My guess is, you’re avoiding someone. My guess is that there are people in your life that you’re hiding your passion from. That there’s someone you don’t want to see your message. Who are you avoiding? Why would I make this my guess? Because there are people that I avoid. People that I hide my passion from and people whom I don’t want to see my message. Why do we avoid them? Some are just annoying and other won’t understand, but that’s not why we do it. We’re avoiding these people because we’re afraid of what they’ll think of us. We write blogs we never post and have ideas we never speak of and calls we never make because we have a story running in our heads that people are going to judge us and ask “who do they think they are?”. The people that I avoid are other speakers. It took me forever to change my LinkedIn profile because I worried about what others would think of me. I never share blog posts on my personal Facebook account because there’s a “who the hell does he think he is” fear that creeps in. I let my fear of these people and their opinions hold me back from being myself. I know I’m not alone. But this year, I’ve made a shift. I’ve decided that there’s value to my message and who am I to keep it from someone who might need it. I’ve made a shift because as long as I’m worried about the opinions of others, I can’t be my true self and therefore, never be happy. I wrote on LinkedIn earlier this year that my one resolution is to be me, but that includes being brave enough to share it all. Too many of us are holding back. Too many of us are hiding. Too many of us have an idea that can help change someone else’s life but because we’re consumed with worry about what they will think of us, we avoid them. We never let them see our passions and they never get our message. Putting yourself out there isn’t easy. In fact, it’s scary as hell. I’m trembling a little bit just thinking about posting this to my personal Facebook account. It’s hard. But whenever I encounter something that I say to myself is hard, I’m reminded of my wife’s favorite movie A League Of Their Own. There’s a great scene near the end of the movie when Gina Davis’ character is ready to quit the league. She tells Tom Hanks’ character, her baseball manager, that it’s too hard and he replies with maybe the greatest movie quote of all time:

It’s supposed to be hard. If it weren’t hard, everyone would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great.
Living your passion and sharing your message is supposed to be hard. If it weren’t hard, everyone would do it. It really is the hard that makes it great. No matter who it is that you’re avoiding, I hope you will join me in facing them. This week, I’m going to share this post on my Facebook wall. I’m going to post a video about how I work and I’m going to let other people’s opinions be none of my business. Join me. Live your passion and share your message -who the hell are we to keep it from them? ]]>

Like millions of other Americans, I over indulged on food over the holidays. Given my history, one would think that I would be smarter than to do that because it never ends well. When I ripped a suit I knew I had to do something. Like millions of other Americans, I decided to clean up my diet with the new year. I had been consistently hitting the gym, but you can’t out train a bad diet, so fixing my problem meant fixing what I put in my mouth. I haven’t enjoyed it. I don’t like eating breakfast. I don’t like logging my food. I don’t like the added work to my training program and I miss ice cream. I have not enjoyed it to the point that I earlier this week, I was ready to blow off my workout, sit down on the couch with a pint of Graeters and binge on Netflix. Just when I was about to give up, I found win; the suit that I ripped out, fit. When that jacket fit, suddenly all of those eggs, hours staring at myfitnesspal, heavy farmers walks and Saturday nights watching the family eat ice cream without me, were worth it. I had a win, with a win, I found more discipline. Why did I just take your time sharing this very personal story of my body composition struggles? Because it fits with this week’s theme. Once we get started, it can be a grind to keep going. It’s not always fun and sometimes we have to do things we hate to keep going. Some times we have to give up the ice cream, but all it takes it one win to find more discipline. One win that builds the momentum to keep going. Sometimes those wins are small. It’s promising yourself that you’d write one blog post this week and you do it. It’s promising yourself that you’d book an appointment and you follow through. Other times, those wins are bigger, like when you’re favorite suit fits again. It doesn’t matter how big or small the win is, the fact that you have one is enough. At this point, I’m reminded of my grandfather who used to tell me to thank God for small victories because often times, they’re the only ones we ever get. Once again, this is where having a new activity based goal every week that puts us closer to our bigger goals is a winning strategy. With an activity based goal, you either do it or you don’t and if you do it, you have a win. With one win and the discipline that brings, we can set ourselves up for the next one and the next one until success is inevitable. Try this formula and tell me how it works: Start. Keep Starting. Shift Perspective. Allow Passion to Drive Process. Find A Win, Ride the Momentum and repeat. From my experience, it’s a formula to win, that’s a start.   ]]>

I’ve written before that this blog is my attempts at solving problems in my own life. Whenever I have a tough problem, I know two things: 1. Writing forces research and clarity. 2. I’m not the only person looking for a solution. Knowing this, whenever I’m trying to solve a tough problem, I start writing, looking for answers and hoping that my struggle can either be avoided by someone else or at the very least, help them through their issue. This is a rather lengthy way of introducing where today’s blog and this week’s theme come from. Monday, I mentioned that it was not starting every day that led to my failing at my dream job. Fitting into that theme is the temptation to stop improving once we’ve started. This website is a great example of this issue. I made a lot of excuses before I sucked it up and started. When I did, I followed my own advice and didn’t let the quest for perfection hold me back. I moved quickly and put together my best work knowing that I could always figure out the rest as I went. But I didn’t. I stopped. I have found that this is a common theme for a lot of us. We make excuses as to why we can’t start, we slay those excuses, start and then the resistance stops our progress. My challenge was that I looked at my website as a task to be completed rather than a process that never ended. I couldn’t just start, I had to keep checking in, working at it and tweaking. While at first blush, this seems discouraging, it hasn’t been because I care very deeply about the outcome. This is where I found the solution that I was searching for: Passion can drive Process. I don’t love working on my site. A lot of the parts of building and creating a website make my eyes glaze over. It can be tedious and boring. But I love sharing content. I love to speak and to train. My passion for doing those things, drives my process to improve the things I don’t enjoy as much. In trying to solve my own problem of starting every day, I’ve learned that for me, the first step is shifting my perspective; to look at my goals as a process rather than a destination. The second step to use my passion for outcomes to drive the process that creates them and continue to put in the work. I write to solve my own problems knowing that the research and clarity will help me find a solution. Following these steps keep me committed. If you struggle at all with the cycle of starting and stopping, I hope it works as well for you. ]]>

Can you believe we’re starting the last full week of the month? It seems like only yesterday that I went to bed angry that my beloved Ohio State Buckeyes were shut out by the eventual National Champion Clemson Tigers in depressing fashion. In the blink of an eye, a month of this year is almost gone. But Not Yet. My first post of 2017 was about slaying our excuses, getting started and figuring it out as we go. A month later, I’m curious how it’s going. I’m curious because, in my experience, starting is the easy part. We’ve all started blogs and stopped after a few posts, or started a new diet and stopped when a coworker brings cake, or in my case, started a dream job and quit when it got hard. Last week, I posted this card. It held some special meaning to me and I wanted to share it, but it wasn’t until later that night that I got to thinking about failing at something I loved, that I remembered again why that happened. I started. I put in all of the work that it took to get the job, but like a late September call up who finally gets his shot in the bigs, I didn’t start every day. I blew my chance and let frustration over take me. In this last full week of January, I am hopeful that you, dear reader will learn from my mistake. Yes, given the choice between failing at something I love and something I don’t, I’d choose love, but the best option is to not fail at all. Yes, we must start and figure out the rest as we go, but that means starting every day thereafter too, no matter how hard it gets. I didn’t, and it’s been a long road back. This is where I believe that setting new, activity-based resolutions every week, plays such a crucial role. It forces us to start every week as if it were the new year and ride the momentum that we feel that first week all the way through to the last. It’s especially important to those of us in the Slash/Economy to start, but also, to keep starting. Because it takes time and persistence to make a career out of something we’re driven by. I believe with every fiber of my being that it’s time well spent, but to do it, we have to keep showing up. I can’t believe one month is already gone. We’ve only got 11 more to build our dreams and make this our best year yet. If you haven’t yet, start. If you’ve started, don’t quit and start again tomorrow. That’s the price required to avoid the feelings of regret that I felt about that quote. Some days it seems high but doesn’t hurt nearly as bad. ]]>

Wednesday’s post explored the reasons why bloggers should join Toastmasters. Today, I am hoping to convince my Toastmasters friends that they should start blogging. It’s my belief that Toastmasters should be blogging because for the following reasons:

Writing Forces Clarity

Writing speeches is hard. Writing good speeches is harder. As Toastmasters, we’ve all experienced speakers who needed to be more clear in presenting their ideas. Blogging helps. The reason that writing is so hard is because we do it so infrequently. By committing to a blog and posting content, we continually push ourselves to become better communicators.  Writing forces clarity and blogging is a great place to start.  

Blogging Builds A Reservoir

This has been blogging’s greatest gift to me as a Toastmaster. Writing content four times a week, I am forced to research, learn and study new subjects. All of this build a reservoir of knowledge that simplifies preparing speeches. When I see an open slot for a speaker, I don’t have to spend a lot of time researching and learning a new topic. I’ve already done that. I only need to take my blog post and reword it for the ear rather than the eye. This makes Table Topics a lot easier too because I have a reservoir full of knowledge already built, I just have to let it out.

Blogging Builds An Audience

Wednesday, I suggested bloggers join Toastmasters to expand their reach and build an audience. Blogging can do the same thing for speakers. The old line that is spoken by professionals of “publish or perish” holds some truth. Not all Toastmasters join to become professional speakers, but all of us should care about building an audience and with it a brand. Posting content online accomplishes this. All we have to do is pick a platform and start. If you’re ready to start blogging in order to force clarity, build a reservoir and build an audience, the next question to answer is what platform is right for you. I strongly suggest you start with a free one. Try a couple and see which one feels right. Here are just a few options. Blogger. This is Google’s blogging platform. It is incredibly simple and easy to use. It’s just a blog. No fancy frills, but it gets the job done and every post that’s written gets shared on Google Plus which is a great way to get found during a search. WordPress.com WordPress gives us a lot more options. The basic blog works really well and you can always upgrade to a premium package later if you want. LinkedIn I have written before about LinkedIn and how much I love the platform. When we publish an article there, it gets shared with our network and is shareable across other social media bands as well. It is really simple, and free which makes it my favorite place to start. Tumblr This might just be me, but I have found Tumblr to be the most complicated to navigate and figure out. It’s free and has its own network to build an audience from, but I’ve had a hard time getting it right. Your experience might be different, so let me know. I firmly believe that bloggers should join Toastmasters and Toastmasters should blog. For me, it has helped me become better at both and if the goal is to build a strong personal brand, this is a great way to do it. ]]>

Question: What’s the biggest problem with most blogs? Answer: No one reads them. Oh, sure, there are exceptions but most of us are putting out content every day and no one is reading what we have to say. There are a lot of reasons for this, but mostly it boils down to three things we’re doing wrong. We’re boring, we’re lousy at promotion and we’re not intentional about building an audience. I would not be pointing out this problem if I did not have a proposed solution, so here it is: Bloggers Should Join Toastmasters. I can hear the collective gasp now…” but I’m a writer, not a speaker” but allow me to explain how joining Toastmasters can fix each of our three mistakes:

We’re Boring

A lot of blogs are boring because they cover a lot of “how to” advice in the same way we’ve seen it presented over and over again. Most blogs are written lectures of things we need to do. Joining Toastmasters will help anyone become a better communicator because Toastmasters increases confidence and put a premium on telling stories. Both are natural enemies of boring. With confidence, both our written and spoken communication improves. By telling more stories, we’re able to deliver the same advice we’re looking write in a way that’s more digestible by the human mind. Joining Toastmasters can help liven up our writing and make us interesting again.

We’re Lousy at Promotion

Once we pour our heart and soul into a piece that we know we have to write, how does anyone find it? Sure we’ll post it Facebook and share it on twitter, but how would anyone that doesn’t know us find it? This is where being a better public speaker can make a tremendous difference. Just like writing can increase the credibility of a speaker, speaking and sharing our ideas with an audience can increase our credibility as writers. In order to do that, we must be able to take the stage and hold the attention of an audience. These aren’t natural skills but they can be learned and Toastmasters is a great place to start. When we learn to speak, we can better promote our writing and it adds greatly to fixing our last mistake and more deliberately build and audience.

We’re Not Intentional About Building an Audience

How do the world’s most successful bloggers build their audience? They develop and nurture huge email lists. There are a lot of ways to do that, online sign ups, free products, contests, and all of them work. A tool though that many writers miss is gathering information from people who hear them speak. If twice a month we delivered a presentation in front of an audience of people that should be reading or blog, and we deliver value to that audience and before we conclude we ask anyone interested in signing up for our newsletter, we begin to build a following. Toastmasters provides the training and in some cases, the audience to do this. It’s one of the most deliberate ways of building an audience and it’s made possible by joining Toastmasters. There are numerous other benefits as well. Becoming a better speaker will make us better writers and vice versa, but these are three major problems that joining Toastmasters can solve for a blogger. Step and up and speak and watch your audience grow because you’ll be more interesting, better promote your blog and be intentional about building your audience. Before you know it, everyone that needs your content will find it. Come back Friday and find out why Toastmasters should blog.  ]]>

Stress gets a bad rap, Sure it zaps our energy and creativity, makes us fat, leads to high blood pressure and early death. With a list like that, what’s not to love? There is good a side of stress, however. The pressure of new challenges allows us to expand our capabilities to meet those challenges. It is, after all, stress on a muscle that allows it to grow. The key is managing stress and making it work for us, rather than letting it kill us and to effectively do that, we need to understand where it comes from. We feel stress in our lives from three factors: Lack of Control, Lack of Progress and Lack of Clarity. When we’re able to better manage the causes, we can put our stress to work for us in positive ways. The best ways that I found are:

Lack of Control

Feeling that we’re not in control of the events that are shaping our lives is a major cause of stress for all of us. This is a constant feeling because there is so much of life that is outside of our control. In order to manage this cause, however, we must take control over the parts of our life that we have control over. Many times, we don’t control the outcomes of events, but we do control what those outcomes mean to us. I cannot control if it rains today, but I can control how I feel about the rain, and how well I prepare for it. Focusing on what I can control allows me to minimize my stress over the fact that its raining and channel it into a more productive use. In order to better manage stress, we must take control of the things we can control.

Lack of Progress

Losing weight is hard enough, but it becomes overly stressful when we stand on the scale after a week of our best effort and see that the numbers haven’t changed. A lack of progress in any area in our life is just as stressful. This is one of the biggest reasons why I write my goals down every morning along with three big tasks that I commit to accomplishing that day. The first reminds me of what I’m working toward and the second gives me something to complete that will allow me to feel progress. No one likes hammering away at the same rock with no result. Being able to see some crumbles is an important factor in feeling progress. In order to better manage stress, we must make progress every day towards something.

Lack of Clarity

Clarity is the factor in our life that leads to inner peace. When we know who we are, what we’re supposed to do and how to it, showing up and taking control and feeling progress are easy. With so many things nagging at us for our time and attention, however, finding clarity can seem like an impossible task. I find clarity comes from three main sources: Mind Dumping, Downtime, and Reflection. I’ve spent a lot of time writing and speaking about the power of lists, and that’s because getting everything out of my head, mind dumping, has contributed greatly to my finding clarity. Finding white space on my calendar to do nothing but think, using downtime, has fueled the creativity required to find clarity. Spending a few minutes every evening to evaluate who I was during the course of a day and how I would like to improve, using reflection as a tool, has allowed me to better see who I am and more importantly, who I want to be.  In order to better manage stress, we must find clarity about who we are and what we’re supposed to be doing. In most cases, stress will subtract more than it adds, but by taking control, finding progress and getting clear, we can manage this ugly beast and make it work for us rather than against us. It is, after all, a driving force in accomplishment, but only if we master it before it kills us. How do you manage stress to make it work for you rather than against you? ]]>