Monday, July 30, 2018

Stand Up Comedy Is Hard - Which Is Exactly Why I Am Doing It.


The idea of doing a set at a comedy club was scary.  Even an open mic night just seemed way out of my comfort zone and the little voice in my head warned me of how embarrassing it would be to bomb. Who was I to attempt comedy?

I have acted and taken improv classes.  I have delivered over 750 professional speeches and hosted nearly 400 episodes of a podcast. But stand up?  No Way. While I use humor in my presentations,  I am not funny.

Stand Up comedy is clearly the most unforgiving use of the spoken word.  The chances of a joke not landing are close to 10 to 1 according to many comics.  As a chickenshit I did not like those odds.

In my teens and 20s I loved going to see comedy shows. I secretly wished I had the skills (and the bravery) to get up there, but I simply did not have the confidence. Wishing and dreaming does not lead to actions.


That all changed in March of 2018 in New York City. I have a friend who is a popular speaker on the topic of humor in the workplace. He is also a comic.  While I was in the city he invited me along to open mic night, which at the time of the invitation I assumed was to watch him work on new material.  

His intention was not for me to be in the audience, but instead to get on stage.  I froze at the thought.

"No Way" came out of my mouth so fast it was crazy.

But then I remembered the mantra I have tried to live by for the last two years: "Make age 50 to 75 the best years of my life", and I agreed to try.

Before my trip I prepared a five minute set, but it was more of humor from my business speeches than comedy club style jokes.  None-the-less, I did it and some people laughed.  It was not horrible, and I felt good for pushing myself and getting up on stage.

Yet doing something once is often not enough, especially if you think there is something more to the experience.  I have become an advocate for trying new things, and it is now part of what I teach my clients.  Thus I have to live my own talk.  I do not like everything I venture into (surfing was not really my cup of tea, but I did it recently), and if it is not "right" there is no reason to keep going.  Yet when there is something to be learned from the experience, I owe it to myself to get past the fear of the unknown.

Since my initial attempt at comedy I have been to 14 additional open mic nights.  I go to clubs and bars with comedy nights both in my home city of Austin, and I discover open mics while I am traveling for business (It beats sitting in my hotel room watching Netflix).  I have developed three different five minute "sets" and am working to fine tune my timing, comedy writing, observation skills, and confidence in the art of humor.

Do not misunderstand me, I am not good at comedy. Yet.  This is a long haul process.

It is very hard. Learning to do stand up is among the most difficult tasks I have ever undertaken, which is exactly why I am doing it with such intention.  I spent too much of my life listening to that little voice that told me all the reasons I should not do things.

If you feel you have held yourself back, get out of that routine and try new things. When you are willing to try new things and are open to failure (and maybe failing big-time) that is where you will find the most amazing growth. I know I am new to comedy and have yet to find my voice, but I keep going to open mic nights every week. I am working to discover things about humor and about myself. All of this is already having a positive impact in other areas of my life. I am learning a lot from NOT being good. Too often I have stayed close to things I do well. And the chances of flopping are always present when you do an open mic night, so to keep showing up I am living with the unknown each time. In all I do there is more confidence. Clearly if I can jump into this arena and do it when I am raw and unproven, then what I am great at should seem easy. Find reasons to say yes to things that are outside your comfort zone. Your efforts will force learning to happen. For you this may not be comedy. It might be jumping out of a plane or learning to paint. The key is doing something new.

My overall goal is to do 100 open mic nights. This could take over two years, as my family commitments do not allow me to go out to bars and clubs 3 or 4 nights a week. I am not even sure I am interested in doing a featured show, but I guess as I get better that opportunity could present itself (and while even scarier, I will say yes when the time comes).

Go do what is hard. If you are younger than me, don't wait until you are 50 years old to realize you have let fear stop you from taking the chances that could lead to a fulfilling life.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer






Thursday, July 05, 2018

Recipe for Success

Recipe for success:

Passion.
Plans.
People.

In all my recent research and conversations about how people achieve more of their potential, the recipe is simple.  Passion + Plans + People.  

Passion.  It sound simple - If you are not fired up about what you are trying to do, then you will have a hard time keeping your focus over the long run. Accomplishing great things takes time.  Usually more time than you predict at the beginning. Having a deep passion for your work will get you out of bed and put the smile on your face even in the face of adversity.

Plans.  Goal setting is paramount to success. I am amazed at those who dis the idea of having focused targets, as everyone I know who has consistently kicks butt in life has a series of clear plans. When you have goals it makes it easy to make the hard decisions, as you simply ask with every action "will this take me closer to my goals or not?".  

People. All opportunities come from people.  No matter what you do, there are other humans who have a direct and indirect impact on your outcomes. Who you connect with and how your engage with those in your network will make the biggest difference on how you realize your potential.

Having interviewed hundreds of people on the subject of potential and success, all the answers are tied to these three areas. Examine your daily actions and pay close attention to your passion, plans and the people you spend time with regularly.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

New Networking At Association Events

Surveys show that people still attend conferences for the "Networking Opportunities".  Even in our social media crazed world, there is still a desire to meet people face to face and establish professional connections.

Yet many events fall short of their potential.  Bringing the best and brightest from any industry together at an association annual meeting should in itself be ideal for networking, but even with the desire to connect, too often people do not really meet others.

Some hang out with their co-workers and other close friends, but worse are all the people who are all alone at the event, and only superficially engage.  The worst part is that many people feel lonely even in the crowd. 

A 2017 article in the Harvard Business Journal by former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, "Work and the Epidemic of Loneliness", chronicles the problems that loneliness causes in the workplace.  Conferences are no different.  Muthry says "Happy hours, coffee breaks, and team-building exercises are designed to build connections between colleagues, but do they really help people develop deep relationships?"  Not so much, and not at industry meetings either.

If one of the purpose of a conference is to really help people connect, we must change up how we are setting up all aspects of the event. An open bar is not the answer to getting people to connect.  Being aware of cliques and thinking about those people who may feel invisible even while surrounded by others.

One quick change that can have immediate impact is how we ask speakers to engage.  A celebrity speaker who talks for 45 minutes and is shuttled out of the building by their handlers is not the future of engaging multi-day events.  People seek a peer-to-peer connection with those who present. If your speakers best skill is getting to the airport 30 minutes after leaving the stage, it is time to rethink the purpose of the keynote.

Additionally, shorter talks are not helping with engagement. Ever since the explosion of the TED and TEDx conferences there has been a push to shorten the time given to speakers.  It has been assumed that people prefer short presentations, but that leaves no time for audience interactions.  A speaker who has time to share data and stories while also creating an interactive environment is a way to get people talking. 

Associations should incorporate speakers as partners in their conference. The speakers (both main stage and breakout presenters) have a unique ability to get people to connect.  Shared experiences are how relationships are forged, and all presentations must have a networking component built into the talk and the speaker should have "office hours" after their speech so they can go deeper with groups of attendees who are interested in this type of conversation. 

Engagement is not saying "turn to your neighbor", but instead creating a culture of talking to others throughout the whole event.  Speakers should be active at the conference at least for the day they speak. When they are visible and actively engaged, they are leading by example.  Getting people comfortable with sharing is the key.

To create new networking at association events, there needs to be discussions about the purpose bringing people together from the first planning meeting.  If you make networking a second tier priority, you will have second tier results.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

****Thom Singer is a keynote speaker and professional master of ceremonies.  www.ThomSinger.com


Sunday, April 15, 2018

A Vibration of Goodness


Recently I was at an event called the New Media Summit with about 200 people in attendance.  It was three days of learning, and was filled with ambitious people who are seeking to expand their businesses and help others in the process. As I looked at the group picture taken at the end of the conference, I am reminded of the vibration of "goodness" that was created between the attendees.

The gathering was focused on "podcasting", and while my podcast is over three years old, I had the chance to interact with people at all levels of participation in this still growing field. I started my show without any community and little guidance, and thus the people I met here have a leg up on my experience because there were so many people showing them how to engage in this medium. 

Even as part of the faculty for the conference I was inspired to become more intentional. In those moments of fateful interactions with people is where your life changes. In being at an in-person conference you have the serendipitous collision of souls.

I helped arrange the 200 people into position for the picture, as three decades ago I worked as an event and wedding photographer. As I looked at the above photo taken as the event ended, I am overcome by a strange connection to humanity. Moving people around to formulate a symmetrical grouping means seeing each person as an individual and as part of a group. That combination is powerful.

Thanks to all who were at the summit. I am inspired and feel that I encountered some good souls who will add to the tapestry of my life and I look forward to how our paths continue to cross.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Monday, April 02, 2018

Unlock Potential

Knowledge is NOT power. Maybe it was before the internet. But now the real power is in taking action.  But not any action, it must be tied to your plans, your purpose, and the people who are part of your business and personal life. 

We all have more access to knowledge than humans have ever had in history, but few people feel they are achieving all they can in their careers. Information alone is just a piece of a person's overall potential. Anyone can now access data and ideas in every industry with just a few clicks.  Many assumed this would level the playing field, but there are still just a few who excel to the top. 

Over 70% of the nearly 500 people that I have surveyed admit to not believing they are doing all they can in their careers. They realize they have the potential for more success, but potential does not equal results. 

In order to unlock your potential and discover your personal best you have to realize a legitimate gap that exists between where you are and what you could be doing if you maximized your efforts.  The valley that many want to cross seems the same, but it is quite different for each person.  Even people on a the same corporate team will find they have different things holding them back, and any variety of unique solutions. 

To unlock your potential you need to do many things.  But the following ten tips are what the ones at the top of their game have told me makes the difference:

Ten Tips Toward Unlocking Potential

1. Take ownership of your life. If you want to unlock you potential, you have to quit blaming others for whatever is holding you back. 

2. Set clear goals. Know what success looks like long before you start taking actions to get you there. 

3. Work past the fear. Fear is real and it is normal.  However, getting paralyzed by fear will hold you back forever. 

4. Connect with people. All opportunities come from people.  If you are not good at networking and building relationships, you will fail over time.

5. Be aggressive with gratitude. Letting others know they have helped you is the easiest way to stand out from your competition.  Too few people properly say "thank you". 

6. Deliver on all projects. Doing good work is the ticket into the game.  If you are not delivering a high quality product or service, nothing else will help you succeed. 

7. Accept that change happens. In the real world of business things often shift.  The economy, company structure, etc... can morph.  Be ready for it. 

8. Ask for help. There is no lone ranger in the world of high achievers.  Those on top always have a team who help them get there.

9. Try new things. If you keep doing the same thing you will get the same results.  Push yourself to experiment. 

10. Believe in yourself. Nobody else will always be there to support you.  You must be confident that you are capable of achieving great things or you never will. 

Not everyone needs to do all ten of these things, but my guess is a few of them resonated with you and align with your current situation.  It is important that you are honest with yourself and begin to take the necessary actions that will lead you to unlock your potential and create the life you desire.

Have A Great Day

thom singer



 

Monday, February 19, 2018

NSA Winter Conference 2018 - I Almost Did Not Attend

Have you ever felt as if you experienced something special?   Especially when you almost decided not to attend?  That is my current state of mind, having just returned from the National Speakers Association Winter Conference in Baltimore, MD.  I almost did not attend. 

Over the past nine years of being an active member of NSA, I have attended many conferences. Since joining this organization I have never missed the annual INFLUENCE conference held in July (the reason I have never skipped this is due to the teen leadership program that my children have participated in for eight years - they would revolt if they had to miss this event).  I have also attended five winter conferences, several workshops / labs, and four CSP / CPAE Summits. NSA and the people whom I have become friends have had a strong influence on the development of my speaking career. 

The reality is that not every event is awesome (the quality of the content can vary with each conference), although only a few times have I not gone home with some positive motivation and the benefits for getting to spend time with my peers. 

This week was unique.  The 2018 Winter Conference was possibly the best event I have ever attended.  The gathering was only about 300 people, of whom about a third were first time attendees at an NSA event.  I met some amazing people, but what made this conference so powerful was the level of content.  Often you get speakers who just talk, but this event was packed with the context of how to implement ideas.

Jay Baer, Phil Jones, Michael Dominguez, Brian Fanzo, Crystal Washington, Tamsen Webster, and so many others shared their knowledge from the stage and got me inspired.  

Often we talk ourselves out of attending events, but should remember that it is in sharing experiences with others that we find inspiration.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

*this post was saved as a draft an not published... I just saw it and was reminded of how important people are and the level that NSA plays in my life... so I am putting it up 2 months later. 

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Over 50 - The Best Years Of Your Life

I made a decision when I turned fifty that I was going to make ages 50-75 the best years of my life.

Not that anything in the past had been that bad (in all honesty I have been fairly fortunate,  but life has a way of bringing stress and other factors to the forefront, and enjoying each moment can be allusive at times.

My generation is not like the Baby Boomers and Millennials, our every move is not charted in the media and Generation X has rarely been told how to think at each stage of our lives.  Since I am near the older end of my generations, there were also not many who had turned 50 before me (Plus, I think most of the generational information is bullshit anyway - LOL).  Thus, I was on my own as I crossed this milestone and I decided I would take personal ownership of how I enjoy everyday of my future.

My own story has had good times and bad times (like everyone else), but I was a free spirit in my youth and did not spend much time worrying about money or my future.  There is a lot of personal embarrassment that I was not a good student in college, but on the flip side, it was a really fun time. I embraced joy in my youth that somehow disappeared.  By 25 years old I was marred and at thirty I was a dad. Do not misread what I am saying, there was joy and we have had a good family experience, but I cannot say that fun was my focus during this stage.  Mortgages, career, educating children, and navigating all the other pressures of modern life caused me to be lost in worry and other fears.

But the next phase (and hopefully not the last) is the time for me to reinvent how I deal with everything and make sure that I am going to embrace the experience of life. I have coated my emotions with Teflon so that burnt parts of life can slide off me and not ruin my day.

Alas my proclamation to make this 25 year span the best.  I see too many others worry about crossing that sign post and freak out and think the best times are in the past.  WRONG. I refuse to think that this area of my life is not the one that will bring true delight.  About two years into this new fresh approach and I am less stressed and I simply do not get pissed off at the people around me.  No matter what happens I am at peace with myself.

I am tracking my process and the actions I am taking, as someday there will be others who are turning 50 who will want to make similar changes.  Maybe I will write a book.  In 2030 the Millennials will begin to turn 50, and by that age they will have gotten fed up with how the media has portrayed their generation.  Some will be hungry for fresh ideas to find a similar path and peace in their own lives.  I want to be a friend who can assist others who want to embrace age 50-75.  

What I have learned so far includes these tips:

Five Tips To Make Ages 50-75 The Best Years Ever

1. Stop letting others impact your mood.  A boss, spouse, client, child, sibling, etc... are not actively trying to piss you off.  They are dealing with their own stuff and are simply reacting to the BS in their own life.  Be slow to anger and fast to forgive.  Remind yourself that if others are being jerks, you can still smile. 

2. Schedule fun.  Life does have responsibilities and pressures, but you can carve out a few hours a week to have fun.  Block a 3 hour recurring appointment in your calendar each week and then go do whatever feeds your soul.  Read, paint, workout, go out in nature, etc...  

3. Meet new people.  Jim Rohn said "you are the sum of the 5 people you spend the most time with each day".  If the people you call "friend" are not feeding your soul, go get new friends.  If you have a person in your life who sucks the joy out of the room with their attitude, purge them from your daily attention.  You need not "fire them" from you life, but you can give them a less important role.

4. Listen to upbeat music. Put your earbuds in and let music get your excited.  Create a playlist of  the most important music of your lifetime.  Look at the chart topping songs from your life and pick the songs that remind you of great times.  A whole list of happy songs that remind you of teens, twenties, thirties, etc... will let you go down the positive side of memory lane.

5. Subscribe to motivational podcasts and blogs.  There is so much content that is available to motivate your to do more in your life, and it is all free.  Read and listen to thought leaders who you appreciate and that speak to topics that inspire you to do more.  

If the idea of making 50-75 the best years of your life appeals to you, send me an email at thom @ ThomSinger.com and let's talk about it. You are not alone in this desire and we can figure it out together.  

Have A Great Day

thom singer 


Friday, January 12, 2018

Potential Is Not Enough

Your sales team needs more than potential. Selling is hard work, and if you company is going to grow this year the people who are responsible for new business development have to be focused.  Many companies struggle year after year with grand ideas of what they hope to achieve, and then get results that are not what they desired.

If your company is wanting to do more this year, you have to get everyone focused on a series of strategic actions that will lead to increased sales.  Potential is good, but potential does not equal results.  The paradox of potential is that many managers think the capabilities of their people are key to moving the needle.  

Nope.

Even in recessions there are companies and sales professionals that excel. Plans, purpose and people are the key to growing sales, no matter what is happening in the economy. 

7 Tips To Sales Success

Plans:

1. Have Goals.  You must know what realistic success is all about and clearly be able to identify the steps needed to reach those goals.

2. Put in the time to execute on the necessary actions. Failure is inevitable without action.

Purpose:

3. Understand your "WHY".  If someone is not clear as to the reasons they come to work each day, they will not succeed.  This is about knowing both a personal "why" and the mission of the company.

4. Know Your Value Proposition.  If you are not clear on what you bring to the client, they will not believe you are the best option to their problem.

People:

5. Network like your future depends on in, because it does.  All opportunities come from people and the better job you do of connecting in your industry sector, the more sales you will make.  

6. Ask for referrals.  Too often people do not tap into the network they have created, and they miss out on additional sales.  People want to help you, but you must let then know how they can have a real impact. 

7. Help others.  If you are always looking for ways to be genuinely helpful, some of the people will reward you with more business.  Too often we think the self-focused people win, but in the long run the giver will succeed.  

Unlock your potential and sell more than ever before.

Have A Great Day

thom singer




Monday, January 08, 2018

Finding Your Path To Potential

Having “high potential” does not mean performing at maximum capability. While many believe they are doing all they can, a huge number of professionals are frustrated because they are coming up short of expectations. There is a paradox of potential that haunts many people in their career journeys. 
There is a real gap between potential and results, and if you want to do more and unlock your potential you have to be clear about what you are trying to accomplish.  Not every bit of potential will interest you in going for the highest levels. I have a daughter who is a great archer, and may have Olympic level capabilities, however she does not want to pursue archery beyond attending classes for fun. We all have many things we are naturally good at that are not our priorities, and that is okay.
But when you want to excel, you have to be clear on the path your want to take and you cannot do it alone.  You need to seek out the right people to help you maximize your potential.  Plans, purpose and people are key to your success.
1. Plans.  Many debate the value of goal setting, but if you want to perform at your highest levels you must know where you are headed.  Knowing the destination is something you would hope for your airline pilot. Those who discredit goals setting would never board a plane with pilot who do not have a plan. Having goals does not guarantee a clear path to all your desires, but without knowing the direction you can easily get lost. Having a goal makes it very easy when you are faced with decisions along the way.  
2. Purpose.  Simon Sinek says it best in his first book "Start with Why".  Much like a plan, Sinek says knowing you why makes it easy to make choices in your career.  Everyone has a purpose.  It is what gets us out of bed in the morning and keeps us working into late hours.  If you know your "Why" you will be get more done and inspire all who you encounter.
3 People.  All opportunities come from people.  In our world where so many are addicted to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media tools, most agree that after a decade of these tools they do not really have more friends.  Some feel they have fewer strong relationships. When you invest in people and cultivate meaningful connections, you will always find more opportunities.  Choosing people and establishing real friendships is paramount to achieving all you can do in your life.
In trying to find you right path, you have to pay attention to where you skills and your ambition overlap.  You must be clear on what you want, why you want it, and seek allies to help you get there. 
In my long and ongoing study of "potential" I am finding the more I examine my own capabilities and the steps I am taking to do more, the more I am able to accomplish.  Never leave success to chance.  Potential is great, but without clear actions you will get lost in that gap. 

Have A Great Day
thom singer