As a conservative estimate, I have heard my fair share of motivational/guest speakers over the last decade.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Along the many thousands of miles I have traveled all over the globe, I have picked up some highly usable tidbits from said speakers.

Such was the case at the end of 2019 at the Heating Air-conditioning & Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) annual conference in New Orleans. 

I wandered into a session held by Ryan Avery on the subject of leadership. Avery implored attendees to go from being “a” leader to being “the” leader.
“Go from ‘a’ to ‘the’,” said Avery, the youngest World Champion of Public Speaking winner at age 25. “When you commit to ‘the’ you will have an-ything you want. When you commit to that switch, everything else will be significantly better in your life.”

Avery mentioned that when “a” leader talks, that person generally has people’s attention. However, when “the” leader talks, people take action.

Among the many additional nuggets Avery offered included having four personal stories ready to be shared at any time whether they are personal or professional successes and failures. “Communication is a skill, not a talent,” he said. 

But at the same time, Avery stressed, “Never again tell a story that doesn’t add value,” he said. “Be that person where everybody goes, ‘Quiet. Dave is telling a story.’ When you add value, you are more valuable to someone.”

Avery also said to make sure you are loaded up with three facts and two quotes that you can use at any time. “You should always have at least one question ready that you can ask of anyone,” he said.

On the subject of displaying outward confidence, Avery suggested to always move forward when delivering a speech or talk and not take any steps back, even if it is a slight adjustment with a foot or leg in a backward direction. The same goes for talking to folks while seated at a conference table. Don’t lean back in your chair and talk; Lean forward.

“How our bodies move dictates how our message is received,” he said. “Confidence creates competence.”

Avery said to remove the words “just” and “only” from one’s vocabulary. “Don’t say those again,” he said. “We cannot maximize our influence if we minimize ourselves. Words are free, but they can cost us a lot.”

Not taking advantage of mentoring and educational opportunities also can cost people a lot. “Never underestimate the people next to you who can help you,” Avery said.

I also was a fan of Monday breakfast speaker Dustin Garis, billed as a world-renowned brand innovator, who talked a lot about the very subject of innovation (one of my favorites) and busted off this beauty of a quote.

“Routine is the greatest enemy of innovation,” he said. “Be a troublemaker.”

As a matter of fact, I would put this very issue of pme in the so-called troublemaker category. We stepped out of the traditional plumbing and mechanical engineer box a bit this month with stories on the increased influence artificial intelligence is having (Page 58), how building information modeling is reshaping the collaboration process among coworkers (Page 50) and a look at some interesting commercial HVAC trends our industry needs to be aware of (Page 22) via Embraco’s Kerry O’Brate

I also encourage you to check out longtime pme columnist John Siegenthaler’s piece on Page 30 that has innovation written all over it from a system design perspective. Siegenthaler also recently wrapped up a great five-part eBook series on Modern Hydronics that I encourage you to check out, if you have not done so already, at

And we really are going to get in bigger trouble in the months to come in these very pages. Some super-neat things are in store. I invite you to come along for the ride and invite your friends.