So…what do you do?

I wasn’t expecting to be sitting here typing out a blog on my Alaska Air flight to Palm Springs. I fully intended to be listening to my new Patricia Fripp DVD called Preparing and Presenting Powerful Talks. For those of you not familiar with Patricia Fripp, she is one of the premiere speaking and presentation coaches in the world. I became a big fan after attending her workshops at the Region 1 Toastmasters International Conference last June. Now I had her DVD and I was primed for a valuable lesson on this 2 ½ hour flight!

I waited patiently like just about every other passenger for the pilot to come on the loudspeaker and give us the green light to turn on electronic equipment (Boy has traveling on planes changed in the last 10 years).

I popped in the DVD, shut the blinds, turned up the volume and on came Patricia. Funny thing happened. Her mouth was moving but I could barely (and I mean BARELY) here any sound. Checking the volume that it was maxxed out, my keen mind figured out that the huge engines that I was basically sitting on at the wing position was drowning out all audible sound. Even my new fancy Sony earphones didn’t help. This ever happen to you?

It only took me about 7 minutes of watching her talk but not being able to hear her that I realized that I just wasn’t learning by reading her lips. This was a futile effort. I figured since the laptop was out anyways, that this would make a good post. I suppose you will be the judge of that.

While waiting to take off, I made the acquaintance of the person sitting next to me. His name is Jeff and it turns out he and I have some things in common. We are both in the Zoodango online business networking community, both a part of Kiros (in fact, he’s the founder of the Christian business organization), and both consultants. I realize some people don’t like to talk with strangers on an airplane for fear of getting in a long conversation about life insurance or pyramid marketing. Their loss is the opportunity to meet someone new and perhaps gain a friendship. Jeff and I shared thoughts and ideas on our businesses and families and I hope to get to know him better through our mutual interests. After 10,000 feet we both went off to our laptops to get some work done. Since we are both furiously typing away, my guess is he can’t hear anything either.

This is a blog dedicated to communicating, so here’s the moral of this post. Take a chance once in awhile and meet someone new, especially if you are going to be cramped together on a long flight. I have yet to meet someone that I wish I hadn’t started a dialogue with. More often than not, I learn something new that adds to my personal growth. What’s the worst that can happen…you end up with some new life insurance or a bunch of boxes in your garage?


P.S. Do you have trouble meeting people or networking? That’s a bad thing in business. Let me help you with my Power to Panic Boot Camp coming up in November. Click here to learn more. Dates are being finalized for a Seattle boot camp so stay tuned!

Change in the weather

I’m headed to Palm Springs today for a business trip and will be there several days. If you’re like me and live in the Seattle area, you’ve been shivering and cold, too. It seems that not only did we not have a long summer, fall is falling and we’re headed straight for winter. A quick trip to 90 degree weather will be good for the bones.

I do miss my family when I’m gone. It seems I travel more than I used to. They will be coming down with me on my next trip down to the desert. I know my daughter can’t wait. She thinks Palm Springs is where she wants to live. Of course she’s never been there in July!


Don’t Drop Your Head

Driving home this afternoon, I was listening to University of Washington Head Coach Tyrone Willingham on his radio show discussing the game against (then) #1 ranked USC on Saturday. The Huskies came close in a 3-point loss that went down to the final seconds. He was describing his words to his team prior to the game. One of his statements made me stop and think.

He told his team that they didn’t have to play a perfect game to win. He reminded them that they would make mistakes during the game, but to never drop your head because of them…to keep fighting on and overcome those mistakes. The part that stuck with me was not dropping your head.

It reminded me of my days coaching high school basketball. How many times I remember kids making mistakes on the court and dropping their head in disgust, hurt, or sadness. How much harder is it to bounce back when you’re looking straight down?

The same can be said about life, too. Business, sports, and personal lives all give us plenty of opportunities to make mistakes. Some mistakes are made with all the right information and effort…it’s that “hindsight is 20/20” stuff. Some mistakes you wonder, “What was I thinking?” But in all cases, I encourage you to take Coach Willingham’s advice and keep your head up. We all make mistakes. If we are smart, we always learn from them, too.

Keep your head up. Go into your “game” knowing you will make mistakes. Resolve to learn from them and keep battling. Remember that you can’t get where you want to go if you’re looking straight down.


The Fall Guy

I just watched a great presentation put on by a safety expert on the art of falling. Well, actually, it was about preventing falling in the first place. The speaker was presenting to a group of contractors (my clients) on the topic of fall protection. The subject can be a difficult one to really get construction workers fired up about at 3:00 on a sunny Friday afternoon right after they got paid.

As a presenter, I was anxious to see how he did. I was very impressed with his ability to connect with this audience and keep their attention for over an hour. I’m not sure if he has had speaker training, so if he hasn’t, I’m even more impressed. He kept his audience engaged by using stories to illustrate his points; he had a high I-You ratio (using the word you more than I) which gains buy-in from the group, and he gave them plenty of WII FM (What’s in it for me) with examples of broken bodies after falls. Even more impressive was his use of dialogue. All these skills are essential in being an effective speaker.

What can you do to better deliver your message in your line of work? Stories, dialogue, and WII FM are key strategies. Remember, it’s not about you; it’s about your audience, whoever that might be.

The bottom line – it doesn’t matter what industry you are in. Communication is critical. In this case, it might even save a life.


P.S. That’s the reason I started my Panic to Power Boot Camp. You can learn how to be that dynamic speaker. The next boot camp is November 6. To learn more and to register, click here.

Guest Blog – Rutgers and Notre Dame Football: The Transformation of Two Organizations

I read this blog from Dan Coughlin yesterday and loved it. I wanted to share it with you. For all of my friends in management positions, what do you think about it?


I have a good friend, Alan Weiss, who is a graduate of Rutgers University. I’m a grad of the University of Notre Dame. In 2002, ND played Rutgers and was a 40-point favorite. Alan was willing to bet me on the game as long as I gave him the point spread. I should have taken the bet. ND won 42-0. On August 18, 2006, ND was ranked #2 in the country, and Rutgers was not even in the Top 25. Today, 13 months later, ND ranks in the bottom ten teams in the country and Rutgers is in the Top 10. How is this possible, and what does it mean for your business? Here are a few themes that come to my mind:
Leadership & Stability
Greg Schiano, the head football coach at Rutgers, was hired on December 1, 2000. That means he has been there through the bad times and the good times. Here’s his record through the first six seasons:
2001 2-9
2002 1-11
2003 5-7
2004 4-7
2005 7-5
2006 11-2
2007 3-0
Is your organization willing to be patient when your senior manager is struggling through a 1-11 season and four losing seasons in a row? Are you as a manager willing to hang in there and keep believing in yourself?
Schiano did, and he never wavered in his goal to win a national championship. He influenced those people that he could at each stage in this seven-year journey. At this point, the story is unfolding for Charlie Weis at ND. Will the university stay patient as he works to build a long-term, successful organization? Will he maintain his patience and confidence in the face of relentless criticism?
When an organization begins to win, or lose, on a regular basis momentum is created. It’s far easier to sustain momentum than to create it or change it. That’s why every play counts. One win that could have been a loss, or one loss that could have been a win, can begin to shift the momentum.
In your business, what small detail or seemingly unimportant project can you propel to a higher level of performance that can generate the momentum you want?
Talent Management
I think the biggest story here is the story of talent management. Rutgers held onto a guy they believed in, and gave him the time he needed to build a successful organization. In those same seven years that Schiano has been at Rutgers, ND has been through three coaches, and a lot of people want Weis fired for losing six games in a row while giving up over 30 points in each game.
The first step in attracting, retaining, and developing talented employees is attracting, retaining, and developing a talented senior manager. Be patient.
The second lesson on talent management is that great players make great coaches, and great coaches make great players. In other words, Schiano became National Coach of the Year when he had the players necessary to win. I doubt he became that much better of a coach in the four years it took to go from 1-11 to 11-2, but I have a hunch his players got a whole lot better.
Always work to improve the quality of the performers in your organization if you want to improve the quality of your organization’s performance.

To read more blogs from Dan Coughlin, go to

The Blondie Rule #2 – Lessons from my dog – The rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated

Last month (August 20), the Blondie Rule #1 dealt with overcoming “analysis paralysis”. This month, you will learn how my dog has taught me about perseverance.

The famous quote by Mark Twain listed in the title surely applies to Blondie. In late December of 2004, she was diagnosed with a malignant tumor in her gum. The veterinarian had taken as much out as possible, but sadly reported that she didn’t get it all. At the time, Blondie was 13 years old and all the treatments were very invasive and costly. We opted to do nothing, except make our friend as comfortable as she could be for the remainder of her life. She was given a death sentence of 2 to 3 months.

Fast forward to today and Blondie is 16 ½ and those 2-3 months are almost 3 years. The cancer has come back and spread some. In fact, just a few weeks ago, she was looking so bad and struggling so much; we began mentally preparing for her to pass on over the weekend. She fooled us again. It’s been almost a month since that day and although I can’t say she’s going on strong, she perseveres and lives to fight another day. Sooner than later we will have to make that difficult decision when her quality of life erodes. Based on how she devoured her breakfast this morning, we’re not quite there yet!

Blondie reminds me that not every day is going to be better than the day before. Some days can bring frustration, pain, and struggle. But persevering, “grinding” out the tough days, and living to fight another day should be our mantra, too. Blondie didn’t understand the diagnosis she was given in December of 2004. She just kept living every day, even when some days weren’t as good as others.

I know I have days where I grouse and complain about things. Blondie reminds me that I need to get over myself and realize that struggle is a necessary part of life; it makes us stronger. Instead of trying to be the person my dog thinks I am, I guess I just need to be more like my dog!


So Long Cy

Do you remember when you met someone who had an impact in your personal and professional life? I’ll never forget meeting Cy Wyse. Cy was a mountain of a man in his early 70’s. He had been an outstanding basketball and football player in his youth and you could tell that although he was older, he had been an imposing figure. He had the biggest hands I’d ever seen and a powerful grip. He introduced himself to me after my first basketball practice at North Kitsap High School. He asked permission to watch practices, not to critique me he carefully stated, but to watch his granddaughter, who was a junior on the team, play. I agreed and that was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Over the course of the next seven years, Cy became a friend and mentor. Now don’t get me wrong, he certainly had his opinions, but he was steadfast in his belief that the coach was the coach, and his or her word was law. Cy was always courtside at our games, even after his granddaughter graduated. He was always available to offer me sage advice, mentor me, and listen when I just needed to vent. He would invite me over to his house for some lemonade that his lovely bride, Alma would fix for us. I don’t think I ever got out in less than two hours! His stories and wisdom were priceless.

Cy passed away on Wednesday (September 19) and he will be missed by a large extended family, including the community he worked so hard to build. He was a champion for the youth, spending countless hours mentoring students, coaching athletes, and lobbying to gain increased parks and facilities. Cy was a good friend and mentor to me and I’m eternally grateful. I will miss him.

So who is that someone that has had an impact on you? Maybe the better question is – whose life have YOU impacted? We’re only on this earth a short time. Being a mentor and friend to someone else is not only a nice thing to do, it’s incumbent on all of us because someone did it for us. The best thing I can do in thanks for Cy’s generosity to me is to give that back to someone else. What about you? Whose life can you impact in a positive way?


Are You Prepared for the Unexpected?

I’m teaching my first class for the National Alliance for Insurance Education and Research tomorrow in Seattle. The class is for Certified Insurance Service Representatives (CISR) and I’m at the stage of the process to teach the first half of the class. Presenting in front of a group has never been an issue for me; however there are a couple areas that have me nervous.

I’ve got a brand new laptop and projector with great slides that my daughter, Mindy helped me put together. The problem is I’ve never used either in a formal presentation, so I spent all Saturday night making sure I knew how to connect the laptop to the projector and make sure I knew how to use the wireless mouse and laser (I’ve never had control of a little red dot on a screen, but it’s pretty cool). Still, using new gadgets for the first time in a live presentation always makes me a little uneasy. You never know what challenges you will run into with the configuration of the room, the positioning of outlets, or a just Murphy showing up and imposing his law on you.

Being prepared for a presentation is really vital. It shows that you are a professional and ready for the unexpected. Have you ever been to a presentation where someone’s batteries died and their remote no longer worked? How about having dry erase markers that were out of ink (or whatever that stuff that is). I was at a presentation recently where the presenter’s batteries died and I had an extra set for him. Now, I need to remember to replace them in my briefcase!

I’ve tried to learn from experience to bring extra things just in case – batteries, dry erase pens, Kleenex…you never know what challenges you will have to overcome. Once, I had to bring in my own television to show a video clip because the room’s television didn’t accept my CD!

Remember, those people in your audience deserve your best. Make sure you come prepared to give it to them!


Are You Ready to Change?

My good friend Darren LaCroix (the guy to the right) recently moved from Tulsa, OK to Las Vegas and I followed his journey during the long drive between the two cities (read Darren’s blog). After speaking with him last night, it brought back memories of all the moves I’ve made with my family since I was married in 1986.

We’ve been in our current home for over six years and the home before that for eight years. Prior to that, though, we were like nomads; living in four different places in a five year period. I hate moving. It seems like every time you went out with a load of stuff, there was more stuff in the house you were leaving. It was like a bad episode of the Twilight Zone!

How do you handle change in your life? I always thought of myself as good change “handler” and then I remember the moving! They (not sure who “they” is) always say that when you close one door, another door opens. When change happens in your life, are you looking for that new door with excitement or dread?

If you’re like me, you’ve probably found more positive doors in your life that have opened up. Change, although difficult at times, will lead to new adventures, journeys, and experiences if you allow it to. Think of that the next time one door slams shut because there is probably another one WIDE open!


P.S. Speaking of Darren, he is going to be my guest in a teleseminar on September 26th at 7:00pm Pacific time. Please join us and you will learn how Darren took his presentation skills to new levels and how it turned into a great business for him. More importantly, learn what his lessons can do for you! Have a question for him…ask him yourself in this interactive call. To learn more, click here

Let Your Dawgs Out to Play!

Who let the Dawgs out!

That’s my daughter Kelli and me enjoying a beautiful day in Husky Stadium where our Dawgs were beating up on Boise State. We ended their 14-game winning streak and most importantly, got off to our first 2-0 start since 2001.

As you can imagine, everyone wearing purple in Husky Stadium was ecstatic and looking forward to next week’s match-up with perennial power Ohio State. Visions of bowl games, Pac-10 championships, and Jake Locker touchdowns were dancing in all of our heads.

The funny thing was while we were driving home and listening to the post-game show on the radio, a guy called in and wanted to be the voice of caution. “We’ve seen this before. We can’t get too excited. They’ve let us down in the past”. My response was the same as the reporter. “SO WHAT!” Why can’t we enjoy this time and revel in it, especially since we haven’t had the chance to in about half a decade! Isn’t part of the love of sports based on those highs and lows we experience following and rooting for our teams? Isn’t that what makes sports special? For every New York Yankees, there has to be a Chicago Cubs right?

That got me thinking…which can be a dangerous thing. How often do we do that in our lives? Whenever things are going well, are we too cautious waiting for the other shoe to drop? Don’t want to have too much fun in anticipation of a letdown? Conversely, when we are grinding through a tough time, do we look forward to the time when the tide changes, knowing those good times are around the corner?

Life is an adventure and a journey. I liken it to a round of golf. Through 18 holes there will be some very tough times and some great holes. And, for most holes, you will be on an even keel or at least “grinding” as Tiger Woods would say. Rejoice in the birdies in your life. They don’t always come around as often as we all would like so enjoy. Grind through those double-bogeys, knowing that your next par may be on the next hole. And, most importantly, enjoy the round and who you are playing with because you never know when that may be the last one. Game on!


P.S. You are invited to subscribe to my FREE e-newsletter. It comes out monthly and has several tips and suggestions for improving your communication and presentation skills. Click here to subscribe. Oh, did I mention it’s FREE?