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Interview with Jeff Baxter

Jeff Baxter, also known as Skunk, is probably best known for being one of the founding members of Steely Dan and Grammy-winning guitarist in the Doobie Brothers. However, Jeff Baxter is also a national security expert and speaker on problem-solving and innovation. Read his interview and learn more about him and his career.

How did you begin your speaking career?

I was producing a band at a studio in Massachusetts around 2001 and one of the engineers at that studio was an old friend of mine, the drummer from the Boston Band, The Rockin’ Ramrods.  We were reminiscing about our days in the 60’s Boston Music Scene when I asked him if he knew how Harry Sandler, the former drummer for the band Orpheus was doing and he connected us.  Turned out that Harry was the VP of a well-known speaker’s bureau and he suggested, because of my fairly unique career that combined music and national security, that I should consider doing speaking engagements and it evolved from that.


How much does humor factor into your keynotes and other speaking engagements?

I believe that humor is an integral part of the human experience and that there are very few things that should be taken extremely seriously, especially oneself.


Who or what inspires you most?

Much of my inspiration comes from music so musicians like Charlie Parker, Beethoven, Charlie Christian, Ella Fitzgerald and Les Paul were and still are inspiration for me.  As far as non-musicians are concerned, I was exposed to the writings of Winston Churchill at a very young age so he and others like Charles Townes, (won the Nobel Prize for inventing the LASER), Abraham Lincoln, George Martin, Jules Verne and USAF COL John Boyd are people who have inspired me. I am invigorated by the challenges of solving difficult problems and, for me, the most motivating words in any language are the words “no”, “can’t” and “impossible.”


What has been the key to your success?

Having an open mind, seeking out the non-traditional, and operationalizing the phrase, “improvise, adapt and persevere.”


Do you have a favourite experience from your speaking career?

My favorite part of any speaking experience is the Q&A. I almost always learn something new and I especially enjoy if I can start a lively, spirited and dynamic discussion between people in the audience who may have never communicated before. The outcome is almost always positive for all concerned, including me.


What are your biggest goals in your life/career currently?

I have pretty much checked off most of the items on my “bucket list” so, as I enter the sunset chapters of my life, I endeavor to leave this world a bit smarter, a better musician, make whatever contributions I can, keep my sense of humor and, with any luck, a little bit of a better place than when I came into it.

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