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He dropped his fork, shattering the silence. Everyone just sat and stared. 

Let's back up.

When I was 10, my mom enrolled me in a public speaking course. It took approximately five minutes into the first class for me to realize that this was going to be a special experience. So I get to stand up in front of these people and they have to listen to what I say? This was wonderful news. 

As the youngest of four boys to two loving parents, there were five other people at home with markedly more experience in the "Meaningful Things to Say" category. I was entry level at best. 

While I didn't have much to contribute about the state of politics, where we should go on the next family trip, or the St. Louis Cardinals' starting lineup (a topic of great importance in the Netherton household), I did a lot of listening. And now that I had a captive audience of fourth graders forced to listen to me for a change, I wasn't going to waste that opportunity.

My first speech felt like the end of one of those home-buying shows where the couple walks into their dream house and all of a sudden the lighting changes while the music shifts to some upbeat acoustic arrangement. I have no doubt the speech was atrocious, but I was hooked.

I quickly became entrenched in the world of competitive speaking. For the next 8 years I spent most of my spare time crafting pieces, brainstorming new topics, traveling to tournaments, studying YouTube videos, and talking to a lot of mirrors. 

What I wasn't doing was practicing baseball. 

This small detail came to a fever pitch around the dinner table one evening when I announced that I was quitting the high school baseball team so I could focus on speech. 

My parents thought it was great. My baseball-scholarshiped brothers just sat and stared. Finally one dropped his fork, shattering the silence. You better be good, he said.

I haven't looked back since.

This fascination with public speaking evolved into the broader field of communication where I am now able to explore the complex phenomena that go into sending and receiving messages. From corporate culture to graphic design, I've grown to appreciate all facets of the communication process.  

My goal is to constantly improve my skills by learning all I can about the field, then use that knowledge to spread the good news of communication's incredible power for people and organizations. And at the end of the day, if I can create the same feeling I had in a fourth-grade classroom for someone else, I'll know my brother's dinner table ultimatum has been fulfilled. 


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When I'm not daydreaming about my next speech...

I love all things college basketball. Duke and Baylor in particular have my undying allegiance (as evidenced by my deep-dive into Duke's 2018-2019 roster, gifs included). If you're diametrically opposed to either team, I'd love to talk to you sometime about why you're wrong. If there's a pick-up game in town, I'm there. My vertical leap hovers around zero and I embrace my sloth-like quickness, which is why I make my living behind the three-point line. Three is more than two every time. 

Beyond the hardwood I am a self-diagnosed audiophile. Podcasts and audiobooks are my respite. Here are a few of my favorites, and be sure to check out my top 6 podcast episodes for a better workplace:  

Audiobooks

  • The Malcolm Gladwell collection (Tipping Point, Outliers, Blink, David & Goliath What the Dog Saw)
  • Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth
  • Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh
  •  TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking  by Chris Anderson
  • Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson 

Podcasts

  • WorkLife
  • Startup
  • Eye on College Basketball
  • The Ringer
  • How I Built This
  • Revisionist History
  • The Bill Simmons Podcast
  • GLoP Culture
  • Invisibilia 

 

One fun fact is that I trained bears in college. Yes, real bears. Specifically, two female North American black bears named Joy and Lady. Along with a small team I was responsible for feeding them, cleaning their habitat, training them in various exercises, and educating the public about their life on campus. I was never attacked, but I did have one moment when I thought, well at least this will be a great story at my funeral. And appropriately enough, it taught me an important lesson in communication. Click here for more on that experience and how it shaped my approach to work.

Most importantly, I am a husband to my incredible wife Sarah. We can take on anyone in a Netflix binging competition and enjoy challenging our introverted personalities with national and international adventures. I consider myself utterly incapacitated without her. She is also the only person to beat me in basketball while wearing a dress and flip flops.