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  • Casey Monahan

Van Cliburn

Van Cliburn was a legend. I was fortunate to spend some time with him during my stint at the Texas Music Office. This photo captures the only time we weren't sharing a cocktail, as well as the only time I got to meet his mother, Rildia Bee Cliburn (her arm is resting on the Governor's Mansion couch as seen bottom left of the photo).

In the middle is Joseph Dial, then head of the Texas Film Commission and the primary person responsible for hiring me. Van’s hands were about the same size as Matt “Guitar" Murphy’s.

Another time Cliburn and I were sharing cocktails at the Four Seasons when I noticed another Texas legend walk in, Herb Kelleher. I figured they probably knew each other, so I excused myself and went over and invited Herb to join us, and he did. In putting together this website I searched for quotes from Herb and found these from an obit in Inc Magazine. A lifelong smoker, Herb died at the young age of 87.

1. "We have a strategic plan -- it's called doing things."

2. "Your people come first, and if you treat them right, they'll treat the customers right."

3. "The essential difference in service is not machines or 'things.' The essential difference is minds, hearts, spirits, and souls."

4. "You have to treat your employees like customers."

5. "You don't hire for skills, you hire for attitude. You can always teach skills."

6. "A company is stronger if it is bound by love rather than by fear."

7. "Think small and act small, and we'll get bigger. Think big and act big, and we'll get smaller."

8. "If you're crazy enough to do what you love for a living, then you're bound to create a life that matters."

9. "I tell my employees that we're in the service business, and it's incidental that we fly airplanes."

10. "Just because you don't announce your plan doesn't mean you don't have one."

11. "I forgive all personal weaknesses except egomania and pretension."

12. "If you don't treat your own people well, they won't treat other people well."

13. "The business of business is people."

14. "If you create an environment where the people truly participate, you don't need control. They know what needs to be done and they do it."

15. "Leading an organization is as much about soul as it is about systems. Effective leadership finds its source in understanding."

16. "I learned it by doing it, and I was scared to death."

17. "I think my greatest moment in business was when the first Southwest airplane arrived after four years of litigation and I walked up to it and I kissed that baby on the lips and I cried."

Here is a great place to start your appreciation of Van Cliburn,


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