How to Cope with the Shorter Days

Professional Speaker-Personal Development-Positive Attitude

It’s 4:30 at night and already I have my headlights on as I drive home.  The sun is nearly gone, and by 6:00, it’s so dark outside that I feel like it’s time for bed.  The early darkness makes me feel confused and bored and a little disoriented.

Sound familiar???

I’ve heard so many people complain about the longer evenings, about how much they hate it.  And if I’m honest, I have to admit that I’m one of them.  However, the short days are here to stay for the next few months – and there is nothing we can do to change that. 

So, how can we deal with it?  How do we find a positive twist to something we can’t control?

As you already know, I give presentations on how to keep a positive attitude in any situation.  I often refer to “flip the switch” and offer suggestions on how to find something good in everything that surrounds us.  And as I was driving home, I found it!  I figured out a way to deal with the darkness.

There, surrounding me, around every corner, houses and yards were lit up with beautiful colors.  There were homes with red and green lights twisting around the fence; I saw a Santa’s face all lit up smiling at me;  and a snowman family seemed to wave to me as I drove past.

That’s when it dawned on me – the early darkness gives me more time to enjoy all these beautiful holiday decorations.  They light up my route as I drive home and actually make me smile.  In fact, the lovely deer pictured here greeted me as I pulled into my own driveway.  What a beautiful sight!

So now, I look forward to the darkness so I can see what new decorations are in my neighborhood.  This weekend I’m heading to Zoo Lights.  And who knows what else?

Take a look around and tell me what festive decorations surround you.  What are your favorites?  Which ones make your darkness a little brighter?

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Paint by Number Life – Is That You?

Professional Speaker-Personal Development-Positive Attitude

Do you sometimes feel like you have a paint by number life?  All the 1’s are blue, the 2’s are white, so on and so on…  You’ve gotten into a routine that’s almost robotic.  You drive the same route to work every day, and on some days, you don’t even remember how you got there.  You think: Did I really drive through town?  Did I stop at that red light?  But somehow you get to work without remembering anything along the route that got you there.

So if you should find yourself in a ho-hum, almost boring phase of your life, try these simple tips to help you add a little spice to your life:

  1. Check out the community board at your local coffee shop, grocery store or restaurant and see what’s going on around town.  You will find a variety of activities, anywhere from who is giving music lessons to the latest movie festival.  The photo I posted here was at an Einstein Bros. Bagel restaurant in Naperville, IL.  Lots of options!
  2. Did you know that many local high schools, junior colleges or universities offer adult classes?  Many times they offer topics that are quite interesting at a very reasonable price.  I personally have taken some on traveling, decorating or how to make the best martini imaginable.  All of these classes were just for fun.
  3. Don’t forget your local library.  Many of them offer free programs.  I’ve been to some that show free movies, offer cooking classes and even share simple lessons on how to use your computer.  YES – this and more programs at many libraries.  If yours doesn’t offer any classes, check out the one in the next town or suburb.

Sometimes we find that we are living a life filled with no risk, no creativity – and no mess.  If your life or your job looks like everyone else’s, and you’d like to shake it up a little, try one of the three tips above.  It sounds simple, but it’s not easy.  Because guess what?  You are the only one who can do it.  You are the only one who can shape your life into what you want it to be.

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Remember – It’s Your Story

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This is the fourth week we are talking about storytelling.  Why?  Because it is so powerful in getting your message heard and remembered.  Did you know that an audience is twenty times more likely to remember a fact if it is presented as part of a story that touches them emotionally (this is according to Jerome Bruner, cognitive psychologist).

But does it really matter who said it?  Just think about some of the lessons and techniques you have learned recently.  Do you remember the Power Point and graphs and charts – or do you remember the stories that you identified with.

So in order to be a great storyteller, let’s take it to the next level…

So far, I have shared with you techniques on where to find your stories and how to construct them to have your audience sitting on the edge of their seats.  Now there’s only one more bonus tip you need.  It will help you become one of the best storytellers ever!  The final tip is how to remember your story so you can make an impact on your audience.

Bonus Tip!

To help remember your story:

  • Record it and listen to it over and over again.
  • As you listen to your story, visualize it.
  • Say it out loud as many times as possible.
  • Use short, simple, descriptive words.

So, if you should find yourself standing in front of an audience, and those nerves begin to kick in, try the four tips above.  Remember, it’s your story.  You should know it better than anyone else, so just begin telling it.  Have fun with your audience.  Laugh along with them. You will be amazed at how impactful you can be.

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Jaw Dropping, Captivating Storytelling

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In my last two blogs, I shared the importance of storytelling and specific ideas on where to find your stories.  So now that you have the idea, and your story is written, how do you bring it to life? How to you actually tell it so people will want to listen.

Here are a few ideas:

One trick is to engage all your senses – or at least some of them.  That means, tell your listener what you see, what you hear, what you smell, what you taste and what you feel.  This last one can be what you feel inside, like an emotion, or what you feel physically, like a hard bench.  By engaging the senses, you invite your listener into your world and make them actually feel  your words.

Another technique is to use dialogue.  Here’s an example – see if you can tell the difference:

My brother stepped out of the phone booth and told me that Mama said we could go on the

roller coaster.

OR

My brother stepped out of the phone booth, looked at me and said: “Guess what, Nancy, Mama

said yes, we can go on the roller coaster.”

Take a minute and say those two examples out loud.  You will definitely notice a difference.  Creating dialogue makes your story more exciting and more engaging.

And then there’s the Power of the Pause.  When you want to create suspense or need your audience to sit up and take notice, PAUSE. It works every single time.  A word of caution here – it will seem like an eternity to you, the speaker.  But the most dramatic lines are delivered with a longer pause.  One thing that helps me stay on track is to silently count to three in my head before I deliver the punch line or dramatic statement.

If you would like to see some of this in action, check out the story I told when I won the Chicago District 30 International Speech Contest.  I finished in the top 100 out of 30,000 competitors, and it was my storytelling techniques that helped: Mama Told Me Not to Come. It’s a hoot.

Well, look at this – time has flown by.  I have a few more tricks and tips to share with you on storytelling, so I hope you’ll join me next week.  I promise it will be well worth your time.

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Where Do I Even Begin?

Professional Speaker-Professional Development-Positive Attitude

In last week’s blog, we talked about storytelling and how impactful it can be, whether you’re talking to an audience of 1 or 1,000.  But how do you find your stories?  Where do you even begin?

With a universal truth – that’s where!

A universal truth is a feeling or action or emotion that just about everyone has experienced and can identify with.  Think about anger, love, jealousy, and things like that.  Some of the topics that can help you get started are:

  • Sibling rivalry
  • An embarrassing situation
  • What you studied in school
  • First job or promotion
  • A bad customer service experience
  • An interesting trip or business meeting

You get the idea.  The above examples are very relatable because most people have had a new car, a first job, etc.

I heard of this great example:

Sallie Krawcheck is the former CEO of Citigroup’s Global Wealth Management division. Through her speeches, she connects with people by telling a story that anyone can identify with.  She talks about feeling like an outcast at her all-girls school as a teenager – with glasses, braces, and corrective shoes – and how that prepared her for the challenges of her professional life. She once said: “there was nothing they could do to me at Salomon Brothers in the ’80s that was worse than the seventh grade.”

Get the idea?

Remember, each story must have a beginning, a middle and an end.  A good formula to follow is to have a LIKEABLE HERO who ENCOUNTERS ROADBLOCKS and EMERGES TRANSFORMED.

You can also apply that to your own life, here’s a suggestion that will help you take that first step:

First, write down your struggle or your challenge:

Second, write your success – how did you overcome your challenge and bounce back:

Play around with these ideas, suggestions and formulas and see what you come up with.  Next week I’ll share some info on how to make your story come to life when you actually tell it out loud.  You will have your listeners sitting on the edge of their seats!

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Everyone Has a Story – What’s Yours???

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The best way to get something you want, or to make someone understand what you need, is to tell a story.

Did you know that people are 20 times more likely to remember a fact if it is presented as part of a story?  That means that all those charts and graphs and numbers in your presentation can actually be interesting if they are wrapped up in a good story – especially one that is attached to an emotion.

Of course it has to be relevant to your audience and your message.  So talking about your Aunt Suzie’s cat won’t have an effect on your audience unless you make it clear why you are telling it.  Your audience will always be thinking: What’s in it for me (WIFM).

There’s a good reason why stories are so important:

PEOPLE REMEMBER THEM!!!

And you can use stories for so many different reasons:

  • To motivate your team to work together
  • To encourage your children not to give up
  • To comfort a friend who has suffered a loss

So what’s stopping you?  Put on those specks and start writing.  Look at that blank page and see what words begin to pour out.  Those white pages will soon fill up with words and phrases and sentences that will make your story come to life.  And those are the same stories that can help someone else believe in themselves once again and learn to laugh a little sooner.

Next week I’ll offer some suggestions on how to find your stories and how to make them impactful.  Hint: it has to do with Universal Truth.  HUH???  Stay tuned!

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If You Had Only One Wish…

Professional Speaker-Personal Development-Positive Attitude

Have you heard of this?  An Australian nurse, Bronnie Ware, recorded the top five regrets people had during the last 12 weeks of their life.

She actually recorded their final wishes and found that some of the same thoughts kept coming up over and over again.  When I read this study, it really made an impact on me.  So much of an impact that I’d like to share it with you.  After each wish, I’ve shared some of my thoughts:

  • I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. It’s natural to want the people we love to be proud of us, but sometimes we lose ourselves in the process.  Take a minute and ask yourself what makes you happy.  What brings a smile to your face?  Then go after it with a vengeance.  Make sure you are one of the people you are trying to make happy.
  • I wish I didn’t work so hard.  How many times have you heard the phrase: no one writes on their tombstone that they wish they spent more time at the office?  Try every day to balance your personal and professional life.  Some days it will work, and on those days when it doesn’t, get up the next morning and try again.
  • I wish I had the courage to express my feelings.  Sometimes we learn to keep anger and sadness to ourselves.  We bury any thoughts that are difficult or scary. Although it may be hard to do, try to be honest with others and especially yourself.
  • I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.  In this day of Facebook and instant everything, it’s easier than ever to reconnect and stay in touch with friends.  Then life gets in the way – responsibilities at work, with our family, and overall stress creeps into our pours.  So how do we find the time to stay in touch with friends?  One call at a time, one email at a time, one text at a time.  Just to let them know you are thinking of them.
  • I wish I had let myself be happier. This last one breaks my heart.  How sad it must be to get in the way of your own happiness.  Being happy is a choice, and you have the power to make that choice each and every day. We all encounter challenges during our life.  When that happens, be “curious” and see it as an opportunity to move forward to your next adventure.

Reading this list has helped me become more aware of my own life, and it also helped me better understand the older people that surround me.  I now smile a little more and complain a little less.  I hope that by sharing this, it will do the same for you.

If you’d like to learn more about Bronnie Ware and her study of the 5 Regrets, check out her blog at: http://www.bronnieware.com/blog/regrets-of-the-dying.

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Shake it Up

Professional Speaker-Personal Development-Positive Attitude

Every day starts out the same:

  • Wake up
  • Shower
  • Eat breakfast
  • Head to the office

Or something similar!

What if you did something today to spice it up?  Something out of the ordinary?  Something that would not  compromise you or your goal at the end of the day, but add a little spontaneity to it.

Here’s what happened to me this afternoon.  At first I was a little skeptical but I did it anyway.  Let’s see what you think.

I had an appointment at noon with a client I’ve been working with for several months now.  We were finalizing some details on a presentation I’m giving at her upcoming conference.  We had scheduled a specific time at her office, our usual meeting place. But today the sun was shining, the sky was blue and there was live music playing outside on the Capitol Square (in Madison, WI).

Taking a chance, I said: “What about hammering out the details as we sit outside, under the sun, listening to the music in the background.  What about shaking it up a bit today?”

She agreed – and it was perfect!  Instead of sitting inside a stuffy office we actually took care of the same business in a different surrounding.  I think we actually created a stronger bond between us.

So, for your next meeting, what about suggesting a walk or listening to local music or anything in your town that may be a little out of the ordinary. It’s no different than discussing business on the golf course, and since I don’t golf, I’ve just found another venue.

Now, to be clear, I would NOT suggest this with a new client or if the details of the meeting require a more structured environment.  You have to use your judgment and decide which clients and which situations would be a good fit. But what the heck, give it a try.  Shake it up a little.

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Invest in the Power of a Mastermind Group

Professional Speaker-Professional Development-Positive Attitude

Have you ever heard of a Mastermind Group?  Better yet, are you part of one?

In case you’re not quite sure what I’m talking about, simply put, a mastermind group is a number of participants who come together to share ideas about a shared goal.  It’s usually business related, but in my humble opinion, it doesn’t have to be.  The key is that you all share a common goal.

Currently, I’m a member of a Mastermind group called Twainside.  Don’t ask me where the name came from – it was chosen long before I was invited to join.  But I have to tell you that it’s one of the most powerful Mastermind groups I have ever been involved in.

We are a group of professional speakers and we share tips on anything and everything to make our business more successful, more powerful, and of course, more fun.  We limit our membership to seven people.  That way everyone has time to share, learn and grow.  We are NOT a networking group or a support group – we are merely seven individuals who share the same questions, struggles and fears. 

What I love most about my Mastermind group is there’s no judging, no holding back, and no bragging.  Just an honest intent to share what is working for you and how it can help others in our group.  Last night I learned about a variety of books to read, apps to apply and programs to enhance my business.  Now I just have to go through all my notes and apply it before I forget all the great stuff I learned. 

When you work together with other people who have similar goals, an energy explodes.  You walk away excited and refreshed.  So, if you haven’t been part of a Mastermind group, think about trying one.  Search Google or Meetup for Mastermind groups in your area and see what comes up.  Try one and if you don’t like it, there’s always another one to check out.  Maybe you could even start one of your own.  The key is consistency.  Pick a specific date that your group will meet and stick to it.  Not everyone will be able to attend every meeting, but soon it will become habit.  Once you find the right group, the results are amazing!

And that is the power of a Mastermind group. 

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How to Keep Your Sanity While Delivering Superb Customer Service

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In the last three blog posts, I’ve shared some tips on how to deliver excellent customer service.  I call it the Three C’s of Customer Service: Clarity, Character and Cultivate.  

All good stuff, but what about you?  How do you deliver superb customer service, day after day, and keep your sanity in the process?  How do you take care of yourself?

Well, here are some thoughts to get you through the craziness of your day:

  1. Frame your favorite quote and put it in full view so you can see it every day.   Choose one that actually calms your nerves and puts a smile on your face.  Mine is pictured here in this post.
  2. Challenge yourself, or your teammates, to post a “thought of the day.”  Maybe a joke, another quote, or something funny that your team can relate to.  If doing this every day is a bit too often, try once a week.  Pretty soon, people will begin to look forward to it.
  3. Hang up your favorite picture.  Maybe it’s a photograph of someplace you’ve traveled to, or someplace you want to travel as soon as you get that next vacation.  It could be something you accomplished that you are very proud of.  The important thing is that it shifts your mood to a calmer place. 
  4. Do something that makes you feel good before you leave for work – like pet your dog or go for a walk or hug your kid.
  5. Bring a mirror to work, hold it up, look into it and smile.  Even when you force a smile and it feels unnatural, it still sends the message to your brain that life is good.   It helps to relieve stress and keeps depression at bay.

Take some time to experiment with these five suggestions, then practice the ones that resonate most with you.  The key is to start with at least one.  Some may sound a little hokey, but you never know until you try.  It just may make you feel better.

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