Scott Plummer headshot

Momma Deafness

My brother Scott … he was a hoot, I tell ya. The kid lived in trouble. My poor parents raising a kid like Scott, ha! It sure makes me chuckle now.

He was three and half years older than I, my closest sibling. I recall his teenage years, my dad asking in utter frustration to him, “Scott, why’d you do that?!” Scott’s reply: “Why not? I’m already grounded for the rest of my life!”

Last week, my mother and I were joking with some old Scott stories. One of her favorites was her taking Scott to the doctor for a check-up, worried that he was hard of hearing when he was little. The doctor told her that her son was in perfect health, that she need not worry. He was “diagnosed” with “momma deafness.”

In passing, my mom would tell Scott what to do, then come back later and ask him why he hadn’t done what she asked. He’d say, “You never said that.” She’d sternly tell him she, in fact, did. He’d smugly reply, “Did you have my attention?” Momma deafness. As a brother, this stuff is hilarious. As a parent, not so much. I don’t have a Scott in my herd of kids, but I have kids nevertheless.

I try and be as well read as possible. Knowledge is one of the highest accolades, in my opinion. My lack of time with all of my various duties limits the volume of what I’d like to read, but I try and be disciplined to read as much as I can. I will read scriptures in the morning without fail; everything else is “I do the best I can.”

Just last month I got introduced to a cool subscription-based product called Blinkist. It takes a book and puts it into a 15-minute audio or readable format to get the gist of the book, or as they like to call it — “blinks.” Driving around, I can consume 10 to 20 audio books at a time with Blinkist when I increase the audio speed to times two. It’s silly, I know, but I love consuming information.

There was one book I had to study fully, though, so I purchased it — “Managing Oneself” by Peter F. Drucker. This is a great book, a must read. It will help you in many ways — self-mastery and understanding, communicating with others and even help with your horses. The author has made a profession out of helping people and organizations, improving the WHYs by fundamentally understanding the HOWs and WHATs. One such example Mr. Drucker wrote I found fascinating:

“The first thing to know is whether you are a reader or a listener. Far too few people even know that there are readers and listeners and that people are rarely both. Even fewer know which of the two they themselves are. But some examples will show how damaging such ignorance can be.

When Dwight Eisenhower was Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in Europe, he was the darling of the press. His press conferences were famous for their style—General Eisenhower showed total command of whatever question he was asked, and he was able to describe a situation and explain a policy in two or three beautifully polished and elegant sentences. Ten years later, the same journalists who had been his admirers held President Eisenhower in open contempt. He never addressed the questions, they complained, but rambled on endlessly about something else. And they constantly ridiculed him for butchering the King’s English in incoherent and ungrammatical answers.

Eisenhower apparently did not know that he was a reader, not a listener. When he was Supreme Commander in Europe, his aides made sure that every question from the press was presented in writing at least half an hour before a conference was to begin. And then Eisenhower was in total command. When he became president, he succeeded two listeners, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman. Both men knew themselves to be listeners and both enjoyed free-for-all press conferences. Eisenhower may have felt that he had to do what his two predecessors had done. As a result, he never even heard the questions journalists asked. And Eisenhower is not even an extreme case of a nonlistener. 

A few years later, Lyndon Johnson destroyed his presidency, in large measure, by not knowing that he was a listener. His predecessor, John Kennedy, was a reader who had assembled a brilliant group of writers as his assistants, making sure that they wrote to him before discussing their memos in person. Johnson kept these people on his staff—and they kept on writing. He never, apparently, understood one word of what they wrote. Yet as a senator, Johnson had been superb; for parliamentarians have to be, above all, listeners.

Few listeners can be made, or can make themselves, into competent readers—and vice versa. The listener who tries to be a reader will, therefore, suffer the fate of Lyndon Johnson, whereas the reader who tries to be a listener will suffer the fate of Dwight Eisenhower. They will not perform or achieve.”
 —Drucker, Peter F. “Managing Oneself.” Harvard Business Review, 2008.

I just found this fascinating. Now, apply it yourself. It gets you one step closer to self-awareness and improvement. There are so many other applications he teaches. How does someone learn? Some are listeners, some are readers, some are doers, some are talkers, some are writers, and there are a dozen other examples.

The ineffectiveness of our school systems is evident, because they educate the mass as one when in reality, we are all different. How each of us learns is so different that what works for one is completely ineffective for another. Do you manage others or are you a parent? I promise you that one size does not fit all.

Have you ever seen horse trainers just do the same thing to every horse or have you ever tried to ride all horses the same? I have. Disaster. I promise you it is not all mechanics. Great trainers are first and foremost horse psychologists; the act of training must come after a fundamental understanding of how best to help this equine athlete be its best. Watch the masters. You will see a difference. Want to be a master? Get mentored by one. I guarantee they did.

If Scott were here, I’d tease him about his momma deafness. He’d give me his patented smirk and soft chuckle. He loved being who he was, and we loved him for it. I can now recognize, after some life wisdom learned, how he “ticked” and how best I could have communicated with him.

I thank my brother for teaching me. If you’ve made it this far in reading, I hope this blog got you thinking. Now, go be great!