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.

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.”
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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.

Why It’s Worth Making – and Keeping – New Year’s Resolutions

 

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“I have heard every excuse in the book – except a good one.” –Bob Greene

During dinner at an end-of-the-year conference in Charleston, SC, I asked my seat-mate, “What are your New Year’s resolutions?

She looked at me, shrugged and said, “Oh, I don’t make resolutions anymore.  I just end up breaking them, so what’s the use?”

“Wow,” I thought. “That’s like giving up hope.”

My friend Glenna Salsbury, former President of National Speakers Association, wrote a great book on this subject entitled, “The Art of the Fresh Start.”

I too believe in fresh starts.

I believe that on any given day, we can choose to do things differently.  It’s one of the great blessings of being human and being alive.

I don’t believe history has to predict our future … unless we let it.  Just because we’ve broken resolutions in the past, doesn’t mean we can’t get them right this time.

“Fall down seven times, get up eight,” as the saying goes.

You know what I’m doing to turn my resolutions into reality?  I’m focusing on what I DO want instead of what I DON’T want.

My clarity around this was triggered by two emails our office received this morning.

The first said, “Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have questions or we can serve as a resource.”

The second was from an executive’s assistant who said, in response to our request to change appointment, “I don’t think that will be a problem.”

Yikes. I copied the emails to my team and said, “Teaching moment. My books Tongue Fu! and ConZentrate both emphasize the concept that, “Our mind can’t focus on the opposite of an idea.”

When we tell ourselves and others what NOT to do, we increase the likelihood we’ll do the unwanted behavior. For example, what do you think about while reading the following phrases?

  • “Don’t worry.”
  • “Stop running around the pool.”
  • “I don’t like it when you get angry.”
  • “Whatever you do, don’t fumble the ball.”

The words “don’t,” “stop” “won’t” and “not” are “ghost” words.

When they’re paired with an unwanted behavior, “Don’t get mad,” or “Stop interrupting me,” or “I not going to be nervous,” “Make sure you don’t double-fault” or “I won’t let him intimidate me,” our mind focuses on and manufactures the very thing we DON’T want.

That’s why, when someone says, “Don’t hesitate to call,” they’re introducing the word “hesitate” which means we’ll think twice before contacting them.

It’s better to say, “We hope you’ll call if you have questions.” or “Feel free to reach out if …”  or “We look forward to hearing from you if we can serve as a resource.”

For many people, the word problem means “something’s wrong.”  Why give people the impression something wrong if there isn’t?  How about changing “That won’t be a problem,” to “That will work fine” or “Yes, he’s open at 4:30 and I’ve changed it on his calendar.”

Words matter.  It’s in everyone’s best interests to mindfully select words that focus on the DESIRED behavior instead of the DREADED behavior.

This applies to our New Year’s Resolutions too. Instead of phrasing them to focus on what we DON’T want; phrase them so they focus on what we DO want.   For example:

“I’m going to stop sitting for 12+ hours every day and being a couch potato” becomes “I move joyfully at least a half hour every morning, afternoon and evening.”

“I’m not going to work 7 days a week” becomes “I reclaim my weekends as family/friend time and fun, recreational sports time.”

“I don’t eat desserts or fatty, processed foods” becomes “I love eating fresh fruit and healthy, from-the-earth food that makes me feel lean and clean and energetic.”

“I’m not going to waste my time being around toxic people” becomes “I seek out and hang out with quality people who thrill me with how they’re showing up in the world.”

Please note; switching the words we choose to lose and use transcends semantics.

Making a SMALL change in how we language our resolutions can make a BIG difference in whether they become reality.
Instead of our resolutions ending up being a “to-do list for the first week of the year” (as Annie Taylor Label humorously pointed out; in the cartoon at the top of this article); they can help us live up to our vision of a better self and a more rewarding life.

I’m ready for a wonderful year.  How about you?

 

[photo via Flickr User Sam JR // Creative Commons]