Some pictures while Breaking Barriers…

Attached are some of the inspiring shots from the Breaking Barriers trip with the Cox Automotive Family. So many inspiring moments…

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By |February 18th, 2015|Article|Comments Off|

The Final Recap…a new way of thinking.

Day 3 from Dale Pollak’s site. See full story here.

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A Different Kind Of Ski Lesson: A No Barriers Approach To Business

by DPOLLAK on 02/02/2015 

I’m still reliving and re-appreciating last week’s No Barriers ski adventure in Beaver Creek, Colo.

Over the weekend, as I was replaying the experience in my mind, I found myself asking questions again and again: Why did the entire experience feel a little like magic? What made this adventure so special, beyond giving me the opportunity to live my dream to ski again? And, why couldn’t every day in business feel as good as the ones we shared on the mountain?

These questions came up for a couple of reasons:

First, the trip had a clear business objective. Blind adventurer Erik Weihenmayer has inspired the Cox Automotive leadership team to embrace his No Barriers philosophy as a way of doing business. The opportunity for me to join Erik in Beaver Creek is but the first sign of this commitment, and we had a film crew on hand to chronicle our adventure and create a documentary that might inspire and drive innovation throughout Cox Automotive.

Second, even though we were there to work and achieve a business objective, it didn’t feel like work at all. That’s no small feat considering our group had nine people (including two blind guys), going up and down the mountain all day long, and we couldn’t get any work done unless and until we were sure everyone was always safe. Our film crew and guides deserve incredible props for making the work feel effortless and fluid. The crew would essentially hop-scotch down the mountain on snowboards, setting up cameras and tripods up ahead to film our descent. As we passed, they’d pack up and film us as they raced to set up the next shot. All the while, the guides relayed our progress and helped the crew pick shot locations that fit the pitch of the slope and our skiing abilities. I’m still amazed at the artful nature of this complex, coordinated choreography.

On top of all that, there were a myriad of other logistical details—getting breakfast and gear in the morning, making it up to and off of lift chairs, coordinating hotel rooms and transportation, etc. Put simply, a lot could have gone very wrong. But nothing did.

Third, our group started as mostly strangers. Some of us knew each other, but we’d never worked together before. Yet, we functioned as a cohesive, tight-knit group for three days. I now understand why this previously disconnected group proved to be the perfect cast for our trip. Each individual had his own personality and special talent, both of which circumstances called upon at some point. No one complained or hesitated when his turn to set up arrived. No egos got in the way when someone else’s suggestion proved to be the best idea. My friend and protector, dealer Brian Benstock of Paragon Honda, aptly observed, “The worst guy on this team is a great guy.”

Finally, we had a highly successful trip without much advance planning. The trip itself came together in roughly a week’s time. Our group only met once, on the night before our first day, to plan the following three days. Everyone quickly understood our mission and objectives, and then we went to work. On the mountain, we made decisions on the fly, trusting the instincts, judgment and talent of each team member to execute his responsibility and role. We assessed our progress and adjusted course in the moment, focusing on the challenge ahead while heeding lessons learned from behind. In many ways, our largely improvised experience turned out to be harmony on the hill, with the radio chatter of our film crew and guides providing the melody.

As I continue to reflect on how my “No Barriers” experience might translate to Cox Automotive and dealers, I’m reminded of the great things that happen when you assemble the right people, commit to a shared mission and empower each individual to perform to his/her potential.

By |February 3rd, 2015|Article|Comments Off|

Day 2 of Breaking Barriers

A recap from Dale Pollak’s site about our trip. See full story here.

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Time To Give Thanks For A Life-Changing Gift

by DPOLLAK on 01/30/2015

Our final day here at Beaver Creek started as soon as the slopes opened. It’s been another picture-perfect day on the mountain, with mild temperatures, plenty of sunshine and relatively uncrowded runs.

As I rode the lifts today, I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the opportunity to take part in this life-changing experience with blind adventurer Erik Weihenmayer. It’s a gift that ranks among the most precious I’ve received in my lifetime.

There are a lot of people who merit a public thank-you for making my adventure in Beaver Creek possible:

Our ski guides. Jeff Ulrich and Rob Leavitt truly are the “secret sauce” that enables two blind guys to repeatedly and successfully ski black diamond slopes. Both are top-shelf individuals, the kind who would sacrifice themselves if it meant keeping us safe. They also lead interesting lives—Jeff is a golf pro in Colorado Springs, and Rob is a ski instructor at Aspen and councilman for the nearby city of Basalt.

Our can-do creative crew: We had two guys from Boulder-based Buck Ross Productions—Ryan “Buck” Cross and Matt Silton—filming us as we rode the mountain. They seemed to defy gravity on their snowboards as they shot in front of us, behind us, off to our sides…their movements reminded me of ballet, except these two were heading backwards down the mountain at 40 miles an hour.

Our Cox Automotive leadership, support teams. I owe much to Cox Enterprises executive vice president Alex Taylor and CEO John Dyer, as well as Sandy Schwartz, head of Cox Automotive. They instantly embraced the idea of adopting Erik’s “No Barriers” approach to life and business within our organization, and they encouraged me to join Erik here in Beaver Creek this week. I’m also indebted to Cox Automotive’s events team, including director Christina Zara and senior event planner Thais Toro. They provided invaluable support in arranging our activities and accommodations.

Our ski group. I’m grateful that Alex Taylor, dealer Brian Benstock of Paragon Honda and Lou Laste from Cox Automotive’s PR team could join us. In particular, I’m especially thankful to know that Brian Benstock always had my back on the mountain, helping steer others clear of a blind guy who’s rekindled a need for speed on the slopes.

Our inspiration. I’ve never met anyone like Erik Weihenmayer, and I’m ever-thankful that our paths crossed, and we had the opportunity to be and ski together this week. I also owe a great thank-you to Erik’s assistant, Skyler Williams, who has that behind-the-scenes knack to make things happen, often before anyone else knew they would be needed.

I’m looking forward to seeing how our “No Barriers” experience in Beaver Creek will serve to inspire others throughout the Cox organization and beyond in the coming months.

In the meantime, I’m heading back to my skis. We just finished lunch and Erik said, “I’m exhausted. Let’s take it up a notch.”

By |February 3rd, 2015|Article|Comments Off|

Day 1 of Breaking Barriers

Below is a great outline from Dale Pollak’s website that highlights the amazing event I was able to take part in. See full story here

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Trust, Teamwork And Inspiration At 11,000 Feet

We’ve just wrapped up our first day of skiing at Beaver Creek. It’s been an incredible day that saw three key themes emerge.

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Trust: After we got our gear, we drilled the verbal commands and cues our guides would use to help us ski safely down the mountain. We started on the blue, intermediate slopes to get familiar with the cadence and rhythm of listening for/reacting to our guide voices.

My ski legs came back pretty quickly. After a while, I could feel the vertical drop lines just as my guide called them out. It didn’t take us long to graduate to the black slopes, where I felt the euphoria and freedom of dropping into a line without fear. I’m told I hit 40 miles per hour a couple of times, which means I was flying

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Teamwork: My lack of fear came from total faith and trust in my guide, dealer Brian Benstock, who was at my hip the entire time, and the rest of our group, which included my fellow blind adventurer Erik Weihenmayer and his guide, Alex Taylor, executive vice president of Cox Enterprises and Lou Laste, senior director of public relations for Cox Automotive.

We worked the slopes together, with those of us who skied faster waiting for the rest of the group to catch up. Each of us kept an eye/ear out for the other—a collective commitment to each other that resulted in a day without any serious mishaps or injury, and a lot of laughing and smiling.

Inspiration:  Every time I’ve heard or been with Erik, he effectively shows me a door that I can open and find inspiration on the other side. On the slopes, Erik demonstrated a higher level of skiing proficiency than I ever achieved when I was actually able to see. His skiing is both deliberate and fast—he actively seeks out moguls that most others would avoid

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In addition to his skill on skis, Erik offered a profound comment while we were on the chair lift. We were talking about why some people, like him, are able to overcome doubt and adversity, while others tend to languish.

Erik shared a Tibetan proverb that he first heard during a difficult stretch of his ascent to Mount Everest: “The nature of the mind is like water. If you do not disturb it, it will become clear.”

Alex also found our shared experience inspiring. About mid-way through the day, he called his mother to relay his experiences from the top of the mountain. He handed me the phone—yet another reminder that Cox Enterprises and Cox Automotive really are a family business.

As the evening turns to night, I must confess that I feel the age in my legs. But I’m looking forward to putting myself to the test again tomorrow, and making a truly moving and wonderful experience even better.

Finally, I have a personal request for all who are reading: Erik is a finalist for this year’s National Geographic Adventurer of the Year award. In true Chicago fashion, I would ask that you all vote early and often for Erik here, before the deadline arrives on Saturday.

By |February 3rd, 2015|Article|Comments Off|

Brian Benstock speaks at the Univision Leading the Change Conference

It was an honor to be speak at the Univision Leading the change conference in Las Vegas, NV. I had the opportunity to share the stage with Wal-Marts director of marketing Javier M. Delgado speaking about best practices for Hispanic advertising. Also in attendance was Governor Mitt Romney. Here is an overview of the event:

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Romney Attends Univision’s Hispanic

Marketing Forum

PROGRAMMING
By  | December 1, 2014 |

Univision recently hosted the “Leading the Change” Marketing Forum, its annual event for its multicultural client and agency partners. The goal of the forum was to present Hispanic marketing thought leadership and gain actionable insights on how to engage with Hispanics. In total, 130 marketers from 54 brands and 25 partner agencies were present, including Governor Mitt Romney, Trend Hunter CEO Jeremy Gutsche and Brian Benstock Vice President and General Manager of Honda. Topics ranged from research presentations on the bilingual brain, decoding the millennial generation and sports fanatics, to addressing the role of big event sponsorships when marketing to US Hispanics and best-in-class tactics from national brands with comprehensive Hispanic marketing strategies.

Pictured above are UCI President and CEO Randy Falco and Governor Mitt Romney. The governor was interviewed by Univision newscaster Maria Elena Salinas and spoke about immigration and the crucial Hispanic vote, noting that he believes Republicans need to be connecting with Hispanics as early as the primaries.

- See more at: http://www.cablefax.com/programming/romney-attends-univisions-hispanic-marketing-forum#sthash.dk2I0N7Y.dpuf

By |December 2nd, 2014|Article|Comments Off|