Podcast Episode 8

Success in Life, Leadership, and Business with Greg Bell

With Greg Bell | 35 Minutes | July 27, 2021

In this episode we speak with Greg Bell, an author, motivational speaker, and founder of Water The Bamboo® Center For Leadership.

He is the author of the books Water The Bamboo: Unleashing The Potential Of Teams And Individuals and What’s Going Well? The Question That Changes Everything, which outline his philosophy of patience in the process of growth.

Greg is also a Certified Speaking Professional – the highest earned designation from the National Speakers Association – in addition to being a TEDx Talk alum and an advisory board member for the Portland TEDx conference series.

He has worked with Fortune 500 companies like Nike, Disney, and Comcast, sports teams such as Oregon Ducks Football, Gonzaga Bulldogs Basketball, and the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers, as well as Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts.

Listen as we chat with Greg about the keys to success in relationships, leadership, and business.

Watch the podcast episode:

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Notes & Transcript


Kirk Bachmann: Hi everyone, my name is Kirk Bachmann and welcome back to The Ultimate Dish. In today’s episode we’re speaking with Greg Bell, an author, motivational speaker and founder of Water the Bamboo Center for Leadership. Greg is an amazing thought leader and a Certified Speaking Professional, which is the highest earned designation from the National Speakers Association. He is also a TEDx talk alum and an advisory board member for the Portland TEDx conference series.

Greg has worked with and impacted thousands of individuals, business leaders, and Fortune 500 companies like Nike, Disney, and Comcast, as well as notable sports teams such as Oregon Ducks football, Gonzaga Bulldogs basketball and the NBA’s Portland Trailblazers. He also leads the effort behind Coaches vs. Cancer campaign for the American Cancer Society that has raised over $100 million for cancer research. Join us today as we chat with Greg about inspirational approaches to life, work, relationships, and of course, cuisine.

Welcome, Greg, thank you so much for chatting with me this morning. It’s great to see you. How are you?

Greg Bell: Really good. Thank you so much for having me on, Kirk. I’ve been looking forward to this. So thank you.

Kirk Bachmann: Yeah, and like I was saying earlier, I’m a little nervous but so unbelievably excited. We’re going to talk a little Ducks. How are you doing? Are you in Portland right now?

Greg Bell: Yeah, I’m in Portland now. I’ve been on the road a little bit, but just got back and doing good. So excited about the coming Summer and Fall and getting everything going.

Kirk Bachmann: The world is opening up again a little bit.

Greg Bell: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve been doing a little traveling. And it’s very interesting. The first time I traveled it, you know, had the mask on, the shield, the gloves. Now it’s just like, you know, go.

Kirk Bachmann: Plus, you’re taller than everyone, right? (laughter) So you just see what’s coming at you.

Greg Bell: That’s right.

Watering the Bamboo

Kirk Bachmann: To kick off, I have so much to talk about. But right off the bat, water the bamboo. Let’s see the bamboos behind you know, it’s an amazing metaphor analogy. I remember seeing a clip a few years ago, a former Oregon football coach, the infamous Chip Kelly, and he was talking to the press about you. He was talking about watering the bamboo. Yeah, you know, this guy that used to play basketball here. But he was really articulate about it in a Chip-like kind of way but he kind of got it right. It was fascinating. To me, it was all about patience and unleashing your potential, but I’m not doing it justice. Talk to us a little bit about water the bamboo.

Greg Bell: Oh, thank you. Yeah, Chip changed my life when he talked about water the bamboo. I’d been doing a lot of work with a lot of leaders just all around the country. And water the bamboo is a metaphor, it’s a philosophy around the giant timber bamboo, in which the bamboo farmers will water it for a full year. And after a year, you won’t see anything, you’ll water for two, then three, then four. But in the fifth year, the bamboo will rocket 90 feet in 60 days. And as you know, everybody wants that kind of growth. But the question is, do you have that kind of patience to nurture something and while you’re watering your bamboo, by the way, people will tell you, it’s not gonna work, it’ll never happen. Just be sure to tell them the mind their own bamboo. Keep watering.

Kirk Bachmann: It’s kind of parenting too, right? As you’re saying that I’m thinking about my 10-year-old who won’t move up in the batter’s box, he won’t move back in the batter’s box because I could see the pitches coming in. And I know what he needs to do, but I’ve got to have the patience, right.

Greg Bell: I think it’s one of those things with parenting or anything. Patience is super important. But you have to be persistent as well. So it’s not like you’re patient just sitting back, you got to actually work on whatever your craft is, or whatever you’re trying to improve on. When I was thinking about water the bamboo, I was thinking about a lot of business leaders or people in their career and that analogy touched everyone that I can think of, and as you’ve mentioned parenting, be patient with that as well. After a while, he’ll be hitting balls out of the park.

Kirk Bachmann: And in his mind because of what he’s doing, not what Dad’s saying behind the fence. And, that’s okay.

Greg Bell: Absolutely.

Kirk Bachmann: So truth be told, Greg and I actually attended the University of Oregon at the same time.

Greg Bell: Go Ducks!

Kirk Bachmann: Go Ducks. Yes, shameless plug there, and a very special time in my life and I know in yours. And you were very well-known. You were an athlete there, right. So people knew Greg Bell and, and I laugh because I was telling my family, “Hey, I’m going to interview Greg. We went to college together.” And the joke was, “Yeah, I knew Greg. Everybody knew Greg.” But my son’s like, “Real quick, did Greg know you?” And I’m like, “Well, I like to think he did.” And we ended up, maybe it was probably my senior year, might have been in junior year, but you know, Blair and you guys, you all kind of lived off campus a little bit. So several times we walked towards campus and stuff and that was good enough for me, Greg. I said in my mind, “I know Greg Bell. Used to carry his books and stuff.” But seriously, I mean, being an athlete, studying. I wonder if you could reflect a little bit. You are in Eugene. But you know, there are athletes all around the country, around the world. I’m just curious if you can speak to your responsibilities as you recall, as a student during that time.

Grandfather Emphasized Education

Greg Bell: Yeah, that’s good. Because I think that I was definitely the student first. Because I spent a lot of time in the library. For me it was so important to get my degree. My grandfather, he was such an influence on my life, and he wasn’t allowed to go to school, couldn’t read, and all that. But he told me that three things would get us out of the challenging situation we were in, poverty, really. He said three things. And one was education. Number two is education. Number three was education. It meant a lot to me and in fact my grandfather, he called me probably once a week from Texas, very early in the morning, and he would say, he would just say, “You graduate yet?” Every week. But he was really on me about it. Because it was such an important thing. And for me, it was awesome to play sports there and have my schooling paid for. But getting the education was really vital to me.

Kirk Bachmann: Such good feedback that young people today need to hear. How important education truly, truly is. Super thoughtful. So your grandfather was a bamboo farmer essentially. Without even knowing it. How does that experience drive you? I think law school followed, right? So now you’re in this world, you’re well known. You’ve worked with different organizations that I’ve been with, and you’re working with Escoffier now. What’s really important to me is that our work together is about leadership. It’s about leadership, it’s about helping people better operate, think about things differently, treat each other well. How did the motivational speaker piece, and it’s so much more than that, how did that come to be after college, after law school?

Relationships are Key

Greg Bell: Honestly, it was out of a little bit of pain. I was working as a lawyer. And what I noticed about my clients is they would come in with all kinds of challenges and all kinds of problems. One of the things I noticed with all of them was they had one particular issue they’d never worked on. And that issue was they didn’t do relationships very well. I mean, they were smart people, really driven in their businesses, but usually the problems were a breakdown in relationships. So what I thought was somebody ought to teach people how to have better relationships, and I only get 45 seconds a day to complain.

So I complained for my 45 seconds and then I thought, “Wow, why don’t I do that? Why don’t I figure out a way to do that?” If you ask yourself, have you ever taken a relationship class? Probably the answer’s no. Nobody’s taking a relationship class. People take math classes, science classes, and English classes. But if you ever had any challenges, or had any great opportunities, it’s probably because you had great relationships or bad ones.

So for me, I think relationships were key. I created a model and taught people how to have great relationships. I didn’t know how it would work out. In fact, after every talk, I would give on this, how to build trust, how to cultivate relationships, how to take risks, how to empower yourself and each other to move whatever it is you’re trying to do. After every talk, some people would say to me, “Hey, you should write a book.” And I was like, “No, you should write a book.” And one day, an executive, she told me, “If you wrote a book, it would help my team.” And that’s really what I’m all about, helping people. So I thought, “Well, I’ll start writing. Maybe I’ll write something that will help people.” That was really my motivation. But that’s how I got into the business of speaking.

Kirk Bachmann: So the books kind of came first. You wrote the book as the foundation of what came later.

Greg Bell: I actually started speaking first. It took me a while to do that, because I was really finding my voice. What was interesting about that part was it was about how do I help people overcome these broken-down relationships, particularly in business, that really shouldn’t be there? Because as a lawyer, people would come to me at the end, when they want to…

Kirk Bachmann: Help!

Greg Bell: Yeah, they want to sue their business partner, or they want to fire the employee or whatever. I always thought, “Man, if they had better relationships, they wouldn’t have to wind up here.” That was really the theory. Theory chases the truth. So I just kind of went out and started speaking about it. To my surprise, people were really into it.

Kirk Bachmann: So receptive.

Greg Bell: Yeah, yeah, it was and then the books came. That’s how that works.

Kirk Bachmann: Here’s the plug, right? That parlayed into What’s Going Well, and always wearing my band.

Greg Bell: Oh, I like yours.

What’s Going Well

Kirk Bachmann: What’s Going Well, and then Water The Bamboo. And I love the subtitle: Unleashing the Potential of Teams and Individuals. So you started to touch on it? Is it the same philosophy for both books? Is there an underlining theme through all of it?

Greg Bell: You know, what’s interesting about Water The Bamboo, it really resonated with you, resonated with Escoffier. It resonates. It’s one of those things where people kind of get that, because it doesn’t matter what it is, you start a restaurant, it’s gonna take you five years to get it going, you start your career, four or five years to get it going takes four or five years to finish school. I mean, all these things, people get it. And what I noticed is, when I wrote that, it’s gonna be 10 years ago, when I wrote that book, the people that really were watering their bamboo and really getting it going, they got it, but What’s Going Well was about refueling them. Really thinking about what’s going well while you’re watering, because a lot of times people will say, “Oh, in four or five years, I’ll be happy now.” No, no, no, we got to be happy, now. We got to actually be happy while we’re watering. So if we ask what’s going well, and really focus there, that gives people the… in some ways, the water, actually the fuel to keep slugging away. Because you know, four or five years of not seeing results? It can get pretty tough.

Kirk Bachmann: It’s tough, yeah. It’s tough to be a bamboo farmer. Here’s the book, it’s always close by.

Greg Bell: It’s good.

Kirk Bachmann: Always close by. I will say this, again, we’ve been in communication for a lot of years. And I will say that, you know, it’s tough. It’s tough enough every day to bring your best. And I will say that Escoffier, starting each day with the simple notion, and maybe even at home, right? When we all get up, asking what’s going well, right off the bat, instead of, “Oh, the coffee’s cold,” or “The internet’s not working,” or “Who left the door open?” that type of thing. It’s really about what’s going about well. And I say that sincerely, Greg, because it really sets the tone for the culture and the rest of the meeting or the rest of the day. Let’s try to level set, let’s focus on the positives for a minute, and then find solutions for whatever challenges we have. So I love that. Earlier I mentioned, boy you’ve worked with some really, really neat companies, Nike, of course, and Disney and Comcast, the Ducks. Mark Few was a roommate of yours, right?

Greg Bell: Yeah, we were roommates in college.

Kirk Bachmann: Yeah, coaching Gonzaga. Any really cool stories or learnings or takeaways that you can share? You could leave the names out, if you have to.

Greg Bell: I feel really, really fortunate to be able to do the work I do. So there’s that. I mean, I have to be honest about it. Because it’s one of those things where I thought, Oh, I’m going to go be a lawyer, and I’m going to help people. What I didn’t realize is that I can help them before. I can actually get people kind of on the right track before. And I’ve had a lot of help doing that. Some of the companies that I’ve worked with have been just absolutely remarkable, and I still stay in touch. For me, I think it’s so important to think about relationships. So all my relationships even way back from college, you know, with you, and even with Mark… I have thousands of friends from college that I still stay in touch with. My theory is that it’s the relationship age, individuals that understand this will thrive, companies and organizations. So working with organizations in the way that I do, I get tons of stories. You asked about stories, I get tons of stories and feedback and I get to learn also from them, what’s important to them. I do a lot of listening and also if they have results and success, I don’t like to take credit for it. Honestly, it’s more like…if Gonzaga goes to the national championship. I mean, I never touched the ball for that team. I guess you and I have had many conversations. But one of the things that’s interesting is if we saw ourselves as leaders, our job is to fuel ourselves so that when people come to us, we can give them fuel, right? Like a punch ball. Like your kids come to you. You give them some energy, your family comes to you, you give them energy. And that’s it. My job is to make sure I have energy. Like that’s it. That’s all I gotta do. I don’t worry about who takes the energy. I just make sure I fill it up. That’s my theory on it.

Applying Philosophy During Pandemic

Kirk Bachmann: Yeah, I love that approach. So fast forward a little bit. We’ve talked a lot through the pandemic, and many believe we’re coming out of the pandemic and certainly a much more optimistic time, thankfully. But there still are many fears, right? The economy, businesses being shut down, or at least needing to find a way to get back to where they work. To recover, if you will, health for so many. Gosh, so many people, people I know, people you know, had their lives sort of put on hold, or changed dramatically, right? The culinary industry was particularly hit hard, right? We all know this. A lot of restaurants had to shut down. A lot of people lost their jobs, certainly coming back strong, which is so exciting to see. Any takeaways from that perspective, applying your philosophies. I’m sure that you’ve had folks reach out for help with exactly what we’re talking about. But any philosophies or perspectives that you can share?

Greg Bell: Yeah, I think that I would say asking the question, what’s going well, a hard time is the best time to ask it actually. It’s interesting, because a lot of times, what’s going well, while you’re on the honeymoon, well, that’s easy. But asking what’s going well, when it’s really, really challenging is super important. It was interesting, when the pandemic hit for me, I was doing a speech in San Antonio, came back and a lot of my programs got postponed. And honestly, what I said to myself “Well, I get a sabbatical, I get some time off.” And as I’m sitting on the couch, what I realized is there are so many people stepping up, like first responders, doctors, and nurses, and people retooling and making masks, and a lot of people were doing some amazing things. So I thought, well, why am I sitting on the couch. I’m supposed to be helping people. So I started calling my clients, and many of them that I’d worked “What’s Going Well” with, they said, “Hey, we’re fine. We’re gonna focus on what’s going well. That’ll give us fuel to deal with any challenges coming forward.”

That was interesting, just getting that feedback from people. Like nine out of 10 said, “We’re going deep into what’s going well, looking for opportunities, looking to adjust.” I think that’s what people that will have success going forward will do. But one of the big keys here is, it’s so important for every individual listening to this: don’t farm alone. The myth of the singular genius, or, “I’ve got to do it by myself”, is wrong. Reach out to your friends, reach out to your family and get assistance, get help, because that’s how we pull through things. We actually need to rely on each other. What I noticed is people that didn’t do that, that isolated, they’re really hurt. I mean, depressed and all those things.

So what I say to people is, ask what’s going well, but make sure you reach out to your network and accept and receive help, because farming alone is not a thing to do. There are many other things I would say to that. But right away, I created some principles that I would live by through COVID. One of the first rules is having a healthy dose of forgiveness. Because this is my first pandemic, I forgive myself, I forgive you. It’s this huge thing people are going through. You’ve done it before, though. You have persons driving along, they have a student driver on their car, you kind of give them room you, give them grace, right? You go to the grocery store, somebody has an in-training on their badge and you give them grace. I think we need to give each other a little grace through the challenging time that folks are going through. If you’ve had success during the pandemic, and you’ve kind of made it, look back to reach and help somebody else.

Kirk Bachmann: I love that. I love extending grace, that’s beautifully said. From a personal perspective, Gretchen, my wife, and I are trying really hard to recognize… you know screentime is a thing for kids. And we asked our children to jump on the screen for a year, a year and a half in some cases, right? Now all of a sudden, we’re in summertime. For all intents and purposes schools over for a few months and the kids are really comfortable in front of the screen. So we have found it to be somewhat difficult, we have to catch ourselves, we have to be careful with you know, just pulling them away. Let’s temper them out of this again. So lots of sports, lots of outside activities. Do you think, in your opinion, during challenging times like a pandemic… do people find inspiration? Perhaps more so in a challenging environment versus a normal environment?

Greg Bell: I’m not sure I think that. Some people are like the people in the front row in my audiences, they’re always there. I think that you know, I like to speak to the back row, kind of that group that’s like not sure. But I’m not sure about that. I think that inspiration is interesting because… I like to describe this way: motivation comes from within, inspiration out. So you can get inspiration anywhere. I mean, go out in the woods and get inspiration. You can get it from me, you can get it from you. It’s like the motor in the car. The motor’s fine, but it needs fuel to go where you need.

I worked with a group one time, the CEO is hilarious. He said, “You know what you did for our group, that worked for a year. But after that, it didn’t work very well.” And I was thinking, “Man, it worked the whole year?” (laughter) But it was interesting, because his expectation was that it was going to be a lifetime of inspiration. I’m thinking, do you drive your car? You don’t just drive, you have to fuel it up. Even if it’s electric. I think people get confused about inspiration. And I think inspiration is, is one of those things where I get inspired by my audiences. I get inspired by reading other books, I get inspired by all kinds of ways, going into nature. Back to that refueling, you got to refuel your bucket. Yeah, I can keep watering.

Being Less Transactional

Kirk Bachmann: I’m ready to get the crops right there. I love it. I love it. I love it. You know, shifting a little bit, but not terribly far from the conversation. And not to put you on the spot: core relationships, either post-pandemic, or even pre-pandemic. Do you find in your work over the last two decades or so, that core relationships have changed over time?

Greg Bell: What do you mean by change?

Kirk Bachmann:Just the way I interact with my wife, the way I interact with you, the way I interact with students, employees – has it changed? Technology? Has that kind of informalized it a little bit? In college, we would walk together. If you had something to say, you just said it. That relationship was real. It was real-time. I have my own opinions. I think that… not that it’s wrong, I leverage social media and technology as much as I possibly can. But I think it’s made it easier. I text instead of a phone call, right? Sure.

Greg Bell: I think it’s an “and” world, in that regard. So if you ask yourself, do you want more transactions? Or do you want transformation? You know, you ask anybody, they’re gonna say, Well, I want transformation. Well, texting and sort of what you’re talking about can be really transactional. Like, we’re living these transactional relationships, and you have a transactional life, nothing transforms there. The math is different in transformation. So what do I mean by the math is different? Well, in transactions, one plus one is two. You give me a cup of coffee, and I pay for it. It’s just a simple transaction. Transformation happens differently, where one plus one is infinity. You give me an idea, I give you an idea. What does that give us? I started with one idea, I ended up with two, now you have two, those ideas marry, and then on and on and on, it just gets bigger and bigger and bigger.

It takes a little more time for transformation, it takes for me to know you a little bit better. It’s slowing down. Talking about like dining, that’s really the difference between dining and eating. Eating, you just scarf it down. Dining, we slow down. We enjoy ourselves, we break bread, drink wine, whatever it is, you can kind of slow it down a bit. And I think if you’re eating up your life, you’ll feel it in the end. Transformation, you’ll feel that too. And I think most people want kind of what you’re alluding to, like a way it was before. However, it’s an “and” world as I said. There are times where it’s good to send a text. There are times where it’s really important. I mean, actually, I text my girls that live in the Seattle area. I text them all the time. And sometimes it’s just asking them what’s going well, I’ll just say “Give me three things going well,” and what I get back is unreal.

Kirk Bachmann: I love that.

Greg Bell: Yeah, but it’s transactional. Sometimes I’m jumping on the phone after I get the text back, you know?

Kirk Bachmann: No, that’s a great way to look at it. I try to be super cognizant about that. I love the “and” versus the “or.” Because when you’re working with people every single day, you want to be respectful of how… I’m going to use the transaction versus transformation. I think that’s a great way to look at it.

Greg Bell: Yeah, it’s a good way for me to sort of measure how what I’m doing. I noticed that with a client, that I was being really transactional with a client. I thought, “Wait a minute, slow down.” Then I remember going back and getting on the phone with them. You know, I didn’t apologize or anything. I just sort of just made it more transformation. Because I was just being too hurried, moving too fast. It’s like, “Wait, slow down, what do these guys really need? What’s going on for their organization?” And then that’s when things started to move and change. It was very interesting, though. I think for the individuals listening, it’s good to just to kind of measure that. You being transactional with your wife, your partner or your kids. Sometimes that’s okay. You know, it’s a busy time, that’s okay. But ask yourself, is that really how you want to be with them? Most of the time, people are gonna go, “Whoa, I gotta slow down and look at him or her in the eyes every once in a while.”

Coaches vs. Cancer

Kirk Bachmann: Be a better farmer. Yeah it’s okay to slow down, have patience now. Hey, let’s talk Coaches vs. Cancer. Fascinating. I don’t know as much about that. That’s something you started or have been a part of for the last decade or so?

Greg Bell: Yeah, I don’t participate in it now. But I started back in like ’93. It was sort of a random idea. There’s a guy named Jerry Quick with American Cancer Society that I worked with. But we had this sort of wacky idea, it was kind of silly. I thought that if I could get coaches to participate in this, basketball coaches to participate in this, we could raise a lot of money. Like that was sort of this random idea. I tried to convince the American Cancer Society and the Coaches Association to do it. And I will say, when I say “I” anytime in this thing, it’s a small “I” because I had a lot of help.

But one of the things that was interesting is I told the American Cancer Society said, “Hey, if you got these coaches, it’d be just awesome.” They go, “Well, we have Relay for Life. Why do we want to do that?” And also I had no personal connection with cancer. Although some decades later, my father passed away of leukemia. So it was kind of interesting. I worked on this project but didn’t have any sort of connection with cancer in terms of a personal story. But it was interesting. So I convinced the American Cancer Society guys by saying that if you got the men’s coaches to do it, you get a whole different audience. And then I thought the coaches needed some PR, and they gave me a budget. They said, “Oh, give it a go.” They didn’t give me the budget I wanted. I actually bought a house in Lawrence, Kansas, sight unseen, 200 yards from Allen Fieldhouse. Allen Fieldhouse is where KU plays basketball. Because Roy Williams was the basketball coach at KU at the time. So I walked 200 yards every morning to Roy’s office and asked him to do stuff. He said yes to everything. He just retired from North Carolina.

But it was interesting, because I figured if I get Roy to do it, all the Big 12 coaches, I was just focused on the Big 12.

Kirk Bachmann: And a big voice in Roy, yeah.

Greg Bell: Just an amazing man. We got Norm Stewart also involved, University of Missouri, and the two of them really launched it. Without them, this program wouldn’t happen.

Kirk Bachmann: That is such a great story. I mean, $100 million. That’s phenomenal.

Greg Bell: Yeah. It may be more. But the cool thing about that was, it was so fun. The coaches are so competitive. We had the top 20 fundraisers. I remember, Syracuse was always one of the top teams. So we would print that in the coach’s rankings.

Kirk Bachmann: Coaches love stacked rankings, right? They love that.

Greg Bell: They wanted to be number one. And I think it was a Maryland coach, Coach Williams. Gary Williams.

Kirk Bachmann: Gary Williams, yeah.

Greg Bell: Once he won the National Championship, I mean, I’m watching this in my hotel room. His team won the national championship and they went up to him and said, “Hey, congratulations on winning a National Championship.” He says, “Before I talk about that, I want to talk about our work with Coaches vs. Cancer.” I fell out of my bed. I was like, “Oh, my God.” That just made…

Kirk Bachmann: I’ve got chills right now just hearing that.

Greg Bell: Yeah. So it was pretty cool. A great idea. And it still goes. I came back to Portland in ’97. I’m a starter, so I started it and American Cancer Society still runs it.

Kirk Bachmann: Yeah. Are you doing any coaching now? at all? You’re so busy, but…

Greg Bell: Not really. Like, I mean, I go watch my kiddo play. But you know…

Kirk Bachmann: Yeah, you try to keep your mouth shut. (laughter)

Greg Bell: Oh yeah. No way, man. It’s like, this is your game, you do it. (laughter) It’s kind of fun because you just go through stages. So having played basketball, and then have a kid that likes to play, it’s so wonderful just to watch or have a great experience. I love that the girl’s game has grown so much, so she’s having a lot of fun.

Kirk Bachmann: That’s wonderful. We got to talk a little Ducks, right? But does it make you smile when you see how wonderful… I mean, you’ve got the Nike piece, so the uniforms are great on the football field. They’re great on the basketball court. In the track, all of that. But, Oregon basketball is on the map, right? I mean it’s so good.

Greg Bell: It’s so good. Dana Altman has done such a great job. In fact, he had players back, you know, ex-players back, and he was so great about it. He goes, “Yeah, anytime you want to come to a game, come to a game.” He’s just so inclusive of all the ex-players because I always tell people that I played in the dark days of Oregon basketball compared to now.

Kirk Bachmann: Yeah, well, it was kind of dark in that court. The lights were really, really dim.

Greg Bell: Oh, it’s beautiful now.

Kirk Bachmann: Now, Dana hasn’t called me and invited me to the game. So come on, Greg. Come on. Hey, anything super cool that you’re working on right now that you can give us a sneak peek into?

Greg Bell: Being in a podcast with you is super cool. (laughter)

Favorite Dish

Kirk Bachmann: (laughter) How about that? How about that? Yeah. And you’re gonna address leadership at Escoffier here in a few weeks in Las Vegas. We are so, so excited about that. I always say to everyone, Greg’s part of the family now. He’s part of the family and it’s really beautiful. We really appreciate it.

We’ve only got a couple of minutes left, Greg, but I’m gonna make you a culinarian no matter what. You’re our leadership mentor, but I like to ask everyone, what in their mind is the ultimate dish. And again, it doesn’t have to be a specific dish. It could be how you like to eat or who you like to dine with. I love the dining versus eating analogy. In many ways, you already answered the question, but is there an ultimate dish in the Bell house?

Greg Bell: Easy for me, it’s salmon. Salmon, salmon, salmon.

Kirk Bachmann: Of course, Northwest. It’s prepared how?

Greg Bell: I like it in so many ways. It’s actually the salmon, I like. I like sockeye and I like Alaskan salmon. And so what’s interesting about it, you can grill it, you can barbecue it, you can do all kinds of things. But, what’s interesting is, I was thinking about that, for me, I remember asking my family, I said, “What food do you think I love?” and everybody just screams “Salmon!”

Kirk Bachmann: It’s salmon! And it’s good for you. That’s awesome. Do you do most of the cooking then?

Greg Bell: I would say I do a little bit. If it’s salmon, I’m probably gonna cook it. But it’s interesting about that is like, you know, back to this dining thing. And I really like spending time, with family meals. I think a lot of people in the pandemic are having family meals, but man, that’s my jam. We play board games or whatever, and that kind of stuff. Home is really important to me. I mean, it’s been a lot of time on the road, but I like being at home, just hanging out and dining with my fam.

Kirk Bachmann: You know, I love it. I love it. So we’ll be in Vegas soon. So I’m gonna have to find the right salmon dish for you. No pressure, no pressure.

Greg Bell: You don’t have to do that (laughter). But yeah, one of the things you were asking about, like, am I up to something… I have my own podcast, Water The Bamboo podcast. And it’s really fun and I may have to reverse this and have you on mine?

Kirk Bachmann: Anytime, and the way I look at this too, I hope you’ll come back. 35-45 minutes is not that long. And things change, life changes. Maybe we can dig a little deeper next time, get a little bit more specific, talk more, more sports. I absolutely love it. I know how busy you are. Are you taking off anywhere soon? In the next week or so?

Greg Bell: Heading to LA on Thursday. It’s kind of interesting with the world opening up and live programs opening up. I’m super pumped. But I have to say it’s kind of funny. I did a program. Live program. The first one. It was so awkward. The audience had masks on it. I couldn’t tell who was talking.

Kirk Bachmann: Or who was smiling, who’s crying.

Greg Bell: Yeah, it changes this thing though, man. It’s really interesting. The stages of change, being aware. And then you got to commit. And then there’s that pain and discomfort like, “Whoo.” I’m kind of experiencing that going back out.

Kirk Bachmann: Do you talk about that? When you’re on stage?

Greg Bell: Absolutely.

Kirk Bachmann: Might as well, right.

Greg Bell: From a leadership perspective, you understand that vulnerability is so important. Measured vulnerability, if it’s helpful to the audience. Yeah, certainly I like to talk about struggles. You remember the Wizard of Oz, you know, he’s behind the curtain. Don’t look behind the curtain.

Kirk Bachmann: Yeah, yeah. Oz.

Greg Bell: I let people behind the curtain a little bit in my life, because I think I don’t want to come off as like, holier than thou. It’s not true. There are struggles. And we all have to work on stuff. I have to ask myself what’s going well too. I have to really focus on that or what went well, so that I can keep watering as well.

Kirk Bachmann: Do people appreciate the transparency? I think they do.

Greg Bell: I hope so. You know, the ones that don’t, or they want it to be perfect. I try to get them to mess up. (laughter)

Kirk Bachmann: (laughter) Let’s bring it back down to earth. Fundamentals.

Greg Bell: I mean, chefs probably get this. You’re like an artist, right? You’re trying to figure out the right sauce and the way it goes, it’s not gonna be perfect every time. You want to be really good, but it might not be. But then get back on and keep watering and keep perfecting it.

Kirk Bachmann: Patience. Yeah, I love it. Well, we’re going to continue to water our bamboo. Got my bamboo right back here, right here next to the candle. And, Greg, thank you so much for joining us today. Always good to see you and I’ll see you in a few weeks. And all the best, Greg, thanks so much.

Greg Bell: Thank you.

Kirk Bachmann: Thank you for listening to The Ultimate Dish podcast brought to you by Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, visit us at escoffier.edu/podcast, where you’ll find any materials mentioned during the podcast including notes, links, and other resources. You can also browse other episodes and subscribe.

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