Friday, April 06, 2007


Saw this post on Marc Orchant's blog on the website ZDNet and couldn't wait to share it with all the other positive people I know:
There's never been a better, more succinct statement of a fulfilling week of work that this morning's acronym form Doc Searls: TBIF - Too Bad It's Friday. Love it.

This is my last day of a busy and fruitful week at the Berkman Center. (I fly home early tomorrow.) There's progress and fun with every meeting, phone call and IM session. I'm here early this morning, freshly fueled by a double cappuccino from Peet's, to prep for a 9am meeting that will pick up where our Wednesday VRM & Public Media workshop left off.

Like Doc, I'm fortunate to have gotten my life to a place where I genuinely enjoy most everything I'm engaged in doing. That's not to say there aren't days that suck because of course there are. But when you can get to Friday and say "TBIF", you know you have gotten into a true flow state.

(I agree with Marc...that's one of the best descriptions of a fulfilling career I've ever read!)

I. Must. Be. Nuts

Sorry that I haven't posted this month until today...but I've been working 27 hours a day managing three careers.

The reason? I just accepted the position of Managing Director for the Sacramento Theatre Company, an exicting opportiunity which will allow me to utlilze many of the theories and practices I've been writing about over the past 18 months. It also gives me more freedom to travel for my consulting and speaking practice, MARKtalks, Inc.

The bad news? I felt it was important enough to honor my commitment at the radio station to agree to continue my morning show until they find a replacement. That will probably last until the end of April. Soooo......

I get up at 3 in the morning, on the air until 9, head down to the theater until 2pm, and after I pick up the kids at school, I make consulting and coaching phone calls until dinner. (I also just started back with the Sacramento River Cats as their baseball stadium announcer last night.)

I. Must. Be. Nuts.

The good news? I'm doing what I adore. And the 3-a-days will be over soon. Until then, thank you for your patience and understanding. Speaking of which, my March newsletter will arrive this weekend. :-)

Thursday, March 29, 2007

MC Rove

Sometimes it pays to be silly. Even when you're the top advisor to the most powerful man in the world. Check out Karl Rove at the Radio and Television Correspondents Association annual dinner and roast HERE. (Caution--white men dancing. Hide the children...)

When you're in a high-pressure job where everyone seems to be taking shots at you, it's good to let loose and show everyone--especially your critics--that you have a sense of humor. Even if you don't have a sense of rhythm.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A Man With A Toothache

Life gets rough sometimes. Especially at work. Your boss gets mad, you miss a deadline, you lose a big account, or worst of all, you get fired. Studies show that:
  • 40% of workers reported their job was very or extremely stressful
  • Three fourths of employees believe that workers have more on-the-job stress than a generation ago
  • 26 percent of workers said they were "often or very often burned out or stressed by their work"
  • Job stress is more strongly associated with health complaints than financial or family problems.

No wonder that absenteeism is at an all-time high. So what's the solution? I think it's all in your perspective.

Sigmund Freud once said, "A man with a toothache cannot be in love." He meant that people tend to obsess over minor problems to the detriment of the more important things in life. A little attitude adjustment could go a long way toward fixing the problem. Dan Miller at has some terrific advice to help you ignore that "toothache"--

Make additional deposits of success in your physical well-being. The energy and creativity that can come from a sharp mind and body can generate the very ideas you need at this time. Organize a pot-luck with a group of your friends – you’ll be surprised how many of them are going through a similar experience and providing one dish will cost you no more than eating your own meal. Pick up a great book to read. If you read only 10 minutes a day you can read a new book a month – and that can transform your insight and preparation for new options. Stay connected spiritually. You’ll realize that in the scope of eternity, this event is probably a tiny spot on the timeline.

(I once got fired from a radio station where I had worked as a morning DJ for over 10 years...and the minute the GM broke the bad news to me, I drove home, kissed my wife and played on the floor with my 2 year-old son. Talk about perspective! )

It reminds me of a joke--these two brain surgeons were preparing for emergency surgery and one of the doctors was concerned about the prospects for success. The other doctor patted his peer on the back and said, "Don't worry...I mean, after all, it's not radio, it's just brain surgery." Again, perspective.

Your life cannot be broken without your permission. Find a way to triumph.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Can I Get A Witness?

One of the most important things you can have is an accountability partner--someone you trust and respect who loves you but doesn't have a problem telling you when you're off track. Most successful people have accountability partners and it's an invaluable asset. And it can make you a better speaker.

Have that trusted friend (or professional advisor) stop by a practice session or witness your presentation...and ask them to give you a constructive critique. What worked and what didn't and why. Things they heard the audience say afterwards. (It's great to have a friend hanging around, overhearing conversations about your performance. My wife loves to go to my shows and anonymously hear people complimenting my stuff!)

That witness can help you smooth out the rough spots and, better yet, praise you for the things that shine in your speech. You'll find your performance will improve dramatically!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Always Prepare To Over-Prepare

A great tip from professional coach Rick Frishman:

Being interviewed is giving a performance. For most of us, it's not something that we are accustomed to and the very thought can make us catatonic. If you know your stuff, the uneasiness usually dissipates as soon as the first words are out and the answers start to flow.

Before the interview, determine what you want to say. Prepare five main points to work into every interview. Also have three to four subpoints under each of the five main categories, because you never know how long an interview will run. The second step is to strengthen those points with anecdotes, jokes, and statistics so that they are more memorable and entertaining. The third step is to listen to the interviewer's questions carefully and take control of the interview. Always be prepared for the unexpected, and get help from media coaches. Lastly, appear natural, spontaneous and unrehearsed, which takes lots of practice.

That's the formula for success in any interview situation!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Savvy Schwartzenegger

Say what you want about his politics, but you can't deny that Arnold Schwartzenegger is a pretty smart cookie what it comes to working the media. Yesterday, he handled his latest controversy with perfect strategy and style.

Tuesday, the Governator called talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh "irrelevant," prompting the conservative Republican icon to accuse the governor of selling out his principles. Rush responded by calling Arnold a RINO (Republican In Name Only) and accused the governor of abandoning his conservative supporters.

Now, a politician has a number of options when he or she gets attacked by the media--none of them good. Ignore the comments and they become the "truth." Hold your own presser and try to refute the attacks--but then it turns into a ping-pong match you can't win.

Or you can do what Arnold did. Ask for an interview with the person who called you out. A risky proposition, because it usually backfires and you're left looking more ridiculous than before...unless you're a polished performer like Schwartzenegger. (Read the transcript HERE.)

He greeted Rush Limbaugh in a friendly, jovial manner, established they were old stogie-smokin' buddies--and then proceeded to dominate the conversation! Didn't let El Rushbo get a moment to respond. In fact, after the interview, Rush joked to his listeners:
Perhaps one of the reasons for Governor Schwarzenegger's sharp turn to the left under the guise of compromise has been owing to the ideology of his wife Maria. But after this interview, I'm not sure Maria gets a word in edgewise in their house. Governor Schwarzenegger obviously learned English and he hasn't stopped talking since!
The Governator's strategy was brilliant. Confront the media on their turf. Try it the next time you're under fire...but only if you're prepared to dominate the conversation.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

What's Your Time Worth? never have enough time to work out. The house is a mess because you're rushing from appointment to appointment. You can't finish that book you've always wanted to write because there's so much going on in your life. You're just. Too. Busy. Right?

Wrong. You'd be surprised to find out how much time you really have to do the things you really want. I found a terrific site on called Take Back Your Time that actually lets you calculate where you spend all that time every week. Then go to What's Your Time Worth? for lots of practical (and maybe a little pricey) personal services that help you find that extra time you've been dreaming about.

Now. You'll have time to lose weight--20 minutes x 4 days a week = 5 pounds a month. Hiring a cleaning service wipes away the guilt and gives you 9 hours a week to organize that hectic schedule. And about that book? Zig Ziglar writes a book a year, just by writing about a page and a half a day. Takes him around 45 minutes.

You can do all that. It just takes a little time.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Nailing That Job Interview

My career track will changing soon. Because I nailed the interview. I mean, flat out hit every pitch out of the park. Not many things are better than knowing you handled a job interview with style and substance, and walking out feeling the love in that board room.

Presentation skills are not limited to the platform. In fact, the close-quarter combat that typifies most job interviews requires a similar amount of research, preparation, and practice. So before you head into your next interview, here are some things to have ready:
  • Research. Doesn't matter if it's Microsoft or McDonalds, it really impresses the interviewer if you know all about the company's history, its products and services, and its customers. If you have Internet access, there's no excuse for not doing your homework.

  • Preparation. You know that you're the right person for the gig--but why? The moment you know you're getting an interview, start preparing your answers to questions like, "What are your strengths...and why are they important to this organization?", "Which career decision do you wish you could take back?", and most important, "Why do you want this job?" Develop a compelling answer to that question and the job is as good as yours.

  • Be Positive. Don't talk negatively about any previous job experience, especially about your old boss and what a loser he was. If you're openly complaining about your last job, chances are you'll be complaining about your new gig soon enough.

  • Dress For Success. Yes, I know, it sounds trite. And I know you really, really feel like your freedom of expression is being censored because you can't wear a kilt to the interview. But trust me, the business world is not a democracy. Think of it as a benevolent dictatorship. So unless you find in your research that the company wants rugged individuals with wild fashion taste (and there are those companies out there,) please wear something appropriate.

Job interviews don't have to feel like the corporate version of the Bataan Death March--in fact, they can be thrilling IF you've prepped and presented correctly. (Good luck!)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Passing The "Who Cares?" Test

My favorite radio consultant, Mike McVay, was famous for going over my air check tapes and saying after every break, "So....does this pass the 'Who Cares' test?" He meant for me to determine, every time I cracked the mike, whether I was about to talk about something the listener really wanted to hear or was it just something that I was interested in. That philosophy has helped me become a successful morning radio personality.

But it's also helped my speaking career...because the first thing I do before I even start developing a topic is take the "Who Cares?" test. Who'll want to learn more about this subject? Why should my audience be interested in this particular story? Is this something that only I care about--or is a shared experience that will resonate with a large number of people?

It's a great litmus test, even if you're required to speak about a certain topic. For instance, one of my clients asked me for help in developing a presentation on mortgage lending. (You're already rubbing down the goosebumps, I can tell.) I asked him why that topic was so important. He said too many customers get pushed into deals they'll never be able to afford and it was his mission to convince the industry that its strategy should be to help customers achieve their financial goals without get-rich-quick gimmicks.

The topic we came up with was "Do The Right Thing-Creating A Lifetime of Customers By Helping Them Create A Lifetime of Wealth!" It turned out to be the best-attended session of his industry's conference.

Take the "Who Cares?" test every time you make a presentation and you'll be pleasantly surprised with the response when you choose a topic everyone likes rather than try to persuade people to enjoy something only you might like.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Stop Setting Goals!

It's frustrating to see the passion for goal-setting that continues to pervade the advice that management consultants are handing out these days. "Set challenging goals!" "Focus on your dream!" "Chart a course for success!"

Don't get me wrong. I love setting goals. I'm King of the To-Do List. But the problem I have is that too many people get caught up in the "what' and "how"...and they never ask "WHY?" Why do I need this? Why is this goal so important?

It all goes back to The Puzzle Principle--How To Create Long-Term Success In A Short-Term World. Whether you hear my speech or take my seminar, you discover that all the personal and professional goals in the world mean nothing without a clear sense of what the "Big Picture" looks like and why you want it to look like that.

Focus and direction are worthless without the values to support them. That's a success philosophy you can bank on.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Fifth Element

Breathing easier today...remember that audition in San Francisco I talked about last month? They finally called this morning and I've got a voice over gig later today. And it only took 32 days for them to decide to use me.

It doesn't always happen like that but when it does, it's good to remember the fifth element of successful performance...let's run through the list:
  1. Plan -- Nothing beats great planning. Have a firm grasp of the big picture, understand WHY you're speaking, and then determine the theme and structure of your presentation.
  2. Prepare -- Research, interview, get advice, and take care of the little touches that will make your speech a guaranteed success.
  3. Practice -- Make sure your presentation is flawless and THEN start the rehearsal process. (Remember, practice doesn't make perfect...perfect practice makes perfect.)
  4. Present -- If you've done everything above correctly, then you can relax and have fun!

and the fifth element--Patience. Everything happens when it's supposed to happen. so you might as well enjoy the ride.

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Broken Window Theory

Every time I pass a store where one of the lights on its sign is out--or worse, the sign is broken--I wonder about the quality of the service inside.

In academic circles, it's called the broken-window theory. It holds that when criminals see that even small infractions are met and punished, they know that larger crimes will be met and punished. It also suggests that when neighborhoods deteriorate, criminals will thrive.

My dad had a much simpler explanation. He always told me, "Fix the window or people will think you don't care...and if you don't care, they won't care either." The point was that taking care of the details can make a big difference with the people you do business with.

How are the "windows" where you work--anything to fix there? Is the lobby clean? How about the parking lot? Does your receptionist greet everyone in a friendly and timely manner? Is your answering machine or voice mail message clean and bright?

And the "broken-window theory" doesn't stop at the lobby--what about your sales presentations? Your brochures--when's the last time you updated them? How about your business cards? Do they make a lasting first impression?

You can improve customer response dramatically just by fixing your organization's "broken windows." (So what are you waiting for?)

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Put Your Mouth Where Your Money Is

Nothing frustrates me more than seeing people waste opportunities.

Take this morning, for example. I head into the radio station around 3:30 every weekday morning for my show and sometimes stop off at a gas station to fill up ($2.95 a gallon here in Sacramento!) and pick up the morning paper. While my car was filling up, I walked to the door of the convenience store and saw this sign:

Not wanting to let a little thing like overnight store maintenance stop me from buying a cup of coffee and a day-old Krispy Kreme, I knocked politely on the door and motioned the attendant to come over. She took her time.

Finally, she walked up, pointed at the sign and started to walk away. I pounded on the door this time and said, "Listen, I'm sorry I bothered you, but could I just get in, get some coffee, and get out? I promise my feet are clean!" She pointed back at the sign, said, "We're closed! What're you, blind?!? Come back later!!!"

Obviously not a Dale Carnegie grad. I realize that I was asking her to drop everything to ring up a $2.70 sale...but it would only have cost her two minutes of her time. Her attitude actually cost her company hundreds of dollars because I'll never shop there again.

If you're in a service or sales industry, then you should always be as courteous and helpful as possible--even to the rudest of customers. If you're the decision-maker in a service or sales industry, empower your employees to make politeness their top priority.

When you sound like your customer really is number you're talkin'!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Funny Is Money

There's nothing worse than listening to someone drone on and on with no attempt at humor--unless it's someone who thinks they're funny drone on and on...

Professional speakers have a saying that goes, "Funny is money." Humor adds pizzazz. It makes your presentation more memorable. And it wins your audience over every time. But what happens if you're just not a funny person?

I suggest you start looking back at the stories your friends find amusing. They don't have to be belly busters, but they do have to have an emotional connection to your subject matter. There's a reason your buddies are laughing--find a way to use it in your speeches!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Great PR!

In the Hot Seat: Actor, DJ, cook -- is there anything Mark Standriff doesn't do?

By Gwen Schoen - Bee Staff Writer

Mark Standriff, a resident actor at the Sacramento Theatre Company, is also a morning DJ on 103.9 The Fish. Sacramento Bee/Jay Mather

Wow. You can't get much better publicity than this--a terrific profile article in the Sacramento Bee! Check it out HERE.

A Few Great Thoughts

"Those who are fired with an enthusiastic idea and who allow it to take hold and dominate their thoughts find that new worlds open for them. As long as enthusiasm holds out, so will new opportunities."
--Norman Vincent Peale

"Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm."
--Winston Churchill

"One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man."
--Elbert Hubbard

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is therefore not an act but a habit."

"People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing-that's why we recommend it daily."
--Zig Ziglar

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Schmooze Or Lose

I love to schmooze. In fact, my wife says I'm the only person she knows who could work a phone booth. It's a natural part of my personality...and something I've found can make even a great presentation even more successful and lucrative!

Audiences love contact with celebrities--and trust me, if you've been asked to give a major presentation or keynote speech, you can consider yourself a "celebrity." Arrive early and stay late. Shake hands and look into faces. Connect with the crowd before you step on stage and they'll be in love with you before you even open your mouth.

Oh, and working the room doesn't stop when you step off the stage. Stick around and chat, sign a few autographs, let everyone who wants to shake your hand or ask a question get a little one-on-one time. (My experience is to set your mental clock to two minutes for each person--that way you're not still working the room at midnight!) You'll really make a lasting impression and you'll probably pick up some future business, too!

As one of my favorite speakers, Patricia Fripp, advises, "There is more business to be had from the connection with the audience members and contacts from the client organization than the greatest speech."

Separated At Birth?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Leadership Lessons From "American Idol"

Watching American Idol can be addictive--just ask the 35-40 million who tune in faithfully each week to watch some very talented singers compete for the most coveted title in the entertainment industry. But watching this mega-popular reality show has also been very instructive and motivational. Last night, something Simon said triggered this thought:
You can learn a lot about leadership from American Idol.

First, character counts. The contestants who resonate with American Idol fans the most are those whose backstory contains faith and perseverance. Taylor Hicks, who toiled in bar bands for years and finally drove from Alabama to Las Vegas to audition on a dare from one of his buddies. Kellie Pickler, whose father is still in prison. Or this season's best talent, Lakisha Jones, a single mom who just wants a better life for her 4-year old daughter. In any leadership position, your character is what establishes your opportunity for success. Management guru Peter Drucker once said, "The proof of the sincerity and seriousness of an organization is uncompromising emphasis on integrity of character."

Second, keep it real. Out of all the hundreds of thousands of people that have auditioned through the past six seasons of American Idol, the 60 finalists may not have been the most talented singers--but they were the most refreshing. Last night, Simon told one of the women who absolutely tore UP a version of Aretha's Since You Been Gone, "Melinda, I have seen people walk out here with little talent and a lot of arrogance...and you are the opposite." That girl will be star, even if she doesn't win this season's American Idol competition, because she's humble and genuine and drop dead talented. From a leadership standpoint, don't take yourself seriously--take your job seriously.

Third, pick the right song. Nothing undermines a leader more quickly than pretending to be something he's not. Every season, we hear Randy, Paula, and Simon advise and admonish the American Idol contestants to choose music that fits their style and range. Take Katherine McPhee--if she had delivered that knockout performance of "(Somewhere) Over The Rainbow" earlier in the competition, she probably would have won it all. However, she tried to be sassy and edgy and it didn't work--meanwhile, Taylor Hicks consistently picked songs that he knew he could deliver with style and creativity. In leadership, picking the right song (or rather, choosing the management style that he can perform consistently and successfully) makes all the difference.

Who knew that a reality competition to find the next big singing sensation could provide such pithy and profound advice for the 21st Century Leader. Here's hoping you'll be a Leadership Idol for your organization!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

...And Now, How NOT To Handle A Heckler

It's remarkable that so many people working as communications professionals don't know how to communicate.

For instance, you'd think that a public information officer working for a controversial politician would be especially careful with his words--particularly in a setting where the media was ready to pounce on anything he said that might be "newsworthy." Unfortunately, this guy wasn't...(if you need the backstory, check out "How NOT To Handle A Media Stunt.")

It gets better. Better as in, "Raise your hands if you didn't see this train wreck coming." Our intrepid PIO agreed to take part in a public forum on freedom of speech--of course, he's the guy who (on his boss' orders) physically tried to keep several radio station talk show hosts out of the mayor's presser last month.

This poor guy is stuck trying to defend his boss' actions in a no-win situation (Mistake #1,) so he tries to inject a little levity into the proceedings by starting out with a lame joke (Mistake #2) that referred to the time-worn advice to speakers about imagining their audience wearing nothing but underwear (Mistake #3--that advice never works, by the way. It's well down on the effective presentation skills scale, right below "Break wind frequently.")

And the joke falls flatter than a pancake jumping off the Sears Tower. Here's what he said (courtesy of the Toledo Blade:)
"Two ladies that I used to work with when I worked at the [Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority], though, made me promise I would not picture them in their underwear when I spoke," Mr. Schwartz said of the women who were seated in the front row.

Mistake #4. Cue the crickets.

Not having endured enough discomfort, the PIO now has to handle a heckler who turns out to be the C-I-C of the radio station (meaning "Clown-In-Charge.") Having conveniently ignored an invitation to appear on the dais with the PIO, the heckler chooses instead to lob a few snarky comments up on stage. The PIO falls on the grenades and the entire forum degenerates into a screaming match.

Chances are that the relationship between the mayor's office and the radio station will never be repaired until the personnel changes. However, there are two key lessons to be learned from this brouhaha--one, always deal with a heckler calmly and politely. And since you have the microphone, you control the if the heckler won't shut up, then ask the moderator or host to politely remove the offender.

Two, never argue with a fool. Your audience may not be able to tell the difference.

Monday, February 19, 2007

How To Handle A Heckler

I've written before about techniques for handling an unruly audience member, but I thought it would be good to show an acutal example of someone deftly and graciously dealing with a rude interruption:

(By the way, this guy could be a sleeper in the 2008 presidential race...much like when Bill Clinton came out of nowhere to win it all in 1992. If he can continue to handle the Mormon issue as well as he did at this event, watch out.)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Act Like A Winner, Part 2

It's good to know that all the stuff I write about on this blog (not to mention the countless hours spent giving workshops and speeches) actually have some practical personal use.

I had an audition for a talent agency in San Francisco yesterday--they're interested in representing me, so who am I to say no?--and it was all I could do to maintain an even strain. (It's a crazy concept to begin with...I live in Sacramento, so for all intents and purposes, I agreed to drive an hour-and-a-half, spend $30 on gas, tolls, and parking, give a three minute audition, then drive an hour-and-a-half back home and hope they liked me!) The audition itself could have been a disaster, but the experience reassured me that I can walk the walk when I talk about presentation and speaking skills. Here's what I learned:
  • Practice doesn't make perfect--perfect practice makes perfect. When the situation looks and feels surreal, it's always good to know that your performance can't go wrong because you've rehearsed it enough so that the words seem effortless. A good thing, considering all the obstacles I encountered.
  • Check out the venue before you deliver the content. The only big mistake I made...because I assumed (yeah, yeah, I know what happens when you assume) the audition space would be comfortable. It turned out to be an old office that was turned into a video room with just a camera, a carpet, and a piece of masking tape to mark where I would stand. I should have asked to see the room first, then planned my performance around it.
  • When you're not comfortable with the performance setting, change it. My monologue called for me to sit in a chair. I had practiced for over a week in a chair. There was no chair. So--I asked for a chair. No big deal.
  • Preparing to fail can be more important than preparing to succeed. What I mean is, it's just as important to prepare for disaster as it is for success. Because they didn't have a chair (or it was too much trouble to get one.) Fortunately, I had rehearsed standing up almost as much as I had sitting down, so I automatically knew how to adapt.
  • Be professional. Be pleasant. Be persuasive. Nothing can shoot down a talented speaker like a bad attitude. Despite the setbacks, the spartan setting, the rush of the process, I was determined to make a great impression. It must've worked, because I got a thumbs-up from the assistant who handled the video camera.

It's great to be vindicated. Let's see if it translates into some paying gigs.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

"I'd Like To Thank The Academy..."

It's the season to pick up hardware in Hollywood... Golden Globes, SAG Awards, the Oscars coming up soon, and of course, the Grammy Awards where the Dixie Chicks gave a clinic on how not to accept an award.

Just because you're a seasoned performer doesn't mean you'll automatically be glib and gracious. (Personally, I blew an acceptance speech a few years ago when I was inducted into my high school alma mater's hall of fame. Thanked everyone. Except my wife. Took me dozens of roses to make up for the guilt.)

One of my favorite speakers, Patricia Fripp, has a terrific article called "How Do You Accept an Award? Tips on How to Give an Acceptance Speech" that is filled with everything you need to knock it out of the park when you receive that Lifetime Achievement Award.

(Article used with permission by Patricia Frippp, CSP, CPAE, 1-800 634 3035, You can read more about her in this month's MARKwrites Newsletter--she'll be the featured pro! To subscribe, email

Monday, February 12, 2007

Fat Chance

I am fat.

It's worse than that. I'm old and fat. Fat, bald, and flirting with 50. Yippie skippie.

Not a great way to start out a Monday. Especially when you get out of the shower and suddenly realize you can't fit your gut in the mirror frame anymore. I'm so out of shape, I get winded brushing my teeth!

The funny thing is...I'm also excited. Excited and encouraged. Filled with hope and making grand plans because I just hit that magic "tipping point" where the future doesn't look flabby anymore.

(Do you ever get those moments where the big picture suddenly comes into focus and all your worries immediately crystallize into a light bulb of inspiration? I did. This morning. Naked and fat and unveiled in a foggy bathroom mirror, the answer became clear.)

I have to get middle-aged fit. Not cut-like-a-jack-bull fit. Not Men's-Health-Magazine-abs-like-a-washboard fit. I'm talking just fit enough to fit into the jeans I wore ten years ago. Fit enough to run a couple of miles with my ten-year-old. Fit enough to live long enough to really enjoy my family and friends.

When your values finally outweigh your desires, you can accomplish anything. That's why I'm telling you this--because I want you to have a defining moment, too. One that grabs you by the heart and shows you the right path toward personal and professional success.

Let's share our stories. And our progress. I'm really looking forward to the journey.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Just Look At Yourself!

Boy, do I need to take a step back from the fridge.

A staff photographer from the Sacramento Bee stopped by the radio station to take some pictures for an interview that I'll be featured in next month called "In The Hot Seat." For some reason, after he was through, I asked if I could see some of the unusual angles he chose...

They're right when they say the camera adds, oh, 50 pounds.

But it also inspired me to offer some advice to anyone who makes presentations on a regular basis--you need to update your image every 6-12 months.

Let me ask you this...
When's the last time you got a good look at yourself?
When's the last time you had your headshot refreshed?
When's the last time you updated your wardrobe?
When's the last time you videotaped your speech or presentation or sales pitch?

It's amazing how different we actually look from the way we think we look. (One of the most interesting bits of trivia I ever read--as much as you have seen your reflection, you've never actually seen your own face!)

Since almost 80% of everything you communicate is non-verbal and how you look when you speak is an important part of your non-verbal message, doesn't it make sense to look at yourself as others see you just to make sure you're not communicating failure when you're trying to promote success?

Monday, February 05, 2007

Faith Speaks Out

Did you see Tony Dungy's comments when he was interviewed after the Colts' victory in Super Bowl XLI? Rarely do you see someone able to say the right thing without trying, effortlessly handling the emotion and chaos of the moment with civility and grace.

I was especially encouraged to see him display his spiritual side, freely talking about his faith with a candor that's both refreshing and desperately necessary these days. Here's what CBS Sportsline columnist Mike Freeman had to say about Dungy:

Notice he spoke of God. When he does, no one rolls their eyes. Because it is Tony Dungy. Because there is nothing but sincerity there and you know he will not talk of religion and several hours later go chase a few skirts as many people in his profession tend to do.

Faith is a very powerful thing. But it's not just believing in something that you can't see--it's trusting in that power to provide success, especially when events threaten to defeat you and your purpose. It's like putting a piece of lumber across a deep ditch--you believe that the wood can hold you, but it isn't until you actually walk across it that you show faith. Dungy walks the walk as well as any man I've ever seen. It's a leadership style that everyone should learn.

Dungy is the epitome of class in a business filled with screamers and look-at-me's. Let's hope everyone who watched him during all those press conferences learned a valuable lesson in character and leadership.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Same Stuff, Different Day

Every year on this day, I make a kind of pilgrimage to Punxatawny, Pennsylvania as I curl up on the couch to watch Groundhog Day, a brilliant moral fable featuring Bill Murray as a jaded weatherman who has to relive the same day over and over. (I counted 34 times, but I'm sure the implied number has to be in the thousands.) Bill's character finally breaks free from his eternal cycle when he slowly realizes that what makes life worth living is not what you get from it, but what you put into it.

How many lives are wasted because of self-indulgence and ego-centric choice? Almost every successful leader I've ever met or interviewed has told me that they didn't achieve true wealth until they started focusing outward and made a conscious effort to give more than they got.

Don't let another day go by doing the same ol' same old. Break free from the commonplace. Find ways to make each day better, to add something instead of grabbing away. The lesson from Groundhog Day is that loving life includes loving the fact that it moves on--whether you do or not.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

No Where To Hide

I've said this repeatedly. Every client is reminded constantly. If I could put a disclaimer on a politician's forehead, I would. If there's a camera or microphone nearby, as far as you're concerned, it's ON.

It gets worse...because cell phone technology has made it possible to record short video, and since it seems that everyone has a link to YouTube or MySpace, you can't be safe in any public setting. Read this article in the NYTimes and see how the 2008 presidential candidates are weighing the pros and cons of using the Internet. Howard Dean embraced the Internet in 2004 and developed a formidable fund-raising/volunteer campaign...until the video of his primal scream hit everyone's Web browser, and suddenly, it was goodbye, Howie.

Again, my advice is that if you're in a leadership position that requires you to make public presentations, keep it clean from the moment you enter the room until the moment you leave. You never know when someone's watching. And recording.

Monday, January 29, 2007

What Was Hillary Thinking?

This one is going to be played over and over for weeks...and we still won't know what Hillary Clinton really meant.

At a town hall meet--sorry, she's calls it a "conversation stop"--in Davenport, Iowa, the former First Lady and hopeful first lady President was asked the question, “with all the bad and evil men around the world, what equips you to deal with them?” Hillary repeats the question, paraphrasing it like any good speaker should...and then she pauses and lets loose this wicked, Cheshire Cat grin, and suddenly the audience erupts with laughter. (The Chicago Sun-Times has the best account of it here.)

Look at the video and tell me what your immediate reaction was. Yep. She's gotta be thinking about Bill. That smile was a little too knowing.

However, Hillary bristled at the suggestion that she was dissing her husband, telling reporters to "lighten up." She offered a couple of different explanations to her "bad men" comment, but two things are apparent. First, whether or not she meant it, there are a lot of her supporters who will nudge and wink each other over Hillary's naughty little inside joke because they love her for standing by Bill during Monica-gate. That's not a bad position for someone of Sen. Clinton's history and reputation.

Second, she's either the clumsiest conversationalist in media history...or the most brilliant. And if you're running against Hillary, prepare for the latter.

The Puzzle Principle

Later this week, I'll be officially announcing my new platform, The Puzzle Principle: How To Create Long-Term Success in a Short-Term World, in the next issue of my MARKtalks newsletter. (If you'd like a free monthly subscription, send me a note at!)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

What's your "State of the Union"?

Last night, President Bush delivered a measured and humble State of the Union, the annual address to the nation about matters of importance to the executive office. It's traditionally one of the most watched and analyzed speeches of the year.

The presidential "State of the Union" is called for in the Constitution. If you're a corporate CEO or president, where's yours? When is the last time you talked openly and frankly about the organization's status and your vision for its future? Speaking to the stockholders doesn't count. It's a speech that your employees and customers need to hear, an explanation of your values and priorities for the coming months and years.

Too often, leaders are hesitant to share this kind of information because they're concerned about disclosure. I would say that it depends on what you're disclosing and how you present it. President Bush effectively laid out his objectives and highlighted a few key people and events from last year without giving up any national secrets.

If you're in any kind of leadership position, I urge you to give a "State of the Company" speech every year...and embrace it as a great opportunity to motivate your staff and keep your customers informed. They'll thank you for it.

Monday, January 22, 2007

What The Politically Savvy Are Saying

A really interesting piece in this morning's U.S. News & World Report about the specific language that the 2008 Democratic presidential candidates should use. It comes from longtime GOP consultant and wordsmith Frank Luntz:

On the Democratic side, we'll start with new fave Sen. Barack Obama. Luntz says he should talk about "hope" and "opportunity" and simply use his remarkable life story as the visual. "He's a natural," says Luntz, who cautions: "Out with the sound bites and in with the stories." Not surprisingly, Luntz says Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton should use hubby Bill as her visual and mouth words like "mission" and "finally"—as in a woman president.

Across the aisle, Luntz wants Sen. John McCain to talk about his trademark "reform" and "accountability." Olympics exec and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney should highlight "competence" and "good governance" and use the Olympic symbol lots. Luntz pal Rudy Giuliani should talk "success" and "results" and use the cleaned-up Times Square for his backdrop. And every candidate should brag: "I'm a leader in times of crisis." See the whole Luntz list at"

Funny, I don't see the words "ethics" or "integrity" mentioned... but nonetheless, it's interesting to see what an expert thinks are the campaign buzzwords in the race for the White House.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Handling A Hit Piece

Barack Obama is certainly the most talked about politician in America. The glowing reviews of his autobiography, the comparisons to the glory days of JFK and Camelot, the chatter about his presidential aspirations are all part of a brilliant PR campaign. However, there are other people with high hopes who are willing to provide the media with fodder for scandal. How you handle a hit piece could mean the difference between ultimate success and tragic failure.

Check out this article from yesterday on Insight Magazine's website with the header, "Hillary's team has questions about Obama's Muslim background." Here's how the story begins:

Are the American people ready for an elected president who was educated in a Madrassa as a young boy and has not been forthcoming about his Muslim heritage?

This is the question Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s camp is asking about Sen. Barack Obama.

An investigation of Mr. Obama by political opponents within the Democratic Party has discovered that Mr. Obama was raised as a Muslim by his stepfather in Indonesia. Sources close to the background check, which has not yet been released, said Mr. Obama, 45, spent at least four years in a so-called Madrassa, or Muslim seminary, in Indonesia.

"He was a Muslim, but he concealed it," the source said. "His opponents within the Democrats hope this will become a major issue in the campaign."

When contacted by Insight, Mr. Obama’s press secretary said he would consult with “his boss” and call back. He did not.

Big mistake. Politicians have an alarming tendency to avoid confronting controversial issues in their past--but when you can show that you have overcome the issues or solved them in a socially acceptable way, why not embrace the problem and celebrate your victory?!?

In this case, Sen. Obama could say, "It was never my intent to hide my Muslim upbringing--I guess since my life is now filled with the love of Christ, it just seemed to me to be a part of my childhood environment and not a conscious life decision that I should be worried about. I am much more concerned that there are politicians who preach tolerance yet promote intolerance. If they want to use religious bigotry to further their worldly ambitions, then I feel sorry for them."

Insight Magazine has presented a ticking bomb for Obama--and if he really has the right stuff for a presidential run, he will difuse it rather than refuse it.

UPDATE: It looks like the hit piece was based on false information--here are the details from the Chicago Sun-Times:

"Barack Obama's week-old presidential campaign has been hit with a smear. Hillary Clinton's White House bid, launched Saturday, has been attacked with an unfounded accusation.

Contrary to what was reported in Insight magazine and then repeated on Fox News and in other news outlets, including a column that ran in the Sun-Times by free-lancer Mark Steyn, Obama was not educated in a radical Islamic school when he was an elementary student in Jakarta.

And there is no evidence whatsoever that Clinton's campaign had anything to do with spreading the damaging rumor that Obama hid a Muslim background."

A free pass for both campaigns...but my advice still stands.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A Little "Messy" In Your Life

I just heard a report that says retail clothing stores regularly display a couple of items that haven't been folded right on top of a neatly-piled stack of merchandise. The reason? People feel uncomfortable messing up something that looks so carefully placed...and the "messy" items invite them to pick up, handle, and hopefully purchase something.

How can a little "messy" help you? We tend to see practically-perfect people as unapproachable and distant. Letting down your guard, showing some self-depricating humor, maybe even asking for some help or advice when you don't really need it will go a long way toward winning admiration and respect.

The leaders who aren't afraid to show their human side usually gain stronger and more faithful followers than those who hate to have any "messy" around them.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

How NOT To Handle A Media Stunt...

...and I'll start off this post by admitting I used to work for both the radio station and the mayor involved in this bizarre incident.

The age-old advice for politicians and other famous folk has always been "Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the gallon." (Or someone who has unlimited airtime on a heritage radio station, as this poor public information officer found out...check out PUSH COMES TO SHOVE IN NEWS ACCESS FEUD.) This story has unfortunately turned into a First Amendment rights issue, something that could get ugly if not handled quickly and deftly.

Hizzoner asked my advice on how to handle talk show hooligans, which I'll be happy to share with you:
  1. Contact the station management and lodge a formal complaint.
  2. Take the high road. They need you more than you need them--so what if they call you every lousy name in the book. You only stoop to their level AND more importantly, provide these schlock jocks with radio gold every time you step up to challenge them.
  3. If a response is necessary, use television to appeal to the general public. Book a little time on the highest-rated newscast to make the radio station an offer they can't refuse--or refute. (In this case, here's what I advised the mayor's PIO to say: "If the radio show hosts at WSPD want to get a response from the mayor, they don’t have to break down doors. Carty is willing to come down to their studios and talk to them whenever they want, face to face and man to man.")
  4. Hold a press conference, inviting the public (that's very important!) to apologize for the distraction from the mayor's higher responsibility and politely confront the radio station's representatives ("WSPD can’t have it both ways. They’re either reporters who deliver news stories in a fair and objective manner, or they’re talk show hosts who are free to comment on the news of the day…but it’s disingenuous to hide behind press credentials in order to further a ratings agenda. More importantly, it’s immature and unethical to ban the mayor from their airwaves while screaming for their First Amendment right to ask him questions.")

Nothing gets out of hand faster than a politician bickering with the media. If you're ever in this situation, try to ignore it. If you can't ignore, implore--then explore other media options.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Set Dressing

I've never seen it in person, but they say that the Oval Office is the most intimidating room in the free world. If that's the case, then whomever convinced President Bush to move from the Oval Office to the White House library as the setting for last night's speech should get a big raise.

It created a much better environment for the type of speech he was delivering to the American public--one member of a focus group interviewed right after the President's speech said the all the library books in the background made him look "smarter."

As a speaker, your setting is one of the most important--and one of the most overlooked areas under your control. Make sure it sends the right kind of non-verbal wouldn't want to give an important speech on corporate waste on a stage cluttered with plants and props.

Everything in the room is under your control, from the signage to the furniture to microphone placement. Contact the event organizers and find out how large the stage is...ask if the podium is movable or fixed...are there any banners or posters...and above all, include a list of your personal needs and tastes in your meeting planner's package. (You don't want to show up and find that the lighting makes you look like a talking lobster!)

Speaking in the perfect setting may not make a great speech any better--but it certainly can turn a great speech into a disaster.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Impossible is the Opposite of Possible

This YouTube parody of the typically self-indugent video resume is brilliant. The subject, Michael Cera, is the epitome of ego. The dialogue is delightfully pithy, filled with generic motivational quotes that make this kid sound like the love child of Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Wayne Dyer. (I kid...I kid because I love.)

Here's my favorite resume response:
"Well, I would best describe myself as a model of personal development and success...and I'm a Gemini and my favorite food is pizza."

It's hilarious (yes, it's a lovingly sarcastic tribute to the Russian youth who produced the "Impossible Is Nothing" video you can view HERE) and I pray that I never come off sounding like I'm in awe of my own awesomeness.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

From Reel Life To Real Life

How do the most effective communicators make their presentations so compelling? They follow the strategy that makes instant classics out of movies or plays. It's all about the story.

Alfred Hitchcock used to say, "Movies are like real life with all the dull parts left out." That's a perfect game plan for anyone who's struggling with a sales pitch or worried about an upcoming speech--leave the dull parts out, concentrate on the action, and give your hero plenty to play with.

That means discovering your "EQ." If "IQ" is your Intelligence Quotient, then effective speaking has an Emotional Quotient. The "EQ" of every powerful presentation provides an investment of images, memories, and shared experiences that grab an audience's attention and refuse to let go. (It makes sense--the conversations you have with family and friends that get the best response are usually big production numbers filled with dramatic devices, so why not use that same approach for your next luncheon speech?

Once you find your speaking "EQ," it'll be time to add the "CQ" and "PQ" to really improve your speaking skills--check out my next monthly newsletter for more information on how using reel life strategies can make your real life presentations more effective. (Sign up at!)

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


My first newsletter will be launched today--it's filled with great information, tips on leadership and presentation skills, and a monthly feature on the professional speakers who have given me inspiration through the years. Here's just a taste:
If you'd like to subscribe, email me at and I'll send you the first issue (you can also look for the archive later this month!)

Monday, January 01, 2007

Pick A Lane This Year

Happy New Year! I hope the past 12 months were filled with opportunity and inspiration.

You're going to see some changes soon on my web site, I'm trying to focus my energies (not to mention my expertise) in order to become a more powerful connection for people who are struggling with presentation skills. Some changes will be subtle, some very dramatic, but ALL of them will be centered on helping you Act Like A Winner and Talk Like A Pro!

These changes come from some advice I got off a teleseminar with Jane Atkinson, one of the top professional speaker coaches in the world. She says the secret to starting a successful speaker career is to "pick a lane," and it struck me as something I should've done years ago. I've been blessed with a large range of abilities and have always strived to find success in ALL of them! (Too bad I didn't "pick a lane" and focus my attention on just one talent--who knows how far I could've gone by now!)
The point is that it's never too late. No matter where you are in your career, a laser-like focus on your top talent can't help but improve your results in the coming year. I'm looking forward to sharpening my skills with Ms. Atkinson this winter...and if you haven't decided what your best path to success is yet, pick a lane!