I recently gave a keynote speech entitled “Connect More Deeply” on the Hope Global Forum in Atlanta, Georgia hosted by a non-profit called Operation Hope. U.S Secretary of Treasury Jack Lew, Chelsea Clinton and Andrew Young, one in all Dr. Martin Luther King’s, Jr.’s lieutenants in the civil rights movement, were a number of of the esteemed speakers.
Though I’ve given over 1,000 speeches or workshops in my speaking career, this speech was different. The visceral response caught me off guard. I had a woman literally apologize to me after my speech because she felt some of her colleagues were disrespecting me because they weren’t fully listening to my message. I’ve attached my edited speech transcript here. May it enable you connect more deeply with one person today. You are not alone.
We all attend conferences for different reasons. A few of us come to listen to the headlining speakers. Others perhaps wish to get away for a few days. Most of us, however, want to connect with someone you wish to learn from, work with or work for. Tonight I’ll share three things we can all do to connect more deeply with one another.
Before I share these three things, I first want to address the two main reasons why we do not connect more deeply. It is because we’re over-stimulated and hyper-connected. The culprit, the explanation, the cause is that this magical device called a smartphone.
How many people have this morning routine?
Before we can even step out of our bed or even open both eyes, we roll over to the side, pick up our smartphones and start checking our text messages, emails, tweets and Facebook likes and comments. All throughout our day, from once we leave our home, to after we go to work, then lunch, then back to work, and eventually back home, we are constantly checking our smartphones all throughout the day.
An Android app company named Locklet surveyed 150,000 users and located that the average user checked their phone 110 times throughout the day. Their high frequency users, however, checked their phone 900 times. [Audible gasps from the audience.] If there are a mean of 16 waking hours meaning these “high frequency users” checked their phones almost 60 times per minute!
We are not social media beings; we are human beings. We are not LinkedIn beings; we are human beings. And as much as Mark Zuckerberg wants us to be Facebook beings; we are human beings.
Human beings connect more deeply by sharing stories with each other.
That is the primary lesson I will share with you.
Lesson 1: Share Your Story
Learn how to share your story in a powerful, passionate and poignant way. Perhaps essentially the most inspiring story of all time is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He left such an indelible mark on my life that I named my company KGL after him and two other visionaries. KGL stands for King, Gandhi, and Bruce Lee. I hold their ideals up every single day to remind myself of what to strive toward with my clients, colleagues, and everybody I meet.
The rationale why his story is inspiring is because we can see our own story in his life.
The primary time I ever visited Atlanta was in April of 2000. I didn’t know at the time that Atlanta is where Dr. King was born. I had an opportunity to go to his home on Auburn Avenue, walked over to Ebenezer Baptist Church where he was a pastor, and finally ended up on the King Center where his tomb rests on top of a stone island on this beautiful reflection pool.
As I stood there in front of Dr. King’s tomb, I read his epitaph, “Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. 1929 – 1968 ‘Free at last. Free eventually. Thank God Almighty I’m Free ultimately.'” I felt such a deep connection at that moment because just six weeks prior I had quit my day job at American Express where I worked at 40 Wall Street. I had put my apartment up on the market and I used to be leaving my family and friends behind in New York City to move to California where like Dr. King, I too had a dream. I wanted to be a published author, speaker, entrepreneur and singer-songwriter. I had so much fear and doubt and insecurity. I was so afraid but, somehow, standing in front of Dr. King’s presence gave me such strength, conviction and power. I was determined to succeed.
On May 6, 2000, I got on a plane and flew to San Francisco. Nine months later, I had finished and published my first book, a college success guide. A year later, I moved all the way down to Los Angeles to be a singer-songwriter while simultaneously building my business as a speaker and consultant.
Eight years later in 2008, I had an opportunity to return back to the South but this time to Tennessee. I knew that Dr. King met his physical demise in Memphis, Tennessee. So though I was in Nashville, Tennessee co-writing a song, I decided to drive the 218 miles by myself to see The King. I wasn’t going to visit Elvis Presley’s Graceland, I used to be going to go to the Lorraine Motel where Dr. King met his physical demise and i also wanted to go to the Charles Mason Temple Church where Dr. King gave his last speech entitled “I’ve been to the Mountaintop” the day before he passed away.
After i arrived on the church at 2:30pm within the afternoon, the parking lot was not only closed, nevertheless it was gated shut, with a series and pad lot, including a security guard sitting in her car contained in the parking lot. I walked up to the gate and called out to the security guard. “Hi, I’m out of town and i just drove three hours to get here. Is that this the church where Dr. King gave his last speech before he died?” The security guard looked confused and uncertain. So she took out her phone and called someone to ask. Moments later she said, “Sorry, this is not the church.”
I could not believe her words. I’m almost positive I had researched the precise church and since I had just driven 218 miles to see this church I used to be perplexed.
As I walked away from her, I decided to walk along the side of the church to the front entrance. At one point, I looked up at the side of the church wall and noticed an enormous plague that read, “This edifice is the location of the last address of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”
I had found the appropriate place. The security guard just did not know.
In 2000, I had a dream and that i stood at Dr. King’s tombstone not knowing how my path would turn out. Then by 2008, I was living my dream when i visited Memphis, Tennessee and after i sat in the sanctuary at the Charles Mason Temple Church I had a chance to thank and connect with Dr. King again.
Now eight years later, 16 years after coming here for the primary time, I am here speaking to you all. Dreams are possible. Dreams are real. You possibly can live your dreams.
The first lesson to connect more deeply is to share your personal and professional story.
Lesson 2: Listen More Deeply
The second lesson I wish to share is about listening. The Chinese have a beautiful language. The Chinese character for listen has five distinct parts. On the left hand side, it is the character for ears. But on the correct hand side, it is broken up into four characters which individually mean “you”, “eyes”, “one”, and “heart.” If you listen, try to be focusing on one person and you are not just listening together with your ears. You are also listening together with your eyes but most significantly together with your heart.
Listen with your heart.
Lesson 3: Find the most typical Denominators
The last lesson I will share is about simple math. After we add two fractions together like 1/2 and 1/3 you can’t add them together unless you find the commonest denominator. On this case, 6 is the commonest denominator. Once we discover a typical denominator, we will add 1/2 and 1/3 together to equal 5/6.
Why can we as a people deal with our differences and expect us to get along? I just flew into Atlanta a few hours ago after attending an event on the White House. Sitting next to me during my flight was a woman named Carrell. If I focused on our differences there would be many: Carrell was white and I’m Asian. Carrell is from the South and that i live in California. Carrell is a woman and I am a man. Carrell is a retired psychologist and has been married thrice. I am still working and have never been married.
Instead of specializing in all these differences, we shared a lot in common. We both loved to travel, help people, and share stories. She spoke about her trip to Italy last year and I discussed how I used to be flying to Atlanta to offer a keynote speech. We had such an excellent conversation because though we had so many seemingly outward differences, we chose to concentrate on our common denominators.
I need to finish with one final story. When i attended the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting last year in New York, former President Bill Clinton had a closing plenary session where he interviewed a NASA astronaut named Cady Coleman while simultaneously Skype calling two astronauts – one American and one Russian – on the International Space Station. When President Clinton asked Coleman about her experience in space, she simply said, “In space, when you’re looking down there are no countries. It is one place and we’re all from there.”
To summarize, if you’d like to attach more deeply, give attention to sharing your personal story in a powerful and memorable way. Listen not just with your ears but together with your eyes and most significantly together with your heart. And lastly, concentrate on finding the most typical denominators once you want to attach with someone.
Finally, please turn this off more [holding up my smartphone] throughout the day.
Christopher Kai is founder and CEO of KGL, a strategic-consulting firm that helps c-level executives and sales professionals with personal branding, disruptive marketing, and business development strategies. He is a corporate speaker, consultant, and author.