of the day, coffee is more important than you so don’t go in there thinking that you’re God’s gift because that little paper cup is holding more gold, prospectively, and from a cost standpoint than what you’re bringing. So don’t think that you’re the most important thing in the room. Can you imagine getting up and giving a speech at nine o’clock in the morning to a roomful of people that did not get coffee? No, thanks. I wouldn’t do it. I’d go to Starbucks for them. I’d buy them all coffee, I don’t care how many people are in the room. I’m not getting up in front of a group of people that hadn’t been caffeinated. Are you kidding me? But it is, it’s all about, to me, it’s always been about the client, it’s always been about the audience, it’s always been about the experience. You’re there to serve them. You’re there to provide them some sort of an experience or an escape. That’s your job. It’s not your job to get up there and say, “Hey, look at me, I’m the coolest thing in the entire world,” and I’ve seen people try that and they crash and burn horribly.
Billy: How does all that translate then to just an everyday life and how you approach interacting with normal people or everyday people, not even your colleagues, not your employees, not your associates, anything like that?
Rich: It’s a great question and I think what I realized years ago, many years ago, was that this life of mine, I was put on this earth to help people, to serve people, to support people, that’s my gift, that’s my ability. I have a lot of unique talents that allow me to do that — I kind of sound like Liam Neeson, like, “I have a specific set of skills.” But I realized a long time ago that when you give it and you serve and you help and you support and even if you just offer help but nobody takes you up on it, the act of offer, number one, it triggers chemicals in your brain that you’re actually experiencing joy so offering to help and offering to support brings you joy in the first place. And then if you are able to deliver, you’re providing joy for yourself and the individual that you’re affecting and, therefore, you’re just producing more positivity. So people that are like — I’ve never understood people that are just whimsically rude or whimsically aggressive or just hateful for no reason, like I mean, I’m sure it’s born of something but I can’t imagine living a life like that. And so I think when you come in contact with people, like I’m the person that opens doors for people, I’m the person that pays it forward on the coffee line, I’m that person that I just want to surround myself with as much joy as possible and if I have something to do with it, I’m absolutely going to have some sort of a say in it.
Billy: I think the way you frame that in terms of serving is so important. A lot of times I go back to the what here is we’re doing this podcast, why are we doing this podcast, and we’re doing this podcast to help people navigate the complexities and possibilities of life’s second half, and we’re not monetizing it at all at this point. Someday, we’d like to get to that point, you and I talked about how you are a six-year overnight success and we’re hoping that this podcast becomes a six-year overnight success just in less time than that, but even just sitting down here and having this conversation with you, I’m getting something out of it and there’s, trust me, everyone who listens to this show knows that there is a selfish element to this, that I am having conversations with people that I want to have conversations with because I think they provide value to me but, in turn, broadcasting it out for everybody so that they get something out of it too. I guess that’s sort of my maybe backhanded gift to people to be able to say, “Hey, I think this person has some valuable insight. I wanna share their insight with the world as well too.” So let’s do this. Let’s take a quick break and when we come back, Rich is going to talk about how he has shifted here during the pandemic and then he’s also going to share his weight loss journey with us. Thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis.
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Billy: Welcome back to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. We’re here with positivity consultant and keynote speaker of emotional intelligence Rich Bracken. You can find him at www.richbracken.com. You can follow him on Instagram at @richbracken1. He’s on Twitter. You can check our show notes for all of his details. So, Rich, I imagine that the pandemic, as terrible as it sounds, might have been a godsend for you in some way, shape, or form because then you were able to present remotely, but then also, considering the dire straits that a lot of companies are facing in terms of just their employees’ mental health and navigating emotional intelligence, that that has been an important message for you to share with them, and you just talked about service, so can you talk about how the pandemic has shifted your messaging, has shifted your scope of presenting as well?
Rich: Yeah, I think the last several years of the pandemic, which it feels like almost like dog years, where it’s like, what? Seven years to one year? While there were a lot of bad things, and I can’t call myself a positivity consultant if I’m not somebody who looks for the silver lining, right? I tried to figure out ways that not use it to my advantage because that’s the wrong way of phrasing it but really find ways that I could keep myself on the straight and narrow because I, like everybody else, struggled mightily during that time. What was going, on a lot of uncertainty, a lot of family health scares and things like that. So, as I look back on it, I think the virtual presentation capability was one of the best things to ever happen to my career but also it broadened my reach overnight. And what was interesting to me was that I had a conversation with a very well-known keynote speaker right at the beginning of the pandemic and we were just chatting, we got set up to talk through a mutual friend, and he made the comment of, “I don’t know what I’m going to do, I can’t deliver virtual presentations,” like he just didn’t want to do them and didn’t feel comfortable doing them, he’s very much a dynamic on-the-stage speaker. In hindsight, now, he did very well for himself, but I think while we all will roll our eyes at, “Oh, God, another Zoom meeting,” or another, “I don’t want to be on Zoom any more than I have to,” I also think it’s one of the best thing that’s ever happened to us as a society too because I think pre-pandemic, I don’t know that I used Zoom or FaceTime all that much and now it’s a mainstay in my day, every single day, but it helps develop relationships with people that I don’t normally get to see face to face. So what I will say is that — and you made a great point that the timing of everything that happened, the ability to figure out, because that was the first thing I thought was, okay, what can I do in this time to figure out how to still get my message out even though things are shut down, like even though it was at the point where none of us were leaving our houses, nobody was doing anything, everything was shut down, what now? And so I made some small investments in some technology, I got a new microphone, new camera, ring light, the typical things, and I just started, because I needed to, I just started putting out content and started talking on emotional intelligence, which even before the pandemic was a critical skill for people personally and professionally, but then ever since the pandemic hit, it’s been even more critical, but it allowed me to speak. I spoke on several global webinars. I’ve got people in the same time zone as me but then I’m talking to people that are up at midnight, one o’clock in the morning on the other side of the world listening to me talk, which boggled my mind. But I think also it showed the necessity of a conversation like emotional intelligence. And so that, to me, was one of the biggest silver linings, if not the biggest silver linings of the pandemic, was really figuring out how to make that work and how to how to transition to the virtual speaking. I think there was a second part of the question, I just got so deep in that thought of memory. You know, I think everybody needs to understand that there are elements that came out of the pandemic that aren’t going to go away, virtual presentations, virtual connection being one of them. So how do you maximize those changes? How do you maximize the alteration in a business? Not every change is — it may seem catastrophic or bad at the time but if you can find a way to maximize it, it could be a big advantage for you. So stop and explore those things, explore the things that are frustrating to you and say, “Okay, what can I take away from this? What can I learn? How can I get better because of this?”
Billy: What are you finding that businesses are saying to you in terms of, “Hey, Rich, we, as a culture, during this pandemic, when it comes to emotional intelligence, this is the biggest area of concern for us, this is our biggest area of growth that we need,” is there a similar response to that or are they all over?
Rich: I think it starts from where the company culture is at the moment and I think there are a lot of industries that obligatorily became interested in their employees’ mental health because everybody was doing it. You didn’t want to be the company that was like, “Well, screw your mental health, you need to get to work,” or, “You need to be online at all times.” Everybody kind of gave into it one way or the other. And now that things have gotten back to a new variety of normal, it will never be the new normal, but you see a lot of industries and a lot of companies saying, “Okay, well, get your butt back in the seats, we need everybody back in the office again.” And that’s what I think also has created the great resignation of — what was it that I saw one day that somebody said, “If your employees are resisting your back to work policy, probably a good time to take a hard look at how your culture was in the first place,” but I think, on the whole, I’ll stick with the companies that truly had a genuine interest or developed a genuine interest in their employees’ mental health because of their listening ability to their employee base. Companies are now saying, like, “Hey, we really need to figure this out. We really understand the value of —” work-life balance is such an overplayed term but, really, “How are we helping our employees be their best and how are we giving them the resources to be at their best and how are we engaging them and understanding and listening to what their needs are and meeting them where they are?” And when they bring me in, the first thing I tell people is like, “Hey, look, I understand life is hard. Today, for the next 60 minutes, take a deep breath because it’s gonna be okay. Wherever you are right now in your journey, wherever you are in your mentality, number one, it’s okay to admit even internally that you fractured at some point, that you broke down at some point, that you fell short at some point. We all do. We all have and we all will.” And so the humanity of everything came very much into focus for a lot of companies and so the conversations I have with them are very empathetic but very hopeful because I think a lot of people are still trying to figure this out and still trying to figure out what’s next and a lot of people are still suffering and struggling with things and I don’t think that’s going to go away anytime soon but the focus now in mental health, especially in the workplace, is bigger than it’s ever been and I’m grateful because it allows me to talk with a lot of people that I probably would have never had the chance to talk to.
Billy: We asked Kristen Brown this too. Do you think that there’s an emotional intelligence skill that is underrated? Kristen said they’re all underrated so you don’t get to say that. But do you think that there’s an emotional intelligence skill that is underrated, that is undervalued?
Rich: So it’s funny because now I’m picturing myself in the Family Feud Lightning Round and Kristen’s already taken my answer so I heard the buzzer in my head, “Eehhrr, next answer.” I think the one that’s most underrated but is gaining momentum is truly the package of self-awareness. I think more and more people realized in the pandemic what their emotions truly were, because I think before the pandemic, we’re all just chugging along, doing our thing, doing our work, doing the things, staying busy, everybody was just moving along, and then, all of a sudden, we all ran into the same wall at the same time. And some people fell flat, some people got knocked a little loopy, and then some people just hit the wall and figured out what they needed to do next, but I think the overall, I don’t even know if this is a word, the overall okayness with not being okay has been the most prevalent thing. So I think the more conversations happen around that, it makes it less underrated but I still think we have a long way to go as a society to say, “Hey, look, it’s alright to be fractured, it’s okay to have problems,” like I tell people all the time, I’m like, “Hey —” because I ask questions of the audience when I interact with them, when I’m giving presentations, I’m like, “Has anybody ever wanted to just say screw it and listen to The Cure, nothing against The Cure, but you just want to roll up in a ball and not face the day? I have.” I think too, and I have no shame in saying that, it’s all accurate, like I shall I share very real, very transparent, very vulnerable stories and what’s interesting to me is that I will get some people at the event that will engage me, I get a tremendous amount of emails after the fact, text messages after the fact, that say, “Thank you for sharing your experience. I thought I was alone.” And even though on the predominant whole you hear more conversations about mental health, you have more conversations about self-awareness, to have somebody stand in front of you and say, “Have you broken down? Because I have,” because there’s still a stigma with it. There’s still that element of shame of like, “Oh, yeah, I had a nervous breakdown the other night and I cried myself to sleep,” or, “I didn’t wanna get out of bed because it just sounded like the worst idea in the entire world because I didn’t have the energy or the mentality around it,” that’s always carried this stigma of shame and like you just don’t talk about it because you don’t want to be that weak person, but now, I think it’s a mark of strength and a mark of vulnerability and, “Hey, you’re human.” Everybody’s had those moments, so I think that’s probably the most underrated of them all.
Billy: Well, one story that you share is your weight loss journey and you’ve talked about the importance of having long-term goals broken up into short-term goals. So, how did you use that approach during your weight loss journey and how did you use short-term goals combined with long-term goals to get back on track when setbacks derailed you along the way?
Rich: So the weight loss story, in the short version, is that I was a heavier kid, started playing football in middle school, got bigger. I was 230 when I graduated high school. I was an inside linebacker and offensive guard, played one year of college, got up to about 250, transferred to — I was playing in a Division III school, I transferred to a Division I school, realized I wasn’t as fast as I thought I was, and so I decided to walk away from football. And while I walked away from the workout habits, I kept the eating habits. And at that time, I didn’t know how to eat healthy because I was always trying to get bigger. So I got up to about 260 and was miserable, just didn’t have any energy, felt very insecure, just a lot of bad things. And so I had my diet analyzed. I was not eating healthy by any stretch of the imagination so that was an easy conversation for my health instructor and I to have. Transferred some things and swapped some things and started walking a mile every night and that was my goal. And I started small. I didn’t go out training for a marathon out of the gate, like it was very much a — get rid of carbonated drinks and get rid of fast food, those were the first two things I had to do. It wasn’t, “We’re gonna completely revamp your life, we’re gonna completely change everything,” it was walk a mile every night, don’t eat fast food, and don’t drink anything carbonated. Those were my three first goals. And I dropped 15 pounds like almost overnight. It happened in a heartbeat. And so I think it was at that level that I understood that there was progress to be made. Now, at the time, not so much now but — or not so much as now, but there were a lot of like fad diets and pills and shakes and all kinds of stuff and I know that there are a lot of them now but I didn’t want to do that because my mentality was if I rely on a shake to get me to a healthy weight and that shake company goes out of business, then what? And so I wanted to have the lessons, and, to me, weight loss is all about health mathematics, like if you’re burning enough calories and regulating your intake and having portion control, anybody can lose weight, but, really, it was all about getting to a point where I was achieving those small goals. I wanted to get down to 200 pounds. That was my big goal, but I was taking five pounds at a time, and I was like, “Okay, if I can dedicate this time and walk an extra half a mile a night,” so it was a mile and a half and it was two miles and then I was jogging a mile and I was jogging a mile and a half and so it was progressive in nature but I taught myself the lifestyle change and that’s what helped me lose the weight. And when I got to 200, I’m like, “Could I go lower?” And it just became — I just felt better. I felt better about myself, I had more energy, I felt better about life, and I got down to 160, lowest I ever was was 155, so I lost 105 pounds but now I hover around the 100-pound weight loss line and I’ve never felt better but I taught myself those things and I took the little goals to establish a new lifestyle and I’ve kept it off for 24 years now. But it’s the same thing with any goal. I think if you set those small goals, if you’re in sales, don’t worry about selling all the people that you got to sell on the quarter, set a weekly goal, like, “I wanna close one account this week,” or, “I wanna develop five new leads this week,” whatever that winds up being, do the small ones, and celebrate those small wins. And once you start building that momentum, there’s a million sayings about put one foot in front of the other and take one step at a time, if you apply that to your goals while, again, going back and having the vision on the big goal, even if you have a small — I’d much rather slip up and miss a goal that I have on week 3 and try to recoup it in week 4 than have one big goal that I get six weeks down the road and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I’m not tracking to the level that I need to. What am I going to do now?” I have a better handle on things as it progresses through the small goals and through the small timelines and it allows me to be flexible and if I’m up on a goal, then maybe put the pedal to the metal and try to get it closed quicker than you normally would have had marked. So I think it’s just a matter of keeping the balance there.
Billy: All of that reminds me too of when we talked to Scott Welle, we talked about the difference between discipline versus motivation, and I imagine on your weight loss journey, you probably hit plateaus from time to time but I think it’s discipline that pushes through those plateaus rather than motivation because the discipline is already instilled deep within you. I imagine there are days when you don’t feel motivated to work out but because the discipline is so deeply rooted within you, you continue on and that’s the key to those small goals is that if you keep doing them, they build up the discipline.
Rich: Yeah, and I will say with almost 100 percent confidence, I have never once been really excited that I was working out. As a standalone activity, I’m never like, “Oh my gosh, I can’t wait to go do another set of bench presses so that my chest feels horrible tomorrow, that’s gonna be awesome.” I’ve never felt like that. But what I do know is that if I go and do this activity or if I go for a run or if I go do some ab workouts, if I go do yoga or if I go do these things, I know how my body is going to feel and I know that that’s the means to an end for me to have a better day, to have more energy, to be more motivated to do other things, to be able to play with my kids, so it’s things that happen. So you’re exactly right. There have been many a morning when I’m like, “Oh, my God,” like my alarm goes off, and whether or not I like the song is a whole different story, but my alarm goes off, I’m like, “I gotta get up, it’s five, I gotta get downstairs and work out.” I’m disciplined to do that, I’m not going to say I’m perfect every single day, but also it’s the motivation for me to want to be healthy like I am, to be in a position that I am, to feel the way I do, and the discipline — I think discipline and motivation go hand in hand but I don’t think you can be — you can’t be motivated and successful without discipline instilled in what you’re trying to do.
Billy: I wholeheartedly agree. Well, Rich, it’s been a blast talking to you about music and about emotional intelligence. This was a lot of fun. This felt like a punk rock song where it just was really fast paced and you got a lot of information out of it just in a real short time, like we’ve been talking for an hour but it really felt like 20 minutes right there. So that was a blast. Brian, I’m so sad that you missed this conversation.
Rich: Right, and so because Brian missed this conversation, we’re going to have to have him do some sort of like a solo performance of something — we’ll have to pick the song and he has to sing it and record it and that’ll be like a bonus episode because he missed out on this conversation.
Billy: Well, I did suggest that, with your DJ skills, you could join Brian’s Gen X Jukebox band because I think if there was a DJ in there, that would take that band to a whole other level. Oh, it would just be fantastic.
Rich: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, go down the list and I’m trying to think of all the 90s bands that had DJs in them. I mean, you think about like, what? Sugar Ray had one, Urban Dance Squad had one, Kid Rock had one, so I mean there’s — you have plenty of that leverage a DJ in their groups. Slipknot, one of my favorite bands, still has a DJ in their band. So, yeah, I think I got a place, so I think because Brian missed out on this episode, I think I’m going to have to at least have him obligate at least one show where I get to show my talents.
Billy: I’ll set that up, for sure, because I’m already looking forward to that experience. That sounds awesome. So, Rich, thank you so much for joining us. For Rich, for Brian, this is Billy, thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. May you feel happy, healthy, and loved. Take care, friends.
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