Is the Light On in Your Eyes? How to Lead a Life of SerenDestiny

you'll never regret - red rocks - middle

I recently spoke for a national convention on the topic of “Is the Light On In Your Eyes?”  I started by saying many of us spend more time reflecting on what movie to watch this weekend than on what we’re going to do with the rest of our life.

Many of the audience members had been running their business for 10-30 years. Many work long hours and haven’t taken a vacation for years because they have so many people counting on them.

Some are ready to retire, but don’t know what they can do NEXT that is as satisfying and productive as what they’re currently doing. Some don’t have a succession plan in place and don’t want to see the business they built go down the drain.

I shared a quiz to help them figure out in 4 minutes what’s working in their life, what’s not, and what’s missing.

One of the ideas we talked about is how to integrate our passion into our profession.” Many people told me they don’t have time to what they used to love to do because they’re too busy. I told them, they can COMBINE what puts the light on in their eyes with their CAREER – instead of seeing them as being mutually exclusive.

Here’s what I mean.

Several years ago, I had the pleasure of sharing breakfast with Ivan Misner, founder of BNI, the largest networking organization in the world. After hearing about my full calendar of speaking, consulting and traveling, he asked, “What do you do for fun?”

Long pause. I finally dug deep and came up with “I walk my dog around the lake.”

Please don’t get me wrong. I love what I do. I am grateful to have the opportunity to do work that makes a positive difference … it’s just that I was going 24/7.

That conversation and several other wake-up calls motivated me to set out on a Year by the Water. I didn’t abandon my business … I just took it on the road. As James Taylor said when he took a break from touring for a year to compose new lyrics and produce a new album; “I didn’t quit work – I did a different kind of work.”

What I’ve learned along the way disrupted everything I thought I knew about what true success and being a good person looks like: I discovered:

* we don’t have to be torn between two worlds – we can have the best of both worlds.

* hard-work is over-rated – fun is not a four letter word

* it’s not always better to give than to receive

* people can’t jump on our bandwagon if it’s parked in the garage

* change doesn’t require courage – it requires trusting that the only way to know is to go

* to create the quality of life we deserve, we need to stop watering dead plants

* it’s not selfish to put yourself in your own story

* waiting is a prescription for regrets

* we can can combine work and recreation and leverage what we’re good at – for good

* someday is not a day in the week

* we don’t have to put aside what puts the light on in our eyes – we can integrate it into our daily life in a way that makes us even more balanced and blessed.

Want an example of what I mean?

When I lived on Maui, I played tennis with Kathy, a 4.5  player and Realtor. Then, the economy slumped and she quit tennis because she was so busy finding clients.

I suggested her hobby wasn’t an indulgence – it was a competitive edge. I suggested she approach the concierges at the Four Seasons and Grand Wailea Resort (both 5 diamond properties catering to affluent travelers – Kathy’s target demographic) and offer to play tennis with guests looking for a good game of singles. They started recommended her because she’d lived on the island for years, was a respected member of the community, and they trusted her to make this a good experience for their guests.

This turned into a win for everyone. Within a month, Kathy was back to playing tennis 3-5 times a week AND had several new clients buying houses. She didn’t offend anyone with hard selling. It was natural while sharing an iced-tea after a satisfying match, guests would ask “What do you do?” When they discovered she was a Realtor, they often ask if she had any properties of interest. Not only was Kathy back to being outside doing what put the light on in her eyes – it became an organic marketing tool that kept her visible and became her secret sauce to success in a down market.

Want to figure out how you can do more of what puts the light on in your eyes?

Check out my SerenDestiny site where I share posts on what a meaningful life looks and feels like for me and for dozens of people I’ve interviewed for my upcoming book Chase Meaning Not Clicks.  Hope you find these quotes, stories and insight inspiring and they help you create a more fulfilling life now … not someday.

Top 30 Quotes on Curiosity and Creativity

“Creativity is simply connecting new dots in new ways.” – Sam Horn, Intrigue Expert creativity connecting new dots - middle

If you’e read any of my books or attended any of my presentations, you already know I love quotes. Why? Pithy, profound, provocative quotes are a quick way to get our message’s foot in our readers’, viewers’ and listeners’ mental door. When we introduce something people haven’t heard before; they want to know more.

The thing is, the quotes need to be FRESH. If we launch into a quote people have seen or heard before, it’s more likely to earn a groan than an intrigued “Tell me more.”

Here are my favorite 30 quotes on creativity and curiosity. Hope you enjoy them and are able to use them to craft intriguing communications that elicit curiosity in your topic. I’ve added a sample of how each quote could offer fresh insight into a subject you’re addressing.

1. “If there were a rehab for curiosity; I’d be in it.” – CBS news anchor Diane Sawyer (Thankfully, there is no cure for curiosity. It’s one of the healthiest ways to live life.)

2. “I think we need a 12-step group for non-stop talkers. We’re going to call it On and On Anon.” – Paula Poundstone (We’re curious only when we’re listening and genuinely interested in understanding what the other person means – not when we’re talking).

3. “Curiosity will conquer fear more than bravery will.” – James Stephenson (Instead of trying to summon up courage – summon up curiosity.)

4. “I am in love with hope.’ – Tuesdays with Morrie Author Mitch Albom (Pessimism is an absence of hope or curiosity in how we can create a better future).

5. “There’s no such thing as a wrong note as long as you’re singing.” – singer Pete Seeger (There’s no wrong in creativity – the whole idea is to do it your way.)

6. “The minute you settle for less than you deserve, you get even less than you settled for.” – columnist Maureen Dowd (Compromise is often the death of curiosity; it means we’re giving up on finding a new way, a better way.)

7. “There is moment in every child’s life where a door opens and lets the future in.” – author Graham Greene (The goal is to be aware when a creative opportunity presents itself – instead of being so busy we overlook it.)

8. “What a wonderful life I’ve had. I only wish I’d realized it sooner.” – singer Colette (Part of a creative life is being grateful for life’s wonders now, not someday.)

9. “Life loves to be taken by the lapel and told, ‘I am with you, kid. Let’s go.’” – author Maya Angelou (Curiosity isn’t passive – it’s an energetic embracing of life).

10. Before there were drawing boards, what did we go back to?” – comedian George Carlin (A good sense of humor – and being curious to find more effective ways of doing things – is at the heart of creativity.)

11. “Guard your good mood.” – Academy Award-winning actress Meryl Streep (Being in a bad mood kills creativity and curiosity because they require positive energy.)

12. “To do what you love and feel that it matters; how could anything be more fun?” – Katherine Graham of the Washington Post (If you’re having fun, it’s a good sign you are being curious and creative.)

13. Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” – e. e. cummings (Yes, curiosity rests on a fundamental belief that the human spirit is a blessing to be experienced, not protected.)

14. “Teachers affect eternity. Who knows where their influence will end?’ – Henry Brooks Adams (If we can teach our kids anything, it’s that curiosity and creativity are encouraged and welcomed, not stifled and shut down.)

15. “I have the world’s best job. I get paid to hang out in my imagination all day.” – author Stephen King (Imagination + Curiosity = Creativity.)

16. “Let us then, be up and doing.” – author Longfellow (It’s not enough to believe in the importance of curiosity and creativity, we must ACTIVATE it in our everyday lives.)

17. “I have found if you love life, life will love you back.” – composer Arthur Rubenstein (A heartfelt yes to this quote – one of my favorites. Loving and appreciating life is at the core of creativity and curiosity.)

18. “Everyone thinks of changing the world, no one thinks of changing himself.” – author Leo Tolstoy (Instead of simply recommending what others should do, we must go first, set the example and model the creative change we’re suggesting).

19. “Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.” – Zora Neale Hurston (Instead of getting ahead of ourselves and jumping to conclusions; research requires that we be open to discovery and that our playing be purposeful.)

20. “It is always with excitement that I wake up in the morning wondering what my intuition will toss up to me, like gifts from the sea. Intuition tells the thinking mind where to look next.” – Jonas Salk (Creativity calls for us to honor intuitive nudges that are pointing us in new directions, pointing out new options.)

21. “”The world was shocked to learn I wrote a bestseller at 66. No matter how long you live, you have stories to tell. What else is there to do but head off on the Conestoga wagon of the soul?” – Pulitzer Prize winning author Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes (The good news is, we can be creative at any age if we keep our curiosity alive.)

22. “The purpose of life is to . . . matter; to feel it has made some difference that we have lived at all.” – Leo Rosten (One of the surest ways to make an enduring difference is to create a new way, a better way, to live life and do business).

23. “When you can do a common thing in an uncommon way; you will command the attention of the world.” – inventor George Washington Carver (by definition, creativity is looking for an uncommon answer. If it’s common, it’s not creative.)

24. “Creativity is based on the belief that there’s no particular virtue in doing things they way they’ve always been done.” – Rudolph Flesch (Turn status quo into status grow. Don’t be content to do same-old, same-old.)

25. “Curiosity is the wick in the candle of learning.” – William Ward (May we keep the fires of curiosity burning – and light the way with our creativity).

26. “I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift should be curiosity. – Eleanor Roosevelt (I agree. Einstein called this “knowledge curious;” and I did everything I could while my sons Tom and Andrew were growing up to encourage and support their curiosity – because as long as we’re curious about life’ we’ll always be engaged and eager to discover what’s next.)

27. “The travel impulse is mental and physical curiosity. It’s a passion. And I can’t understand people who don’t want to travel.” – Paul Thoreaux (This is why I set off on my Year by the Water. It grew out of a mental and physical curiosity about wanting to explore the many parts of this intriguing world I hadn’t yet had an opportunity to experience – out of an innate passion to discover what over the next knoll.)

28. “You can’t just give someone a creativity injection. You have to create an environment for curiosity and a way to encourage people and get the best out of them. Sir Ken Robinson (Have you seen Sir Ken Robinson’s #1 rated TED talk about how schools are killing creativity? He’s right. As leaders, teachers and parents, we need to create a climate conducive to creativity and curiosity – and that means not punishing people when they come alive with excitement and are bursting with creative energy.)

29. “Creativity is not just for artists. It’s for business people looking for a new way to close a sale; it’s for engineers trying to solve a problem; it’s for parents who want their children to see the world in more than one way.” – Twyla Tharp (I listened to Twyla Tharp’s excellent The Creative Habit while traveling across America. She says, “Every creative project needs a spine. What’s yours?” Mine is connection, for when we’re curious about what’s happening to and around us, we’re deeply connected.)

30. “It may be that our cosmic curiosity… is a genetically-encoded force that we illuminate when we look up and wonder.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson (Yes, looking up, looking out and looking around in wonder is the quintessence of curiosity.)

– – –

Sam Horn is on a mission to help people create more compelling, collaborative communications that add value for all involved. Her TEDx talk and books – including POP!, Tongue Fu!, IDEApreneur and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? – have been featured in New York Times, Forbes, INC and Fast Company and presented to NASA, Accenture, ASAE and National Geographic. Want Sam to present at your next convention? Contact Cheri@IntrigueAggency.com

How to Create a Unique Niche

“When you’re one-of-a-kind, you have no competition.” – Sam Horn, author of POP! and Got Your Attention?
create a unique niche

Do you wish you could:

* figure out what makes you original?

* clarify the secret sauce that makes you different?

* create a competitive edge that motivates decision-makers to pick you?

The good news is, you CAN do all the above. The secret is to create a unique and needed niche that gets you noticed by ideal clients.

Are you thinking, “I know I need to do that; I just don’t know how to do that?”

Join the club. In my 20 years of being a business/branding consultant; I’ve seen many entrepreneurs fail because they couldn’t figure out how they were special.

They weren’t able to differentiate themselves from others in their industry. They never created a winning competitive edge that helped them stand out and succeed.

So, I developed a step-by-step system to help my clients break out instead of blend in.

One of the steps in my system helps you identify what you’re bringing to the table that is special, that people value and are willing to pay for.

In other words, what are you good at? What do you do well that people want and need that they’ll hire you to do for them or teach to them?

Here’s a condensed version of my 4A Process for clarifying the strategic “secret sauce” that makes you special.

Sam Horn’s 4 A Approach to Creating a Unique and Needed Niche

Ask yourself the following questions to start clarifying what you know that other people want to know or want to have done for them.

ACHIEVEMENT: What have you achieved – that other people would like to achieve?

* Did you put yourself through college, build a house from scratch, get your pilot’s license, teach yourself to design websites that make money, retire at 40, launch a successful Kickstarter campaign?

* What did you accomplish that took discipline and perseverance – and other people could benefit from your lessons-learned on how to “stay the course”?

* What skill have you acquired you could reverse-engineer into a step-by-step methodology that will expedite people’s ability to do this fr themselves?

ADVERSITY: What challenges have you overcome – that other people would like to overcome?

· Did you deal with breast cancer, get down-sized, rebound from a difficult divorce, lose all your money in a financial scandal?

· What did you survive – that you could show other people how to survive?

· What did you learn “the hard way” and you want to prevent/minimize that pain for others and give them support so they don’t have to go it alone?

AVOCATION: What is a hobby you’re good at – that other people would like to be good at?

· Do you love to play piano, garden and grow your own vegetables, ride horses, play with smart phone photography – and you could turn that into a metaphor that gives you a fresh approach to a familiar topic?

· What do you do for fun – adventure travel, museum docent, astronomy clubs –that you could share with others who want more fun in their life?

· What do you do that lights you up – and you could integrate it into your job so you’re integrating your passion/profession instead of seeing them as separate?

ATTITUDE: What is a philosophy you have – that others would find relevant, inspiring, beneficial?

· What is an epiphany you’ve had – that could save others trial-and-terror learning?

· What is a favorite motto that keeps you motivated – that others might find helpful?

· What is a contrarian, provocative insight you have– that could open people’s eyes to an outdated/dangerous belief and lead to a transformational aha?

These questions have helped many of my clients leverage their lessons-learned into a successful business and earn a good living doing work they love that matters.

Want a few quick examples of how my clients have used these techniques to leverage their A’s into successful businesses?

Achievement:

Client David Glover is a Naval Academy grad, cancer survivor and world-class Ironman triathlete. However, he’s so much more than that. Check out his website to discover how he’s been able to leverage his A’s into a soul-satisfying business where he’s getting paid to speak, write, coach and direct running races around the country.

Adversity: Christina Grimm grew up in sunny California, playing competitive travel softball from age ten. You can imagine how thrilled she was to receive an athletic/academic scholarship to a Division I school. Unfortunately, their hypercritical coach only focused on what Christina did wrong, never on what she did right. The coach ruined her self-esteem and enjoyment of the game. She ended up leaving after one year, vowing never to play softball again.

Christina is pro-active though and decided that, instead of letting that toxic experience defeat her; she would turn it into a career and mission helping others who were being mistreated. She went back to college and got her PsyD. Her thesis? “The Effect of Coaching on the Self-Esteem of Teen-Aged Girls.” She is now a certified Tongue Fu! – Never Be Bullied Again instructor and offers programs on how to confidently speak up and take responsibility for being treated with the respect you want, need and deserve.

Avocation: A financial adviser wanted to know how she could possibly differentiate herself in that crowded industry. She had impressive credentials as she was frequently featured in the media as a result of her high-profile role for a nationally-known company, but she still needed a competitive edge for her work to stand out in the glut of “instant experts.”

I asked, “What do you do when you’re not working?”

Jan told me, “I play golf.”

I said with a smile, “We’re in business. Why not use smart golf as a metaphor for being a smart investor? You could call your book ‘Go for the Green.’ Talk yourself through a round of golf using each step of the process as an analogy. Your tips on how to make/save par can be used as a parallel for how to make/save money.”

This was strategic positioning as Jan’s target clients were executives and entrepreneurs, many of whom play golf. This was something they valued and wanted to get better at, which increased the likelihood of her being asked to speak at corporate events and association conventions, which often host golf tournaments before their meetings.

Attitude: Julie Jansen, a career coach, wanted a breakout book in her genre but told me, “Sam, all the great titles – like ‘Take This Job and Love It’ – are taken.”

I asked her a series of questions including, “What attitude do your clients have? What is something that frustrates them? What is something you hear, over and over again, when they come into your office?”

She thought about it for a moment, laughed and said, “You know what they all say? ‘I Don’t Know What I Want; But I Know It’s Not This.’”

I told Julie, “THAT’s the title of your book! People will look at it and think, ‘That’s EXACTLY how I feel! People buy books that resonate with them, and that title will resonate with potential readers because it articulates a problem they have they want solved.” Julie’s book has become an evergreen classic because it expresses an attitude and frustration many people in her target market feel.

So, how about you? Are you in a crowded industry? Are you having a hard time standing out? Are you not getting the clients you deserve?

Use this 4A Process to identify what you have to offer that can be turned into a legacy message and unique niche that helps you pop out of your pack. Your “A’s” are a goldmine waiting to be leveraged into a one-of-a-kind competitive edge that helps you stand out from your crowd vs. get lost in your crowd.

– –

Want more ways to create a unique niche that gives you a one-of-a-kind competitive edge? You’ll find them in POP! (which Ken Blanchard says is “an inspiring guide to getting heard, getting remembered, getting results.”) and Got Your Attention? ( presented to NASA, National Geographic, Accenture, ASAE and Ernst Young). Contact Cheri@IntrigueAgency.com to inquire about Sam’s consulting services and to arrange for her to share her inspiring, results-producing insights at your next conference.

Want to Know What To Say – When You Don’t Know What To Say?

Would you like to know what to say when you don’t know what to say?  Would you like to be able to think on your feet and respond proactively when people are being unfair, unkind or inappropriate?

Think about it. The irony is, we’re taught math, science and history in school; we’re NOT taught how to deal with difficult people – without becoming one ourselves. And, if we deal with the public, almost all of us deal with difficult people on a daily basis.

That’s where Tongue Fu!® comes in. It is a trade-marked communication process I developed twenty years ago to teach people what they can say – when they don’t know what to say – in the challenging situations many of us face every day.

Do you deal with the customers? Executive Book Summaries said these techniques are a “goldmine for anyone dealing with the public.” Hope they help you handle challenging situations more effectively and proactively – for the benefit of all involved.

Tongue Fu!® Tip #1. “What can I do when people complain?”

When people complain, don’t explain, Take the AAA Train. Explaining why something wasn’t done when it was supposed to be done makes people angrier because explanations come across as excuses. Instead, Agree, Apologize, Act. “You’re right, Mrs. Smith, we were supposed to send that material to you last week, and I’m sorry you didn’t receive it yet. If I could please have your name and address I’ll personally put that brochure in an envelope and make sure it goes out today.” Voila. Complaint over!

Tongue Fu!® Tip #2: “What can I do if people accuse me of something untrue?”

Whatever you do, don’t defend or deny untrue accusations. If someone blindsides you with an allegation, “You women are so emotional!” and you protest with, “We’re not emotional!” you’ve just proven their point. Instead, put the conversational ball back in their court with, “What do you mean?” Asking them to explain themselves will cause them to reveal the real issue and you can address that instead of reacting to their attack. Imagine an upset client claims, “You don’t care about your customers.” Protesting, “That’s not true. We pride ourselves on our quality service” turns this into a “Yes we do – No you don’t” debate. Instead ask, “What makes you think that?” The client may say “I’ve left three messages and no one’s called back.” Aaahh, the real issue. Now you know what’s really bothering her and you focus on that instead of reacting to her attack.

Tongue Fu!® Tip #3: “What can I do if people are arguing?”

Stop arguments with a hand gesture. No, not that one! If people are arguing and you try to talk over them, what will happen? They’ll talk louder. The voice of reason will get drowned out in the commotion. Putting your hand up like a policeman will cause them to pause for just a moment, which gives you a chance to get your verbal foot in the door. Then say these magic words, “We’re here to find solutions, not fault.” Remind them that John F. Kennedy said, “Our task is not to fix the blame for the past, it’s to fix the course for the future.” If the conversation starts deteriorating into a gripe session again, make a T with your hands and call out, “Time out. Calling each other names won’t help. Instead, let’s focus on how we can keep this from happening again.”

Tongue Fu!® Tip #4: “What if I have to give bad news?”

Don’t use the apathetic words, “There’s nothing I can do” or “There’s no way I can fix this.” A front desk manager at a hotel asked, “What can we say when people grumble about the rain? There’s nothing we can do about the weather. We’re not Mother Nature.” I told her, “The words, ‘There’s nothing” and “There’s no way‘ come across as a verbal dead-end. People will conclude you don’t care. They’ll get more louder in an effort to make you care. Use the words, ‘I wish,’ ‘I hope,’ or ‘There’s something’ to let people know you’re trying to help them. Say, ‘I wish I could bring out the sunshine for you. I know you were looking forward to some beach time’ or ‘I hope it clears up soon. In case it doesn’t, there’s something I can suggest. Here’s a list of rainy-day activities so at least you can make the most of your visit even if the sun doesn’t cooperate.'” In the real world, we can’t always give people what they want and we sometimes have to deliver bad news. We can at least give people our concern and offer options.

Tongue Fu!® Tip #5: “What can I do if someone makes a mistake?

If something’s gone wrong,don’t “should” on people. When we tell people what they should have done, they will resent us – even if what we’re saying is right. Why? People can’t undo the past. If they’re being reprimanded for something they can’t change, they’ll channel their feeling of helplessness or guilt into antagonism towards us. My mom used to tell me, “We can’t motivate people to do better by making them feel bad.” Telling people what they “should” have done makes them feel bad and doesn’t teach them how to do it better. When people make a mistake, be a coach, not a critic by using the words “in the future” to shape their behavior instead of shame it. Focusing on what they can do “from now on” helps them learn instead of lose face and they’re a lot more likely to do things differently “next time.”

Tongue Fu!®Tip #6: “What can I do if someone’s teasing me?

Develop a repertoire of Fun Fu! remarks. Erma Bombeck (bless her soul) said, “If we can laugh at it, we can live with it.” Are you sensitive about something? Perhaps you’ve put on a few pounds. You have a choice. You can be hyper-sensitive about this and give people the power to embarrass you, or you can come up with clever, non-combative comebacks and keep your wit(s) about you.

Want an example? I ran into a very tall man in an airport. The people in front of me were laughing and pointing at him. I thought, “How rude!” Then he got closer and I could see his t-shirt which said, “No, I’m not a basketball player!” The back of his shirt said, “Are you a jockey?” This man told me he used to dread going out of the house because everyone made smart-aleck remarks. He finally decided if he couldn’t beat ’em, he might as well join ’em. “This is nothing,” he said with a smile, “I have a drawer full of these shirts at home. My favorite says ‘I’m 6’13” and the weather up here’s fine.’ Ever since I started wearing these shirts,” he added, “I’ve had fun with my height instead of being frustrated by my height.” Fun Fu! responses can help you lighten up instead of tighten up so no one has the power to get under your skin or knock you off balance.

Tongue Fu!® Tip #7: “What if I have to tell someone no?”

Turn “NO, you can’t, because” into “YES, you can, as soon as.”

Imagine a staff member asks, “Can I have my paycheck early? I’m going on a trip this weekend” and you answer, “No you can’t have your paycheck because it hasn’t been approved by payroll.” That’s the truth, however people will get upset because they feel you’re brushing them off.. The words “can’t because” are like a verbal door slamming in their face. Want good news? You can often approve requests with the words, “Sure you can, as soon as” or “Yes you can, right after.” Re-word your reply to, “Yes, you can have your paycheck, as soon as it’s approved by payroll. Why don’t we give them a call, explain the circumstances and see if there’s any way they can speed things up.” One manager said, “I can’t wait to use this idea at home. My kids see me as a ‘big meanie’ because I’m always telling them ‘no.’ Next time they ask if they can go outside and play with their friends, instead of saying, ‘No you can’t, because you haven’t done your homework,’ I’m going to say, ‘Sure you can, as soon as you finish your homework.’ Instead of seeing me as the one blocking what they want, this makes them responsible for getting what they want. It changes the whole dynamic of our relationship.”

Have these sample response been helpful? Want more ways to keep your cool – even when other people aren’t? Check out Tongue Fu!® and Tongue Fu!® at School.

Are you thinking, “I’ve tried all these diplomatic approaches and they work with most people. However, there’s ONE person in my life who ignores all this.”

You may be dealing with a bully. Check out Never Be Bullied Again and take this quiz to see if you’re dealing with what I call a 5%er. If so, the stronger tips in that book show how to hold that person accountable for their unacceptable behavior so s/he starts treating you with the respect you want, need and deserve.

– – –

Sam Horn, TEDx speaker, and creator of the trademarked Tongue Fu!® process, is on a mission to help people create respectful communications that add value for all involved. Her work- including Tongue Fu®, POP! and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? – has been featured in New York Times, Forbes, Readers Digest, and INC, and presented to clients as diverse as National Geographic, Four Seasons Resorts, YPO, Capital One, Accenture, NASA and Cisco. If you’d like Sam (or one of her certified Tongue Fu® instructors) to teach your employees how to deal with difficult people – without becoming one themselves, contact Cheri@IntrigueAgency.com

Waiting for Your Ship to Come In?

I was in California recently to speak for the Central Coast Writers Conference. The day before my presentations, I headed to Morro Rock for an early morning walk.

As I explored the waterfront, watching the playful otters float and nurse their babies on their belly, I noticed some people gathered on the shore, eagerly gazing out toward the mouth of the bay. Curious, I walked over and asked, “What’s going on?”

The man closest to me said, “Oh, the San Salvador is arriving this morning.”

san-salvadore

“What’s the San Salvador?”

“It’s a fully-rigged replica of the Spanish galleon – Cabrillo’s flag ship – that discovered California. It should be here any minute.”

What an serendipitous discovery. To put this into context, every morning I listen to Colin Hay’s “Waiting For My Real Life to Begin” with its haunting lyrics about how many of us wait for our ship to come in. It’s a way to remind myself THIS is my real life and it’s up to me to create what I want – not wait for it to show up.

So, I walked to the point, peering through what the locals like to call a “marine layer” for my first glimpse of the ship. There it was emerging from the fog. A magnificent sight. I laughed as this thought occurred, “My ship just came in!”

This story doesn’t stop there. In fact, it just keeps getting better and better.

The next day I closed my conference keynote with the story of that special moment watching the San Salvador sail into the harbor. I added though that:

“Writers don’t wait for their ship to come in; they write their way out to it.

In fact, entrepreneurs – and writers are creative entrepreneurs – launch their ship. At their core, they’re designed and destined to explore. They set sail with their ideas and stories. They do not wait for perfect conditions. They know the value is in the voyage. They understand discoveries don’t happen in inertia. Setting a vision in motion is what makes it tangible which is where you reap the rewards. Writers understand it’s crucial to maintain confidence in their creative venture. Their role, their responsibility, is to launch … always to launch.”

Well, as soon as I launched that story, rewards started showing up.

A woman came up after my keynote and said, “Sam, my brother in law is actually in charge of the San Salvador Project. I’m sure he’d be glad to give you a tour.” Which is how I found myself interviewing Captain Ray Ashley below decks on the San Salvador the following day.

I hope you’re ready, because you cannot make up the stuff you’re about to read. You know what I’ve learned about stories? Fact is more fascinating than fiction.

What Captain Ray Ashley told me is a quintessential example of what can happen when we get an idea – and the facts indicate this can’t work and the finances aren’t there – but we choose to launch anyway.

This true story proves that if we keep the faith that what we’re trying to build is worthwhile – mini-miracles can unfold if we set our project in motion and give community an opportunity to jump onboard.

Here’s what happened.

The San Diego Maritime Museum originated the idea of creating the San Salvador and asked Ray to head up the project. Ray told me, “As a historian, I know it’s important for origin stories to be associated with a physical object. As soon you turn something conceptual into something concrete (think European immigration to America and the Mayflower); people are more likely to relate to it.

So, we thought the discovery of California (by the Spanish, multiple Native American tribes already lived here) would become even more ‘real’ and relevant if we built a working replica of the ship people could see, touch and walk on.”

The only problem? Their research estimated it would cost $6.2 million to build the ship. The entire annual operating budget of the San Diego Maritime Museum was $4.6 million. So, on paper, the facts and finances didn’t add up. Logically, it didn’t make sense to launch the project.

Thankfully, Ray said, the people in San Diego believed this project was worth doing and the project was approved. It was partially due to that incredibly supportive community that the project team made a crucial decision that directly led to the success of their venture.

They decided to build the ship in PUBLIC instead of in PRIVATE.

Ray told me, “If you operate in isolation, if you’re the only one providing the energy, ideas and vision; sometimes that’s not enough. But if you construct a project in public, well, people see what you’re doing and want to get on board. They’re eager to be part of something they can be proud of.

We arranged for the San Salvador to be built in plain sight, right next to a busy freeway. Within weeks, we had 50 volunteers showing up every single day.

These were ‘lay-people’ saying, ‘Put me to work. How can I help?’ and skilled craftsmen – nuclear physicists, shipwrights, architects – offering their years of valuable experience and expertise.

It was a blessing to have such an incredible team of individuals dedicated to making the project a success. And we needed those volunteers because they helped us persevere through one obstacle after another.

For example, our research showed there was only one wood strong enough and dense enough to carry the weight of this ship, and that was white oak.

The challenge is, there’s not much white oak left. We finally found a supplier and, imagine this, bought up the entire world’s supply of white oak.

Now, no tree grows in the shape of a ship. It took us months to mill the wood into the curves of the hull and sides. When that was done, we applied epoxy to about half the wood to make it waterproof. The only problem was, the epoxy was contaminated. Within 48 hours, the wood had started to curl and rot and was basically unusable. As you can imagine, we were devastated.

Thank heaven for the volunteers. When we told them what happened, one said, “You know, you should call this guy Jim who’s kind of an expert on living oak. It’s not white oak, but it’s close. You never know. Might as well check it out.”

Ray contacted Jim, and sure enough, living oak used to be protected but now it’s overgrown and Jim was able to supply them with enough wood to meet their needs … at a price they could afford.

Good news, right? Yes, but it was only a matter of time before they ran into another seemingly insurmountable obstacle.

It was time to embed lead into the hull to provide the necessary ballast, but the price of lead had skyrocketed and they could no longer afford it. So, they launched a creative “Get the Lead Out” campaign and invited people to donate any lead they might have lying around.

Ray said, “People were coming in with their fish weights, etc. We really appreciated what they were doing, but it would take decades to accumulate the amount of lead we needed, a few ounces at a time.

We felt we had run into a dead-end. Once again, our volunteers saved the day. One said, ‘You know, I used to work for this contractor out in the valley that went out of business. I think they used lead for some of their projects. Maybe they still have some left on their property.’

Captain Ray got in touch and explained his situation to the executive. He said, “Well, let me look around and I’ll get back to you.”

The next day he calls Ray and says, “How much lead do you need?”

Ray says, “180,000 pounds.” The guy chuckles and says, “Well, I’ve got 190,000 pounds of lead and you can have it all.”

Fast forward. The ship is almost ready to launch. The challenge now is they have to get this heavy ship from the boatyard across the highway into the water. The problem is, they’re almost out of money and can’t afford to build what will need to be a steel bridge with rollers to transfer the ship.

Once again, their volunteers come to the rescue.

One says, “Well, I have a colleague who owns a home-moving business. I don’t know if he can help but he definitely knows a lot about transporting heavy objects from one place to another. Why don’t you give him a call?”

To make a long story somewhat less long, suffice it to say, this individual had wanted to upgrade his capacity to move heavy equipment like cranes, so he offered to build the steel bridge for the San Salvador – for free – so he could offer this option to his future clients. Another “insurmountable” obstacle surmounted.

If you’ve ever built something, you know that every contractor uses an operational formula called the TCQ – Time, Cost, Quality – Triangle.

Essentially, it states that if you are willing to pay more money, you can increase quality and reduce time. If you don’t have much money, you may have to cut corners on quality. If you take more time, you can increase quality, but it will also increase costs. These three factors are always interacting, always in play.

However, one rule that is almost sacrosanct in the contracting-building-construction-project management industry is that the longer it takes to build something, the more it’s going to cost.

Guess what?

The San Salvador took three times longer than anticipated to build – and came in only a little over its original budget.

How can that be??

Well, I told Captain Ray I think he and the San Salvador team added a side to the TCQ triangle and turned it into a TCQC rectangle.

captain-ray-ashley

I think they proved that if you go public with your venture, if you ask for help and give people ways to contribute – they can actually reduce costs because they’re using their six-degrees-of-separation to connect you with people who can supply your provisions, remove your obstacles and solve your problems.

The San Salvador team demonstrated the mini-miracles that emerge when we build projects with a TCQC – Time Cost Quality Community – Rectangle.

When you involve your community, they bring so much to the table in terms of experience, expertise, energy and strategic alliances, you ultimately reduce costs and time. Perhaps more importantly, you improve the quality of the experience for everyone involved and you scale the reach and positive impact of your venture.

When I visited Captain Ray that day in Morro Bay, there were lines of an hour or two to tour the San Salvador. People had traveled from around the country to see, touch and walk around the ship.

Ray said, “That was our vision and it’s enormously rewarding to see it come true. We gave donors and volunteers an opportunity to hammer their initials into the keel. We’ve had dozens of families show up where the dad or mom or grandparent proudly pointed out the part of the ship they worked on.

They feel like they’re part of the story. They love telling the story of the ship they ‘helped build.’ They’re so proud to be able to put their hands on something they helped bring into being.”

As I wrapped up my time with Ray, I couldn’t help but reflect on the many ways the San Salvador project is a perfect metaphor for my Year by the Water project.

I too launched a venture when the “numbers” weren’t there. I didn’t have a financial sponsor for this trip. If I had focused only on the logical aspects of this venture, (e.g., “Give away 95% of what I own? Set off into the unknown?!”) it didn’t add up, didn’t make sense … on the surface.

But deep down, I knew this was important, what I wanted to do. I too wanted to explore our magnificent country. I too wanted to travel on and visit bodies of water. I too had faith this project would be meaningful for me and others. I too had to maintain my confidence this venture was worth doing – even when there were no guarantees.

I too went public and experienced an outpouring of support. I received gracious emails from my community saying, “Come to this lake where Helen Keller said her first word, ‘Water.” “I live near Walden’s Pond, come visit me.” “You can stay in our vacation home on Chesapeake Bay.” “Hang out on my houseboat in Sausalito.” “I have a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired cabin in Pt. Reyes National Seashore. You can write there.”

And I’m here to tell you, a year after launching my “ship,” that the secret sauce of a successful project is indeed … COMMUNITY.

Yes, I’ve enjoyed the many places I’ve had the opportunity to experience. Yet it’s the people I’ve connected with who have made this adventure even more meaningful, even more of a QUALITY experience in every sense of the word.

How about you? What is the project you want to build, the creative venture you want to launch, the dream you want to achieve?

If you juxtapose it, if you put a vertical line down the center of a piece of paper, there may be some fears on the left side. Maybe the numbers don’t add up. If you consider only the facts, figures, left-brain logic, it may not “make sense” to head off into the unknown where there are no guarantees. As long as you stay focused on the left-side of the ledger, your project will stay in the boatyard.

However, if you switch over to the right side of the ledger and focus on your faith that this creative project has value, your belief this adventure is worth doing, the meaning it might have for you and others… it will help give you the confidence and courage to set your creative vision in motion.

When you do launch your dream project, be sure to take it public. Tell people what you’re doing. Share your vision. Invite their input. Ask for their contributions. Enlisting your community adds an all-important ingredient to the equation.

A project that may have been unfeasible because it was dependent on the TCQ Triangle is now feasible because you’re adding the secret sauce of community.

You have just exponentially increased your odds of success because you won’t be operating in isolation, you won’t just be doing this for and by yourself.

You will have a TCQC _ Time Cost Quality Community Rectangle that is leveraging a group of people who are doing everything in their power to help you move your project forward because they are invested in its success.

And isn’t that what we want? Not just a meaningful and productive life where we’re fulfilling our SerenDestiny and the light is on in our eyes, but to have the privilege and opportunity to share what we care about with other people who care about the same things.

What is it you want to do? Don’t just follow that dream; LAUNCH it.

dont-just-follow-your-dreams-launch-them

– – –

Sam Horn, Founder and CEO of the INTRIGUE AGENCY, helps people create respectful, collaborative one-of-a-kind communications and projects that add value for all involved. Her inspiring TEDx talk and keynotes receive rave reviews from such clients as National Geographic, Intel, Cisco, Capital One, NASA, Accenture and Boeing. Her work – including POP!, Tongue Fu!, and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? – have been featured in New York Times, Forbes, Fast Company and NPR and MSNBC.

Want more ways to lead a creatively productive life? Check out Sam’s inspiring Year by the Water updates at her site on SERENDESTINY

Start with a Story

A new client told me, “I don’t have any stories.” I told her, “We ALL have stories. Stories are simply the intriguing things that happen to or around us.”
stories-are-simply-the-intriguing-things

She came back with, “But I wouldn’t know how to tell a story even if I had one.”

I promised to share this post which shows how to notice and collect real-life stories and re-enact them so they come alive. First, I’ll start with a story.

Several summers ago, I realized how sedentary I’d become. Like many Americans, I spend 12 hours a DAY sitting and it had taken a toll on my health.

I decided to change things up. I lived on a lake outside Washington DC in a community with 20 public pools. I vowed to swim four times a week and to visit every single one of the pools in my neighborhood by Labor Day weekend.

One sunny afternoon, after a long day of writing, I decided it was time to get up and get moving. I jumped in my van and went “pool shopping.” I noticed a new pool I hadn’t tried before tucked under some shade trees, parked and went in.

As soon as I walked in, I realized I’d found the “family” pool. The place was packed with kids playing Marco Polo and featured one of those mushroom-shaped fountains in the wading pool. It did my heart good to know kids still play Marco Polo.

I found a chaise lounge next to a woman watching her three young kids. Just then, a man wearing a business suit walked in. The three kids bounded out of the pool and ran to meet him, calling out “Daddy, Daddy.”

He hugged them, gave his wife a peck on the cheek and headed to the locker room to change into his swim trunks. Moments later, he was in the pool with his kids. They were diving off his shoulders and proudly showing him the strokes they’d learned in their swim lessons. It was a scene right out of a Norman Rockwell painting.

All of a sudden, he paused, looked up at his wife almost in a state of wonderment and said, “Hon, why don’t we make this our default? Why don’t we meet at the pool every night after work?”

I have to admit, I held my breath. I looked at her, thinking, “Please say yes.”

She thought about it for a moment, nodded and said simply, “Why don’t we?”

In five seconds, they abandoned an old default and adopted a new one. Instead of, “Get up, go to work, come home;” it was now “Get up, go to work, go to the pool, come home.”

Who knows, that family may always remember that summer as the one they met Dad at the pool every night after work. Perhaps I”m being a Pollyanna about this, but maybe they will remember that summer as the one everything was right with their world.

So, what’s this got to do with you? Imagine you’re giving a presentation about changing habits. Or you’re talking to your team about the dangers of sitting for hours at at a time, all day, every day.

You could start by sharing research that explains how difficult it is to adopt new habits. You could begin with a study that reveals sitting is considered the “cigarettes of our era” in terms of how hazardous it is to our health.

Or you could start off with a story SHOWING how someone changed a habit that lead to a more positive, productive, proactive life. You could start off with a real-life example of someone who, in seconds, replaced an old default with a new default that immediately benefited them and everyone involved.

Which do you think will be more effective?

In today’s world of INFObesity (information that comes across as blah-blah-blah) people are more likely to relate to and remember real-life stories that show vs. tell.

Are you thinking, “But I don’t have any stories.” or “I’m not good at telling stories?”The good news? Remember, stories are simply the intriguing things that happen to you and around you.

Ask yourself, “What point do I want to make in my presentation or in this meeting?” Or, “What is the SHIFT I want my listeners, readers, employees to make?” Then ask yourself, ‘Where have I seen someone DO that, LEARN that, EXPERIENCE that at work, at home or in my community?”

Now, all you have to make that story come alive is to “put people in the S.C.E.N.E” by re-creating what was said and done. Re-enact that experience with these five tips so people feel it’s happening to or around them, right now.

The key to making a story believable and relatable is not to make it up. it’s to re-enact something that actually happened so people trust it and you.

When you put people in the S.C.E.N.E., you’re not “telling a story,” (which some skeptics may suspect you got off the internet); you’re sharing a real-life example that shows what you’re suggesting has worked for others – and how it can work for everyone listening and reading too.

TIPS FOR SHARING A STORY BY PUTTING PEOPLE IN THE S.C.E.N.E.

S = SENSORY DETAIL: Describe the time, place and location with just enough vivid sensory detail so we feel like we’re standing or sitting right next to you. Describe what it looked like – maybe even what it smelled like, tasted like, felt like, sounded like – so we’re seeing it in our mind’s eye.

C = CHARACTERS: Who is in the scene? Describe the individuals involved so we can picture them and so we know their MOOD. Are they busy, frazzled and stressed? Happy? Angry? Excited? What’s his/his name? If you want us to CARE about your CAREacters, flesh them out so we feel we know them.

E = EXPERIENCE IT: Robert Frost said, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” I think, “No epiphany in the speaker, no epiphany in the listener.” This may be the hundredth time you’ve told this story, but if you mentally put yourself back in the scene, re-experience it as if it’s the first time, and re-enact it as if it’s happening NOW, you will feel what you felt then – and we will too.

N =NARRATIVE: Why can we read novels for hours at a time and it’s not hard work? It’s because authors use narrative – e.g., “He said, She said” – so we feel we’re right in the middle of the conversation. Simple said, narrative is a non-negotiable if you want your story to come alive. Include who said what with comma/quotes “(i.e., “He said, “Why don’t we change our default.” She said, ”Why don’t we?.”) so your story is organic, original and REAL.

E = EPIPHANY: What is the lesson-learned, the happy ending, the problem that was solved, the shift that occurred, the aha where the light comes on, the band plays and it all makes sense? Every story needs a “moral of the story” so it achieves a purpose and the audience gets the point. What’s yours?

A mantra of the speaking profession used to be, “Make a point, tell a story.” That advice is outdated. In these days of short-attention-spans and INFObesity, if you take too long to make your point, people will never make it to the story.

As John Steinbeck said, “If there’s magic in story-telling, and I’m convinced there is, the formula seems to lie solely in the aching urge to convey something you feel is important.”

If you START WITH A STORY and put people in the S.C.E.N.E of a true experience that’s important to you and that illustrates your idea … it will eloquently make your point for you.

Better yet, if you relive that experience in your mind and vividly remember what it felt like, your audience will feel what you felt. That is connection, and that is the point of all communication … to connect, always to connect.

– – – –

Sam Horn, Founder/CEO of the Intrigue Agency and TEDx speaker, is on a mission to help people create respectful, one-of-a-kind communications that add value for all involved. Her work – including IDEApreneur, Tongue Fu! POP! and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? – has been featured on NPR and in New York Times and presented to National Geographic, Boeing, Cisco, Capital One.

Reporting in from United Nations

Thanks to Kunal Sood for giving me the opportunity to be a delegate at the inspiring Novus Summit at the United Nations this past Sunday.

Here are just a few of the many highlights of that incredible day.

One of the speakers talked about there being two types of people in the world – those who wear a red cape and “fight bad things”- and those who wear a blue cape and “grow good things.”

The speaker who originated this insight (and I would love to attribute this to the right speaker – so if you know who said this, please contact me so I can give credit where credit is due) claims we NEED BOTH red cape people and blue cape people.

We need people who are willing to step up, take on the dark forces and do something about them.

And we need people who initiate and create positive breakthroughs and technological advances that benefit us all.

(Personally, I think there is a third kind of person. Black cape people who choose to rant and rave or complain about what’s wrong. It’s tempting and oh-so-easy to do that. Especially when we watch what’s happening on the news and are outraged, worried or discouraged by it. But .. it … doesn’t … help. It only adds to the darkness – only amplifies what’s wrong.)

Closing speaker Peter Diamandis, founder of the X Prize Foundation and co-founder of Singularity University, is a walking-talking example of a blue caper-talking example of a blue caper.

peter diamandis

Whether it is his book on Abundance; or his passion and purpose for leveraging innovation in the various X Prize competitions; he is a model for how we can choose to allocate our time, attention and resources to creating initiatives that proactively address issues and add value for all involved.

As Peter says, “Lots of people dream big and talk about big bold ideas but never do anything. I judge people by what they’ve done. The ratio of something to nothing is infinite. So just do something.”

Peter is a 100% blue cape DOER – as was every single one of the thought-leaders featured on Sunday including:

* Peabody winner and former head of the CNN International desk Parisa Khosravi, who asked the provocative question, “What if were to COME BACK to earth? Would we see it with fresh, more empathetic, proactive eyes?”

* astronauts Anousheh Ansari, Dan Barry and Scott Parazynski, who all made good on their childhood dreams of going into space and who are now leveraging what they’ve learned “up there” by applying it “down here.”

* Maysoon Zayid, who has the most watched TED talk of 2014 with more than 7 1/2 million views. Within the first two minutes, we all understood why. Maysoon, an Arab-American actress, stand-up comic, philanthropist and advocate for the disabled, is a force of nature. As she says, “I’m like Shakira meets Muhammad Ali. I shake all the time. I have 99 problems; cerebral palsy is just one of them.”

* Martin Seligman, often called the “Father of Positive Psychology,” who gave this piece of deceptively simple – yet profound – advice.
Before you go to bed tonight (and every night), ask yourself, “What are three things that went well today? How did I contribute to that?

I love this idea because it’s a way to “blue cape” our perspective.

Think about it. When we reflect on our day, we have a choice.

We can focus on – and rant and rave about or be discouraged by – what went wrong (a black cape).

Or we can focus on – and celebrate, appreciate and elevate – what went well (a blue cape).

Choosing to focus on what went well renews our appreciation keeps our blessings front and center and top of mind.

Perhaps even more importantly, thinking about how we might have played a role in what went well helps us understand and own the fact that we can – in fact, we are – contributing to the well-being of ourselves and others’, right here, right now

We don’t have to be a thought-leader at the UN to be a blue caper.

That’s wonderful and welcome. But on a daily basis, every single one of us can choose to focus on growing good things. And when we do, everyone benefits.

Thanks again Kunal – and kudos to you and your team – for creating an event that focused on and grew good things – not just for everyone in that grand hall – but for everyone who will be positively impacted by what was shared and initiated on Sunday.

sam novus

Want more insights from Sam’s conferences, travels, and connections?  Visit www.SerenDestiny.com and her LinkedIn blog.