The cavnessHR podcast – A talk with Sonny Tannan
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“Through the Eyes of Om: Exploring Malaysia” by Sonny Tannan
Jason: Hello, and welcome to the cavnessHR Podcast. Our guest today is Sonny Tannan. Sonny, are you ready to be great today?
Sonny: Absolutely, Jason. Thanks for having me.
Jason: When United States Marine Corps veteran, award-winning business developer, and philanthropist, Sonny Tannan, was offered the opportunity to become one of LinkedIn's first video content creators. He began developing a LinkedIn article and video series called "Through the Eyes of Om". Lessons taken from raising his son encourages others to approach the world with a little more creativity and curiosity. As #Fansof3, Sonny and Om catch moments of insight from their day to day lives and gives readers three takeaways to encourage others to focus, collaborate, and inspire. The first book, "Through the Eyes of Om", Exploring Malaysia is set to release in March of 2019. They use curiosity and insight to tell the stories of Om's very first visit to his mother's home country. The hope is to inspire children and their parents to live life with curiosity and enthusiasm for what's to come.
Jason: Sonny, thank you very much for being here. I really appreciate it.
Sonny: Jason, thanks so much. That was a beautiful introduction. I don't know if I could have done it any better myself, so thank you.
Jason: So what gave you the idea to write a book based through the eyes of your son?
Sonny: Yeah. That's a really great question. So I actually have to go back almost a year and some change, so September of 2017, I was invited to be part of a beta group for LinkedIn Video. Jason, if you and I had talked a little over a year ago, we probably wouldn't have this type of conversation, so it all came from being a part of LinkedIn Video. What do I mean by that? I created videos with my son Om, who is now three years old, and our main goal was just to share life through the perspective of Om, my three-year-old, and his dad. What ended up happening was we started sharing things about life, the business world, professional, personal, and it was things that I observed at his level or as best as possible as a three-year-old can observe it.
Sonny: So the video, this series just became, I think, so wildly popular that I had enough people start to say, "Have you ever thought about writing a book?" Where I said, "You know what? That's a great thing. I need to commit to something like that." That's why we decided to write a children's book called Through the Eyes of Om.
Jason: So has the process of writing a children's book been harder or easier than you thought it was going to be?
Sonny: Oh gosh. Definitely harder. There's no doubt. Number one, I think that I've had more people reach out to me that have said, "I've been thinking about writing a book." I've had people that have reached out and said, "I have a book written out, I just don't know what to do with it." Interesting enough, I just had a conversation today with someone who has written 8 books and part of the reason why we connected was somebody else thought that we would be a great connection to help each other out where I was going to learn from somebody who's already an author, and I wanted to share some of the experiences that I was having today,. Especially in social media, LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, just to say, "Here's what I see might work well," based on the challenges that she was facing.
Sonny: So it's definitely been harder, but it's been so much more rewarding because I'm getting a chance to put something down on paper that is inspirational to others. But it also gives other people a glimpse into what is possible. So for instance, our books currently are about travel, but who knows, there may be a cooking book with Om. There may be something that has a component of charity and give back because that's very important to our family. So it's just looking at the world with the curiosity of a child and not losing that.
Jason: In the creative collaboration process with your son, is it 80% you, 20% your son? Is it 50/50? How does that work?
Sonny: So when Om gets old enough to watch this video, Om, it's definitely all about you, brother. He is 80% Om. I could not create these videos and have this channel, if you will, without Om. He is what makes this show. So for example, somebody asked me this question, they said, "Well, how many takes do you take for your video?" I said, "We actually do every single video in one take." Now, that being said, 95% of the time we put a video out because I have learned that I have to be respectful to even a three-year-old, right? If he says, "I don't want to create a video ... " And look, not every kid, let alone an adult is going to have a great moment. If he looks like he is uncomfortable and just doesn't want to be on a video, we stop and that's it. We don't have a video for the day.
Sonny: So I would say 95% of the time, we record a video, but I can recall a couple of instances when he has said, "Dad, I don't want to record a video," and we don't do it. But the videos are all about him, his interaction, something that maybe I observed throughout the day or throughout the week, or something that we just hit record, and he just ... he has some great things that are coming out, and as he starts to gain in vocabulary and mannerisms and just articulation. I just kind of let it flow with him. So I kind of prompt him and just follow along with him now. He's going to take over one of these days, Jason.
Jason: So how do deal with this? You're doing a video with your son, how is it to the effect that this video might be seen by my son in 20 years? Is it going to be a positive impact, a negative impact? What is the future implication for me if I release this video?
Sonny: Yeah. Great question. So I've had positives and negatives, right? So I've had folks reach out and say, "He doesn't have the ability or the opportunity to make a decision." You know what? Absolutely right. He doesn't. The minute he turned to me and said, "Dad, you know what? I don't want to make a video. I'm done." I have to respect that, and of course, I'm going to try and ration through it and understand why he doesn't want to do it. But my vision, my dream is this is the brand, so "Through the Eyes of Om", that's his brand.
Sonny: I'm just trying to create a legacy or a tradition where it's his dad hanging out with his son. We're creating this bond. We're sharing these moments, good, bad, everything in between with people that are out there. You don't have a parent to appreciate what we're doing. Somebody that's in HR can appreciate this. It's how do you interact, and how do you engage with team members and people across generations, across cultures, across just having this central theme of what is the right thing to do.
Sonny: So 20 years from now if Om opens up these videos, I would love for him to first of all, before that happens. I know he's just going to take over and do this on his own anyway. But 20 years from now, I have no doubt he's going to look at it and be like, "Dad, god, you embarrassed me. I can't believe you actually put that out there." I say this specifically because the very first video that we created together, it was over, I believe, Labor Day, yeah. September 11th and his mom was at work, and we were both hanging out in our living room, and it was just this really cool moment where we're hanging out on the couch, and I was like, "Let me just hit record."
Sonny: We go through this little thing where I'm talking, and he kind of comes up behind me. He jumps on my shoulders, and there's a little bag of medical equipment. So like a toy stethoscope, and he puts it on, and he's like ... he can't speak very well at that point, I think he was one and a half or two. He's like, "Dad, I'm going to check your heart." and he's checking my heart there, and his mom is a doctor. So he's sitting here doing that, and I'm looking at the video. I'm like, "How perfect is this? This kid doesn't even know any better, and he's already got his sights set on bigger and better things." So 20 years from now, I have no doubt that whatever he does, he's going to leave the world a better place. He's going to look at these videos and laugh and be like, "Oh man. Gosh. That was a lot of fun, but Dad, I'm so much cooler now and I'm so much better now."
Jason: So you talked about this a little bit, how much negative feedback have you received by doing this?
Sonny: Not a whole bunch. I think, interesting enough, there have been a few people, and it's been same thing. I could probably count it on one hand. So when we started roughly a year and a half ago, we had about 500 people in our network. As of last week, we probably have about 10,500. So a small percentage of about 5 people from that roughly 10,000 new followers has been pretty minimal. It's been more things ... people attacking the character of a parent, so saying, "I can't believe you as a parent is putting your kid on social media and on our technology." For me, I have to respect other people's opinions, right? Everybody is entitled to their opinion no matter how right or wrong, or maybe they just don't have a clear understanding. For me, it's kind of explaining to them, to let them know that, look, if my son says no, even at three, or at that time it was two, I'm going to respect him enough to turn off the video and not put him on it.
Sonny: I think the other one that some people have said it's just about the interaction of technology and kids. I think it's just people just don't understand that the generation that's coming up now, and even the ones that are going to come after us. Technology is a critical part of their life. I mean it is how they're going to communicate, how they're going to interact. It's going to shrink the world. It's going to make it so much smaller. I think it's just a lack of understanding and not understanding that ... or not having a comprehension that technology is here and just because you might not have grown up with it doesn't mean that the next generation doesn't engage and interact and that's the way that they communicate. So I think it's hard for people to change. So that's been a lot of the negative criticism is that I think most of the time they just don't understand that technology is here, social media is here and that's how the new generation wants to communicate. We have to learn.
Jason: Sonny, on your LinkedIn, it says, "Focus, collaborate, and inspire to bring clarity to others." Can you define what that means and how you do that?
Sonny: Yeah. Absolutely. So the number one thing that I always tell friends, family, if they're clients, if they're just people who we're having a conversation with, I almost ultimately come down to this one point: if you don't have a focus for yourself, who else is going to have that? What I mean by that is this: there's a lot of noise out there today. and there's a lot of great books, a lot of great speakers, a lot of great thoughts, a lot of great articles. There's a ton of information that can be consumed like that, but if you haven't figured the focus ... so our hashtag, Om and I, our hashtag is Fansof3, so if you haven't figured out your focus first, then you really should probably take a step back from everything else that you're doing and figure out what that is.
Sonny: Collaboration is the second part of that conversation because you're not going to be able to accomplish things on your own. Now, that doesn't mean necessarily that you have to have a partner in crime, or you've got to have somebody that's going to be a co-founder of an organization with you or somebody that you have to share your deepest and darkest secrets. But collaboration simply means there are plenty of people out there that have either done it, made some mistakes, been successful at it, or maybe even better, are going to be a perfect compliment to what may be your weakness is. Or your strength might compliment a weakness of theirs and you can really just create something really wonderful together. So collaboration is open to that regardless of what a title says, what the experience says, regardless of what their culture, background, gender. Just be open minded about collaboration.
Sonny: Inspiration is about ... if you're not doing something that you're passionate about ... I think a lot of us are probably out there saying, "Well, this is what I wanted to be when I grew up," or, "This is a dream or vision that I could do, but I don't have time," or, "My family is taking this," or "My business is taking this." Well, if you're not doing what you truly enjoy and that you're passionate about or something that makes you get up in the morning and say, "Yep. I'm ready to get back at it and do it," well, then I'd really ask you to take a closer look at focus, the collaboration, and then the inspiration of things because it shouldn't just be about you. You should also be inspiring other people to achieve greater and bigger things regardless of what that looks like to them.
Sonny: My goal, especially for Om, is I want him to leave this world a better place. I want him to aspire to be a better version of me. I want to aspire to help him. I want to help enable him to get to that level and be a better person at the end of the day.
Jason: Sonny, also on your LinkedIn it says that your passion is to help bring out the best in others. But my question is this: how do you convince people to make the best investment in themselves because some people whatever their attitude or something else ... they might say they want to bring the best of themselves, but their actions are not really saying they want to bring out the best of themselves. How do you convince them to be the best of themselves?
Sonny: Yeah. Jason, you probably just answered exactly what I would have said is that people can talk. Once again, there's a lot of noise. People can say a lot of things. The actions are what define them. I think ... actually, a few of my favorite leaders when I was serving in the Marine Corps, when I was active, were the leaders that they didn't just lead, right, they led to be followed. But they were the first ones that were out there. They were leading from the front and I think that how do you convince people to do that, it's simply to take action. It's don't just say what you're going to say, do what you're going to do. Walk the walk.
Sonny: Every person is different also. There's some leaders that lead quietly. There's some people that are absolutely enthusiastic and out front and charismatic, and they're the center of the crowd, They can absolutely magnetize and bring people together. So I think there's a variety of leaders that are out there. But the number one thing, to answer your question about how do people implement that change, is you can't be afraid of change. If you're worried about changing other people, make sure you're the person that is changing first. Don't ask other people to do something that you're not willing to do yourself. Those are the leaders that I respected the most. Those are the leaders I learned from the most were the ones that were willing to do something before asking someone to do it for them.
Jason: Sonny, moving on, can you tell us about a time you were successful in the past where you learned from the success and what we can learn?
Sonny: So I'm just going to flash this out here, this is my greatest success, and the focus was ... once again, a year, year and a half ago, if you had said, Sonny, are you going to be an author of a children's book?" I never would have said yes. There's no way that would have happened, but I've always had this passion of storytelling, this passion of writing. My greatest success is not something I accomplished on my own, it's because of Om. It's because of my wife. It's because of my family. It's about having this support of ... when I said this is something that I want to do, it was having the support and doing the due diligence to make sure that if I took this leap of faith to chase after something that was a dream of mine that my family was going to be taken care of and that we were going to be financially secure and that from a time perspective. I was going to give the same amount of time and energy to my family while this project was being completed. So for me, today, one of my greatest successes, March 5, 2019, is when we officially launch, is going to be the day that we actually launch this, but I couldn't have done it without Om and my wife and the support of my family.
Jason: How long did the process take you to write the book?
Sonny: That's a good question. So the short version for this podcast is probably about a year. I think it was January of 2018 on LinkedIn, there was a hashtag campaign that was started by a few LinkedIn members. I think it was called In It Together. One of the things they asked was throw out a big goal that you're going to accomplish in 2018, and so in January, I threw out a goal. I said I'm going to publish my first book. Well, gosh, now it's out on social media and now I've made this commitment and if I make a commitment, I've got to hold to it. So from the moment that I put that out there, I had an idea of what I was going to do. But in my mind, I was going to have my first book published before the end of 2018.
Sonny: So we took a global trip for about seven weeks. We were going to travel the world in the month of, I think it was, June or July to August, and so I said before I leave the borders of the United States ... We were going to be going around the world. I said before we leave the borders of the United States, I will hit submit on my script and submit it to my publisher. Because once that was done, that process was started. The reason I did that, Jason, was because I had heard too many times from people that have said, "We want to do this. We want to do that." Time flies by, and all of the sudden, you've now missed your opportunity. I had to make that conscious decision of was I committed enough to focused, find the right partners to collaborate, and then be inspired to complete that project. From probably start to finish about a year to write, illustrate, get it published, and then to launch it.
Jason: Sonny, next can you talk about a time you failed in the past, what you learned from this process and what we can learn?
Sonny: I will share something that was maybe not a failure from this exact process. But I'll talk about a failure as a parent that actually happened just recently to me. So one of the best things about being a dad is you have to learn, and you have to learn at the speed of light. Jason, do you have any kids?
Jason: Yes. Yes.
Sonny: How many kids do you have?
Jason: Three, but they're all grown though.
Sonny: Okay. So you've learned on each one of those kids something a little bit different. You probably didn't make the same mistakes that you did with the first one, second one, or maybe even the third one. You were like, "Okay. I know. I'm a parent. I've done this twice now, so I know what I'm doing here now," right?
Sonny: So for me, I have one. So I'm figuring it out as we go. Now, luckily, I have an extremely intelligent and super just down to earth wife that is guiding me along the way. But the failure that I had recently was Om actually was trying to communicate something to me. I didn't actually translate it. So I didn't actually understand what he was trying to say. So instead of asking him what he meant or trying to understand what he was trying to articulate, I just guessed at it based on my own experience.
Sonny: The failure was not understanding what he was communicating. It turns out it was the exact opposite. So for example, he was telling me that there was something that he wanted and what he really meant was there was something that was so important to him that if he didn't get it it was going to upset him. Being able to have that level of EQ or IQ to say, "Okay. Tell me. Help me to understand what it is that you want to do," or, "What is it that you're trying to communicate with me?" So just having that extra one conversation or one extra sentence to say, "Explain to me what it is that's important to you," and looking at it from his perspective, literally, through the eyes of Om. I probably would have had a better conversation with him.
Sonny: The good news was I continued to learn from it, and so today, literally, before I came on this podcast. We had almost the exact same scenario where I said, "Om, what is it that you're really trying to convey?" It turns out he just wanted a particular car that he thought was missing and meant the world to him. We just had to go find it, and once he had it, the world was perfect for him. So it's just listening.
Jason: So Sonny, I'm going to fixate on LinkedIn for a minute. For LinkedIn, what's your point of view on LinkedIn right now? Do you think they're headed in the right direction? Because sometimes it's like they want to become a combination of Facebook or Instagram. On one hand, is it great that anyone can post content? Is it a bad thing that everyone can post content? What's your point of view on that?
Sonny: Yeah. That's a great question. So I would kind of throw the question back out to the audience. I mean if you think about it, in any industry, there's always kind of the big players. There's always ones that are kind of creating that entry to market, and I think that LinkedIn. What I absolutely love with the team, with the people that we've met there. Just the feel that they have is that I don't think there's any other social media platform that's so uniquely positioned as they are right now in terms of who is on their platform. So you mentioned a couple other ones, so Instagram, a totally, not a totally, but a pretty varied audience of who's there and what they're trying to accomplish.
Sonny: You have to remember LinkedIn is a professionals network, right? So that data that's on there are business owners, or influencers, or decision-makers, and there's a bunch of creators that are coming on there now. Where they are all trying to become subject matter experts because their target audience exists on that network. I think where you see a little bit of a challenge is, you mentioned this earlier, are they trying to be a Facebook? Are they trying to be an Instagram? Well, no, I think LinkedIn is doing what all the other social media sites are doing. For example, Instagram Live TV or Facebook Live. So LinkedIn doesn't have a live version, which I'm sure that's going to roll out at some point because people want to see what's going on in the moment.
Sonny: Groups, so Facebook does a really nice job of groups. Instagram, not really there yet because they're more of a just kind of showcasing and just engaging the audiences. But at some point, LinkedIn is going to figure out how to mobilize and engage groups a little bit better. Otherwise, people are going to go to different platforms. They're trying to tie in ... WhatsApp and Instagram, they're trying to tie their platforms a little bit better. So there was an article out on Facebook recently where we may see some changes. I think that the goal though is how do you make the platform extremely user friendly, easy to use. I don't think most people realize ... LinkedIn has a little over 575 million users around the world. So I don't think anybody ever realized how many people would be using social media to consistently keep in touch with one another or to find business opportunities.
Sonny: I think the most important thing, of course, is security nowadays. So how secure is that information and what kind of information do you want to put out there. I think it's a really great time to be on LinkedIn right now, especially LinkedIn Video. There's a lot more content today and probably in the next two to three years, that's going to be consumed via video. So if you're not on there today, start looking at it, start following, start trying to create and think about what you want to do for yourself. Most importantly, don't be afraid because people want to see you. People want to engage just like this. That's like the authentic messaging. It's how you brand yourself and brand your organization. It's not just about the brand itself, it's about the people. So video is extremely popular right now, and I think it's going to just keep being more and more so.
Jason: I think the challenge for LinkedIn is this: I know a lot of people who look for jobs, they go on LinkedIn. So they find one, and they drop off. How do you keep these people on LinkedIn when they don't need it, so to speak?
Sonny: Yeah. That's an interesting question because that's exactly what you want is you want people coming back. You want to create kind of this feeling, this community. This vibe of you found success somewhere and how do you come back on there. So from an HR perspective, or even a recruiter's perspective, or a company's perspective. It's how do you engage your talent. So not only bringing people on and vetting them out and bringing them on. But how do you enable them to be the champion of your own brand? I think that's all about culture. I think that has to do with how you teach and show and give the opportunity. Especially to the generation of who the next leaders are going to be.
Sonny: So how do you get them to do that? I think on LinkedIn you're absolutely right. Same thing, if you'd asked me this question probably three or four years ago, I was on there. I just had a CV on there, had a resume. I was trying to find the executives who I wanted to get into the company and talk with and get time behind closed doors. I think today what I've learned most is by creating videos or creating my own brand. Before I ever walk into a room, it's very common that people already know who I am. They already know the message that I'm conveying because I've let them into my own home. I've let them see a piece of something that's personal to me, my family. So they know who they're about to do business with and regardless of what anybody says, every business decisions has some commodity of emotionality. It has something to do with personality. So you may have the greatest product or service or you may think you're the best fit for a company. But if somebody goes on there, and they look at it, and they don't appreciate maybe your political views or maybe some of the things that you're posting on there. It doesn't matter if you're the best candidate on paper. You have to be the right fit, I think, more so today for the culture and the team that you're going to be fitting in.
Jason: Sonny, are you able to provide the link to your book that's being released?
Sonny: Absolutely. So it will be on eyesofom.com. You can connect with me on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook. You can just Google "Eyes of Om", and most importantly, just shoot me a message. I'm always happy to communicate and coordinate and have a conversation with people. If I can help you out or if you think that there's something we can work on together ever, don't be shy. Even if it's not with me, if you're looking for help or trying to find somebody I can connect you with, I'm always happy to have a conversation and see what I can do to help you out.
Jason: Sonny actually has a calendly link on his LinkedIn profile. So you're talking about making it easy to connect with someone.
Sonny: That's the goal. I certainly appreciate the fact that you went out there and you took a look at it because I try to make it as easy as possible, especially for those that are willing to just take the extra minute.
Jason: For our listeners, we'll have the links to his social media, his book recommendations, and his own book on the show notes. You can find the show notes at www.cavnesshrblog.com. Sonny, we've come to the end of our talk, can you provide me with any last minute wisdom or advice on any subject you want to talk about?
Sonny: Yeah. Absolutely. So first of all, Jason, I want to say thank you and congratulations and kudos to you, I think, was it last year that you won an award for, best What was it? It
Jason: Best veteran business competition I was in.
Sonny: That's what it was.
Sonny: Kudos to you because, first of all, if you're listening to this then clearly you think enough about either myself or Jason to tune in. I would say this, I get the sense that, Jason, you're one of those people that actually wants to make a difference in the world as well. You want to do it methodically and thoughtfully, and so my tip is something that is, I hope, easy enough and something that any person can take regardless of where you are in life. If you're just coming into a job, if you're just trying to get a job, maybe you're retired and you're just enjoying life, you're a parent, whatever it may be. My tip is this: don't be afraid. Don't be afraid of change. Be a leader in your own special way. Inspire to do more good for yourself and for others. I think when you do that, and you're inclusive of other people, I think that ultimately you're going to find success.
Jason: Sonny, thank you for your time today. I really appreciate it. You've got a lot going on. To our listeners, thank you for your time as well and remember to be great every day.