My new book PAiLS is now available wherever books are sold (including here). I hope you enjoy it!
As many of you know, having clever children is endlessly entertaining. My oldest son Casey decided to construct a "bad lip reading" version of one of my old talks. Then, like those Russian Matryoshka dolls that are stacked one inside another, he wrapped it in a succession of boxes until a huge one made up the outer shell. After tearing through layer after layer, the family was treated to the following (which, personally, I think may make more sense than did the original talk)! Enjoy!
I stumbled across this compilation of the entire 66 commercials of the famous "PC vs. Mac" days. To me, this is some of the cleverest marketing ever. Notice the subtlety with which the Mac guy wins these standoffs without appearing to be mean. Slamming a competitor this hard but making the audience laugh at the same time is a very difficult balance to strike. Well done. I also think it's a bit of a laugh the way the "PC"guy slighlty resembles Bill Gates, and the "Mac" guy Steve Jobs. This cannot be coincidence.
Of course, these are so funny because they ring with truth. Mac's are unarguably miles above the rest.
It took some finagling, a bit of sneaking around, and then a moderate amount of arm-twisting (you'll just have to read the book to find out what I'm talking about) but finally, in the end, Terri Brady's long awaited book Letters to Lindsey became a reality. It had a wildly successful debut at two different weekends of Life Leadership conventions in the United States and Canada, and is now available to the general public (here or here).
Below is a short excerpt from the dust jacket inscription:
Speaker, business owner, blogger, wife, and mom, Terri Brady demonstrates in the pages of her book that sometimes we can learn the most profound lessons from the simplest experiences. Drawing upon everyday occurrences in her crowded life, she is a virtuoso at finding depth in daily living. Terri takes topics both serious and light and manages to turn them into unforgettable lessons. Whether it's the frustration of infertility, cute quotes from her four children, the fright of a brain tumor, or the complexity of female personalities, Terri dazzles.
I couldn't have said it better if I'd written it myself!
I am thoroughly convinced that anyone who reads this book, man or woman, will discover both deep meaning and great entertainment, and will be inspired to live a better life. Terri, as a true example of what she writes, is the best kind of author. Enjoy!
I sat in my little metal folding chair absolutely petrified. My hands were sweaty, my posture slumped, and I couldn't hear a word the presenter was saying. All my faculties were consumed with the fear of my impending doom.
What was so downright terrifying?
I was about to give my first official public presentation.
I was eighteen years old and an engineering co-op student at General Motors. More for our benefit than anything else, at the end of each semester we co-op students were required to give a presentation of our work assignment and accomplishments that term. They were horrid affairs, to be sure, with a dim little old-fashioned bulb-type overhead projector, and amateur flimsies comprised of lots of really unimportant information. One by one each victim would get up and grind through a horrid three minutes. Soon, it would be my turn.
My memory blanks out at this point. Perhaps it's some sort of protection mechanism, the kind of thing that eliminates our past tragedies from memory or at least preserves our self-image by refusing to remind us of what dorks we once were! At any rate, I can't recall one detail about that presentation except for how scared I was beforehand.
It didn't go away any time soon, either. Year after year we'd go through the same drill and I'd be wigged-out-scared each time.
Fast forward to today, where I basically make my living speaking in front of audiences around the world. I give somewhere around 50 public talks a year, and have been doing so (and often more) for almost 20 years. Now, I don't even break a sweat. I am not only NOT scared by speaking in public, I actually relish each moment!
First, the proverbial "time on the water." Anything we do a lot will eventually become comfortable. Notice I said "comfortable." Just because we ultimately get comfortable at doing something that previously scared us to death, however, doesn't mean we actually get good at doing it!
To become good at public speaking, I've learned (and continue to learn) that one has to accomplish several things. I've written and spoken a lot on this elsewhere, so for this short article I'll just condense it into a nice little jingle taken from the world-famous smash hit song, Old MacDonald, as in, "Had a farm." We all know how the next part goes: "E - I - E - I - O!"
Let's use that little bit of wisdom in the form of an acrostic (I know, I know, I hate acrostics, but this one was just too cute and memorable not to do! Give me a little slack here, sheesh.)
E = Educate - this means to teach the audience something they didn't know before. It should be a good reminder to deliver real content, something valuable, insightful, helpful, or profound.
I = Illustrate - this is one of the most important things to remember; you haven't told them until you've shown them. Use stories and illustrations to drive points home.
E = Entertain - if you don't make it fun, it won't be memorable. Worse, if you don't keep their attention, they won't even hear enough to remember any of it anyway. So be entertaining, engaging, and fun.
I = Inspire - this is where the emotional component comes in. Remember: the difference between being articulate and eloquent is passion. Eloquent speakers share their passion as much as their information.
O = Outcome - What action do you want the audience to take as a result of your talk? If you don't give them marching orders, you can be sure they won't march anywhere other than away from your podium.
There are millions of little, simple guides like this one, but I have to make the case that this little jingle from Old MacDonald just might be the most memorable. I hope it is. And I sincerely hope that when you next have the opportunity to speak in front of people, you think of this little acrostic and don't just have the jingle running through your head (because that would be annoying).
"And on this farm he had some chicks . . . "
It's pretty sad, actually, that it's been so long between caption contests. In fact, I imagine all three of you readers out there actually FORGOT we had caption contests. This is possible to believe because I almost forgot that we had them!
To set things right, we will now reveal a new caption contest. But first: we must crown the winner of the last one.
After much deliberation, argumentation, and food throwing, the winner was chosen by our distinguished panel to be the following entry from Steve Tokarski:
Everyone has experienced walking into a room of strangers and not exactly knowing what to do. Where do you sit? Who do you talk to? What do you do with your hands? Is everyone looking at you? What are they thinking?
These feelings of insecurity are natural, but they don’t have to be permanent. In fact, one of the worst things that can happen to your ability to relate to other people and to “fit in” is to be overly conscious about yourself and how you are coming across. Being self-conscious means being less “other-conscious.” This is bad, because it basically means you are too busy thinking of yourself to be thinking about the other people.
“But I am thinking about the other people,” you might say. “That’s why I feel so awkward in these situations.”
That may be true. But you’re thinking about how those other people are thinking about you, which isn’t really thinking about them at all. It’s really just another way of thinking about you, by thinking about what they are thinking about you. Get it?
There is a very helpful saying that goes something like this: You wouldn’t worry so much about what other people thought of you if you knew how seldom they did.
Remember that. It’s very helpful advice.
One of the biggest areas in which you can have a breakthrough in dealing with other people is to realize that everyone feels as if he or she is at the center of the universe. They are busier thinking about how they are coming across than they are noticing how you are coming across.
So here’s what you do with all of this. Here’s how you stand out in a world where almost everyone is self-focused and nervous too. Enter a room with your head held high, your eyes making contact with others, and a smile upon your face. Be the one who approaches other people and introduces himself first. Don’t wait for others to make the initial contact. You make it yourself. Play a little game in your head by pretending that the one who makes the initial contact first wins! Shake hands, give your name, and strike up conversations by asking others about themselves. People are infinitely interesting when you care enough to dig into who they are and what they are about. Try it. You will be shocked how effective these little steps are.
I mean it! Act comfortable even if you are not. Force yourself to behave in the proper way and eventually it will become a habit. No one will be able to tell that you are actually feeling a little nervous deep down inside.
There is a line in a rock song that says, “Charisma is the key to opportunity.” It may not be as simple as all that, but it’s not too far off the mark, either! The world seems to make way for a person who knows where he or she is going. And there is no better way to demonstrate confidence and a sense of direction than by being comfortable around other people. Learn the habits of good interaction with people, whether they be older, younger, or much different from you. Get good at being the initiator. And stop worrying so much about what other people are thinking about you. Trust me, if you do these steps often enough, they will think much more highly of you for doing so!
I was in a bookstore one day browsing through the section on historical fiction. I am a sucker for a well-written novel set in a real historical time and involving characters from our past. Thumbing through the familiar names of Bernard Cornwell, Conn Iggulden, and Jeff Shaara, I was surprised to come across a couple of books in this genre by Steven Pressfield. I knew Pressfield to be the creator of the story behind the movie The Legend of Bagger Vance. Intrigued, I bought both books and read them with relish. They were remarkable. They transported me back in time, immediately got me interested in their characters, and also taught me much about the epochs in which they were set. Impressed with the breadth of Pressfield’s creative ability, I dug into the story of his success.
Apparently it was seventeen years of trying before Pressfield got his first professional writing job. It was a partnership on a screenplay for a movie called King Kong Lives. Excited and confident of success, Pressfield invited everyone he knew to the movie’s premiere. Nobody showed. Not a soul. Then the review of the movie in Vanity Fair said of Pressfield and the other man who helped write the script, “. . . Ronald Shusett and Steven Pressfield; we hope these are not their real names, for their parents’ sake.” Talk about criticism!
Pressfield himself writes of that time in his life, “Here I was, forty-two years old, divorced, childless, having given up all normal human pursuits to chase the dream of being a writer; now I’ve finally got my name on a big Hollywood production . . . and what happens? I’m a loser, a phony; my life is worthless, and so am I.”
If the story had ended there for Pressfield, we may never have heard of him. But something happened. In Pressfield’s words: “My friend . . . snapped me out of it by asking if I was gonna quit . . . no! [Pressfield answered]. ‘Then be happy. You’re where you wanted to be, aren’t you? So you’re taking a few blows. That’s the price for being in the arena and not on the sidelines. Stop complaining and be grateful.’”
It’s hard to imagine sometimes the resistance and rejection successful people have overcome on their journeys. We look at them and immediately see their genius, their ability, their authentic swing. We know them by their Margaritaville. But excellence comes only after the long struggle against any and all obstacles that come along. This is easy to forget when looking upon someone who has “made it.”
There is another, deeper lesson to be gained from Pressfield’s story, however. In effect, he was told not to waste his failure. Specifically, he was reminded to be grateful for it!
We have already been through the discussion about how failure isn’t fatal as long as it isn’t final. But we need to emphasize here that failures are extremely valuable if utilized properly, that is, if they are used as learning experiences and employed in the task of making us better.
Failures hurt. In reading the account of Pressfield’s first professional flop, it is easy to feel his pain and embarrassment. But fortunately for thousands of fans all over the world, Steven Pressfield did not allow his humiliations to define him; instead, he let them refine him. The concept is simple but difficult to live out consistently: our failures should not define us, but rather they should refine us.
Too many times we allow our failures to go to waste. As a result of the pain of failing we quit, pout, lash out, lose confidence, and lose hope. In such cases the failures hurt, but they are not allowed to instruct. They knock us down, but then are not utilized to lift us higher. They make us appear foolish, but are not allowed to help us grow wise.
Author Frans Johansson wrote, “ . . . groundbreaking innovators . . . produce a heap of ideas that never amount to anything. We play only about 35 percent of Mozart’s, Bach’s, or Beethoven’s compositions today; we view only a fraction of Picasso’s works; and most of Einstein’s papers were not referenced by anyone. Many of the world’s celebrated writers have also produced horrible books,* innovative movie directors have made truly uncreative duds, megasuccessful entrepreneurs have disappointed investors, and pioneering scientists have published papers with no impact whatsoever on their colleagues . . . the best way to beat the odds is to continually produce . . . .”
Any life lived will most certainly come with a litany of failures, mistakes, embarrassments, and humiliations. If we are not mature enough to use these shortfalls as steppingstones, they don’t find their way into our legacy and are spilled out as waste instead. In such instances, we have felt the pain but not grabbed the gain.
Never waste a failure. Wring from it all the experience and learning you can to come back stronger and better the next time. And no matter what, keep producing.
* He doesn't mean me!