Darrell 'Flash' Gordan, CEO & President at Wernle Youth & Family Treatment Center & Owner & President at Gordon Enterprises, LLC and Author.
Darrell is responsible for turning around a multi-million dollar non-profit residential and community base treatment agency.
He oversees all aspects of philanthropy, marketing, public relations, finance, operations, quality control, human resources, customer relations, business development and strategic planning in accordance with Board directives and corporation charters.
Recipient of the 2005 Achievement of Excellence, Non-Profit of the Year.
He is also the author of Change Does Not Occur In A Flash.
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daryl it's absolutely brilliant to have you on this episode of leadership bites welcome it's a pleasure to be here guy and i'm excited about this opportunity well i am too because i've as is the power of the the world that we live in i see somebody from a distance and i send a little message and i i wait for that no reply no or let's talk and uh and so and so so here we are so so i know who you are i've done a little introduction on the audio podcast but for the video um cast um daryl just who are you and what do you do and if i did know you what would i know you for it'd be great just to hear that before we get into the rest of it yes yes you know again i'm i'm daryl gordon i i run a residential treatment facility for the last 20 years and i'm really changing the lives of young men and women that have been abused neglected or abandoned right and they reside right on our respective campus and a team of about 200 folks work with them to to get them back and reunite them back into their respective families or uh to a group home or to uh some other location that is befitting for them so that they can be successful and that's one of the reasons i wanted to you know to talk to you so i'm going to go a little bit further in that then i'm going to go back in your history and then bring us back to sort of the the present day the person that kind of understands what you've said but maybe not fully who's your uh who are your clientele who are the people that that's the person that i would be working with or my organization would be working with yes you know the the the the clients are young men and young women that that are sent to us by the judicial system traditionally sometimes by the department of corrections sometimes from the department of family and children sometimes from a probation department sometimes the department of education and they are struggling with you know conduct disorder issues autism sexual maladaptive issues independent living skills there's a there's a variety of significant issues that our clients kind of deal with and we are responsible for at least providing some sort of of um treatment modality to help settle their acuity issue because they come with high acuity issues so it's up to us to to kind of triage uh for about six to nine months we do some unbelievable work our team does from clinicians to our case managers to our direct care staff to um our nursing staff and they all provide some sort of support now now it's interesting to note guy you know there are kids that come that have significant suicidal ideations right and they are are committed to trying to figure out how they can accomplish that respective goal and as our team's respect responsibility to help them get to a place where they don't see that as a viable option anymore and and that's that's the movement that we make on our respective campus throughout the state of indiana i can see you're well practiced in saying that but i have to say it's hearing it is uh a little bit humbling so i just want to kind of sit with that for a moment because it's an easy thing maybe for you to say but it's a it's a big thing that you're doing i think that's absolutely absolutely i mean the the the amount of of risk and vulnerability right and anxiety that our staff and everyone else goes to in the midst of covet you you still have to provide a way to keep your staff safe and the kids safe while also helping them keep themselves safe um it's i think it's one of the most difficult jobs in our country but one of the most gratifying opportunities to actually say we're not building widgets we're building human beings for the next generation and that's what life is really all about right all of us tapping into how do we build that next generation that are less fortunate than us so that they can be on the right roads for success just like you and i and the rest of the individuals in our lives and how long have you been in this space where yes this is my full time this is what i do this is how i define myself i guess yes yes you know what i've been in this space interesting enough for about 20 years and i recall 20 years ago guy 20 years ago when i arrived you know it was just a god's calling and and and when i walked on campus i saw the opportunity you know when it's like a needle in a haystack you see that god this place has so much potential and the kids were all over the place and it was an orphanage many years ago and it transitioned into a treatment facility and i i thought hmm is this an opportunity for me to lead and serve as their ceo and and i i just i had to deal with that and and uh interesting enough i it came down to me and another gentleman and i was about 35 at the time and the other gentleman's about 51 and at the end the board was split and they went with the other gentleman and i thought hey god maybe this is right i'll go back to the ncaa where i love my job and i love what i was doing and um and then and six months later i get the call again saying hey would you be interested wait a minute i just thought you hired someone and it didn't work out and i remember getting there and i said you know there's a few things i think i want to do and then i'll move on to the next opportunity and 20 years later right it grabbed me so strongly that you know we've we've renovated the entire campus with new buildings new facilities new administration buildings new dorms for our children so that we can provide you know top-of-the-line care for them that are deserving of it and it's been again it's been an ongoing mission for me in the work that i've been doing so darryl one of the things and anybody that listens to the the podcast will know i i'm a massive believer in the the path that we've traveled is often sometimes the building blocks to the way we are now but also they add weight to the things that somebody has to say because of the path that they've they've been on um so it would be great just to get a sense of that you know god this is in essence how i got here i'd love to hear i'd love to hear that story yes yes well that that's i think that's even more interesting because i had five brothers and sisters and and you know i'm from new jersey hillside new jersey and it's a it's a community right near newark new jersey and new york and and you know i had a brother that was an aspiring brother that was a professional boxer and i remember and we weren't we weren't affluent you know we we were we struggled um in all aspects and um and i just remember watching my older brother i was the second youngest and i watched him and and i watched him train and get up at five in the morning and i watched him do things that a 13 14 15 year old would never do right but he was so committed to this movement of being a golden gloves champion and and became pro and boxing i just got to watch that trajectory and you know and i used to call him flash gordon and i thought you know i think i want to do this i think i want to be better than him and and um and living in that environment you know there were gang in fact i was involved in gangs my grades were bad i i had challenges all the way around and i had an environment that i lived in was all challenging and there's no reason why i should be sitting here today nor talking to you nor having the successes that i've had um but but i think it's just my will to succeed and and i remember on the university of notre dame coming to our school and i had a great year my sophomore year in football and colleges from all over the country started coming in and for some reason notre dame came in and they left and i'm like coach what i heard notre dame was here he said well they were but they went to the guidance department and they looked at your grades and talked about your character and they said we don't think he's the guy that we want at our institution he doesn't represent the values and the moral and the ethics that that we betray here and after i heard that i truly transformed my life to really do um something that i think very few people do and that is not settle in being who i was but changing to be better and at the end of my senior year i was an all-american football player and i was an academic overachiever in the top 20 of my class and notre dame came back and offered me a scholarship and did that i had the opportunity to play for notre dame and won a national championship got a graduate degree there as well as an undergraduate degree and um and and it was you know went to the white house and uh you know all of that was was was a result of me not giving up and and um having that time right with with uh people that sometimes say we can't get it done right and then you know there after i i um i i injured myself in the hula bowl with some of the greats dion sanders troy aikman and and andre ryzen and we were all in hawaii and i injured my knees so going to the pros became another obstacle and i just went right to work and and worked for a company and then i would have got a law degree and um worked for the um ncaa and did some work there and then you know and i still wasn't satisfied i felt like i wasn't being fulfilled right and it's interesting everything i did from the day i started my mom used to always take me to church guy and i just didn't understand all my brothers i'm the only one that always went and then i found myself at another day and not because i knew i was the first to ever go to college so we didn't pick and choose institutions i just thought it'd be a great institution to go to and they had this basilica church and they had the you know cathedrals and all this great things you know a grotto of praying and i i got caught up into that and it is interesting after that you know working for a little bit and then finding warrenly this faith-based organization a lutheran agency and and for me to be here for 20 years i i don't think it's by chance that that the road that god had me travel and you know many people say hey daryl you were on wall street for a while you could have made a billion dollars you know you have you know three degrees you went to harvard you did all this other stuff why there right and it's why not you know because we're responsible for giving back and and that's the very reason um i'm doing what i'm doing because i feel like it's our responsibility and and i enjoy it and i don't feel like in the 20 years i've been working here that i ever went to work and i think when you can get to that place in your life um you've arrived um so so as a result of that i recently like two years ago just finished a book on change and i work throughout the country and helping people to change and because i have some significant experience in changing organizations to the nonprofit that we became became and and changing our athletic team to winning national championships as a leader for that for that organization and changing my spiritual life i think i i have this this key component i call flash points that are integral in that process and and it's been a it's been a jewel for me to navigate through everything that i've navigated through to to help me achieve success and uh i've just been trying to give it to the world um um helping them to make the transformation in their their families and their financial lives and their spiritual lives in their um health as well as their academic and in careers so i've really tried to focus on those respective areas of success for them so the book change does not occur in a flash yes yes genius i can see what you've done there [Laughter] is that for the individual is it for the corporation is it who's it for great question guy it's for all of them i try not to be everything for all people right and i don't think that's a good model to have but i can say you know i've had to change individually and i share stories about my individual change right again i should not be talking to you today you know our psychologist when he met me and he read about my background he said daryl it is almost impossible um unfathomable it's a miracle that you are here today especially in the capacity in which you live today with all of the accomplishments you made most people would have been incarcerated dead or on some sort of drugs or alcohol and and for me um there was something in me that that caused me to change in every portion of my career in my life that helped me continue to move progressively forward so so you know the answer to your question this book is really about you know helping people do the same so that they don't sit in the same place having a mediocre organization mediocre relationship mediocre finances why can't you be millionaires if you want to be right and mediocre health um i i'll give you the tools and i give people the tools and it's simple um to make that transformation but you got to want to you got to want to make it and i try to motivate people to get there if i can and i think that's what what what this has been for me my experience at warnley um has really been to give back to those young people in the last 20 years and i think i have the secret right to to making that transformation so as an organization would i would reach out to you to have you would it be talk would it be to work with them because obviously you know time is you know precious so is your focus on actually i do that keynote intervention or i run master classes or workshops or what is it that you do outside of walmart yes outside of warren lay i i really focus on um you know there's several target markets that i try to again you know play key to but because of my unique experience you know it the target market is a little broader so so you know i go into high schools i go into colleges and institutions and i talk to for especially during orientation because some of my stories are about my first semester at notre dame when i was gonna be when i was given a pink slip and i wasn't gonna be there and and the dean says hey i just want you to know if you duplicate that performance that you had first semester you're going to be home and i'm like home and they said yes home and i just want you to know we pride ourselves on graduating 98 of our student athletes here 98 so i hate for you to follow the 2 percentile uh which you are in the direction of doing right i i have no i have no problem in sharing and being vulnerable right with you all to say that we all don't succeed all the time but when we don't what are we doing to make the transformation so that we can continue to doing the great work i could have just said like most freshmen 65 of the freshman class going into college 50 of them don't make it to their sophomore year that's huge right they get there they enjoy themselves and they're out so there's a market right especially for mom and dad that are paying the bill the first semester and then he's gone right it's it's you know hey daryl can you help them help them help themselves because they don't know what they're about to embark upon and even in high school right that i wasn't in going in the right direction and until notre dame walked in and told me that i wasn't good enough was when i really stepped my game up academically and athletically um to be better but but something had to motivate me and when i did i remember going to my mom and dad and says this place is going to be a safe haven for me like i need a place where i can study and i'm not being corrupted all the time and i went to the gangs in which i used to be and i said listen i got to get out and they're like we don't know if we're going to let you out i said i gotta get out right and and i remember they said well you better succeed and what you're about to do and and you know there was just a lot of and then i went to my teachers and i said listen you know this this is very important to me going to notre dame and no one's ever in my family has gone to nor anyone at my high school has gone to notre dame and i would love to be the first but i need you all to hold me accountable you know to the academic rigors of this school and just because i may be a great football player does not mean i should be given greats and and i think they looked at that and they evaluated that and they said well this guy really wants to be held accountable at 15 16 years old which was abnormal um and that was the transformation that began in my life and i i say that to say i that's a that's one of my audiences but because i spent 20 years in running a non-profit and and you know multi-million dollar non-profit i think i understand that model really well and i understand how to develop it grow it and expand it which is what we've done here at warnley and so i i also help can help organizations right and their teams sales teams help them to move in a progressive way to make significant change so that they can be self-sustaining that's the objective at the end how do you can be self-sustaining and and the final piece is i i also have a target audience that that's with corporations and with associations but i also have you know diversity and an equity and inclusion um specialty right i've been trained in that and i've been doing that for many years so being in the space we're in now you know there's a great need right for someone to help organizations understand the value and i'm if i can guy i want to give you a quick quick piece that i was given a speech and i recall one of the fortune 500 company coming to me and says daryl would you come and and and be on our board right and we're gonna pay you this much and but at the time i was in law school and i couldn't and i said but i but they're trying to find an african-american but they're also trying to find a lawyer so i was a perfect fit for them so i said i know another african-american attorney that you should look at and i recommended him to the fortune 500 company he got on board he was right there in the boardroom and there were there must be 20 caucasian men that's it on this fortune 500 board is back in the 80s and uh i said well how did the meeting go he said daryl you wouldn't believe i said well tell me tell me about it he said well they were producing soap and bar soap but but they were coming out with the squeeze bottle soap and this was going to be the new product of the future and they were excited about it because they were the first and they were asked for a vote to present the new squeeze bottle soap into america and i said wow i said okay well what's wrong with that so he said well they asked for a motion for approval not emotion there's a second so the second and the motion also included he said guys the motion also included that we would rid ourselves a bar soap right and he said any questions on the motion it's he stood up this is my first day i stand up and he said well you know so what what's what these what seems to be your problem you know i mean no you're new and you're the first to he said in our culture just like maybe in england or wherever we use soap and rags and we've always used that and we will continue to use that as african americans and he said he looked over to his finance director of the organization uh the board chair this is so what's our revenue as it relates to bar soap and she said it's about a hundred million he said well what percentage of those people are minority she said they they have about 40 of the of the total revenue he he need not say any more or anything else it went silent they all knew what was about to happen on this vote and they had no no no even knowledge right of of it because they don't have that cultural experience and they tabled the the vote for next meeting we come back next meeting he says guess what happened next i said what happened he said we have a young lady on the board we have a hispanic on the board we have another african-american on the board it is so diverse you wouldn't believe it because they don't remember how much they may have lost over the years by not providing diversity so so my point here is we sometimes don't know the value of diversity or equity inclusion until we bring them to the table and you know that's just something i teach right and i try to help organizations to understand that there is so much value but if you're not taking advantage of the uh diversity opportunities it can it could really curtail your financial progress in growth not yet not just including the the interaction with with diverse uh population but but there are some other challenges and opportunities that come with sort of the presentations that i give you have a very strong relationship with the truth yes yes you must right you you must in the industry that we're in and the people that i serve i can't sugarcoat the truth they need to know exactly where they are where they're going and how they're going to get there but you've also had that with yourself by this from hearing you talk at a young age you at some point when you were given some truth yourself yes yes made consciously unconsciously a decision to face into the truth yes yes that seems quite clear i think to me yes um and sometimes some people say to my detriment but but i think success in life and great relationships in life come with vulnerability but so many of us though so so many of us are afraid to be vulnerable well i can't be vulnerable because they may use it against me i can't be vulnerable with my wife because they may or my friends because i really don't know but what if you're comfortable with yourself enough though that that you could just be as vulnerable as you can be and not care how people use it you can't hurt me because i offer you that vulnerability thank you thank you i give it to you yeah right i give it to you so that you can you can do whatever you like with it but guy i think if our country would change and i say change if our country would change to a point of being vulnerable it's like dating you know when you're dating when you're older it's hard it takes about six months to a year to really get to know her it's the same with our clients that we're trying to transform right and to get through to them in counseling they don't share until about six months by that time they feel comfortable enough to say you're not gonna leave me you're not gonna run away from me you're not gonna abuse the information i'm gonna give you right so so so there is i think the key concept of of the value of vulnerability if i can be vulnerable with you then you're gonna at least be true to me if we can have an unbelievable relationship i could save myself six months right we can get right to it and and that's where i think success comes and that's how success is built and that's how success will continue to happen in our country and i'm super alert to the fact that i get this sometimes with people that you know with uh with a with a hot beverage and uh and a sandwich i could go on with you probably another two or three days so i'm just i'm being careful about opening up a topic and disappear into it and you go you're more than welcome the following week i now have to go [Laughter] so you know i think what i've come to understand is working with individuals and senior teams and when i was younger what about the tools and the methodology and validating myself through process and you know i know how to do a b c and d and all that kind of stuff and as i have now hit the heavy height of 51 years old and can now use this word you know experience uh to agree i've i've come to i talk about trust accountability bravery and connection i i have to be trusted you have to trust me i have to trust you you have to want it that's right accountability there's ownership but there's then it's okay to fail as long as i understand that you were trying to be accountable even if there was failure bravery i talk about this idea of facing into and putting on your big your big pants this idea there are just times when there is no answer other than you've got to buckle up buttercup and you know you you've got to move forward and there's more to all of these topics but the big one that really resonates with me with you is i talk about connection and i don't just mean eye contact etc i talk about contribution outside of your own need and and i think that's something that when i work with teams and i think i'm hearing it with you as well there's you know people are very often very transactional i need something and if you need something we'll will work to get that done there's nothing wrong with that but i think there's an and rather than instead of which is what are you doing outside of that personal need to enable the other person on the other side of the table yes and i think i'm hearing that in you which is at you've got to a place in life where what you're really trying to do is is to say and i can imagine the only people that could work with you are people that are willing to give of themselves that's right that's that's that's it you know yes you have to protect yourself and look after yourself but whilst that's being done the people on the other side especially in your context have to sense that you and they may not have trusted it because they may never never have experienced it but we've got to be there for truly in leadership terms we'd say servant leadership yes yes and that is a vulnerability of ego and that is a willingness to absorb what might be being given and not to fight it and react to it and there's a maturity with that and i think if i'm hearing you correctly that's what i'm hearing uh unequivocally i i think you're you're nailing it right it's that vulnerability to and and that servant leadership it's it's it's interesting i i in my last year um at notre dame i recall lou holtz was our coach at the time and and he was in his second year and you know we didn't do very well and i recall um um him saying to me i had a fifth year and he says flash i don't think i want you to come back well i'm like well hey wait a minute i i was planning on coming back in the graduate degree and and you know he said well listen i got the administration on my butt i got the student body on my butt you know we went you know 600 this year and and you know they're used to winning national championships and i got to get there and i got to bring my kids uh in and they need to be playing and starting and i can't wait any longer you're not part of my population of people and i remember you know because this is what most of us would say and do and i remember saying to him and again i'm at 18 at the time and he said so i'm gonna ask you not to apply for the fifth year just i know you started last year and the year before and i this is abnormal but i'm gonna ask you because i've gotta really get ready for the next year and i said wait a minute coach that's not fair i said you you can't just kick me out of an institution um because you're ready to play others and you're trying to get to a national championship and and he said well listen i gotta go out of town do some recruiting but i'm gonna come back in two two weeks when i get back i'll let you know what i really want to do if i'm gonna keep you or if i'm gonna send you back and i remember he said well you can be dismissed and i remember walking out the door and i'm walking to my dorm and and i was thinking like i i'm about to go home right and i and i've already talked to the graduate school and going to be enrolling and get a degree and all that good stuff and and play another year and hopefully try to help in winning a national championship and i remember getting there in my room and i said what most americans say heck with him if he don't want me here i'm going to be here and i'm just going to tell him when he gets back i'm done anyway i i don't need to beg you right i i and i and it got to the 13th day and something came over me guy and it said daryl be humble right be humble and i went to coaches and i got some things squared away so when he got back he called me into his office so i walked in and i said hey coach he said how you doing flash i said i'm doing outstanding he said well listen i have some bad news i wanted to let you know and before he get it out i said well wait coach for you before you share anything with me i just want you to know this now i'm 18 years of age at the time i said i spoke to the head trainer and i asked him if he would be willing to work with me one-on-one every day for five days a week during the summer in the off-season and he agreed and i'd be bigger better and stronger than i've ever been he said i said also coach while you were gone i also went to my position coach and i said i want to watch film with you on a daily basis five days a week two hours a day regarding my prior film to see what i can improve upon and then look at our future opponents so i could probably prepare for that and he looked at me and said god are you okay no one's ever asked no one ever asked that right and he and i and coach agreed to do that i think coach was a little surprised and then i said and in practice coach i agree and i promise to you every day in practice i'll give you 120 120 on and that may mean in practice some people will get hurt but i need to show them the the culture in which we're going to have and if we're going to win a national championship this is how we practice every day i'll give you that and if i don't you kick me off the team and he started thinking about that and then he came back and he said flash i'm going to give you one chance if i find one problem with you or you providing any cancer to any of the players you're out and i'm thinking to myself can you actually kick me out in the middle of the year i was saying to myself right guy and i said i'm in okay let's make it happen and i began to work and it's interesting guy that year i was the strongest guy on the team at the end of the summer bench pressing 430 pounds i watched more film i'd i had my techniques down to a science in practice people always felt like god he's so overzealous no one knew the story between me and coach though they just knew every day i brought it as hard as i could and as a result of all that you know i led the team to a national championship and i got it this this graduate degree and i was able to go to the white house right and all of these things that came with me not just saying okay you don't want me here i'm out because that's what we do so often in our lives as opposed to fight for what we think could be better for us and i think he was really looking for me to step up if i was going to step are you right and if not then i should leave and most of our kids left i was probably one of the very few that stayed so so i share that story again to say and to share with you the process of change and as you talk about being brave and those those things that you teach i try to teach these components that you know of the flash points which is facing up to it right you first got to admit to yourself that you're ready once you're ready once you the light bulb goes off and you say i'm ready to lose weight i'm i'm ready to be spiritually driven i'm ready to get my finances or i'm ready to have a better relationship with somebody or i'm ready to get better grades or or i'm just ready to to grow in my career right you you finally say i'm ready and once that's checked off with his f facing up to change the l is learning your capacity now you got to first understand if you even have the capacity to do it but someone said listen i want to run in the olympics well listen you fall over your feet now you're probably never going to run olympics in track and field right well you probably don't have to compass but if you do i could check that box and you want to be great in whatever area that is then the a is comes into play and that's the action plan that's when you you bring some of the brightest minds together with you and you work on this action plan right and and i spend time in the work workshops after keynotes to really help them dig deep into the action plans um assuming they want to make change and they have the capacity to after that's done the s really is the support system and so often this is where i think we fail we get the plan together the action plan and what do we do we tell no one i was in the gym today you know it's you know it's new year it's packed i go every i go at five o'clock in the morning and i said how many people know that you're working out no just me i'm trying to lose 20 pounds you tell anybody no so when you disappear on me next month no one's gonna know right because you never told anybody no one's holding you accountable but if you go tell mom dad your sister your brother your your wife your best friend at least we could ask you every day and hold you accountable to those expectations which is why half of us never meet the goal that we set but once that support system is in place i think and you're ready to go i think that last piece is holding on to it it's like how do i stay there how do i i just lost 20 pounds next year i can't come back and get to 40. right how do i hold on to the success that i'm i'm currently in how do i win next year another national championship right how do i make sure we make money this year how do i make sure next year we make twice as much money and it wasn't just a flash in the pan right no pun intended but but if you if you get what i'm saying um guy it's it's it's a process that is so necessary in our society and where we are with respect to covet and all the challenges we're having financially in our organizations our relationships and the claustrophobic and anxiety that people are dealing with we got to change and if not we're going to find ourselves in a very peculiar situation so you're exactly right so my my last my my last question for you is the future for you where are you what are you heading into is it uh more of the same is actually now i've got a big plan but i can't tell you about it is the you know what if i speak to you in a few years what have you been doing a few you know the next few years when i when i'm you know what i i i know clearly you know my next direction and that is as god has told me is to to tour the world and tell them about this process of change and help them to change and if that's the military if that's national championships teams if that's colleges if that's uh governmental structures if that's non-profits right um if it's high schools that that that i will assure myself that i will be the guru in that respective area of change and i will help you whoever that may be you know to to help you move in that particular direction again i spent my life doing it and you know so it's nothing more than what i really want to do because i think it's required i would do it for free you know because i believe in it that much um i believe if i can get to as many people as i can and you know that's millions of people and sharing the book with them and i'd like to i'd like to to actually complete another book on on the process of change but more from organizational perspective um and then look at maybe another one from individual perspective to focus really on those respective areas but but you know don't be surprised when i'm coming to england and i'm in your coliseum or i'll make that or any of those pieces and uh and i call your name out because um we first have to think it in order to believe it right i'll carry you back there ain't i don't know about that i'll carry yours uh the servants relationship daryl i'm the bad guy we can fight over that that's what servant leadership is we'll fight over that listen um i want to keep going i'm not you've been an absolute absolute privilege to have on um i'm going to press the stop button but just stay on for a few seconds just to make sure yes doing what it should be but just on a personal note thank you so much for giving me your time it's been absolutely invaluable it's been a privilege well guy you are doing some unbelievable things in an unbelievable market uh you know for unbelievable people and i think you know we need more of you right to help get the word out about how we can help people do better and how we can help our society and our world do better and you are the pinnacle of that and for that i am grateful for you to even consider me to be on your show and um again i hope that you continue to grow and do great things and transforming the world like you're doing today wow that's very gracious thank you sir and thank you i'm going to press that stop button hey baby