Learning Jack

The last post on this blog was about the Jack Reeds. That little scribble led to one of the best lunch dates I've ever had. Here's what happened -

I emailed Mayor Reed telling him how much I enjoyed the Clarion Ledger interview and expressed my admiration for his dad. I included a link. He read the little thing. He was scheduled to speak in Meridian on Wednesday and invited me to be his guest at the event. I once overheard someone at the Neshoba County Fair say, "Mississippi is more a club than a state." I'd have to agree. Social media and  the Mississippi Club got me to lunch with Jack Sr. I hadn't seen him since 1987. It was great.

We worked out a simple deal. It was an unspoken contract and we all know those exist. I'd fetch his coffee and desert and he'd answer questions about public speaking and leadership. I wanted to drink from the well and he seemed pretty happy about dipping the water. Jack Reed has a body that moves slower than it once did but his hearing aide and cane don't hide the light in his eyes and the mischief in his good humored voice.  He made a deposit in my life this Wednesday and here are the lessons I'm going to try to apply in my life as a leader and speaker. This is not a list of quotes but the wisdom I distilled from our conversation.

1. Be a man of integrity. He quoted Aristotle which was fun to watch. I left with an appreciation for a communicator that truly values ethos.

2. Be funny if you can. Mr. Reed believes that the greatest tool a communicator has is a healthy sense of humor. We both agreed, however, that people who are not funny should not try to be. It's painful to watch.

3. Work to keep the speech/sermon short. A disciplined use of words is a powerful thing. I thought of E.B. White's guidance, "Eliminate useless words."

4. Remember that people remember more than they think they do. Mr. Reed said, "They always remember the punch lines but that doesn't mean the rest isn't in there subliminally."

5. Be moderate. Learn to listen and be humble enough to learn from others.

6. Take control of your emotional health. He cited William James' theory saying, "It's not happiness that creates the smile but the smile that creates the happiness." Being a calm presence is one of the best traits of a leader. Joy really is strength.

7. Be a teacher/mentor. John Wooden, St. Paul and others used the image of parent to describe healthy leadership. You can see the imprint of his life  stamped on his son. The man lived what he taught. He also spoke of other's that, "think they are my son." He wasn't bragging but speaking with affection about persons he had invested in. That's huge.

8. Be passionate. You may remember I met Mr. Reed in 1987. I played him in our elementary school's mock election. The last question he had for me was, "Did we win?" He was delighted that we smoked 'em at Poplar Springs Elementary School. Wisdom and moderation is not antithetical to passion and drive. Great leaders nurture both.

God splashes blessings on us at unexpected times. My lunch with Mr. Reed fits into this category. I'm truly grateful for God's absurd grace and I'm thankful to Mr. Reed for once again taking some time for this boy.

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