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September / 2021

Music generates an emotional response in all of us. Music can motivate us and make us smile. It can transport us to the past and make us cry. Music can bring us together. Or…it can remind us when it’s time to move apart.

Country music has taken center stage in the battle for musical dominance. In this episode, Lauryn Snapp, writer, producer and on-air personality at Country Music Television,  shows us how Country is built on connecting fans and artists through meaningful connection, community, and how the days of boots, spurs, hats and tumbleweeds have evolved into a genre we can all identify with.

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About Lauryn Snapp

TJP 24 | Country MusicLauryn Snapp blames her bizarre “type-A” personality quirks on her Greek mother, Lisa Frank and the Girl Scouts of America. Growing up in the foothills of West Virginia, she was obsessed with music, storytelling, and finding creative ways to make music visual.

She is known for overthinking, falling into internet wormholes, and over planning. She approaches camping trips, content creation and digital strategy like a doomsday prepper, leaving no stone unturned.

Her father, known for his folklore and debated recaps of family history, still gives her his best advice with the added recommendation to “write that down and stick it in your top drawer.”

Connecting people through stories and social media is her No. 1 passion in life. Lauryn states, “if loving digital space is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.” Previously managing creative services at Warner Music Nashville was the perfect launchpad to join the wild and wonderful CMT Radio crew as their passionate creative digital strategist.

“If you like water, you already like 72 percent of me. If you like coffee, we can make it an even 100.”

Music generates an emotional response in all of us. Music can motivate us and make us smile. It can transport us to the past and make us cry. Music can bring us together or it can remind us when it’s time to move apart. Music even makes most of us want to dance, especially those who may lack rhythm. No matter who you are, what mood we are in or how we might want to feel in the moment, there’s a genre of music and a song for each one of us.

Country music has taken center stage in the battle for musical dominance. In this episode, I’m joined by Lauryn Snapp, writer, producer and on-air personality at Country Music Television and shows us how Country is built on connecting fans and artists doing meaningful connection, community and a generation of this emotional response. Lauryn explains that Country music has transcended a genre by pivoting quickly to streaming, social media engagement and just being fun.

Prior to her role at Country Music Television but after spending plenty of time in a national cover band, Lauryn led a creative services team at Warner Music. There, she implemented the Space to Create and Makes You Feel campaigns, both focused on the development of better relationships and a need to energize our own organizations to become more creative in the drive to achieve topline growth. Lauryn defines what it means to live by the relentless pursuit of our goals and I introduced a new segment to the show to show Lauryn’s leadership values in a rapid-fire session we call Lauryn Leadership Chords.

Lauryn, welcome to the show.

Thank you. I’m excited to be here with you. We are going to have a great conversation and deep dive into a lot of cool things.

Your work is about building meaningful connections in a community that evokes emotion. I would argue and you would probably agree with me that, little stands up to Country music when it comes to generating an emotional response in a listener. I can say this because I grew up in Boston in the ‘80s and ‘90s, which is about the furthest place you can be from the heart of Country music and what Country music means.

The Army changed me in many ways. I talk about it in a lot of different episodes. Two of the best things that came from my service were one, a love and appreciation of Country music. Two, an understanding of NASCAR because nobody watches NASCAR up here. Until I was a Platoon Leader in the infantry, I did not understand that it was more than a left-hand turnaround at a track. I took these two things away.

What I have also noticed over the years is that Country music has evolved. It used to be called Country and Western. When I talk to my parents about Country music, they still call it Country and Western and I’m like, “It’s not called Country and Western anymore.” You have even said in some of your previous conversations that it was the land of boots, spurs, hats and tumbleweeds, which is how I think about it. I think about legends like Charlie Daniels, Reba McEntire, Dolly Parton, Waylon Jennings and Conway Twitty.

Now, Country has megastars like Taylor Swift, Toby Keith, Brooks and Dunn, Carrie Underwood and Tim McGraw. That’s a few in each of these categories. As a marketer, a content producer, a journalist, you have seen this transformation and you have seen this global rise of Country music firsthand. To me, Country resonates and evokes these emotions where I should have been a cowboy, I lost my girl, I need to drink tequila until my clothes come off or it gives me something to be proud of. Rascal Flatts has a song where they are saying that if you sing the Country song backward, you get all your stuff, money, car and life back.

Alabama shows us that this is how you have to play in Texas, which I had to listen to before I went to Texas for the first time. Driving change and evoking emotional responses in people to take charge of their lives, transform their lives for the better is something that you, me and Country music all have in common. That excites me about this conversation. That’s why I wanted to reach out to you. That’s why I wanted to go in this direction.

If you have a heartbeat, there's going to be a song for you within country music. Click To Tweet

I’m excited that we can sit down and talk about this. Country music is one of the few genres that’s fully based and completely immersed in great authentic storytelling. You have to be vulnerable if you are going to tell somebody that you lost your girl, your truck, your dog and your mom that got ran over by a train on the same day. If you can’t be more vulnerable than that, I don’t know what that even looks like. What I love about Country music is that not only are you sharing your story and being vulnerable but it’s a great community of people that reach back out around you and say, “I feel that way, too. You are not alone.”

There’s a great conversation that’s happening as these songwriters get to tell their stories. They get paired with an artist who can deliver a great song and then it gets released to the masses. These fans wrap their arms back around what is happening. It’s this great community of people, which makes my job fun every single day. It’s never the same but it’s still repetitive. We might not all be wearing boots. Some of us might show up in Crocs, sandals, flip-flops or no shoes. At the same time, if you have a heartbeat, there’s going to be a song for you within Country music. There’s some story that is going to hit you and make your sphincter drop to the floor, which is great. I love that.

You called Country music a human genre of music, which I thought was interesting. You said that Country music is not a genre. It is, it isn’t. It’s a human genre of music. What do you mean by that?

Country music used to be twangy vocals, steel guitar or fiddle. It used to be a certain sound that you expected from Country music and that was a beautiful time. There’s history there that should not be lost. It’s fantastic. It’s great songwriting. It’s still connected to people. What I love about Country music now is that we have gone through this wonderful transformation where we have been able to add layers to something already great.

It’s because we can add layers to something already great, it has brought in a whole bunch of different people. Now we’ve got music that is more ‘80s rock-driven when it comes to the rhythm of what’s being played on the drums and the bass. If you love Jazz, there are some great Jazzy Country standards that you can find yourself in. If you love more of that folkie, dreamy sound, there’s something there for you as well. If you love a little bit of hick-hop, we have now taken rap music and turned it into Country songs.

Hick-hop, I haven’t heard of that.

It’s now available. Some wonderful artists fall into all of these different segments. If you are looking to identify a Country fan, I don’t think it’s possible. I’m from West Virginia. My people are Country people. I grew up on a farm. You are going to find my farmer friends hanging out and listening to some Jason Aldean. I also have tons of friends that are in New York City. I love to go to a show in New York City because I get to go to a Country show and listen to Brett Young or Mitchell Tenpenny. I’m standing there with people that are in big old hoods and they are wearing their Tims. It’s a completely different world. I love that Country music has something for everyone. That’s why it’s human.

At the end of the day, we are all looking to be vulnerable, to be seen, to be valued and looking for somebody to write something that’s like, “That’s my heartstring right there. Please stop pulling it. I’m going to cry. This is the best Friday night I have ever had.” You are having that experience with somebody else. That’s why Country music is such a human genre. I don’t know that it can be considered Country because Country has a connotation of being twangy sounds, guitars or sitting around a campfire but that’s not it at all. There are many different levels and layers to it, which connects the human spirit. I get excited every time that I get to discover a new artist or if I get to hear something on the radio that I hadn’t heard before.

I’m equally as excited when I hear Reba McEntire, Martina McBride, Trisha Yearwood because that takes me back to my childhood. It’s fun to be able to reminisce through stuff that I remember growing up thinking, “Walk away, Joe.” He shouldn’t have walked away. I’m still crying over it. You turn around and you’ve got Breland coming out with My Truck. I drive a Chevy Silverado. I have probably worn that song out. I’m fully responsible for at least 20,000 streams of that song because I was in my truck and I was like, “I’m a girl that drives a truck.” I loved it. It gives you so much emotion. At the end of the day, we are all human and we want to feel emotion.

I think about Brooks and Dunn with Red Dirt Road. I have never been on a red dirt road but you don’t have to be on a red dirt road to identify it with because it’s about, where do you come from? Where do you identify with? What takes you back? You came to Nashville for Country music. You are originally from West Virginia and you grew up with this obsession for music, storytelling, finding creative ways to make music visual, which is interesting.

TJP 24 | Country Music

Country Music: Country music is one of the very few genres that is fully based and completely immersed in really great, authentic storytelling. You have to be vulnerable.

You take this leap to go to Nashville, join a cover band and start working at a bank, which is the opposite. I know this because after I’ve got out of the military, I worked at a bank. It is certainly what I call a formative time in my professional and personal career to identify what I truly did and did not want to do. You moved there to pursue music and production. It’s a competitive industry. There’s certainly no shortage of rising stars. What was the goal going there? When you’ve got there, how did you look around and say, “Where do I fit in? How do I get involved with what’s going on here?”

I grew up on a small family farm. My mom was a nurse. My dad has a degree in Horticulture and Science. My family either has a trade that is making them great money and they have their family or they are in politics. Growing up and being the kid that was obsessed with theater, art, music and going, “When I grow up, I’m going to move to Nashville.” That scared them all to death. They were like, “That doesn’t make any sense. Why would you do that? Why don’t you go be a teacher? Why don’t you go into nursing? Why don’t you follow something else that makes sense for the community of people, in which you live?”

Honestly, that was the best experience ever because I’ve got to grow up with people who were constantly challenging me. They were constantly being like, “Have you thought this through? Do you have a plan B? Do you have a plan C? What’s your idea of execution to make this happen? Life is expensive and you have to be able to figure that out for yourself.” It was a great launching point. I knew that I wanted to move to Nashville, to work in music and to be able to make stories visual. I knew that I couldn’t do that where I grew up in West Virginia. My parents sat me down and they said, “We are going to be honest with you. You are not great at fixing things or mechanical things. You have to go to college because we are worried that you are not going to be able to put food on your table, pay your bills and make sure that your life is in the lane.”

“You are never going to work on this farm.” You were fired before you may have been hired.

Fired before I was hired by my family, which is worse.

I worked for my mom for a short amount of time. In about six weeks, I quit and was fired about 3 or 4 times. I get it.

At least they are honest with us, though. I can’t carry a shovel properly because my dad is like, “Put that down. You are not doing that.” I’m like, “Okay. I’m going to college.” As soon as college was over, I moved to Nashville, Tennessee. I’ve got here and I quickly realized that Nashville is very much a relationship-based town. I did not have anyone in town that I knew. I thought, “I need to make money. I have a degree. I worked part-time at a bank when I was in college. I have a little bit of experience there. Everyone needs gas, groceries and money. Where can I go to work where I’m going to meet everyone?” Everyone needs those three things, gas, grocery and money.

I have little experience in banking. They are going to pay me a little bit better. Also, they are going to give me my nights and my weekends pretty free so that I can continue to network and I can play in a cover band. I came to Nashville thinking I wanted to be a singer. I thought I wanted to sing and be a singer. I’ve quickly got here, worked at a bank had a great time playing in a cover band, was playing on Broadway Downtown several nights a week. I was having the time of my life. Every single time that I was playing a show, there was something about that opportunity that I thought to myself, “I love this so much. I love performing and I love covering other artists.” I love it so much that I don’t want to ever give that away to someone else to tell me what I need to do with my artistry.

If I want to cover a Kelly Clarkson song and then go cover a Journey song and then flip it back to a Reba song, I want to be able to have the opportunity to do that. It was a great time because I was able to realize, “You want to sing? You can sing. You don’t have to be an artist to do that.” I started to moonlight as Lauryn Snapp and The HYPE cover band situation. It was great, best opportunity, situation, scenario. It’s wonderful.

I listened to some of those on YouTube. It was good.

You want to sing? You can sing. You don't have to be an artist in order to do that. Click To Tweet

You have to come to a show.

I can’t wait. They were good.

We had a good time. It’s one of those places that you can truly be yourself and let all the release out. I didn’t want to give that away to anybody. I did not want to not work in music. That forced me to think, “What is it that I want to do?” I know what it’s like to be an artist. I know what it’s like to try and overcome challenges. I love the creative process and making things visual. I want to tell stories. How can I make all of those things happen? Honestly, I had no idea how I was going to make that happen. I was working at a bank, playing in a cover band and trying to network my little tail off all over town and ask for work.

Honestly, at that point, not knowing anybody and knowing that Nashville is a relationship-based town, I was willing to do anything. I would have shined shoes and taken the trash out. I didn’t care what it was. I needed someone to give me the opportunity because I knew that I worked hard and I am not afraid of rolling up my sleeves at all. I needed that opportunity. Whatever that looked like was what I was going to end up doing. I was staying in an apartment as one does when they are young and fresh out of college. It was not exactly the Taj Mahal but, in my head, it was the Taj Mahal.

It was home. It was clean. That was great. We had a tornado that came through Nashville and I had never seen a tornado before. I was obsessed with Helen Hunt and Twister when I was growing up and I thought, “If we have a tornado, I want to see it.” That makes sense. I don’t know any better. I’m from West Virginia and we don’t have tornadoes. I thought, “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” I stepped out on my back porch and I’m watching the storm come through.

I noticed that there’s a gentleman that standing on his porch. He’s about my age. He looks over and he goes, “We are pretty crazy for being out here.” I was like, “Yes, we are. I have never seen a tornado before.” He was like, “I don’t think that we should be out here. Do you want to come over to my house?” It’s right across the hall. He’s in the apartment adjacent to me. “Do you want to come over to my house and we will watch the tornado together?” I didn’t think about safety at that time but it seemed unthreatening. We were having a funny conversation. Of course, I did that.

Now, it would be like, “No.”

You move immediately. I went to his house and brought some cookies. We watched this tornado storm happen. I didn’t see a tornado but it got scary. We ended up in a bathroom in his house, hunkered down and I’m thinking to myself, “This is how I’m going to be. This is it for me. This is how it goes.”

With a stranger in a bathtub and a tornado.

Also, a box of cookies. My parents would have laughed so hard but also have been devastated because that was the choice that led me there. We are in this bathroom and we are hunkered down. We are talking about what we are doing. He was finishing up school and he was working for Reba McEntire on the road. As one does, you are like, “If there’s ever an opportunity where you need help, I will work for free to do whatever it is I need to do to get in the music industry. I need to meet people and be given an opportunity.” As one does in the music industry, we are all like, “Yes, for sure. I will call you. No problem.” I thought, “I’m never going to hear from you again but I know where you live.”

He called me a couple of months later and needed help with a music video. I jumped at the opportunity. I was like, “What is it that we are working on?” He had several children, probably 40 little kids that were somewhere between the ages of 5 and 12 coming in to do this video series. He didn’t have a stage manager. He didn’t have a producer. He had a camera guy, a sound guy and himself as the Director. He had all these children and he’s like, “Can you come and help me wrangle these little tots?” I was like, “Absolutely. Aunt Lo-Lo is on the way.” I’m going to bring out all my aunt’s skills and be there to help and support.

We had a great day. The shoot was fantastic. We played theater games. We spent the entire day together. These kids were super engaged. They did an incredible job. I didn’t do anything other than making sure that I was keeping all of these kids safe and keeping them in the loop on what they were going to be needing to do coming up. We were able to move through the shots fast because they knew what was going to happen. At the end of that shoot, everyone says their congratulations, thank-yous and all of that. We all disperse.

Flash forward about a month and a half, I get a phone call from Shane Tarleton at Warner Music Nashville and Shane is friends with Reba McEntire, and had heard that I had done such a great job on set. It was super easy, laid back but efficient. He needed someone to come help run his creative department at Warner Music Nashville. My heart drops because I am a super nerd. I love reading albums cover to cover. I want to know what the bylines are, who wrote the songs, who produced the art and what label. I read every little bit of fine print. It’s the only fine print that I read. If you give me a credit card statement I’m like, “Okay, sure.” The fine print of an album, I am enamored by it.

When he called me, I knew exactly who I was talking to and I was like, “This is truly a dream come true.” I was nervous the day of the interview that I was called out of work. I’m a person who will show up to work if the world is on fire. I always will be there. I had to call out of work for the first time in my adult life. I was nervous because of this interview with him. We had a conversation. I remember telling him, “Here’s the thing. I know that this is a job that a lot of people want. I also know that you have four great schools a stone’s throw distance from your office now. You probably have a line of applicants for this job specifically around the building.”

“I promise you, if you take a chance on a girl from West Virginia, you will not be sorry because I will outwork every single person that you have ever talked to about this job. I need you to take a chance and realize that networking is not a problem for me. I am thorough. I’m detail-oriented. I will go above and beyond every single time because I love this so much that this isn’t just a job for me. This is not just a passion project that I’m trying to do on the side. This is exactly what I want to do for the rest of my life. I want to make music visual. I want to be telling stories. I want to help curate the future of Country music. This is where that needs to happen. I need you to take a chance on me and allow this little Podunk girl from West Virginia to roll her sleeves up because you won’t be sorry.”

Also, you can’t farm.

I can’t go back.

You have one chance.

This is it. Fancy, don’t let me down. He did. I spent six years there. It was a fantastic experience. We had a roster of 43 artists. We were handling everything visual from music videos, photoshoots, digital branding, any type of social posts, anything that had video, photos or any type of text copy. We were handling all of that.

This was a pivotal time with social media and where social media was. It was becoming a foundational element of marketing, advertising and branding. Not only for brands like Warner Music and even Country music television but celebrity promotion. That was what started to facilitate their interaction and their community building with their audiences and with their fans. At that time, we didn’t even have the term influencer. We didn’t even know what an influencer was. It didn’t exist.

It’s critical also to understand that, at that time, everything had been funneled through the record labels, all of the development of the record, the engagement with the fans, all of the promotional aspects. Everything had gone through the record labels. Now, this was the introduction of a new world where you were flattening their ability to communicate with their audience, which is now threatening the role of managers, promoters and record labels.

We are inundated with emails. 90% of them are useless. It could have been a phone call. Click To Tweet

We still had CDs. At this time, you are seeing the shift from CDs to streaming. There’s this fear that if the artists now can communicate directly with all of their audiences on this social media thing, do I now have a role as a record label? What happens if they, at some point, realize that they can produce their own music and then release it directly to an audience and then I’m getting cut out?

Talk a little bit more about this time and what was going on. There’s an evolution of technology. There are new trends in advertising, marketing and community building. Here, you are charged with, “Go out there. Figure this out. Here are your 43 artists. We’ve got to get them out to the world.” We have an institutionalization level of thought from record labels. Is that in our best interest?

Do you remember Field of Dreams?

Yes.

They were like, “If you build it, they will come.” It was the first time that the music industry overall was building things and people were not coming. They were not going to go buy physical CDs because they were downloading or they were streaming. That’s scary because that then changes how people are consuming their music and what they expect from the fans. That was the first time that we saw that pivot and it was all due to social media. The transformation in the music industry is that it’s our responsibility to find innovative ways to bring people together. That’s what it is all about.

Thinking through innovative ways to bring people together, what does that look like? We have social media. Is that going to be something that we are going to be able to maximize? We have to figure that out. We have to figure out ways to be able to find touchpoints. What is that going to look like? Being part of a creative services department, it was a conversation where it was like, “We don’t need to show an additional photo of Blake Shelton out in the middle of Ada, Oklahoma in his field at his farm.” People want to know what’s going on.

We would have to find different ways to promote Blake’s music by using video content. A lot of times, it was self-shot. We would do little stories or little teasers and it was Blake talking to his camera and holding up the phone. We would have sent somebody out on the road to interview him, to be with him backstage at a concert or be on the bus with him. We would shoot high-end quality content. We no longer had to do that because fans wanted that personal touch. They wanted to feel like, “That’s the guy I want to sit down and have a beer with.” What is it that we can do from a digital standpoint to make sure that we can try and find those touchpoints so that people feel more connected to those artists?

There’s authenticity behind that, too.

At first, the knee-jerk reaction is, “Don’t show them the authentic side because there’s a pimple or a dimple. We don’t have to show that.” That’s part of the beauty of what fans are wanting. That’s honestly the beauty of TikTok. You have tons of TikTok famous influencers that we would have never thought we are going to be influencers because we didn’t even know what that was. You look at these videos and it’s not polished. They are usually in sweatpants. Their house is a mess but they are doing something that everybody can relate to. It could be eating a banana and that’s going to go viral. Whereas somebody else could spend $47,000 to put together some well-shot pro music video or whatever and that doesn’t get any type of engagement because nobody connects with that. I don’t have any type of music video setup that’s going to help me be able to touch people’s lives and share a story.

They want to know what’s going on now. “I don’t care if you have a coffee stain on your shirt. Get on there and tell the people.” That’s the mindset. Try to figure out ways to pivot a creative team with excellent artists with excellent songs. It was an exciting time. It was also scary because it changed not only the way that our artists were engaging with the fans, it changed the way that we had to internally work and think about what we were doing. Finding intentional behavior within our company was a big key factor in that.

Let’s talk about some intentionality. There are two programs that you were influential in creating at Warner Music Nashville that are important from an organizational design standpoint, it’s certainly near and dear to our hearts on the show. How do we build organizations that are resilient, sustainable, the development of elite talent in terms of the individual, the team and then the broader organization?

The first one was called Space to Create. You have defined that as a program designed to energize cultural and organizational change but founded on the principle of no time, no space, no innovation. Finding ways that employees could take the space they needed to be their best. You said, “As a creative community, it was incredibly important for us to make sure we were constantly being refueled. When you love something so much, you are invested in it emotionally and you are constantly working many hours, you physically start to burn out. You mentally burn out and you are not producing the creative good work that you always strive to give.”

We released an episode on what we called Operator Syndrome. When you push for too long, too far, too much, and you never stop to internalize, you never realize that the quality of your work is slowly degrading because you haven’t taken a step back to reset, refuel, re-energize and then take the two steps forward. You took one step back. Can you talk a bit more about Space to Create, the initiative, the drivers behind its culturally and the four components of that program, the strategy, the communication, discovery and innovation, and influence and impact?

Space to Create was something that was crafted on the fact that I knew that Warner Music Nashville had hired the most incredible designers. We had a wonderful group of people that sat on my team. They were incredibly creative, detail-oriented and wanted to be there. They would show up and they would do incredible work every single day, week over week. With an artist roster of 43 artists, that time was never-ending. There was never a time to refuel. What we all noticed is that we are tired. There are a lot of vulnerabilities in saying, “I love this and I want to do great work but I’m tired. I’m not being able to produce the work at the quality that I used to do because, frankly, I’m exhausted.”

In those conversations, we realized that wasn’t a problem that my little tiny team of six people was encountering. It was an entire label issue. The radio team A and R, and our CEO were exhausted. Everybody felt exhausted but happy to be there. When you look at a group of people and you are like, “You are tired but you are still smiling. You are still marching forward. You are still showing up. You are still trying to deliver. What is it that we can do as an organization to go ahead, pivot and transform with the industry that is already pivoting and transforming?”

We have 43 artists on a label. Everyone needs everything visual. People want to be able to see everything. The digital space is expanding immensely, streaming downloads are off the charts and people want those constant curated conversations. You are constantly trying to churn out content to go ahead and fulfill the need that these artists have within their brands. That trickles down to the company that is supporting all of that.

We came up with this program, Space to Create. Space to Create is taking the time to figure out what it is that you need and require so that you can continue to perform at your best and deliver the excellence that we have witnessed the entire time. With Space to Create, it’s empowering the people, invigorating the process and then trying to find ways to lead the industry. That was what it all came down to. Empower the people to make decisions that are going to be beneficial for them knowing that the decisions that they make are also going to benefit the company. Invigorate the process, try and find ways to innovate, enhance creative conversations or find new ways to refuel your creative juices. It’s very much a circular process.

When you are in creative, you deep-dive into something, you are emotionally invested, you are fully invested with your work ethic, you are trying to get something done, you have a goal and you accomplish that goal. If there’s not a refueling process for a creative, they are going to be constantly making the same type of creative choices over and over again because you don’t get to see anything. If you look at children, the first time a baby sees Christmas lights, it’s one of my favorite things on the entire planet. I don’t have children. If I see a child get to see Christmas lights for the first time, it makes my heart explode with joy. That baby is seeing something it has never seen for the first time and it’s completely mesmerized and it will remember that year over year when they get to see those Christmas lights, Santa is on the way.

As a creative, you need to find a way to be able to see something, do something or experience something completely different so that you get that same sense of refueled nurturement from your job. Space to Create was founded on all of that. What we realized is that we are inundated with emails and 90% of them are useless. It could have been a phone call. We’ve got meetings out the wazoo.

Nobody uses the phone anymore.

I love a good phone call.

It's those nuances of conversation that happened before and after where creativity gets sparked. Click To Tweet

I have started to try to call people more and embrace that versus the text or the email. It’s funny because there certainly was a time where your phone would ring and you were mad like, “Why is this person calling me? They should be texting me. It’s so annoying.” What we forget is that so much is lost in the text message. There’s no nuance. You can’t judge a person’s tone. A lot of things are misinterpreted, either positively or negatively, in email and text because we have relied now on this technology where we have totally forgotten that. You can pick up the phone and talk to somebody, probably get it done faster and have a better result.

If you think about it if I text you now and I say, “What’s up?” How do you read that? Do you read that like I’ve got bad news to deliver? You are reading it like, “She’s going to give me bad news.” Do you read that and go, “She’s upbeat usually. It’s probably, ‘What’s up?’” Nobody knows.

I default to, “I did something wrong.”

That’s where I go, too. It’s one of those things that gives me so much anxiety that I brace myself. If I enter a room and somebody looks at me and goes, “What’s up?” I immediately think in my head, “What kind of bad news can I deliver? They are already mentally prepared for that so I should just go ahead and figure out what it is that I’m going to tell them down the line and give it to them now.”

It’s such a different way to communicate and it’s so much more efficient and effective in the office. Trying to figure out, “Is your email something you need to send? Is your text something that you would prefer to send over a phone call? Can you pick up the phone and have a four-second conversation and move on?” It’s going to make you more effective, more efficient and make sure that that communication is heard and felt on both sides.

You said, “I have to connect, create and cultivate culture through in-person connections using technology as a partner, not as a temple.”

We have seen it a lot now because we have all been locked down due to COVID. How many times have you had a meeting on Zoom and you walk away from that meeting and think, “I know that I sat there the whole time but I honestly cannot remember what we talked about?” It’s happened to me so many times. I didn’t get anything from that. Whereas if I get to go into the same space and we are all seated, even if it’s just a boring boardroom, I get to go into a space with people and I get to see the dynamic personalities, hear about somebody’s weekend or be able to understand where they are coming from. Also, if they are having a good day or bad day, what that energy is. It adds to the entire story.

Honestly, most times, we could be sitting down to meet and talk about some type of creative plan that we have put together. That’s all well and good, and there’s a time and a space for that. It is always that first intro and that exit that I pay attention to because that’s where the magic happens. It’s not about why we are here. We already both got the agenda. We have looked at that. We don’t need that anymore. We know what’s going on.

It’s the nuances of like, “What is it that you did this weekend? How is your family? What is it that has wowed you this week? Are you watching anything on television?” It’s those nuances of conversation that happened before and after that is, honestly, where new creativity gets sparked. If you are not having an in-person meeting or you are not paying attention to the people that are around you, it’s lost in translation and it’s because of technology. We need to find ways to be able to use technology when we need to be able to use technology but also understand that there’s something special about the handshake, a belly laugh and an in-person moment. Be able to tell stories, share experiences and truly create.

The water cooler talk in the hallway passing by. I do hope that as we come out of COVID eventually, if we don’t go into another series of relapses on this thing, that people will remember that, especially in creative environments. In creative environments, you can’t simply just sit there and say, “Go be creative. Go over there and create. When you are done with that Zoom call, go create something else.” You are right. You will fall into the same, “How did I do it last time? We have to go and do that,” but there’s no conversation.

What’s lost in that personal communication is that after you sit through six hours of video calls, you can’t then go have that conversation that you would have when you were walking back to your desk with your co-worker because, number one, it’s not being scheduled and you are not going to schedule it. You are not going to say, “We sat on here and we have been on calls all day. I’m going to call you for ten more minutes so that we can have a conversation about what we talked about.” You are like, “No, I’ve got to go do something else.”

If they were even engaged. I have two screens here, which means that I probably may not be fully engaged in what we are doing here because I’m looking at something else. The phone is going off. You are now not in this personal space of someone else, where someone else is going to look at you and give you the look of, “You are rude. You are not paying attention,” or you are going to feel the embarrassment of, “I’m rude. I’m not paying attention.” You are almost forced to engage. Whereas now, it’s like, “I can click my video off, put my feet on my desk, eat a sandwich, check my Facebook, then maybe I will think about what you are talking about later.”

You are right about the money. It will be interesting to see what happens post-COVID as things start to open up because there are times where things are opening up here in Nashville. Transparently, I have been home and I have taken things seriously. I have done my part to try and do what I can. Now that things are opening up, there are times where I walk into a space and it’s people that I have worked with forever. I shouldn’t feel any type of anxiety around it but I almost walk into a space and I’m like, “I don’t know what to do with my hands because I haven’t been in front of these people in a long time.” I’m trying to figure that out.

It’s interesting how COVID even will change the communication and our relationship process. That being said, the beautiful part of COVID is that I have been able to connect with people in my family that I didn’t connect with as much before COVID because everything was so busy. Taking a busy industry slowing us down and making us identify the meat and potatoes of what it is that we do have not only leveraged us to be more creative and intentional about our communication because it is so limited. Also, it’s opened up the opportunity for us to engage artists and do things at a different pace than what we did before.

There were a lot of times where we would be out and this is talking with CMT per se and we would have 4 or 5 nights of different interviews that we would have on the books. That’s all well and good, and I love that. Now we have realized that we can sit down with an artist, go ahead and do that interview but then we can also figure out a way to make a video that we can then send to a children’s hospital and try to spark joy locally.

There are a lot of opportunities that have come from COVID locking us down. We have been able to figure out ways to make a video quickly, make it organic and authentic. We have been able to send it to people with whom we can share an additional story or make a bigger impact than just what it is that we are doing in the collective bubble that we are all in, which I believe in a lot.

Let’s dig into that a little bit more because your job is to create a connection between artists and fans. To a large extent, at CMT, the Country Music Television, and the fans, to create that environment by which you have the artists, the fans and now we are sparking this community but COVID shut that down. Every industry got hammered but you look at three core industries, travel, hospitality, live music, zero. By and large, travel is coming back. Hospitality is coming back, although there are so many fewer that are now involved in restaurants and hospitality space than they were because they couldn’t make it.

The last I would say to recover is probably the live music piece and we are starting to see things come online but it’s slow. We are getting there. How do we get back? What does this look like? You spoke about TikTok. We all are familiar with Facebook and Instagram, how brands have leveraged that. You spoke about the rise of TikTok, where that has become a huge piece of each artist’s engagement with their community. What happens from here as you look at the industry, artists and the direction we are going with things opening up. Is it better? Is it worse? What’s going to happen?

I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t think anybody knows what’s going to happen. That Delta variant is a huge concern and we are hopeful that we can keep everything moving in the direction that we all thought was going to happen but we don’t know what the future is going to hold. Having live music come back has touched a lot of people. A lot of people have been incredibly sad throughout COVID. There has been a lot of depression and there has been a lot of people that have been hurting.

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The Country Music space has been a good place for those people to land. We have seen tons of new fans come and discover Country Music because of TikTok or because of a social media platform that they are seeing artists post on. There’s downtime that has not been lost on the creative people that are writing the songs and recording the song. We are going to come out of this and we are going to see a creative renaissance. I don’t know what the future holds but I hope that we get to a place where we are seeing incredible quality music that touches people and makes an impact on people’s daily lives, whether that be your new workout playlist and you are pumping iron to some Luke Bryan or if you find something that you need for a wedding playlist. You want everybody to be engaged and you’ve got different generations of people that are coming together for a wedding and a celebratory moment.

In 2020, that wasn’t possible. I hope that we are going to see a creative renaissance, great music, new artists bubble up and what it is that fans want. TikTok has become the A&R department of the people, which is beautiful because it’s allowing fans to have a voice in what they want to hear on the radio. Whereas before, it was coming from a label, radio programmers and people in the industry that was much curating that conversation of what fans want to hear when they turn on their radios.

In TikTok, everybody has a say. If a video goes viral, it’s not because somebody put money behind it. It’s because somebody tells some girl sitting in her bedroom playing the guitar, sitting at the end of her bed and this girl was super talented, undeniable. She will level up, and then we have a new artist.

I love that there’s a new discovery process because it gives the power to the people of what they want to hear and what they want to listen to. Now we have artists like Priscilla Block and Lily Rose. Being able to discover these new artists through TikTok has been wild. I’m a Country fan. I’m seeing Country artists on TikTok that I’m obsessed with and I can’t wait for them to release more music. I’m hearing that internally and externally because I want people to hear it.

At the same time, it’s cool to see that on TikTok, a leading conversation piece with Country music is how women are placed in Country music. The charts are male-dominated. If you look at Country music as a whole, it is male-dominated. Is there space for quality female artists? Absolutely. How are we going to find them? We could possibly find them on TikTok. Lily Rose is one of the best new female artists that have been found on TikTok. Her songs are incredible. Not only is she a female artist but she’s also openly gay.

What a great lane for her to be able to take her story and find different touchpoints within Country music for different communities of people that otherwise may have felt like outsiders and realize, “What’s one more layer to the Country music family?” We have room for that. It’s not just your story or my story. It now is an all-encompassing thing. TikTok is a good place for that to have happened.

I want to talk about another campaign that you were involved in at Warner Music and that was called the Makes You Feel campaign because it ties into this creative side of things. It ties to by the name itself. What resonates with you when you look at an artist or a brand? I like how you phrased it in our conversation about the Makes You Feel campaign where it’s not about warm, fuzzy feelings but it’s about how we feel about what we are doing. The relationships we have, how we influence and impact our business and enhance our personal lives but also people are first in everything. That’s a big part of what we talk about.

In the Special Operations Forces, it’s what we call the number one truth, the most important value that we have. People are more important than hardware. People are at the center of everything. Can you talk a little bit about the Makes You Feel campaign and how you use that to bridge departments and create connections between the company and also, the artists and the fans? There’s a cool piece of this with the favorite brand exercise that I know you have talked about to maybe quantify it.

At the end of the day, we all have to realize that we are humans. We have emotions, stress and joy. We have family and we have important things. We have values and we have a goal. Being able to take a second and realize, “What is the mission? What is it that we are trying to accomplish? How can we do that together? What is it that you can do? What can you bring to the table? What can you accept from someone else bringing something else to the table to make sure that that happens?”

Makes You Feel it isn’t about being warm and fuzzy. It’s not about trying to be mushy like, “I love you,” and going through the rigmarole of all of that. It’s team-high ropes and knowing, “I’m going to give you my best. You are going to give me your best. We are going to come together and we are going to accomplish creative team-high ropes or organizational transformation team-high ropes type maneuvers here.”

If you lead with a people-first mentality, I feel like those people feel more valued to accompany. From an organizational standpoint, if you are a leader and you are trying to lead your company, do it with a people-first mentality. If you do that, your employee buy-in is going to be greater. There’s more transparency on hard topics that are sometimes tough to discuss. There is a more 360-view of what the overall goal is if you can lead with that people-first mentality.

When you look at the intentional behavior that you do every single day, what are those intentional behaviors that are going to enhance your ability to communicate and connect with the people that you work with internally? Also, what is it that is happening on the outside? It doesn’t matter what your book of business is. You don’t have to be a music industry person or you don’t have to be an art person and work in a creative space.

If you work at a car dealership, a gas station or a hospital, you internally have communication that is going on, what is it that you are going to do every single day that’s going to validate the fact that you are showing up fully, which is a huge part of it and be completely prepared? What does that look like on the outside? If you are working in a hospital and you are showing up and you have an overstretched hospital staff that has been dealing with COVID, what are you doing internally to make sure that the people that you work with are taken care of? What is it you are doing for yourself to make sure that you are taken care of? How does that staff interaction impact your patients?

Makes You Feel is not about being warm and fuzzy. It’s all about being intentional in the behaviors that you set and the things that you do and following through with those intentional behaviors and better your relationships. This is an external viewpoint. Everything about Makes You Feel that we discussed was all internal. How does that internally make our company better? We are looking outside of the box to see what we can do to impact that space as well.

The second half of Makes You Feel is, what is that relationship with the people that you need to have a touchpoint with throughout the day? For me, music industry, label, creative, artists. You have artists that need to touch fans. You need to have better relationships because then those fans want to spend more time and/or money with these artists. Making everyone more money, being able to release new music, it’s a big cycle.

Nobody wants to be with someone they don’t like.

You want to hang out with people that you want to be around because they bring something to the table, whether that be humor or dad jokes, or somebody that you can count on. You want to spend time with people that you want to spend time with. They have to have a certain quality thing about them. Otherwise, if someone is mean, rude or has a disgruntled viewpoint on the world, I don’t want to spend time with that. “I’m already fighting those demons on my own. I don’t need you to come in here and verbalize them. Get out of here.”

The Makes You Feel concept also is, what is it that brings you into somebody? What is it that makes you feel connected to a certain brand? If you grew up and your entire life, you wanted to buy Nike shoes, and then for your thirteenth birthday, your mom and dad bought you a pair of $125 Nike shoes and you felt like the coolest kid in school. You don’t have the mindset of, “Those are great shoes.” You have an emotional connection because at thirteen years old when you are struggling with puberty and awkward moments in middle school, you have some cool shoes to show off. That gives you an emotional experience that’s going to tie you to Nike forever.

When Nike releases a new shoe and you see it, you are like, “That’s a cool shoe,” more than likely, you are going to go ahead and buy that shoe. Not because it’s a Nike shoe but because of the way that made you feel at thirteen years old. It’s a beautiful program that encompasses the way that we interact, the behaviors that we have and the way that we can find touchpoints that are similar to invigorate the entire process.

That’s what resonates. You have to find what resonates with somebody. Back to our original points about the emotional response, how do I feel when I’m engaged with someone or when I’m engaged with something? We spoke about it in terms of Country music. I identify with certain songs or with certain artists because of the emotions that are manifested inside of me. That’s the same thing with building a brand that I can look at and I can have an emotional response versus maybe more of a logical response.

You are in your dream job, as you have quantified it but you realize that it wasn’t doing it all for you. There was something else. You said you realized that there was an importance of betting on yourself. This is interesting because we spoke with Shelley Paxton. She was the former Chief Marketing Officer of Harley-Davidson and now she’s an author, podcast host, coach, mentor, friend, under a premise that she developed called Soulbbatical. Soulbbatical is when you realize that you live your life according to what she terms other people’s shoulds. “I should have a corporate career. I should get married and have children. I should do all these things that society says I should do but am I ever doing these things for myself? Probably not.”

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What is the point at which you wake up one day and you say, “It’s time to look inward, do the things that make me happy, take that leap of faith to internalize what those are and then go do it?” You leave Warner Music and you go to Country Music Television. I would argue, not a bad next step, especially when the first role is to produce the award show. Can you talk about this switch producing the award show, going on to meet Cody Alan and coming into your role? This is an amazing opportunity.

I loved my time at Warner Music Nashville. I loved my job at Warner Music Nashville. I love the people that are there and I love the artist’s roster. They are absolutely fantastic and I still cheer hard for those people but I woke up and I realized that I wasn’t living my truth. On paper, I had a great job. It looks glamorous on Instagram and I was having the time of my life most of the time but I wasn’t using the skills that I still felt like I wanted to use. I wanted to do more videos, write for a website, be able to do some social media and be able to curate large-scale productions.

I honestly didn’t have the capacity to be able to do that at Warner Music Nashville so I had to wake up and quit my dream job. It was the scariest moment of my entire life. I was sick for weeks when I was trying to come to this decision. I had no idea what the next steps were. I believe that luck is founded fully in people who are prepared to take on a new opportunity. I don’t know that I believe in just the luck of the draw. You have an opportunity and a door that’s going to be opening and if you are prepared to walk through it, then that’s where luck comes into play.

I didn’t know what my next step was going to be so I was praying about getting lucky, which is so weird for me because I don’t believe in that. I’ve got a phone call from CMT to come and take on a three-month contract and produce their award show. I loved it. I had a great onboarding experience. The team that is at CMT is incredible. It was my first time producing an award show. I had helped produce tour screens for different artists and I have done a lot of creative in the background but I have never helped work on that. I had a wonderful experience.

Also, at that moment, though, I realized that I love creative but I wasn’t telling stories. There was no story and looking at a branding book to try and make sure that all of our assets were going to be perfectly matched for the entire space that we were trying to design within Bridgestone. There’s a story in that. Honestly, I took a step back and I thought, “You know a few things. You like making music visual, telling stories, journalism, social media and being able to be in that space with those people. What job is that? What does that look like?” Honestly, I had no idea at the time. I had met Cody Alan in an elevator and we had a great conversation.

Did you have your elevator pitch?

I did not. It was more like, “How’s your day?” “Cool. I had the best day. This is what happened.” He’s like, “Awesome.” I was like, “Have a great night. Enjoy your takeout.” I was dealing with the worst but it was just banter conversation. We were laughing. I didn’t even think anything of it. Fast forward, we had a couple of different interactions and it was clear that he was going to have a role on his team and that I would be a good fit for the group of people. You want to work with people you want to work with. You’ve got to have something amongst those people. People want to work with people who work hard but have a good attitude.

When it became clear that we all have a similar demeanor, similar attitude and have a roll up your sleeves mentality, I ended up joining his team. It was the first time that I felt like I was home. I absolutely love working on the radio. I love working with Cody on TV. I love being able to produce segments and help curate interviews, and then retell stories or share experiences from things that we get to encounter together.

If we go to a festival, sure we are going to tell you about meeting up with Jason Aldean and we are going to talk about that conversation but also, I want to show you a ton of pictures from people in the most outrageous outfits at Faster Horses Festival or wherever. I like to be able to find touchpoints for people who might be sitting at home wishing that they could go to a festival or also excited for Jason Aldean’s tenth album to come out. I’m going to be totally vulnerable here. I am honestly shocked that I didn’t listen to my intuition earlier. I was so pressed on trying to get to Nashville and make it in the music industry, make music visual and all of these things. I grew up absolutely obsessed with Casey Kasem, Rick Dees and Delilah.

I remember making jokes in college like, “I’m going to do some weird mashup between Casey Kasem and Delilah but for Country music.” We would all laugh and laugh. I wish that I would have listened to my gut a little bit more probably earlier on. When it landed with Cody Alan and my job changed to that role and I started working with him on the radio, there was a moment where I was like, “You little nincompoop. You totally predicted this back in 2006.”

It was a moment where I felt, “This is where I need to be. This is exactly what I want to do. I want to be able to share stories, have engagement with fans and make music visual on social media.” That’s where radio is now. That’s absolutely a vision of where radio is headed and I’m loving it. I quit my dream job, panicked, freaked out, and then found my truth, and that’s beautiful.

There’s a characteristic of elite performance that we use on the show and within the Talent War Group called effective intelligence. It’s part of the nine Special Operations Forces characteristics of elite performance. Effective intelligence is where you take the breadth and the depth of the experiences that you have had in life. You then apply them to the challenge at hand. You apply them to what you are doing. It’s the premise that because you have done so many other things and maybe they are different, maybe they are not the same but they have given you a set of skills and a set of experiences. By now, you can base decisions and you based perspective. A lot of it is about perspective because we say we are all a victim of our own experiences.

You use that to make your thought process and develop your thought process and your decision-making process moving forward. Even though it seems that you may have come in a full circle from where you wanted to be, you may not be there if you had taken that direct linear path because it was the journey that brought you to where you are now.

Shelley talks about this, too in our conversation. Life is a journey. Do we live to work or do we work to live? The journey that we are on isn’t about getting to a destination because we all wake up every day and we fall asleep, I would argue. Think about that. Where do I need to be? Where do I have to be in 1, 5, 10, 20 years? Life is about the journey by which you are getting to somewhere that may or may not be defined and it’s okay that it’s not defined.

I love that you walked me through everything that I have ever struggled with. Once you get to a certain point, you realize that you wouldn’t appreciate the things that you have at that current moment without being able to go backward and go through all of the stuff that you went through. Whatever trauma, problems, issues, it makes you have this bittersweet appreciation for it. You may not have recognized had you found your way there, fell upward after college and landed your perfect dream job. That would have never happened. I wouldn’t feel the appreciation. That’s something that does refuel me creatively because I do appreciate what we do. I am passionate about it. I’m taking all of this in right now because I have never had someone tell me that quite like that before. That was genius.

It’s the journey. Take the journey, embrace it and own it. This is a good point then now that I have provided this wisdom to you.

Dropping knowledge on your show. I knew what I was standing up for.

You never know what you are going to get on this show. The readers and I can draw this knowledge from you. I love your Instagram. I like the stories that you put on your Instagram. You have a lot of your thoughts and your perspective on leadership and emotional control. We use the term emotional strength in Special Operations. You give your perspective and you tell us through your social media, how we can become better and that resonates with me for sure. From you, I have learned a lot about social media, the development of this show, content creation, branding and video. Sometimes we get it right and sometimes we get it okay.

I learned a lot from Emily Sandberg Gold, who we had on a previous episode and Cleo Stiller about how do you do it right and how do you create engagement and foster community. Something you are big on, too. I have created a section here called Lauren’s Leadership Chords and chords being the musical chords.

That’s the music tie-in. These are things that you have thrown out that express your opinion and to better ourselves. I thought, what I would do is I would throw them out to you and then in 3 to 5 lines, you very quickly tell me the first thing that comes to your mind. What does it mean to you, and then how do we apply it? First one, realize the things that you are really good at, what you are not good at and own it.

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If you can look at yourself and you go, “I’m good at X, Y and Z but I’m terrible at Math,” don’t waste your time to go try and be a Math teacher. You have so many other talents and that’s where your resources should be poured into. Do that. Follow the path of pursuit that gives you the edge of leaning into the things that you are good at and don’t be afraid of your own power.

That’s the Bill Belichick style of thinking. “Why do I need to train someone to do something they are not good at? I will just go get someone good at that thing and have them do that.” We always talk about, “Improving my weaknesses,” but what about improving my strengths? If I have a weakness, can I get somebody in there to complement that and do it better?

It’s a smarter way to work and it refuels you on your own.

Next one. Problem solves something until you know you cannot find the answer.

There is a huge mismark where we all feel like we have to shoulder all of the world’s problems and we have to have the answer, we have to have the solution. There will be times that you find yourself in a situation where you don’t have the solution, you can’t figure it out and you will be up against a wall. That is a time where I want people to stop and I want them to look at the other people that they have surrounded themselves with. What is your community and what can your community do for you? You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room but it’s awful nice if you know somebody else who could be smarter than you in that situation and there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s a powerful moment.

It is, and that requires humility. On the other side of that, it’s also annoying when your kid is like, “How do you spell this?” You are like, “Google it. Your phone is in your hand.” I will digress into parenting lessons. Three, “I would rather have someone ask a million questions and do a knockout job than not ask any questions and do quasi.”

I fully believe that. I would rather have you asked a million different questions so that we are both on the same page and you know what the expectation is than for someone to not ask any questions and just be floating out into the ocean, not really on point with anything that we thought was the vision. That being said, it takes a lot of vulnerability to be the person that says, “I’ve got questions. I don’t understand. I want to be a resource. I want to be a good partner. I want to be good support. I want to show up for you but I don’t know what I’m doing.”

Being able to be humble and also, raise your hand and be vulnerable in that moment is super-duper important when it comes to not only relationships at work but also the friendships that you have. If you don’t understand someone, ask the question. Don’t be afraid and ashamed of that. Go ahead and take that vulnerable approach because it leads to a better conversation.

This ties back as well into the Makes You Feel campaign. Can you create an organization where it’s collaborative and where it’s about empowerment? You cannot have empowerment if you, as a leader, never allow those under you to ask questions, invest in them or invest in the people to help them grow. It may be easier to look at someone and not want to answer their questions, not want to take time to coach, teach or mentor them but what happens, in the long run, is that you then become the focal point. You become the critical point of failure. You become the only one who can do anything.

Although it may take longer now to get that person up to speed and trained on the same page as you, tomorrow, a week, a month, a year from now, they are going to start to solve their own problems. They are going to start to make decisions, you are going to have the trust and confidence in them to be able to do that. Four, act with integrity.

Integrity is one of those things that if you can lead with integrity, not only does it make you value yourself but it makes the people around you value you equally. It builds trust. Integrity, once it’s tarnished, is hard to re-showcase and so it’s something that people should try, covet and be very intentional with what it is that they are giving the world.

It’s one of our top soft values. It’s one of the characteristics of elite performance. Integrity is there. You have to be honest. You have to be upfront with people and yourself. A big part of integrity is not only about the external portrayal but it’s about the internal portrayal and it ties into humility. It says, “Can I look at myself? Am I honest with myself and how I am performing? Do I have the integrity to say that I’m just not good enough, I need to be better, can I get better?” Next one, be a part of now. There is freedom in presence.

It’s wonderful when you get to stop, you get to take a breath and you get to realize what is going on around you at that moment. If you are one of those people that’s inundated with work and you are constantly looking at your phone receiving text messages, emails or whatever, and you miss your child’s birthday? That’s on you.

There is time and space for everyone if they take a second to be present. The power of presence is one of those things that once it’s gone, it’s gone forever but if you take time to intentionally be present in that moment, the payoff or the benefit of that will pay back tenfold. There’s always going to be time to respond to the text. There’s always going to be time to respond to the email. There’s always going to be time for, fill in the blank.

There are going to be times in your life and you will either have to be present or miss out on an opportunity. There are a lot of intuition that goes into that because there are times where I’m not going to be necessarily present in what’s going on in that moment. It’s because I know that the priority is going to be this email or this text message but being able to trust your gut, find where you need to be present, put your power and your intention in that space, that is a beautiful art to life that we never exactly master but we all should try.

We suck at multitasking and we think we are good. We say, “I can talk on the phone and drive,” you realize you are not engaged in the conversation and you are all over the road. You can’t sit in a meeting and text on your phone or answer your emails. I don’t think we accept that enough. We do put a false premium on a lot of the things you mentioned. If someone texts me and I’m guilty of it, when people text me all the time, my immediate response is, “I need to immediately get back.” It’s okay if you don’t.

It absolutely is. There’s nothing wrong with taking that space. If you are a rapid-fire texter back, and then you don’t do that, that’s almost a secondary problem because the other person is like, “Why didn’t they respond? Are they mad? Do they have something else?”

I go back to, “They are mad at me,” even though I haven’t talked to them about anything.

They are in my head the whole day. They are like, “I was just at the movies.” I’m like, “I thought you were taken by an axe murderer.” Calm down. It’s not that dramatic. They watched Wicked.

Last one. We are always in edit mode.

What that means is you can say every single day, “This is who I’m going to be today but tomorrow is going to change.” Being okay with the idea that there’s always going to be this ebb and flow of what it is that your goals are, what it is that you bring to the table that day, what kind of energy level you have. Being okay with being in edit mode is a beautiful thing because it not only identifies the new growth that you were continuously pursuing but it also allows you to remember the parts where you came from so that you can go back to that.

If you take time to intentionally be present in that moment, the payoff or the benefit of that will pay back tenfold. Click To Tweet

You can go, “I was super stressed out during this time and I overcame that. I have now gone through several edit modes and I remember how to deal with stress, communicate with people and do these things.” It’s one of my favorite things about being a human and I have been a human for a long time and being in edit mode is my favorite thing.

These lessons and perspectives force us to think about, “How do we approach our day? How do we approach our lives? How do we approach performance? How do we get better? Are we willing to accept when we are not good enough?” It’s the first step in actual improvement. Improvement of ourselves, our teams and our organizations. I want to ask you what I ask everybody because this is a fun part of our show and a critical piece to understanding what drives our guests to their own elite performance.

The Jedburghs in World War II had to do three things every day to be successful. They were the foundational elements of their role. They had to shoot, move and communicate. If they were proficient in these three core tasks, it didn’t matter what other challenges came their way. They could focus their energy on those other challenges because they were very good at these three foundational core elements. What are the three things that you do every day to be successful?

It is very important to identify what it is that you need from an overall wellness standpoint. Some days, that’s going to be to drink more water. Some days, that’s going to be to do a double workout. Some days, that’s going to be, break down and do protein shakes all day because you feel like crap. What is it that you need to be able to identify as wellness? What is going to be wellness for you now? Identify whatever that is.

The second thing is, be vulnerable and be intentional. The final part of that would be, show up fully. Put everything that you have into everything that you do. don’t back down from having that mentality because a lot of people are going to look at you and they are going to go, “You are intense or that was a lot.” That’s fine. You don’t have to be for everybody. You will find your people. You will find the right places. You will have the right spaces and you will have the best conversations but if you want to do that in the most ideal way, you have to show up fully. You might be too much for people but that’s okay. Those aren’t your people so it’s not going to enhance or take away from your life. Show up fully.

You’ve got to come to grips with the fact that not everybody is going to like you and that’s okay. If we are trying to please everybody, we are probably pleasing nobody. Define wellness, be vulnerable, intentional and show up fully. We spoke a little bit about the nine characteristics of elite performance as defined by Special Operations Forces as we use them here on the show. Drive, resiliency, adaptability, humility, integrity, effective intelligence, team ability, curiosity and emotional strength. These nine form the foundation of how we assess, select, recruit and train Special Operations Forces and they define elite talent in any organization.

It takes a combination of these nine and you have them as an elite performer, everybody does. It’s a combination of them that are used at various times. I say that and then I pick one for each one of my guests that I classify them as for you, it’s effective intelligence. We spoke about it through the majority of this episode in this conversation. Effective intelligence is that totality of experiences that you take from your past that you then apply to your future. It’s what makes you who you are and it’s what gives you your perspective.

You have had an amazing dynamic career across it a couple of different things. A farm girl who couldn’t farm from West Virginia to a banker, to a cover artist, into social and digital media, and marketing and content generation, to an on-air contributor and on-air host of a radio show. There are so many more things that are going to come. I really enjoyed our conversation. Your story, the perspective that you have, the deliberate and intentional thought that you put behind everything you do are truly commendable. It’s what separates you from your peers.

Country Music is dear to my heart. The support to the veteran community is profound and greater than so many, if not every other organization and industry that there is. Many times, I remember being deployed and going to see Toby Keith in concert in Iraq and seeing so many Country stars come out on the USO tours. Much support to the veteran community out of the Country music industry, Country music television and you, as well, with your involvement with the USO. Thank you so much for your time. I love this conversation. I love learning from you. I love telling your story and I look forward to speaking more.

Fran, thank you so much for inviting me to this show. You are such a resource to a lot of people and I love that the audience changes. Each podcast is going to be different and it’s got something to share and offer. I have enjoyed all of your episodes. To be collectively placed in that collective of incredible people, I am so grateful to have had this time.

You have such a great story and this is such an important topic, regardless of your book of business and your background. This is an important topic to try and get different perspectives on. If we can all come together in a collective and share these ideas, stories and journeys, it is the way to reinvigorate the future of people, business and connection. You are doing such a great job. I love this show so much. It’s truly my honor to have joined you. Thank you very much.

Thank you.

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About the author

Fran Racioppi
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Francis Racioppi, CPP, CBCP, most recently led Genius Fund as the Chief Executive and Chief Operating Officer, a vertically integrated cannabis company in Los Angeles, CA. Prior to Genius, Fran served as the Director of Global Security for Snapchat where he was recruited to professionalize and scale the security organization across the globe and among all business units. Fran holds an MBA from New York University and graduated with honors from Boston University with a BA in Journalism and a minor in Political Science. Fran served 13 years in the United States Army as a Green Beret, deploying three times to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn. A lifelong sailor, Fran volunteers teaching Veterans to sail as the Race Director for Sailahead a Veterans service organization dedicated to reducing the Veteran suicide rate. Fran has also served as the Treasurer of the United War Veterans Council, an NYC-based non-profit focused on the wellness and healing of transitioning veterans, as well as the host of the annual NYC Veterans Day Parade.

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