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ForCollegeForLife Podcast Ep. 10: Jay Harris

TRANSCRIPT

Casey J. Cornelius (00:02):

Hey everyone. And welcome to the latest episode of the four college for life podcast. My name is Casey Cornelius. I am the founder and president for college for life, and I get the distinct pleasure of bringing you interviews with our team of speakers and consultants. And the feedback has been fantastic on it. Uh, appreciate everyone who’s taken the opportunity to, to like, and share and subscribe and review and, and leave comments and all that other kind of stuff. It really does make a difference for us. We wanna put out good content to the world, and we also want you to get to know more about the folks who make up our team. Uh, today I get the opportunity to interview someone who is not only a colleague, but really is a friend. And, um, let me tell you a little bit about that. And then I I’ll go ahead and bring him to the mic, his charming personality, lights up your television screen, his tidy and poise presence demands the attention of a room and his witty delivery is the perfect compliment to fantastic highlights.

Casey J. Cornelius (01:04):

Put together for the millions of viewers who tune into ESPN sports center. During his tenure at ESPN, J Harris has hosted a variety of shows and special broadcast, including the new sports center am sports center, Los Angeles, outside the lines, NFL live baseball tonight. Cult pizza first take Friday night fights and ESPN sports. Saturday on ABC Jay’s knowledge and longevity in the industry has earned him several honors, including a silver world medal from the New York festivals, a Robert L van award from the Pittsburgh black media Federation, an Excel award from the Hampton roads, black media professionals. And he’s been part of three Emmy award winning sports center shows. He’s a 1983 graduate of chapel hill high school in chapel hill, North Carolina, a 1987 graduate of old dominion university. He received a distinguished alumni award in 2003, served as the keynote speaker for Odus 100th commencement ceremony in 2004, and has been appointed to two terms on Odus board of visitors without any further ado. Let me bring to the mic. None other than Jay Harris. Jay did I do okay with that intro? Did I do it sufficiently without putting on the announcer voice?

Jay Harris (02:23):

I fell asleep halfway through it, so I don’t even know what you said. <laugh>

Casey J. Cornelius (02:26):

I guess I could have made some stuff up

Jay Harris (02:28):

<laugh> I was like, I wanted to know where’d you find all that information because I thought I had scrubbed the internet of everything about me.

Casey J. Cornelius (02:35):

Well, there’s, there’s still a lot that people don’t know, Jay. I mean, that’s, I didn’t acknowledge the fact that you have an honorary doctorate, so therefore I call you Dr. Jay. None of those things are on there.

Jay Harris (02:45):

Oh, that’s all that stuff’s on the dark web. My bad

Casey J. Cornelius (02:48):

That’s listen, I wanna acknowledge something from the very beginning of this conversation. I am on the other side of the microphone from someone who is really, really good at being on the other side of the microphone where I’m sitting right now,

Jay Harris (03:04):

If I’m critiquing you, you better not mess it up. Yeah,

Casey J. Cornelius (03:06):

Yeah, yeah. There’s no, but listen, here’s the difference. You all do it live. I mean, this is, this is recorded obviously, and, and we’re gonna do some stuff in, you know what I think Hollywood calls post-production, but we’re gonna try to do this as, as unedited, as live, as, as straight to, to file as possible

Jay Harris (03:26):

One, take

Casey J. Cornelius (03:27):

One take. So it’s kind of like what you do, right?

Jay Harris (03:30):

Yeah, yeah. Kind of yeah. One take kinda. Yeah.

Casey J. Cornelius (03:32):

Okay. All right. You know, I think that there are probably a lot of people who’d be surprised by this part of your journey, Jay,

Jay Harris (03:40):

Within I’m people as we do

Casey J. Cornelius (03:41):

This. No, no, no, no. Don’t pull back the curtain here too much.

Jay Harris (03:46):

<laugh>

Casey J. Cornelius (03:46):

There, there are probably people who you work with, and I know that there are young people who you talk to who say, I want to grow up and be a sports center. Anchor. I want be a journalist on the worldwide leader. Yep. And most people, I think, assume that that’s what you wanted to do as well.

Jay Harris (04:04):

Yep.

Casey J. Cornelius (04:05):

But it’s not,

Jay Harris (04:06):

Nope.

Casey J. Cornelius (04:07):

You want to talk a little bit about what the vision was for your career? Well,

Jay Harris (04:12):

I knew I knew the field, um, and when I was in the 11th grade, I took a career aptitude test and I scored well in the area of interpersonal skills. And I looked at the jobs and journalist, I believe was the number three offering. I said, okay, that’s what I’ll do because I like to write, I like to tell stories at the time I was on the yearbook staff. So I was like, it it’s fits it’s me. It’s perfect. And I scored well, so that’s what I’ll do. Um, in the very, very, very beginning. My career aspiration was Brenton Berg’s job at CBS sports way back in the day. So I’m dating myself with that reference.

Casey J. Cornelius (04:52):

Sure.

Jay Harris (04:53):

Um, but I got into news first. When I graduated from school, it took me, it took me a while to find a job because competition and all that other stuff, plus I was not very good. I can, can you say sucked on your podcast?

Casey J. Cornelius (05:07):

Is that correct? I think so. I think so. Yeah. I mean I disagree, but I, yeah, you could

Jay Harris (05:11):

See. Oh no, no. Oh no. You haven’t seen my tapes. You have not seen no, I suck. It was bad. I mean, cause all of us do and I tell kids now, uh, when I talk to ’em, you’re going to suck. You suck now. You’re just, you’re a beginner you’re supposed to suck. That’s just how it is

Casey J. Cornelius (05:27):

Getting

Jay Harris (05:28):

The reps experience. Yeah. You get reps, you get better. That’s that’s the thing. Um, but yeah, I was, so it took me a long time to get a job so long that I actually quit, bro. I was like, I’m not doing this. I’m gonna go back to school. And then I applied to grad school and grad school told me no. So, so my dad was like, well son, I guess you gotta, you know, keep trying. And eventually I did and I landed what was essentially an internship, um, a fraternity brother of mine, good friend of mine, uh, was a news director at a small radio station in Portsmouth, Virginia. And I called him up and I said, um, I don’t wanna do customer service at MCI. I wanna do what you do. Can you help me out? And he said, I can give you plenty of experience, but I can’t pay any money.

Jay Harris (06:12):

Just don’t have any money in the budget. So I said, well, $16,000 a year versus zero. What I don’t want to do versus what I want to do. And that’s how I pitched it to mom and dad. And they were like, well, if that’s what you want to do, you have our blessing. We’ll see how it goes. And that’s how it started. So I started in the radio news and Virginia and eventually radio news in Pittsburgh, local news and national news on the radio and some part-time TV because I really wanted to do television. And which eventually, even,

Casey J. Cornelius (06:49):

Even at that time, like you knew that television was, was where you wanted to

Jay Harris (06:52):

Be. Yeah. I knew I wanted to be on television. Okay. I was, I, I always enjoyed television even when I was, when I was little watching, uh, you know, sitcoms and watching the news and all that stuff. I, I always enjoyed television. Um, so when I, uh, then I had a part-time opportunity in TV that led to a full time opportunity and uh, it was all news. It was all news. And my contract was up. I worked myself up to main anchor at a station in Pittsburgh. And I sent my tape to a friend of mine because he was also a part of my network. You’ll you’ll, that’s a theme in my story. I have good friends that in my network, um, to critique my tape, I wanted him to critique it. Uh, cuz I, I, you know, I, I wanted his, I wanted know what he thought because I was time to send my tape out, try to get another job.

Jay Harris (07:45):

And unbeknownst to me, he showed it to people at ESPN where he worked, he went to, he went to work in ESPN radio and then moved into the recruitment area and he showed it to some folks at ESPN and he called me and he said, Hey man, um, got your tape. They like your tape. They wanna bring you up for an audition. I’m like, who is that? <laugh> name names. Yeah. Yes. So the people here at ESPN, I was like, Hey man, why you, why you show my tape to people at ESPN? I’m not a sports person. I’m doing news. I, I don’t do sports. He said, well, they liked your tape. They like what you did. So they want to bring you in for an audition. And my wife overheard the conversation. She said, well, you watch ESPN all the time anyway. <laugh> so why don’t you just go?

Jay Harris (08:30):

But, and she said it with that old neck role thing that they can do that. I can’t do that. Yep. Yep. Yeah. So it was like fine. And they were bringing in, um, five people. I was the third person and I, they brought me in, introduced me to the producer and she assigned, she, she put my rundown, uh, she put the rundown together for my audition and I wrote, um, my audition wrote the stories cuz that’s we rewrite. Right. That’s what we do. We write our own stuff and I did it and I guess they liked it. I interviewed with a bunch of people, went back to Pittsburgh. Didn’t think much of it. My buddy called me up and said, they loved you. They wanna hire you. I said, I don’t wanna work at ESPN. <laugh>

Casey J. Cornelius (09:12):

Wow.

Jay Harris (09:13):

Wow. And he said, cool. I totally understand if there’s anything I can do for you in the future. Gimme a hollerer. I said, okay, bet fine. And I was done with it. And he, till he called me again, he said, Hey man, I don’t know exactly what you said during your interviews and, and all this stuff, but they really, really like you and they really want to hire you. I said, well, okay, well tell me about the job. And he told me about the job, uh, nights and weekends. Okay. That’s that’s pretty much the end of operating procedure in the news business. Uh, no mention of sports center, a lot of ESPN news, but I didn’t care cuz I didn’t wanna do it in the first place. And I said, well how much does it pay? And he gave me the range and I, I said, well, I’m kind of in that range now. I mean, I was, I was in the lower end, so I kind of fudged it, but I

Casey J. Cornelius (09:58):

Kinda peaked at the range. Yeah. Could see it a little

Jay Harris (10:00):

Bit. Yeah. Said, Hey, look at, look at that range over there. I said, look at, look the range. I like that range. And um, I said, plus, you know the boy, I think he’s, he’s three now. And my, my, my wife’s dad was in the military and they had to move a lot and I don’t really wanna move him. Um, plus Connecticut, Connecticut winters are cold. Like Pittsburgh winters.

Casey J. Cornelius (10:20):

I was gonna say you were in Pittsburgh. You’re in Pittsburgh,

Jay Harris (10:23):

Bro. I was just making stuff. That’s all I was doing. I said, I just, I just don’t I’m not really feeling it. I don’t wanna do it. And he said, okay, cool. Uh, if I can do anything for you in the future, gimme a hollerer. He said, great. He gonna leave me alone. Unbeknownst to me. Um, my wife called him up cause we’re family, friends. And she called him up and she’s like, Hey, is this a good opportunity for Jay? And he said, yeah, I really think it is. And she said, okay, I’ll take care of it. Thanks Fred. Tell Sarah. I said, hi. Okay byebye. Bye, bye <laugh>. And that was their conversation behind my back nosy people thinking on my nerves. So during this time, my agent’s like, I guess he felt the same way. This is a good opportunity. And he said, maybe we should, maybe we should, you know, let’s throw a number at ’em and see, see what they do.

Jay Harris (11:12):

I said, okay, throw a number at ’em. They didn’t meet it, but they got close. And he was like, we should think about this. And I said, okay, you’re probably right. We should think about this. And they wanted an answer by tomorrow at five o’clock. Cause they wanted to make an announcement of, I said, no, they were moving on to somebody else. So we thought about it and thought about it and thought about it. I said, okay, we’ll take, we’ll take the job. He’s like, are you sure? I said, yes, we’ll take the job. Okay. Great. Went to bed that night. We’re going to ESPN woke up the next morning. I’m not going, I don’t want to go

Casey J. Cornelius (11:42):

Stop at stomping. Your foot.

Jay Harris (11:44):

Yes. So, uh, that, that wife again, uh, looked at me and with that look, she gave me that look, that, that, that, that said that she knew I was about to do something stupid, but I had no idea that I was about to do something stupid. So she had that, that pity look for me, like you’re such a stupid person and got out the legal pad and did the line down the middle and the pros and cons and the health benefits and the Disney benefits made it the best decision that she ever made. Cause I would’ve messed it up. And that’s been 19 years now that I’ve been here. And that’s my story.

Casey J. Cornelius (12:20):

You know, knowing what you know now, 19 years later, H how many people do you think have said no to ESPN twice?

Jay Harris (12:27):

None.

Casey J. Cornelius (12:30):

I was thinking that as you were describing the story, I wonder how many people said no once, much less twice.

Jay Harris (12:37):

Well, you know, I take, I take that back. I bet you, there are people. Um, but there are people who are very established, um, like, like athletes, like Charles Barkley famously said, you know, he would not work for ESPN because they worked you to death. They work. He’s absolutely right. Ah, absolutely. Right. So I’m sure there are people that ESPN has approached that they wanted, but because of the volume of stuff that we do, they’re like, ah, I don’t, whether they wanna work that hard. I I’ve spent 20 years in this profession. I kind of wanna chill. So no, thank you. I, I guarantee it, but other than that, probably nothing.

Casey J. Cornelius (13:12):

And I think one of the things that you identified in your story was you do your own writing as well. I, I think that’s probably a surprise to most people. They, they assume probably you have a, a team of people who are writing, um, uh, the stuff that, that you read on the air. But, but you drew that part,

Jay Harris (13:28):

Man. I remember I had a conversation with a guy a couple years ago. I think we were golfing. He said, so what, uh, what time do you get to the set? Like this is when I did the six o’clock shows. Oh, so what time you get to the set? 5, 5 30, grab a couple coffee and you just walk down there. Like no,

Jay Harris (13:44):

Our meeting for the six o’clock show is at 10 30 in the morning, bro. Wow. And we talk about the stuff and then we write all day. And the news changes that that meeting time has since changed, cuz it made no sense to meet at 10 30 for six o’clock show. But that’s how it used to be. Um, yeah, we write all day, we edit all day. We change stuff. There’s breaking news. So I wish I could roll up at five 30 and walk on the set, but then I really don’t wish that because I like writing my own stuff. I like being involved in the process because if you, you can own it that way. So when you go on the air, you’re, you’re comfortable with everything. I, I, I don’t think I’d be comfortable just walking up and reading someone else’s writing calls.

Casey J. Cornelius (14:26):

You know, I can’t do that. I people have handed me scripts before to, to, to re you know, to, to do an intro or something like that. And I can’t do that thing. I can’t read somebody else’s words without putting, putting inflection and, and all that other kind of stuff. I, I can’t do that.

Jay Harris (14:40):

Yeah.

Casey J. Cornelius (14:41):

Yeah. Um, I, I was thinking about another part of your story that, that you shared you, you know, I, I have the great privilege of knowing, knowing this story. Um, Jay and I pull back the curtain a little bit. Uh, we, we, we talk a lot, but we’ve also done programs and stuff like that before, but one of the things that you acknowledge that I think is, is really interesting was you were sending your tapes to friends for feedback. And I’m thinking about how rare that quality is and, and how so many people, especially so many people who are creative, that’s like a really scary proposition to, to send to friends or send to people that, um, that they respect their materials to say, what do you think? Were you always able to do that?

Jay Harris (15:32):

I think so. Um, because as smart as I think I am sometimes, and as talented as I think I am sometimes I don’t know everything. I, I, and my, my six takes or six passes at writing something isn’t always the best. And I always learn something, dude, I will read something on television and go to the commercial break and be mad because as I’m reading it, I think of a better way that I could have written this <laugh>

Casey J. Cornelius (16:02):

I wish I would’ve said X.

Jay Harris (16:04):

Exactly. Yeah. So, I mean, I, so I, I, I enjoy that. It makes you very naked, makes you very exposed, makes you very out there, very vulnerable, but I don’t mind that because you know, you put people around you for a reason, you have friends for a reason. And if you can’t take a little constructive criticism, then maybe I should found a different profession.

Casey J. Cornelius (16:26):

Yeah. I, I think, I think that, you know, for those who are listening to this, this interview, there’s probably some surprises that have already come up, but, but that one is, is sort of a neat one to me. And that is, you know, even at the level that you play at, you’re still asking people for their feedback or for their advice or further editing or, or whatever it is. And I, I think that that’s really cool. And I think it’s actually something that many of us can take on a little bit more is to say, Hey, I’m working through a thought or I’m working through a project or I’m working through, you know, fill in the blank to, to what applies to, uh, to your life and your journey. And, and you have folks that you can turn to and say, what do you think? And really trust their, their feedback and their guidance as well.

Jay Harris (17:07):

Um, you’re one, you’re one of them. I just sent you a thing that I have that I’m doing

Casey J. Cornelius (17:12):

Well. I wasn’t gonna say that. I wasn’t.

Jay Harris (17:13):

Well, no, I don’t mind. I don’t mind. I mean, cuz I’ve watched you, I’ve watched you speak to people. You think you do a fantastic job. So I, I trust you and I wanted to know what you thought and you added value to what I was saying. And you made me think about a couple of things and I changed some stuff and it’s better. That’s the goal. The goal is to be better, to get better and to learn and to learn along the way. So yeah, I don’t, I don’t mind at all. I enjoy that process.

Casey J. Cornelius (17:39):

We have a good mutual friend, Mindy Sofer who mm-hmm <affirmative> one time came to an event that I was speaking at and uh, got done and said to her, you know, what what’d you think? Or something like that. And uh, she’s like, well, do you want me to be honest? <laugh> I said, yeah, sure please. And she goes, you gotta really change the first 10 minutes. <laugh> and I was like, oh, okay. Like we’re, we’re just starting with the, uh, the, the tough love, but she was a hundred percent, right. It’s it’s our willingness to, to one let people in. But then two say what do you think? And then take their advice and do something with it. Mm-hmm <affirmative> um, I, I, I do want, speaking of taking advice, letting people in making mistakes, being a little, you know, exposed, can you tell us a story about Louis Gossett Jr.

Jay Harris (18:28):

Oh God.

Casey J. Cornelius (18:29):

<laugh> <laugh> Jay didn’t know that question was coming. Go

Jay Harris (18:34):

Ahead. <laugh> oh yeah. I can tell you it’s when I was a radio reporter, uh, my first job, um, the one where I was working for free, although I think, I think my, my friend had found some money in the budget by then. So I was getting a little bit of cash, uh, emphasis on the little bit mm-hmm <affirmative> and my assignment was to go over to Hampton university and cover, uh, the act tour, Louis Gossett Jr. Who was coming to campus to, for an appearance and to talk about a new degree program. Um, and I was so excited cause I watched him on, I watched him on the big screen. I was like, he was the officer and the gentleman, he was Fiddler and roots. I was like, I’m going to meet Louis, go Jr. This is fantastic. This is great. So I get there and all the other reporters are there and I put my stuff, put my microphone and my recorder on the table.

Jay Harris (19:21):

And, and, and here he comes in the door and he is just as charming as you would imagine. Yeah. And he, he gave the best presentation. It was funny. It was serious. It was, it was everything you expected it to be. And I was just mesmerized. Um, me and, and then he left and I gathered up my stuff and I took it to the car and we were using cassettes back then because I’m old <laugh> and I put the cassette in the car so I could listen to the sound so I could write the story in my head, on my way back to the station. And I put the cassette and then I turned it up and all I heard was,

Casey J. Cornelius (19:59):

Oh, oh,

Jay Harris (20:03):

Now that’s the sound of a cassette with nothing on it. Okay. <laugh> because I was so mesmerized by this man that I had forgotten to press play and record. So everything that he said, I got none of it, like N O N E none of it. So I’m driving back to the station going, I’m going to die. My Don’s going to kill me. I’m I’m going to, I’m going. I should call my dad right now. I’m going to die. And he meets me at the front door, cuz he’s so excited. What’d you get what’d you get? And I look at him and I’m like, I mean, he was done. Lou got said, right. And he walked in and he was this, this is office moon, a gentleman it’s Fiddler from roots. And I’m like, Fiddler, he’s there. And he’s like, I know, what’d you get? He said, uh, uh, I get nothing, man. I got nothing. Yeah. Yeah. The hell you mean you’ve got nothing.

Casey J. Cornelius (20:59):

<laugh> <laugh>

Jay Harris (21:01):

I said, man, I just, I don’t know. I was, I was so caught up and I, I didn’t, I didn’t, I forgot to press play and record bro. I I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. I got nothing. So he looked at me and he got real close to me and he said, don’t you ever go to a story and not come back with the story? And he walked away from me. Mm. I mean, he could have fired me as much as you can fire someone who’s working for free. Who’s

Casey J. Cornelius (21:32):

Volunteering <laugh> yes. Yeah. Yes.

Jay Harris (21:35):

But I mean, he didn’t and I learned a valuable lesson. And from that day to this day, I’ve never gone to a story and not come back with the story. So I mean, those situations happen and I try to use them as learning, learning tools. That was a big one. I learned a lot that day, but that’s, that’s the Luga story,

Casey J. Cornelius (21:57):

You know, I I’ve, I’ve heard you share that story in some others. And, and I know that you do a lot in your top 10 things. I, I know about leadership program. Um, one of them that really resonates with me as well is, you know, and, and, and back to your day job and everything like that. When you talk about the art of, of interviewing or the art of, of trying to, to gain information, not leading someone to where you want them to be, right. Like not asking them a question that makes them go yes or no, but asking it in such a way that elicits more from them. If, if you were not that any of the listeners necessarily are going into journalism and so forth, but, but how do you, how do you maintain, I guess what we maybe call a curious mind as you, uh, gathered new information,

Jay Harris (22:51):

Keep it simple.

Casey J. Cornelius (22:53):

Mm.

Jay Harris (22:54):

Uh, ask good, open ended questions. Ask who, what, where, when, why, how the basics, the, the foundational stuff that you learn in, in journalism, 1 0 1 or speech 1 0 1 or whatever. Um, that stuff never gets old. They’re always the best questions. And the best, one of the best follow up questions is why or how, or what do you mean? Or how would you describe that? Just little stuff to make that that would make people do what you ask. They would describe it and you, and you’d never know what they’re gonna say. And the best part of interviewing outside of asking those simple, open ended questions is listening because the interview could go somewhere else. I could a, I could be talking to, I don’t know, Damien lard about basketball and in the middle of his answer, he could say, uh, well, I used to do that when I was growing up in Oakland, because I came from another planet and I landed here in 1972.

Jay Harris (23:59):

And I’ve been in this body ever since, but I got into basketball and I’m like, if I’m not listening, I miss that. Right. And I’ll tell you earlier on in my career, I would probably miss that because I have my questions and I just want to ask my questions and, and get through it. So I’m not really, I’m thinking about the next question while you’re listening and that that’s, that’s bad. That’s really bad. So make those mistakes, young, young journalists, or don’t make them at all if you can. But yeah. And, and, and I go, wait, you said, what do you mean? You’re an alien

Casey J. Cornelius (24:31):

<laugh> yeah. Let’s pause. Let’s pause for just a second right here.

Jay Harris (24:35):

Yeah. And then we talk and then the interview goes somewhere else. And then I have a scoop, right. Amy and lard is, is an alien. And this is, we’re just, this is an example. He is not an alien. Although when he plays basketball, sometimes he,

Casey J. Cornelius (24:47):

He sure seems like it. Cause

Jay Harris (24:48):

He’s really, really good. Yep. Um, but yeah, so you, listen, that’s a, that’s a really important part or component of interviewing,

Casey J. Cornelius (24:55):

But I think, I think it translates to other areas of, of your life too. Like I, without pulling back the curtain too much, I know that you’re, you’re working on a new program right now. And in, and in the process of doing that program, you do what a good journalistic mind does and go back and, and do your research and find, you know, uh, threads and connect the dot and so forth. Like did, have you always had that curiousness about you?

Jay Harris (25:21):

I think I have, I think with the advent of technology and how easy it is to find information now, like I don’t have to, and my mom still has these. When I go home, I see them. I don’t have to rifle through the encyclopedia or Botanica to find something. I could just go to the Google machine and type it in and see what I get. And, and then I just, you know, dive down different rabbit holes. And I source all my information to make sure that what I’m coming up with is true and factual. Um, but it’s so easy now it’s so easy to find truth. Now we’ve talked about this before. Everyone can have their different opinion on different things, right. But truth is truth. So if you’re, if you’re preferring your opinion over established truth, then you have a whole other set of problems that I there’s nothing I can do, but truth is truth. And my job is to go and find the truth and deal in that truth. So I think I’ve always been curious, but now more so since I have this phone in my hand and I can find out just about anything. Uh, if I have a few minutes,

Casey J. Cornelius (26:30):

I, I, I wanna, I wanna throw out a premise to you and see if you accept it or not. Okay. I, I actually find it frustrating when interacting with people who choose not to seek information. Right. Mm-hmm <affirmative> that it’s, they’re so comfortable in ignorance is not the right word. Like cuz ignorance has like a bad PR agent. It it’s, it’s what, maybe they have one bit of information on a topic and they have decided that that’s the end of the learning process. When at no other time in history, have we had more access to information than we do right now?

Jay Harris (27:08):

Agreed. Agreed. I think, I, I know you said the whole PR thing about the word ignorance, but that’s, that’s what it is, man. Like it is, it is willful ignorance in that case because you have the opportunity to seek information, you have the opportunity to lay whatever you believe against whatever and find out which one is. Right. And for a lot of folks, I would imagine they’re just too afraid because if you go down that road and you find out that, huh, this sky really is blue and it’s not orange polka dot <laugh>, what else, what else have I been taught? That’s not true. How much is my life going to upend now? Because I’ve, I’ve found out that one of my core beliefs was just totally false. Right. So I would assume there’s a lot of fear in that, but I mean, man, up woman up gets scared, cuz it’s worth it. Cuz the whole willful ignorance thing that’s to me, that’s just, that’s just old. I’ve I’ve learned a lot of things that I had no clue about and I think I’m the better person for it. And if it was, if I, if I have to, to get rid of something that I used to think when I was nine. Okay. All right, I’m good. Cause I’m smarter now.

Casey J. Cornelius (28:36):

You know, I I’m, I’m gonna pull back the curtain a little further. One of the things that, um, that Jay and I do, we, we don’t only talk about how great the entire reds are.

Jay Harris (28:46):

<laugh>

Casey J. Cornelius (28:51):

We, we all that’s. That was a little inside joke. I laugh for just a second. Um, we, we also talk about some, some deep topics and the last couple years has allowed us the opportunity to talk about some really deep topics. And I always appreciate, um, something that, that Jay brings to our conversations that I try to model as well. And that is I’ve encapsulated by saying things like it’s not disrespectful to the past to be optimistic for the future. There’s always this forward looking and, and maybe it’s because we have children who are, who are young and, and um, and, and bright and, and determined and, um, opinionated. And we like that. Um, but there’s always something about you. That’s like, you know, just because we’ve always done it this way doesn’t mean we can’t do it better.

Jay Harris (29:46):

Mm-hmm <affirmative> I think I get that from my mom.

Casey J. Cornelius (29:50):

I was gonna ask. Do, do you wanna, you wanna talk about the origins of that?

Jay Harris (29:55):

Um, just listening to her. I can hear, I can hear her. Uh, well I could call her and hear her too, if she would answer the phone <laugh> um, but I, I can hear her being frustrated with the same thing, talking to people in her life like, oh, that’s, that’s the way you used to do it. So that’s the way you think it always needs to be done. Are you, why are you stuck in that rut? Right. That kind of a, that kind of a thing. So, I mean, she’s absolutely right. Just because you, you used to do it a particular way. Doesn’t mean that’s the most efficient and best way to go. I mean, <laugh>, it’s just ki it’s kind of the same, but it’s, it’s a little off, off topic. My dad, God, rest, his soul took all my money one day because I was packing the trunk of the car.

Jay Harris (30:46):

And I don’t know if it’s because of the way I always packed the trunk of the car before, but I was packing the car to go on a trip and I couldn’t fit everything in the trunk. And he looked at it. He’s like, what you doing, son? I said, I can’t get stuff in the trunk. And he looked at it and like I said, why are you looking at it? Oh, you think you can do better. All right. I’ll give you all the money in my pocket. If you think you can do better. Oh, he kinda, yeah. Yeah. Famous last words. Right? So he kind looked at me with a rise, smile, and he said, step aside, you idiot. <laugh> took everything out, took everything out, repack. It had room despair held out his hand. I gave him the money. He walked away from me. He just took my money because he thought I be figured out a better way, a more efficient way to do what I was trying to do. And I’m like, okay. Lesson learned,

Casey J. Cornelius (31:38):

Lesson learned, there’s a hum. There’s a humility to that though, too. Right? To, to understanding that there are new and better and so forth. Like my hope is for the next generation to do better than, than previous generations have done. But I remember you said to me one time, that doesn’t mean that we need to stop trying now also like it doesn’t mean we, we could just wait for them to <laugh> to take over we’ve we still have work to do too, but that’s optimistic, right?

Jay Harris (32:04):

Yeah, it is. And I’ve got that, um, from, from my, my kids, my son, especially because I think I said something to that effect one time too many about what his generation was gonna do in the next generation. Cuz he said, don’t say that to me. He said, what do you mean? He’s like, why are we waiting for what my generation can do when your generation is still in charge? Why don’t you all just do it? And I’m thinking, oh damn, he’s absolutely

Casey J. Cornelius (32:33):

Right. A hundred percent great. Yep.

Jay Harris (32:37):

So what the hell is wrong with us that we can’t just do it, especially if we know one needs to be done, that speaks very poorly in us.

Casey J. Cornelius (32:50):

You know, I, I, one of the things that Jay and I talk about together kind of dovetails into this topic a little bit. We, we talk about our, uh, mutual connection of fraternity. And while we have different affiliations, we have a common bond of seeing fraternity is important in our evolution. And I know you have a program called because of fraternity and I’ve actually, I find myself every once in a while using that phrase because of fraternity. And then I go, I kind of give Jay credit for this.

Jay Harris (33:16):

<laugh> no, you don’t.

Casey J. Cornelius (33:17):

Well, at least a little bit, um,

Jay Harris (33:21):

You know, send me a check every time you say it, send me a check.

Casey J. Cornelius (33:23):

Okay. Every, every, oh man, this is, this is, oh boy, this is gonna add up. Um, you know, I, I think, I think the thing that we have in common and I hope you could speak to this as well is seeing fraternity is something that we didn’t just do as undergraduate students. Right? That, that it’s something that can be a guiding force in, in a, in a beacon, in our lives. I know it is for you as well. Do you, do you wanna talk a little bit about your fraternity journey?

Jay Harris (33:50):

Well, I didn’t know a whole lot about fraternities and sororities when I got to school. Um, but when I got to, to old dominion and I looked at all of the organizations, um, the young fellows in the new theater chapter of alpha fi alpha fraternity incorporated just spoke to me. Um, we related in a lot of different ways and I decided that I, you know, I think I’d like to be a part of this organization. Um, I had no clue what I was getting into and I’m not just talking about the process of joining. I’m talking about the responsibility of, okay, now you’re in and you’ve got these letters across your chest and these colors, um, from an organization that was founded by seven young black men at Cornell university at ethical New York in 1906. So what are you gonna do with that? And that’s a big question.

Jay Harris (34:42):

Yeah. What, what am I gonna do? I mean, how am I gonna, um, further the cause of this fraternity live up to the aims and the ideals, um, that people like Dr. Martin Luther king Jr. Tried to do every day, cuz he is my opportunity brother. So when I think of all of that stuff, there’s no way I can just leave it in college and for, to be a college thing. That’s, it’s, that’s a serious lifelong thing. Even if I’m not doing fraternity stuff, there are things that I learned. Um, there are things that, that my fraternity brothers have done that that should shape and guide me and I don’t do everything right. I don’t get up every day and want to do a be servants to all, I, I don’t want to all the time, but I know that. So, you know, sometimes that’s what you just have to do because that’s what you chose to do. So just do it. Um, so yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s a lifelong thing, but it’s a fun thing too.

Casey J. Cornelius (35:44):

A hundred percent.

Jay Harris (35:45):

Yeah.

Casey J. Cornelius (35:47):

I, I want to ask you this question it, and it, it sounds strange coming off my lips, even as I’m preparing it. So just an, an odd, odd thing to, to lead in with. But you mentioned Dr. King mm-hmm <affirmative> Thurgood Marshall.

Jay Harris (36:00):

Right?

Casey J. Cornelius (36:01):

What does it feel like when you’re listed as among the distinguished alumni of an organization members of an organization with those names besides like, what is, what is that like

Jay Harris (36:14):

Weird

Casey J. Cornelius (36:15):

<laugh> it has to be right

Jay Harris (36:17):

Weird. It’s like, was it, is it, was it Sesame street or the electric company with that little ski? Which one of these things doesn’t belong here? <laugh> tell me which yeah, that’s, that’s the, that’s me like old dominion did a marketing thing years ago, some of their like famous alumni or graduates that had done things. And, and there was a poster in the airport at Norfolk airport and it had a road scholar and astronaut and me <laugh> and I’m like, there is no way I belong up there. There’s no way, no way. I appreciate it. Thanks. But no, no. So it’s, it’s weird, bro. It’s weird. But you know what? I, I, I, I try not to think of it because yeah, yeah. Even, even in that weirdness and even in that, there, there I have my place and there are things that I can do, um, that even some of those folks that I look up to to this day either, you know, didn’t do, cuz it wasn’t, their vocation can’t do, cuz it wasn’t their talent, their skillset, um, or weren’t supposed to do this is what I was supposed to do. Mm-hmm <affirmative> so we, we, we all fit in there together. It’s not a competition. It’s just like, okay, I’m just gonna do my little thing over here and it’s gonna, it’s gonna mesh. And when you take it as a whole, it’s gonna be really, really good. So that’s try. That’s how I, I try to think of it,

Casey J. Cornelius (37:44):

You know, when, when I get feedback from, from programs and stuff like that, that Jay does. Um, one of the things that people always comment on is he’s, he’s so like friendly and he’s so like there’s no diva about him or anything like that. And first of all, he doesn’t have any of that. But, but second of all, I think there’s something that ties all of these threads together. Uh, your, your background, your upbringing, um, that sense of responsibility that says, who am I to be a diva when I come to a campus or an organization? Um, like you, you really, you really take that on though, don’t you? That like I’m, I’m here to, to work and to serve. Um, and I’m, I don’t need the reverse osmosis water and all that other kind of stuff. Right?

Jay Harris (38:28):

Yeah. That’s just not how I’m wired. Yeah. Um, my, my grandmother used to be, she was very simple. She used to say always be nice. Yeah. And that’s, that’s, that’s not, it’s not very difficult to do. And if I’m, if I’m trying to be nice, then I’m, I’m not trying to be all those other things that people might expect because they see me on TV thousand miles away. Uh, I just, I just I’m who I am. I’m me, I’m a person and I come to your campus and we’re gonna have some fun. You invited me here. So why would I be an ass if you invited me here? Right. First of all right. Um, second of all, let’s just let’s do this together, cuz as much as I, as you brought me here to say something, when we do Q and a or whatever and, and I’m gonna get something back, I’m taking something away, I’m learning something. That’s, that’s the fun part. To me learning something that, that either I didn’t know, or a way to, to weave my information better or whatever. Um, plus I’m also afraid that my grandmother’s gonna come back and, and go buy a tree and take down a switch and take care of me. And I don’t want that anymore.

Casey J. Cornelius (39:34):

Jake, I have the exact same fear,

Jay Harris (39:38):

Bro. I remember one time she got me in the front yard. I can’t remember what I did <laugh> but I never did it again. <laugh> that’s probably why I can’t remember it. Cause I’m, I’m I’m shell shocked, but yeah, I don’t, I don’t, I don’t need that. I don’t, I don’t need that. So big night is easier to just be nice.

Casey J. Cornelius (39:56):

I, there are times that I’ll hold the door or something and someone will say like, you don’t have to hold the door for me. And it’s like, I know, but I have this irrational fear that my grandmother’s gonna come back from the grave and slap me in the head if I don’t do this because that’s just the way I was taught. It’s funny that you have the exact same fear. That’s that’s mm-hmm <affirmative> um, I, I wanna, I wanna touch on one other topic before we get into our, uh, our rapid fire questions here at the end. Um, I, I have, I have given you kudos on this privately before, and I wanna do it publicly now in March, 2020, April, 2020. Um, up until that point for college, for life, we had done hundreds and hundreds of engagements and never once done a virtual engagement and the world shut down.

Casey J. Cornelius (40:43):

And I spent some time in the fetal position trying to figure out what was next. And people started asking about virtual engagements. And uh, for those, for those of you who were around during the early days of virtual engagements, I will tell you looking back, they were not very good. And they, they were, I mean, good content, but in, in terms of like the delivery, it, it was, it was a little suspect. And I remember calling Jay and saying, Jay, would you work with our team on how to be better at presenting virtually? And you said to me at the time you said, do you think anybody would be interested in that? I’m like, I, I think so. And I remember you did essentially a professional development seminar for our folks about the art of talking into a camera, looking at a light and still delivering meaningful, engaging content. And now, you know, all these months, later years later, when people say like, oh, you all really set the bar for virtual content. I always give credit to you for teaching us how to do this thing. Do you remember that moment? Like, do you remember saying like, this is like trading wheel stuff for <laugh> for your, for your profession, but you were teaching us how to be effective in that way?

Jay Harris (42:00):

I, I do remember. I do remember that meeting. I don’t remember everything I said, uh, I guess it, I guess it worked, I guess it was some good stuff

Casey J. Cornelius (42:07):

My mouth it

Jay Harris (42:08):

Did. Um, but yeah, I do remember that. I do remember that.

Casey J. Cornelius (42:12):

So I, I guess one of the things that I always like to say when people ask me things like, you know, in person or virtual and they’ll, they’ll mention your programs, do you like virtual press? Like, do you like looking at a camera in a light and still delivering content or would you rather all things being equal being in the room?

Jay Harris (42:33):

Um, I think for, for this, what we do being in the room and being able to walk up to somebody and, and, you know, touch talk, all that stuff that you do when you’re in person. I think that that’s, that’s priceless, right? That’s that’s just, that’s priceless. But being that I talking to a camera for a living <laugh> and, and when I’m doing it, the, the camera not so much, but the person in that camera, the person that I’m talking to, that one person that I’m talking to is still going to get the same service and the same delivery and the same treatment as if you were in front of me physically. I don’t know if it’s a mind trick or just like, I have something to say. So if you’re whether you here or not, you’re gonna feel it that’s on me to make sure you feel it. So honestly it does. It doesn’t matter to me if it’s in, person’s in, person’s better for what we do. But if it’s virtual, you’re still gonna get the same service because that’s my job.

Casey J. Cornelius (43:42):

Right. And I think, I think actually the tip that you just shared was the one, um, during our, during our professional development that you said, that really struck me. And you said, stop talking to everybody, talk to one person. Yeah. Meaning they’re, they’re not all sitting together. They’re sitting individually. So talk to them one at a time. And it occurred to me, you know, if you’re speaking to millions of people at 8:00 AM in the morning, but there’s only one of me sitting on the couch.

Jay Harris (44:11):

Yeah, exactly. I’m not gonna say good morning, everyone. You’re gonna look around and go, who else? There’s nobody else here. Who’s talking.

Casey J. Cornelius (44:16):

<laugh>

Jay Harris (44:18):

It’s, it’s supposed to feel like you’re the only person in the audience watching sports center at that moment. It’s just me and you. That’s how it’s supposed to feel. And the more I can make it feel that way, the better you will like it, the better experience you will have. Uh, you’ll, you’ll probably tune back in. You might tell some people to tune in. I don’t know, but it’s supposed to make it special for you. That’s that’s my job.

Casey J. Cornelius (44:41):

I love it. Uh, well, in, in, in your other job, everyone, if, if you haven’t before please visit for college for life.com/j learn about his signature programs. Um, they’re really, really good. It talks about a lot of the elements, the, of our discussion today, his journey, um, sort of the, the Rero process that goes into it, uh, his experience with fraternity, how it’s influenced and shaped his life. Uh, now, um, the things he knows about leadership, top 10 things, he knows about leadership as a matter of fact. So please go ahead and check that out. Uh, Jay, can we get you outta here on some, uh, some fun, get you to know your questions.

Jay Harris (45:16):

Let’s do it.

Casey J. Cornelius (45:17):

Okay. All right. So let’s pretend for a second, hypothetically, that you have an entire day to binge watch anything.

Jay Harris (45:25):

What

Casey J. Cornelius (45:26):

Do, what do you, what do you choose?

Jay Harris (45:28):

Is it new or is it something I’ve watched before?

Casey J. Cornelius (45:31):

Dealer’s choice, whatever you would like.

Jay Harris (45:33):

Wow. Um, that’s a good one. Hmm. I mean, there’s so many stuff that I wanna watch. I haven’t watched yet. You know what I, since I’m doing it now with my son who hasn’t seen it, I I’d go the wire.

Casey J. Cornelius (45:49):

Good choice. Good choice. The wire with your son. I, I wanna be clear, like you would want to do it with him if you had that day together.

Jay Harris (45:58):

Yeah. Yeah. Because he’s never seen it, but if I was by myself, I’d still probably do it. This is a really good show.

Casey J. Cornelius (46:03):

It is no, very good choice. Okay. Uh, Jay, what is the most used app on your phone?

Jay Harris (46:09):

Oh, that’s a great one. Let me look at it real quick. Come on. Uh, I have this golf game that I play. That’s pretty well worn out.

Casey J. Cornelius (46:19):

Okay.

Jay Harris (46:19):

Everyone in my house. Laughs at me for you playing golf on your phone. Are you, are you, is there something, are, is there something really wrong with you? Are you, are you addicted to golf?

Casey J. Cornelius (46:28):

Jay is addicted to golf. By the way. If, if no one, no one knows that he is

Jay Harris (46:32):

Addicted. My, my golf game. Doesn’t show it all the time, but I really enjoy playing, uh, either that or Instagram.

Casey J. Cornelius (46:40):

Okay.

Jay Harris (46:42):

Excellent.

Casey J. Cornelius (46:42):

All right. Jay, who would you most like to have dinner with?

Jay Harris (46:47):

Mm that’s easy. My dad that that’s, I mean, he passed away in 2016. So like if I could bring, if I could have dinner with anyone and I’d poof power, bring him back to life and we’d sit down and we would eat and we would talk and we would laugh and we would cry and we would laugh and not want the dinner to end, but he’d be my dad hands down.

Casey J. Cornelius (47:11):

That’s beautiful. Thank you. Um, Jay, what do you do to wind down? Do you have any rituals or any, any things that you do that you go, okay. I was busy, but now it’s time to relax. What do you do to wind down?

Jay Harris (47:25):

Hmm. Do I ever wind down? Yeah,

Casey J. Cornelius (47:29):

I was gonna subquestion. Do you ever wind down?

Jay Harris (47:33):

No. Most of the time I sit down and I’ll fall asleep. That’s that’s my winding down, sitting down is my winding down. Um, you know what? Cutting the grass is wind down for me. Uh,

Casey J. Cornelius (47:45):

You know, Kevin, Kevin Reynolds gave the same answer. He, he talked about it being very zen-like for him.

Jay Harris (47:50):

It is, it is. And, and it’s an accomplishment like once you cut it and you edge it and you look at it, go, yay. I just did that. And it looks really, really nice. Um, I love

Casey J. Cornelius (48:01):

It. I

Jay Harris (48:01):

Love it. Walk walking nine holes is a good wind down for me too. Just being out there under fresh air and chasing that low golf ball, cuz it doesn’t go everywhere. I want it to go.

Casey J. Cornelius (48:10):

Do you? So this is off topic of course, but do you, it’s been a long time since, since I golfed, but I was kind of part of that generation where there was the move toward making everybody ride a cart and, and I would much prefer to walk. Do you find that still being like, do, do you find yourself like no, if I have the choice, I’m going to walk as opposed to the cart.

Jay Harris (48:33):

If I have the choice I’m going to walk it’s it’s it’s great exercise. Uh, and it’s just more fun. You could take your time with it. Yeah. With the cart, the cart. I mean, it’s great for events cuz you don’t want to be there all day and you can zip up to your ball or whatever and zip around and sometimes racing carts is fun too. <laugh> um, but yeah, this it’s just so you get you more in touch with everything. If you just take that walk, it’s just something special about it.

Casey J. Cornelius (49:00):

Yeah, I agree. Well, listen, uh, last question coming up, but again, uh, if, if you haven’t yet for college, for life.com/j J uh, how can listeners best connect with you?

Jay Harris (49:12):

Hmm, well social media’s pretty good. Uh, J Harris, ESPN on Twitter and Instagram. A lot of people find me on LinkedIn. I’m kind of LinkedIn lazy. I don’t do a really good job at LinkedIn. I try, but Instagram and Twitter are, are the best. Uh, and if you want to, if you really want to connect with me, uh, we can talk prince then you’re you’re then you’re in the club. You’re the family cuz that’s my dude. He’s the other person. I probably wanna have dinner with

Casey J. Cornelius (49:43):

Listen, this, this entire interview. We didn’t mention prince. It wasn’t necessarily an accident cuz I wanna leave something for part two sometime in the near future.

Jay Harris (49:53):

All right. Well say prince for part two.

Casey J. Cornelius (49:55):

Jay’s the love of music. Um, oh Jay, my, my friend, this, this sure was a pleasure. I appreciate it folks. Um, if you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please do the things that you’re supposed to do with podcasts. You know, like ’em and share ’em and subscribe and review and all that other kind of stuff. And the other thing that, uh, I really would like is tell us what you want to hear as well. Would you like us to go more into specific topics with each of our folks? Would you like a couple of them on the podcast together? Uh, we wanna deliver the content that’s most beneficial and interesting to, so please let me know. And uh, it really, again is always a pleasure. Learn stuff today about Jay and we’ve been up and down the road, uh, several times for several years and I’m still learning stuff, but, but man, I really appreciate our conversation. Thank you.

Jay Harris (50:42):

Thank you, Casey. Appreciate you bro.

Casey J. Cornelius (50:44):

All right, everybody. We’ll see you next time, uh, until then be well and we’ll talk to you soon.

Jay Harris (50:49):

Hey Casey?

Casey J. Cornelius (50:50):

Yes, sir.

Jay Harris (50:52):

You just said everybody

Casey J. Cornelius (50:54):

To those listening to you listening.

Jay Harris (50:57):

No dude, that one. There you go. That one person listening you that you that special. You,

Casey J. Cornelius (51:03):

You ready? Here we go. Thank you for listening.

Jay Harris (51:07):

I love it. I love it.

Casey J. Cornelius (51:09):

Talk soon.

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