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  • Sydney Davis

Larry King’s Legacy — The 3 C’s


Like many in my generation, Larry King was someone I loved to watch in action — his interviews were always interesting, relevant, entertaining and left me feeling like I got closer to the person, the issue and I always learned something new. I knew little about his private life, humble beginnings as an immigrant, career stops and starts or that he was married so many times. Ultimately, I just liked his energy, suspenders, candor and approachability — he was likable — warts and all.

Larry King

After watching the tribute to this famous broadcaster, I was particularly struck by the three qualities that seemed unanimous to his success and popularity. Three things that I strive for as a coach, a leader, a mom, a partner, a friend and an everyday citizen in a chaotic moment in our collective history. Three qualities that those who knew and loved Larry best seemed in agreement about how he will be remembered. I can’t help but wonder if all of us could strive to be more like Larry and tap into ourselves to find more of all 3:


CALM — As a general practice, Larry did not believe in reading books or over-preparing for his interviews. There was not even a best practice of preparing questions in advance. He believed his best work and where he thrived were the moments of being live and totally unrehearsed. I am not sure about you, but just imagining this for only two hours of my life feels terrifying (flashback to the live webinar I led last week where I lost sleep for 3 consecutive nights). And this constant state of spontaneity was a daily practice for King! While his confidence must have been off the charts, he must have also been a master at learning how to breathe and stay in the moment. And what moments he was in….always in the middle of major history making.


Take for example the reporting during the Iraq War: “There were no guidelines to go by,” he says. “No program had ever been done that way. Here we were, watching the bombs dropping — and the ambassador whose country is being bombed is sitting in my studio answering questions from some lady in Des Moines. We saw pictures of guys being taken prisoner, saw them come home and talked to them on the show, all in the space of a blink.”


Larry was the king of calm and staying in the moment — even if he had a choice, he felt it was his duty to be right beside his guests and not ahead or behind them. NO agenda — ever. Wow.


CURIOSITY — Larry led with an inquisitive mind above anything else. He was interested instead of needing to be interesting, seeking to understand versus being understood. And he knew how to keep his questions short and very simple. There was no need for Larry to prove to his audience how well studied he was on his subject, rather a real need for him to draw out his interviewee with patience, gentle, honest inquiry. Curiosity led the charge.


To former President Nixon: “When you drive by the Watergate, do you feel weird?”


To former President Ronald Reagan: “Is it, for you, frustrating to not remember something?”


To Donald J. Trump, when he was still best known as a real estate mogul: “Does it have to be buildings?”


With Curiosity leading his way, Larry was always able to serve the greater good of deepening the public’s connection to these larger than life figures and to help “bring them home” — into our own living rooms, as of we knew them both after just an hour of viewing.


COMPASSION


Larry was known and respected for treating all of his guests equally regardless of their fame or fortune; he was never too star-struck to start his conversations from a place of humility and equality. His underlying core value seemed to acknowledge that we are all a part of humanity and his questions were usually deepening those connections and shared vulnerabilities. Hand in hand with his innate curiosity was a very generous, deep listening.


In one of his more famous interviews with Heather Mills (McCartney at the time), she unexpectedly removed her leg prosthesis and handed it to Larry for him to see it, hold it and have the audience better witness and understand this experience. There was no moment of surprise in Larry’s reaction — he stayed grounded in his deep state of compassionate presence and allowed simple acknowledgement of this moment and the depths of sharing this so intimately. Kind curiosity + deep listening = compassionate witnessing.


So, as we celebrate the life and legacy of Larry King, I am challenging myself in the days and months ahead of a new year to ask where are the moments that I can add more calm, curiosity and compassion? Where can I tap into my inner Larry King? I am sure we will have many opportunities and I hope you will join me…the world needs us to try!


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