Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Recipe for Referrals - Grant Baldwin

Each week in 2015 I will be trying to refer someone.  I am struggling to know how to make this "Recipe for Referrals" meaningful, as simply posting here on my blog is not enough.  I want to make a difference, but have not figured out what that looks like.  While I have lots of regular readers on the blog, most are living (as we all are) in "information overload", and thus I am not sure I have enough impact.

But for now I am starting here on my blog.  The first few weeks seem to be referrals to interesting podcasts and the podcasters who host shows that I think people should know about.  I have conversations with daily with people who are discovering the great information provided via this medium of podcasting, and it is fun to share shows I think matter.

Today I am referring Grant Baldwin.  He is one of the most impressive people I have met this year, and he hosts a great show called "How Did You Get Into That?".  On his show he interviews interesting people who have jobs that make you wonder, how did they get into that???

Grant is a professional speaker, coach, and is launching a new online course on clarity.  He is also a father of three kids and an all-around nice guy.  We have a few mutual friends, but met in-person at a conference this summer, and I was instantly his fan.

Unlike many podcasters, Grant is not some self-appointed guru who is trying to separate people from their money.  He is a normal guy trying to build his business and wants to share and serve others along the way.

His slogan is "Giving you confidence to find the work you love"... and that is important stuff.  In talking with Grant when I met him, he clearly loves his career.  Too few people are blessed with that level of excitement (I understand... because I am uber-enthusiastic about my work, too).

Jump over to GrantBaldwin.com to learn more.  He has a blog, info on his speaking and coaching, and links to his podcast. 

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Enthusiasm 2015

In recapping 2014 the word "Fortunate" kept showing up.  I am fortunate, and 2014 was proof of that reality.  

As I prepare for 2015 I was seeking words that could be part of my theme for the new year.  For several years (not 2014) I created a list of three words that encompassed my goals for the year. Having this list of words would keep me tuned into what is important.

This time I only have one word that keeps rising to the top, and it alone captures a key component to all the goals I am setting in my personal and professional life.  It has the feeling that engulfs how I want to behave in 2015.  This word is...


A client recently told me that I "bring enthusiasm" to a conference when I am the keynote speaker.  I enjoyed this compliment, and I think that is what I want to do as a speaker, trainer and Master of Ceremonies each time I deliver a presentation.

I want to be enthusiastic about everything I commit to over the next 12 months.  If I cannot be enthusiastic, then I do not want to make the commitment.  I want my clients and their audiences to feel an electric charge of motivation to "do more" after participating in one of my seminars.  I want my family and friends to feel the passion I have for the activities we share.

Experience has shown me that I can be held back from being 100% committed.  If distracted my enthusiasm can dwindle.  This happens when self-doubt, fear, laziness or the unknown take hold of my consciousness. I am a human, and we are easily detoured from our best efforts by a wandering mind.  In 2015 there is going to be a new focus on letting my enthusiasm run out ahead of me.  I am fortunate (and I know it), so why not celebrate that and be positively engaged in all actions.  It is time to think bigger.

In spending time with successful entrepreneurs I see the pattern that those who are achieving the most success are also the people who are genuinely enthusiastic about their chosen path.  They bury the distractions and plow forward toward success with glee.

Part of this means getting away from those who are negative and suck the energy out of the room.  Too many people are naysayers, and they kill dreams.  The critics are everywhere these days, and they are happy to undermine goals of others, while living lives without goals of their own.  Too many people pretend to be supportive while secretly undermining others or stirring up trouble, doubt, and ill-will.  These people are out in 2015.  I am going to work to surround myself with friends who are "do-ers" and that have ambition to succeed and help others succeed.  Drama is so 2014. 

My thought is that those who are the most influential are the ones that find ways to let their enthusiasm flow out to the world. I happily follow those who have passion and are not afraid to show it. These people are givers and do not think life is a zero sum game.  These are the people who enthusiastically refer other people, and I plan to do this more than ever (and with great enthusiasm) in the new year.  

To accomplish this theme of "Enthusiasm" I need help from others who embrace the idea of living life at a higher speed.  Finding new friends is difficult as you get older.  Responsibility, geography, generation, and the "What's in it for me attitude".. all put up walls that limit the birth of new friendships.  But in our digital world there are also ways to tear down barriers and construct connections with the right people who want to expand the success of everyone they encounter.  

I believe enthusiasm is like a magnet that draw people together.  This is my power-source in 2015, and I hope someone reads this post who feels a kinship to my quest.  Let's do this together.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Live Conference as Art

A live meeting is a work of art.  Like a painting, dance performance, piece of music, etc.... the conference, when done right, is an experience.

The best meeting professionals are artists: planners, caterers, hoteliers, entertainers, transportation experts, speakers, florists, printers, website creators, set designers, etc.... all have their stoke of the brush, their solo, and their notes to hit in order to make a conference a lasting success.  When they all work together they change the world for those who are in audience.

Do attendees arrive at the event knowing they are about to experience art?  I do not think so, but when the event is amazingly unique, they know it when they see it.  A live meeting can move people in incredible ways.  Education, inspiration, motivation, fun, and thought are all meshed together to create action of the mind and soul.

Humans are experiential beings.  While we spend a lot of time focused on content (and content is important), we need more than facts, figures, research and spread sheets to curate a convention.  A meeting room, presentations, and meals are not the whole of the conference, and the best planners know that they must stretch our of the norms to engage today's conference attendees.  

It is delightful working with other meeting professionals who want to try new things and are willing to take some risks.  Over-thinking how 100% of an audience will react is a sure way to create vanilla. While vanilla is delicious, it is rarely the flavor that is remembered as bold and unique.  Because there are so many pieces to a multi-day conference it is important to remember that there are a variety of ways to impact the experience.  

I get excited by thinking of meetings as an art form.  Sharing this concept gets some to roll their eyes while others scream "YES".  Conference planning is more than paint by the numbers. To transform people and give them an experience you need to stick your hands in the paint and squish some stuff around.  Add new pieces and take away what some may have come to expect.

Art is messy, but it is also fun.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Thom Singer is known as "The Conference Catalyst". He works with meeting planners and conference organizers to set the tone for a meeting. His presentations educate, inspire and motivate attendees to engage deeper in the event and make meaningful connections.  http://www.conferencecatalyst.com 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

David Ralph and the "Join Up Dots" Podcast - Recipe for Real Referrals (Referral #2)

Referring people to others has many positive impacts.  

If I connect two people who do business together, someone finds a product or service while the other gets a new client.  Boom.  

If I suggest a book or podcast that inspires someone.  Pow.

If I have knowledge that helps somebody in their own journey.  Bang.

It is good to be that connector. When others win in some way, I win, too (being a person who assists should make you feel good. The world is not a zero sum game).

In 2015 I want to raise my efforts to make real referrals.  I am still trying to figure out what this means.  It has to be more than writing up cool things on my blog or sharing awesome souls with the world  via the podcast.  I want to make referrals where actions happen, and I am not sure that just writing here it is enough.  But I am starting here under the title of "Recipe for Referrals", as with each ingredient I get closer to the final product.  

For now I am blogging things I want the world to know about.  But I am aware this does not go far enough, as few people share out the blog posts they read (and not enough people read my blog).  In 2005 when I launched this blog it was common that others would forward all sorts of information. Shares and trackbacks were very common and important in the Blogosphere. Yet the world has changed and sharing has slowed.  Maybe that is because there is more information (too much information) on the internet.  Or perhaps it is the hyper-focused pursuit of self-promotion.

Either way, each week I want to make sure I am referring someone or something.  If nobody cares, that is okay too.  I want to be one who tries to connect.

Today I am going to refer another podcast that I think you will find amazing.  Last week I highlighted a person I met via my podcasting efforts.  As a podcaster I have begun to listen and learn from those who are blazing podcasting trails.  In a world with millions of podcasts I am quickly identifying the ones that are not "icky".  Too many are "Guru's" with agendas.... yet many are hosted by caring souls who want to share.  Thus this referral is also about a podcast you should be consuming regularly.

Have you ever heard of the"Join Up Dots" podcast?  If not, I suggest you go to iTunes or Stitcher and download several episodes.  Spend your next few workouts listening to host David Ralph (a nice man who clearly has a givers soul) interview a cornucopia of guests from a wide variety of backgrounds.  He lives in England (so he has that cool accent) and possesses a unique way to get guests to open up their hearts and share things they might not usually tell people about how they tackle life and success.

Several of my friends (and myself) have been interviewed on this podcast.  With over 230 episodes you might be overwhelmed as to where to start... so let me refer you to some shows with people I admire (and my own Join Up Dots interview).

Episode 237 - Jessica Pettitt
Episode 231 - Sean Ackerman
Episode 214 - Thom Singer
Episode 199 - Mike Domitrz
Episode 182 - Thomas Umstattd
Episode 175 - Ryan Avery
Episode 169 - Greg Barth
Episode 125 - Honoree Corder
Episode 100 - Michael O'Neal

If you invested the time to listen to just these episodes, I think you would find yourself positively moved for knowing about these people, and for leaning about David Ralph.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Austin NSA Chapter - A Home for Professional Speakers in Central Texas to Learn, Grow, and Share

NSA Austin Chapter Board and Advisors

A whole day was invested in planning for 2015 with the board of the Austin Chapter of the National Speakers Association.  Our local board gathered to brainstorm ideas to improve the chapter and better serve our members (and guests).  I have been active on this board for five years, in addition to my role on the "board" of NSA XY (a generational "sub-group" that exists inside the NSA).  

I am often asked why I volunteer time to this organization, when I have so much going with my family, running a business, etc...  Some people avoid their industry associations because of it being made up of "competitors".. but I don't see NSA in that light.  I am active because I get so much from my membership than I ever spend in time (or the money).  In addition to being on these boards, I always attend one or two conferences each year.  My ROI is huge and I would never have succeeded as a speaker without this organization.

Often speakers show up at NSA (locally or nationally) assuming it is a leads group.  They mistakenly believe that their presence will lead to new business. That is not what the organization is about (although there are lots of leads shared between speakers after they have established long-term and mutually beneficial relationships).  These people are quickly disillusioned and leave long before they see the real value

Being a professional speaker is a weird profession.  If you randomly selected ten speakers you would find ten unique businesses.  From outside this industry looks like one thing, but those on the inside quickly learn it is very different from the perceptions.  Being part of NSA has allowed me to learn by observation, and to directly share best-practices with others who choose to live in this nutty world of presenting for a living.

(Of course, I always find value in people. If I was a locksmith, I would be a member of the National Locksmith Association).

Several years ago I was approached by a new speaker who was seeking 
career advice. I told her that my involvement in NSA was key in helping me grow my career. I stated the power in having peers and friends who were working in this business.  It is not just about information or buying coaching from a "guru", but instead the real clarity that comes from seeing your peers find success. She pooh-poohed the idea of joining and shared that her "mentors" told her that NSA was populated by amateurs who made no money (not true).  She was convinced she did not need to join because she was already "above" the members of the association.

I recently ran into this person, and she is no longer pursuing a speaking career.  I asked her why not and she replied, "there is no money in it if you are not famous". I mentioned I am earning a living, and still growing my business.  She rolled her eyes in disbelief.  It stuck in my mind how she ignored the value of having "speaker buddies" and was now out of the industry.  This conversation made me appreciate my affiliation with the NSA even more.  

In our Austin Chapter 2015 planning meeting the local board discussed the good, the bad, and the ugly of our group.  We have had many successful programs over the past 5 years, but we still are seeking more ways in which we can provide value to the local community of professional speakers in our region.  Our team walked away with some real "To Do" items for the next year (I am excited), but I also was inspired with a few ideas for my own business.  I showed up to volunteer, and ended up with new ideas that can impact my own bottom line.  

It is nice to have a warm home of friends who help each other learn, grow and share.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Thom Singer's 2014 Year-In-Review

How did it get to be December 16th?  Whaaat????  Only two weeks left in the year?  No Way!!??!!

I am a big believer in goal setting, but this year I did not get started right out of the blocks.  I usually spend a sizable chunk of time between Christmas and New Years figuring out my plan for the following 12 months. The targets and areas of focus that I identify help keep me motivated during he ups and downs of the following months. 

My father's passing in December 2014 left me feeling alone, empty, and distracted.  The calendar showed April before I figured out my business groove for the year.  

Overall I had an amazing year.  My sales held steady from 2014 (my best year ever), and I was able to be a little calmer as a solopreneur, in regards to finances, after five years of working for myself. Yet I am not sure how we reached December so quickly.

The clients I worked in 2014 with were amazing.  I had the chance to serve as a keynote speaker or Master of Ceremonies at some great conferences, and the companies who brought me in for training were both engaged and fun to work with on each project.  One of my favorite parts of this year was increasing the amount of coaching I did with individuals (mostly presentation skills coaching and business development coaching).  It is rewarding to see people make changes that has a positive impact on their life.

The launch of the "Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do" podcast was a major surprise.  I did not plan on hosting a podcast, but while at the National Speakers Association annual conference I was pushed to interview 50 people over the following year.  The concept was this effort would expose me to new ideas and people.  Instead of interviews for this blog I made a knee-jerk decision to try a podcast. The amazing part is how in such a short amount of time it has become the BEST networking tool I have ever seen in my career.  In just a few months I have already found new speaking business, and been exposed to other opportunities that never could have happened without the podcast.  

Still, I made some mistakes and failed to win some accounts that could have been win /win situations.  Even when one studies relationships as part of their business, it is still easy not gel with everyone you encounter.  My industry is heavily about perception, and it is difficult to change a first impression. I am learning to listen better, and to say "yes" more often to ideas that take me out of my comfort zone. 

This year I looked for ways to begin letting go of my own unjustified opinions of people. The more I have found that others can be wrong about me, it has become clear I am probably wrong about those I judge too quickly.  A huge life lesson to realize this personal shortcoming.  It came about with the repair of an old friendship from college that was lost over misunderstandings.  A simple "I'm sorry for my part" lead to the beginnings of a new friendship that I hope continues to rekindle.  

I was also reminded the power of "Forever Friends" when my family shared two different trips with close friends from my youth (from kindergarten, high school and college).  There comes a time when these relationships transcend friendship and become family.  I am grateful to have many of these people in my life, and I am working harder to never take them for granted.  

My wife and kids were, as always, the highlight of the year. I enjoy seeing the kids mature into teenagers, as it is fun to hang out with them and do things like eat in nicer restaurants, see higher levels of movies, and talk with them about the realities of society, business, politics, and life.  I appreciate that they are reaching the ages where we can have more meaningful conversations. Hanging out with them is fun.  For my birthday the four of us went to a nice steak house for a long dinner.  On my wife's birthday we ate at a French bistro. Again for Christmas Eve we will visit a nice place and make it more than a meal, but create a shared experience.  It is great to be able to bring the kids along and enjoy each other's company. I look forward to more opportunities to see them grow into young adults (Yikes, the oldest leaves for college this year).

2015 brings with it new challenges, and the familiar "re-set" of my sales goals.  My little solopreneur effort has been a lot of fun, but I no longer feel alone, as I have a tribe of other speaker, consultants, writers and podcasters who have become my sounding boards.  It is going to be a fun ride.

I never could have done this without the people in my life who have always believed in me (especially my wife, who clearly does believe).  I have some regrets, but they are few (is that a song?).  I am excited about the new plan for the coming year, and will certainly be fighting the good fight each day.

Have A Great Day

Monday, December 15, 2014

Meetings Business and Learning From Each Other

I am honored to be part of the "Meetings Industry".  The people who work in this business are wonderful souls, hard working, helpful, and entrepreneurial.  

Each month I write an article for the MPI (Meeting Professionals International) Texas Hill Country Chapter Newsletter as a way to serve my industry.  I am a proud member of this chapter and of MPI.

This month's article is about how people in this business learn from each other:


Learning From Others in “The Biz”

The meetings business is great because of the people. The vast numbers of professionals it takes to produce successful events, including planners, hoteliers, venue operators, transportation companies, caterers, speakers, entertainers, etc., means that we are all constantly exposed to smart individuals – that means we should always be learning.

We can all learn from one another. There is value in the friendships we create across the different types of businesses that populate our industry. With each conference we can and should discover new ideas and knowledge. While I invest a lot of time with other speakers (I'm active in the National Speakers Association and have a mastermind group with four peers who share best practices), I also know that those who work in other disciplines in the meetings business are some of the best people to turn to when trying to find ways to improve my business offerings. As a speaker it would be easy for me to only think of meetings from the viewpoint of the conference agenda and how I fit into the meeting. But the more time I spend with other friends in this industry, the better informed I become in understanding what makes a great meeting and how my little piece fits into the whole.

Nancy Vogl, owner of Nancy Vogl Speakers Bureau, agrees. She has spent decades working to connect speakers to the right events and has found the key to success rests in the relationships she has forged over the years. These relationships have proved to be critical not just in regards to winning more business, but in overcoming the ups and downs that all business owners face over time. The turbulent economy, 9/11, and the changes in the meetings and speaking business have thrown many of us curveballs, but Nancy Vogl keeps adapting. "We have so many resources in the meetings industry, people I can turn to for guidance and advice ... there is no excuse for not being successful," says Vogl. "With all we can learn from each other, and the number of supportive people who are always willing to share ideas and best practices, this industry keeps me energized and growing."

Stormi Boyd, CMP, CMM, the director of professional services at Red Velvet events adds, "I find it very rewarding to work with other event professionals. In this industry we work so closely together that you develop real friendships. This makes it easy to quickly call on each other for advice." Boyd says she often reaches out to hotelier industry friends for guidance and insight into policies and contracts, even when their property may not be directly impacted. "And the relationships work in the opposite direction as well. I was just recently utilized by a director of sales as a test subject for their newest sales associate. The fear of the new sales associate making mistakes with potential clients was mitigated because she was able to 'practice' with a live person who regularly produces events."

Boyd recommends finding a mentor in the industry, but not necessarily in your same function. Her mentor is in the audiovisual business and has far more years in the industry. "I can reach out to my mentor for just about any question that might come up. The ability to receive reliable advice and answers quickly can be a game changer in the life cycle of an event."

As we go into the New Year, take the time to review your network and determine if you have established the right relationships to ensure you have access to those who can help you learn and grow in 2015. The good news is that almost everyone in the events business is friendly and will be happy to help you if you reach out to them.

Thom Singer is known as "The Conference Catalyst," a speaker who mixes meaningful content with a high energy presentation style that results in audiences gaining new knowledge and taking action on what they have learned. Thom is also the host of the "Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do" podcast. He can be reached through www.ThomSinger.com or (512) 970-0398.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Recipe for Real Referrals: John Corcoran - Referral # 1

In 2015 I want to find ways to make a real referral every week. 

Maybe more often.  I am still figuring out how to make this real.  

Fortunately I come across awesome people all the time.  My career brings me into contact, directly and indirectly, with great souls who are doing interesting things.  I already write "Cool Things My Friends Do" and host the "Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do Podcast", but not everyone is my friend, nor can I have everyone on the show.

Alas, I have no idea how I will refer someone each week.  I am not sure that simply blogging about them is enough.  I want to really connect people.  But for now I will start with the blog and see how it goes.  I have found that "doing" makes things happen.    

My first referral is NOW (why wait until the new year??).  But here is the thing... I don't really know this person.  I just want to refer him for some greater reason.  I simply enjoy his podcast. 

After enough shows I falsely feel we are friends.  But his show is good, and he interviews real people doing real things (not just GURU's).  He is not a person who only highlights those up the ladder (I am sick of those people), he talks to all types of people without pre-judging what they bring to him.

I have been deep into the world of podcasts lately (because of the launch of my own show, "Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do"), and lately I have been listening to John Corcoran and "The Smart Business Revolution Podcast".  I do not know John, but since I have been listening to a lot of shows, I have come to respect him.

If you are looking for a good podcast filled with real and actionable business ideas.... subscribe, download and review "The Smart Business Revolution".  So many podcasts are hosted by people for whom I quickly lose respect.  A friend and I listen to similar shows and share the "ick-factor" when it is discovered.  It is almost a game to find a show that at first seems inspiring and then discover the host is a fraud or a "taker".

Over the past few weeks (and many of his episodes) I have come to decide that John Corcoran is not icky.  The real deal if you like business podcasts.  I think you can feel good with this show over the long run.  

Check it out.

And now pay it forward:  Go and publicly refer someone else.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Saturday, December 13, 2014

What is the CSP and What Should Event Organizers Know About It?

Since earning the CSP designation in July 2014 (Certified Speaking Professional) I have witnessed several people roll their eyes, scoff, and dismiss the importance of the certification.  I am always shocked when people knock things that are important to others, especially when they do not really understand what they are saying.  We live in a world where personal opinions trump facts in the minds of many.

Mostly these jabs come from other speakers who are not part of the National Speakers Association and do not qualify for the designation.  One person recently told me "NSA and the CSP don't matter to anyone.  Meeting planners don't care if a speaker supports their industry groups".  

Huh?  Meeting organizers and association executives are the ones who care the most.  Many conferences are hosted by associations, and many of those who work for these groups have achieved their own CAE and CMP designations.  

These professionals do care about (and respect) those that have earned their own industry designations (like the CSP).  We work in an industry that is made up of many areas of business (associations, organizers, hoteliers, catering, transportation ,etc.. ), and there is much respect between the different industry groups that make up the meetings industry. 

While it is true that a speaker wont be passed over for not having a designation or belonging to NSA, many planners applaud those who are committed to the dedication it takes to earn such a certification.

A quick search showed 23 certifications that can be earned by professionals who serve in and around the meetings, association and hospitality industries (there might be even more).  These include the CMP, CAE, CPCE, CSP, CRME, CHA, CFBE, and the CGMP.  All of these are bestowed on those who are committed to excellence in their portion of the industry. 

Why should anyone care about the CSP?  Does it mean one speaker is better on stage?  


Speaking an art form, thus it is too subjective to judge without seeing a presentation.  So what the CSP shows is an individual who is committed to the profession of speaking and thus the meetings industry.  It highlights professionalism and longevity, which are too things that are hard to quantify from a website or brochure.

I am proud to be a member of the National Speakers Association and to have earned the CSP.  I work hard to help promote the organization and this designation.  I see no harm in adding this to the list of accomplishments in decade long speaking career!

As we launch into the new year, I am self-proclaiming January 2015 as "Promote the CSP Month" and I am challenging the other 600+ professional speakers who proudly hold this designation to do something to educate others about this wonderful certification.  

If you want to know more about how to find someone with the Certified Speaking Professional designation (and what it really means to you), reach out the the NSA at www.NSASpeaker.org.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Stopping The Judgmental Ways

There is an epidemic of being judgmental.  

I want to stop this in my own life.  While I cannot change how other people behave, I do have control over my own actions. Being a seeker I am always trying to tinker with myself and learn from my mistakes.  I continuously seek ways to improve.  I have delivered many blunders in my life, and there will be more, but I try to view my own shortcomings and grow past them where I can (sometimes it is difficult).

When people judge me, and especially when they are wrong, it hurts.  Yet I catch myself judging others and jumping to conclusions far to easily.  I am not clairvoyant and have no clue what someone thinks or feels, and I want to stop filling in the blanks from my own imagination.

I mentioned this while giving a speech recently.  The feedback from the audience was interesting.  It resonated with many who hate being judged, yet knew they are fast to draw fast opinions. 

Apparently this is a topic I need to explore. 

Anyone know how to become less of a judge and more of a person who is open to the greatness that others bring?  Have you ever judged and then changed your mind?  How do you deal with that?  Are second chances something you give and get in life?

Have A Great Day

thom singer 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Lessons from Fraternity and Sorority Life

We can learn from many different people and in a variety of places.  
Too often our perspectives can make us think that our own industries are the only place to find inspiration.  However, the best entrepreneurs are observers and always seeking fresh points of view.

Recently I was a "Featured Speaker" at the AFA (Association of Fraternity / Sorority Advisors) Annual Meeting.  This is a group of professionals who work on college campuses and for the national offices of fraternities and sororities.  I was impressed with dedication these people have for their profession and to serving the college men and women with whom they work.  The conference had a strong vibe of energy from the people who care deeply about their industry.

Fraternities and sororities regularly deal with issues that are similar to those that perplex entrepreneurs; risk management, recruitment, budgeting, public relations, philanthropic efforts, goal setting, conflict resolution, etc...  My own experience in a college fraternity was very much like being part of a start-up.  We were a young chapter of a big organization (I am #66 in the roll book) with ambitious goals to grow something bigger than what we had found when we joined.  I learned many things in this organization that I use daily in my life as a business professional.

In the most recent episode of "Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do" (Episode 26) I interview several attendees at AFA Annual Meeting about what can be learned from the Greek Life experience.  While I sometimes hear people say fraternities and sororities are relics from the past, the reality is these organizations are discovering new ways to teach leaderships skills to a new generation.

The Greek System is known to many only for the negative situations that play out in the movies or on the news, but there are many positive experiences that members of these organizations encounter that have constructive effects of their lives.... during college and beyond.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

I miss you, Dad

Today marks one year since my father passed away at age 99.

He was born in 1914 and witnessed many changes in the world (he was born only 11 years after the Wright Brothers flew at Kitty Hawk).  He served in WWII.  He remembered so many changes in technology and how we communicate, that new advancements never surprised him.

I am not yet the age that he was when I was born (he was 52 when I came along).  That minor mathematical statistic brings with it some interesting perspective, as he lived a whole life before I arrived, and yet remained active up until his late 90s.  It reminds me that I have so much to experience still to come.  Hopefully my future has a long run ahead, and I strive to be like him in many ways.

He was a great dad.  My brothers and I not only love him, but we liked him, too.  He was patient, supportive, understanding, steady, and encouraged us to become our own men.  

The thing I most remember him teaching me was to "be slow to anger and fast to forgive".  I have found that very few people have received that advice.  Too bad.

One year is a milestone.  This is a sad one.  But I smile when I look at my family and the legacy my parents left behind.  

Have a great day

thom singer

Monday, December 08, 2014

Cool Things My Friends Do (Week #120) - Hal Speed and Computer Science Education Week / Code.org

Each week on this blog I enjoy highlighting some of the cool things my friends do in their personal and professional lives.

This weekend I bumped into my friend Hal Speed and learned Computer Science Education Week starts today [Dec 8th].

Hal's son and my daughter both attend the same high school, a magnet school that draws some of the smartest kids from all across Austin. The students at this school have the opportunity to pick and choose from many computer science and computer programming classes. However, other children in our city and across the country do not have such an opportunity.

After realizing that many schools do not offer computer programming classes and seeing the number of programming jobs available, Hal started volunteering with Code.org, an organization that believes every student should have the opportunity to learn computer science. He's also working with the local school districts to implement Texas House Bill 5 which now requires every high school in Texas to offer computer science (WHAT???  Texas only now, in 2014, is requiring high schools to offer computer courses???  Ouch!).

This week, Code.org has a goal of introducing 100 million students to computer science with a fun, interactive tutorial called the Hour of Code. It's so easy anybody can learn and there's no previous experience required. Throughout the week, students will also be chatting with high-tech celebrities such as Bill Gates, Sheryl Sandberg and Usher, checkout the videos here.

With so much of our lives impacted by technology and software, learning the basics of computer science has become an important skill to have in the 21st century and for the jobs of the future. 

Kudos to Hal, and others, for all the work they are doing in this area.  

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Friday, December 05, 2014

Real Passion Every Day

While in Nashville to speak at a conference I had the chance to go to the Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman Theater.  I had never been to the Ryman, and was pleased there was a show that I could attend while in the Music City.

The Grand Ole Opry is always an experience (I have been once before at their other theater, The Grand Ole Opry House), but that day there was a performance that was over-the-top fantastic.  I was not really familiar with up and the coming artist Chase Bryant (I do like his debut single, "Take It On Back"), but this 22 year old artist delivered one the most amazing shows I have ever seen.

What made Mr. Bryant so spectacular?  Passion.  This was not his first performance on the Grand Ole Opry stage, but you would not know that by watching him.  He was like a kid in a candy store; totally thrilled to be there playing his three song set.  

It got me thinking.... do we all ooze passion in our careers?  Are we giving 100% to everything we do in our jobs?  Is the love so visible in our actions that we inspires the souls of those we encounter?  We all should be this tuned into passion.  I want to be this kind of powerful force everyday.

The day after watching Chase Bryant perform I delivered my presentation at the conference in Nashville.  Before I walked on stage I thought about how much Bryant loved performing at the Opry, and I reminded myself that I love being a professional speaker (not that I ever really forgot).  I looked at the crowd and wanted each of them to know just how excited I was to be with them on that afternoon. Each story I told was poured through my heart. 

While I hope I always am that focused on the love of my profession and my commitment to the audience, as we move through time things can become common place.  I know that I have always been excited to be a speaker, and the hard work, sales, travel, time away, and constant pressure to find new material, etc.... never wears heavy on me.  But I am still human and over time each of us can lose sight of the right focus.

After my speech a young professional in the audience asked me why I was "so good on stage?".  He had was not sure he had before been touched in his soul by a business speech, and was curious as to what was my secret.  The answer?  Passion.

I shared with him my observations of Chase Bryant and how I always want to be 100% engaged in my actions as a speaker.  But I knew this talk was just a little better because of my day at the Opry.

You might say I took it on back (sorry, I could not resist).

Have A Great Day

thom singer

PS - If Chase Bryant ever reads this...  I want to interview him for the "Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do" Podcast.  I imagine that there is lots he does that would inspire entrepreneurs in any business. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thanksgiving Week on the "Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do" Podcast

Since the podcast launched 8 weeks ago I have been sharing how it is the best networking tool I have ever encountered.  I have had a great time interviewing amazing people.  Each guest has stories, advice and ideas that are inspirational to me (and others). The whole experience is impacting all areas of my life.

The coolest part is how hosting the show is becoming an amazing conversation starter in a variety of places.  People who listen to podcasts want to know about my show, and those who do not are curious about the medium of podcasting.

The show has been ranked in the top 10 podcasts in the "Career" category on iTunes for over a month, and it has been interesting to see how many other podcasters have reached out to me and said "hello".  Many offer suggestions and all offer friendship.  The podcasting community has some ego-filled guru maniacs, but most who host shows are regular people doing facinating things everyday.

For Thanksgiving Week I decided to release seven shows.  Usually new shows come out on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but this week there has been a new show each day as a way to say "Thank You" to all who have supported the show along the way.  
Monday - Adrian Segar
Tuesday - Cindy Lo
Wednesday - Steve Semken
Thursday - Honoree Corder
Friday - Misty Williams
Saturday - Judi Holler
Sunday - Ross Bernstein 
If you have never listened to "Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do", any one of these shows will be a great place to start.  Download, listen and then leave a review on iTunes.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Friday, November 21, 2014

Trevor Muir - Teacher-Preneur

This week on "Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do" (episode 16) I had the pleasure to interview Trevor Muir.  I met Trevor at TEDx San Antonio, where he was one of the most compelling speakers of the day.  

In chatting with Mr. Muir after his presentation I knew he had to be on the podcast.  He is more than a public school educator, the is a "Teacher-preneur".  I think we all wish we had more teachers like this when we were in high school.

Here is the video link from Trevor's talk in SA.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ei_HSlUxUQ

Please take a minute to download his interview on the "Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do" podcast.  Also, if you enjoy the show, I would appreciate it if you would leave a review.  THANKS..

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Fake Plane Ticket

Entrepreneurs do whatever it takes to advance the cause for growth of their companies.  Those who create success work hard, take risks, and do things that other people may never think about in order to make things happen.  Creativity is key to connecting all the dots necessary to be a disrupter and a maker all at the same time.

One person I know bought a fake plane ticket to be able to network with a key person they needed to meet.  While at an industry conference in Dallas they saw a speaker who was paramount to the future success of their business.  This person was a little famous and had immense influence that could have a direct impact on the entrepreneur's future business.  My friend knew that approaching this person after their talk was futile.  Too many people would rush the stage and a few minutes of "Great Speech" chit chat would be all they could accomplish.    

Our hero in this story decided he needed to take a chance to get more time with the speaker than just a handshake and a business card exchange.  The speaker had mentioned heading home later in the day and my friend began to wonder how to capitalize on this knowledge.  He thought about this person getting to the airport and having nearly an hour of waiting for their plane.  It would be an ideal opportunity to have a meaningful conversation, however Dallas is a big city with two airports, so he needed to think about the possibilities.

He went on his phone and looked at all the flight options the speaker could have to get home that day.  There were several choices, but he made some educated guesses about the speaker and decided that one of two American Airlines flights were the most logical.  He bought the cheapest ticket he could from Dallas to anywhere (one-way to Oklahoma City, although where did not matter as he was never gong to fly, he just needed a way to get through security) and left the conference before the speaker finished their remarks.  

Once inside the airport he waited by the gate.  He eventually thought he had wasted his time when suddenly he saw the person he desired to meet.  He casually approached and introduced himself, commenting on the wonderful presentation at the conference earlier in the day.  The discussion lasted for 40 minutes and ended with an exchange of emails, personal cell numbers, and a promise to talk more about the industry topics they had in common.  

After the speaker boarded their plane, this entrepreneur returned to his car and drove home from Dallas to Austin.  

In my opinion the odds of this scenario working out so well were slim, and thus most people would never attempt such a costly and time consuming stunt.  But successful entrepreneurs go the extra mile and do not think about the failure options.  Instead they visualize the success and then do whatever it takes to make that happen.  

What will you do today that goes beyond the "norm" that can advance your success?

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Cool Things My Friends Do (Week #119) - Scott Webber and Sean Ackerman Simulcast Their Podcasts

Each week on this blog I enjoy highlighting some of the cool things my friends do in their personal and professional lives.

Two of my podcasting friends did something very cool on their shows: They simulcasted an episode of both of their shows as one, yet two, podcasts.  They held a friendly chat about "10 Ways Successful People Lead Themselves" and both released the show on the same day as a new episode.

Sean Ackerman is the host of You Leading You and Scott Webber is the host of Not Bad for Dad.  I know them both through an online community, but met them in-person at the Podcast Movement conference in Dallas earlier this year.  I have had the honor of being a guest on both of their shows, and am learning so much from each of them about podcasting and life.  

The idea of a simulcast episode is great.  I enjoyed hearing the show, but even more I loved the idea of doing a joint session of podcasts.  I am now excited to record an episode of "Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do" with another podcaster.

Congrats to Sean and Scott on this interesting idea that they executed in a spectacular manner.  It is the perfect example of  "Cool Things My Friends Do".  I am happy to have them as week #119 in this ongoing blog series.

Jump over to iTunes and find both their shows and if you enjoy them.... leave a positive review (the 5 stars and written reviews matter to the success of a show). 

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Cool Things My Friends Do (Week #118) - Brian Tannebaum Releases New Book: The Practice

Each week on this blog I enjoy highlighting some of the cool things my friends do in their personal and professional lives.

My friend, Brian Tannebaum, has just released his book, The Practice: Brutal Truths About Lawyers and Lawyering.  

Congratulations to Brian.  It is very cool to launch a book, and I am thrilled to have him as week #118 of Cool Things My Friends Do.  (I think I need to interview him for the Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do Podcast,.... as he is clearly one of the most entrepreneurial lawyers I have ever met).

I met Brian via social media.  He lives in Florida, and has a great national reputation in the legal circles. In the early days of my blog and Twitter I would have conversations with him about the topic of "legal marketing".  Brian is a lawyer who "gets it" when it comes to what attorneys must do to promote their practices, and he does not like the bull-shit advice that is out there on the subject.  Over the years we got to know each other, and last year we had a wonderful dinner while I was in Miami to give a speech.

As its title suggests, The Practice delivers brutal truths about lawyers and lawyering in Tannebaum’s slightly snarky—but always honest—signature style. His opinions are provocative and provide plenty of food for thought, and maybe a laugh or two along the way. This compelling book is an assortment of posts from 'Above the Law' and 'My Law License', two of the most acclaimed law blogs for which Brian has written.

In The Practice, Tannebaum riffs on everything from asking yourself what type of lawyer you want to be, to the most effective way to network and market yourself in an industry where lawyers increasingly over-rely on social media to prove their relevance. It also discusses other important topics, including the proper way to handle referrals, rainmaking, reinventing yourself as a lawyer, personal branding, and much more.

Check out Brian's book in the ABA Bookstore.  And if you ever get to meet Brian... he knows good wine!!!

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Friday, October 31, 2014

"Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do" - Podcast Update

Happy Halloween.

This week on the podcast we have two episodes you will not want to miss:

Episode 9 - Lara Loest, The Queen of Show Notes

Episode 10 - Why Networking Matters to Entrepreneurs... roaming interviews at the October Austin Tech Happy Hour.

Please download, listen and review (downloads and reviews really make a difference to a new show).  

We hit #3 on the "Careers Podcast List" on iTunes this week.  I appreciate all who listen and who have given feedback.  Next week there are two new show (I am getting better at these podcast interviews each time).

CLICK HERE to hear the show!!!

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Monday, October 27, 2014

What's New on the Podcast?

The Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do Podcast had a big weekend on the iTunes charts, ranking #4 in "Careers" and #15 in overall "Business".

Not sure how they do the algorithm for these lists, or why the show appeared so high, but it was fun to see it score well in a list that is populated by so many amazing Podcasts.

Last week the show featured Michael O'Neal (host of The Solopreneur Hour, and Mary Kelly, PhD (CEO of Productive Leaders).  This week will have two new shows that will release on Tuesday and Thursday.  I am having so much fun learning from the people I interview that I wish I was doing a 7 day a week show.

It is important for a new show to have listeners.  If you have an iTunes account please subscribe, download and leave a review.  If you are not on the Apple platform, you can go to Stitcher and also get the show (You can get the Stitcher app in the Android store), and the show can also be heard at ThomSinger.com.  

The show is getting better with each interview, as I am finding my voice and getting some good feedback on how to interview by those with lots of experience.  I have a long way to go, but we are on this journey together.  Thank you to those who are investing their time to be part of the show.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

The Cowbell Principle (Guest Blog Post by Brian Carter)

How To Succeed By Defying Mediocrity

Have you seen the More Cowbell sketch from Saturday Night Live? It’s more than just funny. Believe it or not, it’s a powerful metaphor for a successful work life. And it provides insight into the kind of people you need on your team, and what makes an effective team.

Everyone has at least one cowbell — it’s your unique, profitable talent people pay you for or your company's unique offering. It’s something people have a fever for. When you discover it and give those people a ton of it, you gain success and happiness for both yourself and others. It’s a win-win.

A cowbell is simultaneously something you love doing and something other people really want as well (although, as we’ll see, you still will have detractors and critics). A cowbell creates joy for you and other people. It makes them yell for more. They can't get enough.

Defy Mediocrity

If you’re too vanilla, it’s hard to be successful. You don’t stand out. And, interestingly, the most popular flavor is vanilla. But that’s because it’s ice cream, something most people find hard to ignore. Vanilla wafers, not as popular. Vanilla Ice, not popular at all. We talk about him in the section of the book about being annoying. But anyway, vanilla is mediocre. Pink bubblegum ice cream? Now that gets noticed.

Are you in an environment where people praise mediocrity? Then you might be incentivized to stay mediocre, which will only get you an average career. Do you want a remarkable career? Then become a remarkable person. And go weird out some mediocre people.

What you achieve is somewhat determined by your expectations and the expectations of those around you. For example, some families won’t allow their kid to live at home after dropping out of college. They expect their children to get a degree. They expect excellence. Dropping out of college is unacceptable to them. They paid for you to go, so you must succeed. No excuses. Some families are willing to shun their children if they fail. Right or wrong, that’s pretty motivational for kids. Where excellence is expected, mediocrity is rare.

Mediocrity goes along with low expectations, a lack of motivation, a lack of ambition, and zero passion… it’s sleepwalking through life. Is that what you really want? I mean zombies are cool, but do you really want to be one?

A small percentage of people leave their jobs and create a business out of their personality. They don’t have to invent a car or resell wholesale foods or split atoms. Successful speakers and consultants believe the power of their words and intellect is worth more than most things. Are these people confident? Definitely.

Some people succeed just because they want status; they want to look good and be acknowledged as special. Pathological? Maybe, but effective.

If you had $10 million, would you live in a private house on the ocean with huge walls around it? Sure, unless you really want the neighbors to see when you buy your wife that Lexus with a bow on it. Garrison once heard a guy say, “I bought my new Mercedes, and it came with tinted windows. What’s the point of that if no one can see who’s driving it?”

Culture vs. Success

Sometimes your culture fights against your success. Brian learned when speaking in Norway that many Norwegians are fighting against a traditional cultural idea called Janteloven (pronounced yonta-loave-en), based on the laws of Jante, from, believe it or not, a novel. Why they let a novel hold such sway over them, we don’t know!

These rules are so extreme that we want to share them with you, because when you read them we think you’ll understand why the Norwegians need to rebel.

The 10 rules of Jante state:

    1.       You're not to think you are anything special.
2.       You're not to think you are as good as we are.
3.       You're not to think you are smarter than we are.
4.       You're not to convince yourself that you are better than we are.
5.       You're not to think you know more than we do.
6.       You're not to think you are more important than we are.
7.       You're not to think you are good at anything.
8.       You're not to laugh at us.
9.       You're not to think anyone cares about you.
10.   You're not to think you can teach us anything.


Those rules make us want to punch somebody in the face (a very American reaction best carried out by anyone with “rock” in their name: Rocky, or The Rock, or Jim Rockford). Or at least we want to make fun of these rules.

Americans don’t believe that stuff, which is why the Scandinavian motivational company Speaker’s Club imports American speakers. We feel bad that they have to fight that inside themselves, and we wish them all the best in fighting it.

But even Americans fight something similar, to a degree. When we succeed, even if we don’t hear explicit jealousy from others, we can imagine it’s out there. Your inner voice may ask you, “Who are you to deserve this or that?” And when we do succeed, we can feel a kind of survivor’s guilt: “Is it bad that I’ve attained this or that when the people from my high school or college haven’t?”

You Can Be Remarkable And Humble

Still, we love humility, the kind you find among Tim Duncan’s San Antonio Spurs teams; they are great, but their greatness comes from teamwork and good fundamentals. They never get too high or too low.

Brian’s favorite definition of humility is this: a right-sized view of yourself, neither greater nor less than you actually are. Humility insists that we be honest, confessing when we’re lucky but taking credit for the action we have taken and results we’ve achieved.

False humility is believing you are worse than you actually are. Egotism is believing you are better than you actually are.

If you’re good at something, or even great at it, tell people. Or show them. Don’t deny it. Don’t hide it. Don’t be embarrassed about it.

If you have gifts, talents, and skills, you have cowbells — and there are probably people with a fever for them. So go give them more

Get A Free Digital Copy Of The Cowbell Principle

This post
is an excerpt adapted by Brian Carter from the forthcoming book The Cowbell Principle: Career Advice On How To Get Your Dream Job And Make More Money, by Brian Carter and Garrison Wynn. Brian and Garrison will be giving away a limited number of digital copies at launch time. To get notified when they’re available, sign up at http://thecowbellprinciple.com/getnotified