Today I want to introduce you to a person, one Mr. David J Pratt. But before I tell you who he is, I am going to put down the life lessons I have gained from being associated with him for the past one month.
We were sitting around the table having lunch when one of our colleagues asked Mr. Pratt, “so how did you develop such an enormous amount of secondary education?”. Mr. Pratt said something very significant then – “You have to ask people questions. They’re always ready to answer.” How true is that statement! Think about all those times when you’ve heard people talking and there’s a question right underneath your tongue, trying to poke it’s way out, but you don’t ask because some small, vile creature inside your head, usually called “fear”, is telling you “Oh, I might be interrupting”, “Oh, I might sound stupid”, “Oh, they might get offended if I ask”, “Oh, I can’t open my mouth because it stinks”, and you ultimately end up not asking your question, thereby remaining ignorant.
Or, it would turn out that some other brave soul ventured to ask the same question you thought of and you’d be busy berating yourself for not having asked it yourself, ulitmately missing the answer, remaining ignorant AND feeling stupid. I have always wondered how Mr. Pratt has the answer for almost everything. He can talk about the weather, he can talk about politics, he can talk about culture and history, he can talk about sports, name it and he will have something to say about it. He is one of those people who, when he talks, sends out the message that he knows what he’s talking. The wealth of knowledge that he can display is an object of envy. But I have come to understand that this knowledge comes to you only if you take the pains to ask questions, display interest and let your inquisitiveness out of the locked chest.
2. Listen. Give your time of the day.
How many times have you pretended to listen to someone, all the while nodding your head, taking care that your eyes don’t go all moony and your mouth doesn’t drool, and all that while, thinking about something that has got remotely nothing to do with with what the other person is saying? Oh come on! Don’t kid yourself, we all know what we do. But what if I tell you that Mr. Pratt not only pays utmost attention to what anyone is saying, but also, at our staff meetings in office, at general discussions that we may have, when someone is presenting their views, or if someone is sharing knowledge, I have seen Mr. Pratt, with his notepad and pen, writing down what he hears! It doesn’t matter who is talking, whether it’s me and my friends, or it’s David, or Colleen, or his own daughter Ciara, he gives them the time of the day to listen, and if he feels it’s useful information, he writes it down. If you stop to think about it, we miss out on very important huge chunks of information because we just don’t listen. And if we do, we don’t care about it enough to want to record it for future reference. Things we have never heard of and may find interesting could hit us SMACK on the face, and we wouldn’t even notice. I’ve learnt to try and increase my attention span to listen and absorb as much as I can, to take the time and write down things that might interest me or someone else in the furture, to not underestimate what I’m hearing, be it from anybody.
3. You don’t have to do fun things. You can make things fun.
Mr. Pratt doesn’t do anything that is not fun. That’s not because he does fun things. But because he finds his fun in every little thing he does. If he’s training us on something, it’s fun, if he’s picking us up in the morning to go to office, that’s fun, if he’s stuck at home because of the snow, that’s fun too! It’s amazing how he finds something fun in everything he does. But that trait makes him such a fun person to be with. There will never be a moment’s worth of lull in his company. We all say things like “see the glass half full”, “see the donut and not the hole”, and then make a face as though we’ve said the wisest of things and look smug. I’ll tell you what? I think some of us are capable of just that. Say stuff, look smug. And then there’re people like Mr. Pratt, who not only see the glass half full, but pick it up and fill it to the brim too. It’s amazing how much energy and good vibes this one man gives out. He taught us the good old song of UVA, not only taught it, but also printed out the lyrics for each one of us. He took us for the “First night at Charlottesville” carnival on new years’ night, and watching the Mark Twain show, and dancing at the Beatles show with him was the perfect celebration. He bought us party hats and light sabers and other goodies and what do you know, we were the craziest group of four at the downtown mall. We saw the fire dancers, heard the high school choirs, saw the ball drop at twelve and counted down to the new years’ at the top of our lungs. See what I mean? He’s fun 🙂
David Pratt is currently the Executive Vice President and Managing Director of M·CAM©, Inc. He is 53 years old and has served for ten years on the leadership staff of the United States Senate, as a Senate Officer in the role of the Secretary for the Majority. I respect him and admire him for his energy and passion for life and I can definitely say my list of role models is one person longer.