Public speaking. Most people would rather die than get up in front of a group of more than one person and say something. Anything. Bueller. Bueller?!

Heather Wolf gave it a whirl when she realized how much fun teaching others to juggle for fitness purposes truly was.

“Like many people, I have a fear of public speaking. But when I found my passion for teaching people to juggle for fitness, I had no choice but to face my fear, get up in front of people and speak. At first I thought I’d pass out, but I was surprised to find that, because I was passionate about the topic, I actually enjoyed speaking in front of people.”

Ah! The power of passion! It makes us forget ourselves, placing us in the flow or the zone or whatever you call it for yourself.

“I still get nervous at times,” Heather admits,”but once I start sharing the benefits of juggling with others and teaching them a fun form of fitness, I feel that I am making a difference and that is more important than anything. Now I have taught and spoken in front of hundreds of people at a time,  and even feel comfortable doing national TV appearances.”

Heather has moved from struggle to juggle and that’s just awesome.

Do you know anyone who struggles with public speaking? Toastmasters International is a worldwide organization that helps people with their speaking skills. Give it a try. Maybe start by tossing a ball or three in the air. You’ll be so distracted you won’t have a chance to remember there are others watching!

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Last March Dan Nelms played his last game in a Davidson College Basketball uniform. This final game marked the end of the passion he had pursued for 8 years.

But beyond college, what was a college athlete to do?

“I always knew I wanted to start my own business afterwards,” he told me, “but with a liberal arts degree it was up to me choose what field to pursue.”

He sat down, gave it some thought, then wrote his first line of code his senior year of college. He had never taken a computer science course before, but since September he has written every line of code, the business plan, and the marketing plan for his first business.

Amzini, a social media navigator, launched its beta version on March 21, 2011.

“That certainly would have been difficult to perceive that at the end of my basketball career one year ago!” he admits.

So going from a stretching lay-up to a stretching business experience, Dan is well on his way to a new life.

Inspiring, isn’t it? Remember: I had never done an Excel chart before the chance arose to prove I could do it. We can do it. Sometimes all we need is the opportunity to try something new.

What are you resisting that is calling you? Don’t think you can do it? Think again. If Dan or I or any of our daily stretchers can do it, so can you!

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Two years ago my husband and I participated in a TV science program about life without petroleum products for a day. It was astounding how many things we use that are petroleum-based. Plastic is just one of them.

The animal kingdom, the plant kingdom and the mineral kingdom have been trumped by the fourth kingdom we call plastic. Susan Freinkel, author of Plastic: A Toxic Love Story, investigated the world of plastic that surrounds us and made some amazing discoveries.

Between the years 1941 and 1979, plastic production superseded that of  steel. During that very short time span, plastic had become “the skeleton, the connective tissue, and the slippery skin of modern life.” (page 6)

Today we consume six hundred billion pounds of plastic annually.  In 1960, the average American consumed thirty pounds of plastic products. Today we’re consuming 10 times that!

The quote below summarizes the story of plastic, which she tells using eight every day objects to weave her tale (the comb, the chair, the Frisbee, the IV bag, the disposable lighter, the grocery bag, the soda bottle, and the credit card):

“We take natural substances created over millions of years, fashion them into products designed for a few minutes’ use, and then return them to the planet as litter that we’ve engineered to never go away.” (page 10)

Other highlights include facts such as these:

  • We’ve produced nearly as much plastic in the first ten years of the new millennium, as in the entire preceding century.
  • All Americans now carry traces of dozens of synthetic chemicals in their bodies – including fire retardants, bactericides, pesticides, plasticizers, solvents, heavy metals, waterproofing agents, stain repellents, Teflon and other compounds. Even newborns harbor chemicals – on average 200, according to one study.
  • Plastic debris is now found in even the most remote places, like the Antarctic Ocean.
  • Though most plastic can be recycled, almost none is. Only plastic beverage bottles and milk jugs, #1 and # 2 plastics are recycled in any great numbers. Even so, nearly three-fourths never get into the recycling stream, and instead wind up in landfill or incinerators

Life without plastic. Is it possible?

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W. C. Fields

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W.C. Fields once said, “Comedy is a serious business. A serious business with only one purpose— to make people laugh.”

For those who appreciate a good comedy, you will know it is meant to look easy, fresh and spontaneous. And if you’ve ever been on a TV set, as I was yesterday, you will know the scenes are repeated over and over and over until it sits just right. It takes talent to make it appear as if you’re reacting for the first time. But when the crew still laugh after the fourth time you’ve said your lines, you know you’re on to something.

Comedic timing is an innate thing. It can be practiced, but some people have it more readily available in their arsenal than others. Yesterday while filming several scenes for a Bavarian comedy show (I had no lines, but got to do some minor improv), the veteran director guided the actors to their very best by showing them which physical accents counted for which camera angle. Comedy is all about timing and as the day progressed,  I could feel the rhythm of the scenes flow through me. It was as if the tick-tock of the clock aligned with the pulse in my veins. It was magic.

You also know when a comedy has gone awry if the scenes don’t fit together (bad editing) or the humor is reaching for a quick laugh versus an over-arching tummy tickler. Mr. Fields was right. Comedy is a serious business, and it can teach us a lot about how time plays a part in it all.

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A percent sign.
Image via Wikipedia

“I sing to the six percent,” Roseanne Cash told me in an interview this past summer. That is to say she sings to the poets, to the creators who get it.

Whenever I’m off kilter (which, at this time of year, seems to be a lot!), I look at which percentage of myself is being spoken to or ignored. If I were to divide myself into two parts, I would say I’m 80% feminine energy and 20% masculine. In business I tug at every decimal of those 20%; but at times my 80% wants to play, too; she gets in the way when I have to be decisive. She wants to make it alright for everyone and would rather not say ‘no’.

“You don’t ever say ‘no’,” my colleague advised. “You simply tell them what it’s going to cost them. Having clients is like parenting. There are consequences to every decision.”

Wow. I would have toppled from my chair if it didn’t have armrests.

A pretty neat concept. He listened patiently to my 80/20 percent evaluation and then gave me a way to say ‘no’ with kindness.

Aren’t I supposed to be telling him how to do that, according to Chapter Four in The Power of Slow?

When your two halves are out of synch, ask yourself which half is speaking? Then acknowledge its need. Sometimes soothing that part of ourselves that is out of alignment can be just the trick to getting back on the path to slow…and wellness!

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Managing the Older Worker

September 14, 2010

In the last century we’ve increased our longevity by thirty years. In 1900 folks lived an average of 47 years; by the year 2000 that number had jumped to 78. Although I am far from retirement age, I follow the conversation of the changing retirement laws in Germany because it fascinates me that people are forced to stop working when they hit that ‘magic number’. While they want to raise it from 65 to age 67, there have been protests in France because they just jacked retirement up to age 60.

Imagine the thought! Why, as the population ages and fewer people are born to replace them, are people being coerced to leave the workplace?

That’s where Peter Cappelli and Bill Novelli, co-authors of the newly released book, Managing the Older Worker: How to Prepare for the New Organizational Order, come in. They make a strong case for retaining talent and conducting smart knowledge management. After all, older folks are living longer, have more experience and, according to the authors, are motivated by different interests than their eager, younger colleagues. Dangling a promotion in front of their noses isn’t nearly as effective as giving them an interesting assignment that keeps them as a team player.

While I was slightly disappointed that the book didn’t delve into how younger managers can actually go about managing older workers, they did make a strong case for why older workers are so valuable. In a nutshell, they are:

  • more knowledgeable (no mystery there);
  • more flexible (most of them have their child-rearing days behind them; however flexibility for elder care remains an issue as their own parents’ failing health impacts their ability to maintain a regular schedule);
  • more loyal and conscientious;
  • just as costly (or not, depending on how the company views overall employee benefits).

In other words, older workers’ value in terms of knowledge and willingness to learn new things (thereby debunking the myth that people over forty somehow can’t or won’t ‘get with the program’) far outweighs any insurance cost, etc. Also notable is the fact that older workers are much less likeyl to have costly dependents so while their insurance premiums may be slightly higher, they are actually less costly in the overall scheme of things.

I thought of this today as I stood in line, waiting with one hundred other warm bodies, to buy my daughter’s last-minute school supplies. In high school, they like to tell the kids what they will need for class on the first day of school, leaving no time to prepare over a series of weeks. That means good ole Mom gets to push her way through the crowds for those ‘extra’ items she couldn’t foresee.

But back to my point: there were two lines. One had an elderly gentleman and a middle-aged woman working the cash register. The other had a younger team. One called out the price; the other typed it into the register. I couldn’t help but notice my line with the older team wasn’t moving as fast. Despite my ownership of the power of slow principles, I felt myself getting hot under the collar (literally ~all those people in such a small space!). When it was finally my turn, the woman advised me that I was buying the wrong pens. She kindly went back into the throng to get the right ones for me. She may have been slower, but imagine the amount of time she actually saved me in getting me the right pens the first time! That’s the very conscientiousness and customer care Cappelli and Novelli praised in the older worker. Amazing!

I smiled as the power of slow found its way back into my heart…and the right school supplies into my bag. Thanks to Managing the Older Worker, I will continue to view more experienced employees as the harbingers of slow because, as we all know by now, it’s faster anyway!

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Organizational techniques are as myriad as the people who create them. Stephanie Schneider, a rising junior at Carnegie Mellon University, offers her insights into procrastination and the need to satiate our love of the ‘new’. Hear her tale on how she overcame her inner pig-dog (that’s innerer Schweinhund for you Germanophiles) on today’s Focus Fridays podcast.

If you like what you hear, don’t forget to right-click, save, then place your Power of Slow badge of honor anywhere in your social media universe. We appreciate you spreading the word that slow is faster and that fast is merely exhausting!


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