March 2021 Neighborhood Magazine Story
I was honored to be selected as the so-called “cover star” for the March, 2021 edition of a little magazine in my neighborhood, “Sutton Place Social”, on the East side of Manhattan. Can’t resist sharing their very generous article ….
MEET MIKE GREENLY
March brings springtime and new beginnings. So this month we introduce you to a man who’s made many new beginnings on his journey to Sutton Place South, where he’s lived for decades while continuing to explore still more new beginnings as his life evolves.
When Mike Greenly boarded a Greyhound bus to come north to Manhattan from his hometown of Beaufort, SC, he was already a theater lover. He had worked here as a clerk-typist between his junior and senior years at Duke, and during that time he saw 21 plays that summer and took a playwrighting course in the Village. Now he was back with excitement — he realized that he wouldn’t work as a playwright, but that becoming an executive would at least let him afford tickets to shows.
His first job in the city consisted of three years of book publishing at Scholastic, Inc. Then, determined to lift himself, two years of marketing training at Lever Brothers in the “fiercely competitive” world of detergents and toothpastes, all while going to NYU night school for six years where he earned an MBA with Distinction in Marketing & International Marketing.
During those years of study, he made another new beginning, moving to Avon Products – then the world’s No. 1 beauty company and No. 1 direct seller. Eventually, he was in charge of creating 300 new products a year, then publishing 22 million Avon brochures every two weeks. Finally, he led the company’s many meetings & events where he had to overcome his “stage fright” in that highly motivational organization. Despite being an introvert, he learned to speak effectively and motivate an audience of thousands.
Still more new beginnings were ahead for him. Secretly, he’d been planning to leave and become a full-time psychotherapist, already receiving professional training. He began going to therapy at Duke, which helped him overcome the emotional bruises of having been taunted as “the Dirty Jew Boy” in South Carolina. Psychotherapy helped Mike embrace his authenticity and support others in being themselves, too. Before he could quit to be a therapist, Avon made him the youngest V.P. in their history, so he decided to remain with the company.
After reading Future Shock by Alvin Toffler, Mike realized that the world was entering a new Information Age. He knew that Avon (and he, himself) needed to learn proactively about these new devices called “computers.” He shared that recommendation with the company’s executive team and they bought him an early Apple II computer so he could dip into the barely emerging online world and help Avon become part of it. Soon he began “meeting” people across the globe via his keyboard.
Mike stayed for several more years, while becoming an early pioneer in online communications. Ultimately he left corporate life and gained a reputation as what TIME magazine called “planet earth’s first interactive electronic journalist.” He was the first to cover the Democratic and Republication conventions and Hollywood’s Academy Awards via computer. Readers around the world followed his coverage, sending comments and questions via their own computers, whether from Tokyo or Tennessee.
Today he makes his living as a writer of executive speeches, PowerPoints, videos and more, as well as being a presentation coach – sharing with execs and their teams what he learned about overcoming stage fright in order to speak comfortably and effectively to an audience of thousands. What’s more, having helped to write songs for Avon sales meetings, Mike has also become a lyricist. He’s the author of Virginia’s state anthem, “Our Great Virginia,” along with many Billboard Dance/Club hits (including four No. 1’s), choral songs, country tunes and more.
One of Mike’s greatest new beginnings was his move to New York. “I’ve lived all over the City,” he says, “but I feel especially lucky to be right here in Sutton Place. To me, it’s the best of both City and Local. Very close to Broadway (Come back soon!) and elegant restaurants but with warm, friendly neighbors. Even my beloved Tal Bagels on First Ave. What’s more, ‘60’ – as we residents of 60 Sutton Place South happily call it – has what I consider the best driveway in New York City. I proudly brag about it to taxi drivers!”
I’d like to make you aware of one of the most important projects I’ve ever been part of: the recently published book, SHARING COMMON GROUND. I was asked to co-write it by Billy Keyserling – successful three-term mayor of Beaufort, SC who’s now making a different contribution. The impact of this book can help reduce racism against Black people. (For real.)
I grew up in Beaufort taunted as a child as “The Dirty Jew Boy” in the heavily Southern Baptist town. I know what anti-Semitism feels like, and, as a result, I felt empathy with the Black community early on. Some of my songs as a lyricist have won awards and recognition for promoting a greater understanding of diversity … to help reduce racism, misogyny, homophobia, ageism, etc.
I’m blessed to be an American “with freedom and justice for all” … passionately promoting fairness and eliminating prejudice using my one main gift in life: My Friends, The Words. Which brings me to my song about equality, created with Gil Polk and called “Common Ground”.
I was honored that Mayor Billy asked me to co-write a book with a title inspired by the song. Called “Sharing Common Ground: Promises Unfulfilled but Not Forgotten,” it directs us to the achievements of formerly enslaved Blacks during the Reconstruction era of American history (1885-1877.) It urges that those achievements be more actively taught to middle school children – and not just in S.C.
When Black people were stolen from their homes in Africa, they brought their inherent intelligence and skills. Under President Lincoln’s leadership, there were hundreds of thousands of these so-called “freedmen” in the South who were finally able to draw on their innate capabilities. These former slaves’ successes, however, are largely unknown today. They don’t have to be.
The more kids learn what Black people accomplished, the more respect they will have for them. That respect for diversity will draw us close together as a society. Learning to be more united and mutually supportive by reducing racism against Black people will make America even stronger as a whole.
You can buy the book on the website above or, of course, on amazon.
And if you happen to be with a media outlet, I’d encourage you to interview Mayor Billy first-hand. He really knows his stuff and I’d be happy to connect you!
My Latest Use of Words: “You’re The One”
I’m grateful to have learned early on about My Friends, The Words. I sounded out my first poem at the age of four without yet knowing how to read or write … and I kept on going from there.
Having been a Fortune 500 Marketing & Communications VP, I find it deeply satisfying that I’m able to use my skills, knowledge and executive experience to help other execs and teams today. I’m the “secret weapon” who writes their speeches, PowerPoints and video scripts along with ghostwriting their articles, editorials – even books. I’ll coach them in how to be more effective on-stage. I’d never have risen in corporate life if I hadn’t learned to overcome “stage fright”, the performance anxiety that’s secretly common among so many of us. And I’ve also become a motivational speaker myself.
But when I’m not using The Words in corporate life, I’m love using them as a lyricist. Now I’m proud and excited about a just-released Dance/Club song of mine: “You’re The One”. Written with Audrey Martells and Scott Williamson, it’s a Dub Shine track performed by Deborah Magone.
Here’s how it happened ….
I was introduced to Scott – artistically known as Dub Shine – by my friend and colleague, Curtis Urbina, a music business exec for many years and head of the Quark Music Group. Curtis connected me to Scott in the belief that we might discover synergy … which is exactly what happened.
Scott’s dad was a computer programmer and technology was everywhere in his house. The family focus on electronics led Scott to discover electronic music. He had been fascinated by Electro, House and Hip Hop music. Sci-fi movies like “Star Wars” and “Alien” further attracted hm to technology, as did electronic music producers like Kraftwerk. Soon he became a DJ, mixing 12” vinyl back in the day.
Already I’ve written lyrics to three Dub Shine tracks for the Dance/Club market. “You’re The One” is our first to reach the public.
When I’m writing a client’s presentation, my job is to capture the way he or she expresses their vision … then to express it for them, better than they could do without me as their secret weapon. The content is waiting inside my client’s head and heart; I just have to pull it out of them and express it with impact. My marketing tagline for this service is “Sound Like You … Only Better.”
When I write lyrics for a song, I also get inspiration from others … like a simple phrase I hear in conversation and jot down as a potential song title. But often it’s just my own heart I listen to … as was the case with “You’re The One.”
The moment I heard Scott’s instrumental track begin, a self-announcing repeat of three beats commanded my attention: dah-dah-dah … dah-dah-dah. So even before I began to hear his music – pure instrumental, no vocals yet – I was already inspired by those three beats to have a three-word title.
But what three words? Well, I listened to my heart.
I’m now blessed to be in the relationship of my lifetime. One of the things I most care about in life is being authentic – having grown up afraid to be myself and having been bullied for it. So there’s a perpetual awareness in my mind of how lucky I am to have found someone who could handle the happily driven workaholic that I am. I’ve found “the one” who can take me as I am. Hence a love song to the person that matters the most to me on earth … and in celebration of everyone who is lucky enough to find that kind of love.
That was the inspiration, but I co-wrote the song with Scott and Audrey Martells – herself an artist and songwriter who’s worked with Celine Dion, Mary J. Blige, Jewel and others. Since Audrey was already committed to other projects, I created a video of her initial demo of my words. I then posted it with a private link on YouTube, broadcasting the video on Facebook and the fact I was looking for an artist with the time and talent to develop the demo song further.
Deborah Magone saw my post and quickly responded with interest. Scott and I are fortunate to have found her. Deborah is an accomplished artist, musician, songwriter, producer and radio host. Here is how she describes her journey.
“I’ve been a professional singer, songwriter, guitarist, instructor for a long time trying to go the usual route in the business. For me as a woman, the barriers can still be great and disappointing, especially in the blues rock genre I was in. So in the past few years, I’ve shifted my focus. I decided I only wanted to work with people who are doing good, positive things globally with their music.
“That decision led to my being invited to play on the soundtrack for ‘One Little Finger’, a multi award-winning independent film by Rupam Sarma, scored by Quincy Jones and Julian Lennon among a long list of many other talented creatives. Then came an invitation to perform in a weekend concert sponsored by the United Nations Center for Peace and so on. More gratifying experiences started occurring.
Deborah heard the demo as a result of a post I had shared in a networking group for music people on Facebook. It’s called The Indie Collaborative and was founded by music pro’s Grant Maloy Smith and Eileen Sherman. As Deborah describes her reaction, “I was inspired by the hook, and the positive, empowering energy of the music. I immediately saw in my mind the song’s potential for inspiring others and the overall good feeling the song generated. I contacted Mike and Scott and it was game on! Their goals and values are similar to mine, so I’m looking forward to a positive, productive collaboration that will have a global impact.”
Myself, I feel quite fortunate that Deborah fell in love with the song and is now a partner with Scott and me on other new songs in the works. “You’re The One” is just the beginning. It was released on Nov. 4, 2020 by Bentley Records, the international record label led by Luca Dayz. Luca, himself, is an award-winning R&B recording artist, singer and songwriter while also being the label’s CEO.
Luca Dayz – CEO Bentley Records
The Bentley staff cares about personal service which I experienced even as a newbie, with my first song with them. I now have real relationships with pro’s I may never meet in person. Not all of these professionals are based in New York City; some live and work halfway around the world. But I’ve gotten to know and appreciate not only Luca but also Stephanie in Support and Dila in Publishing.
Many of the folks who might read this are way too young to remember a group called The Carpenters and their song, “We’ve Only Just Begun”. But that is how I feel and I couldn’t be more delighted. Here’s a video of our trio’s first collaboration, ‘You’re The One”. I hope you’ll enjoy it!
From Stage Fright to the Power of Authenticity
This is to share the story of my journey and the difference it made to my professional success and personal happiness. These days I use the insights I’ve gained to help me write effective speeches and PowerPoints for others and/or to coach them – from CEOs and their teams to Fathers of the Bride – on achieving greater comfort, confidence and impact with an audience.read more →
Professional Speechwriter Shares His Secrets
NOTE: In addition to the text below, a podcast interview with me about how to be a speechwriter can be heard at this link, with my thanks to Jim Frawley of bellwetherhub.com:
And now, what follows are some proven tips based on experience ….
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