John Y. Brown, III

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Recovering Politician

THEN: Secretary of State (KY), 1996-2004; Candidate for Lieutenant Governor, 2007 NOW: JYB3 Group (Owner) -public affairs consulting firm; Miller Wells law firm (Of counsel) Full Biography: link

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Voice Mail

jyb_musingsI am not a doctor but am impressed with my doctor’s voice mail message and am going to start using part of it for my new voice mail message.

“Hi. This is John Brown. I’m not in right now but if you will please leave your name and number I will get back to you as quickly as possible. If this is a true emergency then hang up and immediately go to the nearest emergency room. Thank you.”

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Mind Tricks

jyb_musingsMind tricks I use to improve my mood

If I am getting flustered, music always seems to help. Especially a song with a melody and title like “Feelin’ Alright” by Joe Cocker.

Listening to Joe Cocker’s “Feelin’ Alright” always helps me feel more “alright” too.

And if listening to the song alone isn’t enough, I look at the pictures of Joe Cocker on the two album covers of “Feelin’ Alright” and remind myself that this apparently is what “Feeling Alright” looks like. And if I look more “alright” today than Joe does on these two album covers, then I am probably feeling even better than just “alright” right now and just don’t know it.

Basketball and post game class acts

jyb_musingsI have had the privilege several times in the past year of being around Jack “Goose” Givens on a business matter.

Our fist interaction was through an email introduction that asked me if I knew Jack Givens and copied him. I responded, “Are you kidding me? I’ll never forget the night back in 1978 when Jack Givens and I combined for 41 points and UK won the NCAA championship.” And then added, “Of course, Jack was on the basketball court that night and I was just one of 20,000 fans in the stands –but it was a great night for both of us.” 

That was how I knew “Goose” Givens. 41 points and the cover of Sports Illustrated. Oh, and baseball enthusiasts are quick to point out that those 41 points was without the 3 pointer.

But that was a long time ago. I can’t say I know Jack Givens well…but after a few brief interactions I have become less impressed with Jack Givens the UK basketball star a lot more impressed with Jack Givens the smart and savvy businessman, the community and civic leader, and just all around great and gracious guy.

I am glad I have gotten to see the “other” Jack Givens. Without the UK uniform. The post-game Jack Givens. Who in his personal and professional life regularly posts the equivalent of 41 point games –and has been quietly doing so for a very long time now.

The record Jack Givens has compiled off the court since his NCAA Championship game is more impressive to me than his making the cover of Sports Illustrated for one amazing night.

And, by the way, has also been done without the 3 pointer.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Starbucks

jyb_musingsJust went through Starbucks drive-thru and ordered “A grande ice Chai tea latte without a chocolate chip cookie; please.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t understand that last part” came back the answer.

“Well, every day I order a grande Chai tea latte and you all always ask me if I’d like to add a chunky chocolate chip cookie with it and I say no. Just thought I would take care of it all on the front end today.”

She laughed. Hand it to Starbucks. Their folks do seem to have a cheerful disposition and good sense of humor.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Think Fast!

Think fast!

I have to do this a lot –thinking fast. Mostly when I get myself in a jam because I am thinking slowly. Or not thinking at all.

jyb_musingsI was behind a young couple at Starbucks today and ordered a grande, or medium, coffee (“grande”must be how they say “medium” in Seattle, where Starbucks started).

We were the only ones in the store but they took my name anyway which demonstrates the extra pains Starbucks takes to make sure no customer gets another customer’s coffee order. I sometimes think Starbucks is more careful about customers getting the right coffee order than some hospitals are about patients getting the right medical treatment. But the point is it didn’t appear like there was going to be any coffee order confusion involving our two orders.

But that is where my thinking slowly or not at all comes into play. I was in a hurry and when the Barista set out a small (or “tall” as they say in Seattle) coffee drink for pick up, I ran over and grabbed it and took it to the condiment stand. I opened the drink and saw caramel drizzle and frothed milk on top instead of plain coffee which is all I had ordered.

I looked up at the barista hoping she would have my back and take the blame but all she did was say in a judgemental tone, “That is not yours, sir.” Weird because I had just given her my first name but she still called me “sir.” Maybe they only use first names in relation to coffee orders in Seattle.

Anyway, I apologized to the Barista and quickly tried putting the lid back on. I looked at the couple who had been in line with me to see if they noticed. The man, a very tall and stout man, noticed. And said it was his. I had to think fast to smooth things over.

I smiled self-deprecatingly and said, “I promise I didn’t touch your drink. Just took the top off and glanced at it and put the top back on. Just think of me as an extra Starbucks Barista overseeing quality control.”

He laughed reluctantly and I exhaled impressed by my quick thinking to help smooth over an awkward situation.

But I could tell the guy hadn’t entirely let go of his irritation with me for opening his coffee drink. We both stood and waited in awkard silence for his girlfriend’s coffee or mine.

I thought to myself, “Caramel drizzle? That’s a pretty “girly drink” for such a husky and angry guy. He’s should be glad I didn’t out him to others about ordering such a foo-foo drink.” But he wasn’t having the same thought. I could tell.

Finally they handed me my coffee drink. Hand to hand. The Barista was leaving nothing to chance this time. I looked at the guy and said, “You can open it if you want? It’s the least I can do.” He smiled in a strained way and said, “I just might take you up on that.”

The thought of him opening my coffee drink bothered me. I realized now why it bothered him so much when I took the top off his drink. There was a pause. Then he just walked away and didn’t say anything as he left. I breathed a sigh of relief because I felt him touching my drink was somehow different from me touching his drink. More wrong and unacceptable somehow. But I couldn’t put my finger on why I thought that. Then it occurred to me. He was never willing to pretend to be a Starbucks Barista overseeing quality control. And I was.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Parking Lots

jyb_musingsWhen you are in a parking lot and not paying attention when going to your car and the car parked next to you looks like your car, it is easy to walk up and try to open the door of the wrong car.

When that happens, of course, the door stays locked, you immediately realize your mistake and you have a good laugh at yourself.

But tonight I took it to the next level. Coming out of a Thortons I lackadaisically wandered over to the wrong silver sedan in the parking lot and tried to open the driver’s door. And did. The door not only opened but the driver was still sitting in the car and was talking on his cell phone.

In fact, he tried to hold his door shut when I opened it and shouted at me, “I’m still in the car. This is somebody else’s car.”

And, just like when there isn’t a driver still in the car, I immediately realized my mistake and had a good laugh at myself. And the driver still in his car had a good laugh at me too.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Positive Self Talk

jyb_musingsThis morning as I walked briskly from the parking lot to my first meeting I saw my reflection in a store window and thought to myself,

“I may be 51 but I have the gait of a 40 year old. Bam!”


When I see a guy wearing a “slim fit” shirt I know it is because he is genuinely slim. (I also know that I probably won’t like him and definitely don’t trust him.)

But when a guy wearing a “slim fit” shirt looks at a guy wearing a “classic fit” shirt, I wonder if he knows that “classic fit” is really just a euphemism for “out-of-shape and portly?” And if so, is feeling sorry for us and knowing we are not a threat part of the reason slim-fit guys seem inclined to like and trust us?


I have just finished going off a medication and suffering withdrawals that no woman should ever have to endure. And that many men shouldn’t ever have to endure either. And I am in that group of men.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: The Aging Optimist

jyb_musingsI have a feeling today is going to be a great day. But don’t know what it is that is going to be great today in my life.

But since I am in my 50s and won’t be able to remember tomorrow whatever great thing happened in my life today, I am OK with not needing to know specifics about today’s great things that I feel are going to happen.

I am content just knowing today is going to be a great day. Involving something. I just don’t know what and, even if I did, I wouldn’t remember it anyway. But because of my “can do attitude” that won’t stop me from being an optimist.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: What does Walgreens know about me that I don’t know?

jyb_musingsI love Walgreens. Don’t get me wrong.

But the “Be well” mantra from every Walgreen’s employee at the end of each verbal exchange is making me more than a little paranoid. And has me wondering what is wrong with me that the Walgreens employees know and aren’t being straightforward about with me.

I went to Walgreens today to buy some vitamins and toiletries. The sales clerk who helped me was very helpful and as I walked away she said sincerely “Be well.” I took it as a kind of encouraging “atta boy.” It seemed like a natural –if somewhat meddlesome—thing to say to me. After all, she had helped me find vitamins that will make me healthier or “weller,” in the Walgreens parlance.

But before leaving Walgreens I looked at some phone chargers for my phone and the sales clerk who helped me told me that didn’t carry what I was looking for. I thanked him and he, too, told me to “Be well.” He said it in a more concerned tone and almost knowing manner. I thought that was odd and, frankly, it scared me a little. I don’t know him personally and I was just looking for a phone charger –not something that affected my health. Had he talked to the sales clerk who helped me with the vitamins? Did he know I was taking a vitamin supplement because I worried my diet wasn’t sufficient? Or was he just repeating a catch phrase he was told to say to every customer and was only pretending to be deeply concerned about my health (and, presumably, my phone charger situation)?

As I walked to the check-out counter I wondered if Walgreens had somehow gotten involved with the Church of Scientology. I remember meeting some members of the Church of Scientology years ago and they seemed “programmed” and had certain buzz words they used as they encouraged me to do a personal “audit” within the Dianetics program. Interacting with Walgreens employees is always pleasant. In fact,a little too pleasant. Almost robotic And every conversation ends with the same mechanical “Be well” farewell and hope that my health (physical, mental and emotional health?) will somehow improve. But it isn’t clear what they are really saying to me. Do they know something about my health failing that I am not aware of? Or maybe Walgreens employees are using this hypnotic “Be well” chant to “guide me” to a better level of “being” within the Dianetics framework of personal growth.

I thought to myself I could easily see Tom Cruise and John Travolta shopping at Walgreens instead of Rite Aid. Why didn’t this occur to me earlier?

As I checked out and tried to pay the sales clerk, he asked me if I was a “Balance Rewards Member.” I said I didn’t know what that meant. I figured it must be one of the levels of Scientology but didn’t say anything. I gave the sales clerk my phone number as requested and he told me I was at the “Balance Rewards” level. As I watched him type in my phone number all sorts of data about me was processing before his eyes.

I was informed I had reached a level of 27,000 points. I couldn’t tell if that was good news for me –or if perhaps it meant my health was in jeopardy. As I took my bag and walked away the cashier, who was a thoughtful and quiet man, he kept staring at the floor and muttered to me against his will to “Be well.”

Obviously he didn’t mean it and was saying it merely as part of some Scientology “group speak” based on all the information he had about me. I think he knew I wasn’t going to make it. I turned back to him and motioned toward the vitamins I had purchased. I wanted him to know I was at least trying. But he said nothing. Not even “Be well.” again or “Hang in there. You can still make it.” Just silence. What else could I conclude except he knew I didn’t have much longer to live and that he was just trying to let me down easy by not being more direct and specific?

I left Walgreens with my vitamins and toiletries. But when I got home I felt like it was pointless to even start taking the vitamins. My fate was sealed and based on my interactions with Walgreens employees, I figured it was time for me to get my affairs in order.

Who knew that the Walgreens employees and their creepy and overly solicitous “Be well” comments would convince me to update my will and to start making peace with the fact that my days are numbered? I just needed a multi-vitamin and some shaving toiletries. Geez!

I wonder if I should try going to CVS for a second opinion?

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Lost Baggage

jyb_musingsWhen you arrive home at the airport at 11:30pm after a long cross country flight and discover that the airline left one of your family’s three pieces of luggage in Dallas, it is easy to feel frustrated and angry.

But I try to avoid that selfish and petty inclination by keeping a broader perspective and reminding myself of all the positive things going on in my life right now to counter-balance this momentary and small inconvenience.

For example, we are coming home from a nice family vacation. We made it home safely. Our car started on the first turn of the key. We all have our health. And, besides, all of my things are in the two bags that made it home.

John Y.’s Video Flashback (1995):

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