Wednesday, December 30, 2015

How To Change Yourself (It is not easy!!!)

I want to make some big changes in 2016, but it is not easy to recreate yourself and to actually implement a new direction.

Self-realization and creating real "do-overs" is hard on so many levels.  Behaviors and points of view get ingrained and making adjustments is difficult.  Most people are quick to publicly announce the flaws of others and want those to be fixed, but few put the spotlight on themselves.  This internal examination can sting, so we prefer to focus elsewhere.

The blind spots are the worst part.  I try to examine myself, but one simply cannot see your own shortcomings (and it is not fun to find the flaws).  When others say things (to my face or behind my back) I try to accept it as input information.  My desire is to be slow to anger and fast to forgive towards other people and to see if there is anything I can learn from in their critiques.

In dealing with professional and personal challenges the last few years I have become aware of areas I would like to improve.  I really have a deep desire to be more effective at my work and in life and to serve the people I encounter.  There is hurt inside when you know you have failed in some manner.  

A difficulty in taking on personal change is that you cannot do it alone, and yet others are not really able to help.  Most people in your life will not realize the change.  If they do you will not always appreciate that they do see your efforts as positive.  Too often when people have judged you and have an opinion, they will not give you a second chance.  

For me, in seeking personal growth, it is clear that I must get the validation of my efforts from inside.  If I expect others to congratulate me for my efforts then I will be constantly disappointed.  The motivation for my change must be 100% inside.

This process, to be successful, means I have to be surrounded with others who seek to grow and change.  The people you associate with have a huge impact on the person you become.  I have been fortunate throughout my life to have some people around me who exemplified support and encouragement.  But I have also had some relationships that were toxic.  An inventory of who you spend time with is paramount to success.

In reading about change, most who write about this are clear to point out that you will have times when you slip back into old patterns.  Being a human being is not easy, and ego and emotions cloud the whole process.  I am guilty of this, and I need to get over myself.

I am launching the "Cool Things Project" in January.  This group coaching program is a spin off from my "Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do" podcast, and am seeking to facilitate and ongoing group of individuals who are sharing this path to make positive change in their lives.  I am hoping as I work to better my own journey, I can also be someone who creates a community of people who will be a support system to all involved.

I am excited about 2016.  Challenged, but excited.  

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Goals and Other "Cool Things"

Each year I take some time between Christmas Day and New Years Day to contemplate my goals.  I have always been a goal setter (with some positive results in achieving them, too), and as I prepare for 2016 I am newly motivated to go for the big accomplishments.

Getting older has taken away some of my youthful optimism, and over time I have had less enthusiasm for chasing my dreams.  Working for myself has left me bruised and feeling alone, and that has taken a bite into my soul from time to time.  But that is about to change.  There are so many things that I am ready to accomplish, and getting back that spark for achievement is on the top of my list.

In conversations with other "solopreneurs" there seems to be common feeling of isolated in your efforts.  There are a limited number of people you can talk to about your career aspirations.  Too many do not share the internal drive to do what it takes in business, and that is why I have found identifying supportive friends and creating mastermind groups to be so important.  One needs to find their "people" who share similar interests.  When you are surrounded by people who are dismissive of your inner-self and do not share your goals, it makes the journey much more difficult.

My first goal is to launch the "Cool Things Project", a group coaching program that is spinning out of conversations with listeners to my "Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do" podcast.  Many solopreneurs have shared their feelings of wanting to share their internal ambitions within a supportive environment.  I have talked about this group for months, and it is time to take action, even if there are only 3 members in the launch.  Getting a group of people to have regular conversations about their goals, efforts and successes in business will have a positive impact in all I do (and it will serve others, too).

With so many goals in 2016 and the need to excel, I have to also make my health a major priority.  Eating right, sleeping, and more exercise are all part of the plan in the new year.  As I close in on 50-years-old I want to ensure that I am taking care of myself.  Being clear that youth was wasted on being young is the first step for my new path.  I am excited to have the life experience and perspective that come along with a half-century on this planet, but must be realistic about the downside that comes with those years.

I have a longer than usual list of professional and personal goals in 2016, and this is going to mean changing many things I do in my day-to-day life.  Change is not easy and takes a lot of personal commitment.  These new directions mean I must work hard, but I will also have more fun and discover the success I so deeply desire.

How about you?  Feeling stuck?  What are your goals to get beyond the blah situations and achieve your full potential?  Settling for the middle is so not okay in 2016.  Get your goals on track and let's do this. 

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Saturday, December 26, 2015

How To Have Fun

As a speaker my job is to make sure that my audiences learn and have fun during the presentation.  Conferences in general have become cookie-cutter experiences and no longer are the places people come to learn. They need fun to make the experience real.

The same is true in our daily lives.  Life if cookie-cutter for too many people and in my work I am having more conversations with people who want to get out of the rut of dull.  

I can relate (can you?).  Responsibility, mortgages, career pressure, families, saving for the future, and all the things that exist for most grown ups can get in the way of having fun.  Whether at a conference or simply on a Tuesday, fun does not always happen by accident.  We must be conscious of making sure we get more of it in our lives.

In 2016 I am committed to getting out of the "rut of dull".  I am seeking people who will help me create more joy each day. Gone are the ways of old that allowed mundane to rule the day.

Here are 5 tips to have more fun that I am trying:

1.  Recognize you need fun.  It is easy to let the pressures of life take over.  If we are honest that we want more fun in our lives the initial feeling can be the dread of how little fun some of us tend to have on a daily basis.  By making fun a priority and seeking it out you will be more able to recognize opportunities when they arise.

2.  Be less judgmental and jealous of others.   Judging others and jealousy are a daily pastime in our culture.  We see what others do and we either look down on their life or covet it.  Social media has made this worse as we now are peering into the worlds of other people constantly.  If we have to be viewing others, we are best rewarded by smiling and moving on instead of getting caught up in comparing and contrasting our lives. 

3.  Invite friends to play.  To get more fun activities you often have to be the person who plans the gatherings.  All opportunities come from people, and opportunities for fun are multiplied when you are around the right friends.  Avoid the jerks but get close to the ones that will help you discover more fun.

4.  Do something creative.  Draw, dance, sing, write, etc...  do something that gets your creativity flowing and let that jolt of insight carry over into your work, family and community activities.  We forget that most kids love to be engaged in creative play, and as we get older we drift away from these things that may just translate into fun.

5.  Don't worry what others think.  This is hard, and held me back for years.  I was worried what others would think about me if I did certain things.  I cut our a lot of fun because it seemed weird.  Too bad,  Let your weird side out and make fun happen everywhere.

The older we get the easier it is to forget that fun should happen, Just like I try to work with meeting planners to ensure they are playing up fun in their events, I like to see people find more fun anywhere they are and no matter what they are doing.  Some of the people in my life had held me back, and once I was honest that I needed new friends, I started to seek out people who brought more fun into all social situations.  

While I am not saying you should "fire your friends", seek out new associations that will expose you to more adventure and lead you to fun.  Life is too short to forget the joy in each day.  Discover people who will help you have better days.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Wear Your Best You

Find best in yourself and wear that on the outside.

We all have made mistakes at some point.  Bad choices, wrong turns, failed business attempts, words said in spite, etc....  But these do not define you.  Too often we believe that other people see us for our faults, but over the long run people see us for what we choose to put out in front.

I am not saying hid your flaws, as my experiences have shown me that people who cover every blemish are not real to themselves or the rest of us.  Embrace the hurdles you have cleared and be proud of growing and learning from the troubles and tribulations of your past.  But also leave them to the side.  Let your soul shine with the pride of what you have done that is awesome.

Long ago I got over being worried what individuals thought or said about me.  It turns out that when you are successful, or even actively pursuing success, there will be others who will resent you for it.  They will seek out your mistakes and go out of their way to tell others.  You cannot stop these people and you should not even care.  

When someone shows they are a petty jerk who wants to undermine the people around them, simply find ways to detour around them.  If you have to come into contact with toxic people, be very polite, but do not waste your time in trying to get on their good side.  Just be the best you that you can be, and wish them well.  Do not get sucked into their web of jealousy and gossip, as they will lure you in with talk of others, only to get close enough to throw you under the next bus that comes along.

I have learned the hard way the going toward self-improvement is a lonely journey.  The majority of the population is not seeking to better themselves, and your efforts to expand yourself make them nervous, jealous or just pissed off.  Don't be held back by the medium.  The middle is not acceptable for people who long to do more.  

Surround yourself with people who say it is okay to talk about your dreams, goals and aspirations.  Find your circle of people that are on a similar path and find ways to push and lift each other along the way.  

When those bad days come up and you feel like a failure, remember that some of the most successful people throughout history have overcome obstacles.  It is those dark days that show us we desire and expect more from ourselves.  Those hours where we have all wanted to roll up in a ball and sob are just the training ground for being prepared to shine at a later time.  It is okay to feel lost, but never forget that the feeling is only temporary.

Push through and show the world what is the strongest parts of you. Don't worry about the past problems you faced, as over time your reputation will be the best foot you put forward.  The naysayers and haters will eventually move on to an easier target, as they know when they are beaten. 

Nothing speaks louder that your finest actions.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Choose Your Words Carefully

People say nasty things that hurt those around them far too often.  I see this happen regularly, and it has me thinking about the words I choose when talking to others.  I would never want to be dismissive, hurtful, snarky or otherwise mean.... yet when we let worlds fly feelings can get hurt.

I have become very aware as I listen to people speak.  I am trying to always be conscious that words have meaning.  Even when we do not intend to harm a relationship, it can happen.

Pay attention to what you say and how you say it.  Think about how your words can be interpreted by those you speak with on a regular basis.  The more I focus on this for myself, the more I recognize how common it is for people use words as weapons.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

7 Tips for a Professional Speaking Career

Recently the number of calls I have received from people who want tips on starting a career as a speaker has skyrocketed (I got two today).  Clearly the business of professional speaking has become more popular lately, and individuals from all walks of life are interested in sharing their expertise (and wanting to be compensated for their efforts).

The speaking business is an amazing field.  I have made some of the best friends of my life with other speakers, and the helpful nature of many successful speakers is unparalled in any industry. I am honored to have earned my living as a full-time speaker for nearly seven years (part-time for four years before that), and am grateful to all the people who have shared their thoughts and ideas with me.  

Countless speakers and meeting professionals have guided me on ways to improve my practice, and that is why I always take the time to help others who call and seek my advice.

I am writing this blog post as a "pre-call reading" for those who want to know more about the business.  I hope these tips are helpful.  I am happy to chat with anyone who is committed to getting into speaking as a career, as long as they promise up front they will respect the business and those who work in the meetings industry.  There are too many who think "speaking" is a way to "get rich quick" (it is not),... or who are "too busy" to help other speakers. If you want to get into this industry, commit to referring other speakers all the time.  I offer referral ideas to every client.  

Cavett Robert (Founder of the National Speakers Association) advised generations of speakers to not look at each other as competitors.  He is famous for saying:
"Don't worry about how we divide up the pie, there is enough for everybody. Let's just build a bigger pie!”
Here are Seven Tips for a Speaking Career: 

1.  Know the difference between being a "Public Speaker" and a "Professional Speaker".  While speaking skills are very important to having a career in the business, it is not enough.  The "gift of gab" does not equal earning a fee.  To be paid well and consistently you have to be committed to the industry of speaking.  This business looks like one thing from the outside and something very different from the inside.  Study the business.  You would not found a bank without learning the industry, why do you think you can wing it here?

2.  You need a good website and video.  Those who hire speakers are accustomed to working from referrals.  Hiring a speaker is a scary thing, as we who present at a conference set the tone for the whole event.  A bad speaker can ruin a meeting.  But few meeting organizers use a Google Search (or any other online speaker matching site) to select speakers.  They ask around for ideas and ask peers who they have used recently.  Then they check them out online before calling.  If you do not have a website and video that properly showcases your talents, you might never hear from them at all.  

Some will tell you that you need a good brochure or "one-sheet", but most of my clients simply go to my website.  

3.  Have a topic people want and position it in a unique manner.  Many people get excited about a topic around a personal passion that has little commercial value.  They think a unique concept is what meetings are seeking.  While it is easy for each of us to get excited about our own ideas, that is not enough to get paid to share your concepts.  If nobody has a budget for your topic, you not only have to sell them on why you are a great speaker, but you have to sell them on their spending money on something they may not understand.  Ask yourself how your talk will help the person who is hiring you and how it will impact their audience.  Does this match up with the goals of the organization paying the money?  Don't know?  Find out.  Study the business and see who has similar topics and identify the type of clients who are hiring them.  

4.  Speak.  Stephen King famously gave advice that you become a writer by writing.  Same is true for speakers.  Speakers speak.  Don't worry about the money, focus on getting experience and feedback. Legendary speaker Roxanne Emmerich once said to be great you need to give 300 speeches.  I concur.  Now that I have delivered over 500 professional talks in my career, I am way different (better) than I was at number 100.

5.  Be honest.  Do not try to be something you are not.  Lately everyone calls themselves a "speaker" and I see many people pretend to have more experience as part of their marketing.  I believe there is a stage for everyone at every level, but if you try to leapfrog (without a legitimate reason) you are hurting yourself, your audiences, and your clients.  I learned this over a decade ago when I accepted a keynote without enough experience for that particular audience.  I was just okay, but this audience was accustomed to more experienced presenters.  Nobody was happy, and if I had been honest with myself and the organizer I would have had a different outcome.

6.  Make friends.  If you want to be a professional speaker, hang around with other speakers.  This does not mean stalking the celebrities hoping they will throw you their crumbs.  I am talking about developing real friendships with peers at your own level and growing up together in the business.  Get to know working speakers and create mutually beneficial relationships (that means help them succeed, too).  If while promoting yourself you are not finding opportunities to refer other speakers you are missing the boat.

7.  Be ready for a long road.  Success as a speaker takes time.  While some people brag on their fast-track in the business, most of those people burn out or become "yesterday's news".  A multi-year speaking business is about more than a trendy topic with lots of PR and social media.  You need to be focused on building a long-term reputation and serving the whole meetings industry.  Meeting professionals are hard working people that often are too busy to notice any one speaker who is trying to sell themselves.  But over time they hear your name and take a look at what you have to offer.  One recent client told me she saw me speak 10 years earlier, and only now was she ready to hire me.  That is a long sales cycle, but I plan to be here for 20 more years, so I am cool with that!!!

My experience has shown that doing these things will help you more than reading a book or attending a get rich in speaking seminar.  I could not have done it if I had not joined the NSA and learned from people who were willing to share ideas without charging me for their insights.  If you hire a coach, be sure they are earning a living in today's marketplace, as things are changing fast in the industry. 

If the above was helpful, leave a comment and let me know.  Feel free to reach out to me anytime if you have other questions.  I am all about a bigger pie.  If you want to commit to helping the business of speaking (and the meetings industry) all along your path, then I want to know you!!!

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Millennials Like Face-to-Face Networking

Networking and maximizing connections at live event is a topic I have presented on for ten years.  All opportunities come from people and the meetings industry is unmatched when it comes to bringing people together.  Live events are so important to professionals of all ages.

Over the years many have asked me how networking has changed as the Gen Y / Millennial generation have come into work force.  I do not think it has changed.  Networking is simply about creating long-term and mutually-beneficial relationships between two or more people where all involved find higher levels of success.  These actions do not know age, gender, race or religion.

Fast Company magazine had a great article in December 2015 called the "8 MYTHS ABOUT MILLENNIALS AT WORK THAT NEED TO DIE".  This wonderful piece, written by Stephanie Vozza, shows that over time the media has created a false image of what it means to be a Millennial. My own interaction with young professionals is that they simply people (not that different at all). 

Yes, they grew up with the internet and cell phones, but their hopes and dreams are the same as all young people who have come before them. 

My favorite part of the article was Myth #2:
While millennials are more heavily immersed in technology and know how to better utilize it than other generations, Harrington says that doesn’t make them people-averse. 
"What was interesting was when we asked how they found their most recent position, instead of saying ‘social media’ like we expected, the number one answer was that they were referred by a friend, relative, or another connection," he says. "They are using the tried-and-true method of networking."
When I speak at events, it is the younger generation who most resonate with my message.  Some unexperienced organizers worry about hiring me if they have Millennial audience members (thinking the young will rebel against tips that involve live conversations), but those are the people who get most excited about my message of building lasting business connections.  These young professionals are hungry to improve face-to-face networking skills, but too often their superiors are not providing them with the knowledge and training they desire.  Too many are assuming prefer the digital route and are ignoring the real needs.  

While the tools we use to communicate have changed over the years, what motivates people in forming relationships is not really all that complicated.  People do business with those they know, like and trust.  A "like", "link", "share" or "follow" is not the same as a real friendship, and the Millennials are very clear on the difference. 

We all need to give these young professionals a break and not profile them by lumping them with what the "experts" have told us about their preferences.  In talking with clients who have special training for young "high potentials" in their workforce, they have come to put NETWORKING as a "must have" topic in their training programs.  

As the next generation ages into higher levels of their careers, they are discovering those who are the best connected (and who actively work to build their connections and personal brands) are getting promoted.  This is a smart group of people who are clear that honest relationships are their ticket to more success.  

I predict we will see a lot more articles that will talk about Millennials and networking, as it is real and it is happening all over the place every day. 

Check out the whole article on Fast Company Magazine's Website.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Monday, December 07, 2015

Get Out of the Middle in 2016

Connie Podesta and Thom Singer

December is a great time to reassess your business plans and to invest in learning and motivational activities.  It is hard to improve if we keep doing the same things that have us caught in the middle.

I spent the weekend at an advanced seminar for people in the professional speaking business.  The "Kick Butt with Class" event was hosted by Connie Podesta and Ford Saeks, both of whom have stellar reputations in our industry.  They provided a good forum for learning, idea inspiration and networking that was fast paced and full of content that will change what I will do in the new year.

It is common for people to get caught up in doing their work and fail to invest time in reviewing their basic business assumptions and activities.  Many people become complacent when they reach a certain level of success.  They are capable of achieving more and being in the top tier of their profession, but their life gets limited when they become content with the high-end of mediocre.  They know they are doing good enough, and knowing they are above the average allows them to slow down on innovation and drive.

Not everyone has a need to get to the top, and for some the middle is the right place for them.  However, this is not the right fit for so many who are stuck.  They want to take their career to a higher level, but they have no idea how to reset the course.  Doing this alone is hard, and for me the key has always been to be associated with people who are making things happen at in their own lives.

Having peers critique your current business is scary.  While I was not grilled at the seminar I attended, some of my fellow participants experienced the "though love" about their marketing messages, websites, speech titles, etc...  Seeing them find "ah ha" moments made me examine everything I am doing to grow my business.  

The idea of being on the "hot seat" has become common for me, as my threeyear participation in an ongoing advanced technique mastermind group means that several times a year I allow a select group of other speakers to help me discover my strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities.  These colleagues know everything about my business, and they will not allow me to get comfortable in mediocre.  They challenge me to take actions such as set higher goals, change my website (coming next month) and to re-tool my product offering.  Over time we have become a very supportive group of friends (we did not really know each other when we began).

Are you feeling caught in the middle?  What will you do to in 2016?

Have A Great Day

thom singer