Phil Martin

My day job is being a professional speaker and I recently retired from Edgewood College after 24 years with their theater department.

Being “retired” is brand new—I’m just six months into it. I always felt I wasn’t going to retire from something; I was going to retire to something.

In my new role, my goal is to help people make better connections. As an actor, a director, a designer, my goal was to tell a story and connect with an audience. That ability to connect is something that will benefit anyone who wants better productivity, more creativity and more stability in their workforce.

There are a number of reasons why I feel the skills and experiences I gained in theater translate well to other fields.

One, is that as an actor or director, you need to know who you are. I used to teach a class for seniors who were about to graduate and go out into the real world. I always told them, “You’ll be given a lot of opportunities to do something that’s on the edge of your ethical, comfortable nature. You need to know who you are ahead of time—to think those things through before you get in that situation.”

Next, you have to become a good listener. We have this idea that listening is passive—you’re letting something else do all the talking. But good listening is very active. You often hear the phrase, “Talk so people will listen.” I like to flip that to, “Listen, so people will talk.”

If you are really there in the moment, you’ll have the chance to study characters and learn what makes people tick. You’ll build your EI—emotional intelligence—and learn how to connect.

I remember when I was in my 20s in theater and my fellow actors and I would get together and say, “We don’t need an audience—we can find a garage and just put on a play for ourselves.”

We were wrong! The audience and the interaction were 50% of the experience.

After 24 years of teaching theater, I would sometimes find myself questioning whether I was teaching something of value—after all, these kids were paying a lot of money for their education.

What I came to realize is that I’m teaching people skills. No matter what job these kids eventually did, they were learning about people and they could take that anywhere.

My most memorable caffeine is the smell of coffee in the morning. My wife and I don’t drink coffee, so that smell means our kids are home. And that is wonderful!

My current caffeine of choice is Diet Coke.

My favorite place for caffeine is one of two. Two of my kids worked at Barriques, so that’s a place I enjoy. The other would be around a campfire. Our kids all sing, some play guitar and we sit and write songs and drink hot chocolate together.

The people I’d love to share a cup of caffeine with are Anthony Newley and Gerald Ford.

Anthony wrote a lot of musicals and starred in some of them. He had a very affected voice and style, and his plays were very theatrical. I got to see him once in Vegas—wonderful! He and Petula Clarke were the Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland of England. There’s just something about his writing and performing that hits me right.

Gerald Ford became president when the whole political scheme was turned upside down. There was no trust in the government, and it was just a terrible time. He came in honestly and authentically and just did the right things to calm down the country. He was very transparent and had photographers and newspapers with him all the time. It was just an amazing feat and I’d love to sit down and talk to him about it.

World problem that could be solved with the right amount of caffeine: Sit around the table and really listen and connect. We are so divided. If we could quit taking sides, really listen and connect, that’s what I’d really like to see happen.