Journalist and Author Cal Fussman Talks About Creating an Unbreakable Family Legacy, Episode 112

Do your kids have a great relationship with their grandparents? Family is everything, but not everyone realizes that. And if they do, sometimes it’s already too late and regrets always come later. But if you can be more intentional with nurturing relationships within your family, you will be surprised by how everyone can uplift each other’s lives.

Cal Fussman has interviewed icons from the last 70 years. In this conversation, we had a heartfelt discussion around his personal wisdom as well as some insights that he gleaned from the wisdom of people he had interviewed such as Robert De Niro and George Foreman. Cal shares his insights into the loss of a parent and his wisdom around the importance of family. 

Despite being a celebrity and being amongst celebrities, Cal reminds us that we each, at our core, have similar experiences. And so, this interview is less about glitz and more about those special moments. Hopefully, you’re able to get Cal’s insights and make them personal in your family and ensure your kids have a great relationship with their grandparents. 

Every person has a story, they just have to be asked the right questions. As you think about the next family gathering, try to ask your grandparents or your parents about their early childhood, or a story about their first job, their first love, or their dreams. Cal also shares this fun family exercise that you can do with your family so everyone can practice the art of listening. The key to getting the right answers is by asking the right questions.

Being able to ask perceptive questions can set you apart from everyone else, either at work or at home. If you want to know more about my insights into how to ask questions that are memorable and get better answers, join my free masterclass called How to Ask Wildly Perceptive Questions. Just go to www.melissallarena.com/questions. Learn how to better refine your question-asking skills, the psychology of asking questions, and the do’s and don’ts of asking questions. 

Share this episode with anyone living far away from their parents. In this conversation, Cal provides ideas on how you can ensure that there’s a bridge between the generations. Enjoy this spectacular conversation!

Cal Fussman’s Biography

For over four decades, Cal Fussman has interviewed hundreds of the world’s most influential individuals: Muhammad Ali, Jack Welch, Mikhail Gorbachev, Serena Williams, Jeff Bezos, Jimmy Carter, Kobe Bryant, Richard Branson, and the list goes on. 

Now, as a New York Times bestselling author, keynote speaker, world-renowned interviewer, and host of the Big Questions podcast, Fussman travels the world teaching the world’s largest companies, universities, and associations about leadership, storytelling, innovation, teamwork, and more. When Cal speaks, you’re listening to everyone he’s ever interviewed – the lessons and stories from hundreds of world icons, all coming through one man in a fedora. 

Over the past several years, Cal has delivered keynotes for industry-leading organizations including General Motors, Facebook, Pixar, Twitter, The Vanguard Group, Apple Music, Snapchat, Samsung, Turner Broadcasting, Vans, Lululemon, YPO, and Entrepreneur’s Organization; universities like UCLA and Georgetown; and at conferences as far as South Africa and Kenya. After Cal spoke at Facebook, Chris Sanders in Global Marketing Solutions said: “We literally have people using the term, ‘Cal Question.’ He has become a part of our culture.” 

Born in Brooklyn, Fussman spent ten straight years traveling the world, swimming over 18-foot tiger sharks, rolling around with mountain gorillas in Rwanda, and searching for gold in the Amazon. He boxed against then-undefeated world champion Julio Cesar Chavez, won a James Beard award, and served as sommelier atop of the World Trade Center. 

After having breakfast with broadcaster Larry King in Los Angeles nearly every day for 12 years and watching his three children go out into the world, he now lives in North Carolina with his wife.

Highlights

Courage: If you want to build a bridge between generations, take courage to evaluate your own relationship with your parents.

Creativity: Go first for someone’s heart. If you’re trying to build a relationship with someone you feel is out of reach or preoccupied, think about a sincere question pertaining to matters of the heart.

Curiosity: Be curious about the stories of your parents and grandparents. Ask more questions about their childhood or their first love or their dreams.

Bond: Make sure that you bond your kids with your parents now. If there’s a lot of physical distance between your kids and your parents, organize Zoom calls between them. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, keep that bond growing. 

Intentional: Most people want to go out with their family around them at home. But only 20% of people do go out that way. 

Uplifting: Kids will help you in some way that you will never be able to predict. It’s going to establish and fortify this bond so that when that time comes that your parents are coming close to death, your kids will be there in a way that’s going to lift your parents’ lives.

Care: Over the next few years, America is going to become an older nation rather than a younger one. Older people are going to need more care, and we don’t know if they’re going to get it due to nurse shortage. 

The middle of the sandwich generation: There’s a lot of stress on the generation in the middle – those in between their parents and their kids. They have to take care of their parents and their kids and make everything work. And having your kids there to help out is going to be invaluable.

Hope: There’s an unspoken code that you want to make the person feel like they can live as long as they possibly can. And so, you don’t want to take them down in any way.

Treasure: Your kids are going to bring something else to the equation and it will give them something that they will have for the rest of their lives. It will be part of their upbringing. 

Understanding: We’re all going to be getting different messaging based on our relationship with our parents. But make sure every last conversation with them is the way they wanted to. 

Unity: Families, where people don’t get along, can be a completely different experience. But it’s an opportunity to turn that experience into a place where the elders can see the kids, who’ve been fighting for many years, coming together.

Legacy: Strengthening the basics is going to give the kids a sense of responsibility because they’re going to be hooked up to their grandparents. It will be something they want to pass on to their own kids and can be passed on to their grandkids.

Listen: If you’re not carefully listening, then you’re not taking in everything that’s been given to you. If only for five minutes, you can give your family a face that’s telling them that they could pour out anything they want to pour out, they’re going to feel like they were listened to.

Family exercise: Get two people and seat them across each other. Think of a song that everybody knows. With your knuckles, wrap out the melody of that song, and the person sitting across from you has to try and guess it. Then have everybody else in the room get directly behind the person who’s knocking out the melody so they can look into the face of the person who’s trying to guess it. 

Links to continue to learn from:

If you enjoyed this conversation, check out these episodes with similar themes:

Episode 07: Former Starbucks and Nike advertising executive Michelle Ghilotti shares how she decided to process her grief over the loss of her mom and her brother. 

Episode 11: Professor Sree Sreenivasan talks about the art of storytelling and that every person has a story – they just have to be asked the right questions.

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Melissa Llarena

Melissa helps movers and shakers up to those in the corner office rediscover what makes them unique so that they can land their dream job in a forward-thinking company where their ideas are listened to, valued, and supported.

She brings insights from having worked in 16-business units (including Human Resources) in NY, Paris, and London. Additionally, in her former corporate career, she worked on billion-dollar brands for P&G and on IBM for Ogilvy & Mather. Later, as the founder and CEO of Career Outcomes Matter, Melissa created a 3-step “sellable strengths” process which has been the centerpiece of her clients' results.

Melissa applies this method consistently to support mid-level professionals up to the c-suite to get into Fortune Global 500 organizations and agencies. She studied Psychology at NYU and earned her MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.

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