During the heat of the political season the newscasts on all channels are filed with pundits arguing over which candidate’s temperament is worst.
This article has nothing to do with candidates. It has everything to do with temperament and mentors.
There is so much nonsense today about safe zones. To dispel this dangerous myth, the following two examples make the point that honest, tough mentors that are ready, willing, and able to kick you in the ass may elevate you to become a winner. These are true stories from my life.
Case number one. My radio career turned into the third year as I reached 16. It was the first night on staff at WRVA radio in Richmond, VA. At 16 of course I knew everything. My mentor was the production director, Harold Phillips. This cigar smoking drill sergeant of a guy with gray hair addressed me, Mr. Nuckols. Imagine that; ‘Mr. Nuckols’ to a kid of 16. He said, “Mr. Nuckols, it’s time to find out what you know. Go in the production room and record this newscast.”
To me, a seasoned two year veteran that was no big deal until he listened to the tape. My newscast rolled less than thirty seconds when he stopped the machine, dropped his head, closed his eyes, and said, “It is beyond me to ever understand how anyone so bad could ever be hired by WRVA.”
Imagine the crushed ego of a 16 year old with no safe zone to run to. Then, Harold took me to his office and gave direction that would change my life, “Okay, Mr. Nuckols. You have a decision to make. If you get your feelings hurt and can not take constructive criticism, you may as well run home crying to Momma. If, instead, you can listen, rehearse, learn, and improve you may some day become something.”
That’s a speech never to be forgotten and the months that followed were brutal. Because of my southern accent, he made me record a full half hour tape saying, “running, jumping,”… and any dangling participle that came to mind to make me stop dropping the ‘g’. No more ‘runnin’ jumpin’ in my vocabulary. To use my resonating chambers in my sinuses he made me record a half hour of humming. He must have had a good laugh. But, I did it. Every exercise was taken with the same seriousness of an Olympic athlete practicing for hours. Think of a swimmer up at 4:00AM to repeat laps over and over to shave even the smallest fraction of a second from her speed. People who become successful are those that will do what others will not.
Thank you Harold… Mr. Phillips.
Case number two. Jump ahead to my thirties when W. Robert Lappin at WNJY in Palm Beach, FL entered my life. He retained my position as General Manager when he bought the radio station. The first thing he did was to have me call him Bob. Next, he had me frame and hang a poster with a W. Clement Stone quote, “Intentions are one thing, results are another.”
Bob was an extremely successful businessman that demanded excellence, and sales. He was never one to sugar coat facts. In one of our meetings he said, “I don’t get ulcers, I give them.”
Today there’s a desire to protect people in ‘safe zones’ where tough talk is not allowed. We miss something grand by that. While working for Bob, there was pressure; so much pressure it kept me awake late at night. There I was, starring into darkness when a quiet prayer came to mind, “Why are you doing this? Do you want me to do something else with my life? Should I not be a general manager?”
Another Bob of influence in my life was Robert Schuler, the Crystal Cathedral pastor on TV, who had spoken on the power of two way prayer. Pose a question and wait for a response. Within a nanosecond an answer came, “I am making it tough on you to make you a better general manager.”
From then on, every word spoken by my mentor Bob Lappin rang true. We hit our goals.
Then, being full of myself, a desire to be more became stronger as my goal became to own a radio station. Bob counseled me, and like Harold told me I had a decision to make. I considered it wise counsel when he asked me to decide to continue to give full attention to his station, or pursue my own dream. We eventually parted. I was the beneficiary and received far more than I could have given Bob. His leadership encouraged me to do better. Years later, Bob sold his radio stations and pursued a higher calling of his own. In addition to his business acumen, Bob was a master pianist and composer. After retiring from business, he returned to music, guest conducting orchestras for several years. He founded the Palm Beach Pops, where he became the dominant force — designing programs and performed 36 concerts annually at the Kravis Center, the Eissey Campus Theatre at Palm Beach State College in Palm Beach Gardens and the Florida Atlantic University Performing Arts Center in Boca Raton.
The point of having great mentors is a topic not foreign to Earl Nightingale. In one of his radio broadcasts, he quoted Dr. Abraham H. Maslow formerly of the Department of Psychology of Brandeis University, “The person who is criticized honestly may be hurt for the moment but ultimately is helped and cannot but become grateful. It is a great sign of respect to me, for instance, if someone feels I’m strong enough and capable enough.”
Maslow was best known for his revolutionary hierarchy of needs; a theory of psychological health predicated on fulfilling innate human needs in priority. He stressed the importance of focusing on the positive qualities in people. Earl quoted him on a number of occasions to illuminate specific points of interest on developing our full potential. On the topic of criticism, Earl wrote, “The secret test to which criticism should be put before it is spoken is to be sure it is born of love and courage; not out of anger, or spite, or to make the other person feel small.”
As for me, my two tough mentors must have spoken from love and encouragement as there was no benefit to do otherwise. I had no position or leverage that could in anyway be a threat to them. They taught tough, and I have loved and admired them for it. There have been other mentors along the way that will be the subject of various articles based on other topics. These two stand out as the first and last mentors during my radio career that inspired me. I remember Harold for testing me, “If you can listen, rehearse, learn, and improve you may some day become something.” And, I will never forget Bob for the sign he had me make, “Intentions are one thing, results are another.”
Now, it’s my turn to become a mentor and pay it forward to hopefully inspire you. The first lesson; surround yourself with those that will speak the truth, even when it hurts