World of Speakers E.80 COVID-19 Special: Jason Richardson | How to have better conversations


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World of Speakers E.80 COVID-19 Special Jason Richardson  How to have better conversations

Ryan Foland talks with Dr. Jason Richardson, speaker, leadership coach and olympic psychologist. Dr. Richardson has been working closely with high performance teams, athletes and executives. A former BMX athlete, he is also a TV pundit, commentating at international events for BMX competitions.

In this episode of our COVID-19 special series, Ryan and Jason talk about how to have those hard conversations, how to slow down to go faster, and how to ask questions, dig deeper, so everyone can get more. 

One of the key messages in this interview is that the best speech has a series of questions, so we should always ask some questions, answer some questions, even if we have to search for the words.

Tune in for an interview chock full of insights into the power of speech and continuing conversations, especially in these testing times, and how to pivot to online and adapt whilst steering through a pandemic. 

Listen to the interview on iTunes or Soundcloud.

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Jason Richardson: Hey, this is Jason Richardson, Dr. Jason Richardson. 

I had a great conversation with Ryan Foland about hard conversations — how to have those hard conversations, how to slow down to go faster, and how to ask questions, dig deeper, so everyone can get more. 

Ryan Foland: Ahoy everybody, ahoy as in hi, or chips ahoy, whatever rings a bell in your mind.

I'm super excited today for a very special guest, Dr. Jason Richardson. 

We actually met at the U.S. sailing conference when he was giving a keynote.

Jason Richardson: That's right. 

Ryan Foland: Funny side story — I ended up being an example of an audience member that he was looking for, we had fun back and forth. 

I really loved your message. It was really inspiring and introspective. 

That's why I thought to bring you on for the series of special edition episodes we have, really addressing what's happening now, including the pandemic, the social unrest. The real conversations that we need to have and we need to be aware of as speakers. And granted we don't have a chance to really dive in within a 30-minute period, but this is just the start and I wanted to start that conversation with you. 

But let's get to know you a little bit. 

Can you tell us a story about you, or more about you and your experience, and how you've become the speaker that you are?

Jason Richardson: Born in New Jersey, I started racing BMX at an early age because that's what my brother got into, and so I was just trying to be like my big brother. 

That became not only a hobby, but it became a profession, so I was able to be a professional BMX racer for 15 years. 

And the whole time I went to school, because you needed that fallback plan, right?

Ryan Foland: Wait, you got paid to ride a bicycle for 15 years?

Jason Richardson: Yeah.

Ryan Foland: I love it. I mean that's a dream right there.

Jason Richardson: Yeah. I was living the dream. And it's interesting, there were some ups and downs in that. There were some very great, robust years as a professional BMX-er and there were some very lean years. 

So I always say that staying in school kept me racing and racing kept me in school. 

But then I guess probably the biggest thing that happened, the trigger point in my career, was breaking my femur, which is the big bone in your leg.

Ryan Foland: That's not easy to break. If I recall, that's one of the hardest. It's like that or your skull, right?

Jason Richardson: It takes quite a bit of force, and at that time I was able to squat about 515 pounds, so it's like two-and-a-half times my body weight. So my legs had a pretty good amount of size on them, so to get to that bone to actually — that's an incredible amount of force. 

Needless to say, I woke up the next day after being life-flighted — oh, a quick side note — don't get hurt out of network.

Ryan Foland: Okay. 

Jason Richardson: Anyways, long story bearable: Reflecting, wondering if this was going to be it, and I was the old guy at that time, probably one of the oldest racing, so everyone thought it was going to be over for me, racing-wise. 

I even thought that my family thought that, but I didn't want to go out that way. 

And the other thing was, I think I just needed a carrot to chase after. So the goal, or the intention, to race again was great motivation to focus my efforts into healing and getting back up to speed. 

Thankfully, I was able to race 8 months later, which is crazy and thanks, I mean honestly, modern medicine is, say what you will about insurance and copays, but like medicine, it's good — modern medicine.

Ryan Foland: That's a new campaign: “Medicine — it's good.”

Jason Richardson: And all of it, I did everything from traditional, to osteopath, to the medical doctor, to acupuncture, to the chiropractor. And everyone, everything just kind of helped get me back on the gate to race, which was awesome.

So I broke my leg in 2006, went to the Pan American Games in 2007 as not even the first or second pick, and I won. Which was a very nice way to cap off a career. 

So retired in 2008 as a racer, and by then I decided to become a psychologist, because during my healing time and mending time and getting back into racing I said, 

"You know, I went to business school, I'm an MBA, but I'm not businessing, so to speak, in that form," since I was a little bit more of an entrepreneur, I didn't see myself doing inventory or creating some kind of product other than possibly a book. 

But I said, "You know what, I was a philosophy major. I worked with a sports psychologist." So it just seemed like the natural progression to retrain myself to become a psychologist and re-engineer my wins and losses and help other athletes do that. 

But then along the way that turned into executive coaching, workshopping, and speaking. 

So that is the story, my friend, and I'm sticking to it.

Ryan Foland: "Long story bearable," I think you said? 

I never heard that, but I like it because it's not necessarily about the short, it's the bearable, and I was right there with you. 

So let's put your speaking cap on, and your psychologist cap on. Right now for speakers this is a wonky time with the pandemic and events being canceled. 

How have you been dealing with this?

What's your experience been? 

What's your mentality? 

Are there certain tips that you would give speakers to ride out this storm? 

Because essentially, all of our speaker femurs have been broken.

Jason Richardson: Yeah, a great one. But our voices haven't been silenced.

Ryan Foland: Oh, I like that.

Jason Richardson: And so this actually hit me when I decided to speak for a living, because I went through some patches where, "Man, I'm not getting any gigs. What's going on?"

And then I realized, "Wait, I don't necessarily need someone to pay me to speak. I want someone to pay me to speak. 

I can offer value for that, but I don't need someone to pay me to speak. So guess what? I'm going to speak anyway."

Ryan Foland: I love it. 

Jason Richardson: And so I just got into my profession. It wasn't like, "Jason as the speaker", it was "Jason is a speaker". 

So what happened was, if I'm with a one on one client, I mean there's a lot of listening there, for sure. There's also a lot of speaking, right? 

If I'm at a dinner party, I'm not going into some kind of bit but I'm going to speak. I'm going to say the things, and incorporate a lot of the things, that I would normally say on stage or in a group, appropriate, of course, for that situation. 

And then my world kind of opened up. Not waiting for permission to do that, so as it pertains to actual business, actually getting gigs. 

So shifting my perspective on what speaking helped me during this time as well, because I may not be on stage, but I still have a platform.

You may not be on stage, you still have a platform. There's still a message. 

You can still help people ditch the act on your computer. You can still help people ditch the act at the grocery store, even if it's just a quick pick-me-up to someone else or whatever it may be. 

And so it was a bummer to get those cancellations and postponements, and those, "We're not sure what we're going to do" messages, but you know, to use a term that has been overused, I'm pivoting. 

A lot of these things can be done virtually. I got into creating content, collaborating has been great, a podcast tour of sorts, I even flipped on my camera and I've asked people just to have conversations on Facebook Live or Instagram, and people that I've always wanted to talk to, just to have an interesting conversation, which I think is a good segue into what our next topic was, just to have these interesting conversations. 

And there you have it. I'm speaking, and lo and behold, things are starting to open back up. But I can tell you personally that I'm getting people reaching out to me not only for personal coaching but for speaking. 

Because I've been in conversation this whole time.

Ryan Foland: People have seen you, they've heard your voice. It's not necessary that you have a stage. You have a platform. 

And I think that it is a really good transition to talk about the larger conversations in the world right now as a result of George Floyd's death. It's really the tip of a larger conversation. 

The concept of "black lives matter", yes, it has to do with police brutality, but there's a way larger conversation, and it keeps opening up. 

So somebody who traditionally maybe wouldn't have either access or even your professional BMX bike riding, like I don't know of anything that's more as an industry — like I would assume that it's just a bunch of white kids on bikes, right? 

There's your experience in that, and then helping somebody like me and other people know how to best contribute, how to be part of those conversations.

And I called up a bunch of friends, and it was just, the baseline was talk about it. Let's get uncomfortable, and let's get comfortable talking about what hasn't been talked about. 

As a speaker, having the stage and a voice, what are your experiences with this?

How do we do it?

Jason Richardson: Well, you attended my talk at US Sailing.

Ryan Foland: Yep. 

Jason Richardson: And a lot of that talk is questions. 

There are questions. I mean it wasn't even so much my content, as much as it was the audiences' content. Because I'm asking questions that are not provocative, but there are questions that are forcing someone to really look at their behavior. 

And now I don't just look at what they're doing, but why they're doing it.

Ryan Foland: And they are filling-in the blanks.

Jason Richardson: Correct. 

Ryan Foland: And everybody would shout out. And, well, not everybody would shout out because there were a bunch of old white dudes, but I'm in the back shouting out to get them going.

Jason Richardson: They did alright. We got a couple — but yeah, it's to ask those questions, and the reason why I like questions is because it forces your brain to stop. 

In order to answer a question, especially if you're going to do it out loud or write it on paper for someone else, your brain has to stop, interrupt a pattern that it has normally had probably for years or months, or maybe even your life, to formulate some kind of sensible string of words that not only makes sense to you but to the other person. 

And even if you stumble, like right now, and are searching for the words, that's healthy. 

So it's in the searching, right? It's in the working to find the right way.

And so what I like about — what I'm appreciative about right now — is that I think more people are open to an open discussion. 

And what I think is not getting enough play is how many people want to do the right thing. Even if they don't know what that right thing is, or if they get that right thing wrong. 

And as a mixed kid who candidly grew up — I mean, my background was very Brady Bunch meets Cosby show, so my black experience is not the stereotypical one, I'll say it that way — although it is very common, to be fair, but it's not stereotypical. 

So my responsibility is not only to share that we are more than just athletes and rappers, black is not synonymous with the ghetto. Not only to share that with everyone, but it's also to share this message that, 

"Hey look, we want to work towards finding a way to where we all can win." 

And when I say win, it's not like you over me, or me over you, it's like that I can talk to Ryan and Ryan can talk to Jason. 

And we're at least working to understand each other, even though we don't completely agree necessarily. 

But that level of working towards understanding shows what? It shows respect. 

Because the truth is, we all have family members that we don't like, necessarily. 

Ryan Foland: Absolutely.

Jason Richardson: Hey, you know, we've all been home for Christmas and Thanksgiving, and  like uncle Roy is weird, man. Like he has no bearing on politics or color, but even if we work to understand uncle Roy, 

"Where is this dude coming from?" 

It will reduce your defenses and increase Roy's engagement, possibly. Or at least the chances of his engagement will increase.

Ryan Foland: Yeah. 

Jason Richardson: And so if we can do this with each other more often — and we said this in racing all the time — slow down to go faster. 

Ryan Foland: Explain that in the racing concept — slow down to go faster? Is that to take lock stock and barrel, or go behind somebody, or evaluate?

Jason Richardson: You're racing, so time is of the essence. 

But when we are in haste, sometimes we make mistakes. 

And so when you're going around a course or a track and there are obstacles on that course or track, there are a lot of places in your haste that you could possibly make mistakes. 

And if you actually took the time to get it right, your overall time would be much better. 

Ryan Foland: Because you're not going to fall or you're not going to crash.

Jason Richardson: Correct. 

Even if there was a certain way to take an obstacle and it was faster, if you're not doing that 9 out of 9 times, it doesn't matter if it's faster. 

Ryan Foland: Okay I like that. 

Jason Richardson: If you can do it in the beginning of the day because you're fresh but you're not able to do it come the time there is a final — is it faster, is it better? 

So we can do that in our own lives, we can slow down to go faster. 

And I'm not blaming people. I posted the other day, I said, "Sometimes it's not that they are against you as much as they are for them." 

And so what we want to do is say, "Okay..."  — and by the way, I like a good fight, I do. I'm feisty. It takes one to know one. 

But what I realized from the competition, what I realized from the business — and by the way, not everyone subscribes to this, so I understand that I may die by this sword as well — but I think there's a difference between fighting against, fighting for and fighting with. 

And I prefer fighting for and fighting with. 

Even those guys that I was racing with, it took me a while to realize that we were racing with each other, versus against each other.

Ryan Foland: Right. 

Jason Richardson: And when I realized that, I was able to let some of my own stuff go about what I thought about that, or what I thought about what was fair or what I thought about even the ridiculousness of, "Oh, this track is stupid," or, "A promoter is not paying us enough," or whatever it is and do my work. 

And/or even approach it smarter the next time I did deal with the promoter, or approach it smarter the next time I addressed an unfair tactic.

Ryan Foland: In my mind, I'm thinking of like this amount of space in your brain. 

And the description you just talked about is like if you're worried about the track, and you're worried about what this guy looks like and all these other things; they're all distractions from the ultimate goal of winning. Though you're basically saying if you come in second or third, it's not like you've lost, you've finished. 

And there's a big difference between success, winning, and finishing. 

And I think, I look at this as like this conversation is not finished and it can't finish here. In the end of this conversation, it's not going to finish immediately, and so there's a certain amount of space that has to be created, right?

Jason Richardson: I'm married, it'll be 19 years. 

But my conversation was not finished in January 2002, it just began in a very big way. 

Ryan Foland: Right. 

Jason Richardson: So I'm saying like the work began in a very big way. 

And yes, I dropped the ball sometimes, for sure. Plenty of times it's insert foot in mouth, plenty of times I am misreading what the other party is saying.

Ryan Foland: I'm guilty of that as well, yes.

Jason Richardson: However, is it because she doesn't like me? 

Well, she might not like me, but she loves me. 

But my point is do I just put my hands up with it, blame and walk away? 

Or do I find a way to engage and/or provide value from a relationship, from an emotional standpoint, and work through it? 

Now, that's not to say that there are no bad people. That's not to say that people cheat in sport or in life. I mean it's mathematically possible.

But as bad as people can act, or maybe are, there lives on the other side of the spectrum as great as we can be and as awesome as we can act, and a whole bunch of in-between. 

And while I might have achieved one end of the spectrum professionally in sports or in business, or whatever, I'd still say that I'm one of you. 

And, by the way, you're one of me, so we are us. 

I know I am getting a little existential and philosophical here, but I think it's all part of the conversation. 

Again, it's in the work to try to understand and make things better. 

And the hard part, you know I even feel bad for some of my friends because they want to do the right thing and they don't know what the right thing is. They don't want to say the wrong thing even though they are compelled to empathize. 

So my responsibility to the black community is like, "Hey we have to find a way that we could win here." 

Because it's also unfair to say, "Oh well, you just don't understand." 

Why would they? Why would someone who's 5'2'' ever understand what it's like to be 7'4''? 

Now, if you hate the person who's 5'2'' because you're 7'4'' that's another issue, that's a whole other conversation. 

And yes, the rules should be in place to help guard against that. 

Ryan Foland: So here is my question to you, right. Maybe this is the ultimate question, this is the final question — so the speakers who are not black, the speakers who want to support, they want to be here but they're afraid of what to do or not do. How important is it for them to stumble through, to search for the words and to actually have that conversation, to retweet something that's powerful online, to use the #Black lives matter? 

Are we going to look back in 6 months and are all of them going to be like, "Damn I missed it because I wasn't at the starting gate." 

So what do you say to speakers who want to get involved, what can they do?

Jason Richardson: It's like with almost anything. I mean a lot of the things that hold anyone back is fear, right? That fear. 

But I will say if you are a speaker, you have an advantage which is, I'm guessing, you have learned, or you were somewhat okay with being in front. 

At some point you reconcile with yourself, "Okay, attention's on me." 

And so it's not like you have to take out this big protest sign and wave it to the world, but you can do just like you did, "Hey Jason, let's have a conversation about," and that's that.

My belief is, maybe my hope, maybe my naivete, whatever. I tend to have a little bit of naivete because it keeps the sparkle in my eyes. 

I know I don't want to be completely jaded, but my whole belief and naivete tells me that this conversation alone, people seeing you and me speaking, working to work through it, whether they agree or not, has benefits. 

The hard part about right now, and now I'm putting my psychologist cap on, is emotions are very heightened. 

So I can imagine there are people that might say — well I'll just tell you because I've heard it, “Oh, Jason's a sell-out." 

or "Well, Jason's experience isn't typical." 

or "Well, Ryan's just having him on because he's trying to get a good look."

Ryan Foland: Yeah and that's a real fear that you have.

Jason Richardson: Well that's why I'm talking about it, that's why I'm bringing it up. I'm recognizing all of this. 

And by the way, I'm taking that, but the truth is my experience might not be typical. 

That's good, that's what we're fighting for. 

We want little black boys and black girls to have a shot at speaking in front of thousands of people and inspiring people from all walks of life. 

Or forget that — being able to make a living and raise their families in a decent neighborhood, how about that? 

We want that to be typical. 

And on your side is, "Hey, no, I actually met Jason. I think he might be kind of cool and I want to hear what he has to say." 

And your proof of that is your continued willingness to have conversations with different people. 

And it's only over time. I use T-Mobile. I think of that pink square. Why? Because I see that pink square coming at me through my email, through a text, through ads and so I just see it, see it, see it, it's so normal to me. 

And so like this, we want to be normal. 

We want this exchange to be normal, normalized, neutralized. 

So if we can bring down that emotional heightened charge just a bit, then I think people can be more open to receiving a message.

Ryan Foland: I love it. I said I had a final question but I lied. The final question is how many dots does it take to make a line, mathematically speaking?

Jason Richardson: Two?

Ryan Foland: Correct! A line is a series of dots. 

And so that really came to mind when you said it's about this conversation is about continuing the conversation.

I love the look at life as a series of dots and if you just post one thing that's just a dot. If you just talk with one friend it's just a dot. But it's us staying in touch and continuing to have this conversation and have it with other people, it creates more dots and more dots, and it's only through the next dot that the line actually forms. 

And so what I'm trying to do is to continue to add these dots. 

And yeah, you came top of mind as a super cool dude that pushed me up on stage as a volunteer, and like we had a good moment there, and I've seen the stuff that you're doing.

So let's consider this the second dot, and let's continue on with those dots.

Jason Richardson: I love it, yeah. I have no problem making a cameo, so this would be great.

Ryan Foland: Awesome. Well I'll have to get you on my other 3-1-3 podcast. We'll talk more about the business and how you're helping people with that experience.

Jason Richardson: Cool, I appreciate it, man. Thank you so much.

Ryan Foland: Thank you, Jason. I appreciate your perspective, and as long as we're not racing bikes then that's totally cool. 

Let's race with each other to try to really elevate. 

I think you said to lower the emotions so we have a new normal, and I think that's what we're all looking for, and I'm excited to see that. 

So if somebody's going to find you, and they need coaching, or they need a speaker, where do you want to point them to?

Jason Richardson: Well my Instagram is easy for the quick one-minute clinic. 

So that's @RealDrJRich, that's @ R-E-A-L-D-R-J-R-I-C-H. 

And then my website, that's 

If you message me I will answer. I answer all questions that are posed to me. 

Ryan Foland: And as he said in the middle of this, sometimes the best speech has a series of questions, so I encourage you to ask some questions, to answer some questions, even if you have to search for the words, just know that it means that much more when it comes out, and you will make mistakes along the way, but we all make mistakes because we're all human. 

Shout out to SpeakerHub for sponsoring these types of conversations, and if you want to create a speaker profile, check out 

My name is Ryan. Jason, thank you so much and we will see you on stage sometime soon.

Jason Richardson: Take care. 

A bit about World of Speakers

World of Speakers is a bi-weekly podcast that helps people find their own voice, and teaches them how to use their voice to develop a speaking business. This special series of episodes has been created to help speakers navigate during the coronavirus crisis. 

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