Business is business, whether you’re doing it as a lawful firm executive or as a big mafia boss. Setting book and movie stereotypes of mobsters aside, there is actually a lot that business owners can learn from their business practices. Join in as Dr. Diane Hamilton draws these pieces of business acumen from Jerold Zimmerman, author of the intriguing book, Relentless: The Forensics of Mobsters’ Business Practices. You’d be surprised at how the American mafia pretty much anticipated a lot of the business principles that we take for granted and how they outperform the majority of lawful businesses in a lot of ways. Listen in and take in these nuggets of wisdom from an unexpectedly shady source.
You can be great at speaking and be able to engage your audience from hello to the last clap, but when you add singing to the mix, you’re a superstar. Rachel Druckenmiller, makes the best of these two gifts in both her in-person and virtual speaking events. Rachel is the Founder and CEO of UNMUTED, a company that is on a mission to humanize the workplace by helping leaders and teams become more engaged, resilient and compassionate. The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t been very friendly to the speaking world, and Rachel was not exempted from its repercussions. In this conversation with Dr. Diane Hamilton, Rachel shares how she bounced back from the setbacks and continues to give service to her audience virtually. We also get a snapshot of how growing up as the child of two entrepreneurs has shaped her outlook in life and in business.
We have Jerold Zimmerman and Rachel Druckenmiller here. Jerold has a new book out. He’s the Co-Author of Relentless: The Forensics of Mobsters’ Business Practices. Rachel is the CEO of UNMUTED. She’s a 40 Under 40 Game Changer, one of The Daily Record’s Leading Women of 2020 and so much more. It’s going to be a great show.
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Doing Business Like A Mobster With Jerold Zimmerman
I am here with Jerold Zimmerman, who is a globally-recognized Business Professor and Author of seven books. He’s taught Organizational Economics, Accounting Finance at the University of Rochester’s Simon Business School for more than 40 years. He’s got a book out that I’m excited to hear about, Relentless: The Forensics of Mobsters’ Business Practices. It’s nice to have you here, Jerold.
Thanks for having me. I’ve been looking forward to talking to you.
I have been looking forward to this too because mobsters’ business practices are a bit different and I’m interested in that background. We always, at the beginning of the show, get a background on people. You’ve got an impressive background and I think a lot of people will want to hear what the backstory was leading up to the creation of this book.
The backstory is interesting. It’s the marriage of my professional and academic interests in the general problem that economists have looked at for a long time called the corporate governance problem. My avocation with organized crime starting when I was a child watching Eliot Ness in The Untouchables and progressing through to The Sopranos and all of the various Godfather movies. In all those movies, it usually ends badly for the bad guys. They are usually caught or imprisoned or killed but when you look at the history, those organizations survive. The American Mafia, while it’s greatly diminished now than it was many years ago, it’s an organization that’s over 100 years old. Iconic brands like Kodak, Blockbuster, Sears and Penney’s, fail. They can’t survive the changing technology.
The question came to me as to what allows these mobster organizations to survive and oftentimes thrive? They have to solve the same corporate governance problem as lawful managers. The corporate governance problem that my academic research is focused on is how do you, as an organization whether lawful or unlawful, attract, retain and motivate a workforce of primarily people who were self-interested to work in the common good of the organization? How do you overcome their incentive problems to want to be self-interested? I applied the same analytic tools that I’ve used for many years studying lawful firms and applied those tools to understand the corporate governance problem of mobsters.
That’s fascinating. You don’t think of it so much but as a business, you do but it is similar. What did you find was different from traditional businesses as mobster practices?
Let me start with what is similar. What was surprising is that the same economic principles that I’ve been teaching students for many years of understanding the corporate governance problem in lawful firms are applied by bad guys in these crime syndicates. The big difference is that these current syndicates have used physical violence a lot more than lawful firms do. We think of mobsters as using violence to keep everyone in line but in reality, the most successful of the organized crime syndicates minimize the use of violence because you can’t be successful running an organization and generating cash flows and profits, whether it’s from gambling or prostitution or rackets, if everyone’s hiding in their basement afraid to get out.
It turns out that violence is bad for business. They have to come up with ways of adjudicating conflicts and the American Mafia was good at that. The movies we watch and the stories we read about are when they do perpetrate violence. When you think about the height of the mafia, when there were 4,000, 5,000, 6,000 made men in the New York City area, there was little violence or killing among each other. They killed each other on occasion but they had to come up with ways to get people to calm down and keep people in line. They couldn’t use the court system. They can’t go into Federal District Court or New York City Court and file a complaint that Jimmy Scarface cheated me on out of a deal. The families themselves had internal arbitration systems. It was the job of the family boss and each of the five families in New York was run by a boss. The boss’s main job was to keep calm in the family and arbitrate disputes.
Did any of the mobsters look at it like, “Let’s do this the legal way.” Did you look at that aspect of it and why they chose to go in that direction?
I did. The book is based on a lot of research, not by me but by people in the criminology department and people in economics who look at crimes. A lot of these people, especially in the ‘20s, the Sicilians and the Italians, when they came over to the US, there was incredible discrimination against them. Most of them didn’t speak English. It was hard for them to get good-paying jobs. Like the Irish before then, there weren’t a lot of other opportunities for them. As an economist, they had a low opportunity cost of their time. It wasn’t like they were choosing between becoming a doctor or a lawyer or going into the mob. In fact, the mafia families settled in distinct neighborhoods around the New York City area.
The people that they did in the mob or who were asked to go into the family, there was great respect for that. People dreamt of doing that. To them, this was the best thing that could happen to them. That started to break down as the discrimination against them subsided and with Italians being elected mayor of New York and into higher positions. Universities started accepting Italians then it was harder for the mafia to attract and retain people but they still do it. There are still several hundred guys around the area. You still read stories in New York about arresting bosses and underbosses of these families. There are still people there that want to do this and it’s lucrative in a lot of the lines of business.
My mom is all Italian. She’s Sicilian. This was interesting to me because she had always complained that the movies portrayed Italians as so horrible all the time. The viewpoints of some of these types that got into this as far as doing some things that were awful but do you think that the movies are accurate in how they portray the mobsters are Sicilians or Italians in general?In many ways, uh, the mafia had invented the franchising model before McDonald's came in. Click To Tweet
No, it’s fake news. If they’re in the entertainment business and they write scripts that people are going to want to watch and are entertaining. Some of those were based on true-life accounts but most of them aren’t. Most of these gangsters, especially the mob bosses live quiet, unpretentious lives. The US government didn’t understand the extent of the mafia until the late ‘50s. If you remember, there was the raid in Appalachia where a county sheriff in upstate New York saw a bunch of black Cadillacs driving on a county road and got interested and tracked them and all of a sudden all of the bosses, the families were raided.
They started forming or getting strong in the ‘20s during prohibition but they survived for many years without being on the radar of the FBI. They tried to keep a low profile. They had rules that you couldn’t kill law enforcement or judges or prosecutors because they knew that would be bad for business. They took the long view, which most corporations in the US are only looking at next quarter’s earnings report. These guys were in it for the long haul and they wanted to keep people, their customers coming back. If they were gamblers, they try to run honest gambling operations. They’re providing services that I would never ever want to get involved in but it’s the case that when the US outlawed prohibition in the ‘20s, it skyrocketed these small-time hoodlums into business tycoons.
They know how to run a business and there are things that you’ve learned from how they ran their business. What can leaders of legitimate businesses learn from them? What are the most important things that you found that they can teach?
They understood the basic economic principles that we teach the people are self-interested. In order to get people involved in your organization, you have to understand what they value and how to motivate them and how to attract them and also how to create a high-performance team. They did that by applying what we teach as the four basic pillars of corporate governance. First of all, you have to assign decision-making authority to people who have the skills and the best information to utilize that. For example, they would have themselves organized into teams of maybe 4, 5, 6 guys that were led by a made man or two and they would have a number of associates. They may be responsible for hijacking trucks that are coming out of the New York City port areas.
These guys would know what the manifests were. They would be bribing people on the docks and in the airports as to what the manifests of the trucks were. They would then go out and these guys were good at hijacking. They would hijack the trucks. They would then fence the material and they would keep 75% or 80% of the stolen goods and pass the rest up the chain. In many ways, the mafia had invented a franchising model before McDonald’s came. These crews were like local franchises. They had the decision-making authority to do crimes in their particular geographic area and in their particular niche, be it boosting trucks or gambling or extortion or union racketeering. They were highly motivated to do that because like a McDonald’s franchise, they kept 80% to 85% of their take. They passed the rest up. They didn’t call it a franchise fee, they called it tribute. That was one principle they followed.
They had a simple compensation scheme. They kept most of what they stole. Their performance measures were clear, that’s the third pillar of the corporate governance model that we teach. The performance measures were two, simple. One was how much cash you generated and the second one was, were you loyal to the family? If the boss calls you up or if your captain calls you up and says, “I want you to go do X. My brother-in-law is having problems with a business partner. I want you to go lean on this guy.” You drop everything and you do it. If you’re loyal to the family and to the boss, that’s another performance measure.
The fourth piece of the governance model is culture. A corporate culture that is unlike anything we see, except maybe in Southwest Airlines or a few other corporations. It’s a culture where people get a lot of respect for being a made man. They walk around the neighborhood and people respect them. People in the neighborhood leave their doors unlocked because they know that if anyone causes trouble in the neighborhood, the mafia guy down the street is going to protect them. They had this culture that people wanted to belong to. If they got kicked out of the mob for some reason other than they kill them, they lose a lot of that respect. It’s those four pieces, decision-making piece, performance measures, performance rewards and culture that all lawful organizations have to construct. The mafia and the other organized crime syndicates we look at illustrate that while they use different methods of constructing those four pillars, they use the same economic principles as lawful managers in constructing them.
I did watch the most recent Fargo. Do you watch Fargo, the television series based on that movie originally?
We finished watching it.
You saw the most recent one where they would have their youngest son go live with the Irish mobsters. Did that kind of thing happen?
I never heard of that.
That was the first I’d heard of that too. As you were talking about this, I was thinking of all the ethics classes I’ve taught. We often look at, do you buy from countries that have child labor or if you open a company in another country where it’s traditional to bribe officials, does this come into ethics discussions in the courses you teach? I’m curious how these tie into what we can learn about ethics.
These organizations have strong ethical bonds, morals. They’re different than what we see in lawful firms but they had strong rules against violence across families. Within a family, the boss could sanction one made man killing another made man but rarely did they do that. They did have rules that said you cannot mess around with another made man’s wife or girlfriend. They also have rules, ethical codes, which was the code of silence, the Omerta, in which you don’t talk to anyone outside the organization under a threat of death. That was a strong ethical consideration.
What we talked about in the book is the culture and what their cultural values are. Those get close to my view with what we talk about in ethics courses. The core ethical construct, underlying behavior is you have to find people who are immoral as opposed to for-profit firms or lawful firms, you want moral people. Here, you needed people who were willing to do violence. They knew that there was a difference between right and wrong but it was for the family that if the boss calls you up and says so-and-so has done some bad things, you need to take them out. You knew that was killing. You knew what was wrong. Most of these people were so-called good Catholics but they did it for the good of the family. That was an ethical consideration for them.
Ethics is such a fascinating thing to study and to teach because of the subjectivity of it. I imagine that’s fascinating to research all this. You’ve mentioned, we wrote this. I’d like to give attention to Daniel Forrester, who also wrote this with you. I’m curious why you two wrote it together.
That’s a fascinating backstory. Daniel Forrester was an MBA student at Rochester in the ‘90s. He took my course and we got friendly. He was a poet, an English Major from Catholic University. He comes to the University of Rochester, which has a strong economics core curriculum to it. He was converted to an Economist. He then went to work for a consulting firm and then he left them and started his own firm where he was advising clients on corporate culture. He called me several years ago and we reconnected. He had wanted to bounce some ideas he had about a client off me.
At the end of the conversation, he said, “What are you working on?” I even mentioned the book to him and it turns out Daniel is also a huge fan of organized crime, true crime books and the movies. He could watch each The Sopranos episode 10X without getting bored. He got hooked. Daniel was responsible for the content in the book about culture because that’s his expertise. He got fascinated by the whole aura of the corporate culture of these organizations and how it maps over to what he observes in lawful firms. In fact, if Daniel is on the call, he would say that he sees very few lawful firms with a strong culture as you see in the mafia or the Hell’s Angels, which also is a strong corporate culture.Very few lawful firms have a corporate culture that’s a strong as the mafia does. Click To Tweet
That’s my focus as well, the culture, that’s why I found that fascinating. It’s also fascinating that the mafia continues but it has been reduced. Why do you think it still survives?
It offers products and services that people can get lawfully. I haven’t seen it lately but now with online gambling accessible. Before that, it was hard to place a bet on a football game in New York City. Now you can. We talked to a fascinating federal prosecutor who has been prosecuting the mafia on the New York docks for 30 or 40 years. I said, why do these people continue to go into the labor unions on the docks? He says, “It’s a great gig. A kid comes out of high school and if he’s connected with the family, he goes to work on the docks. He makes $75,000 a year to start and then moves up into the union where he can be earning $200,000, $300,000 a year for doing nothing. I bust these guys. I get them on racketeering. They go to jail for 15, 20 years. They come out and they go right back to work in the unions.” There are still pockets of corruption in New York where these mobsters continue to survive. They are now into identity theft and cybercrime. Wherever these guys can find some money, they’re going to be there.
I’m sure the dark webs is another even darker place for a lot of that. In your study, you mentioned unions, did you figure out where Jimmy Hoffa is?
That’s an incredible story when you think about it. Here’s a man who was powerful and well-known and they take him out. We still don’t know where he is. You would have thought that somehow somebody would have snitched but it goes to show you how strong their culture is that people have taken that information to the grave. I’m sure that somebody somewhere along the line who was caught and indicted could have used that to reduce his sentence but he didn’t.
After all, we didn’t find him anymore. We’re left to wonder but this book is fascinating. I was looking forward to having you on the show, Jerold. A lot of people would like to know how they could find your book and find you. Is there a site or something that you’d like to share?
I have a website, it’s JeroldZimmerman.com or go where everything on in the world is located, Amazon. If you type in Jerold Zimmerman Relentless, it will pop up the book. Any other information, any questions or if anyone wants to get a dialogue going, they can do it through my website.
My husband would even love to read this because this isn’t business people who would find this fascinating. It’s a unique angle. I was looking forward to having you on. Thank you so much.
Thank you for having me.
Living The Unmuted Life With Rachel Druckenmiller
I am here with Rachel Druckenmiller, who is the CEO of UNMUTED. She is on a mission to humanize the workplace by building resilient, connected and compassionate leaders and teams. She’s been recognized as the #1 Health Promotion Professional in the US, a 40 Under 40 Game Changer and one of The Daily Record’s Leading Women of 2020. It’s nice to have you here, Rachel.
Thank you, Diane. I’m stoked for our conversation about shared interests and bringing some value to anyone reading.
It’s nicer than how we put it as being gigged personality assessments, which we’re both into that. I love that you and I both are looking at things like employee engagement and culture. I want to get a little backstory on you to find out how you got into this space and what led up to this?
I am the daughter of two entrepreneurs. I feel like I was raised in an environment where not hating work was normal, which is foreign to most people. I expected it to be some form of play because that’s what I saw growing up. I was shy as a little kid. I was shy and I was reserved and not expressive in any form of the word. I also was sick quite a bit, a lot of ear, nose and throat infections and lots of different surgeries. I had acid reflux for many years as a young adult. What started to happen, was this series of things that unfolded. I studied abroad in Southern Spain for a semester in college.
I’d never been out of the country before. You cannot help but get sucked into the energy and the vitality and the vibrancy and the liveliness of that culture. I was affected by it and I came back and that was when somebody who loves singing from the time, I was little but didn’t do it in public. I tried out for my first solo for gospel choir and over the next 15 or 16 years, it was one little thing after another of using personality assessments at work to get clear on what my strengths were, getting things like that recognition that you mentioned that put me on the map in a way that I wasn’t before. Launching my own business in the fall of 2019 after being in a stable city corporate job for thirteen years and even finding my voice and opening up more with my husband and our marriage of working through how to connect and communicate more effectively. It’s been this long road of gradually unmuting myself and allowing expression in every form of the word. It’s been freeing. I love helping other people do that too.
That’s interesting. You need to meet my daughter. My oldest daughter studied in Spain. She studied in Florence. She has been in Brazil. Do you speak Spanish? What languages do you speak? I could understand it a bit when people speak it but I never was able to. It’s interesting because I took both my girls on a cruise when they were 14 and 15 and the fifteen-year-old was the one who got interested because, you go on these ships and you think, “I hope that there’s somebody for your kids to hang out with.”
There were 250 girls on board from South America celebrating their 15th birthday, you know how they celebrate it there. They were all salsa dancing. They were making Americans seem horribly boring and she’s never been the same sense. Now she speaks fluent Portuguese, Spanish and Italian. You two would probably have plenty to chat. She studied in Malaga. I’m not sure where you studied.
I was in Granada. It was near Malaga in the South. They’re an amazing people. They live life.
She loved it. It reminds me of Dirty Dancing or even the Titanic, you got the two different girls. It’s fun to see different cultures and different things. Right now, everybody’s looking at culture. They’re looking at the things that tie into being successful. You do a lot of training to teach people a lot of different things. I saw that you delivered 100 virtual learning experiences since March of 2020. That’s a lot. Tell me what you’re doing.Your number one job is to be in service to your audience. Click To Tweet
I don’t think anybody decides, “I’m going to leave my stable corporate job that I’ve been contemplating leaving for seven years and I’m going to do it the year of a global pandemic.” “You speak full-time in person? That’s not going to happen for a while.” I was excited for the year. There’s so much glamor that people look at somebody who’s an entrepreneur and they’re like, “You get to go on vacation when you want.” They look at the benefits, it’s like, “Did you realize that four months into this, I was staring at a flip chart in a roomful of other consultants in Dallas, Texas, four months into my business, looking at two gigs that I had booked in the year to come.” I was in tears. The reality hit.
The speaker industry got brutalized. It’s awful. Have you had to do a lot of virtual learning then?
I shifted. I was excited. I had a great year by the time COVID hit. I was feeling good. I had stuff booked into November, keynotes and new opportunities coming up and I was feeling great. Within a matter of weeks, 80%, 85% of these gigs, events, they scaled back their budgets significantly. They canceled the events. They indefinitely postponed. It was this moment of this isn’t happening. I know that I’m a resourceful person and creative. I had already had experience delivering webinars and doing facilitated sessions. I’m trained as a professional speaker. I was like, “I have the skill sets to figure this stuff out.” I had already been using Zoom for a few years. We always had these opportunities to notice bright spots that come up when things get dark.
A client that I haven’t worked with within three years reached out to me on LinkedIn and they said, “Our employees are having a hard time. Do you do virtual training? Would you do some sessions for us?” I was like, “I sure do. Let’s talk about it.” It was a good year. This is the value of building up a track record of putting in the reps and maintaining the integrity of your reputation because I had become known and in certain communities that I’m a part of as the well-being person and as somebody who brings hope and optimism. People were seeking me out. I was speaking for free. I was doing anything to get in front of people in a virtual space and it ended up working out. I’m starting 2021 strong now. I’m super excited about what’s coming up.
You had a tough 2020. Not only did that happen, what happened in May 2020?
That’s six weeks in, when you feel you’re getting your foot and you’re like, “I got this virtual thing down. This pandemic sucks but I’m figuring it out.” My husband and I were out on a run together. There was a Chevy Silverado that took a right-hand turn on red and didn’t see that there was a pedestrian in front of them. I ended up going to a trauma room at a hospital with a compression fracture in my lower back. That was rough.
Are you getting better now? How are you now?
I’m maybe at 65%, 70%?
It’s a scary thing. I think about that all the time when I’m riding bikes on the road. If you see the one that’s up on the sidewalk who’s not supposed to be on their bike is pulling me because I’m afraid. I don’t trust anybody. People don’t pay attention and it’s scary. That was a rough year for a lot of people. A lot of people have had to go through either COVID’s problems, sicknesses and different things. It’s been a tough year but you’ve been able to take that and turn it into something good. How did you?
I learned this a lot in speaker training. I went through a group called Heroic Public Speaking a few years ago. One of the things that they talk about as a speaker, for anyone reading, I would invite them to reflect on this, your number one job is to be in service to your audience. What I started to think about was how could I be in service to people? What do people need right now? People need hope. I was doing daily videos on LinkedIn before the accident happened. I started sharing singing with people and I would share honestly after the accident, “Everyone’s in their process right now. Sometimes you feel knocked down and sometimes you’re having 20% days and you got to give yourself some grace.”
Establishing myself as a voice of grace and kindness at a time where a lot of people were struggling and being consistent about that, that was helpful and being open. I had a lot of nonprofits reach out to me and say, “We don’t have a budget for stuff but we know our people need help. Would you be willing to do this?” Sometimes taking a gamble like that, people remember. I know people were saying this starting in the pandemic, people remember who was there when times were tests, when things start to come back.
When you’re talking about how you incorporate singing and some of the things that you’ve done, I had shared with you Willie Jolley singing to me, which was amazing. Lynn Rose, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard her sing. She sang on my show too. She does a lot of her speaking with the singing and it’s effective because she’s super outgoing. She and I went after Oscar’s party and she’s a super flamboyant and great personality. She’s super charming. She’s wonderful. She sings and that’s part of her whole emceeing gigs. What songs do you sing when you sing in your events?
I felt like people were feeling down and heavy at the start of the pandemic, the first thing I did is I turned on my camera one day and I sang This Little Light of Mine, it was 40 seconds. I posted on LinkedIn. I wasn’t one that had a ton of views on my videos and suddenly they were 6,000 views of this video. Apparently, people enjoyed that. I put it up because I feel this is needed right now. I did not expect the response. In my sessions, I would end it with, “Each of us has the choice of how we show up in the world. We can choose to be a bright spot for somebody else who might be having a difficult day. It’s our responsibility to shine a light on people when we’re in difficult and dark times.” That was the message, you can be a bright spot and a light to somebody else. It’s not that hard. It might require an outreach or an encouraging word or saying something uplifting or checking in with somebody who you haven’t touched base in a while. It’s not hard, it requires intention and thoughtfulness. I would sing something like that or I started doing Hakuna Matata because that felt relevant.
I’m going to make you sing now because Lynn sang and Willie sang, so you get to pick what you want to sing. It’ll help get people in the mood to get out there and fix their mood for the day. What’s on the agenda?
This is a reminder to people, especially with Amanda Gorman’s poem at the inauguration. This 22-year-old who read this incredible poem, her focus was we have a choice be the light. I feel like that message of being the light. I’ll sing This Little Light of Mine. “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine. This little light of mine. I’m going to let it shine. This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”
You got a voice. Why are you not doing that only? That was impressive. Where did you get that voice? Have you taken voice lessons?
I grew up in the generation Mariah Carey, Amy Grant, Celine Dion, Shania Twain and Des’ree. These are the singing idols I listened to. We had this room in my house and I would put on these giant headphones that didn’t even fit my head. I would put my tapes in and I would crank the volume up, which is probably some of the reason I have some hearing loss right now. I would sing for hours. For hours I would do this. The second I had to get in front of another person and during that, I shut down. It felt too vulnerable. It’s exposing. Sitting to share your voice is a vulnerable thing. I didn’t do it for long but I love singing.
I went to an all-girls high school that had an incredible choir. They wear their long black dresses and pearl necklaces for their concerts. I sat in the auditorium for four years, listening to them sing, knowing that I could but you had to try out and that was too much for me. It wasn’t until I came back from Spain. The gospel choir on our campus was the thing. It wasn’t even a religious school but this group of people was standing room only for their concerts. It was electric. I remember sitting in the audience for the first time I saw them when I got there. I was like, “I want whatever that is because they are having so much fun and are alive.” I joined because you didn’t have to try out. They let anybody in.
I’ve been in those choirs where they let me in. They shouldn’t have.
It wasn’t until I came back that I had this new lease on life coming back from Spain. They were holding auditions for tryouts for the spring concert. I waited until everybody left, which I was like, “The minimum amount of people is going to hear me do this.” I was so scared.
You had to know your voice is incredible. You hear people like me sing, you go, “I got the best voice ever.” What would make you be held back knowing it’s good? You couldn’t have thought you were bad. You were embarrassed.
If we’re comfortable hiding because there’s this fear of what if I’m seen in all of my fullness and I show up as the most alive version of who I am and it somehow isn’t enough or it somehow rejected.
Were you raised in a competitive family at all?
I wouldn’t say my parents. I was always competitive against myself. It’s funny because my parents were supportive. They were supportive but they didn’t push me into anything. I’m surprised. They weren’t like, “Rachel let’s put you in a fire.”
If I sing like that, my parents would be putting me on every show.
They would say things. We’ve watched American Idol, they’re like, “You should try out for American Idol.”
You should. I’ve had a lot of people sing to me. I got goosebumps. I don’t get goosebumps. I’m not that kind of person. When I was in sales, they made us pick a song that they would play every time we got a sale. In mortgage sales, they would play the song, so everybody knew who got a deal in the building. I picked up Pink’s Get the Party Started. I had to speak in Austin. Right before I got on, they go, “Pick a song that you want us to play when you’re coming out.” I hadn’t had a chance even to think what a great song would be. I knew they were doing a champagne toast after I spoke. I thought, “Let’s go back to Pink again and raise your glass.” I got to pick somebody other than Pink for a good song because I keep going back to her. Do you have a song that you have associated with you when you come out on stage? That’s a hard thing to pick.
I love The Greatest Showman. I have a shirt. The day I started my business, the first thing I did was have a photoshoot. I can do whatever I want with my time. I have the shirt that says, “This is who I’m meant to be. This is me.” That song is a killer. I’m talking to a voice coach about getting back in. I took one year of voice lessons in high school to improve my own voice for myself. my instructor was like, “We do a concert at the end of the year.” I was like, “No, I don’t do that.” She was like, “All of my students are like no.” I did and I hated it. For the readers and thinking about, there’s something in yourself. There is something either some type of artistic expression or related to speaking or sharing any type of message where you felt like at some point you may be, I know you talk about fear a lot, if you held back in some way and for the readers to think about where you are maybe silencing something that wants to come out.
Roger Love has been on the show. He’s a great voice coach. He’s the one who got Bradley Cooper to sing in The Star is Born. He works with all those people. You got to listen to that show, you’d appreciate it. I go to a lot of Forbes events and he spoke with Steve Forbes and a bunch of others. He had everybody up on their feet singing and recognizing how to breathe. I could see you doing something similar things. It’s the best of all the talks that were there that day because everybody’s up and everybody’s singing and you’re learning not to be nasal. We all have a thing of that we could all speak better, more clearly and enunciate better or whatever it is that we need to do. That made the speech much better than everybody else’s because everybody participated and it was fun, he had some music. Can you play any instrument?
That’s the funny part. In 3rd grade, I was like, “I’m going to join the band and play the flute.” I was like, “I didn’t like doing that.” I got a piano. It was a gift from my 8th-grade graduation. I never learned how to play it. I took the guitar in my freshman year of high school. I got to the point where I was like, “I can’t read music. I didn’t want to learn. There’s a thing that you’ve always had that you don’t have to learn a new instrument. Why don’t you do that?” I was in denial for a while.
They have songs you could play along with while you sing to have other people join in. You don’t have to think. That seemed to me that Roger played some instrument, he played piano but maybe he was playing some music. I can’t remember because I was stunned by how great that the whole thing was that we were going through. As you were talking about the songs that appealed to you in that movie, the Hugh Jackman thing, I got to see Hugh sing and do his thing in New York. I had a second-row center, so he was right in front of me. They were going to let us go backstage to be with him. You had to pay $5,000 and you can go back and take pictures. I’m like, “I want to do it.” My husband’s telling me, “You want to spend $5,000 to take a picture of this guy?”
I’m pissed I didn’t do it. I wish I would have. He did a great show. He reminded me of the old Engelbert Humperdinck days where they used to do these fun, all in one singing, dancing shows. He was wonderful. I loved him. I could see why you would pick some of the songs and things that you do because it ties into such a positive light. A lot of people don’t want to have their voices heard. For me, I don’t want my singing voice heard because everybody in my family tells me, “It’s really bad.”
My daughter, the one who speaks all the languages bought me a singing lesson for Christmas several years ago. I went to it. It was funny to do it because the girl was weird who did the lessons. She was good but she was doing these things. She was making these funny sounds, trying to get my voice up and down. I could hear how bad it is. I imagine it must have killed her. It’s amazing how some people have that naturally in their ability to sing. You can help some people sing better. The voice that I work on in me is the things we tell ourselves, our inner voices, what I’m trying to work on the most. That’s the culture and that’s why we’re back to the personality and the curiosity and all the things that we have in common. Now that you’re doing what you’re doing and when everything opens back up, when you go back to doing in-person speaking, are you going to stay with virtual? What’s your plan?Unmute yourself. Don’t be afraid of what other people think. Just release your voice and let the world hear it. Click To Tweet
I’m loving the virtual space because it allows me to be with my husband more. I don’t miss the stress of traveling. I’m going to be a lot more discerning. It’s got to be a big yes. If I’m going to pack up my life into a suitcase for 3 or 4 days to go somewhere across the country to do something and it’s got to be worth it. To think of the energy, I’ve only sung once at a keynote. I’ve only done that one time.
What song? Was it this one or the other one?
No. It was part of Defying Gravity from Wicked.
You got to do that.
I was singing because I had told my company two weeks earlier that I was leaving after thirteen years and nobody else knew yet. I sang the song that I tried out for the gospel choir thing with. I sang that and then at the end, I was singing a bit of the lines like, “Something has changed within me. Something is not the same. I’m through with playing by the rules of someone else’s game. Too late for second-guessing. Too late to go back to sleep. It’s time to trust my instincts, close my eyes and leap.”
You’re competing with Kristin Chenoweth. I saw her sing that live in New York. Which one of the two sang that one? I can’t remember.
She’s got a beautiful voice too. The two of them, I could listen to them all day. That’s one favorite plays. Seeing it live in New York, I thought, “This doesn’t get much better than that.” If Broadway ever opens up again, you need to go there because you have the talent. This was so much fun. I knew we were going to have fun, Rachel but I didn’t know until now that we were going to get musical. I was looking forward to that when we talked a bit before the show because every time anybody sings on the show, it’s always more fun.
To recognize the ripple effect of when we don’t use our voice, we don’t speak up, we don’t share ideas, express how we’re feeling, we don’t share our talents whether it’s some form of art or music or dance, when we don’t do that, it can have ripple effects. When I started singing in the gospel choir, I started to that and then I started to see an act of other people in the choir and then we would go sing together. There was this guy that came along at one point and he would come and play the piano with us. He was a sophomore and I was a senior and eventually, it was the two of us and we would sing and play for hours together. It turns out that now we have been together for several years. I wonder if I hadn’t found the courage to release my voice because I was afraid of what other people were going to think of it or other people were going to judge it, that was our connection point, the singing and music. My life would have turned out fundamentally differently if I hadn’t had the courage to put it out there and allow it to be in the world and not be afraid of what other people were going to think of it.
That’s a huge point. That ties into all the work I studied for curiosity and fear. I love that you made that as a final point. A lot of people are going to want to follow you and find out more and listen to you sing more. Is there some website or something you want to share?
My website is UnmutedLife.com. I’m on Instagram as well @UnmutedLife, but the thing I’m on more often than anything is LinkedIn. That’s where you’ll find most of my singing, find Rachel Druckenmiller on LinkedIn. I probably sang in 40 different videos in 2020 to help myself as much as everybody else.
Have you been on that new Clubhouse application? That’s a new social media. It’s all audio. You’re a natural for that. You need to do your voice lessons there. People get all kinds of tips. That’s probably a freeway, unfortunately but it may be a loss leader for something else. This was so much fun, Rachel. Thank you for being on the show.
This was great. Thank you for having me.
I like to think Jerold and Rachel for being my guest. We get many great guests on this show. If you’ve missed any past episodes, you can catch them at DrDianeHamilton.com. I hope you enjoyed this episode. I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.
- Relentless: The Forensics of Mobsters’ Business Practices
- Amazon – Relentless: The Forensics of Mobsters’ Business Practices
- Willie Jolley – Previous episode
- Lynn Rose – Previous episode
- Roger Love – Previous episode
- @UnmutedLife – Instagram
- Rachel Druckenmiller – LinkedIn
About Jerold L. Zimmerman
Jerold L. Zimmerman is a globally recognized business professor and author of seven books. (One text is in its tenth edition, and another is in its sixth edition.) He taught Organizational Economics, Accounting, and Finance at the University of Rochester’s Simon Business School for more than forty years. He has consulted with numerous clients, including Fortune 500 companies and management advisory firms, to demonstrate how the principles of organizational economics can improve a firm’s culture and eventually its performance. As an expert witness, he testifies on questions of organizational control, profitability, and performance measurement.
Zimmerman has served on public company boards of directors and has been a visiting scholar at several international universities. His fifty published studies and books include textbooks on economics and accounting and a trade book about designing organizations that create value. The American Accounting Association and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants have recognized Zimmerman’s research with several prestigious honors. Numerous leading international universities use his textbooks. Zimmerman is a founding editor of the Journal of Accounting and Economics, one of the most highly referenced peer-reviewed journals in economics. His latest book, Relentless: The Forensics of Mobsters’ Business Practices (2021), examines the corporate governance mechanisms deployed by various organized crime syndicates that allow them to survive and thrive. He earned a PhD in business administration from the University of California, Berkeley, after receiving a BS in finance from the University of Colorado.
About Rachel Druckenmiller
Rachel Druckenmiller is the CEO of UNMUTED. She is on a mission to humanize the workplace by building resilient, connected and compassionate leaders and teams. Recognized as the #1 Health Promotion Professional in the U.S., a 40 Under 40 Game Changer, and one of The Daily Record’s Leading Women of 2020, Rachel is a national thought leader in the field of wellbeing and employee engagement.
Through interactive virtual and in-person keynotes, workshops and trainings, Rachel supports leaders and their teams to become more energized, engaged, and purposeful. She has delivered over 100 virtual presentations since March 2020. Rachel holds a Master’s degree in Health Science and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology.
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