Skip to content


July 18, 2013

“The Artist” —Listen with your Eyes

February 28, 2012

” The language of the body is the key that can unlock the soul.”

Constantin Stanislavski, 1863-1938 (Russian Actor; developed the method of acting in which the actor identifies with the role)

Over the Christmas holidays, my second cousin Mickey Murphy, a film distributor from South America, shared with me the potential of the movie, The Artist, to win Academy awards.  He said it was a classic movie about the history of Hollywood in the late 1920s when “Talkies” came into existence.  He said it was shot in black and white and was a silent movie.  I said “a silent movie?”  He commented that you have to “listen with your eyes.”

It is reported that 70% of communication is nonverbal.  The ability to understand nonverbal cues helps our relationships, whether personal, business, or social. Exploring nonverbal communication can be fascinating.  I have blogged about “active listening;” now, “active looking.”  The Artist focuses you into “active looking.”

In The Artist, Jean Dujardin plays George Valentin, a silent screen movie star.  Dujardin spoke only two heavily accented words at the end of the movie, “weeth pleasure.”  But Dujardin won the Academy Award for Best Actor.  He told his story through body language. He had a command of (1) facial expressions (2) gestures (3) body movements (4) postures (5) eye gazes and (6) costumes that wove a story without words.

For a peek at the movie’s exhibition of nonverbal communication, attached is the official trailer of the movie –The Artist.

To achieve successful relationships, you have to understand what people want and give it to them. Simple tips for nonverbal communication include (1) paying attention to eye contact, (2) analyzing gestures, and (3) understanding different postures.  Practicing these skills is important and I found a book on body language: The Definitive Book of Body Language by Allan and Barbara Pease.  I have added this book to my library. Next time you are in the neighborhood, come by and I will loan it to you.  Beware! I will practice my active listening and looking skills on you too!

Active Listening

February 16, 2012

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

Dale Carnegie (1888 – 1955) American writer, lecturer, a trainer in self-improvement, public speaking, and interpersonal skills.

I was at a meeting this week, surrounded by real estate agents, mortgage company representatives, and title company escrow agents. The speaker said that the MetroTex Association of Realtors, a group of 22,000 agents, posted 66,000 residential sales in 2011. Surveying the room, I pondered how much the agents might need to differentiate themselves from each other in order to succeed.

I once heard Zig Ziglar say, “You can have everything in life that you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” To give people what they want, you have to listen to their stories. Listening well is a skill worth cultivating, and one a Realtor can use to distinguish him or herself.

On February 15, 2012, the Wall Street Journal ran a story of successful clothing merchants. The headline:‘Retailers’ Top Selling Secrets; Learn How to Listen. This story quotes sources at Neiman Marcus about how sales associates are trained to listen. The “Art of Listening” is a basic people skill. Top companies acknowledge basics can drive success, and being a great (not good) listener is one of them.

I have three simple tips on how to listen actively:

  1. Pay attention and concentrate on both the spoken words and nonverbal cues . Seventy percent of communication is nonverbal. That is why I like to talk with people in person and not over the telephone or by email.
  2. Be patient, do not try to compose your response before the speaker has finished. In fact, show you are listening by paraphrasing what they have said to you. It reinforces to the speaker that you have listened and understood.
  3. After you have summarized the speaker’s words, then you can advance the conversation by proposing how your services could assist the customer with his or her needs, if you can make that link!
  4.  For further inspiration, I have attached a video by James Manktelow & Amy Carlson from Mindtools is a career-boosting website.


Using the above three tips, I challenge you to be an active listener in your next conversation and judge the results. Let me know how you do. I promise to listen!

Peak Performances – SuperBowl XLVI – The New York Giants

February 9, 2012

“Good teams make the playoffs. The hot team wins the championship.”

Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, commenting on the win of the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI.


How could a team with a 9-7 season record win the Super Bowl? That was the question I discussed with former Fox News sportscaster Chris Yates when he stopped by my office this week.  Chris is an entrepreneur in “social marketing + video”. His mission is to help businesses “Tell Their Story”  using You Tube. Look him up at  Chris is still a sports jockey at heart, however.  He knows his stuff and loves to talk.  He says that in sports as well as in business, you just have to know how to peak at the right time!

As a sportscaster, Chris witnessed many games. He says every sport today has developed so many complex strategies that the fundamentals can get lost.  Winners learn how to slow down their games with intense focus. Under enormous pressure, everything goes into slow motion and they concentrate on what they do best: the fundamentals.  Simplifying the pieces of the games was Eli Manning’s job; not calling complicated plays, but running simple, easy to understand plays to perfection.

Back to the idea of a 9-7 team winning the Super Bowl.  The Giants had to be adequate competitors just to be a 9-7 team.  It’s in the playoffs that focus is needed.  Mark Cuban is right. You just have to be good enough to get to the playoffs.  Only then does the championship run begin.

As Chris and I finished our conversation, he said that the concept of simplification had helped him in his business. When he started out on his own, he thought he had to master and do everything. But the more he did, the further behind he got. Then he learned to delegate the tasks he couldn’t do to other “team members”.  He could then focus effectively on the skills he was successful at completing. At that point, his business took off.

Some days, all of us think we are playing at a 9-7 level. In reality, however, we are competent to play the game if we have been in business for any length of time.  The question is this: when the going gets tough, how focused are you on winning your game? That determines whether you are a champ!

525,600 minutes of a year; Carpe Diem!

February 1, 2012

I was in New York City on New Year’s Eve. Walking past a poster promoting the revival of the musical RENT, I thought of the song “Seasons of Love.” Some songs from musicals acquire a life of their own, and Seasons of Love is one of them. Since we just passed through the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012, it seems appropriate to reflect upon how we measure a year. The lyrics of Seasons of Love start as follows:

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes,
How do we measure……measure a year?
In daylights—in sunsets, in midnights—in cups of coffee,
In inches—in miles, in laughter—in strife.
In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes.
How do we measure a year in the life?

(the complete song is sung below by the original cast via “You Tube” )

Draining a coffee cup at Starbucks with a new customer, encountering a friend on the sidewalk, sinking a long putt in a round of golf, stoking a campfire at a scout campout, ladling chili at a homeless shelter with other Rotarians, worshipping with fellow church members, accomplishing a real estate transaction for first-time homebuyers, gathering a family together for happy and sad occasions–where do I start and what milestones do I use?  When I count, do I do it under a microscope or a kaleidoscope? Do I count those passing minutes slowly or with haste? Let me share my method.

Daily, my life is measured under a microscope. Minutes pass one at a time, like grains of sand in an hourglass, and at the same speed.  That’s how I savor my minutes; slowly and not hastily; one minute at a time. I cannot make the future come any faster or slower.  I like to quote that great philosopher Robin Williams from the movie Dead Poets Society: carpe diem … seize the day!  I take the time to look and see the grains of sand. My last moments of 2011 were spent on the observation deck of the Empire State Building, looking at the twinkling lights of the skyscrapers of Manhattan with my wife and son.

As those 525,600 minutes pile up behind me under that microscope, I view them collectively through a kaleidoscope.  As a kaleidoscope changes the images we see when it turns, each new minute weaves a thread that creates a new mosaic or tapestry out of my life. By taking the time to reflect on my experiences, I gain wisdom and maturity. Wisdom means understanding how people interact, and possessing the true values that are important to living. Maturity is the ability to take an appropriate course of action based on wisdom. Once again, slow, not fast, is the key to viewing your life through a kaleidoscope.

How do you measure your allotment of 525,600 minutes each year? The song “Seasons of Love” admonishes us to value the moments of our life. Each of us has had many minutes in the past and each will have many minutes in the future.  The challenge is to slow down, experience those minutes and cherish them as you reflect on the past! How will you experience the minutes of this year?

Rent – Seasons of Love

“Occupy” the World Series

October 24, 2011

As I drove down McKinney Avenue last night in the upscale area of Dallas, I saw all the widescreen TV sets in the sports bar tuned in to Game 4 of the World Series. As I witnessed the crowd roaring its praise for pitcher Derek Holland, I wondered whether the protesters against “Wall Street Greed” were tuned-in to the game at their campsites in downtown Dallas.   I pondered two life lessons that baseball teaches.

The law of averages– If there is any sport that keeps statistics, it’s baseball. Championship players know that the difference between success and mediocrity is only a few percentage points. Players work on raising their statistics. When in a slump, a great player knows that he can break out and come back, based on his prior performance. In life and in business, we need to work on our figures. The better we are at a job, the more likely we will be to break out of a slump, be successful and KEEP that job.

The law of the line up– In baseball, you may have great averages but your position in the line-up is crucial.  A good manager lines you up against your opponents where you can shine.  In business and in life, you need to put yourself in the winning position for success.  It’s not easy if you are self-coached; that’s why a good mentor is a must! As I sit at my desk every day, I must continue my education.  People come to me to solve their problems, so I have to be on my game. I also must position myself and my staff to be present in the lives of my customers.  It’s hard to catch a question to answer if I am not on the field!

I can appreciate the issue of “Wall Street greed” and the turmoil in the financial markets. But as for the “Occupy” protestors, the Bureau of Labor statistics states that the unemployment rate for college graduates is 4.5%; for high school grads it’s 9.3%, and for those with less than a high school education, it’s 14%. On TV the interviews depict the protestors as being college graduates. They could take a cue from the World Series and adjust their game and “Occupy the World Series” mindset to get a job. I have to everyday to keep my job.

9/11 – A Time of Remembrance

September 12, 2011
Richard Stark 9-11-01

Richard Stark at Ground Zero, September 11, 2001

“All of a sudden there were people screaming. I saw people jumping out of the building. Their arms were flailing. I stopped taking pictures and started crying.”  

-Michael Walters, free-lance journalist in Manhattan  

I do not know who took the photo above on 9/11, but only a year ago, this image of my father-in-law at Ground Zero appeared in a PowerPoint seen by the wife of his law partner in New Jersey.

On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I stopped at a car wash on the way to work.  As I left at 7:50, a newsflash said there had been a plane crash and explosion at the World Trade Center in New York. I was on my way to the North Dallas MLS for my customary cup of coffee and would listen later on the radio. When I entered the meeting at the Macaroni Grill, it was a fund-raising event and everyone was unaware of the morning’s events.  Within a minute, a prominent Realtor rushed in screaming what had happened.  I was out of there along with everyone else. No coffee today.

By the time I was back at my office, my wife, Bobbie, was on the telephone. My wife’s dad, Richard Stark, had been at the WTC the night before and was staying at the WTC Marriott. She said her sister had spoken to her Dad by cell phone at 8:15 but his cell went silent. Here is the rest of the story.

The concept of “Six degrees of Separation” with respect to 9/11 is usually only one or two.  I view September 11 as a “Day of Reflection” on the events of 9/11 and the ideas and people that make the USA great.  It is motivational and inspirational not to forget.  Do you have a 9/11 story to pass on to future generations?


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: