Tuning Fork: when struck, it produces several tones—a fundamental and at least one harmonic—but the fork’s shape tends to minimize the harmonics and within a few seconds only the fundamental can be heard.

I remember when, six months after answering the call to be a spiritual coach to leaders, I came across an ad in a business journal that read, “How to grow spiritually while growing a multi-million dollar business.” Boy, was I super excited. When I read the ad, I said, “Yes! This is just for me!”

The ad was highlighting the final workshop of a five-day venture capital convention in Dallas, Texas. I thought it would be great to attend this convention, just to hear the speaker at this final workshop. But I immediately discarded the idea because of the price tag of the event. I heeded the spiritual influence of doubt and unbelief that said, “You cannot afford it.”

However, in the ensuing days, another sound (a voice) kept coming back to me. “What if you call and ask if you could get a discount for attending the final workshop, not the entire convention?”

[Read “I Control the Narrative“]

Several days later, I acquired the courage (with knees knocking and teeth chattering) to place the call. Once connected, I announced my name and my interest in attending the final workshop. The person on the line kept saying, “Wait a minute, THE Dr. Ray Charles? The spiritual coach?”

I responded, “Yes, I am Dr. Ray Charles, and yes, I am a spiritual coach.” (Notice the difference in the sound between “the spiritual coach” and “a spiritual coach.”)

The gentleman then said, “Sir, we have been wanting to get in contact with you for months. You were referred to us, but we misplaced your contact information. If you look at the ad, you will notice it says, ‘mystery speaker’.”

With one hand on the phone and the other hand on the newspaper ad, I looked, and sure enough, it said “mystery speaker.” The gentleman then said, “Sir, the mystery speaker at this conference is you.”  My jaw dropped! He continued, “We were running out of time in going to print so on the integrity of the person who referred us, we decided to post the ad, believing and trusting that someway, somehow, we would get in contact with you!”

In that very moment, every influence of doubt, disbelief, and low self-esteem, which almost talked me out of making the call, evaporated and was replaced with courage and formidable strength.

This was a watershed moment. It taught me that though we are surrounded by competing sounds, (sounds that rival against our true identity), as long as we are alive, the sound of our authentic spirit will not rest and will continue to nudge at us until our true identity emerges (see table below).

Competing Sounds (aka Interference)

People (You and Others)

Places Things
Emotions Noisy Workplace Technology
Personal Bias Toxic Environment Pandemic
Subjective Listening Friendly Fire Finances
etc. etc. etc.

[Read “Being a ‘People Person’ Has Its Blind Spots“]

The Shaping of My Sound

In 1980, Dr. Howard Thurman gave a now-famous speech, “The Sound of the Genuine”, which included this quote:

“There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have. And if you cannot hear it, you will all of your life spend your days on the ends of strings that somebody else pulls.”

As I think of this, I’m reminded of the time I attended a leadership retreat in Kiev, Ukraine, in September 2018. The host of the event looked at me during one of the private sessions for the delegates and said, “Ray, please share with us (because we don’t know) what it feels like to be the only Black person in the room.”

Taken a bit aback by his direct and unexpected observation, I looked around the physical space. “I didn’t realize I was the only Black person in the room,” I replied.

You see, I did not see color while I was growing up. Part of the reason is that while growing up, my siblings and I responded to the drumbeat of love, which was imparted into the core of our DNA by our parents. There was only one form of leadership we were familiar with at that time (Love Leadership).

I became color agnostic, not because:

It had more to do with the fact that my parents raised my siblings and me to see life through the lens of the ultimate equalizer (love).

Another reason I believe I do not see color is that I came from a very diverse heritage. On my mother’s side, my great grandfather was French, and on my father’s side, my great grandfather was Chinese. With that vast array of cultural and ethnic backgrounds, it is no wonder I did not see color.

Whether we are speaking of extrinsic diversity (race, gender, sexual orientation, sexual preference, etc.) or intrinsic diversity (thoughts, beliefs, values, motivators, etc.) we, as human beings, have at least one common thread—the need to be seen for who we truly are as people, with our own unique, distinctive sound.

[Read “Here’s the Fundamental Difference Between Behavior and Personality“]

A Tool to Help

We opened this blog highlighting the harmonic nature of tuning forks and fundamental tones.

According to Dr. Anthony Suchman, physician and professor of medicine at the University of Rochester, every workplace conversation operates on two levels: a task channel and a relationship channel.

What if there was a type of tuning fork that could detect the fundamental tone of our workplace conversations, whether they are written or verbal? I believe there is.

The Behavior Style model created by Effectiveness Institute is one tool I believe helps us hear the sound of trust and respect in relationships. It doesn’t create the sound, but it makes it easier to understand our sound and the sounds of each unique person.

What’s your sound?

4 Responses

  1. Excellent observation! I wish more individuals would take the time to connect beyond the surface.

  2. Powerful to say the least. I trust that this awareness allows us to debunk the myths that we can’t change or adapt to those around us for the sake of community and collaboration. Thank you EI and Dr. Charles!

  3. Powerful indeed! We often listen for the sound of The Lord or what others are saying. But how powerful it is to recognize that each of us have a sound coming out of us and also knowing the power and impact of our own unique sound. Thank you, Dr. Ray!

  4. A very thought-provoking read!

    I’d never actually thought about my sound as the guide of my genuine self!

    To answer your question, 1 word come to me: Growth.
    I see myself as a sponge, and I look for teachable moments in everything that I do. To that end, my sound always revolves around one question— “what can I learn from this?”

    Pitfall — if I don’t feel like I’ve learned anything, it feels like I missed something????????‍♀️