July 26, 2021

Explore the Beauty of "Black Rocks and Rainbows"

Credit: Suzanne Ford

Welcome Suzanne! Black Rocks and Rainbows is a historical novel for young adults penned by your mother Susan Riford, a prolific author of children’s books and plays and founder of what is now known as the Rev Theatre Company in Auburn, New York. What can you share about your mother’s personality and her affinity for writing educational pieces of work?

It’s such a pleasure to talk about my mother! She was a woman of amazing talents in so many areas, as well as writing. She was a whiz at designing clothes and costumes, making scenery, editing music (this when it meant cutting and splicing lengths of audio tape on a clumsy reel-to-reel recorder) and a million other arcane skills that were, I later realized, especially impressive in a woman of that era. She was funny, loved to laugh, and gave great parties. She could arrange flowers beautifully in two seconds flat between making an omelet and tying a kid’s sneaker. She was always deeply involved in some gigantic project. When I was just a baby (in the early 50s) she started a little girls’ dress design business named after me: “Sooki Custom Mades” (My nickname is Sooki — spelled that way because she had an assistant who had no idea how to spell it when she was ordering stationery, then there was no time to reorder, so the spelling stuck!). The company became so successful that her designs were featured in Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, with me as the model, at the age of 3, and we even made a trip to NYC to appear on the Today Show. She at one point had 25 seamstresses working in her “factory” — a converted one-room schoolhouse on the farm near Auburn where I grew up. And this is just ONE chapter in her eclectic entrepreneurial history.

But by far, her biggest love and lifelong passion was working with children and the arts — specifically theatre. She was a “kid whisperer.” There are adults now living and working all over the country whose characters were strengthened and whose lives were forever enriched by her, through being childhood members of Auburn Children’s Theatre. She was a champion of the young mind, and passionate about helping young people grasp their unique individual power through theatre and all forms of artistic expression.

As a writer, she translated that passion into narrative. Her understanding of the mind of Henry Opukahaia is of course conjectural, but it rings true because she recognizes and empathizes with his kind of mind: the brilliance, curiosity, zeal and courage of a young man who can’t help but follow his destiny.

Suzanne, what type of literary works and art forms did your mother introduce you to while growing up?

So many. She and my Dad (also a voracious reader) introduced me to the classics when I was very young — Stevenson, Kipling, Stowe, Alcott, as well as young adult popular stuff like Nancy Drew and The Bobbsey Twins (Remember the Bobbsey Twins? You’re probably way too young!) I devoured everything and was constantly getting in trouble for reading late into the night. My mother loved the fine arts, too, and was a brilliant sketch artist (just her doodles while on the phone were fantastic). We went to museums often, and I studied oil painting at our local museum, which was great fun despite my lack of talent in that area. But the main thing was theatre. She was in love with theatre history and with the traditions of stage acting, and they became my passions as well. She wasn’t an actor — not because she didn’t have the gift for it, but I think because, frankly, she was not narcissistic enough. Instead, she shared and spread her enthusiasm. When she founded Auburn Children’s Theatre in our hometown of Auburn, NY in 1958, it became and remained her obsession for almost 40 years. She designed the curriculum and hired the teachers, mostly experts recruited from nearby colleges. We kids studied acting, theatre history, movement, improv, stagecraft, and make up. Tuition for all of this was a whopping $10 a year per child. My mother wrote or adapted all the plays — many of which have since been published. She did the publicity, printed the programs, and made most of the costumes. And she raised money like a demon, very successfully.

When it began, ACT had classes every Saturday at the Cayuga Art Museum’s Annex. It was a real little theatre with a proscenium and footlights! I remember glamorous old cast pictures on the walls from 1930s community theatre performances. It looked, felt, and smelled like the theatre: magic, romantic, mysterious.

I fell deeply in love with the art form then and there and have remained so all my life.

What were a few critical components in her portfolio of literary works that made her work distinguished among other writers?

My mother always loved writing, but had not started life as a writer, rather a designer. But she made up for it and for most of her adult life studied writing, first in college (Wheaton College in Norton, Mass — from which, many years later, her granddaughter, my daughter Caroline, graduated as well) and later at nearby Wells College, at Cornell University and privately. Almost all of her works were plays, meant to be performed and enjoyed by young people. A hallmark of those plays was the humor, along with the kindness. She was never cloying, but a deep vein of generous good will combined with gentle comedy ran through all her plays. She also wrote short stories, a few of which were published in magazines over the years, but in fact Black Rocks and Rainbows was her first full length novel. It’s deeply sad for me and for the rest of the family that she died so relatively young (just having turned 70), partly because we all realized that with this book, she had truly come into her own as a writer.

‘Black Rocks and Rainbows’ represent the literal beauty of the Big Island that Henry reveres from afar during his global travels and stay in the United States. What memories of Hawaii piqued your mother’s interest in exploring the history of Henry Opukahaia?

Her parents had often vacationed in Hawaii. She had first visited the islands with them in the early 60s and had been captivated by both the place and the people. At that time, she began to study Hawaii’s history and culture, especially its ancient myths, legends and ceremonies. Years later, as it happened, my brother (who also went into theatre as a lighting designer, trained at the Yale School of Drama) married a girl who had been born and brought up in Hawaii, an archaeologist who worked at the famed Bishop Museum. These two connections cemented my mother’s interest and curiosity.

But I think what supplied her strongest motive for writing about Henry Opukahaia specifically was the fact that she had been born and raised in New Haven, Connecticut — where Henry eventually was educated and had created the Hawaiian written language. He had intended to bring it back to his people, and to educate them in the writing and reading of their ancient spoken tongue. Tragically, he died of typhoid in 1818, before he could make the trip, and he never saw his homeland again. He was buried in Cornwall, Connecticut.

Her fascination with Henry’s amazing story began when she and my Dad moved to Maui, Hawaii in the late 1980s. In the course of her research, she made connections with Hawaiian historians and other experts on Opukahaia, and became informed about the ongoing, lengthy crusade to bring Henry’s remains home to Hawaii from his grave in Cornwall and to reinter him at Kahikolo Cemetery on the Big Island, near the spot where he was born. She joined in this effort, which, in 1993, was finally successful. Henry’s remains were brought home to Hawaii, and my mother made a speech at the ceremony of his re-interment. It was one of the great honors of her life.

Credit: Black Rocks and Rainbows

Black Rocks and Rainbows recognizes the history and heritage of indigenous people which resonates with the youth of many cultures. Hiapo (Henry) Opukahaia, a Hawaiian boy orphaned as a result of war between two rival island chiefs, decides to accept an invitation to go to America which entails a year long journey leading him to dock in New Haven, Connecticut. What is unique about Henry’s character hosting an insatiable appetite for knowledge which would later significantly change history?

It must have been — in the isolated world of 1807 Hawaii — absolutely unimaginable for a boy with his advantages, first as the adopted son of a king and then as a kahuna in training, to choose to leave everything and everyone he knew behind, to launch himself into a world that was completely foreign to him. In doing so, he was risking permanent alienation from his homeland and its people. But he simply couldn’t help it, because (as my mother imagines it) he was insatiably, irrepressibly curious. And curiosity, as we know from so many examples through the centuries, leads to discovery, knowledge and, finally, invention that can sometimes change the world. There’s a lovely section in one of the narrations I do at Griffith Observatory that is relevant to this concept: “Our cities blaze with light because Thomas Edison was curious about something that once seemed utterly mysterious: electricity. We human beings have survived not because we are particularly strong, or fast, or fierce … but because we are curious. And inventive.” I think this hypothesis is especially true for Henry, whose thirst for knowledge drove him to grasp and embrace the idea and value of reading and writing, and whose natural generosity and goodness led him to create the written form of his native language as a gift for his people.

Because of Henry having created the written Hawaiian language, as well as having influenced the first group of New England-educated Americans to travel to Hawaii, the islands became a place where its history could be written down in its own language, where children could read about their heritage, and where generations could treasure written works that detail and preserve their culture. It’s a gift of infinite value. And all because young Hiapo was curious enough to dive into the sea.

Henry is an adventurer who settles in New Haven, Connecticut where he continues his education by learning how to read and write English. His pursuit of knowledge doesn’t stop there. He desires to translate the written works from English to Hawaiian yet a Hawaiian language doesn’t exist. He relies upon the foundation of phonetics and the works of Noah Webster to create an alphabet-spelling-grammar system which Hawaiians apply in the present day. How was Henry able to transition from a young inquisitive boy into an elite scholar mentored by the President of Yale College?

My mother imagined, and I think it must have been true, that Henry possessed a very strong, charismatic presence. Certainly, he must have appealed to the missionary instinct in these descendants of the Puritans in New England, with their zeal and dedication to learning and discipline. Because Henry had grown up in not one but two very strict, demanding arenas — as a young warrior prince expected to be a brave and highly skilled example to his people and then as an apprentice kahuna required to memorize and perform hours of ancient chants and ceremonies — the power of his personality must have been profound, and his abilities proved equal to it. This strong personality, combined with his prodigious memory, his modesty, generosity and innate curiosity, must have held such appeal to President Dwight of Yale College that he was compelled to take Henry on as his student. Then, as Henry thrived and improved by leaps and bounds, he proved to be worthy of this highly irregular experiment.

What lesson can youths of all cultures extract from witnessing Henry’s tenacity to acquire skills/education in order to improve the living conditions of his local community?

It seems to me, as I’m sure it seemed to my mother, that this story is too vivid a lesson for a young person in today’s world to ignore. In fact, I think Henry can be a sort of guiding example for young people of every culture. Here is this very raw, unschooled, inexperienced and, in our modern eyes, ignorant young man who, in spite of these handicaps, managed to conquer both his fears and his disadvantages through will, courage, determination and (probably most important) the desire to do good. That’s the example and the lesson: if you have the courage to follow your destiny, to do what you love and believe in, and pursue it with your whole being, without giving up, miracles can happen. It’s a wistful exercise to imagine the benefits and enlightenment Henry himself could have brought back to the islands had he lived to fulfill his desire to return there to share his knowledge with his people.

What qualities make Henry unique in a sense that he depicts a ‘solutions oriented’ mindset which led him to give birth to a new language?

What a good question! Of course, we have only a vague idea of the real Henry’s character and qualities, but logic leads us to imagine that he must have had one of those lightning quick, eager, imaginative minds that, having understood something on one level, instantly looks for another tangent or realm or use for it. He fell in love with English letters and words — loved the idea that they are used visually to represent both sounds and physical objects, and then, most amazing of all, thoughts, and feelings. It must have been a wonderful new mental adventureland for him, and his active, voracious mind reveled in exploring it. Then as a natural result of this whole revelation, his mind turned to his own native language, and, realizing it didn’t have the same way to express itself, he decided to make one! It’s so audacious it’s almost funny, but obviously his audacity, and his resolve, paid off.

Are there any aspects of education and culture that are overlooked in today’s society?

Ha! How much time do you have? I think the great gap in our society (and I know my mother would agree) is its paucity of real arts education. I probably sound like an old codger yelling “Get off my lawn!” but it does seem that what used to be a given in our society — the educating of children and young people in the various arts — is just woefully neglected today. And I’m not talking just about subjects like art and music appreciation, but also about those pursuits that give young people the self-knowledge and confidence one can get only from actually pursuing an art form, and understanding its traditions — whether it’s music, theatre, painting, puppetry, singing, dancing, or performance art. I believe that active participation in the arts is a vital element in a child’s full development. As I put it, in my speech a few years ago honoring the 60th anniversary of my mother’s theatre, “So often a timid new kid, getting into costume and makeup for the first time, would suddenly blossom into a happy, confident young person. Because the thing about acting is, it ‘takes you out of yourself.’ Literally. Plus, it’s definitely a team sport! If we learned anything, we learned that in the theatre, other people depend on you. Theatre folks have to work together.”

Learning is the gateway to innovation and changing societies as a whole. What types of risks are the general youth encouraged to entertain?

As far as risks for youth in general, possibly not very many. In fact, I think kids should be encouraged to take more risks — not of course with their health or safety, but with their creativity, aspirations, and imagination. “Thinking outside the box” in terms of one’s purpose in life is something possibly not encouraged enough in our culture in general, although there are wonderful pockets of creativity scattered throughout the world. I realize that’s easy for me to say as a privileged American, but I do believe that letting one’s imagination fly can work wonders.

How can the general youth better apply their power of voice and learning in their local communities today?

It seems to me that the great opportunity now lies in social media. Yes, there are dark aspects of this ever-changing arena, and lots of down sides, which bring risks. But think about this: how amazing is it for a child to be able to write, direct, produce and perform their very own work? It’s miraculous. The technology is there for everyone to use. Through this amazing technology a person can actually instigate change. Every day I see and hear things someone somewhere has created on social media that affect me and slightly (or sometimes greatly) change my mind, inform or enlighten me about something. It seems to me that that kind of limitless creative outlet aligned with and augmented by more classic forms of being involved with one’s community through institutions like libraries, schools, theatres, museums, sports teams, etc. may prove to be extremely powerful.

Suzanne, what was the most challenging part in your roles as the editor and the narrator of the story?

I think I found it most challenging to rise to my mother’s standard of excellence in finishing the writing of the book. I felt that it was an enormous honor and that, frankly, I was a little presumptuous to take it on. But I was encouraged by my Dad, who had watched the book take shape during the last years of my mother’s life, and who was, like the rest of the family, hopeful that in its completion her wish for it to be “out in the world” would be realized.

As a narrator, frankly what I found rather difficult was not dissolving into tears during some of the more emotional sections of the story. Just knowing how my mother felt when she wrote it, and what she was going through at the time, was affecting. But luckily, I’ve been taught by people like Bill Esper and Stella Adler, who managed to train me to channel strong emotion and to use it in service to the story, rather than let it carry me away self-indulgently. Without that training, I would have been a puddle on the studio floor!

What have you learned about the editorial process while preparing your mother’s final literary work for public display?

I already knew this from having been an advertising copywriter, but the process of preparing this manuscript for audio production reminded me: never count solely on your own proofing skills. No matter how many times you read something through, your personal involvement with the words will obscure and conceal "misteaks". (See what I mean?) But seriously, that’s a lesson that bears repetition.

Also, it’s a lonely process. For the audiobook, I did my own editing. But for the print publication I’m really looking forward to working with an experienced editor who has both a feeling for the material and a dispassionate eye. For my mother’s sake, I’d like to make it perfect.

What is the Rev Theatre Company and what role has it played in your life?

How fun that I’m answering that question at this moment in time (mid-July 2021), because The Rev has just emerged from their enforced pandemic lock-down with a truly triumphant opening production of a classic musical: “42nd Street.” Its reviews have been wildly enthusiastic, and I’m so pleased for them. They are today one of the most respected producers of musical theatre in the country, with a state-of-the-art facility and production values, and an Actors Equity company of Broadway-caliber actors, singers, and dancers.

It all started in 1958 as Auburn Children’s Theatre (A.C.T.), providing weekend dramatic classes for local children. Over the years, under my mother’s direction, it grew to a state-wide educational resource for children’s arts education, touring schools and institutions far and wide. Its many divisions encompassed a traveling mobile stage (patterned after medieval traveling theatre troupes), several permanent theatre houses, a clown school, adult theatre productions, experimental play writing and performance spaces, and always extensive training in acting, theatre history, improvisation, movement, pantomime, voice, scenic and costume design, and all the other theatre arts. The Merry Go Round Playhouse, now The Rev Theatre’s summer playhouse, was an actual vintage merry-go-round, renovated and turned into a theatre by my mother and a team of board members and volunteers in 1971. Over the years the organization steadily increased in status and reputation, becoming a full professional theatre company just before her retirement in the mid-1980s. Since then, Producing Artistic Director Brett Smock has done the company proud, developing it into a pre-Broadway house for new musicals, the first of several being a musical version of “From Here to Eternity,” destined for Broadway next year. What began as a children’s theatre in 1958 has grown to become a multi-venue, multi-million dollar operation. The Rev Education Division is now one of the nation’s largest resident touring youth education programs. The breadth and depth of the company’s artistic activities have set new standards in the region and industry.

Credit: Suzanne Ford with Susan C. Riford

Back in 1958, as a nine-year-old girl, a little shy but curious, trusting, and enthusiastic, this fledgling organization opened my eyes to the magic and power of live theatre. Here’s a picture of my mother and me at that time. She’s altering my costume for “The Snow Queen,” one of our first productions.

Over the years as I grew up, I continued to act in almost every ACT production. When I went away to school (Kent School in Kent, Connecticut) I immediately became involved in drama there, doing Shakespeare and modern plays, and graduated having won the Drama Prize. In the summers I did summer stock all over the place. I went on to Ithaca College, majored in drama, then studied opera (briefly!) at Eastman School of Music in nearby Rochester, and then moved to New York City where I did tons of theatre and my husband, and I spent many happy years before moving to Los Angeles so I could pursue film and television. Since then, I’ve been a working actor here in Hollywood, grateful not only for my current and recent opportunities, but also for the long ago chance to enter this magical world in such a positive and welcoming way.

Please share with audiences how they can support the works of your mother Susan Riford and yourself.

My two brothers and I have started a foundation in my mother’s name, called the Susan C. Riford Children’s Arts Education Fund. All proceeds from the audiobook of Black Rocks and Rainbows: The True Adventures of Henry Opukahaia, the Hawaiian Boy Who Changed History will be donated to this charity, as will revenue from the eventual hardcover printed version and all versions thereafter.

With this reservoir of funds, however modest or substantial it may eventually become, we plan to contribute as often and as much as we can to the cause our mother embraced throughout her life: the enrichment of the lives and minds of young people through learning about, loving and pursuing the arts.

Learn More Below

Audible   |  Amazon   |   Instagram   |  Linktr.ee

July 21, 2021

"Think Again" by Adam Grant

* Sasha's Book Pick *

Credit: Think Again, Adam Grant

Author Overview

Adam Grant is an organizational psychologist at Wharton, where he has been the top-rated professor for seven straight years. A #1 New York Times bestselling author and one of TED's most popular speakers, his books have sold millions of copies and been translated into 35 languages, his talks have been viewed over 25 million times, and his podcast WorkLife has topped the charts. His pioneering research has inspired people to rethink fundamental assumptions about motivation, generosity, and creativity. He has been recognized as one of the world's 10 most influential management thinkers and Fortune's 40 under 40, and has received distinguished scientific achievement awards from the American Psychological Association and the National Science Foundation. His work has been praised by J.J. Abrams, Richard Branson, Bill and Melinda Gates, Malcolm Gladwell, Daniel Kahneman, John Legend, and Malala Yousafzai. Adam received his B.A. from Harvard and his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, and he is a former Junior Olympic springboard diver. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and their three children. Credit: Amazon Authors

July 16, 2021

Author Joshua Spodek PhD MBA Speaks on "Initiative" & Purpose


Credit: Joshua Spodek

Credit: Initiative, Joshua Spodek

Author Overview

Joshua Spodek is a two-time TEDx speaker, hosts the Leadership and the Environment podcast, and is an Adjunct Professor at NYU, leadership coach and workshop leader for Columbia Business School, columnist for Inc., founder of SpodekAcademy.com, and bestselling author.

He has spoken on leadership, entrepreneurship, creativity, and sales at Harvard, West Point, Princeton, MIT, the New York Academy of Science, and in private corporations. He holds a PhD in Astrophysics and an MBA, and studied under a Nobel laureate. He helped build an X-ray observational satellite for NASA, co-founded and led as CEO or COO several ventures, and holds six patents.

He earned praise as "Best and Brightest" (Esquire Magazine's Genius Issue), "Astrophysicist turned new media whiz" (NBC), and "Rocket Scientist" (ABC News and Forbes) and has been quoted and profiled by ABC, CBS, NBC, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. He has visited North Korea twice, swam across the Hudson River, and has done burpees daily since 2011. He lives in Greenwich Village and blogs daily at www.joshuaspodek.com. Credit: Amazon Authors

July 07, 2021

Author Joe Wallenstein Explores the Arts & "Flynn and Miranda"


Credit: Joe Wallenstein

Welcome to Authors by Sasha! Joe, you're a celebrated producer, director, writer and author in Hollywood. What was your childhood like in Brooklyn, NY?
I had a wonderful childhood. I am very glad I grew up in Brooklyn when I did. Other notable people from my neighborhood include Woody Allen, Larry King, Marisa Tomei and the parents of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (The notorious RBG).

I did all the things a Brooklyn kid did. Stick ball, punch ball, stoop ball, roller skate hockey and street football (Go down three sewers and cut right). I stayed out all night, was never bothered by anyone and had lots of friends. On the other hand, my neighborhood was home to many members of the Mafia. One man five doors down had a fourth of the NYPD on his payroll. He was a bookmaker named Harry Gross. When he got arrested it was a big deal and a major embarrassment to the police department. The case was known as “The Gross Scandal.”

When I was twelve my best friend’s father was in business with Albert Anastasia, the Lord High Executioner, The Mad Hatter and the head of Murder Incorporated. My friend’s dad was shot and killed three days after Anastasia was gunned down in the Park Sheraton Hotel in Manhattan. My neighborhood had an active fighting gang, one of twelve Brooklyn gangs and was featured in the Sylvester Stallone movie, “Lords of Flatbush.”
Are there any early influences which played an integral part in leading you to attend NYU's Film and TV Production program?

My life was shaped early on by my mother. When I was eight, I stole a pack of baseball cards from the neighborhood candy store. When my mother found out she said to me: “Joe, I will give you the dollar but you must go back and pay for the cards and apologize. I said: 'You are afraid I will get arrested by the police?’ She said” NO. THE REASON YOU DON’T STEAL IS, …BECAUSE THAT’S NOT WHO YOU ARE.”

Her definition of me has stayed with me my whole life. Who did I want to be? Was I honest or dishonest? Was I mean or compassionate? Was I loyal or disloyal? In other words, every day of your entire life you have to decide who you want to be. I wanted to be honest, trustworthy, hard-working, compassionate, professional and loyal. Those qualities have defined both me and my career. In a fifty-year career I have never had my integrity questioned, not once. My reputation is: “Joe is honest, a professional and …he really cares.” I am very proud of that description.
You worked as a Freelance Production Assistant early on in your career. What did this role entail?

A lot of grunt work. I have run for more coffee than the iconic Juan Valdez. You round up actors and drive them or accompany them to the work site. You distribute “sides” or daily pages to be shot of the script. Run for food for the director and actors. Draw up the paperwork for the First Assistant Director. i.e. call sheets and daily production reports. You run the film to the lab for development (old construct, today everything is digital).

In general, you are an all-around problem solver so that all the energy stays focused on the day's filming. Anything that protects the set (time is money). Run for the wardrobe the actor forgot to bring. Buy something the prop department neglected to pick up on their way in and on and on.

Stage background action. Should not refer to them as “extras.” That is a demeaning term and does not do justice to how creative they can be and how much value they bring to a production.
What guidance do you have for novice professionals who want to pursue a career in Film and TV Production?

MARRY RICH. Only kidding.

Many years ago, a Producer named Joe Manduke said to me: “Joe, in order to succeed in this business, you must want it more than life itself.” At the time, that sounded like self-serving hyperbole. But time and experience has cast that line in a different light. You must be prepared to disrupt relationships, miss family dinners, work around the clock and leave town on very short notice.

In my career, I have been punched, stabbed, needed eye surgery because of how velocity freezing wind and stood on broken bricks for twelve hours enduring extreme pain. And always saying to myself: “What? And give up showbiz?
What variables should they consider when choosing such opportunities in Hollywood, or any other entertainment industry?

A very good question. Can you afford, financially or emotionally, to be out of work often and for unknowable lengths of time. Are you thin-skinned or thick-skinned? Can you handle, sometimes heavy-handed, rejection, criticism or mean-spiritedness? The entertainment business is a subjective business. Somebody is always judging somebody. Pity the poor actor or actress who goes to audition after audition and doesn’t get the gig. Pity the episodic director who is a genius on one show and a bum on the next.
How will you keep your internal balance?

Someone once told me, “In order to succeed in the film business you must have an irrational belief in yourself.” That may seem like an odd way to say something but what it means is, you must have the intestinal fortitude to soldier on when events seem not to favor you.
Joe, oftentimes actors and actresses credit their producers for imparting wisdom that helps them refine their craft. What have actors and actresses taught you when it comes to directing talents?

A REALLY good question.

When I started, because I was nothing more than an errand-running grunt, I thought of actors and actresses as spoiled, egotistical babies who were self-absorbed and unprofessional. But when I became a first assistant director and was close to the director and at the heart of the set, I came to see actors in a completely different light. They were vulnerable, insecure and trusting. Putting your image and talent out in front of the world is a very scary trust-dependent construct. They were dependent on the vision of the director, the talent of the cinematographer, the interactivity of other actors and ultimately, dependent on the taste, talent and good judgment of the editor and director.

I learned that quickly and intellectually through on set observation. But I learned it viscerally when I directed “Knots Landing.” I was directing a love scene with Constance McCashin. Just before the camera rolled, as Connie turned her head, a few strands of hair shifted so that they covered part of her face. I called “Cut” and instructed the hair stylist to move the intruding hairs back off Connie’ face, we did the scene in a couple of takes and moved on.

Constance came up to me and said: “I just wanted to thank you. I really appreciate that you looked out for me.” It was then that I truly understood just how vulnerable actors feel and how subject they are to the whims, insensitivity or just plain bad judgement of others.
What writing tips do you have for writers who aspire to work in the Film & TV industry?

Develop thick skin. Don’t let others define you. Just keep soldering on. Understand your characters. Who are they? What do they want? What price are they willing to pay to achieve their goals? And whatever you do, …never give up.
​Only perseverance is omnipotent.

Credit: Flynn and Miranda

“Flynn and Miranda: Your Right to Remain Silent" authored by you and released by Trine Day Publishing brings the story of Ernesto Miranda to light. The March 13, 2021 release date coincided with the 58th anniversary of Ernesto Miranda’s arrest in 1963 for kidnapping and rape. The criminal case, Miranda v. Arizona (1966), would eventually become ingrained in our national fabric. What motivated you to explore this segment of history that is referenced often in our social, entertainment and legal culture?
FLYNN and MIRANDA, is not about guilt or innocence.
It is about fundamental American commitment to FAIRNESS.

Joe, you host decades worth of writing experience with developing shows and humanizing characters. Did you approach writing "Flynn and Miranda" any differently when addressing your research and delivery of the story?
I have always said, “If I can identify with or root for the lead character, I will follow him or her anywhere.” If you look at the “Sopranos,” you followed Tony Soprano’s story, not because he was a good guy, quite the opposite, But his life on every other level besides criminality was viscerally identifiable. His kids gave him a hard time. He got pulled over for speeding. He was us, except for that “murder’ thing.

For me, all film or television is character driven. John Flynn fascinated me. Not because he was a gifted lawyer. Rather, because he was so flawed and still able to rise to greatness.
Are there any aspects of the story that were omitted because it detracted the message you desired to share with audiences?

I deliberately stayed away from Flynn’s five marriages. That was not what the story I wanted to tell was about. I wanted to respect and honor everyone’s privacy and the privacy of his children.

As the Director of Physical Production at the School of Cinematic Arts, you're also a part-time lecturer. How have your speaking and teaching topics evolved in recent years?  What are the tri-annual safety seminars about because they are highly sought after in cinematic arts education?
Under my tutelage at USC, we have made thirty thousand projects without a single injury. We have set the gold standard for safety in student filmmaking. The trick in teaching safety is that “safety” is not about what you cannot do. It is about how you achieve your vision safely. Most student filmmakers see the world through their prism. The world, the real world, looks back at the student filmmaker.
How can I better explain this?

A film student stages a mugging at gunpoint in an alley near school. He/She has a crew of twenty, several lights, a camera on a dolly and ten yards of dolly track.

To filmmakers that is undeniably a film set.

However, to the little old lady or man just wandering by, it is a crime in progress. They only see the gun. They call the police. The police hear “gun” and they come running.

The worst thing anyone can do in that scenario is turn towards the police and try to explain that the gun is not real.

We instruct students and cast in that situation to: ALWAYS JUST DROP THE WEAPON.”

What is the best life guidance you've received and from whom?

Famous actor Walter Matheau once said to me: “Money is the only freedom.”
What he meant was, if you only care about money, someone else will always be pulling the strings of your life.

What are some hobbies that you enjoy when you're not producing and directing?
For reasons that only a good psychiatrist could articulate, I am an avid train watcher.
Yes, live train fanning is a real thing. I also love to travel when I can.

Please share with audiences how they can support your work.
I will avoid the obvious answer of, “buy the book.” I would like to develop a following. I hope your listeners will remember my name and look for other books by me in the future. I have several other books in development that will be published in the coming years. ​Visit JoeWallenstein.com to learn more.

July 03, 2021

Spotlight: "Speed Matters" by Dr. Raman K. Attri

Meet Dr. Raman K. Attri - Performance Xcelerator, Executive & Author

Credit: Sasha Talks | Dr. Raman K. Attri

Author Overview

Dr Raman K Attri is a global authority on speed in personal and professional performance. A learning scientist and one among few experts researching and speaking on speed, he specializes in research-backed strategies to speed up professional performance by 200% and helping organizations to reduce employee time to proficiency by 50%. An organizational learning leader at $40bn technology corporation, he manages a Hall of the Fame training organization, named one among the top 10 in the world. A prolific author of 20 multi-genre books, he writes on accelerating human excellence. Passionate about learning, he holds two doctorates in the learning domain, earned over 100 international educational credentials, and is awarded some of the world's highest certifications. Undeterred from his disability and inability to walk since childhood, he continues to be an inspiring personality. He spreads his positivity by guiding leaders and professionals on the science and the art of speed in all walks of life. He loves to share his insights and motivate people. Credit: Amazon Profile; RamanKAttri.com

Credit: Speed Matters by Dr. Raman K Attri

Author Insights by Dr. Raman K Attri

Welcome Dr. Attri! You're hailed as an International Performance Scientist, Educator, Executive and Author who endorses human development through teaching individuals how to accelerate their life performance through emphasis of speed. What does speed mean to you? 
The speed I am talking about is not based on getting ahead first or finishing a project quickly. Instead, the meaning of speed, in my view, is to get to a point faster where people can deliver first-time-right outcomes consistently. The initial journey may be very slow to reach the point of doing things the first time. But once you get there, you don’t need a rework; you don’t need corrections; you don’t need to go back and spend additional time fixing it. Compared to others who might focus on the speed of executing the tasks, this individual would have a competitive advantage. At that point, the task or project execution speed comes automatically. However, reaching that point of consistent, reliable, and repeatable first-time-right performance takes a long time if we don’t take any deliberate efforts. My concept of speed is to aim for that point and enable teams, employees, leaders, and yourself to reach that point in a shorter time. 

How did acceleration of speed play a role in your life path?
At a personal level, I continue to believe that speed is essential. When you attain the speed of mastery in anything you do, you save a lot of time to do other things. My obsession or specialization for speed is rooted in the lack of the same in my early years. I am a permanently disabled polio survivor. I got infected with polio virus when I was merely six months old. So, from that point onward, I lost my ability to walk much before I reached the age to walk. 

After the first few years of crawling, I tried holding my leg up and dragging myself painfully. When I grew up a little, I had to wear calipers, a sort of steel-clad, heavy prosthetics to keep my legs in place. In my later years, I learned to walk with crutches, which is my current mode of walking. Whatever mode I used, I limped; I was slow and took baby steps like a primitive robot. I was too slow to catch up with my friends. A series of unpleasant experiences in early years forced me to think that if I could not walk, I will walk faster in something else. 

I thought if I can’t walk physically, I might use the power of my mind to stay ahead. That’s how I sought speed in learning and anything I wanted to master in my later years. My leverages were lack of mobility which gave me uninterrupted time and no social distractions. Using these leverages, I immersed myself in the world of learning. I read any book I could get my hands on. While learning ahead of my age, I tried every workable experiment to stretch the limit to learn faster. Those early life experimentations led me to master the science of speed as a global performance scientist. 

You just released a book “Speed Matters: Why Best in Class Business Leaders Prioritize Workforce Time to Proficiency Metrics."  The book is described as "distilled wisdom from an extensive research on 66 start-to-end project success stories spanning 28 industries, contributed by 85 best in class business leaders from 7 countries". What led you to write this book?
The book came into conception mainly because of the Covid-19 crisis. During that dire time, we saw how many organizations struggled to adapt to the radical changes enforced by Covid-19. But at the same time, for many others, it has accelerated the need to transform and fast track in the competitive business world. The key challenge I see is how leaders and organizations will prepare their employees for faster recovery. But there is a crucial gap in executive education. The executives, leaders, and managers have never been training in the science of speed. So, I thought this was the right time to give them important leadership thinking to effectively tackle contemporary issues. 

How would you sum up the premise of this book in ten words or less?
Speed of employee development matters a lot in keeping organizations competitive in the market. 

Organizations among a broad palette of industries are impacted by the pandemic. How is this book relevant to the present times where workforce utilization is being examined, supply chains are demanding attention and leadership is seeking sensible solutions to proceed into the unknown "new normal" landscape?
After the pandemic is over, several organizations will struggle to recover their lost market share, revenue, or customers. They need to master the art of speed. I realized that most organizations and leaders were not prepared to act at that speed. They have not taught their employees the ways to gain skills at a faster rate. I wrote this book specifically for top leaders, CEOs, and executives to educate them about how they can be speed-savvy for the times to come. 

The new normal is an accelerated world. In general, organizations need a new leadership thought process, which focuses on building a speed-enabling culture. That leadership thought process is what I covered in the book, hoping to make speed a priority for those who want to stay relevant in the times to come. In the book, I talk about the importance of prioritizing the time to proficiency metrics in their teams and how leaders can bring that language of speed into their organizations.

If leaders adopt the philosophy I mentioned in the book, they will be ready for the new normal at a much-accelerated rate. And they can stay ahead of the competition to serve the customers. 

​Why should the speed of employee development matter to a leader?
​As we have seen, during the pandemic, our employees struggled to learn new skills, even as simple as running zoom software. People were not prepared. Because they have been groomed to complete some tasks fast, not to learn the new skills faster to the level of proficiency.  In 2017, Deloitte, which is a major consulting firm, did a study with 10000 executives. They stated that the shelf life of any skill back then was about 12 months to 18 months. That figure is roughly down to 3 months or fewer during the pandemic. That means employees need to learn new skills every 3 months. But how long does it take to learn and master new skills? Well, my research showed it to be pretty long. For instance, a semiconductor or a communication equipment engineer reaches mastery in 2 to 3 years.  So we have a catch-22 situation. The shelf life is too short, but the time to mastery is too long. 

Let me share another piece of data here. The time to market was 3 years, about a decade ago. Now it is roughly 3 months for new products or services. Customers are becoming impatient to get new products in their hands sooner. So, while we say that every 3 months, your employees need to learn new skills to innovate, be relevant and competitive in the market. Organizations have lost substantial market share. They will be highly pressed to recover their position. And only those who will manage to stay ahead can build their employees' mastery well before the pandemic is over. That’s why the speed of employee skill development is the only way to stay ahead in the market. 
What do these 85 best in class business leaders have in common?
Yeah, in fact, one thing was characteristically common. The global leaders I interviewed said they had to fix the managers first as a pre-requisite to bringing a speed-enabling culture into their teams. In most job roles, managers can’t even define or quantify the proficiency they expect from employees. And they don’t even know how to measure speed. If we don’t measure speed, how do we know if we are going fast or slow?. That was trap number two. 

​In most organizations, managers are mostly hands-off because they got tons of work making slides and attending meetings. They don’t have the time to interact with their employees, which should be their number one priority. They leave their employees at the mercy of the training department, expecting trainers to be the magicians who would produce fully productive employees within a few weeks. That’s where employees don’t feel supported, and that slows them down further.  This was the one thing these visionary leaders wanted to fix. The moment they fixed this key pivotal point of an ecosystem, the remaining things were simple to solve. 

What are the top three industries that serve as ideal benchmarks for research and study to convey the benefits of why "speed matters" for developing proficiency metrics?
While my study included over 40 industries, for some industries, speed mattered the most. The foremost was the technology sectors such as semiconductor, telecommunication, smartphones, and other hi-tech technologies. In general, speed matters to organizations in this sector producing the next-generation products, which have become a lifeline for most businesses. For instance, network infrastructure or semiconductor chip manufacturing companies. 

​The speed matters the most in those industries is where the rate of skill obsolesces is higher. Notably, since the tasks are being replaced with more automation like in car manufacturing, workers need to gain skills at a higher rate nowadays. 
In some industries, we see the most significant turnaround. And we find they are constantly busy qualifying significant churn out of new people. For instance, retail and consumer industries. Though the skills in these sectors are not overly complex, it takes a toll on the organizations to maintain their services. 

Some professionals in business fear numbers because they undervalue the significance of how numbers convey the health of an organization. What is the best way to educate and train managers to embrace numerical benchmarks as their ally instead of their enemy?  
I am sure you have seen during Covid-19, everyone started overusing the term “accelerate.” Accelerate digital transformation, accelerate performance, accelerate learning, accelerate process improvement, accelerate everything, literally. But we can’t accelerate unless we measure our current speed quantifiably and cut the substantial time out of the journey from point A to Point B. It's very ironic that every single technology out there gives the time stamp. Still, we lack a good mechanism or instrumentation to measure speed. Few leaders have paid attention to this lack simply because their focus is on task execution. 
Managers need to learn to quantify speed numerically. We could leverage their current processes of measuring KPIs, which come as numbers. Lately, most business managers have learned to use dashboards, data analytics and have become comfortable with numbers. All they need to do now is to take one more step on how to measure speed using the same set of KPIs, how to baseline speed, and then put efforts to speed up. My book can be the starting place for them to build that perspective. 

What are some common misconceptions about speed or speed of employee development that exist within the leadership realm across the many industries in the market?
I would mention one. I have seen that there was over-reliance on training as a magic wand across the board. Leaders have relied on training so heavily that they leave their employees to the training departments, hoping they will produce fully proficient employees in just a few weeks. Training is the solution to increase the rate of readiness, according to them—that’s the misconception, and that’s the trap. But to be honest, training in most cases slows down the proficiency curve rather than speeding it up. This might come as counter-intuitive, but it is. Because in most organizations, they have simply copied the training from academic templates, too content focused topic-wise, or classroom style and more memory-focused. Several sales functional heads took part in my research. One financial service call center used to hire call agents to answer the questions of the customers and would help them buy the right product. So logically, they tried to make these agents remember everything about every single product. It resulted in 11 weeks of training—intensive, morning till evening, instructor-led, with lots of paper-and-pen type tests to check memories on product features. They were trying to stuff the training program with just-in-case content that has no relevance. And they hardly spent time on training them to interact with the customer. And after 11 weeks, they would need another 3 months to reach a stage where they know exactly where is the answer to a question and to become completely fluid in their performance. That’s the danger of a poorly designed training structure. It actually slows down the speed. 

For instance, during the pandemic, some of the repair businesses like semiconductor equipment, industrial machinery, and elevators used innovative technologies like augmented smart glasses for brand new technicians. They had no way to send them for initial training. So they used these smart glasses, sent them to actual jobs on day one. The smart glasses come with an augmented display where you can access procedures, documentation, and videos hands-free. And then, you can connect with the remote network coaches who can see what you see as a technician. So see, it is far better than training. It provides information, procedure, knowledge, coaching, learning, peer support, and instructions, all at one place. Who needs training if you create that kind of tech ecosystem? The result is a roughly 50% reduction in time to proficiency. 
My guidance to leaders is that they don’t rely on training to build the proficiency of their employees. Training does only one thing, it delivers knowledge, skills and gives you initial readiness. Training does not build the realistic performance that is required to show proficiency. If training is not enabling your employees with realistic performance and not adding to speed up time to proficiency, why do it? Leaders are better positioned to replace it with performance support technologies, knowledge repositories, on-demand mobile learning, and things like that. When people fetch the information at the point of need, when they pull and learn the something they need when they need, guess what, their learning is much faster, and they produce outcomes much faster. 

Are there any instances when you discourage the focus of 'speed' in your training and speaking sessions?
​In general, I discourage pushing for faster completion of work, tasks or projects. The majority of the leaders see speed as the only way to get ahead first. So what do they do? They press hard for deliverables, set aggressive timelines, insist on faster task or project execution. It does give the impression of moving fast, there can be some immediate wins, but it does not lead to a long-term competitive advantage. Because employees don’t have enough time to learn and master. Their learning is half-cooked. 

In a study by Deloitte, the worldwide executives said that speed and agility were far more important than efficiency. But most organizations still don’t learn. They continue to focus on efficiency rather than speed. They keep going for the mad rush to accomplish things quickly. That was okay for industry 3.0. 

But in Industry 4.0, efficiency is the primary goal of automation and technologies like Artificial Intelligence. If machines can do it faster than humans more efficiently, why keep chasing the wrong speed? Also, we have seen that this kind of mad rush is creating burnout. People get stretched, and as a result, they leave. Or they lose motivation pretty soon. The side effect is that employees do not go home with a sense of achievement. Rather, they go home with a sense of pressure and urgency. It is not sustainable for any business. 
Let’s rather focus on building those skills of employees at a faster rate—the things which only humans can do. I encourage them to focus on making employee-centric culture where everything in the organization is geared toward making employees proficient at a faster rate so that they deliver their performance seamlessly, with no pressure. 

Are there any topics you had intended to include in the book, but due to bandwidth you were unable to accommodate at this time?
The topic of “Speed matters” is a massive subject in itself, actually. I started with the intention to make it as a comprehensive book specifying practices and strategies to shorten time to proficiency of employees. But as I progressed, I realized that executives need education and awareness firstly, as the pandemic deepened. Before any executive applies strategies, they need the groundwork and build a culture, a language of speed. So then, I limited the book to 300 pages, which is more than enough to give them an all-rounded understanding of what they are missing and why it is crucial. Also, it was important to get the book out during the pandemic, as the know-how discussed in the book will be required immediately after the pandemic is over. I am planning to specify strategies and practice in my next book titled “GET THERE FASTER.”

You've penned at least 20 multi-genre books that demonstrate your interests in the fields of business, arts, science, leadership, social culture, art and poetry. Is there any particular genre that's easier for you to write versus the other? 
I believe that we humans have multiple aspects of personality. We are multidimensional individuals. We are not just employees, managers, or business people. That’s a small part of our personality. In the more significant part of life, we play with a son, daughter, friend, companion, spouse, parents, and sometimes community members. So, the theme of our book may come out from any dimension, aspect, experience, or phase of our life. With that view, it has been super easy for me to write books in multiple genres because, in each genre, I express my own personality and experience. So far, it has been pretty easy for me to write research-based books or the ones related to the learning domain. That has been a significant part of my professional career. However, I have not written books on my personal encounters with my disability, self-improvement, and other things. I think those can wait.
Which topics require you to become engulfed in waves of research before you promote the ideology in the form of a book?
Professional topics on leadership, training, and learning typically require a lot of research. This is also because I personally see that most of the literature in these disciplines is not always research-based. People resort to reading half-cooked information, sometimes misrepresented quotes, and more so the beautifully designed graphics from social media to adopt the strategies which are not proven in research. So as a researcher, it becomes even more vital for us to research and present a more rational picture. But luckily, I have conducted a lot of research already during my personal experimentations and while doing my doctoral program. So, I have foundational research available already. It takes time to convert into a practice-based book that practitioners and leaders could find easy to read. 

What advice do you have for writers who initiate the book writing process yet they fail to complete their books because the desire starts to wane with time?
​There is a bit of a misconception that authors have to spend continuous hours in ‘author mode’ to get writing done. On the contrary, I found that those longer spells are the main reason they would leave their projects incomplete.  It is hard to focus and concentrate for a longer time, especially now, given all the noise and distractions going around us. Therefore, I prefer to work in sprints. In sprints philosophy, you sit down to accomplish a small but specific piece of writing at a time. Ideally, you spend little time on it, not a long haul of hours. The idea of a sprint is not to write a massive volume of words in one sitting. You decide the timing for each sprint, depending upon the nature of your project. For example, you might limit it to 30 minutes a day if writing is a side hustle for you. You might have to spread the 30 minutes sprints throughout the day if writing is your profession and source of income. Then the following day, you come back and start with the next sprint for the same project (or a different project, altogether). 

​Going back to a different project altogether might sound counter-intuitive. But, if you look closely at any product development company, let’s say a cell phone company, you will find that they do not work on one model at a given point in time. Instead, there is a concurrent development taking place on various models. In the same way, as an author, if you could be working on several manuscripts - some may be just skeletons while some might be at the advanced stages. So, you could come back to work in different manuscripts but in a sprint fashion. That allows you to have flexible switching among various projects. The probability of finishing all the projects is much higher in this mode.

While many things may seem incomplete on my plate at a given time, there comes a time when most of them will be progressing toward completion. The magic happens when I complete projects, one after another. Admittedly, before that happens, there are periods when others would see me producing nothing. But when most threads come close to completion, I usually surprise my peers with a blast of series of outcomes. However, I must warn that not everyone is cut out for such a switching mechanism in their mind.

Credit: Dr. Raman K Attri

As a multi-faceted writer, you are generous in sharing your emotions through writings such as "If Forever Exists" which is a book hosting a collection of 89 poems that explore the complexity of life through successes and failures of relationships. What’s the driver behind this book? How did you come about to write this book?
​There are always some soulful moments, events, and emotions we encounter in our life which we wish could stay with us forever. That’s why the title ‘If Forever Exists.’ I thought the only way to make such moments immortal is to put them on paper. As we grow up, we build several relationships of varied nature from friendship, family to love. As we pass through the ups and downs of these relationships, our relationships go through a series of phases of the emotional journey. At each phase, we are bound to feel, process, and express complex emotions differently. 

I had a fair share of those phases, which I penned down as 87 soulful poems in this book, recounting and reflecting on my experiences at various stages of personal relationships. I tried to capture a range of emotions any adolescent, young adult or grown-up feels during those phases, such as love & friendship; attraction & infatuations; belongingness & loneliness; togetherness & separation; rejections & acceptances; frustrations & angers; obsessions & passion; successes & failures; confusions and reflections; heart & mind and other powerful emotions. These all are natural human responses. 

What is the one message you have for the readers who would like to purchase “If Forever Exists”?
My message to readers would be “Live and relive your memorable moments and emotions that defined who you were back then. Take pride in expressing your real inner-self. Stay true to your inner-self, even if it is overly sensitive, and bring it out. We have made our life too dry by coming across professionals or dignified leaders. Let the sensitive human side of you complement your dominating professional personality. Don’t worry if you or others don’t see it congruent with what you are doing today.”

Do you believe a poet exists in every living being?
​Yes, I pretty much do. As I said before, human experiences are multidimensional. We have the ability to feel, process and express. Admittedly, not everyone can be good with words and weave a poem, but then again, expressions do not need to adhere to any set rules. I have seen people who just write in free-flow of heart-felt words as poems. As long as you can express the impression vividly and accurately about the way you feel, not necessarily the way it happens, you can ignite the poet inside you. 
Is there any emotion that you struggle with communicating as a human being? 
​I think it is contextual. Humans have been given versatile capabilities and the potential to feel and express any kind of emotion. Perhaps, we are the only species who can do so. The ability to communicate is also personal, depending upon how we have been groomed and educated. There is no one answer to this question. But undeniably, the success of our relationship depends upon how well we can communicate emotions at the time of need. If we don’t, there is a likelihood that you would vent it out as a poetry book someday, but it might be too late by then. 

Personally, I find it difficult to communicate emotions toward parents. No matter how much you wish to give more justice to it, you will feel that it lacks something. The cultural aspect is important too. Certain cultures like mine are indoctrinated not to speak up to parents and, more often, suppress the emotions. Occasionally, the most legitimate emotions that must be expressed could get suppressed too. 

Credit: Faces from Memory Lane

"Faces from Memory Lane: A memoir to Feminine Charm Through Portraits" introduces your artistic abilities to audiences. These 85 portraits range from hand drawn portraits to sketches honoring the beauty and essence of women you've met in your path. What made you write this book?
This book came out because of my artistic appeal. Faces, in particular, always appealed to me because they are windows to the heart. We see, talk, love, and of course, remember people by their faces. But more so, female faces appealed to my artistic sense profoundly. In my life, I happened to meet some remarkable female faces down the memory lane. Some of the outstanding females that left an impression on me included my nieces, cousins, friends, teachers, and crushes. Some faces left profound impressions on me. I wanted to capture that divine appeal, captivating beauty, mesmerizing charm, and a multitude of expressions the way I saw fit. So, I developed this large-format coffee-table book to interweave the visual stories I conveyed through portraits, short story narratives, and a poem complementing each portrait. 

That’s how the book came about, I guess. Some portraits, sketches, and paintings included in this book date back as early as 30 years ago, those which I had drawn back in school or college days but somehow miraculously preserved in some form. If you ask, this is probably the most memorable piece of authorship I have created, which I am genuinely proud of. I did not write this book to sell, but more as a gift to those who were featured in the book. It is my way to offer regards to some of the greatest female personalities whom I met throughout my life.
What is the one message you have for the readers who would like to purchase “Faces in Memory Lane”?
My one message would be that every one of you can’t be an artist, but perhaps, you can recognize and appreciate the stories each face brings in your life. There comes a time when it is hard to recall the face of your closest friend from childhood. Do something today to preserve the memories before those fade away.
In your opinion, what is one superpower that women host that no man can intellectually or materialistically replicate?
​The poet inside me sees the female faces as vivid images. Females have compelling and unparalleled charm. Their charm is capable of bringing unimaginable happiness, transformations, dreams, desires, feelings, and hopes in the lives of the people who surround them. I believe that no man can intellectually or materialistically replace it. Each female in our life brings a story of her own and leaves us with a unique memoir, no matter the relationship. I have been fascinated by charm, smiles, expressions, and emotions on female faces. The female face seemed both knowable and ineffable. That was the primary driver as well as the key message I wanted to convey in this book. 
How do you define beauty in your life?
The true beauty for me is simplicity that can give you a serene and settled feeling. 

Dr. Attri, how do you define success? How do you define failure?
Success is personal, contextual, and situational. For me, success is a personal feeling of getting a sense of achievement, a sense of feeling to have surpassed yesterday’s standards. When I don’t reach that standard or surpass yesterday’s standard, that becomes my rolling definition of failure. So, depending upon where we are on the path to excellence, the definition of failure would change for me. It’s certainly not binary. Back then, when I graduated from my college, starting on a $50 trainer’s job was a success for me. Success is something we define differently for our needs, wants, desires, and dreams. We need to be very sure if we are talking about the success of our needs or the success of our dreams. Different criteria work for different domains of our life. 

What areas of your professional development required attention when you embarked upon your career path? Did you rely upon any mentors and trainers?
Since childhood, I have mostly been a self-learner. I had been learning faster and ahead of others. One reason for that was no access to mentors or coaches. A larger part of my professional development has happened without a coach or mentor. I probably could have over-accelerated further had I had the right mentors and coaches at the right moment. In my most recent corporate career, my manager has been quite instrumental in giving me tips to perfect my executive communication skills. When I embarked on a professional speaking journey formally, I realized I needed proper coaches if I am to progress and make a name in this domain. That’s where I have sought help from some of the greatest minds in the speaking industry. I have got coaching from the legend himself, Mr. Les Brown, the world’s number one motivational speaker. I have been coached by Kane Minkus, arguably one of the best in professional speaking. I have also received coaches from Sam Cawthorn’s team as well. 

Credit: Dr. Raman K Attri, Speaking

When you're not writing, training, speaking or working in any fashion, how do you mentally escape the demands of everyday life?
Prior to the pandemic, travel was a thing that was a channel to escape everyday life. But last year was taxing because of the pandemic. So, what I used to do earlier did not hold patterns. However, I am rekindling now, back to music via Spotify. I had lost touch with music for a long while. I listen to mystic music like Enigma-fame, which takes me out of bounds from the current happenings. 

Please share with audiences how they can support your work.
I run a research forum “XpertX” which has a component of serving people by educating them with tips and tricks of accelerating their excellence. I am developing it as a learning portal for anyone to come and learn the art and science of learning, get some techniques on how to learn better and faster, where they can get some tested methods to be better performers in their workplace or professions and receive some better self-clarity to speed up their path to excellence in whatever they strive to do. It is the movement. And I would like the audience to join this movement. If you are keen to know the art and science of speeding up your path to excellence, I will encourage the audience to join XpertX forum at http://ramankattri.com while it is in nascent phases and the membership is free. 

If you think that your leadership team and organizations need to bring a speed-enabling culture but don’t know where to start, you could contact me to deliver a keynote to educate your executives. You can get started by reading the book “SPEED MATTERS” on this link here.

I would encourage the audience to join me on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube by searching my handle @DrRamanKAttri. 

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Amazon Author: Dr. Raman K Attri

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