Tag Archives: Choices

Spoons Should Be Outlawed and Other Crazy Ideas

I’ve been writing this leadership blog for several years. Today’s post is personal. It may sound political. It may sound religious. It may even sound judgmental. No matter how you interpret it, this post is MY opinion and I own it! At it’s core, it is about leadership. I invite you to weigh in whether you agree or disagree.

In the wake of another mass shooting at a school, there are many questions being asked. The leader of our nation, President Obama gave his personal opinion shortly after the tragedy at UCC in Roseburg Oregon last week. In listening to his message, I witnessed a “leader” who displayed traits that disqualify him as such.

President Obama didn’t put ANY responsibility on the young man who cowardly shot a dozen or more unarmed individuals, and killed 9 of them. Instead, he used the power of his office to blame society – a society he has had direct influence over for more than seven years. A society that has become more divided than it was when he took office seven years ago.

Mr. Obama took opportunity to blame his team members in congress (yes, Mr. President we are all on the same team even though you refuse to acknowledge that) He blamed guns. He blamed inanimate objects for the murder of human beings. How does that even make sense? Do automobiles cause car accidents? Do spoons make people fat? Are sidewalks the cause of childhood scrapes?

I’d like to see Mr. Obama, (or anyone else) file a lawsuit against a gun, a car, a spoon, or a sidewalk. As ridiculous as it sounds – his remarks, blame, and shift of responsibility are just as ridiculous. True, exceptional leaders don’t blame their team, and they don’t pass judgment prematurely.

The President tends to put blame on anyone else but the actual person whose actions inspired the outcome. Take a moment to recall Treyvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Freddy Gray. Precious lives lost due to their own choices. They put themselves in a position where their life was threatened because of their own actions – not the actions of police officers or other people. We don’t yet know the outcome of the Freddy Gray case, but he was a known drug dealer, and therefore his choices long ago took him down a road that led to his final destination.

Despite the facts, President Obama has been responsible for influencing people (through his poor leadership and message) to divide our nation rather than unite us. HE has made the aforementioned cases about race, instead of about criminals clashing with police or citizens, resulting in unfortunate deaths.

With a severe lack of respect for police officers and those in authority in our nation, there are people on the fringe of society who will use that situation to justify their own evil. School shooters are that kind of evil. True leaders have to stand against evil and NEVER justify it.

True, exceptional leaders enjoy helping others empower their lives. They act to help individuals see their strengths, and encourage them to overcome weakness. Great leaders are grateful and show appreciation for the people who protect those who can’t protect themselves.

Here is how my philosophy differs from what I believe Mr. Obama’s philosophy seems to be.

My belief:

Humans are born as innocent children. These children learn quickly how to manipulate, cheat, and deceive. Seriously, the first truth a newborn learns is – “if I cry, I will be fed”.

You can see how we quickly learn to manipulate and influence the actions of others. We enjoy this manipulation and, generally speaking, if there was no discipline for breaking rules, we would all likely enjoy breaking them.

Rules however are necessary to a civil society.

As we grow, we learn that good choices will bring good consequences; while bad choices will bring unhappy consequences. (Touching a hot stove, for instance) This helps us learn that PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY is the key to our happiness – not anyone else. That knowledge helps us WANT to be good and we make choices accordingly.

My belief: Good choice = good consequence = personal empowerment

Obama’s belief (based on what he’s said and done):

Humans are born as innocent children. Everyone is good, and government knows how to care for everyone. Mr Obama thinks that government makes better teachers, managers, and parents. He seems to believe that rules are restrictions to who we are, and that if “I want it” then “I should have it”.

Our president believes that when someone makes a bad choice it is an indication that society failed this person. (In Obama’s belief system touching a hot stove would lead to a lawsuit against the stove company, which would then require all stoves to be locked until dinner, at which time children would not legally be allowed in the kitchen)

Mr. Obama believes society is to blame for hatred, poverty, and crime. He believes that if government legislates the way we speak to, speak of, and treat each other that we will all be equal, that it will all be fair, and that there will be no hatred, poverty or crime. In reality, this philosophy does exactly the opposite. Government takes away any reason to be good on our own, and therefore punishes ALL of us when ONE of us does something bad.

Obama’s belief: Bad choice = bad society = government empowerment

With that groundwork laid, please read why I believe these mass school shootings keep happening and how it relates to bad leadership which has influenced individuals in our society.

There are evil people who act in evil ways. When people don’t care about right or wrong, then wrong choices are right. When government is responsible for teaching what is right and wrong – based on the philosophy above – then evil people with evil intentions do evil acts. On the other hand, when morality is based on religious philosophy such as The Ten Commandments, people are empowered to govern themselves correctly.

Years ago government began changing the moral compass of our nation. We began to take a path toward political correctness instead of moral correctness. Schools were no longer allowed to use the word God. Then, we could no longer pray at school assemblies and sporting events. Teachers were instructed to stop teaching virtues such as humility, integrity, accountability, and faith. Children don’t even pledge allegiance to the flag of the nation who gives them the very freedoms they no longer see as important.

We’re at a point today where a 12 year-old girl can’t be given an aspirin by the school nurse without a parent’s permission, but the same girl CAN be taken to an abortion clinic without parental permission. RIDICULOUS!

And while we’re talking about morals – what does legal abortion teach our children? (Let’s face it, Planned Parenthood IS NOT an organization that has any interest in empowering women. They MAKE MONEY from abortions. Why would they ever suggest a different solution to a woman faced with a difficult choice?)

Abortion is violence. Unwanted pregnancy? Destroy the “problem”. Kill a fetus so YOU can be rid of something you don’t want. Planned Parenthood teaches that an unwanted pregnancy is an enemy to happiness and an inconvenience. Once it’s gone, all will be well – you’ll have a better life. TAKE A LIFE TO HAVE THE LIFE YOU WANT.

Currently, our government FUNDS this organization, which is under investigation for selling human body parts. This is a travesty, Our leader, Mr. Obama has praised this organization – even saying “Thank God for Planned Parenthood”. Thank GOD? Are you serious? God has NOTHING to do with Planned Parenthood, and neither should our government. Bad leadership run amok!

Is it any wonder why young men who are on the fringe of society, and who have few friends, and who feel that society has in some way wronged them, choose to destroy other human beings that belong to that society? They have been taught that violence is the answer. TAKE A LIFE TO HAVE THE LIFE YOU WANT. A woman has the right to choose murder – why shouldn’t a man?

Mass shooters want to win. To them, that means “take as many people with you on the way out”. This is how they go from being unknown and faceless one day, to becoming famous the next. Violence and murder give them the life they want. And when our leader will blame their act on the inanimate object they used to commit the crime, instead of calling attention to the evil, cowardly person they were, that’s icing on the cake! Their legacy will leave a country more and more divided.

Then the president goes on television to blame society for one man’s heinous act. Not one mention is given to the brave men and women of law enforcement who brought the carnage to a halt. Why would he give them credit? Police officers are all part of the bad society that creates more bad people because of their brutality. That is the mindset of our president.

Should there be more stringent gun regulation?

In my opinion, there should be more responsible gun owners. In almost every case of a school mass shooting, the ONLY reason the evil cowards were stopped was because the police showed up with guns. It took a few good guys armed with legal weapons to stop evil people from killing more.

Gun-free zones are exactly the places where the evil cowards will go for their violent and murderous acts because they will encounter NO resistance. The students in schools are sitting ducks. There would be fewer mass shootings in schools if there were more guns in schools. I’m not suggesting that students are armed, but security guards should be, and there should be more security guards.

The next time President Obama sings his song of more gun regulation, I suggest someone ask him to take the guns from the security detail that protects him daily. Perhaps he’d then see what it’s like to live in the inner city of Chicago – his hometown – where gun laws are VERY strict yet the criminals have them – which accounts for the 2,322 gun deaths since January in Chicago. Innocent people cannot defend themselves. They are sitting ducks in a supposed “gun-free city”.

At its core, government is corrupt. The 2nd Amendment was put in place because of the fear of corrupt government. An armed citizenry would be able to protect themselves from a corrupt government.

There is no value system in our nation. Political correctness has all but removed the ability to teach values. Then we have young people who decide killing is the way to make a statement. We are to blame for electing leaders of our government who protect the rights of extremists who say, “Death to America and Israel” but ruin the livelihood of a baker who didn’t want to support a gay wedding. It’s insane!

And we wonder why this keeps happening? When you’ve been taught by teachers and government leaders that there is no God, no reason to be good for a better purpose, then why be good? Killing others will be your glory, not loving and serving others.

I would encourage you to consider who you’ve voted for in the last several elections. Have they brought a moral compass to our nation or have they deleted any moral compass we’ve ever had? Are they leading with true, exceptional principles, or are they found lacking those traits. Do our leaders unite people, or divide them? Do our leaders shift blame, and preach that ANYTHING is okay as long as it leads to the outcome they want?

My message may sound political. It may sound religious. It may even sound judgmental. No matter how you interpret it, this post is MY opinion and I own it! True leadership is important….no, it’s vital! YOU can make a difference. YOUR choices in the next election will matter. True leaders will engage in the process rather than try to politicize their agenda.

I invite you to weigh in whether you agree or disagree. Remember to communicate politely and with kindness.

People Are the WORST!

“I hate people. They are the worst!”

I admit to saying these very words on occasion. I suppose everyone gets frustrated and angry with our fellow humans from time to time. Yesterday was one of those times for me. I’m flabbergasted by the choices people make in business, and try to understand the reasons that people get away with bad customer/employee service.

Before you judge me as a mean, negative person for saying I hate people, let me share my story.

As a consultant, I help business owners and organizations recruit new team members. In order to increase my network, make a few dollars, and get a feel for what businesses deal with on a daily basis, I occasionally accept temp work from an agency I’ve had a relationship with for 25 years. My story begins about a month ago when I accepted one of these temp jobs.

I arrived at a dental office in West Seattle on Monday morning August 31st. I worked an entire day in an administrative/customer service role. The office manager (let’s call her Della) was very unorganized, harried, and generally stressed out. I stayed out of her way as much as possible because we just didn’t gel. None of the other staff members initiated contact with me, nor seemed to appreciate the help I was giving them. The dentist business owner (let’s call him Dr. Tooth) seemed nice, but aloof.

At day’s end I left my completed time card, and was told payday was that Thursday, and I could expect a check in one week.

I didn’t get my check when expected. As I considered calling Della to follow-up, the agency called with a request to temp another day for Dr. Tooth the upcoming Monday – September 14th. I thought to myself, “If my check doesn’t come this weekend, then at least I’ll be able to inquire about its whereabouts when I’m working IN the office”. I took the job.

“I never received my paycheck from the last time I worked here”, I said to Della when I saw her that Monday morning.

“Oh, what do you mean?” she asked.

I replied “According to the agency, Dr. Tooth is to pay me. You told me last time I was here that payday was that week. But I haven’t received a check”

Della began to shuffle papers around her desk. She couldn’t find the time card I had given her a copy of when I left on the 31st. “Oh, I guess I forgot.”

I FORGOT was inexcusable, but I’ve made mistakes myself, so I kept my cool and suggested she add that day to the pay period that will cover today’s hours. Della was happy with that solution. She then told me payday was the coming Thursday (three days from then), and I could expect my check on Monday.

The rest of the details are best understood in the following timeline:

MONDAY: I was delighted to find an envelope in my mailbox with Dr. Tooth’s name in the return address area. However, inside the envelope was a check stub showing the hours for both days I worked and the proper rate of pay….but there was NO CHECK. That’s right, NO PAYCHECK in that envelope. Strange.

TUESDAY: I called Dr. Tooth’s office. No one answered, but I left a voice mail explaining my confusion in getting the check stub but no check.

WEDNESDAY: I received a voicemail from Helen (likely the person I had filled in for) at Dr. Tooth’s office. Her message claimed that she had alerted Della to the problem, and that another check had been issued and that she mailed it out TODAY. She ended her message with, “If you don’t have the check by Monday, please let us know”

THURSDAY: No check

FRIDAY: No check. Dr. Tooth’s office was closed according to their voicemail, and I did not leave a message. What would be the  point if they weren’t in until Monday?

I did call the agency, though. They had empathy for my position, but explained that Dr. Tooth had 30 days from the day I worked to pay me. My only recourse was to wait until the 30th (Wednesday) and then file a report with Labor and Industries if I didn’t get paid by then.

SATURDAY: No check.

MONDAY: UGH! Dr. Tooth’s voicemail again! “This is Jackie Bailey. I did some temp work for you on the 31st of August and the 14th of September. I have not been paid for either day. Helen’s message on Wednesday last week reported that a re-issued check had been mailed to me. I still don’t have it.”

I continued, “Because I know you legally have 30 days to pay me, I will be driving to your office tomorrow to pick up my paycheck. I’m tired of chasing my check, so I will expect it to be ready for me tomorrow.”

TUESDAY (yesterday) morning: Helen called me to say, “I’m sorry you still haven’t received your check. Dr. Tooth says he will re-issue you a new check, and it will be ready for you today. What time will you be coming by?”

I told her I would be there after twelve o’clock noon. She asked me the amount I’m owed. I provided that for her, and she said there would be someone at the desk all day until 5:00.

I walked into Dr. Tooth’s office at 12:30. There was no one at the front desk, nor was Della at her desk. I stood there for about three minutes. Then Dr. Tooth walked out front. He recognized me immediately. “Hi!”, he said. “I don’t know what happened to your check, but we’re going to issue you a new one.”

“Thank you” I said.

Then I watched Dr. Tooth walk into an operatory where a patient was waiting in the dental chair. I was alone again, standing at the front desk.

Soon, Della walked out. “Oh, hello” she said when she saw me. “How are you?” We exchanged pleasantries, and then she asked, “You still didn’t get your paycheck?” (silly question)

“No”.

“I don’t understand because the payroll service does that.”

I took out the pay stub I had received and handed it to her. She looked at it, took it into her office and began digging through drawers and overturning papers on her desk. I watched her make a copy of the pay stub I’d given her.

At that moment, a patient came out of the back office, and another one entered the office from the street. They both stood at the front desk next to me. Della came back to the desk holding the pay stub. She said, “It’s really strange. I don’t know what happened to it. I may have written your address incorrectly.”

I said, “Obviously, the address is correct – I received the pay stub”

“Yes, but I may have written it down wrong when sending the check. I went off of your hand written time card. They probably used your W2, so I don’t know what happened.”

I asked, “This isn’t the first time you’re hearing about this is it?”

“Well, no” she said.

“I called last week,” I said.

She said she needed to take care of the patients standing at the desk, and she’d be with me in a few minutes. I took a seat, frustrated that this was taking longer than I had time for – especially since I was told the check would be ready for me to “pick up” which denotes being ready ahead of my arrival.

A third person entered the office and sat down in a chair near me. The other two patients were checked in/out as the situation called for. Della was gone again. About that time, a younger woman walked in and stood behind the desk. I assumed she was Helen. She greeted the man sitting next to me, then asked me, “Has anyone been helping you?”

“I’m Jackie Bailey, and there are a few people dodging me.” I said. (I know, not real professional, but I feel like I’m being taken for a ride, here.)

Helen laughed uncomfortably and said, “I’ll see what’s going on.” She came back a few minutes later to say, “Dr. Tooth is with a patient, so it will be a few minutes before he can sign it”.

Della came out to where I was sitting and handed me the pay stub. She repeated the same line, “I just don’t know what could have happened.”

I said, “At this point I don’t care what happened to the first check, I just want to get paid”

Della replied tersely, “Well, I care what happened.”

“I understand,” I said. “You can continue to investigate that, but I was told by Helen this morning that my check was ready to be picked up, so I don’t know why we’re going through this now. I called LAST week about this.”

Della stormed off. A few minutes later, Helen handed me a check. “He finally got a moment to sign it.”

“Thank you,” I said.

“Have a great afternoon,” Helen said.

“You, too.”

This whole situation just angers me because there seems to be some deception from one, two, or all three of these people. I’m not convinced that a check was EVER issued for me. Especially since no one mentioned what to do if/when the original check shows up in my mailbox. Could there be some embezzling going on? It’s possible, but certainly Dr. Tooth would not be involved in that.

Della is either dishonest or was incompetent when she “forgot” to pay me the first time, and then somehow “lost” the check the second and third time. It shows compete lack of concern for employees that this situation was not resolved last week when I called about it. If a business DOES NOT care for their employees, then they certainly won’t care about their customers.

Helen said in the first voicemail that Della had been told about the situation and that a check had been sent. Parts of that situation surely must not be true. Was Helen lying? Or was Della dishonest to Helen? Della either didn’t know about the lost check in the first place, or she had no urgent concern regarding it. Either way, it seems fishy.

Dr. Tooth obviously didn’t feel any urgency in getting me a check when he saw me standing at his front desk. He had no intention of taking action when he told me he would. If he’d had the attitude of concern for someone who worked for him, he would have had a check ready for me BEFORE I arrived. But even if he didn’t have time that morning, once he saw me there, he should have made it a priority to take action.

It is all so frustrating, yet sadly not all that unusual. Having worked in dentistry most of my career, I’m qualified to report that the worst leaders/managers I’ve ever known have been in dentistry. That being said, I’m sure integrity and leadership are lacking in many businesses. In fact, I know it does.

It doesn’t have to be that way, though! There are tools that, when used, will ensure a greater chance of having team members and employees who not only CAN do the job (based on skills and experience), but who WILL do the job (based on emotional intelligence and personality traits). The tool I speak of, called Drake P3, can also ensure you secure a team member who will FIT your business culture.

Would you like to be a better, more successful leader?

Would you like to have employees or team members whom you can trust, and whom will treat your customers and clients in a professional, personable way?

What would it be like to go to work and know that your team will be effective, efficient and in harmony with each other?

Would you like a team where each member of the team does his/her job, and where individual strengths are used to lift the success of every team member?

It IS possible!

You don’t have to hate your team! and you don’t have to ever say, “People are the WORST!” when it comes to your team.

Tell me what you’d change about your current team……

“Shades” of Communication and How to Be Authentic

I’m a youth pastor. Recently, I was teaching a group of girls about communication. We were also decorating sunglasses with paint, glitter, nail polish and ribbons. I asked them, “How does communication relate to sunglasses?”

One young woman replied, “If I’m wearing sunglasses, people may not feel like talking to me.”

I began to tell a personal experience I’d had with sunglasses…and a few other props.

Please take a moment to watch this video titled SUNGLASSES AND COMMUNICATION

This is a picture of my “Where in the Mall is Your Mother?” disguise…

The lessons learned from my personal experience are four-fold. In other words, Four Shades of Communication:

  1. Be sure of your message. What are you trying to say?
  2. Dress in such a way that your appearance is congruent to your message.
  3. Act in such a way that your message will not be misunderstood or in any way undermined.
  4. Communicate your message clearly. Speak in a manner that makes people want to hear your message

We HAVE to communicate. Make sure you’re being authentic when you do so!

By the way, here’s a picture showing the results of our decorated sunglasses…

If you’d like to up your communication and leadership game, be sure to register for, and attend my 2015 Fall Leadership Laboratory on September 26, 2015. You can find the details in the image below AND by going to my website to register. EMERALD CITY CONSULTING

Three Ways to Lose and Still Win

I have returned from Las Vegas. I competed in the semifinal competition of The World Championship of Public Speaking on Thursday, August 13th at Caesars Palace. I lost, but still won.

One hundred thirty countries were represented by 96 competitors in 10 semifinals. Speeches are five to seven minutes in length, and are essentially a seven minute secular sermon. The speaker’s message should be persuasive, inspiring, and infused with an element of humor.

I was in semifinal #10 with nine other competitors – all men. Speaking order is drawn at random, and I selected a three of diamonds from a standard card deck. This put me in the third of ten speaking positions.

In the weeks leading up to the competition, I have crafted, practiced and presented speeches to audiences of all sizes. I had the ominous task of having two speeches ready in case I moved on to the final contest. Rules require a completely different speech from the one presented in the semifinal.

The speech that helped me win a place at the semifinal was titled “Happily, Even After” and was about my experience with childhood abuse and how love and forgiveness helped me heal from it. I was encouraged to not continue competing with this speech because it lacked enough humor. (A tough subject to make fun of), therefore I have spent several weeks reworking THAT speech, and writing others as possible replacements.

The emotional and mental aspect of my journey has been all-consuming. Thus, the reason for few blog posts during this period of time since mid-May. All my writing and creativity has been spent on speeches. I have worked on speeches titled:

  • BUMPS
  • Create Your Happiness
  • It Could Be Worse
  • To Save a Life
  • Attitude Changes mood
  • Be an Action Hero

On August 3rd – ten days before the semifinal, I gave two speeches to an audience at The Microsoft Store at Bellevue Square Mall. The feedback I received was not very positive, and I came away from that event feeling confused and sad. I started over. In an attempt to concentrate on authenticity and elements that my two speeches didn’t seem to have, I wrote new speeches and reworked other speeches.

Lee Amatangelo and Rich Hopkins have coached me at different points during the process, and they were probably thinking I’d lost my mind heading into the final stretch. Maybe I had. Changes were happening daily, and I was feeling less and less prepared. Ryan Avery’s book was used as reference to add needed winning elements to my speeches.

I mentally walked through both of my speeches during my flight to Las Vegas. Because of last minute changes, I did not have any opportunity to present either speech to an audience before the contest. That was scary. I decided to focus on a speech titled, THAT HURT! for the semifinal.

The smoke and dry air in Las Vegas wreaked havoc on my voice and throat, so I tried to keep conversation minimal. I spent the first evening in Vegas practicing and preparing for the next day. In fact, I used the iron in my hotel room to press the suit I would wear for the contest. Yet, the first time I placed the iron on my black slacks, a white substance came off the iron onto my slacks. UGH! They were not going to be wearable the next day despite the hotels promise to have them dry cleaned for me. My wardrobe malfunction could have thrown me off – and in fact, forced me to wear an alternate outfit instead of the power suit I wanted to.

At 8:00am on Thursday, August 13th, I met for a briefing with all 96 contestants in the semifinal. I met the contest chair, and the other contestants in my contest. They were all men. We drew for speaking order, and had fun getting a group picture.

Pictured from left are: Emmanuel Fadahunsi (front), Martin Moreau (back), Michael Carr (front), Joe Grondin (back), Me, Michael Williams II (back), DeAndre Carter (front), Brian Olds (back), Naoki Tamura (Front) and Nelson Ortega (back).

All of us 10 semifinalists gathered again at 11:00 for a short practice on the stage. We were mic’ed, and were given three minutes to practice our blocking and gestures to ensure the mic was placed in the appropriate place. We were shown the timing device that would alert us at certain times during our speeches. We practiced entering and exiting the stage during our interviews.

I came away from the practice with my rivals feeling a desire for every one of them to win. They were my brothers at that point, and I only wanted them to do their best and win a spot in the final. One of them did.

The semifinal contest began at 7:30pm, and being the third speaker, I was on stage almost immediately it seemed. I gave a good speech. I lived by the rule that Lance Miller preaches – it’s not about perfection, it’s about connection. I believe I connected with my audience, and came away feeling confident in my performance even though there were minor mistakes. I actually had fun on stage – the nerves worked to my advantage and gave me an edge I hoped it would.

But alas, my name was not announced in the final three. I was disappointed for myself, but happy for the three that placed.

  • 3rd Place: Nelson Ortega
  • 2nd Place: Noaki Tamura
  • 1st Place: Joe Grondin

My disappointment was not because I didn’t win, but more about feeling I’d let my husband down. You see, I have served Toastmasters International since 2007 in leadership positions that have kept me from focusing on my business as much as I should have. I convinced myself that the leadership training I was getting would make me a better speaker, and that when I was finally eligible to compete, I would win big and my business would be catapulted forward, and it would finally prove worth all the sacrifice. THAT’s why I was disappointed. ALL the plans I had worked for felt like a waste of time, and I’d let my husband down.

I felt like a BIG flamingo was crushing my plans.

Yes, I’ve had an experience that few people have. Out of the 30,000 + Toastmasters that started competing in February, I had won a position in the top 100 Toastmaster competitors. I was proud of that accomplishment, and I know many people would have gladly taken my place. I was also confident that THIS WAS MY YEAR. When it didn’t materialize, my thoughts turned negative. I was starting over in my business, and I was overwhelmed.

In the days that have followed, I realize the blessing that I’ve had. I see the growth I’ve gained as a speaker. I have taken feedback and used it to improve my abilities. I have spoken in front of hundreds of people, and they have heard a message that only I have to give. I am grateful for my journey. And I am grateful my journey can continue.

Here are three ways you can lose and still win:

  1. Identify the ways the losing experience has caused personal growth. In what ways can you now help others?
  2. Identify the people who helped you along the way and feel gratitude.
  3. Identify what you’ll do differently when the opportunity arises again, then make it happen.

I have so many of you to thank for your support. The funds raised through my GoFundMe account were used to the penny to pay the fees and costs associated with this competition. My hair goddess, Lesley Gregory at 5th Avenue Salon in Issaquah cut and colored my hair AT NO CHARGE to support my contest. I am so touched by her generosity and support.

KATY OLSON didn’t let me pay her to house sit while Arny and I were away. That was a wonderful gift.

Every one of you who offered positive and helpful feedback have also been helpful. Lee and Rich, my coaches, were essential pieces of the puzzle. Arny, my husband, gave his undying support, and allowed me time to think and create as I needed to.

THANK YOU ALL for being part of my fabulous journey. Every kind word will be remembered. I jumped into the deep end, and stayed afloat. Contest season will come up again in the Spring. I will try again, beginning at a higher level than before. I already have some speeches written!

Now…back to work.

Three Ways to Become One of the Cool Kids

Have you ever wanted to hang out with the cool kids? Be part of the popular crowd? Meet a person whom you admired and wanted to be like?

I’m going to tell you how I have been able to accomplish this, and provide three steps so you can do it as well. Let me start with a little personal background…

I have been involved in the non-profit organization, Toastmasters International, for almost eight years now. There are a lot of cool kids in Toastmasters – men and women who have achieved a certain level of communication and/or leadership that makes them revered and honored. They are celebrities within the organization, not reality TV star celebrities, but more like Paul Newman or Oprah Winfrey celebrities. They have accomplished feats that very few have – feats that have affected and influenced the lives of thousands.

From the website of the organization, Toastmasters International is:

… a world leader in communication and leadership development. Our membership is 313,000 strong. Members improve their speaking and leadership skills by attending one of the 14,650 clubs in 126 countries that make up our global network of meeting locations.

The world needs leaders. Leaders head families, coach teams, run businesses and mentor others. These leaders must not only accomplish, they must communicate. By regularly giving speeches, gaining feedback, leading teams and guiding others to achieve their goals in a supportive atmosphere, leaders emerge from the Toastmasters program. Every Toastmasters journey begins with a single speech. During their journey, they learn to tell their stories. They listen and answer. They plan and lead. They give feedback—and accept it. Through our community of learners, they find their path to leadership.

What few non-Toastmasters know is that there are speech and leadership competitions in the organization twice yearly. These contests begin at the club level – members compete against fellow club members – members who are often like family. The winner of the club contests compete against other club winners in an Area contest. The winner of the Area contests compete against other Area winners in a Division contest. The winners of each Division contest compete at the District level contest.

I am in District 2. There are approximately 3500 members geographically in Western Washington, and includes roughly 175 clubs. Three out of four yearly contests in District 2 (Humorous Speech, Table Topics Speech, and Evaluation Speech) end at the District level. However, the District winner of the International Speech contest will move on to compete against 10 other Districts in one of 10 Semi-Finals held at the annual Toastmasters International Convention. This year it will be held in Las Vegas.

On May 16, 2015 – three days ago as of this writing – I competed in the District level International Speech contest, and I won! I will be moving on to the semi-finals in Las Vegas! That’s where the cool kids are! There have been no more than 90 winners of the final contest – less than 90 individuals who have been crowned “WORLD CHAMPION OF PUBLIC SPEAKING”. In a few months, I will be in the company of the really cool kids – the World Champs of Public Speaking!

Many of the former champs will be at the convention, and they will make themselves available to the contestants. They will support and mentor the contestants in the delivery and content of their competition speeches. Who wouldn’t be excited for the opportunity to talk with Paul Newman or Oprah Winfrey, and receive advice from them?

How did this opportunity come my way? Through the Three P’s of Empowerment. I write about these three P’s in my book, SELF Centered Leadership: Becoming Influential, Intentional and Exceptional. Hanging with the cool kids, getting your dream job, and/or finding success in all you do will happen when you apply the Three P’s of Empowerment.

  • Preparedness
  • Principles
  • Promises

PREPAREDNESS:

Can you ever be too prepared? You can certainly be under prepared. Sometimes preparation takes a lifetime. Sometimes it takes place in a few minutes, days or weeks. The bigger the event or desired result, the more preparation required.

I began preparing for the International Speech contest in 2007 when I joined Toastmasters. I committed myself to working the program, speaking as often as opportunity would warrant, and I said yes when asked to serve and help in the organization.

Many people join Toastmasters for selfish reasons – they want to be better speakers. There’s nothing wrong with this mindset, and in fact, I had the same goal. However, those individuals who see the greatest results are those who begin early to give back. They are the ones who turn from selfish motives to those of a selfless nature.

The first three speeches a new member gives in Toastmasters will teach him/her how to tell a personal story, organize a speech, and how to determine the speech purpose – to entertain, persuade, educate, or inspire the audience. All that in the first three speeches!

Every member receives feedback, called evaluations, from other club members. This is how members of the organization learn in what areas they are improving, and in what areas of communication and leadership they need to focus more time and energy on. Learning how to give this feedback is just as beneficial as getting it.

It goes without saying that if you want to pass a test, win a race, or get the job of your dreams, you must study, practice and obtain the required skills.

The speech I gave at the district level contest is not even close to the speech I started with at the club level contest. The title, “Happily, Even After…” remained the same throughout the three-month process. However, the speech content, purpose and delivery changed at each level to appeal to different audiences.

I had a fabulous mentor – one of those celebrities in Toastmasters. He has won at the district level twice before, and won at the semi-finals once before. Lee Amatangelo unselfishly sacrificed time to listen to my speech, provide suggestions, and helped me discover the message the audience would benefit from hearing. His contribution to my preparation was the key to my win. Solo preparation is possible, but partner preparation yields greater results.

At the District 2 Conference last weekend, Patricia Fripp was our morning keynote speaker, and she also provided a workshop on presentations. She shared some outstanding tips where preparation is concerned:

  1. “Build rehearsal into your everyday life”
  2. “Practice makes permanent”

She asked us, “Are you practicing to improve…or to reinforce bad habits?” This is so eye-opening when it comes to preparation – make sure you’re preparing for the right opportunity, in the right way, by focusing on the right behavior.

As I prepare my next speech to a brand new audience, I must consider who they are. I will be competing against 9 other individuals from around the world. District 2 (that’s me) will be in Semi-Final #10, and I will be competing against a Toastmaster from the following districts:

District 18 – State of Maryland, USA

District 21 – British Columbia, Canada

District 45 – States of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, USA: and New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, Canada

District 48 – West coast of Florida, USA

District 55 – Austin, San Antonio, Corpus Christi and Central/South Texas, USA

District 62 – State of Michigan, USA

District 76 – Japan

District 77 – State of Alabama and the Florida Panhandle, USA

District 94 – Benin, West Africa

The content and delivery of my speech will need to be focused on connecting to this particular audience. Yikes! Preparation needed? You bet!

I invite you to follow my blog for updates about my preparations leading to my semi-final speech. Let’s call it INTERNATIONAL SPEECH WATCH 2015. To follow my blog, you need only subscribe on either the left or right side of this post. Super easy!

Tune in for the second part of this post. I will focus on the second P of Empowerment – PRINCIPLES.

Getting to Vegas is going to cost me a little money. If you haven’t purchased my book yet, I’d sure appreciate you doing so. Then I can eat while in Vegas this summer. Just go to Amazon and make your purchase. If you want a signed copy, email me, and I’ll bring you one, or have a signed copy shipped to you. There are no excuses!

I hope you’ll join me on this journey. If you’re in, please comment below “I’m IN!” We will be partners in preparation….

Ferguson and Lessons of Empowerment

I interrupt the count down to my upcoming book to provide commentary about the happenings in a Missouri town called Ferguson.

Last summer, Michael Brown was shot several times by police officer, Darren Wilson.  Yesterday, after months of investigation by a Grand Jury, the decision was: no indictment of Officer Wilson.  In other words,  a group of Ferguson citizens decided that Darren Wilson did not commit a crime during the encounter with Michael Brown last summer.

At the announcement of this decision, some citizens of Ferguson erupted in anger.  This anger was evident in acts of violence, looting, and destroying businesses and the livelihood of many Ferguson residents.

Despite the very detailed list of evidence that was presented, there are many who believe the American justice system is broken and unfair.  That may be the case in general, but I don’t believe it is true in this case.

Officer Wilson is a man with white skin.  Michael Brown was a young man with black skin.  Somehow these facts compound the unfairness in the minds of people in Ferguson.

What if officer Wilson was black?  What if Michael Brown was white?  Would those facts change the  Grand Jury findings?  I’ll let you consider the answer.  The answer MATTERS.

The people of Ferguson who looted businesses, lit fires, and acted violently after the Grand Jury decision are asking the rest of us to accept that Michael Brown did no wrong last summer, and that their behavior is justified.  They are asking us to believe that Michael Brown had a different mindset than they themselves have.

I don’t believe it.  The acts of the protesters is proof to me that Michael Brown was very likely prone to act in the same manner.  The protesters see an injustice, and they act out in violence.  Michael Brown saw a white police officer meting out injustice, and he acted in violence.

I don’t believe that either case is an injustice.  Michael Brown was a criminal.  Officer Wilson was justified defending himself against clear and present danger.

Everything would be different if Michael Brown made a different choice on the day he died.  He shoplifted, he resisted arrest, he assaulted a police officer.  His final act was to resist arrest a second time.

Michael Brown had not acted in a way that would empower his life or his circumstance.  His choices determined his destiny.

The protestors have not acted in a way that will empower their community or the citizens of Ferguson.  Their choices have determined the destiny of many.

Everyone can be empowered no matter what challenges they face, and no matter what their circumstances.  Personal choice is either EMPOWERING, or leaves you POWERLESS.

What will YOUR choice be?