Saturday, June 27, 2015

Cool Things My Friends Do (Week #131) - Beth Ziesenis and Nerd Know-How

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

Beth Ziesenis released her new book - "Nerd Know-How: the 27 Best Apps for Work and How to Use Them".

Beth is an awesome friend and a fellow speaker.  She has that "givers heart" that we all aspire to, but few attain. She is fast to refer friends to her clients, and always talks up people's talents.  That is why it is great to have her as week #131 on "Cool Things My Friends Do".  (She was also featured on week #124 when she ran a KickStarter Campaign to fund the production of this book).

Beth is known professionally as "Your Nerdy Best Friend" and she delivers talks to associations and others about the coolest apps on the market today for business. As a technology expert she presents all over the country about the best free and bargain apps and online resources that will help you Release YOUR Inner Nerd to become more organized, efficient and awesome at work and home.

Check out her book, and find out more at

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Cool Things My Friends Do (Week #130): Jason Kotecki - Penguins Can't Fly

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

Today my friend Jason Kotecki's releases his new book: Penguins Can't Fly: +39 Other Rules That Don't Exist.  That is always a cool thing, and I am excited to feature him on week #130 of "Cool Things My Friends Do".
Life is supposed to be fun. We knew this instinctively as kids, but somehow forgot on the way to adulthood. We got busy and overwhelmed, started valuing things that don't matter, and learned to follow the rules that don't even exist:
  • hate mondays
  • only celebrate when the calendar gives you permission
  • don't make a mess
  • don't play hooky
  • hide your weirdness
  • hide your wrinkles
  • care what other people think

Following these so-called rules is a terrific way to stress you out, sap your energy, and ensure a boring life. But there's a better way. In his enlightening book, author and artist Jason Kotecki uncovers some of the most useless rules so you can shift perspective and start seeing the world with wonder once again.
Jason says: It's time to stop living by someone else's rules. Your life is a story, and a short one at that. Make it a good one.

Jason Kotecki is an artist, speaker and author of several books,

Besides making art that inspires and delights people all over the world, Jason is an engaging professional speaker. He empowers organizations and individuals to restore balance, prevent burnout, and achieve new levels of productivity and innovation with real-world strategies that tap into the timeless wisdom of childhood.

Jason and his wife, Kim (a former kindergarten teacher), are the dynamic duo behind Escape Adulthood and founders of the Cure Adultitis Institute. In their crusade to annihilate Adultitis, they inspire and encourage people to design lives with less stress and more fun.

Jason is a Batman fan, Star Wars watcher, retro t-shirt wearer, avid eater of sugar-laden cereal, and father of three kids. He lives with his family in picturesque Madison, Wisconsin, where they enjoy long walks by the lake and eat way too many cheese curds.

Learn more at

Jason was also a recent guest on my podcast "Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do" (Episode #80).

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Monday, June 15, 2015

National Convention: Hang with hometown friends or meet new people?

National association conferences are a great way to build industry contacts.  I attend many of these events (as a member, speaker, or master of ceremonies), and I have a pet peeve:  Local chapter meet-ups while at the national conference.

Why fly all the way across the country to attend an event and then sit with or have a private dinner with people from your own city?  This is common at association conventions, and often a waste of time and it undermines the potential ROI you can get from the event  While yes, having good local relationships matters, there are other places you can cultivate those relationships.  

On "dinner on your own night" people gather their local chapter pals and go off to a restaurant to dine.  Or during the awards lunch they populate a table with their friends from home.  This is so common it is almost an epidemic. 

When I gripe about this practice I hear the mantra; "It is the only time we can get together".  Ummm, no.  The convention is the only time you can meet people from all over the world who are present.  There are other times in your own city you can meet up with your local peeps.  It is a choice.    

Life is all about choices and words such as "only time" are neither true nor helpful.  It gives people the excuse to not network with others, and makes many feel obligated to attend.  Some say it helps bond their friendships with local colleagues, but if that was really a priority you could make it happen several times a year.  Yes, yes, everyone is "busy".... but lately the word busy has become the accepted hall pass to justify any behavior.  Ask yourself, is the "busy" label real or an excuse?

I recently talked about this from stage at a conference.  Several people came up and said "Thank You", as they feel obligated to go to dinner when their chapter president makes the invite.  They do not want to appear rude, so they go along with the crowd.  Others did not like my rant, as they said they are more introverted and don't want to meet new people.  OKAY... that is real.  And acceptable.  If this is the reason, say it out loud and let those who want to mingle be free to go elsewhere.

I am a long-time member of the National Speakers Association.  My friends from the Austin Chapter always organize a night out together at the annual convention. I always say "No", and tell them why (this point of view gets re-stated each year).  Many of my local friends have a different opinion, and I respect their right to go dine together (and they accept my going off with others).  I am only at this convention once a year, and each night's activities are a chance to establish connections with people from outside my hometown.

What do you think?

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Be Brave When Starting New

40 Tips To Re-Invent and Re-Launch at Age 40, 50, or Beyond. (Tip #10)

Re-inventing your career and life takes courage.  There are so many stumbling blocks that can undermine confidence when we recreate our livelihoods that many get sent back to their comfort zones and never even attempt the thing they desire.  

Be brave.

Bravery is necessary to push forward in the face of the unknown, and throughout human history we have seen great advancements achieved by those who took risk and did not let fear undermine their journey.  My maternal grandfather took his four younger siblings from Ireland to America after his parents died.  He was 16 years old.  I think of his voyage sometimes and cannot comprehend what he must have felt to be in charge of relocating a family that included a four year old sister.  I am sure it was overwhelming, and yet he made it and they all grew up and created their lives in America.  

Fear of what bad things might happen can paralyze you and keep you from taking the steps necessary to move toward your goals.  While thinking about the downside and pitfalls is important (you do not want to be surprised by real problems that pop up along the way), they are not where you should focus your attention.  Place your attention on the best case of all realistic outcomes and work toward reaching that target.

When you board a plane in Los Angeles headed for Honolulu you want your pilot to be thinking about landing safely in Hawaii.  While many things can go wrong (and being prepared for emergencies is important for the flight crew), they manage the trip with the best possible outcome in mind: a safe landing at the destination.

If you are leaving a career and pursuing a new vocation, it can be hard to gain the knowledge, and even harder to develop the skills necessary to earn a living.  Do not let "hard" stop you from going for your dreams.  Have faith in yourself and then work diligently through all the ups and downs.  

When you make a decision, push forward and bravely take action.  Letting trepidation ooze into your field of vision will make you tentative.  It is the decisive who reach the top of a mountain. Just do it. 

This does not mean to be brave in the face of facts that tell of a lost cause.  Sometimes you have to change course or walk away.  You must always be realistic about the situation at hand, but do not let your imagination or the chance of failure knock the foundation of success out from under you before you even get going.

I have not always been as brave as I should have been and that leaves me feeling sad.  When I look at the very few regrets I have in my life it is never the things I tried for (and failed) that cause disappointmen.  It is the times that I was not brave and did not even try to achieve my dreams that makes me feeling small.  

Trying and failing is a good thing, but not trying to achieve what your heart desires is the biggest mistake one can make.  I say "go for it", and be brave.  Make smart choices, and adjust course if you must.  To swing and miss is better than to forever say "what if".

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Cool Things My Friends Do (Week #129) - Mike Domitrz on Dateline NBC

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

This Sunday my friend Mike Domitrz will be featured on Dateline NBC.  Mike is the founder of "The Date Safe Project" and an expert on tough topics and real solutions around consent, bystander intervention and respect.  Mike will be be part of a segment called "My Kid Would Never Do That", and if you are a parent, you do not want to miss this episode.

The situation goes like this:  Teens are at a party where alcohol is present. Suddenly, the situation is about to get worse. Your child is at the party and sees the situation about to explode in a way that could hurt another person at the party. What would your child do? Would they respond the way you raised them to? 

Tune in this Sunday, June 14th, 2015, (8:00 pm Eastern / 7pm Central) on Dateline NBC's "My Kid Would Never Do That" with real-life party scenes and hidden cameras exposing the reality of what happens. You might be surprised what actions teens choose to take. By the end, Mike will help both parents and kids be better prepared for these scary realities facing teens today. 

Learn much more (including 3 Tips you can get NOW) at

Congrats to Mike.  He is a great friend and someone who I have learned so much from over the last few years. I am happy to have him featured on "Cool Things My Friends Do" week #129.  

Have A Great Day

Thom Singer

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Cool Things My Friends Do (Week #128) - Rory Vaden's TEDx Talk

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

My first "Cool Things My Friends Do" blog post (in March 2012) was about a friend who did a TEDx Talk.  That one post has now spurred 128 posts about things people I know are doing to make the world say "wow".

My friend Rory Vaden just released the link to his TEDx Talk from TEDx Douglasville.  

Everything you know about time-management is wrong. In this challenging and counter-intuitive video, Self-Discipline Strategist and New York Times bestselling author Rory Vaden, shows you why you can’t solve today’s time-management challenges with yesterday’s time-management strategies. More importantly he explains why procrastinating on purpose is the key to being able to Multiply your time.

I have known Rory for six years, and I am happy to feature him on week #128 of "Cool Things My Friends Do" (he was mentioned last summer on CTMFD #111 - as he was part of the group receiving the Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designation with from the National Speakers Association in June 2014).

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Monday, June 08, 2015

Leveling Up Your Life

40 Tips To Re-Invent and Re-Launch at Age 40, 50, or Beyond. (Tip #9)

Similar to "re-invention", there is a lot of talk lately about "Leveling Up".  This term is tossed around often by advice gurus, but it rarely is accompanied by useful tips on "how to" raise up your game to a higher level.  While some people do not want to totally re-launch their life, you might find yourself seeking to perform your current life with more precision and focus.  So what does it mean to "Level Up"?

From what I understand the term originates in the video gaming would.  As one plays a game and improves their skills and accomplish tasks, the player moves to a higher level.  This "leveling up" increases the difficulties of the game, but also brings more respect from the advanced abilities that go with the new level.  Oh, and the game if more fun to play at higher levels.

In the game of life, we hear the suggestion that people need to "level up", but I am not sure that most really understand what that means. On several podcasts I listen to the suggestion of "Leveling Up" is being tossed around, and it makes it sound like a magical experience that just happens.  Are we missing the part from our gaming friends where it takes experience and skill (and increases the ongoing difficulties of day to day life)?  

Also, is it more fun to play life at higher levels?  Hmmm... I think yes!!!

I searched on line for advice on "how to level up" and saw many articles that gave ridiculous suggestions:  

  • Take more photographs
  • Fly a kite
  • Swing on a playground
  • Enroll in a fencing class
  • Chase butterflies
  • Smile
  • Stretch
  • Etc...
What?  How does chasing butterflies really make a difference in living a better life?  I understand the concept of getting out of the daily rut, but not sure that is really the missing link to greatness. 

One article suggested "Have more sex" as a key to leveling up.  Sounds great, but not sure that alone makes you more effective or successful in life. Just watch half the reality shows on TV and you will find a bunch of losers who get laid regularly.

I write this post on my birthday, and next year I will turn the big 5-0.  This does not bother me, as my father was over fifty when I was born, so I do not see this number as "old".  But as with many, birthdays are milestones, and I want to be on top of my game as I enter the second half of life (hey, my dad lived to be 99-years-old).

I think to being achieving at a higher level you have to be aware of what it is you seek to accomplish.  One has to make a formal declaration that they want to make improvements.  Creating specific goals that are achievable is the first step.  If you do not know what you are seeking, you will never be able to get there.  Change will not happen by accident.

Then you have to seek out the knowledge you will need to play at the next level.  Reading, listening to podcasts, taking classes and finding mentors are just some ways that you can expand your current situation.  Knowledge is power, and too often people make assumptions about what their goal is about, but never do the research.  To level up you have to live a life of curiosity.  Ask questions like a 5 year old.  Accept nothing, and always be learning.

This whole thing takes time.  You cannot just make jumps in life.  Patience and perseverance will be your best friends in the attempt to "up your game".

Finally, you have to start taking actions that lead you toward your goal.  The best advice comes from Dr Steven Covey in his book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People".  He said "Begin With The End in Mind".  When you know what success looks like, you can reverse engineer the steps to get you there.

Do not just toss around the term "Leveling Up".... do it.  I am currently looking to do this in my own life, but I know I cannot do it alone.  If you have found ways to grow and expand, share what has worked for you along your path.

Have A Great Day.

Thom Singer

Friday, June 05, 2015

10 Tips for High School Graduates

This week my oldest daughter, my only niece and two nephews all graduate from high school.  Wow, that is a big week for our family.  It has caused me to look back to my own graduation from high school 31 years ago.  Wow, time files.  I do not think 31 years ago I had a clue, but it has been a good journey.

Along the way I have made good choices and some not as good choices.  I have failed to be my best self on occasion, but I have also done some things right.  When I look at what is important I am very clear that what matters most is relationships.  All opportunities come from people, and how we treat others makes a difference on their lives and our own.  It is not about our intentions, but instead about our actions.

I woke up today (the day of my own kid's graduation) and I was wondering what advice I could share with Jackie, Summer, Scott and Bobby (not that 18-year-olds want advice from their dad or uncle).  They did not ask for this advice, and the list is not 100% comprehensive, but I believe anyone who consistently does this will find more success and happiness as they live out their time on this planet.

Here are the ten things I suggest.  They wont do them all the time, as I didn't either, but I share the ideas just the same.  Life is a long journey, and I have found that even the best advice may take a lifetime to learn, understand and implement.

Ten Tips for High School Graduates

  1. Have consistency of self: personally, professionally and spiritually.
  2. Be slow to anger and fast to forgive.
  3. Treat everyone with respect and be nice to those you encounter.
  4. Take an interest in what matters and is important to others.
  5. Find solutions, do not just point out problems.
  6. Do not gossip or say bad stuff about others.
  7. Have fun, and help the people around you have more fun.
  8. Say "Thank You" to those who help you or otherwise have an impact on your life.
  9. Celebrate the success of friends and colleagues (don't let envy or jealousy hold you back).
  10. Bounce back quickly from mistakes, stumbles, and failures (forgive yourself).
  11. Always deliver more than you promised.
The legendary Zig Ziglar said it best:

"You can have everything in life you want if you just help enough other people get what they want"

Congratulations to the graduates of the Class of 2015, especially these four amazing people who I love and respect so much.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Cool Things My Friends Do - Week #127. Judson Laipply in Delta Safety Video

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

My friend Judson Laipply (you all know him as the creator of one of the first YouTube viral videos: "The Evolution of Dance" with over 292 million views) shows up in this new Delta Airlines online safety video.  

The premise of the video is they utilize a ton on YouTube sensations as the actors in the video.  It is fun, and your favorite cats, goats, bumbling beauty queens, and dancing Judsons all have cameos.

I am happy to share this with you and to have Judson as week #127 of Cool Things My Friends Do.  I have known Judson for several years and he is one of the nicest people you will ever encounter (and a great inspirational speaker, in addition to having all the dance moves).

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Learn to Listen

40 Tips To Re-Invent and Re-Launch at Age 40, 50, or Beyond. (Tip #8)

There are always clues on how to find success, if you listen.  This can be difficult for some people to do, especially when they are going through changes in their career. Most of us create the vision of what we want to accomplish in a re-invention, and often this is done with little research or understanding of the industry we want to enter.

Over time the marketplace will show you what it is willing to pay (be it a product, service, or even hiring you for a job), and no amount of wishing and hoping can change the reality.  If you have an idea for a business and nobody will give you money, it will fail.  To get to the answers you seek, you need to listen to people who are experienced in the field.  The ideas of others, while sometimes flawed, might be just what you need to spark your own brilliance.

Some people will give you direct feedback, others may be less forthcoming.  Watching and learning from others who have gone down a similar path is another way to gather information.  And then there is the gossip that takes place behind your back (which always has a way of finding its way to your ears).  No matter how you attain the knowledge, you must not get angry over critical feedback.  The ones who point out the pitfalls and areas you may come up short are providing you with valuable insights.  Nobody is perfect, and to bury your head in the sand and not see your own mistakes will hurt your chances for success.

Of course not all advice is good advice.  Some people are happy to share their opinions (oh heck, most people are willing to share their opinions), even if they have no legitimate experience or insight to a useful point of view.  Others get their own joy from bringing negative news to you or undermining your enthusiasm. Discerning whose input will be helpful and who can cause harm is an important skill.  But either way you are better off when you listen to everyone.

I have struggled with this, as I am one who has a lot of ideas, hopes and dreams. I have jumped to many conclusions in my day, and while often right, I am probably off target the same amount! Yet the more I listen to others, the more I learn and grow my own career.  I have worked hard at improving this skill over the past year, and it has paid off.  New ideas, new product offerings, new clients, new friends, and new experiences have all appeared from my efforts to be a better listener. 

  • When the negative people say your dreams can't happen, listen (but do not take them as the final authority, find a way to prove them wrong).  

  • When a client makes a suggestion, listen (it might be them giving you a clue on how to sell to them more services).  

  • When a competitor points our your weakness, listen (they might have shown you how to improve).  

  • When you get praise, listen (but don't let it go to your head).  

  • When a friend gossips about you or others, listen (and learn not to trust their confidence).

Always hear what others have to say, and do not get defensive if it is harsh.  Let people have their point of view, and then figure out what you can garner from their words that will make you better.  If they are way off base, let it got.  But if there is a nugget of truth in what they say, take actions to grow and improve.

If you are seeking to re-invent and re-launch your life you cannot do it alone in a vacuum.  Those around you can help you change directly and indirectly if you are tuned into their observations. 

Learning to listen to others can be difficult, as we all have an ego that makes us feel we have the power and understanding over our own situations.  But when you accept that hearing different points of view is how you expand your own, then you will seek out the opinions of others.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

**Artwork by my nephew: Artist Bobby Singer