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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Getting Closure

March 22, 2010

Recently, my friend Lissa Coffey sent me her new book, Closure. I finished reading it in Malta, but the impact of the book’s message has stayed with me. As our relationships take on new form, we often need closure. Stepping onto the plane Munich-bound, I am reminded that life means change. May you enjoy my review and embrace life’s transitions as an opportunity for growth and renewal!

Closure and the Law of Relationship by Lissa Coffey is one of those books you’ll want to add to your standing library. Why? Because life means change, and this book offers best practices to navigate the waters of relationships that are ever-changing. With actionable items and affirmations at the end of each chapter, this is not just a book for those going through divorce.  CLOSURE examines ways in which we can move through our emotions on any issue to get beyond them. We may have accepted that our parents have divorced, that our best friend has moved to the other side of the Earth or that our kids have left the house for good. But do we really have ‘closure’, that delicious state of full-blown acceptance and honoring of transition for what it truly is: the ability to grow beyond our perceived limits?

From the beginning, Lissa Coffey assures us that our true self never changes, even if our circumstances do. In the eleven chapters, she calls for a mind shift from regret and wanting to acceptance and celebration. In Chapter Three, she addresses friendship. Having come to love her for her amazing talent for selecting just the right quote, I found this one to be particularly eye-opening. It is one of the reasons we have such a hard time letting go of friendships that we wished would last forever. “Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” Anais Nin  In essence, however, Lissa claims we never really lose our relationships. That is perhaps the key argument of the book. They simply change form. If you believe in past lives, you will come to realize you are simply meeting souls you have known all along. If you have ever had a déjà vu moment with someone you’ve just met, you know what she means.

Another particularly helpful philosophy she presents is the notion of agreements. We meet people for a reason, based on an ancient agreement of which we might not even be aware. We come together, fulfill our purpose, and then move forward. She speaks of her miscarriages as an agreement her soul had with the baby’s. What a tremendous way of thinking about tragedy and sorrow! The same thinking applies when one of your loved ones dies. Never flip, Lissa offers ways in which we can work through these feelings by allowing us to feel them completely. It is in the embrace of our negative emotions that our greatest fears are allayed.

We are reminded of our personal responsibility for finding closure. In Chapter Five “Changing Relationships” she writes: “Closure can’t come from any other party. We can’t look to ‘get’ closure from another person. We can only find closure within ourselves.” At the end of this key chapter, she lays out her five step process to gaining closure on any issue that has yet been resolved in our lives.

  1. Recognition. It helps to identify what is truly going on within us.
  2. Acceptance. We must realize what is. When we embrace it, it loses its power of us.
  3. Understanding. We may not truly comprehend everything that has happened, but trust that everything happens for a reason.
  4. Integration. As we embrace the change, we can integrate its newness into our lives.
  5. Gratitude. We can increase our happiness levels up to 25% by merely expressing our thanks.

 The next five chapters delve into each of the steps. The final chapter, “Coming Full Circle” offers ways to sustain our awareness of life’s preciousness. This book is like a hug from your best friend. It will nurture your soul, life your spirits, and grant you the freedom to live the life you truly deserve. I highly recommend it!

Email Smackdown

March 21, 2010

Little known fact: our human evolution has stayed roughly the same for the last 150,000 years. Your typical desktop computer changes every few months. Compared to our human reaction time, that old PC in your home office reacts 750,000,000 times faster than you. Yet we still try to increase the speed with which we respond.

It used to be we just wanted to keep up with the Joneses. Now we’re trying to keep up with our gadgets!

To master my email flow, for instance, I’ve taken the challenge. In fact, I have had a modicum of success. This week I’ve spanked my inbox into one monitor length. And it’s going to stay that way if it kills me. And it might.

Despite a grueling travel schedule that took me from Bethesda, Maryland to Charlottesville, Virginia, I have been able to manage my email influx. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that I met with a lot of people in person with whom I normally correspond via email on a daily basis. Or perhaps it is because I have not been accessing my email as readily as I usually do.

Email is like a virus. It just keeps spreading. The more you write them, the more you receive them, or so it seems. While I am psyched to hear from that reporter or this one, I am not so enthralled with the spam, baby item giveaways that can only be sent within the lower forty-eight (I live in Germany) or other PR outreach that means I have to stop what I’m doing to pay attention to something else that most often serves only as a distraction.

Our hyperconnection is a blessing and a curse. It’s all about the filters you’ve put in place.

1. Designate times for information gathering. You don’t need to check your email every five minutes.

2. Use your tools. Autoreply is an often underutilized function that helps manage people’s expectations while you liberate your sfocus for what’s truly important.

3. Stop apologizing. If we think responding within 24 hours is unreasonable and we tag each email with an “I’m sorry for the delay!”, we’re teaching people how to treat us. Read: we allow them free license to expect anything sooner.

The truth is email is an information delivery system, like anything else. Just because it is instantaneous doesn’t mean we have to be.

In The Power of Slow, I talk a lot about the importance of communication. Today I’d like to do two things: tell a story and offer advice.

The Story

I always know when my husband is less than interested in what I have to say. He literally turns on his heal to exit the room while I’m in mid-sentence. In his defense he rarely gets in a word edge-wise. I am a talker ~ and a passionate one at that. Sometimes his only method of ending the conversation is to physically remove himself from the premises.  My husband is a pensive communicator. You ask him a question, and he pauses for a long time before answering. Sometimes he won’t even say a word of acknowledgement that he has heard you, which can be irritating for the individual who learned turn-taking in isochronous beats. But his body says, “I am thinking. Give me a minute. I’ll be back in a few with a thoughtful response.” His posture continues to communicate, even if his mouth has checked out altogether.

Body language speaks volumes, even if you don’t. Actors rely on body language to convey information on a few yards of celluloid. You can say a lot about a character just by the way she moves and how she peers out at the world.

They say the eyes are the window to the soul. If you avert them while talking to someone, it signals to the other person that you do not trust them or that you have something to hide. In some cultures eye contact is considered rude. But where I come from, if you don’t offer the eyes, you won’t be offered the ear of the person you’re trying to reach.

The Advice

Skype is a great, free tool for eye contact communication (www.Skype.com).  With a web cam, headset and Internet access, you can chat with people face-to-face, even if they reside half way across the world. A lot of times, people will look at the screen when they video-conference. When you do so, it appears you are not looking at your communication partner at all.

Slow tip: When engaging in a video conference, look into the camera, not at the screen.

It may feel odd at first because you aren’t actually looking at the person you are talking to. Occasionally, glance at the screen to reconnect with the person, but remember how it occurs to them: as if you are darting your eyes elsewhere.

The other great thing about Skype is it forces you to stay still. In our wireless, cordless, mobile world, we are often on the move. Skype harnesses you to one location, thereby slowing your pace, if only for a little while. If I were to Skype with my husband, he wouldn’t be able to leave the room as he does on occasion. To me that’s worth the price of a headset any day!

You’re on a blind date, and your mobile rings. It’s your best friend text-messaging you, asking how it’s going. Do you secretly answer her under the table while pretending to be intrigued by your date’s brilliance? Or you are at a job interview, and you’re stumped when they ask what you think you are worth (earnings-wise). Do you excuse yourself for a moment and conduct a Google search on salary for that industry in the bathroom?

While you might know the answer to the second scenario (do your homework ahead of time), the first one poses a contemporary dilemma. How much connectivity, and in what capacity, is appropriate?

As alluring as digital immediacy can be, there are some rules of etiquette that, when applied, show you are the savvy, polite Digital Ager you were meant to be.

  1. Text-messaging is reserved for more casual communication. If you have something important to say, say it in person if possible. Ending a relationship via text message, for instance, is simply bad taste.
  2. When having a face-to-face appointment, put your BlackBerry aside. Scrolling through your email while your partner is trying to communicate with you is not only unproductive, it is plain rude. If now is not a good time, reschedule at a time when you can give your full attention.
  3. Let it go to voicemail. As hard as it may be, if it’s not an emergency, call the person back when your meeting is done. Better yet, turn off your phone during your meeting to avoid further distraction.
  4. Customize your ringtone for those calls you can’t miss so you can ‘hear’ whether or not you need to take the call without even looking at the phone.
  5. Remember what your mom said: Not in public! Don’t talk loudly on your mobile phone in enclosed public spaces. You may be excited about the topic, but that doesn’t mean others on the bus or in the restaurant share your enthusiasm.
  6. Ask if it is okay to answer your phone. You will score huge points with the person you are with if you show you care.

We need to grow with technology. That means remembering our manners while we enjoy our broader connections. Not every country observes the same rules of etiquette, so if you travel internationally with your mobile device, be sure you are informed as to what is considered proper behavior, and what’s not. In Japan, for instance, it is impolite to use your mobile in any capacity on public transportation.

The final rule of thumb: if you have to ask yourself whether it’s okay, it probably isn’t. Just because you are a stealth texter doesn’t mean you need to answer your best friend right away. Besides, she’ll understand. An old-fashioned post-date gab with your girlfriend in private is one of life’s greatest pleasures!

Email’s Demise

October 14, 2009

Oh goody. Email is going the way of the IBM typewriter. It has long been overdue. After all, aren’t you just so yesterday in the world of gotta-have-it-now? I mean you’ve been around for over two decades. Email, it’s time for you to go.

Jessica Vascellaro of the Wall Street Journal wrote an interesting piece about the demise of Email’s significance in our lives. Why wait for an Email response when you can, say, instant message someone? I mean even the word is sexy. Instant messaging! You get your answer now versus having to wait a full hour for someone to offer up a thoughtful reply.

Stunning!

instant messagingAnd then there is Facebook and Twitter ~ two spheres in which you can shout into the cave and hope to hear your echo, if not a solid response from a few of your buddies. People can read it, if they feel like. Because, according to Jessica, why bother your close network with an Email not addressed directly to them? If you’re going to blanket the universe with your news, then by all means, do it publicly.

I love Facebook and Twitter and all those lovely platforms designed for broadcasting specific information. They truly are useful, and I use them often. But they are much more public and generic in nature than an Email ever could be. Sure, you’ve got your Email blasts, but they are more targeted and direct than spewing out data to a network that might not even be paying attention.

I’m not sure where this conversation is leading us. It doesn’t appear to be in the name of productivity that we rejoice over the instantaneous nature of such communication platforms. We are merely thrilled that it doesn’t take as long, never mind if the actual quality of the communication dwindles by a few bytes.

And here’s where I sound like an old person. Because the Guardian already claimed way back in 2007 that the Digital Generation says Email is for old people.

Instant messaging is great in some cases such as when you truly need an answer, you live abroad (like I do) and you have no other way of getting in touch with the person. On the other hand, it can also be severely annoying because you are obliged to react in a way you need not when crafting an Email response. It is highly distracting when someone pops into your universe unannounced just to chat. It is obvious when your computer is on and you are at it that you are actually doing something else. Don’t make me tell you I don’t multitask, people. You know what Stanford University found out about that topic. It’s not good for you. In fact, it might make you a wee bit dim.

As far as I know,  instant messaging is celebrating its 45th birthday this year. That’s right. It predates the Internet. You better watch out or you too may go the way of the e-Mail-o-saur, Mr. In an Instant Communiqué. Meanwhile, I’ll shuffle slowly back to my desktop Email to see what I missed while putting my full attention right here. 🙂

Hubby Redemption

September 23, 2009

My way or the highway won’t for a good marriage make.

So when I find myself engaging in willfulness with my husband about this thing or that, I am humbly slapped down by universal forces that show me why Nature created diversity. And husbands who refrain from ‘telling us so’.

I’ll quit beating around the bush on this, and tell you I wrongfully accused my husband of losing my cell phone in a recent post. The reason I know this is that it was never lost in the first place. In fact, I found it carefully zipped away in my eye glass case after going through the trouble of locking the phone so you can’t call out (I still haven’t received the replacement card from the phone carrier).

I swear I didn’t do it. I don’t remember putting it there. Ever. Feeling the I-told-you-so’s crawling up my chin and into my mouth, I quashed the urge to continue the accusations by smiling meekly at my hubby, whose grin revealed why the power of slow is so good for impulsives like me who sometimes mess up with such speed and alacrity as to make our inner tortoise cringe.

I hearby redeem my husband’s good name for all eternity. Or at least until it happens again!