Your Audience is One

I was one of 300 TEDxWilmington fans who had come to see more than two dozen experts, scientists, adventurers, visionaries and survivors  share their “ideas worth spreading” with a crowd of enthusiastic, open minded individuals.

It was an inspiring lineup: a horse whisperer, a retired circus aerialist dangling upside down from the ceiling on a strand of white silk, a scientist with a new hope for humanity, a South African woman committed to saving the critically endangered white lions, and a Swedish female entrepreneur who had weathered life’s storms to launch a successful tech company.

I’m sure what the speakers saw as they gazed into the dimly lit, cavernous space before them was a mob of blurred faces, the open space punctuated by the sound of the occasional muffled cough. It was quite a different experience from weeks of rehearsals in a brightly lit dining room when no one but the dog was watching.

Waiting backstage to go on, several speakers were nearly paralyzed by fear and self doubt. The clipping on of their microphone by a stagehand was tantamount to being wired up for execution.

What they didn’t realize was that the only person out there was me. Actually, 300 people who called themselves “me.”

Each storyteller spoke directly to me and me only, occasionally catching my eye and then moving their

gaze and body in a different direction, to speak directly to another me, sitting rows away across the chasm.

A young man from the British Virgin Islands told me in vivid detail what it was like to clutch his young child to his chest, quite willing to die to protect her, as a raging hurricane blew his house into vicious, flying bits. Another man described for me what it was like to row across the Atlantic Ocean and endure near starvation, near collisions with giant ships and 20-foot waves.

When the scientist left the stage to go and mingle, she was surrounded first by one me, and then another, each expressing their love and admiration for her idea worth spreading — that there was a medical breakthroughs that will change the face of medicine forever.

So, a message to those of you who have an idea worth spreading but who have fear about standing on the worldwide stage, try and remember: It’s just me and you out there. And I’m all yours.

 

 

 

 

We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know-Itis

This might be another dumb human story. It’s certainly something we all have in common. Maybe it’s even hard-wired into our DNA. The problem is, it can cut us off at the knees without our ever knowing it.

It’s called, “We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know-itis.”

It hurts us because it blocks us from greater possibilities. It keeps us blind to solutions of problems we didn’t know existed. It certifies our ignorance. Some people are aggressively assertive that they know something, when they don’t.

It affects our business in negative ways. It insults the experts. It limits our options.

And there’s no cure — as far as I know. Because we don’t know we’re missing anything. It’s insidious. Cruel. And, it’s not our fault.

Case in point: Figuring I could record my songs by myself at home if only I had the right audio equipment, I purchased Pro Tools, a high quality audio recording software often used in professional music studios. I loaded it into my Mac.

I thought this would be a cost-effective solution. I wanted to be able to get ideas down immediately, especially the choirs of voices or tsunami of strings that often ran through my mind. Thus, like any consumer, I wanted fast and easy. I knew there would be some learning curve, but had confidence I could master it in a short amount of time.

Keep in mind, I’d had NO previous audio recording training. I had produced tracks in sound studios for years, but never touched the audio mixing board. The board (to me) looks like the cockpit of an alien space vessel.

Ha! The Pro Tools screen on my Mac also looked like an alien ship’s dashboard. I was in big trouble.

Enter my friend, Jim Salamone, of Cambridge Sound Studios in South Philly. He’s produced some of the greats: Grover Washington, Jr., Bon Jovi, Teddy Pendergrass, and many more. Jim and his producer/engineer, Todd Mecaughey, have forgotten more about music production than I’ll ever know.

So, I asked Jim and Todd if they would tutor me in the art of Pro Tools sound recording. Bless their hearts, they were so patient with me, but I learned through them that you can’t fly a jet without hundreds of hours of training.

Jim told me this happens a lot in his line of business. People underestimate the huge amount of expertise required to work magic in a recording studio.

People also underestimate how many hours of preparation it takes to do a truly wonderful and inspiring TEDx talk. They underestimate the difficulty of writing a book — a GOOD one. They underestimate the hours of preparation a consultant does before they walk in your door. There are many examples.

I want to live in a world where people concede they don’t know everything, and where they show automatic respect to the professionals and experts who have mastered their crafts.

I welcome you to weigh in and share any experiences you’ve had with people who underestimated the width and breadth of your experience and training.

Why Imperfect Actions Make the Best Stories

Harry S. Truman said that, “imperfect action is better than perfect inaction.”

Most likely, he said this because he noticed that most people won’t try to do anything they think they can’t do perfectly on the first try. It’s also called “perfection paralysis.” It happens to writers a lot. It’s the leading cause of writer’s block.

It happens to everyone who begins to drift out of the “comfort zone.”

Then, a teacher or mentor comes along and says, “Gosh darn it, just write whatever comes to your head. All first drafts are sh*tty, no matter who you are. Get your thoughts down. Be messy!”

I’m in a program with 30 other high achievers who are intent on taking their speaking careers to the next level. These are amazingly accomplished people from all walks of life. An astronaut, several best selling authors, successful serial entrepreneurs, healthcare gurus, world travelers, big stage keynoters — and me.

One of the projects for the keynoters has been to draft a 45- to 60-minute keynote speech, which is about 6,000 words. And many of us were initially stuck, because we have a lot invested financially and emotionally in creating spellbinding presentations.

Even a room full of unquestionably talented industry experts were defaulting into the fear of taking imperfect action.

Because the reality is, when you have a big footprint and take imperfect action, the critics and haters come out, not to praise you for your courage and stick-with-it-ness, but to point out your imperfections and question your worthiness.

The corporate world is eons away from being supportive of imperfect action. So the creatives often get boxed into “safe zones” with well-defined parameters that discourage innovation and risk.

Because most of us speakers are in business for ourselves, we can try out all kinds of crazy ideas, and whether we win or lose isn’t important. It’s the bold act that counts in our culture. For instance, trying a new joke at a speaking gig. Sometimes, the audience will bust their sides laughing. Other times, they’ll look at you like you’ve just eaten a bug. Later, you can laugh about it, because of the support of your comrades in arms.

But our freedom to “just be me” was hard-earned, because most of us started our careers in soul-killing corporate cultures that punished, not rewarded, imperfect action, until a kindly mentor reminded us of our worth.

I’m in the infant stages of launching a series of humorous, 2-minute videos on YouTube. And so far, they’re awful. I can tell, because no one has said anything. Not even friends and family. That’s bad. But I don’t care. I’m going to keep taking imperfect action until they’re good — good enough that people tell me they’re good, and good enough to make the haters come out.

These videos are deliberate, imperfect action, because I am going to keep the project going until they’re good and have a huge following, and then I’ll write it up as a case study to give hope to other creatives everywhere.

Why not take imperfect action today, and then share your experiences via your blog or some other story telling vehicle? It’ll have struggle, conflict and an inspiring resolution — the stuff good stories are made of.

 

 

 

From My Heart in 2017

Anyone who knows me is aware of the specific and numerous challenges I’ve survived to be where I am today.

But really, who hasn’t?  Everyone reading this email has endured challenges, torment, heartbreak and disillusionment. When I was younger, I thought the universe had singled me out for special punishment. It’s a silly and self-centered illusion.

Truth is, every human lives through heart-wrenching experiences. Deciding whether to live or die is what matters. And when you choose life, you realize you’re “allowed” to pursue your heart’s desire — if you’re willing and able to do the work.

I’ve thrown away the need to judge or compare myself with others. Instead, in this chapter of my life, I’ve decided to do what my inner nature compels me to do, as wild as I want. And in 2017, I feel as if I’ve removed a few more restraints. In 2018, I’m going to let the horses out.

Today is the last day of 2017. If you’re consciously “aware” and if personal development is your lifelong quest — and if you see your business or career experience as a part of that quest, realizing that the two are inextricably intertwined (i.e., you can’t leave your soul at the door when you walk to your desk), then 2018 is going to be an amazing year.

Why do I say this?

  • Major cultural shifts are changing the way we do business. It’s forcing us to re-evaluate what’s keeping us stuck and re-invent our business models and personal brands.
  • We have more freedom than ever to try new things when we communicate with the world. Can’t write? Make a video. Can’t video? Take pictures. Not a photographer? Do a podcast. Can’t podcast? Spend more time engaging in social media. Then there’s the “thing” that hasn’t been invented yet.
  • Entrepreneurs are realizing that in order to survive, one ought to have multiple streams of income. This enables one to dig deeper into the trunk of their inherent skills and abilities and find ways to monetize them.

Whoo hoo, right? Will there still be let-downs, fears and failures? Sure. It’s part of the package.

Here’s a good plan for 2018: Hold tight to your vision. Put one foot in front of the other, knowing persistence is the key. Hang around people who are smarter than you. Embrace/explore new technologies to remain relevant. Understand that success is a marathon, not a sprint. Make healthy living a priority. Read a lot. Don’t compare your progress to others, and don’t care what other people say about you. Be your true self, quirks and all.

I’m so happy that you are in my life. Thank you for your goodness and support. It’s a privilege to witness your success. Here’s to another year!