"Be Present, Be Here": My Conversation With Charles Ries in Four Parts
Part 1: “Get Out Of Your Own Head”
Be present at the dinner table. Be present at the boardroom table. Be present at the casual lunch with colleagues.
It isn’t enough to simply share the space with someone, you need to be entirely present.
This is something I’ve been reminding myself of more and more lately. My friend Charles Ries gets it. We sat down together recently and talked about what it means to be present, to be here.
“We’ll go into a meeting,” he says, “but our mind is on getting our car repaired or on some jerk we dealt with yesterday. So we’re not really in the meeting, right? We’re either dealing with tomorrow’s problems or yesterday’s wounds.”
Charles goes on to say, “We’re not here for ourselves…not if we’re going to be happy and have happiness. We have to be here for others. When we are here for others we aren’t focused on who upset us yesterday and what payments we have to make tomorrow. It’s about compassion and empathy – focusing on those things will get you out of your own head.”
Out of your own head and present at the table.
Charles Ries and I have been friends for several years now and he is truly one of the most interesting individuals my family and I have ever met.
An accomplished writer, founder of the oldest fresh water surf club on the Great Lakes and front man for the band “Charles P. Ries and The Minktronics”, Charles has dubbed himself a “Citizen Philosopher”.
Having spent half a lifetime in search of spiritual and psychological enlightenment, his colleagues at Marquette University, where Charles serves as Senior Director of Principle Gifts and Innovation, will tell you he’s the “Resident Jesuit Buddhist Catholic.” It’s in this role and in the role of co-founder of the Milwaukee based student entrepreneurial skills accelerator, The Commons, that Charles serves as a talented and natural connector.
“I can do a lot of things, but I can’t do a lot of things well. But I know a lot of people that can do a lot of things well and if I put them together, then they can do something REALLY well.”
Connection. It’s at the core of everything we do.
“I listen to people who have dreams and then see whether or not we can make those dreams happen. I begin to build platforms for different people and their dreams…if you talk to a thousand people, probably forty of them want to do the same thing, except they don’t know each other. Once they know each other, they can do stuff together. So in that regard…I’m a connector.”
Charles is clearly passionate about creating connections with people, creating powerful catalysts. He has an entrepreneurial spirit – I recognize it in him just as I recognize it in my husband, Tom. They both have this innate drive to identify a need or a niche and then create a solution or a system to solve it, to fill it. They are both creators. They are both fixers.
Charles goes on to explain some of this drive. “I generally have good instincts about what works and about the scale around program-matic initiatives. There aren’t many that can see scale, but if I see it and I know it will work, then I will put it together and help launch it.”
He says to me, “It’s a lot like your business, Kate. You know when you have something that works – and your clients may not know it, but YOU know it.”
“Start ups are an art form” he says. “The impulse is creative – what you create is sort of irrelevant to me. But entrepreneurs are really artists who choose to create business. Artists are also entrepreneurs…who choose to create art. It’s the same impulse.”
Part 2: entitled, “Move Beyond”, in this series will be published Friday, June 8th, 2018