Marching to a winning beat with legendary band director Dave McKee

cultur(ED)
cultur(ED)
Marching to a winning beat with legendary band director Dave McKee
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How did Dave McKee build a winning culture over his 32 years as Marching Band Director at Virginia Tech? He shares how to hit the right notes for building strong relationships and leaders.

Please note that this episode discusses how the band endured the tragic 2007 shootings on the Virginia Tech Campus.

Melissa:  In season three of Cultur[ED], we’re featuring changemakers from the arts. Today, I’m excited to be talking to Dave McKee, legendary Band Director for Virginia Tech’s marching band, Marching Virginians, for 32 years. I’m also joined by Susan Nealon, who was in the marching band under Dave’s leadership and also heads up our marketing team here at Eagle Hill. We thought it would be insightful to hear from someone who lived the culture that Dave established for the marching band. Welcome, Dave and Susan. Thank you both for joining us. I wish I had a Drumline on hand to extend you the type of welcome that the band is so famous for.

Susan: Thank you.

Dave: Thank you.

Melissa: So, let’s just dive right in. Dave, Lane Stadium is legendary with over 65,000 fans. Not only is Virginia Tech considered to have one of the loudest stadiums in the country, but it’s also been voted number one in ESPN’s Top 20 scariest Places to Play Football. So, you’re the Band Director for The Marching Virginians for 32 years. What was it like to lead 330 college students as they entertain the Virginia Tech fans in the scariest stadium in the US?

Dave: Well, it was a scary job in many ways. But it was most of all an unbelievable honor, to just speak with you all this morning. It was a great honor to have that position for that long. It was a challenge that changed almost on a daily basis. It was just always opportunities for new things and new horizons. The biggest thing it was for me, was an opportunity to have students who became lifelong friends. In my last year, there were 10 second generation MV’s on the field, meaning Mom and/or Dad were students of mine earlier in my career. That was both very humbling and very, very cool.

Melissa: Oh, I can only imagine how proud you must be to have seen that thread.

Dave: Yeah, it was, it was amazing. It was—I couldn’t yell at these kids, I couldn’t. You know, I’d look at ‘em, I’d see their parents. I’d see their parents’ faces come together, and I’d get a tear in my eye—it was, yeah. But it was—it was awesome.

Melissa: So I’m curious why, from your perspective, why has it been voted the top scariest places to play football?

[2:10]

Dave: I think it’s really loud. Susan would agree with this is. You know, there are bigger stadiums out there—The Horseshoe at Ohio State, Texas A&M. But we had students who went to those games over the years, and they’d always come back and say, you know, there were more people, but it wasn’t loud, as loud as Lane is. Lane Stadium, because of the way it’s built, the front row is within 15 yards or less, from the field. And people who are up on the front sideline make noise and people 10 rows back make noise. So, it’s remarkable how loud the place is. And I think, at the point where it became the scariest place to play football, Tech was winning like crazy. I think they’re winning some now. But I think at that point, it was a tough place to play, you know, Virginia Tech and ESPN decided that Thursday night games were a great idea. So, the band, the team, the whole area here was live on TV every Thursday night. They kind of felt like they had something to prove. So loud was one of the ways we did it.

Melissa: So, how do you stay focused and keeping your team focused with so much distraction, especially being so loud?

Dave: Well, you know, I think distractions are a way of life for all of us now. I think, you’re gonna hear this one common line throughout our time together. Never, never assume. I mean, I’ve worked with brilliant kids. You know, never take them for granted. They were all smart. They were all motivated. They wanted to perform well. They just kinda shut out all the distractions; whether it was the crowd, whether it was the game, whether it was the weather, you know?

Susan: Dave, one of the things I am always telling people about, who haven’t been to a football game at Tech is the experience. When the football players come onto the field, and Metallica’s, “Enter Sandman” is playing.

[4:02]

The entire stadium, you know, everybody’s jumping up and down, screaming at the top of their lungs, I literally get goosebumps every time I’m there. And, I was reading as we were doing the research to interview you today. And I didn’t realize, at least the story goes that, it was a Marching Virginian who came up with that jumping up and down on the bleachers. So, I’m kind of curious, what’s really the story behind that?

Dave: Stories are great, aren’t they? They’re wonderful. Well, you know, let’s start with this reality. I think “Enter Sandman” and a lot of great game day traditions at Virginia Tech, began like they do in many sporting events. That is, they begin by accident. I don’t know the exact game or date. But I think the marketing folks at Virginia Tech started using “Sandman” in the fall of 2000, and later that fall, the Marching Virginians were doing pre-game. So we were actually on the field, in the tunnel, for the team run out through. It was brutally cold. Kids are standing there, they’re pumped about the game, they’re excited. And one kid, whether he was excited, or whether he was just cold, started jumping up and down. The kid next to him started jumping down and of course, it doesn’t take long. You know, the mob mentality. The moment, the moment one kid was jumping, 10 kids were jumping, 330 were jumping. Within seconds, the whole stadium, was jumping, and literally, literally, within seconds, a new tradition was born, you know? Many, many of those game day traditions literally just happened by accident, that was one of them.

Susan: My God. That’s so cool.

Melissa: That is cool.

Dave: It wasn’t cool, it was cold, I remember. I remember how cold it was that night.

[Laughter]

Dave: I remember when they came off the field, as I might have been prone to do from time to time, I had this kid in my eyeballs who had started this, and, you know, as they came off the field, he came up to me and said, “What’d you think?” And I said, “What were you thinking?” And of course, by then, you know, there was no stopping this. It was, it was a great, it was a great thing.  And again, it has just happened, int the moment, it was spontaneous. Nobody scripted it. It just happened. Sometimes, it’s just the way it works.

[6:17]

Melissa: So, while you lead the Marching Virginians, Virginia Tech football also went to a totally other level and consistently ranked a top 20 team. So, talk to us a little bit about that journey from the Marching Virginians perspective, and how it evolved with the recognition that Tech was getting on a national platform.

Dave: Yeah, I’d love to tell you the Marching Virginians became a household name all by themselves, but we absolutely did this on the back of Frank Beamer and everything he built in football. He once described the Marching Virginians to me as the soundtrack of Lane Stadium. And I think I think he meant that. I think the long stretch of bowl games for the band gave us the opportunity to share the field with some of the truly great bands in this country- Texas, Florida State, Alabama. We were able to learn from them and steal ideas from them. I told you I was a thief. Seeing, being on the field with Texas gave us ideas that we hadn’t had before. We just didn’t know. We didn’t have a lot of bands coming to Blacksburg at that time because it’s, quote, “so far out of in the middle” you know, no one wants to come all the way down there. But I think that helped a lot. I think seeing all those bands and bowl games helped. I also think, again, well, I think of those Thursday night games. And there was always a camera near the band, and there was always a sound that was being mic’d. So, we had to impress upon the students that everything mattered just a little bit more.

Melissa: So let’s talk a little bit more about your idea, this concept of stealing ideas. Because I think this is something I talk about with my team is, what are your various different sources of inspiration that you can tap into, in order to be able to find new ideas and bring them back to either your organization, your role, your team, whatever it might be. So let’s talk a little bit about that. Seeing these other bands and being this thief and stealing ideas. Tell me a little bit more about that.

[8:17}

Dave: Well, probably like everybody else, you know, we all, we all think we know all the answers, particularly when we’re younger and the best way to learn is by dropping your guard and picking up the phone and calling a colleague and saying, “Hey, that was really cool how’d you do that?” Or “Hey, we’re having a situation with leadership, for example. How can we do this better?”  I think you’ll watch other bands. You watch how they operate, you watch how they are taught. I was, I’m a conductor as well, you know, with a concert band and I’ve learned a lot from watching other conductors, both good and bad. I’ve watched a lot of bands rehearse and it wasn’t a welcoming attitude. It wasn’t an environment that, I thought, seemed reasonable to me, but you know, you go watch these things. You listen to people, then you make your own decisions. You know, I had lots of great mentors in my life, but I also had a phone, and a computer as a band director. I talk to people – I’ve talked their ear off – but mostly I’ve listened to them. What’s working for you? What’s not working for you? And then, you know, then you steal what you like and what fits, what fits into your program. Virginia Tech is different. The Marching Virginians are different from many University bands, because not one of those students is on a scholarship. They’re there because they want to be. When you see a scholarship band rehearsed and everybody’s getting paid to be out there, that changes the mentality. When you’re working with a volunteer group, you have to bring something to the table that welcomes them. That makes them feel like this is important to you, and to them, and that they matter. I stole a lot of over my career. It’s kinda humble, the humbling part now is, I’d go to rehearsals for, you know of high school band directors of the area, when they invite me out, or college groups, and I hear my works, being taught to other bands, so that’s pretty cool.

[10:14]

Susan: So Dave, one of the things we talk about at Eagle Hill, is this idea around culture and how it is sort of that unique personality of an organization. How it expresses its values, its ethics, its beliefs. And for me, when I was at Tech, you know, the MVs were family, and it’s where I learned that responsibility, doing my fair share, like sticking to a common goal. But more importantly, I feel like I really learned to value and respect my peers, my friends. And it took a long time for me, but I ultimately realized that you really created this safe environment for us to sort of test out things and become adults. And you know, I’m kind of curious, is this culture that you created for the MVs, was it something you consciously did? And, you know, if yes or no? You know, how? How did you go about that?

Dave: I think it shows that if you’re asking me, if I had a little book with all my goals written down in it? No I think, well, let’s talk a couple of things. Number one, I do believe you’re right, the MVs are family. But we never preached that. I don’t think anybody’s- Pauly’s not preaching it now. I think, I save the preaching for times it matters. But, like parents, you pick your battles at the really important moments. And I think, I think, for me, an important thing to do was to model what I wanted from you all. In everything I do. You know, whether it’s work, whether it’s family, whether it’s, you know, how you take care of yourself, the grocery store, whatever. I think kids watch you as a role model. I think your employees watch you as a role model. [12:01] I mentioned this before. I have spectacular mentors in my life. I think I adopted many of my own core values from those folks. I never, like I said, I never listed, compiled a list of what was important. But I just kind of knew what I thought was important, and kind of went from there. And I think, you know, I think as a leader in the band, you realize that I gave you a position of leadership, and then I gave you the kind of what you needed to do, but then, stayed out of your way. I would supervise but not pick at things. I think, with any group, you have to, you have to give the notion, not the notion, but you have to show that everybody’s important, everybody’s valued. You may have heard, I may not have had this line back when you were in school, but 330 heads are better than one. And I totally believe that. You trust people and you treat them with dignity and respect, and I think that creates a community of mutual respect.

Melissa: So you talked about, you have a volunteer band, not a scholarship band. Now, how do you go about identifying and attracting the right talent for your band when you’ve got to convince all these kids to dedicate so much time, and energy, and not get paid for it?

[Laughter]

Dave: You know, I wish I had the right answer to that. I think you’re always recruiting. You don’t take it for granted. It’s probably, you know, the people part of this business, for me, and the people part of your business, is getting the right people on the bus. I was, I was never shy about encouraging them to step up, become involved. I think the personal touch is important. When kids would walk into orientation, I made an effort to get to know them a little bit, talk to them about their major, but, you know, you can’t take it for granted. You have to work on it. But, let’s, let’s remember too that Virginia Tech, even back in the day, attracts great students.

[14:02]

And I would see a student walk in who wanted to major in marketing, or engineering, or architecture and that was going to be their academic home, but they would deal with that because that offered them a career down the road. They were looking for something else. They were looking for a place to have fun. To create the environment that Susan talked about before, as far as you know, having the opportunity to meet their peers, things of that nature. Doing a marching band on a university campus is the largest group project a student will ever do. You know, over the years, I’ve watched a lot of students roll their eyes about having to do a group project, and I would say, “What’s the problem with that?” They’d say, “Well, I just hate when people don’t do their part.” And I said, “Look, you’ve been part of the greatest group project on this campus out here on the field. If you can do this, you can do anything.” And that was usually it.

Melissa: You had talked about how you kind of know, in your heart, what are the right things to focus on, what you want to focus on, but you didn’t necessarily write them down on a piece of paper. So, tell us a little bit more about, even though you may not have written it down on a piece of paper. What were you communicating in terms of to the Marching Virginians, in terms of culture? In terms of what was important, in terms of setting that tone at the beginning of every season, what is it that you really focused on, and communicated directly to your band members?

Dave: Well, let’s start with the leaders because there were two different things. I think I always worked with the leaders to help them become better leaders. And most of these, most this, Susan gave the idea a few moments ago that she said she had no leadership chops before she walked in there. That’s hardly the truth. Again, many of these students were members of their high school band. They were involved in leadership in the high school band. They were absolutely the best role models I had to reinforce whether it’s behavior or performance etiquette, or, you know, let’s make this better. Those students were the ones who affected their peers and the peer pressure in a group, like The Marching Virginians was much stronger than any pressure I could put on anybody. [16:09] I mean, I truly believe that. I could have the look of death, or I could have the look of, oh, I really feel bad about how you let me down. But, for the student leaders, to look at the other kids of the band and say, “we’ve got to raise our bar”. That was much more important than me doing it. We worked a lot with the leaders in preseason, just talking about leadership roles and responsibilities, and, you know, you’ve both been through these types of events. Everything doesn’t stick. But if everybody walks out with one kernel of knowledge or something they can chew on to make themselves a better leader, that’s important. Then, with the other members of the band, they would see how the leaders were acting and they’d say, well, you know, again, smart kids. They all aspired to be that leader down the road. I mean, the number of every year, I’d interview for leadership and a kid would walk in the door and they’d say, “I saw Susan do her job, and I want to be like Susan”. That’s a compliment to both that youngster, the new leader, but also an affirmation to me, that I put the right person in the right place. I don’t know if that answers your question or not, but I’m sticking with that as my answer.

[Laughter]

Melissa: All right, I like it.

Susan: Dave, one of the things I was telling Melissa about and as we were talking about who to interview this year, was the story about how you know everybody’s name. You know, a lot of people’s band directors’ names. You know, it seems like every MV you ever taughts name. And I was telling the story about how Sarah, Amy, and I one day dropped by an MV practice.

Dave: Who?

[Laughter]

Dave: Certainly, yes, I got, it was a joke.

[17:57]

Susan: I know. But it had been 25 years since I’d seen you, and Sarah had seen you. We walked up to the side of the field, and you came running over and knew both of our names, gave us a giant hug, and it just sort of reaffirms that you’re so good at relationship building. And so, I just wanted to know, what is your secret about that and then how did you use that relationship building? How did that factor into creating that MV culture?

Dave: Who are you, I don’t remember?

[Laughter]

Dave: Oh, well, I think you hit the nail on the head a moment ago, Susan. You talked about relationship building, building relationships is the key, OK? It has a direct impact on the culture and everything else, I think at a place like Virginia Tech, as you know, it’s easy to become a member, particularly in your major. And so, I had the opportunity to work with people over 4 or 5 or 6 years, depending on how long they’re here, or in the cases for a couple, ten years, who were involved in the band. I may be the only person on the campus who actually knows their name, where they’re from, you know, and what they’re doing in their life, besides showing up for the class, and I guess I kind of took that as a responsibility. I thought that was important. The payoff is seeing you guys, 10 years, 20 years, 25 years, 30 years down the road, and still having a relationship, and we can kinda restart right where we were, you know. Let’s face it, social media has been a big help with this, too. I also use flashcards with freshmen. I would take a picture, and on the back, we would have their name, what they played, and where they were from, and if I knew their high school band director, if I knew what high school you went to… you were a Virginia Beach girl, correct?

Susan: No, no, I wasn’t. I was from Carlisle, Pennsylvania, that’s where I graduated from.

Dave: All right. So, I failed already.

[Laughter]

Susan: That’s alright I went to so many high schools you probably couldn’t have gotten it right.

[20:00]

[Laughter]

Dave: But you hung out with a young lady, a tall blonde named Toni who was from Virginia Beach.

Susan: Yeah, that was my roommate.

Dave: I always thought it was important to know names and where they were from. You know again if you’re gonna commit four years to listen to me and doing what I ask you to do and being involved in rain, sleet, snow, everything else and having another crappy sandwich, the least I can do is learn your name and where you’re from. I always thought that was important. And I also wasn’t shy about walking up to somebody as a freshman. We been on the field eight weeks, I didn’t know who that was? They weren’t getting off easy, that easy, I’d walk up to them, grab their shoulder and say, “Tell me who you are. I’m sorry, I don’t remember your name.” And I think, yeah, I think that’s important. I would hate it when a kid would come up to me in their sophomore year and say you don’t remember me do you? Well, I played trumpet last year. Oh, no, I just, I wasn’t gonna let that happen. By the end of every season I knew every kid in the band. And again, that’s paid off to their lives.

Melissa: Dave, I think a lot of leadership experts would agree with you, right. If I can think you and I were talking earlier about reading books and reading leadership books. And if I can think of my own experience and reading leadership books, one of the, one of the things they always say about CEOs is, you should make an effort to know who your people are that are working for you. So, I think you were onto something there, for sure.

Dave: Well, I think there are a lot of businesses that go the other way, that the leadership is so busy being the leadership, doing the important things in their lives, that they forget who those people are below them. You know, one of those people down there one day is going to have their job or they’re going to open a company that competes against them or whatever. And, I think, I think, a little bit of effort that you spend in learning names, pays off. You know, in my own life, I can only tell you. It’s like the ten kids my last year who were MV, the children of the alums, you can’t put a price on that. People make the difference in everything.

[22:07]

Melissa: So, let’s switch topics for, for a few minutes. One of the things I have learned in my own role as CEO is that there’s nothing that shines a brighter light on culture than a crisis. And one of the things I think we would be remiss not even talking about and what had been one of the most trying times in your career was after the wake of the 2007 mass shooting on Virginia Tech’s campus. So, talk to us about the moment you found out about this, the path from that moment you took to identifying the steps that really took you to leading your band through that trying time.

Dave: OK, well, you know, you’re right, all of us who worked through that time, before and after, we’ll always mark many of the events before and after as before the shooting and after the shooting. I don’t think we can get away from that and it is what it is. The day of the shooting, I can tell you I was in the office early, which, at that point, all my kids were, I didn’t have to wait for the bus stop for anybody in the morning, so I can go to work whenever I wanted to. I chose to enjoy the peace and quiet at my office early in the day. I was in my office when somebody came in and said they’d been shooting at AJ (Ambler Johnston residences at Virginia Tech). Knowing that a number of Marching Virginians who, at that time, lived in East AJ, I decided, what the heck, I’m going to walk over. I knew that the phones would pretty much be non-working, so I just decided to walk across campus. It was brutally cold and windy and would be all the way. Along the way, student came by and said, hey, I heard there was a shooting over at AJ. He was, he was in the leadership of the band that year and I said, “well, let’s just walk together”.

[23:50]

We walked over to AJ, I couldn’t get in one door, I came around to the front of the building where there were a couple of police cars. One of the Blacksburg officers was at the door, a guy I had known for many years. And he said, “This is a crime scene, and that’s all I can tell you”. I knew that Ryan Clark AKA Stack was an RA in the building. I did not know at that point that he was involved with the incident at all. I went back to the office and did my best to keep students sheltered. At one point, we probably had about 20 people in my office. One of the stories that I will always remember, was a young man who was talking, was jovial and laughing until he realized that his sister was in Norris Hall. It went utterly silent. Long story short there, she was fine. But during the whole, during most of the day, you know, as the reports came in, the numbers kept going up and we can confirm that people had been shot at AJ and shot at Norris. It got more somber, it got more quiet. But it was just a matter of checking in with students. When it was known that Ryan was at the hospital, two of his best friends from the band came in, said “What should we do? We’re going to the hospital.” I said “Go, just be careful, be safe”.

It was all about what we could do to calm down or to check in with any student we could. There was a lot of phone conversation, a lot of e-mails that evening. Once we fully knew the magnitude of everything and things have been opened on campus, we sent out a note, said, “Hey, David will be over at AJ at 6:30 if you want to get together, and we just walked into a room full of tears. By then we knew Stack had died. We knew the magnitude of what else had happened. It was just a matter of holding hands and letting kids cry on your shoulder and things of that nature. It’s just, it’s hard, hard to imagine. Over the course of the next week, we had to organize a trip for about 100 band members who went down to Augusta, Georgia for Stack’s memorial service. One of the most amazing experiences, awful, but also, I’m so glad we went because of the community. By then, by then we were out of tears, truly. We played for a gym area full of people. Ryan’s brother, sister, and Mom were there, I may have said Brian earlier? That’s because Ryan was a twin, Stack was a twin. His brother Brian and I have become good friends over the years. But when I was asked to speak at the eulogy and when I got up to speak, I wrote the eulogy on the way down, sitting next to my wife on the bus. I proofed it with Charlotte. I didn’t think I could do it. When I stood up at the podium, I looked down and saw Brian, Ryan’s twin brother and it’s like staring in the mirror, right? And I said, “I can’t do this without your help” and bless his heart, Brian got up, walked up and stood at the podium with me, and we laughed our way through the eulogy. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But asking those kids to go on that trip. I didn’t have to ask, they took it upon themselves. That was a meaningful, meaningful experience, and you’re right. Events like that, whether we like it or not, truly solidify a group even more. Over the next year or so we had a memorial service at you on campus to play for. We built a house along with a group called Community Housing Partners in Blacksburg for a family, similar, if you will, to Habitat and we did that in honor of Stack. His mom came up for the dedication. It was really moving.

[27:44]

Just like leadership, there’s no instruction manual on how to handle this. You know, you do the best you can, there was nobody else I could call and say, “Hey, how are you doing this?” I talked to everybody I could on campus. I talked to ministers, things of that nature. We just made the best decision we could.

Melissa: Dave, wow. That’s a really powerful story. Thank you so much for sharing. And you really share it with such vulnerability and authenticity about what it’s like to be amidst the tragedy, what it was like to be a leader amongst the tragedy and how you lead with such humility with simple actions like holding hands and caring for each other. So, thank you for sharing that.

So, to switch gears into a bit of more of a positive note, I think watching your students over a 30-year career, what do you notice is the same, and what do you notice is different about the kids these days?

[Laughter]

Dave: Well. Susan is expecting bombshell about the 80’s.

Melissa: The decoded question …. She’s really asking about herself. No, I’m kidding.

[Laughter]

Melissa: Yeah. Tell us about how kids have changed from when you first started to how it was when you retired

Dave: I think students always want to be something that’s successful or be the part of something that’s successful and bigger than they are, you know, they know enough about every band. If they’re going to Virginia Tech or NC State or UVA or, you know, whatever. They’ve done their homework, they know about the band, but they don’t know what to expect. An average high school band may be 90 or 100 players, this one is 330. In many cases, their section, the Piccolo section, when Susan was here and still remains, I think, is about 36 people. Some of their high school bands weren’t that big. So, they can’t imagine that, but they want to be something. They want to be part of something that’s successful and bigger than they are. [29:38] I think the one difference between kids, way back when and now – I said that gently didn’t I? I think they have more distractions now than ever before. They had a lot of distractions then, but now they’ve got cell phones. They’ve got, you know, I was over on campus yesterday to do a task and I made the grave mistake of going over during class change time. Oh my. Students are walking everywhere. They’re just, they’re not paying attention to my vehicle, any other vehicle, you know, they’re walking here, walking there. There’s nobody having a conversation because they’re all on the phone and having a conversation with somebody somewhere else. And they’re on bicycles, they’re on foot or on skateboards or you name it. So they have all these distractions but the bottom line to me is that unbelievably their ability to focus on a task, like marching band, is better than ever. They now learn drill with the information on their phone. So, for years, I spent time, you know, making fun of people going “Put your phone away during rehearsal, put your phone away”. And now, I hear Pauly say, “Get your phone out and look at the drill” and it’s just kind of crazy. They seem to have won the battle of distractions.

You all would see that probably as much in the workplace as I saw it on the band field. I think one of the other things is there’s a great unwritten cultural idea that certainly was there when I got here, it stayed the same, but I think it got better and better. That is, leave it better than when you got here. Kids in the old days, you know they were, they were happy to be gone whatever, gone, but I think now they look at it, I say all the time, you’re going to be a Marching Virginian for far less time than you will be alumni of this university. So enjoy your four years here because it’s gonna fly and then you’re gonna look back with it. Like Susan is right now with glossy eyes and happiness of the old days. Remembering you know, this and that. But, now there really is a commitment to leave it better than it was when they were here, and that’s really cool.

[31:53]

Melissa: OK, a couple of final questions that we ask all of our guests. What is the first word that comes to mind when you think of culture?

Dave: Probably the same answer you get from everybody; community. Maybe not. What’s the best answer you’ve heard?

Melissa: I don’t think there’s the best answer. I don’t think, I think that everyone that we’ve ever done has always been different. So, I think, and I think they’re all right, and I think community is spot on, especially describing your experience over your career there that resonates with me.

All right, if you could have a superpower, what would it be?

Dave: Probably the ability to bring a smile to every face I see.

Melissa: Oh, well, you’ve done that for Susan and I today.

[Laughter]

Dave: I’m glad I could do that. You know, you guys know the fish philosophy.

Melissa: No.

Dave: Yeah, you probably do. You just don’t know you do. There’s a book it’s called The Fish Philosophy and it’s about, the guy who wrote it in the late nineties went to the Pike Place, Fish Market in Seattle and he was captivated by the fish sellers who were tossing trout into the air. You know? And it’s amazing to watch these people. We’ve been there and seen them and listened to their commentary, laughing like maniacs. But there are four parts to The Fish Philosophy and that is play, make their day, be present, and choose your attitude. And somebody, again, I stole this from somebody years ago in my own career, whether it’s my career, or back before then but it’s a basic philosophy about your state of mind as a leader. It works and it’s just, it’s fun but makes everyday tasks are made fun.

But look the book up, it’s a great book it’s a, you know, there are so many great philosophies out there that are so deep that they need a big shovel, this isn’t one of them. It’s just common sense, know? One of the things it taught me was to smile at people every day. You know, people used to walk in my office and be grumpy. Man, smile, you’re alive, be happy. How many times I say to people, “that’s a great shirt!” and they look at me like, what are you on? Well, you know, I’m on happiness.

[34:08]

Melissa: I love it. Well, Dave, thank you so much for all your time and your insights and your perseverance through some of the hard times. Really, really appreciate the opportunity to talk to you and hear more of the details from Susan too.

Dave: Well, I hope there’s some little bit of something that’s helpful to somebody.  I think what you all are doing is great and terrific. You know, people matter most. And if it helps your people who are listening to this, to make their people matter most, that’s a win.

Melissa: Wonderful. Well, thank you so much, they really, really appreciate it.

Dave: You guys have a spectacular day.

Melissa: Thank you, you too.