Cowbells, Bagpipes and Influencing Change: A Q&A With Garrison Wynn.

Author:Marion, Mark
Position:TRAINING DAYS / Insights From NTCA's Training & Development Team

Garrison Wynn, author of "The Real Truth About Success" and "The Cowbell Principle," is the closing keynote speaker for the 2018 NTCA Regional Conferences. We spoke with him from the road to learn about his early influences and his message of managing change.

Tell us a bit about your rural roots and how your gruntwork-to-great journey influences your work today.

I was born in Dublin, Ga. My first job was detasseling corn, which is just the worst--I will itch for the rest of my life. My next job was digging ditches (with a spade shovel) for the cable company. I was briefly promoted to using the Ditch Witch, but after hitting a water main and floating away a newly sodded yard, they determined my future was not running heavy equipment. After college I worked at a Fortune 500 company, starting with an entry level job and moving up to vice president by age 27--although that was mostly because my boss screwed up; I learned a lot about what not to do by watching that boss.

Through all of this, I saw the importance of influence--getting people to do what you want them to do. It all comes down to this: The number one thing all humans value is feeling valuable.

The Magnavox Odyssey offered another early learning experience. How did you get involved with that project?

My dad worked for Magnavox and they developed the very first home video game console. He managed to bring home one of only four demo units in existence and, as any respectable fourth-grader would, I brought it to school for show and tell. We rolled in the TV cart, set it up, and these kids were freaked. A few lights bouncing around the screen, but no one had ever seen anything like it. My dad had 500 calls the next week: Where can I buy it? How much does it cost? Now, Magnavox developed this product to sell more TVs and, despite my father's objections, it wasn't really marketed toward kids--pretty short-sighted. Magnavox hired Hank Aaron to promote the product, and I toured around the country with him doing radio shows and demos at the age of 12.

Here's the big takeaway I still carry: When you are marketing something, your own thoughts and feelings are fantastic, but you must know what your customers actually value, or else nothing you do really matters.

That ties into your book, "The Real Truth About Success," where you suggest approaching life "talent first." How should people begin identifying the talent that sets them apart?

Start with these questions: What do other people say you do...

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