Be a Superstar Webinar Presenter
“Please answer the poll.’ Which to you consider most urgent: ASAP, Hurry, or Right Away?’ If you chose ASAP as most urgent, in the chat, tell me how soon you expect someone to complete something you requested ASAP. Now those of you who would prioritize ASAP last, if an ASAP can wait more than a day, click to raise your hand. Unmute yourself if you are willing to role play this out with me…”
An activity that is usually fun and simple gets quickly convoluted when transformed for a webinar. Generally any activity is worth the effort because online meetings and seminars can make the presenter feel like they are playing to an empty house.
Converting to a webinar requires more than a webcam, microphone and backdrop. The content, materials, presentation methods, and timing all need to be altered to achieve success. When you pull it off, though, the audiences are exceedingly complimentary and appreciative.
If you find yourself meeting through a shared screen, take advantage of some of these ideas.
Timing: Attention is harder to maintain in the webinar format, so breaks (they can be short) should happen at least every 50 to 55 minutes. Stories should be shortened, concepts simplified, and processes broken down into steps. The fact that participants are consuming the content from multiple separate locations – handouts, shared screen, audio, and chat with a potential time lag and abundant distractions makes delivering the same content at the same pace you would in person sound like the teachers speaking on Charlie Brown.
Equipment: Besides the obvious computer and webcam, you will want a better-quality external microphone that you can place directly in front of you. The biggest technical difficulties are sound problems because participants will always be fine as long as they can hear you. If the sound stops working, which you will know because attendees will start to madly leave you messages that they can’t hear, the best thing to do is switch to your computer’s internal microphone and back again. You can also call in via telephone. The mic source seems to switch at random sometimes.
Looking at you all day allows viewers to explore what they see in the background. Unless you have a nicely staged environment, you will want to provide a solid backdrop. It can be a bedsheet you hang from the ceiling, but it should eliminate distracting wall hangings that behind your head make you look like Medusa. If you use a green screen, some webinar platforms allow you to project an image as the backdrop. Be careful with this for the same reasons we chose to have a backdrop in the first place and because green screen technology sometimes creates a pulsating glow that outlines you against the background. You will also need good lighting from the front preferably with a second source from the side to keep you from casting a distracting shadow.
The task of keeping track of all the elements happening simultaneously on the control panel can be daunting. If you can recruit a moderator to conduct the broadcast with you, have them field questions, handle technical issues, and send you reminders of timing and content oversights. Even with an assistant, consider having a second laptop. You can display different event elements on each monitor. Concentrate on what you are sharing on-screen from your main laptop. Put the questions or webcam view on the second one. Having a second computer will also save the day in case you do something that locks you up on the first computer.
Materials: If you don’t ordinarily provide written handouts, create some for your virtual meeting. Participants are multitasking just like you are, and a handout that captures the bulk of the notes will allow the broadcasted content to leave tangible collateral material they can refer to after the webinar. This can increase the impact of your efforts for the participants and your perceived value as a presenter. Showing the handout while you share your screen or duplicating handout content on presentation slides (which is not recommended in live presentations) is a best practice for online courses. Most webinar platforms allow you to share handouts through the interface, so you can provide workbooks, outlines, or copies of the slides without having to email them in advance. Additional handouts generated during the event can be shared as well. An example of this is discussions where you capture responses. You may also want to encourage attendees to screen capture particular shared-screen content.
Content: Don’t assume your current content in its present format will translate directly to cyberspace. Consumers of webinars surveyed overwhelmingly chose well-organized as the most important requirement for a positive experience. Presenters who have a high-energy, organic style may need to reign the spontaneity in or limit it to pocket segments of the day. The audience may check out entirely if they feel lost. Cover your material in the order it appears in the handouts. Provide an overview of what you are about to discuss, why it is important, how you will present it, and the timing. Review frequently with summary slides you flash to intermittently that give attendees a road map. If you resist this linear style of instruction in the live, in-person world – give it a chance in the virtual world. Audience engagement will make or break you. Participants need to feel smart, capable, and in control. A confused mind checks email.
Presentation: Audio is the most important part of your presentation. Speak clearly and articulately with adequate pausing to allow people to catch up with their thoughts. Like radio, however, dead air is to be avoided. Narrate what is happening when taking care of technical issues, switching gears, and taking time to read through chat questions. Consider playing music during breaks and activities you give them time to complete. Participants worry they have been cut off when they don’t hear anything. Also be mindful of things you don’t want them to hear. Put the dog out, close the door, and invest in sound proofing if needed. You may want to mute when you swallow, clear your throat, or shuffle papers.
Keeping your webcam broadcasting for the majority of the presentation maintains rapport and adds the human element. A big reason people join webinars is to feel connected to live people and what is going on in the world, so your face provides that. Resist the temptation to monitor yourself on camera. It is distracting, and participants can tell you are looking at yourself. When you want to make an intimate point, move your face close to the camera lens, looking through it imagining you are speaking to an individual.
Turn off your webcam when you give them time to think about something or work on an activity, when the element on the screen is highly important, when someone else has the floor, and when you go on breaks (when you will want to display a timer or slide that indicates you are on a break).
You can choose whether you want to share your live screen or an individual application. When you share your whole desktop, a best practice is to pause sharing on a slide while you switch over to another application or demonstration. You then press “play” to turn live sharing back on. It looks polished and smooth that way.
Videos can be shown during your presentation but may cause a system slowdown. Most platforms give you the option of uploading videos in advance. This is to ensure the audio will play but does not guarantee the video will not bog down or freeze the platform. Often the audio can’t be heard by those listening in by telephone. There are workarounds available, but you will want to weigh the value of the video against the risk of losing your audience.
Vocal interest and variety are even more important on a webinar. Stay hydrated, and take care of your throat because you are talking for more of the day and are trying to combine enthusiasm with enunciation and authenticity. Keep up your energy when giving an online presentation without sounding like a game show announcer. This is difficult because you are not getting immediate, live feedback. In fact, presenters say they are tired after webinars because they are sending energy out without getting it back. Standing up while presenting can help, but again it is more physically exhausting. Stand on a padded mat with a stool available to allow yourself the option of sitting.
Interaction: Engagement is the most important measure of success in your presentation and is not necessarily measured by interaction. Haven’t you given in-person programs where the audience did not interact much but gave you glowing reviews? People appreciate your trying to engage them in any case. The avenues for engagement are polls, raised hands/thumbs up, chat/questions, and oral discussion.
Reaction time is important to consider with interactions. People have to click something to vote, unmute, or type, so allow more time than you think it should take. Warn people of upcoming interaction in advance so that there is not an awkward pause between your request and their response. Polls are a non-threatening way to get and share responses. Keep the poll up for between 45 and 75 seconds, and talk people through it. Most platforms require you to manually input polls every time a new presentation is scheduled. You can duplicate a previous presentation to preserve them, however.
Meetings have chats, webinars have questions. The default setting for chats is that anyone can chat to anyone with the choice of whether to send messages privately to individuals or to be viewed by all. You can change the settings to allow chats to go only to organizers who can post to everyone. This setting makes them similar to questions, which go only to organizers in private but can be shown to all when replied to by organizers. When you ask people to type something in chat, tell them what to write and give them time. If it is just a check-in or yes-or-no answer, you can ask them to vote by raising their hands.
To bring things to life, you may want to unmute a few times to give people a quick opportunity to shout out. It is fun and breaks the monotony. Microphones can be muted by you and by participants, so if you have a small group, you can unmute everyone and ask them to mute themselves. That way they can easily unmute and answer your questions. With big groups, keep them muted, and ask anyone who wants to talk to raise their hand.
Logistics: Familiarize yourself with the difference between the presenter and participant control panels, and be prepared to introduce attendees to the way it all works. Slides that screenshot the participant view with arrows and explanations are helpful.
When participants cannot hear, it is often that they have chosen the wrong source for audio (phone vs computer and a different source within the computer). They often just have the volume on their phone or computer low or muted. If they cannot see, sometimes they just need to click the icon for the presentation to bring it to the front of the other windows they may have open.
You usually have the option of recording the event. Take control of where the recording will be stored, and decide if you want to share it.
Polls and videos often have to be loaded into a scheduled meeting before it starts, so make sure to do that before clicking the link to the event.
Successfully conducting a webinar takes preparation, mindful interaction, and skill combined with energy. It is worth mastering, though, because as the world evolves, the demand for presenters who have put the effort in to being able to conduct webinars optimally will continue to rise. The definition of what it takes to be a leader and influencer is changing to include the qualities it takes to master remote interaction.
So which is most urgent in your mind, ASAP, Hurry, or Right Away?
If someone is a jerk whose problem is that? I get a laugh at my training classes when I flash a slide with this question on it. But really, whose problem is it? People say, “Oh it’s their problem,” but when you’re at home ruining dinner for your family talking about what the jerk did, what is the jerk doing? Having a peaceful dinner with his or her family. The day the jerky behavior becomes a problem for the jerk, he or she will be motivated to change it. But if it bothers you it’s your problem. This answers the question: if they’re a jerk, why am I the one who’s here reading this?
And why are they being a jerk in the first place? Typically the answer to this is because it works. Most ineffective behavior occurs because either it works or be it worked at one point in their lives, became a habit, and now occurs on autopilot.
But it only works when you buy into it. Jack Canfield author of the chicken soup for the soul series used to say if someone told you had green hair with that hurt your feelings? No, because you know you don’t. But if someone says you’re too demanding, might that bother you? Well, if that was a line item on your performance appraisal or something you were accused of in a previous relationship, it may now be an area of insecurity for you, which means it’s a point of weakness that people might capitalize on to be able to manipulate you. Zig Ziglar said if you don’t want people to get your goat, don’t let them know where it’s tied up. But for most of us it’s too late. In fact the people you work with might be more aware of your weak points than you are.
Think back to childhood. What are some of the things children do to try and get their way? Now think about what technique was your favorite. Why did you use that technique? Chances are, it’s because it worked. And once it worked what did you do? Default to that technique? And do you suppose you’ve gotten enough practice and repetition of that technique for it to become a habit on autopilot?
Am I suggesting we are all manipulating one another? Yes. But is it conscious? Not usually.
I believe humans need to be manipulated in order to take action.
What did you do to manipulate yourself to get out of bed this morning?
We will define manipulation as attempting to influence the behavior or emotions of others for your own purposes. With that in mind, think about who might be manipulating you. Who might you unconsciously be manipulating? How does the manipulation show up, and what harm does it do? Are there ways not to fall for the manipulation as well as ways to get your way without manipulating others?
Mapping a Meaningful Journey
We are all on this journey, and we know how it ends. Let’s make it a joyful journey, a meaningful one. When you are going on a trip, you plan for it; you pack, get directions, make reservations. What about life? Are you really on the journey you want to take? To make the journey through life effectively, you’ll need maps—mind maps.
Make a map of your priorities, and base future life decisions on your map. Break down goals or dreams or projects you have planned that require multiple steps using the same mapping technique.
When you find yourself staring into space because you need to write, speak, or organize your thoughts for some purpose—or when you are just worrying—map your thoughts to get them out of your head. Mind mapping is a good technique for taking notes, and in the process you will soon find yourself organizing your thoughts into mental maps, so you can remember and use them.
This mapping technique is used to generate, visualize, structure, and classify ideas, and as an aid in studying, organizing, problem solving, and making decisions. Mapping results in better information retention than by using traditional ‘linear’ thinking and note taking methods.The next section will take you through a series of exercises and instructions to get you started on the road to becoming a master mapper—and achiever.
Integrity: Start with a Circle
So much to do and so little time. Without a plan, we tend to do what comes up, which often means we do what others impose on us. Is that what it’s all about, letting life live us? What are you really all about? Because we can’t do everything and prioritization is the key. Before prioritizing our tasks, we need to identify our priorities in life. Our priorities come from our values. Our values make up who we are. Our integrity comes from living up to who we are.
Are there areas of your life where you are not really putting your time or energy into what you say is important? Are you being true to your integrity? When we live in disharmony with our values, this dissonance causes stress, even illness. Many people say they want to attain life balance, but what do they want to balance? If the answer is work and home, rethink. Is it reasonable to have only these two facets in life? What if something happens at work or in your home life, what’s left? What constitutes the “life” aspect of you?
Map and Master
On a piece of paper, make a small circle and write the word “life” inside the circle. Take about two minutes to brainstorm your life priorities. A good way to figure these out is to ask yourself questions like, “What’s most important to me in the world?” or “What are the main areas of my life?” Popular entries include family, career, health, spirituality, friends, wealth, self, fun, giving back, hobbies, travel, and home.
Draw “spokes” off the circle and write the priorities at the end of the lines. Please avoid making it linear, keep it looking like a child’s picture of the sun. The reason for this format is explained later. It takes about two minutes, so do it now.
Congratulations, what you have now is at least a partial list of your values—the basis of priorities. Only by beginning with what is most important to you can you live life on your terms, what life Naturopath Dr. Rick Brinkman calls a Life by Design. Integrity means being who you say you are, so you still need to do two things: systematically take action in each priority area, and set and protect boundaries. Branch goals off each of the values—things you would like to accomplish in each of the areas.
Stay with the spokes off of a circle technique. This process is called mind mapping, clustering, or spider webbing. You may have been fortunate enough to have a teacher introduce it to you for planning something like a writing project. The reason for this technique is multifold. First, brainstorming from a circle makes you think outward, while lists lead to thinking downward. The circle expands your thinking, listing narrows it. The mental process is quite different; lists are linear while maps are random access.
With a list, you tend to look only at the last entry before adding the next one, so it is easy to go off on a tangent. A map has the main idea or goal in the middle, so you keep focus. Also, maps have no priority order; you can organize after you get all the ideas written down.
There is more to a map than its shape and format. One of the main purposes of mapping is to allow us to capture all the thoughts and information that comes to us in random order as quickly as it comes. When mapping, it’s helpful to follow these guidelines:
- Write just a key word or two, not long phrases or sentences
- Write everything that comes to mind, it is brainstorming
- Be random, you can organize later
- Put like things together
The reason for the key words is that memory studies have found that taking notes in full sentences leads the brain to think, “I don’t need to remember that; I’ve got it written down.” Tony Buzan is a great source of information about mind mapping. Buzan has written books, created software, and developed a Web site on mind mapping. While it works to make mind maps of just words and lines, Buzan’s guidelines are specific, and focused on structure and visual variety:
- Start in the center with an image of the topic, using at least three colors
- Use images, symbols, codes, and dimensions throughout your map
- Select key words and print using upper or lower case letters
- Each word/image must be alone and sitting on its own line.
- The lines must be connected, starting from the central image. Central lines are thicker, organic, and flowing, becoming thinner as they radiate out from the center
- Make the lines the same length as the word/image
- Use colors—your own code—throughout the mind map
- Develop your own personal style of mind mapping
- Use emphasis and show associations in your map
- Keep the mind map clear by using radial hierarchy, numerical order or outlines to embrace your branches
Repeat the map and master exercise for work. Write “work” in the middle of the circle, and with spokes around it, identify your job priorities. Off of those priorities, branch goals for each area. Doing this will get you started managing many priorities at once, instead of just doing the ones that are the most obvious.
The Scratch Sheet
In math class, we needed a scratch sheet to figure out complicated problems. In life, when we need to compile, organize, and present complicated ideas and actions, we also need a scratch sheet. The brain can only hold onto seven plus or minus two things at a time. To get things done, mind maps are the perfect multi-purpose tool. After all, where is it easier to organize your thoughts, inside your head (where you can’t see them) or on a sheet of paper sitting in front of you? Try using mind maps as scratch sheets for anything you need to organize. Here are some thoughts on how to apply mind mapping to four common areas of our lives: thinking, writing, note taking, and project management. Remember, it’s okay if it looks like a mess. It’s a scratch sheet.
Every time you catch yourself staring into space, you are probably trying to organize multiple thoughts in your head, so start a map. In the middle of the circle, identify the thought process—worry, idea, anger, etc. or the object of thought—person’s name, event, “shopping list,” etc. (or leave the circle blank). Randomly dump out every thought as fast as you can; don’t stop to think, just write. Step back and look for solutions, patterns, and things you could subgroup together. Cluster like things by color coding, numbering, or (if you have mind mapping software) dragging.
Writing, Presenting, and Conversing
Do you ever have to give a presentation, write a document, or initiate a difficult conversation? Do you ever get nervous or have writer’s block? Mind map your way out of it. Put the topic in the middle of your mind map and brainstorm the main things you have to say or write. Branch off the main topics what you need to say under each of those, then branch off of the subtopics until you have reached the desired level of detail. You map will already be somewhat organized, but consider adding numbers, crossing off unnecessary items, and moving items to subgroups as necessary. This is your outline. Working from this outline, you can put your speech, document, or conversation together quickly and painlessly.
When a customer, boss, or colleague gives you instructions, is the conversation organized? How long does it take to put these sentences into some kind of action plan? What if you mapped it? Write the name, date, and topic in the middle, then branch according to broad topic. As the speaker skips around, add branches to the applicable topic. For meetings try putting a slash across the middle of the page with the meeting date and topic on it. Starting at the bottom, yes the bottom, write the agenda items in branches off of the slash. As the meeting progresses, add subtopics to the main slashes and more subtopics off of those according to where each comment fits. You can color code or put who said what as well. I learned this technique from the famous Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics speed-reading program where it is called a slash recall pattern.
At the end of the meeting you can recall who said what without looking. This is because we used key words, not full sentences (your brain says “I’d better remember what these key words mean”) and because a mind map is visual. Look at the map you made earlier, then look upward. Can you picture the map in your mind’s eye? With a little practice, you can “see” the words you wrote on the map and recall all the information. Teach this to anyone in your life who has to study for tests.
“Human beings cannot do projects, they can only do tasks,” that’s what my boss told me on the first day of a project management job. “Our job is to break the projects into tasks, so they can get accomplished.”
Can you see how mind mapping could be the best way to do this? Take any goal, dream, or project you have not yet accomplished and write it in a circle, then think, “What steps do I need to take to achieve the goal.” Branch the main steps off of the center, then break the large pieces down, breaking the large sub-tasks down—continuing until the last layer of every branch is a task.
How do you know you’ve reached a task? You know exactly what to do—you have no questions. For example, ff you wanted to write a book and started mapping out the steps but got stuck, that would indicate that you probably don’t know what to do next. In that case, write, “How” (short, keyword entry for “find out how”) on the map, then branch off the ways to research what to do. Perhaps you would come up with, “book,” “group,” and “Internet” as entries (short, keyword entries for “find a book,” “join a group,” and “search the Internet”) Going to a bookstore to get a book on how to write a book is a task.
As a side note, what is a task to one person may be a project to another. I could search the Internet and it would be a task, but if I asked my mother to do it, I would have to explain some steps. Keep this in mind when you give someone a work assignment. If you have been doing the job for a long time, you might not remember that there are steps in the process that must be broken down for someone less experienced.
Once the project has been broken down, it’s easier to decide in what order to perform the tasks, what can be done simultaneously, and what resources you’ll need. Without the map, we just start . . . and stop . . . and realize while we are doing it what the steps are. Rather than work on a project with the steps hidden, get them out and get organized.
So far, we have been mapping. Maps are a great way to conceptualize, strategize, and organize thoughts and information, however, they are not the best format for reviewing the information. Once you’ve mapped a project, it makes sense to convert project breakdowns into to-do lists, Gantt charts, and presentations. You could take the outermost tasks from each branch and enter them manually into your to do lists. However, mind mapping software can almost instantly convert maps into word outlines, task reminders, Gantt charts, and slide presentations .
Converting Your Maps to Master List Life
Keeping things in your head is inefficient. Why? Think about it—or rather—write about it. How many times have you thought something through, only to go back to the idea or solution and find the thought is no longer there? If you don’t ink it when you think it, you can’t use it.
Do you ever feel overwhelmed or lack focus? Imagine opening every program you have in Windows when you turn on the computer. You would run slowly and sluggishly and might crash. It is the same when you try to keep everything in your head. You’ll forget it, be overloaded by it, stress out over it, or keep someone else from getting to it. How many interruptions are caused by people trying to get at things that can only be found in your head?
Why don’t we write things down? Many people say it takes too long, but I am going to purport that it always takes longer not to write things down than it ever takes to write them. As a case in point, consider someone who doesn’t write a to-do list but instead keeps her to-dos in her head. She still has to think at the beginning of the workday,
“What do I need to do today?” If she wrote it down right then, it might take five to ten minutes, but she doesn’t. When she finishes the first task, if she had written her list she could have crossed the first task off and quickly moved to the next (and doesn’t it feel good to cross something off a to-do list). Not having written it down, however, she now has to think again, “What next?” So it goes between each task. By the end of the day, the person who did not write the tasks down spends a lot more time on the unwritten list than would ever have been spent writing it once.
My suggestion is for you to create a master to-do list. Write down everything that comes to mind in chaotic order and then cross off the “junk.” As soon as an item gets a deadline, cross it off and move it to a calendar. Things due today go on today’s to-do list—this is what you work from. Keep an ideas sheet (some day maybe . . . it would be nice if . . .) where you can keep track of books, movies, restaurants, places, and things you would like to look into. Work with a mobile list to allow you to finish one thing before starting another. Write delegated tasks on an assignment sheet.
At this point people ask, “How many lists do you expect me to have?” My answer is . . . one. Consider having only today’s to-do list and having only the amount of work you can do today on it. While you’re working on today’s list, you will discover projects or tasks due in the future. Write those on future daily lists and get back to today’s list. When you become distracted by things that have no deadline or that you don’t know what to do with, write them on the master list—this is all to help you keep focused on today’s list.
In the choice between keeping work and personal life on the same list and separating them, consider whether you will pay attention to the personal list at all or get carried away on the work. Might it be that having something from your personal life on the list motivates you to work more effectively?
To recap, write to-dos that have a deadline on your calendar and dump everything else on a master list. Break large projects (those with more than ten-steps) down using mind maps. Working backward from the deadline, decide what tasks need to be done month by month, week by week, and day by day to accomplish the project. Put these tasks on the daily lists with color coding. So far, we are better off because our thoughts are organized and out of our heads, and we have only tasks on our list—is there anything else we need to do to tweak our time-management regime?
I Don’t Want Bad Things to Happen to Me
Dr. Stephen Covey in his bestselling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, suggested a popular way to prioritize is to use a priority matrix. This matrix asks you to assess your tasks according to importance and urgency. Life prompts us to do things that are urgent. If it is urgent, it taps you on the back and tells you to do it. The tendency, then, is to operate in crisis mode, doing the things that are both important and urgent.
Can you think of some things that it would be important to do, but they have no deadlines? These important things are what would get us ahead of the game, yet most of us tend to only do the urgent. And when we wait for things to become urgent, they often elevate to crises. Crisis always costs more. If I pay my bills late, there’s a late fee. If I do a job at the last minute, quality suffers. You can change the oil in your car now or change the engine later. When we wait until our health or our relationships are in crisis, sometimes the damage can’t even be repaired.
My grandfather continually asked my mother when she was going to have a granddaughter. He died of a heart attack eight months before I was born. My father’s older brother died of a heart attack at the age of forty-seven, and my father at fifty-six also died of a heart attack. If I go on the way we humans tend to, waiting until my health becomes urgent before I do anything about it, I might be next in line. Instead, I choose to proactively take care of my health while it is still not urgent.
On your deathbed, when you look back at your life, what will you wish you had done? Here I am on my deathbed, and I never took that trip to Europe. Here I am on my deathbed, and I’m not sure the people I care about realize how much they have meant to me. Here I am on my deathbed, and all those pictures are still in the box because I never scrapbooked them, so those memories will die with me . . .
Make the journey meaningful. Live life and don’t let life live you. Now it’s back to mind mapping.
Make a Preventive Maintenance Map
Start like before with the word “life” in the middle of a circle. Around the circle map all the major aspects of your life: health, relationships, possessions, finances, work, growth, and happiness. Break each broad category into tangible units: Relationships with whom? What possessions?
Once you have a concrete map of the important areas, items, and aspects of your life, branch off the next layer in a different color. This layer is where you brainstorm what could go wrong in each of these areas. What could go wrong at work, with your house or your car? What could happen with your health or finances or relationships? What could thwart your growth or happiness?
The last layer out, also in a different color, is where you map out what you could do to avoid the bad thing happening in each area. Diet and exercise choices (get specific) that could preserve health and avoid things like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, failsafe measures to shore up finances, preventive maintenance on possessions, quality time in relationships.
Just making the map will get you into a more proactive mindset, but I recommend you look it over and prioritize potential problems in the order they are likely to happen. Do something every month from your map to avert crisis and take control.
Joy and Accomplishment in the Journey
When embarking on
a journey, it makes sense to know how much time we have for the journey by figuring out our plannable
hours. A map will let us plan our way instead of wandering aimlessly. Prioritization
is our compass. Know and be who you are by mapping according to your values.
Stay focused by making scratch sheets of thoughts, ideas, and projects. Stay efficient
by writing everything down. Life is a journey; we all know how it ends. Don’t
let bad things happen to you.
What’s the New Fairy Tale?
Over the holidays, I enjoy streaming the Hallmark Channel in the background as I cook, wrap, and catch up on work. The movies are addictive and full of festive spirit, but they all follow one of the old fashioned otherworldly story lines:
-A Scrooge gets won over for the holidays by interacting with a true believer
-Characters have forgotten the real meaning of life getting too wrapped up in work until they come to their senses and realize nothing is more important than love and family
-Coupled with the wrong people, the leads realize they are unhappy trying to be someone they are not when they run into the “right” match
-Having been hurt in the past, one person is afraid to be vulnerable when the other player gets them to take a chance on love
When I saw a scene of women vying to get the good luck charm that predicted who would marry next, I realized these themes were probably outdated because we haven’t identified new myths to take their place.
Do we have to choose between work and family? Can you be dedicated to your career and also enjoy a great romantic relationship? Are people destined to be labeled as optimists or realists? Can we have it all? Is aspiring to have it all part of the problem?
I wonder if I have felt guilty and unfulfilled trying to live up to a fairy tale. What is the new ideal? Are we ready to let pipe dreams catch up with reality? Please share your thoughts.
Make “Shift” Happen!
With boundless energy and an adventurous spirit, I set out to seek my fortune, living in Japan and Russia and learning languages and cultures. The topic that has always fascinated me the most, though, is working with human nature – what makes us tick? Where do our quirks and unproductive behaviors come from? Can people really change and how?
My programs offer more than just information, entertainment, and engagement. By embodying the material and revving up the attendees with insights, ah-has, and a clear road to results, my intention is to facilitate implementation.
Every talk and training I deliver comes with a “Transmission System” for shifting thought into action.
Caring is Rescuing?
I was at what Landmark Worldwide calls the Advanced Course staying in Chicago. The big theme of this course is “Everybody Gets It.” They are referring to the transformation you experience in the Landmark Forum isn’t complete until EVERYBODY gets it.
They break us into groups to do activities and hold one another accountable. At one point I announced to the group that, “I just don’t really care about people.” I began to offer proof of how little I actually care about people when a tough Russian guy in our group looked me in the eye and said, “I think it’s the opposite.” I stat stunned for a moment, then teared up at having been found out by both him and myself. All the concern I felt for everyone that I had been hiding and denying started coming out. Everything felt different. The caring version of me experienced things vividly, mindfully, and gently. I was tempted on multiple occasions to slip back into uncaring where it was safe and easy. I could barely do anything without wanting to cry. I asked how I was supposed to teach my seminars like this, and the group leader suggested I could be the “Crying Trainer.”
As I suspected, it was impractical to go about life exposed and sensitive, so I climbed back into my shell.
The reason I haven’t married or had kids is also the opposite of what I say it is. In reality, I care so much and feel responsible for someone I care about to such an extreme that I will subjugate myself in exchange for their well-being all the time. I feel guilty doing what I want and feel like I have to cater to them 24/7. I play the martyr and then resent them for my sacrifice. I am then angry and surly, pushing away the very people I care so much about, leading them not to like me so I can then escape – or at least that’s the idea. It never really works that way.
It’s like somehow it is my responsibility to make sure everyone else is always okay. And if they aren’t, I am to make them happy in whatever way I can. I know this goes against the laws of human nature, but I have these inclinations and feel I constantly need to be the superhero.
As a trainer and coach, I have to fight these inclinations. You can’t do someone else’s push-ups for them. And sheltering people from their own lessons renders them helpless in the end. Perhaps tough love is tougher on the mentor than on the client.
Where are you letting people off the hook in your life and work? What might be the payoff for you?
A Great Deal?
The women in my family have a tendency to shop to earn their keep. I mean the feeling is that if I buy stuff on sale, I’ve almost made money, which would be true if it was actually stuff we would have needed to buy anyway, but … you know what I’m getting at.
Well, the grocery store up the street was going out of business, and everything was half price. It was day four of the sale, so things were pretty picked over. I did find a few things I would have bought anyway down the first three aisles I perused, but I was being careful not to get too much – even at half price.
I heard some chatter in the next aisle, and the manager came by me and said, “Did you hear? You can fill up that cart for $25. We want all of you to help us empty out this place, so we can close today.”
I hurried back to the aisle where I had passed on the expensive coffees and grabbed four varieties. I headed to the Isle where the protein packs of nuts had almost made it to my cart. I grabbed some dark chocolate. Then I headed for the jerky and the juice. I took every pouch of tuna they had and every can of southwest corn (I make this corn dip about 10 times a year, and it requires 4 cans at a time).
I commented to a young woman who was waiting in front of me to get through the aisle that I was impressed at how civilized everyone was being.
The frozen food aisle brought fruit, smart ones dinners, and ice cream. I paid $29.28 and headed into the parking lot with a heaping cart. A man outside offered to help me unload it so he could use my cart. His name was John, and I ended up giving him some of the coffee.
I had filled up my whole back seat, and wasn’t sure what I would do with all the groceries. I called my friend, Autumn, to see if she wanted some of it. I still had to fill a trunk with canned goods. I had several things to do today, but this ended up being a big production that took up three hours.
Now I feel like I have to hurry and eat it all up to get rid of it. Despite all the groceries I bought, there wasn’t really anything to eat for dinner – except for frozen dinners and ice cream.
I guess I’ll give myself credit for having earned $375 today, since I bought about $400 of groceries for $25.
The Hash House Harriers
I just started running with the Hash House Harriers – A Drinking Club with a Running Problem. I “hashed” a little when I lived in Moscow, and it kind of reminded me of Toastmasters for people who like to get together, get active outdoors, and do some drinking.
Someone called the “hare” lays a trail in advance of the group’s arrival. There is a “chalk talk” where the hare explains the markings he or she left along the trail. There are always some situations where there are dead ends and unusual routes through various obstacles and “checks.” They also have beer stops and shots along the route where everyone waits for all the walkers to catch up before proceeding. Those who run ahead indicate what they are finding in the markings by hollering and whistling. It is usually just through normal city streets, so we make our marks with flour and toilet paper. Like a lot of old-school clubs, there is a lot of tradition and ritual. You wear long socks, H3 shirts, and often hats. Everyone also has a homemade necklace made out of beaded tiles that contain your “Hash Name.” You have to hash for awhile before you get a name. I had been called “Sampler” when I hashed in Russia, so I made my own beaded necklace with S-A-M-P-L-E-R dangling from it and the obligatory whistle.
Every hash ends with a “circle” where various people are called out and reviled with various insulting, dirty, or party-themed songs. They have tens of songs where they’ve altered the lyrics to be dirty or about drinking and hashing. The hare is always the first person brought into the circle. We all tell them how much the trail they laid sucked, singing a song to that effect.
You get called out for finishing in front or in back, for having a special occasion or not hashing for a while or not wearing hash gear. Then there are accusations where hashers point out (Hashers point with their elbows) things others have done that cause them to deserve being singled out.
Then at the end, they ask anyone who has not been brought into the circle for anything to come in and pay penance for that. Each separate group brought into the circle gets a song sung to them and then is asked to “Drink it down, down, down . . .” Old rules were that you had to drink all of whatever you brought into the circle or pour what was left over your head. Now you can just hold the drink over your head when you’re done.
I really like the long, strenuous walks in diverse areas outside. I also like drinking beer and hanging out with lots of people. It is good to be a part of something.
My Tough Love Confession
Every coach I have had has let me off the hook even when I asked them to be very tough on me. Tough love is not about being tough on the person, it is the ultimate way to care about a person . . . by being tough on their “inner stuff,” the hardware of our brains that fights change and holds us back.
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