My mentor, Mary Kogen, has died.
In this special podcast episode, I share with you why, if there was no Mary Kogen, there would never be a Sari de la Motte. At least not the one you get to hear from every week.
In the song “For Good” from Wicked, it says, “Who can say that I’ve been changed for the better? But, because I knew you, I have been changed for good.”
Mary changed me for good. Thanks in advance for listening to my special tribute to one of the most important people in my life.
👀 Check out the free H2H training below!
EPISODE 171 TRANSCRIPTION
When you are up against a hostile room of people who don't want to be there, you need real strategies that get results. Welcome to From Hostage to Hero, the show that gives you practical advice you can use right now in the courtroom, boardroom, or classroom. Learn how to move your unwilling audience to one that is invested in what you're saying, eager to participate, and engaged in the process. Learn from the attorney whisperer herself, your host, Sari de la Motte.
Sari de la Motte:
Hello my friends, welcome to another episode of From Hostage to Hero. Before we start today's podcast, I want to remind you of our brand new training, "Let the Jury Solve Your Problems." You can go to fromhostagetohero.com/training and get that and the workbook. It's a 16-minute video and it's packed full of shit. In fact, good shit. Here's a comment from Larry, his name's Larry and I love Larry. And here's what Larry has to say about the training.
"It's brilliant, simple, and awesome on so many levels. For one thing, it takes the guesswork out of what we're doing and why we're doing it when questioning a jury for them to choose sitting for our case. For another, it removes the often-heard, well earned criticism that we will say anything and do anything to persuade them like snake oil salesmen and saleswomen. Yet another, it truly allows an authentic connection with the juror. You don't need notes. You only need a few well thought-out principles that good folks and bad will come up with or resist themselves. Done right, your jury will hear these principles come shining through in trial from opening, direct, cross, and closing. They will hear these principles echoed from questions and answers to your list of witnesses, including expert witnesses, yours and theirs, which will cement and confirm their view of the case for plaintiff. Lose the notes and maintain empathetic and inquisitive eye contact. It frees us to be fully present. I've been doing this work for a long time, over 36 years now, and this is the first time I am 100% confident that we will have the jurors in the best state of mind to bring money justice for the plaintiff. If you don't use the funnel as taught, you might as well turn it upside down and wear it on your head in the corner."
I love that last sentence, Larry. Thank you for that. That's awesome. And again, if that didn't sell you, I'm not even selling you, it's free, on going over and getting the free training, I don't know what will. So go and do it. All right. Well, today I'm talking about a very bittersweet thing. And that is, and I hope not to cry but I'm totally going to cry, I know I am, that my mentor, Mary Kogen, has died. In fact, when you get this podcast it will have been a couple months now, I'm podcasting about a month after this has happened and dealing with all of it. But I felt like I needed to do a podcast for a couple reasons. One is that I would not be who I am without Mary Kogen, and two, that you would not have the information that I bring you without Mary Kogen.
A few weeks ago I did a podcast on turning 50, and that my life broke up into five decade pieces. But really, if I look back at my life I can see that it is neatly divided into two halves. So there's the half before Mary and then there's the half after her. I met her right when I was around 27 I believe, 28, somewhere in there. So it's not quite half, but pretty much. And I was going to music school. It's a great story actually, I had just completed my bachelors degree and I knew that I needed to do a masters if I wanted to teach at the university level, but different colleges had different names for their masters degree. And Portland State was calling theirs a masters of teaching when other people were calling it a masters of music, and I didn't understand the difference.
And so I tried to get some answers over here at Portland State and I just couldn't. So I literally went and I looked at the directory of staff for the music department and I saw her name as one of the piano department staff. And so I just called her office and I left a message and said, "I'm really frustrated. I cannot figure this out. If somebody would give me a call back, I would really appreciate it." I'm sure it wasn't even that nice. It doesn't sound like me, huh? Sounds totally what I would do. And so a couple days later I get a phone call and she says, "Hey, why don't you come down to my home and we can chat." And I thought, "Oh my gosh, that's very nice of her. That or she's a serial killer and I'm going to be lured to my death."
But I decided to believe that she was probably not a serial killer. And I went to her home and we sat talking for an hour. And at the end of that hour she not only described the masters program to me, but she offered me a graduate teaching assistant. Now, I need to tell you that a graduate teaching assistant position is very hard to come by. First of all, you have to be an excellent student. You have to apply. You normally have to do an audition. And when you get the assistantship, what you are tasked with doing is teaching one of the undergrad classes. What's the word that I'm looking for? I swear, you guys, I cannot think of words now after chemo. It's crazy. In return, is that the word I'm using for? You get your masters degree for free and you get a little stipend. It's an incredible opportunity.
Tons of people apply, I didn't even know it was an option, here she's offering it to me at the end of speaking for one hour. So of course I jumped at the opportunity. Her fellow piano staff member and soon-to-be partner, I think they were actually partnered at that time, they were together for 30 years at her at the time of her death, I believe. Harold, he was the head of the piano department. And when she tells him, she told us later, he says, "Mary, you cannot go giving graduate teaching assistants to people you've just met." And she said, "Harold, this is the girl." I tell you, that one meeting changed the entire trajectory of my life. Because not only did I become a graduate teaching assistant at Portland State University, Mary completely revolutionized the way that I taught. But more importantly, she revolutionized the way that I thought.
When I took her piano pedagogy class, which is how to teach piano, she assigned us all seven books. Only two of them are music related. The rest were, Seven Habits was on there I believe, there was a couple other ones that I use all the time, The Art of Possibility, nothing to do with music. And she fully believed that to be a great teacher you had to be a great person and that personal development was what it was all about. I remember watching her teach a piano lesson. My piano teacher was pretty good, but when I think about piano teaching, that's not something I ever wanted to do. I wanted to be a conductor. But when I thought about teaching piano I thought about, "Here's your first music book. Here's what a quarter note is. Make sure you practice." The most boring shit ever. When I watched her teach a piano lesson I thought, "Whatever this woman is doing, I want to learn how to do it."
The kids were standing and they were marching and they were clapping. They were playing in every key in the first six weeks. She absolutely believed in what she called discovery learning, which is, you experience it first, then you name it, then you see what it looks like. So you would clap a quarter note first. Then we would say, "This is what a quarter note is." We'd name it. And then she'd show you what it looked like. It was revolutionary. People flocked to Mary like nobody's business. Everybody wanted to be around her. She was the most incredible teacher. And she had so much that she offered us. I remember going into her office and be frustrated about something, because that's what I do, is get frustrated. And I would rant and I would rave and she would listen calmly, and then she would say, every time without fail she would say, "And what did you learn?"
And I'd have to sit there and go, "I guess I learned," blah, blah, blah. Everything to her was a learning opportunity. She was intensely curious. She taught me how to be curious. It was because of her that I came up with the issue oriented voir dire. It was because of her. She had nothing to do with lawyers or knew anything about it. But it was because of her that I've created a lot of the content that I've created for all of you. She would have somebody come, she told a story about a Sears repair man who came to do something, I don't know, washer or dryer at her house. And when he was leaving he said, "Do you have any questions?" And she said, "Yes, I just have one." He said, "Sure, what is it?" And she said, "What is the meaning of life?"
This is a common question. Mary became such a close, not just teacher but friend. She was there when I went through my divorce, she was the one who sent me to my first nonverbal communications training, sending me on my path now to working with you guys. She was the person I called any time I had a professional or personal problem. And she was the one who Kevin sent our engagement ring to her, because we were living in California at the time, to avoid tax, and she dutifully got in line at the post office right when she received it to send it right back. She was the one that suggested that Kevin and I get married at their house, which we eventually ended up doing. She was so close to me and always challenging me to be curious and think differently that I professionally called her my nom, my new age mom.
And I actually got her a necklace that said "nom" on it. She had this thing where she'd always say, "I have an outrageous request." And then she would actually have me do something outrageous. And you couldn't say no because she just prefaced it with, "I have an outrageous request." So what do I want to leave you with when I talk about my dearest darlingest Mary, who suffered a stroke March 27th and then died on June 6th of this year. Well, here's what I want you to learn and what I've learned from Mary. The first is that everything in life is a learning opportunity. Absolutely everything, particularly the things that frustrate us the most. I still hear her in my head saying, "What did you learn? And what did you learn, Sari?"
The second thing I would leave you with is that curiosity is key to everything. It's so key for you as lawyers when you're talking with your clients, when you're talking with jurors, but particularly even with yourself in your own personal relationships. When I would bring a problem to Mary, we would just get curious. She's like, "Sari, let's get curious. What could the answer be? What might it be?" She's a huge reason why I went to coaches training, because I wanted to be and learn how to be as good of a question asker as she was, to get as curious as she was. But I think the biggest thing that I've learned from Mary and that really hit me after she died was my wanting to have an impact like she had. When she was dying, she just never came back from her stroke. And so they kept trying and trying to get her out of bed and do all the things, and it just was becoming more and more realistic that she wasn't ever going to be the Mary that we knew.
I was trying to get in to see her and finally did. And I told her daughters, Amy and Leah, who I love both, I feel like are my sisters in many way. I said, "Man, getting to see Mary was harder than getting tickets to Lady Gaga." She had hundreds of people, people who flew in just to say goodbye. And I thought, "I want to have that kind of impact. I want somebody after I die to be changed because I was alive." I hope I have that impact. Kevin says I have that impact. Many of you have said that I have that impact. But it's nothing compared to the impact that Mary had on my life and on the lives of people around her.
As I sat at her bedside in the very room where I put my wedding dress on, telling her how much she meant to me, the reality of what was about to happen, it just overwhelmed me. I thought, who would I be without Mary Kogen? I can't even imagine it. And then I thought of the Beatles lyrics, "And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make." Mary took so much love when she left this earth because she gave so much to everybody around her. And so thank you, Mary, for being my nom. I'm so, so honored to have been loved by you. And I just want all of my listeners to know that if there was no Mary, there'd be no Sari, not the Sari that you have in front of you today. And I wanted to honor her. So thanks for listening. I'll talk to you next week.
While you wait for next week's episode, how would you like instant access to exclusive trial skills training on my funnel method for voir dire? Grab a pen and paper so you can jot down the website address for a brand new 16-minute video that will help you win more cases. The free training is called, "Let the Jury Solve Your Problems in Three Easy Steps." And I'm even going to send you a workbook to go with it. Now, are you ready for the address? Visit fromhostagetohero.com/training. You'll see me there. Enjoy.
If you liked this episode topic, check out these others:
- Episode #74 – If You’re Not Being Criticized, You’re Doing it Wrong
- Episode #88 – You Don’t Have to “Earn” Amazing
- Episode #122 – What’s Your Come From?
3 pOWERFUL STRATEGIES TO HELP YOU READ A JUROR'S MIND
Let the Jury Solve Your Problems in 3 Easy Steps
Join me for a free training to understand what the jury is thinking so you have the confidence to trust them - and yourself - in the courtroom.
Use the H2H Funnel Method so that jurors tell YOU the principles of the case instead of you telling THEM.
Subscribe to the Podcast
Tune in weekly as Sari shares tips that will help you up your game at trial, connect with jurors, and build confidence in your abilities so that you’ll never worry about winning again.
Sign up for trial tips, mindset shifts, and whatever else is on Sari’s brilliant fucking mind.