Senator Bill Bradley on How We Can All Do Better

Record of Achievement

He has a record of achievement few can match:

  • Rhodes Scholar
  • Graduate of Princeton and Oxford
  • Olympic Gold Medalist
  • 2-time NBA Champion with the New York Knicks
  • Basketball Hall of Famer
  • Senator from New Jersey for 18 years
  • Presidential Candidate
  • Managing Director, Allen & Company
  • Host of American Voices on Satellite Radio
  • Author of seven books
  • Director serving on numerous charitable boards
  • And the list could go on and on.

I’m talking, of course, about Senator Bill Bradley.  Senator Bradley recently sat down with me to talk about a range of topics from his life growing up, his experiences as a pro basketball player, his life as a Senator, and the current issues facing our country. 

Senator Bradley’s latest book is titled We Can All Do Better.

Five words came to mind as I read the book, and we talked about them in the interview:

  1. Citizens.  It takes all of us to make a better country.  Citizen involvement is what spurred the greatest movements.  From abolitionists fighting to end slavery all the way to environmentalists cleaning up our air and water, the greatest changes occur when individuals get involved to make a difference.  These societal changes were not driven by the government.  They were driven by citizens.
  2. Compromise.  Compromise and negotiation is important.  Senator Bradley says, “It begins by giving respect to the other side.”

What if your closest friend is someone you haven’t met?

Image courtesy of istockphoto/Greensquared

There’s an old story I want to share.  Like most old tales, I’ve heard it told in various forms.  True or not, the point is a good one.

There was once a university professor who visited a Japanese Zen master (I’ve also heard this was a Buddhist monk, but you get the point).  The professor wanted to learn more about Zen.

After welcoming his visitor, the Zen master asked if he would enjoy some tea.

Knowing he should accept, the professor smiled and thanked the Zen master for his generosity.

The Zen master disappeared and then quickly reappeared with two cups and some steaming tea.  The master smiled back as he poured tea into the cup.  The professor watched the cup fill, and continued to watch as it overflowed.  He put his hand up and exclaimed, “Stop!  It’s overflowing.  You’re wasting the tea and no more can fit in the cup!”

The Zen master nodded and calmly explained.  “You are here to ask questions.  Yet you come full.  You have your own ideas and have no space.  Until you have room for more, you will not accept new information.”

How Full is Your Cup?

It’s a powerful reminder about preconceptions.  We all too often have such strongly held opinions that we are not really able to take in all of the new information.  That part is obvious.

But today I thought about the story in a different way.  What if, instead of ideas, we thought about our relationships?  How many of us think, “I have enough friends.  I have no room for any more.”  We hit a certain age and we are comfortable with the people around us.  What do we lose by not making room for new people in our lives? 

Learn How to Enhance Your Own Creative Genius

Image courtesy of istockphoto/HowardOates

When the advance copy of Tina Seelig’s inGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity came across my desk, I couldn’t wait to read it.  Read her book and you will find yourself on the front row of her always-filled class on innovation.  It’s a practical guide helping anyone improve his or her creativity.  Tina Seelig is the director of the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation and the executive director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program.  In addition, she has a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Stanford University Medical School.

Dr. Seelig recently answered a few questions for me about her work.

Are we born with a creative gene or are we able to learn it as a skill?

Our brains are built for creative problem solving, and it is easy to both uncover and enhance our natural inventiveness. The human brain evolved over millions of years from a small collection of nerve cells with limited functionality to a fabulously complex organ that is optimized for innovation. Our highly evolved brains are always assessing our ever-changing environment, mixing and matching our responses to fit each situation. Every sentence we craft is unique, each interaction we have is distinctive, and every decision we make is done with our own free will. That we have the ability to come up with an endless set of novel responses to the world around us is a constant reminder that we are naturally inventive.

Learning From Life’s Storms

Photo courtesy of istockphoto/sebastian-julian

Growth in Difficult Times

One Saturday in March we had the oddest weather in Nashville.  You’ll know exactly the type of day I am describing because we’ve all seen it.  One minute it’s a magnificent sunny day, then an approaching ominous cloud unleashes a downpour of rain.  Then, as fast as it comes, it disappears and the sun returns only to repeat the process over and over again.

I usually wish for that perfect, sunny day.  Most of us do.  We don’t like the bad weather, the dark clouds, lightning and thunder.


“Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests.” -Epictetus


It’s like that in life, too.  I am always hoping for that perfect weather.  We don’t want to be sick.  We don’t want to have difficulties at work.  We pray for everything to be just perfect.

As I think about my career, my life and my experiences, I can honestly say that I’ve grown more in the difficult times.  When a storm is raging in my life, I am forced to a new place.  I have to change tactics, learn a new skill, and do something differently.


“Be still and know that I am God.” –Psalm 46:10


Lessons from Life’s Storms

Here are a few storms I’ve experienced: