Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Do You Use Social Networking?

As Toastmasters, our clubs provide a structure for face to face networking that is hard to match. Our fellow members learn a lot about us through our speeches, our evaluations, our table topics, and our participation in club activities. We learn about them as they become friends and a part of our business network. We find ourselves on club email lists and websites. Does it make sense to invite them into our online social networks as well? Which ones?

I would answer this question with an enthusiastic but qualified yes. The enthusiastic part (yesss!) is because this helps make you a hub in the network, allowing your fellow members to connect indirectly with other people in your life, creating weak ties that benefit all. It also provides a way of promoting each other and your Toastmasters activities to a larger network. The qualified yes (yeees...) acknowledges that this isn't worth creating and maintaining a network you don't participate in anyway. That is, joining a network exclusively to connect with Toastmasters dilutes or eliminates the benefits of participating.

Here are a couple networks I use. If you are too, I recommend reaching into your Toastmasters contacts (including me) with them.

Professional Networking

LinkedIn is more than a resume exchange and distribution service. If you use it to promote your professional activities, the word can spread. I connect with other Toastmasters here because these are the kind of connections LinkedIn is designed to work with. On LinkedIn, I will connect with any Toastmaster. If you want to connect to me, my profile is here: http://linkd.in/1EMGNZR

Club Networking

I recommend that your club set up a club Facebook page and use it to announce events and describe activities. Members should connect with the club page for the club's benefit and with each other as friends as they see fit. Here, I am more selective about who I connect with.

Other Options

Do you videorecord your speeches? If so, you can post them on YouTube and create a personal or club YouTube channel.

Where else on the Internet do you show up? If you use Google+, Pinterest, or something else to connect with your Toastmasters network, leave a comment below and let everyone know where, how and why.

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Monday, April 20, 2015

Ask These Questions

Let’s imagine two scenarios for driving into town at night.

Scenario 1 You’re in a blizzard on an icy road, stuck in traffic, and the gas gauge is close to “E”. You can’t see more than a few feet ahead, and all that shows you is how much trouble the car ahead of you has staying on the road.

Scenario 2 You come over a hill on a clear, dry, empty road and you can see the destination lit up in the distance. The road may have detours or potholes but you can see them coming. The gas gauge reads “F” and there are five extra gallons in the trunk, just in case.

Which scenario will get you into town? Probably, either one. Which car would you rather be in? If this wasn’t about a drive, if it was about one of the big goals of your life, which car would you rather be in?

Significant goals are enough of a challenge when we fully understand them, when we can see ahead, and when we have anticipated problems. For that, we need to answer four questions:

. What do I want?
. Why do I want it?
. What could go wrong?
. What will I do?

An Example

As we go through the four questions and what to ask with them, I want you to work on one of your goals. To get real value out of it, pick a significant goal, one that could use some traction. Since I’m suggesting that we apply the questions to your big life goals, let’s use an example from one of the biggest, clearest, most famous goals in modern history–landing a man on the Moon in the 1960s.

What Do I Want?

One of the best ways to clearly specify a goal is to make it SMART. My version of this acronym/checklist is:


Here is how President Kennedy laid out the goal for the manned landing on the Moon during an address to Congress on May 25, 1961.

“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space.”

Why Do I Want It?

According to Anthony Robbins, many goals fail because the goal doesn’t have a big enough reason why. Why is the fuel that gets a goal to its destination. If your car breaks down en route to a dinner, you probably call and cancel. If the dinner is for your wedding rehersal, you probably call a cab instead.

Putting why in writing is helpful, but you can make this more powerful with some brainstorming. Here are some techniques that you can try:

Five Whys

Amy four year old knows that why is an endless question. You can ask why you want something, then ask why that’s so, until you get five levels deep. At that point you’re probably close to something significant.

Six Hats

In his book Six a Thinking Hats, Edward DeBono advocates looking from different perspectives (Hats). Some of these can help us identify why we want something.

Red - emotional reasons
Black - avoiding negative consequences
Yellow - positive outcomes
Green - wild success
Blue - business reasons

Positive and Negative Motivation

Any motivation you name will either send you toward something you want or away from something to avoid. We lose weight to go toward fitting in clothes and away from heart disease.

As far as the man to the Moon project, President Kennedy gave the following reasons during a speech at Rice University in 1962.

“We choose to go to the Moon! … We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win …”

What Can Go Wrong?

The more significant a project is, the greater the chance that something will go wrong. By asking in advance what can go wrong, we both reduce the chance that it will and develop contingencies in case they do.

On January 27, 1967, the Apollo 1 spacecraft exploded on the launch pad, killing the three man crew and jeopardizing the entire program. Many things went wrong that asking this question might have svoided.

What Will I Do?

Here we develop and implement the plan, so let’s leave those details for another day. As a final thought, keep in mind that few worthwhile goals can be accomplished by just one person. When thinking about who else to ask, you may need or find some additional motivation.


Blizzards and icy roads are unpredictable and occasionally unavoidable. We can control our preparation and plan for contingencies.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Book Review: The Demon-Haunted World

The Demon-Haunted World
By Carl Sagan

As a science popularizer and scientist, Dr. Sagan has always been one of my role models. Since extreme common sense is about thinking, this book by Sagan about the thinking behind science was particularly interesting. 

The Los Angeles Times called this book "A manifesto for clear thought." I agree. Sagan, one of the great science popularizers of his time, makes the case for why science is important while offering lessons in scientific method and objective thinking. 

The book presents 25 extended essays. This isn't Contact, or even Cosmos. It isn't intended to be a movie or a TV miniseries. Some debunk topics including witchcraft, UFOs, and astrology. One explores the paradox of balancing wonder and skepticism that is at the heart of science.  

This book isn't science or science fiction. It is a collection of thoughts on the thinking that makes science work. It is a plea to make science interesting to the public by a person who made that his mission.  

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Lighting the Path: Energize Your Goals

Let's try an exercise in imagination. Picture yourself caught in a foggy night a long way from your destination. You can make your way to your destination even you can see only a few feet ahead.

But who would want to? The trip is easier and more fun if your vision is unrestricted and your tank is full of gas. This is true for any goal you might have, so let's clear the fog and light the path to an important goal of your choice.

Picking Your Route

Start by clearly defining your goal. Put it in writing and make sure it is SMART.

S - Specific
M - Meaningful
A - Actionable
R - Realistic
T - Time bound

Make Sure You Have Fuel

A car on a trip needs gas. Your goal needs motivation. Although things can happen to get in your way,most goals that fail do so because you don't have a sufficiently big reason. If you get a flat tire on the way to a casual lunch, you cancel the lunch. If it happens when going to your wedding, you fix the tire or find another ride.

Take time to record the reasons for your goal Here are a couple techniques that may help.

The Six Thinking Hats

In his book Six Thinking Hats Edward deBono recommends brainstorming by focusing on six different points of view (hats) one at a time.

White pure facts
Red emotions (how you feel)
Black worst case (possible negative consequences to avoid
Yellow best case (what would wild success look like?)
Green Out of box thinking
Blue Management and mediating the other points of view.

Take each point of view one at a time. What reasons come up?

Try Different Shoes

Our goals compete with each other and with all the roles (shoes) we choose to wear. We might be home owners, spouses, lovers, parents, breadwinners, and many other things above and beyond any formal job. Sometimes we set a goal based on one role but motivation comes from another.

One man told a story of his home being heated by a radiator that heated the wall but not the house. As a home owner, he set a goal to upgrade to central heating but no progress was made. Then one evening, he noticed his wife covered to her chin in blankets. "Would I see you naked more often if the room were warm?" He asked. She nodded yes and two weeks later the job was done.

Five Whys

We all learned at age 4 that asking why can be an endless loop, but going a few rounds van help us get to our real motivation. Going through a why loop five times will get you a long way.

Make Your Plans

Every goal needs a plan. For simple goals, a checklist on the back of an envelope may be more than enough. More complex goals may call for one or more projects, each calling for a plan of its own. If you can get this down to physical actions, so much the better.

I will be leading a workshop,on this material at the Toastmasters District 40 conference in Cincinatti on April 18. Check it out here: http://bit.ly/1CA3Ijr

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Book Review: Seeking Serenity

Seeking Serenity: The 10 New Rules for Health and Happiness in the Age of Anxiety by Amanda Enayati is comprehensive, well researched, and fully indexed. It offers 10 different areas for dealing with negative stress and numerous things you can do to reduce it.

The author makes the distinction between negative stress (distress) and positive stress (eustress) to show how some stress can be useful, even necessary.

I downloaded a Kindleverdion after hearing the suthor interviewed on Lewis
Howes podcast. The book reads like a journalistic research report , not storytelling. Given the author's background this isn't surprising, but for me the book was a difficult read.

Seeking Serenity: The 10 New Rules for Health and Happiness in the Age of Anxiety: Amanda Enayati: 9780451471512: Amazon.com: Books


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