What’s Your Review-Preview? Are You “Piloting” Your Time?

Michael Altshuler says, “The bad news is, time flies. The good news is, you’re the pilot.”

Yet many of us DON’T feel like we’re the pilot of our time. Months (years) blend and blur into each other. Time races by and many of us feel we’ll never get caught up.

This is an antidote to this. One way to “get caught up” is to reflect on all the good ways our time has been spent this past year – to identify and honor the people, places and experiences that have been a good use of our time. national-press-club-group-picture-12-10-2010-2

These questions can help you do that. I’ve used variations of them at Review-Preview gatherings with friends and family and at National Press Club salons.

Taking the time to answer these questions an excellent way to “connect and reflect” and honor who and what has impacted you this past year – and why. Then turn your attention to the new year and clarify what your’re looking forward to – what you can do, see, think and feel to “pilot” this upcoming year so it will be TIME WELL SPENT.

At the end of his life, when finishing his book The Last Lecture (which was his “message in a bottle” of life-lessons he wanted to pass on to his kids), Randy asked himself what he knew for sure and it was this:

“We cannot change the cards we are dealt; just how we play the hand. Are you spending your time on the right things? Because time is all you have.”

You might want to print these questions and share them over a meal with friends or family or at an upcoming staff meeting with employees. They can lead to a meaningful discussion about what really matters, which in itself it time well spent.

P.S. I’ve included my abbreviated answers to these questions at the end to kick-start this process. Enjoy, and happy, healthy holidays to you and your loved ones.
Review of the past year:

1. What is a favorite place I discovered, explored or spent time in?
2. Who is someone who really impacted me? How so?
3. How did I change? What new beliefs and behaviors did I adopt?
4. What’s a meaningful achievement I’m proud of?
5. What happened that was unexpected or surprising? How did it affect me?
6. What will I remember about my health from this year and why?
7. What was my biggest challenge – lesson learned the hard way?
8. What did I NOT find time for?
9. What is the best book I read or movie/TV program I saw?
10. What experience and/or person am I most grateful for? Why?

PLEASE NOTE: When previewing the coming year, you might want to state your intentions in the PRESENT OR PAST TENSE as opposed to the FUTURE tense. Why? Our subconscious believes what we tell it. Saying “I’m going to meet … “ or “I will achieve …” comes across as wishful thinking. Saying, “I loved meeting … “ or “It was so satisfying achieving that …” is perceived as a statement of truth. It helps turns our hopes into a “done deal.” This is a way to practice ADVANCE GRATITUDE. By focusing on what we would love to happen in the new year, we facilitate that happening. Envisioning a life, business and career we love helps to create it.


Preview of the coming year so you can “pilot” your time and ensure it is spent on the “right things.”

1. A particularly satisfying achievement this past year was …
2. A new place I thoroughly enjoyed discovering/exploring was …
3. I am so glad I got to meet and spend time with .. S/he really impacted me because …
4. I loved acquiring this skill and/or getting back into this hobby because …
5. I am grateful for doing this spiritual practice …. It made every day more …
6. I will always be glad I took better care of my body/health by …
7. I finally made time for …
8. One way I contributed and gave back was to …
9. Something that really added joy and/or FUN to my life was ….
10. One of the most important ways I changed was to …

Sam Horn’s abbreviated responses to the Review of 2016. Charles Bukowski said, “Time races by like wild horses over the hills.” Taking the time to answer these questions can help you “pilot” your time so you’re making the most of it in the new year.


1. What is a favorite place I discovered, explored or spent time in?
(Sam – swimming with Zach the Dolphin at Marineland in Florida.)

2. Who is someone who really impacted me? How so?
(Sam – Mary Loverde for teaching me to abandon absolutes and that receiving, receiving, receiving is as important as giving, giving, giving.)

3. How did I change?
(Sam – I actually started eating vegetables – can you say kale and spinach?! – in greenies and liked them! Thank you Wildfit!)

4. What was a meaningful achievement (or skill acquired, dream goal realized) I’m proud of?
(Sam – Attended a workshop with Charles Needles and Dewitt Jones in Monet’s Garden in France – and learned to use my iphone camera to produce quote-images I post on Instagram. It’s fun, purposeful and a source of instant creative gratification.)

5. What happened that was unexpected? How did it affect me?
(Sam – Almost passed up an opportunity to speak in China because of unexpected doubts. What was unexpected was it was unlike me to “play it safe.” I re-committed to being adventurous and bold instead of being cautious and wary.)

6. What will I remember about my health – and why?
(Sam – I cracked my ribs and lost my freedom of movement for a few months. Made me re-appreciate what a gift it is to be healthy and to have complete mobility and no pain.)

7. What was my biggest challenge?
(Sam – My biggest challenge on my Year by the Water was learning to see my calendar as having OPEN days vs. EMPTY days so I didn’t revert to a decades-old habit of saying yes and filling my days with commitments.)

8. What did I NOT find time for?
(Sam – Hudson Valley, Walden Pond and the lake where Helen Keller said her first word, “Water,” which is why my Year by the Water is SO not over. )

9. What is the best book I read?
(Sam – Commonwealth by Ann Patchett. Proves that “literary” books about the human condition can be kind, insightful and a page-turning read.

10. What experience and/or person am I most grateful for? Why?
(Sam, my sister Cher who runs my business and who I trust implicitly. My sons Tom and Andrew, their wives Patty, Miki, and grandson Mateo for gifting me with a family I love. My friends who bless me with their generosity and positive spirit. My most important lesson-learned? Connection is the current that runs through my life. It my Holy Grail. You are all with me, wherever I am, and I am grateful. )

– – –
Sam Horn, Intrigue Expert, TEDx speaker, author of POP!, Tongue Fu! and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? is on a mission to help people create one-of-a-kind projects that add value for all involved and has worked with Boeing, NASA, Cisco, Intel and National Geographic.

Got Your Attention? Wins Book of the Year Award

What a thrill to hear from publisher Berrett-Koehler that my book GOT YOUR ATTENTION? is the INDIEFAB gold medal winner in the career category.  Here ‘s the announcement from Foreword Reviews.

Following that good news, I went to Amazon.com and discovered it is trending at #4 in ‪#‎Business‬ ‪#‎Money‬ ‪#‎Sales‬ ‪#‎Marketing‬ ‪#‎Presentations‬

Then I went to LinkedIn and discovered this post on WHY TO NEVER GIVE AN ELEVATOR SPEECH – AND WHAT TO SAY INSTEAD (excerpted from “Got Your Attention?”) has more than 21,000 views and 649 shares.

Things just kept getting better. My publisher Berrett-Koehler got in touch to let me know foreign rights for Got Your Attention? have not only been sold to China, Korea, Turkey, Greece, and Poland – they were also just sold to Russia.

So, this is a very good day.

Thanks to Berrett-Koehler Publishers and for being selected PUBLISHER ‪OF THE YEAR. Check out this wonderful interview with BK’s CEO Steve Piersanti to get insights into why they were chosen for this well-deserved award.

To all my colleagues, clients, audience members and author friends; thank you for your support, positive feedback, and for buying the book and spreading the word about it to your company and convention decision-makers.

When you write a book, you never know how it’s going to be received. You can hope, but you can’t know.

So, for Got Your Attention? to have become a Washington Post bestseller, and to read the reviews – not just from endorsers Dan Pink, Marshall Goldsmith, Keith Ferazzi, Elizabeth Lesser (co-founder of Omega Institute),  Terry Jones (founder of Travelocity), Kay Koplovitz (co-founder of USA Network) etc. – but from people I’ve never met who took the time to share how the book has impacted them … please know how much it means to me.

For example, Martin P gave it a 5 Star review on Amazon and said, “The way you should judge any business book is: does it give you actionable, real world advice that gets results? This book does. It has made a massive difference to my business again and again. Better networking conversations, better selling through listening first, a better structure in my keynotes, I could go on and on – this book really has made a difference to my income again and again. Incredible advice in such an engaging format. Just brilliant, thank you, Sam!”

And special thanks to Kathleen Hassan who gave the most recent review: “There Is NO Connection without Quality Attention” and no one walks her talk more than Sam Horn. I had the privilege of being with Sam recently in Washington DC for the United State of Women Summit. I haven’t seen Sam in over thirteen years, but she made me feel important as if she were meeting the First Lady herself. And while in line with Sam, making our way into the conference hall, Sam gave that same kind of rapt attention to everyone she came in contact with. She is genuinely curious about people and asks the most “intriguing” questions. She is brilliant and generous with her time and ideas and I feel blessed to get to swim in her sea of wisdom and insight. The ideas in this book are so relevant and applicable and the W5 form alone is worth the price of the book to get clarity about every communication I create so that I am able to connect on a deeper level so that my clients feel important and heard too.

Heartfelt thanks to all of you. I hope Got Your Attention? continues to make a positive difference for you, helps you create INTRIGUE communications that earn respect for your projects and priorities, and helps you actually enjoy meeting people and create more meaningful connections with everyone you meet, on and off the job.

W5 Form: Your Drawing Board for Relevant, Mutually-Rewarding Communications

Sparkly W

“What did we go back to before there were drawing boards?” – George Carlin

Several years ago, we were sharing our favorite quotes at a salon I hosted at the National Press Club in Washington DC.  

Journalist Eleanor Clift stood up and said, “My favorite quote is, ‘We’re all in a race to be relevant.”

I told her, “That’s a fantastic quote.  Who said that?”

She smiled and said, “I said that!”  

She’s right.  In today’s rush-rush world, if we’re not relevant, we’re irrelevant.

From now on, before you walk into an important meeting, presentation, pitch or negotiation, take five minutes to fill our your W5 form.

It’s your drawing board to ensure that what you’re saying is relevant so people decide you’re worth their valuable time, mind and dime.

WHAT is an upcoming situation/communication (internal or external) you want to prepare? Presentation? Staff meeting? Negotiation? Funding pitch? Client proposal? Website? Social Media campaign? Marketing Copy? Conference Call? Other?


WHO is your intended audience/decision-maker? What is their name, age, gender? What is their level of interest, familiarity, resistance? What are their problems? Needs? What is their mood? (Impatient? Skeptical? Eager?) Describe them so you can SEE them.


WHERE and WHEN will this take place? Business luncheon? Their office at 9 am? At a noisy restaurant? Half-empty hotel ballroom after lunch? Online anytime? Friday at 4:30 at company headquarters? An international Skype call and everyone’s in different time zones?


WHY will this be an ROI for your audience/decision-makers? Why will it be worthwhile for them to pay attention? What are the “makes & saves?” How will this make them money, save them time, make them healthier, wealthier, wiser, produce bottom-line benefits?


WHY will this be an ROI for you? What 3 possible outcomes would make this a tangible success for you, your project or business? What do you want them to stop, start, feel, do differently?  What measurable actions do you want them to take, when?


Want to hear a couple of my favorite success stories that show the importance of filling out a W5 Form?

A potential client reached out to discuss a pitch she was preparing for a well-known airline.  A popular fitness guru, she was proposing that they sponsor in-flight fitness videos and her new TV show on a travel channel.

I asked her, “Do you have a tagline or slogan yet?”

“Yes,” she told me.  “It’s, ‘Get out of your comfort zone.'”

Yikes.  I was on the airline’s website.  Guess what their slogan was?  Get IN Your Comfort Zone.

That would have been a disaster.  She could have spent a lot of time and money on this pitch – and taken herself out of the game in the first 60 seconds because what she was proposaing flew in the face of their brand positioning and messaging.

That’s one reason it’s worth doing your W5 homework before you approach your decision-makers.

Here’s another.

I was working with a department head of a Fortune 500 tech company based in Silicon Valley.  He was preparing for his annual all-hands meeting and had just showed me his finished power-point deck.

I asked him, “How do you want people to feel at the end of your presentation?”

Blink. Blink.  “Feel?”

“Yes.  This is your annual all-hands meeting where everyone comes together to review the previous year and preview the coming year.”

“Well, I guess I want them to feel … proud.  We not only hit all our numbers, we exceeded them.”

“Okay, what else?”

“Well,  I want them to feel  … excited.  We’ve got a big launch coming up in Q1 and I want them looking forward to it.”

“Got it.”  I paused, then asked. “Do you think you might want to put some pictures of people in your deck?”

Clearly, this had never occurred to him.  He was a tech guy.  His deck was filled with numbers, graphs and grids; but not one picture of a human being.

He was a quick study. The next day he asked the company photographer to go around and take pictures of the individuals who had put in the 60 hour weeks, put out the fires, and pulled off the miracles … and he integrated them into his deck.

He got in touch the next week to say, “Sam, you should have seen them.  People were going around cheering and high-fiving each other.  The mood and energy in the room was off the charts.”

Kudos.  That’s the power of putting yourself in the scene of your high-stakes situation beforehand, and planning how to make this a win for your audience and for you.

How about you?  What’s that important communication you’ve got coming up?  Invest the time in advance to fill out your W5 Form (excepted from my Got Your Attention? book) and you will dramatically increase the likelihood of it being a success – for all involved.


Focus Pocus

5 Magical Ways to Focus and Flow When It Matters Most

“I think the one lesson I’ve learned is there is no substitute for paying attention.” – news anchor Dianne Sawyer

 Are you thinking, “I agree, but how can I focus when I’m busy, tired, overwhelmed or uninterested?”

These five Focus Pocus tips can help you concentrate on command — whether you’re writing a blog, trying to answer emails, or working in a noisy office.

F = Five More Rule

There are two kinds of people — those who have learned how to work through frustration, and those who wish they had. – Warren Reed

From now on, if you’re working on something and tempted to give up — just do FIVE MORE.  Write five more paragraphs. Reply to five more emails. Work for five more minutes.

Just as athletes build physical endurance by pushing past the point of exhaustion, you can build mental endurance by pushing past the point of frustration.

Just as runners get their second wind by not giving up when their body is tired, you can get your “second mind” by not giving up when your brain in tired. Continuing to concentrate when your brain doesn’t want to is the key to S-T-R-E-T-C-H-I-N-G your attention span and building mental stamina.

O = One Think At a Time

If I look confused, it’s because I’m thinking.” – producer Samuel Goldwyn

Do you get confused because you’re thinking of too many things at once?  Do you have ADHD and your mind bounces from one thing to the next?

You can overcome distractions and perpetual preoccupation with a technique bestselling author Frank McCourt (of Angela’s Ashes) used.

Frank was a keynoter at the Maui Writer’s Conference.  As Emcee, I walked the beach early each morning to practice my introductions for the day. One morning, I saw Frank writing away on two high-school composition notebooks (you know, the kind with the squiggly black lines?).

He was doing something which puzzled me.  He’d write in the notebook on the right, then visibly startle, turn to the notebook on the left and jot something down, then return to his original notebook and resume writing.

I normally wouldn’t interrupt someone clearly in a state of flow, but I was curious and thought he wouldn’t mind as long as I kept it short. I asked, “Frank, one question, and then I promise to get out of your hair.  What are you doing?”

Frank explained that his grand-daughter had visited their home, and woke up very early one morning – so he got up with her. He said, “She was in a fugue-like state, speaking incredibly imaginatively about the dream she’d had.  I realized we’re often most creative when we’re dreaming, so I promised myself I’d always write first thing in the morning to capture that vivid language and imagery.

But then, he said, I’d get distracted.  I’d think something like, ‘It’s Malachy’s birthday, I have to give him a call’ and I’d lose my train of thought.  So, I started keeping this second notebook nearby. If I’m in a state of flow and something off-topic occurs to me, I write it down so (and here he said something profound) … I’m free to forget it.”

Do your other “to-do’s” distract you and pull you out of a delightful state of flow?

From now on, keep a second notebook (or for the digitally savvy, Evernote on your digital device) nearby.  When you think of something off-topic, write it down so you are free to forget it and you can get right back in the flow of thinks.

C = Conquer Procrastination

My parents always told me I wouldn’t amount to anything because I procrastinated so much.  I told them, ‘Just you wait.’” – comedian Judy Tenuta

Putting off a project? Don’t feel like focusing?

That’s a form of procrastination. Next time you’re about to postpone something, ask yourself the following:

  • Do I have to do this?
  • Do I want it over with so it’s not frustrating and making me feel guilty?
  • Will it be any easier … later?

Answering these three questions can give you the incentive to focus now because they bring you face to face with the fact that you DO have to do this task. If you don’t, then your problem isn’t procrastination, it’s figuring out whether you really want/need to do this in the 1st place.

This task isn’t going away. Delaying will only cause this to cause more grief or guilt and take up more of your mind and time.

U = Use Pavlovian Rituals

Does the name Pavlov ring a bell?” – Sam Horn

Remember Pavlov’s experiment?  He repeatedly rang a bell, fed the dog, rang a bell, fed the dog, rang the bell. Soon, the dog started salivating as soon as he heard the bell because the bell meant he was getting fed.

Do you have a ritualistic “bell” that signals to you it’s time to get to work?

Use this “hands as blinkers” ritual I introduced in my ConZentrate book to teach yourself to concentrate on command.

Here’s how it works:

First, it’s important to understand that your attention is where your eyes are. From now on, picture your mind as a camera and your eyes are its aperture.

Most of the time, your eyes and brain are in “wide-angle focus.” You are looking at and thinking about many things at once.

You can operate fairly efficiently in this wide-angle lens mode.  For example, you can safely drive down a crowded highway while talking to your kids in the back seat, keeping an eye on the cars around you, and watching for your exit sign. You can work at your desk while noticing co-workers walking by and thinking about the staff meeting that’s coming up in a half hour.

But what if you’re on a tight deadline and need to fully focus on getting something finished now?

What if you can’t afford to be distracted because you’re doing something highly detailed that needs your 100% concentration?

You need to switch your mind and eyes from “wide-angle” to “telephoto” lens.

To do this, use your hands as blinkers. Place them on the side of your face to shut out your surroundings.  Visual distractions are now, literally and figuratively, out of sight, out of mind.

If you cup your hands around your eyes every single time you want to switch from wide-angle to telephoto focus, that repeated physical action becomes a Pavlovian trigger to stop focusing on what is around you, and start focusing on what is in front of you.

Try it. Next time your eyes and mind are all over the place, give yourself tunnel vision and a one-track mind with your “blinkers” ritual.

S = Set Specific Start-Finish Times

That which can be done at any time rarely gets done at all.” –t-shirt saying

You’ve heard of Parkinson’s Law?  A task expands to the time allowed for it?

Horn’s Law is, “Focus evaporates when there’s too much time allowed for it.”

In my book ConZentrate, I define focus as “the ability to give our mind an order, and make it obey.”

Most of the time we can’t focus – what I call “mind mutiny” – it’s because we:

  • Didn’t give our mind an order
  • Gave our mind too many orders
  • Gave our mind a vague, confusing order

Saying, “I really need to pay bills” doesn’t mention when or where. Mental orders must include a “when” and “where” to be clear.

Saying “I’m going to pay the bills, clean the house, do the laundry, mow the lawn and then fix the fence,” overtaxes our mind.  And when our mind is overwhelmed, it is immobilized.

Saying, “I know I’ve got to pay bills but it’s so boring, and the electric bill is going to be high because of the heat wave” is commentary, not an order to the mind to focus and finish something now.

From now on, give your mind a specific start time and end time, and make it tight so you’re “forced to focus.”

As author Rita Mae Brown says, “A deadline is negative inspiration.  Still, it’s better than no inspiration at all.”

Use these five focus-pocus tips to make your mind …. mind.  Your finished work will thank you.


Sam Horn, author of ConZentrate, POP! and Got Your Attention?, is a communication strategist and TEDx speaker who helps people finish what they start and create one-of-a-kind books, businesses, presentations, and pitches that add value for all involved.  www.SamHorn.com


Are You Repeatable and Retweetable?

Quick.  Think of the last meeting, conference or pitch you attended.

Can you remember anything of what was said?

More importantly, can you repeat anything you heard – word for word?

If not, the messages in that meeting, conference and pitch are out-of-sight, out-of-mind.

If you’re a leader, speaker or entrepreneur, you don’t want to be out-of-sight, out-of-mind … you want to be top-of-mind.

Here is my 5-step process (excerpted from my new book Got Your Attention?) for crafting a memorable phrase-that-pays that ensures YOUR MESSAGE is the one people repeat and retweet.

What’s a Phrase That Pays?

First, you may be wondering, “What’s a phrase-that-pays?”

It’s an easy-to-repeat sound-bite that resonates. The word “resonate” means to “to have extended effect or impact beyond that which is apparent.”

That’s what you want.  Instead of your message going in one ear and out the other, you want to give people a hook on which to hang a memory.  A phrase-that-pays:

  • Succinctly sums up your primary take-away – in eight words or less
  • Distills the action you want people to take – the shift you want them to make
  • Is catchy – so people choose to share it and take it viral
  • Often works as an intriguing title that can be merchandized/monetized to create a financial ROI

How Can I Create a Memorable Phrase-That-Pays?

Step 1. Distill: Condense Your Primary Premise or Promise into Eight Words or Less

What do you want people to remember, feel, start or stop?  If they did one thing differently as a result of your message, what do you want that to be?  Condense that into a single sentence with a verb to prompt people to take the desired action. Follow author Elmore Leonard’s advice and “leave out the parts people skip.” You know it’s perfect when every word counts and you wouldn’t change a thing.

Step 2. Rhythm: Put It In a Beat So It’s Easy To Repeat

Think of your phase-that-pays as a jigsaw puzzle. At first, the words don’t fit. They feel and sound clunky. That’s why it’s important to talk out loud while experimenting with different combinations.  If you keep playing with synonyms, the words will eventually fall into place and sound right.  Say out loud, “If you see something, say something.” Feel how easily those words roll off the tongue?  Keep playing with variations until your ears tell you you’ve found the perfect mix.

When you make it fun for people to repeat your message, they’re self-motivated to bring it to the attention of others which produces bottom-line results for you and your priority.  This Week magazine reported the, “What happens in Las Vegas, stays in Las Vegas” slogan is “one of the most quoted and recognized ad campaigns in any industry,”and has generated billions of dollars in additional revenue. That’s just one example of how a phrase-that-pays can be a financial payoff for you and your organization.

Step 3: Alliteration: Use Words That Start with the Same Sound

Have you ever put one of those “cardboard insulating sleeves” around a hot cup of coffee so you didn’t burn your fingers?  Entrepreneur Jay Sorenson saw an opportunity.  He knew it’s hard to build a business around an unpronounceable name. So, he played with alliteration, came up with Java Jackets and cornered the market.  In fact, Jay says, “Customers who meant to call our competitors call us because they can’t remember our competitors’ name.” Wouldn’t it be nice to have customers calling you? Increase the likelihood of that happening by creating a name/tagline with words that start with the same sound.

Step 4. Rhyme:  Use Rhyme To Be Remembered Over Time

The U.S. government was concerned that the number of injuries from car accidents was increasing. So, they launched a public service campaign to convince people to wear their safety belts.  Its name?  Buckle Up for Safety. Yawn. No one noticed.  No one cared.  No one changed their behavior.

Back to the drawing board.  Second time around, they incorporated rhyme and rhythm.  Are you familiar with the iconic phrase, Click It or Ticket?  That intriguing phrase not only got people’s attention, compliance went up and injuries went down. What does that prove? That a well-crafted phrase-that-pays isn’t silly word-play or semantics; it can change behavior for the better. I can even save lives.

Step 5. Pause and Punch:  POP! Your Phrase-that-Pays with Distinctive Inflection

Be sure not to rush and blush when delivering your phrase-that-pays. People often race through high-stakes communications because they’re nervous. They’re sub-consciously trying to get the presentation or pitch “over with.”  No one will even notice your phrase-that-pays if it gets buried in a barrage.

Arthur Levine, editor at Scholastic of J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter series) came up to me after I emceed a writers conference and said, “Sam, I like the way you speak. You put space around your words.”

When I coach clients on their presentations and pitches, we craft a phrase-that-pays for their big idea, and then rehearse them saying it with … space … around their words. They practice pausing so everyone is waiting for their phrase-that-pay … then delivering it … then pausing for three more seconds so people have time to absorb it and imprint it.

Want another way to POP! your phrase-that-pays? Spotlight it with one of these “highlight prefaces:”

  •  “The most surprising finding from our research was … .”
  • “If you remember anything from my presentation today, I hope it’s this.”
  • “You might want to write this down so you can share it with your staff ….”
  • “The most important insight I’ve learned after ten years is …”

So, what’s a high-stakes communication you’ve got coming up?  Have you already crafted a phrase-that-pays that people can repeat – and want to repeat – after hearing it once?

If so, good for you.   If not, use this 5-step Phrase-That-Pays Process so that, during and after your program, you’ll be one they’re repeating and retweeting and taking viral.

–     –     –     –     –

Sam Horn, The Intrigue Expert and TEDx speaker, helps clients create quality, one-of-a-kind presentations, pitches, books and brands that scale their income and impact.  These ideas are excerpted from Sam’s new bookGot Your Attention?which is endorsed by Dan Pink, Marshall Goldsmith, Keith Ferrazzi and Amy Wilkinson and is a Washington Post and Amazon bestseller.

Never Be Bullied Again

I had the honor of presenting “Take the Bully by the Horns” at the ASAE (American Society of Association Executives) convention in Detroit this past week.  Many participants asked me to please share the handout as they said it gave them so many “I can use this TODAY” tips on what to say and do if someone is trying to control, intimidate or manipulate us – at work, at home, or in our community.

Please Note:  This handout doesn’t have my backstory and the real-life examples that illustrated each insight and contrarian recommendation, so it doesn’t have that all important context:  however, I hope it gives you a head-start on speaking up for yourself so bullies no longer have the power to run or ruin your life.

1. Are you dealing with someone who is trying to control, intimidate or manipulate you?

Take the “Are You Dealing with a Bully?” quiz to see if this person has a pattern of mistreating others and to determine if you’re dealing with a 5%’er.

Please think of a difficult person you deal with.  How often does this person do the following behaviors – on a scale of 1 (rarely), 3 (sometimes), and 5 (often)?

  • Do you “talk on eggshells” and watch everything you say because s/he has a hair-trigger temper?
  • Does this person act condescending and superior and treat everyone as if they’re “stupid?”
  • Is this person hyper-critical? Does s/he blame everyone else for what goes wrong?
  • Does this person have a Jekyll-Hyde personality – charming one minute, cruel the next?
  • Does this person play martyr and make everyone else responsible for his/her moods?
  • Does this person insist on controlling decisions and attack anyone who dares question his judgement?
  • Does this person love to create drama, i.e., twists things around, make and then break promises?
  • Does he make passive aggressive remarks and then say “Just kidding” and say you’re over-sensitive?
  • Are you happier when you’re NOT around this person?

If this person scores more than 30, you’re dealing with a bully – a 5%er.

2. Have you “tried everything” but win-win approaches don’t work? Please understand:

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95% of People:

Are difficult on OCCASION
Listen to LOGIC
Try to solve what’s WRONG
Play by the RULES

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5% of People:

Are difficult on PURPOSE
Dismiss LOGIC
Try to make YOU WRONG
Make their OWN RULES


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Win-Win Techniques (Tongue Fu!®):

work with 95%’s because they care what’s fair. They have a conscience which means they self-reflect and self-correct.

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Win-Win Techniques backfire:

with 5%’rs because they don’t care what’s fair. They do not have a conscience which means they don’t self-reflect OR self-correct.


3. Realize they are THREE ways to improve the situation if you’re dealing with a 5%er.

“People treat us the way we teach them to treat us.” – author Jack Canfield

  1. Change THE OTHER PERSON.  (Ha ha.)
  2. Change THE SITUATION. (Easier said than done.  You may not want to leave. Firing can be tough because they may be a Jekyll-Hyde who has the “keys to the kingdom.”)
  3. Change THE WAY YOU DEAL WITH BULLIES.  (It’s time to reverse the risk-reward ratio.)

4. From now on, do the OPPOSITE OF YOUR ALWAYS. It’s time to DO the YOU and hold bullies accountable by keeping the focus on THEIR INAPPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR.

“Every time you point your finger at someone else, there are three fingers pointing back at you.” -Louis Nizer  (This belief holds US accountable for the bully’s behavior.)

  1. Being physically or psychologically crowded? Do NOT back down or back away.
  2. Picture a HULA HOOP of space.
  3. You have a right/responsibility to articulate and enforce your BOUNDARIES.
  4. Literally and figuratively, STAND UP for yourself.
  5. Use your HAND to stop them from encroaching.
  6. Say, “BACK OFF” or “ DON’T EVEN START!”
  7. Say, “Okay, if you want an answer right now, the answer is NO!”

5. Being blamed or accused?

“Our task is not to fix the blame for the past, it’s to fix the course of the future.” – JFK

  2. “This won’t HELP. Instead OF FINDING FAULT, let’s focus on FINDING SOLUTIONS.”
  3. Don’t deny or defend.  Put the ball back in their court with “WHAT DO YOU MEAN?

6. Being teased?    

 “If we can laugh at it, we can live with it.” – Erma Bombeck

Understand this is a TEST.  Come up with COMEBACKS.

7. Being controlled or manipulated?”   

“If you’re mean to me, I’m going to write about it, and you’re not going to like it.” – Taylor Swift

  1. Are you using the words “LET” and “ MAKE?”
  2. Picture the See Saw of NEEDS being met.  Are they in balance?
  3. Are you a PEOPLE-PLEASER?  Are you habitually going along to get along?
  4. Assert your RIGHTS and TELL them (don’t ask) what you’re going to do.
  5. This is not open to DEBATE.  Keep it brief or they’ll give you GRIEF.
  6. Name their GAME.  Say what they’re doing to neutralize it.

8. Being threatened?

“Human beings are blessed with a sixth sense that alerts us to dissonance and warns us of danger.” – Gavin de Becker, author of The Gift of Fear

  1. Honor (don’t over-ride) your INSTINCTS.
  2. REMOVE yourself from situation.  Don’t risk your health, safety, life.
  3.  DOCUMENT what happened with the W’s so this IS OBJECTIVE, NOT EMOTIONAL.
  4. If this is cyber-bullying or online abuse, take a SCREEN-CAPTURE.
  5. REPORT the behavior – and its impact on you and OTHERS – to the authorities.

9. Is your child being bullied? Understand school is about establishing a pecking order.

“You’re the weak one. You’ll never know friendship.  I feel sorry for you.” – Harry Potter

  1. Are you unintentionally contributing to LEARNED HELPLESSNESS?
  2. Give kids opportunities to become physically CONFIDENT.
  3. Show kids how to “Act like a cat” and TOWER vs. COWER.
  4. Rehearse responses so they have ­PRACTICE thinking on their feet.

10. Is this person making you miserable, stressing you out, driving you crazy?

  “Hate in your heart will consume you.” – Will Smith

  1. Counter-act attempts to ISOLATE you by seeking out trusted friends/advisors.
  2. Find a TOUCHSTONE and carry it with you wherever you go.
  3.   Keep a LEDGER of blessings so you have tangible proof of what’s right in your world.
  4. TELL YOURSELF A NEW STORY & keep your vision for a better future in sight, in mind.

11. Want to initiate a bully-awareness-prevention program in your association/company?

“Just one habitually offensive employee critically positioned in your organization can cost you dearly in lost employees, lost customers, and lost productivity.” – Christine Porath, Christine Pearson, “The Price of Incivility” in Harvard Business Review

  1. Be an UPSTANDER, not a BYSTANDER.
  2. Understand the “disproportionate bottom-line damage” done by one bully.
  3. Distribute the “Are You Dealing with a Bully?” quiz to determine if this is an issue.
  4. Take the initiative in approaching your HR/Training Director to request action.

Plan of Action:  What Next?  How Will You Take Responsibility for Making Things Better?

“I stayed because I thought things would get better, or at least not worse.” – author Anna Quindlen, Black and Blue

  1. Keep this hand-out handy so it supports your SHIFT in dealing with bullies.
  2. Learn more ways to deal with bullies by purchasing her newest book Never Be Bullied Again on Amazon.
  3. Contact us at cheri@intrigueagency.com to receive details about our upcoming certification programs.
  4. Arrange for Sam to speak on this topic at your industry conference.
  5. Contact us at (202) 643-6180 to work with Sam to set up a bully awareness-prevention program for your organization.

What is the Eyebrow Test?

The Stub - Part 2 (1)Do you ever:

  • Find people texting or tuning out when you’re talking to them?
  • Have a tough time explaining what you do?
  • Get frustrated because you can’t get across the value of what you have to offer in a way people get it and want it?
  • Wish you could clearly and compellingly communicate your ideas and priority projects so people approve, support and fund them?

If so, you’re in the right place.

We’re taught math, science and history in school; we’re not taught how to EARN people’s attention so they’re motivated to keep listening, reading or watching.

As a result, our priorities, programs and products may not succeed at the level they deserve – not because they don’t have value – but because we’re not able to clearly articulate that value to customers, stakeholders and key decision-makers.

Want good news?

There’s a solution to this. It’s called The Eyebrow Test®.

It’s a method I’ve developed that can help us:

  1. BE more intriguing in the first crucial 60 seconds when people are deciding whether to give us their valuable time, mind and dime.
  2. TEST how intriguing we are so we know whether we’re capturing and keeping people’s favorable attention.

Here’s an experience that contributed to me developing The Eyebrow Test®.

I had been asked to be on the closing panel of an international conference held December 28-January 1. Pulitzer Prize winners, astronauts, politicians, CEO’s and Nobel physicists were on the panel, so I was excited about this opportunity.

The challenge? I had two minutes max to introduce my insight to the group.

I wanted this two minutes to be special, so I skipped the New Years’ Eve celebration the night before to craft something that would POP out.

My son Andrew (founder of Tribute) came back to our hotel room after midnight and was surprised to find me still up, working on my remarks.

He asked, “What are you doing, Mom?”

“Well, I know what I want to say, but I know it can be better.  I’m looking for a relevant, memorable phrase-that-pays; but haven’t come up with it yet.”

“Do what you always tell me to do when I’m tried and the words won’t come. Get up early in the morning and tackle it when you’re fresh.”

Andrew was right. That’s exactly what I needed to do. I set the alarm for six, and went to bed to recharge and to study the inside of my eyelids.

The next morning, I wok up a little bleary-eyed, so I headed downstairs in search of some caffeine to kick-start my brain cells and jump-start my creativity.

After getting a cup of coffee, I turned around and bumped into a petite powerhouse who was wearing big, red, round glasses.

I smiled at her and said, “Happy New Year.”

She looked at me, eyes bright, and said with gusto, “Start to finish.”

My eyebrows went up at her unexpected response. I was instantly intrigued. “How did you come up with that great phrase?” I asked.

She said, “Want to sit for a spell and I’ll tell you?”

I had a decision to make.

Was I supposed to go back to my room and work on my two minutes … or was Dr. Betty Siegel (President Emeritus of Kennesaw State University) my two minutes?

Suffice it to say, I went with Betty (literally and figuratively).

Betty turned out to be one of the most intriguing individuals I’ve ever met.

She had me at hello with her “put-me-in-the-scene” stories, uncommon insights, and warm wisdom.There wasn’t a second I was bored, distracted or confused. She was 100% intriguing – from start to finish.

That’s when it occurred to me. Betty had my eyebrows up the entire time she was speaking.  What was it about it about her? What made her so intriguing?

I had a triple epiphany.

  1. Being intriguing is a rare and welcomed attribute. Unfortunately, it’s the exception, not the rule.  Most people are the opposite of intriguing – either because they don’t care or don’t know how to be interesting.
  2. Being intriguing is a learnable skill. and it can (and should) be taught because, simply put, being intriguing is the  key to going anywhere, anytime and meeting anyone – and having them WANT to listen to you, want to be around you.  It’s the key to people relating to you, remembering you and wanting to continue a relationship with you.
  3. There is a tangible way to test how intriguing you are. Just watch people’s eyebrows when you start talking.

If you  tell people something and their eyebrows knit or furrow; they didn’t get what you said.  And if they don’t get it, they won’t want it.

And if they don’t get it or want it, you won’t get what you want – whether that’s their attention, respect, trust, support, friendship, money or business.

Why?  Because confused people don’t say yes.  And they don’t ask for clarification and they don’t keep listening.

If their eyebrows don’t move at all; it means they’re unmoved. What you said didn’t reach them or resonate with them.  Which means they’re not going to remember it because it wasn’t sufficiently relevant.

If their eyebrows go UP; it means they’re curious. They want to know more … which means what you said just got in their mental door.

Try it right now. LIFT your eyebrows.

Feel how it animates your face, activates your attention?  Did lifting your eyebrows  switch you from an apathetic state to a more engaged, empathetic state?

That’s your goal from now on.

Whenever you write a blog, prepare a sales presentation, deliver a pitch, design an ad, shoot a video, post on social media, describe your cause and craft a website … you want readers’, listeners’, and viewers’ eyebrows to go UP in the first minute.

If their eyebrows go up; you’re in business.

If their eyebrows crunch up, it’s back to the drawing board.

Because, as founder of Travelocity and Chair of Kayak Terry Jones says, “If you can’t get people’s attention, you’ll never get their business.”

The good news is; if you test an upcoming communication and people’s eyebrowsdon’t go up; you can learn how to be more intriguing so they do go up.

My new book Got Your Attention?  introduces a step-by-step INTRIGUE process that teaches you how to capture and keep people’s interest – on the page, on the stage, online and on the phone.

In fact, Terry Jones says Got Your Attention? “shows how to quickly win respect so people are motivated to listen.”

I hope this book gets your eyebrows up.  I hope you find it interesting and useful. And I hope it helps you get the eyebrows up of your customers, investors, employees, readers, viewers, stakeholders and audience members.

Live in Day-Right Compartments

Dale Carnegie said, “Live in day-TIGHT compartments.”

With a nod to Dale Carnegie, how about we choose to live in day-RIGHT compartments?

We can’t control life. It does no good to regret the past or worry about the future.

What we CAN control is what we give our attention to … TODAY.

I took this picture of a curving road on my morning walk, because it is a perfect metaphor for what we choose to focus on each day.

It does no good to look back and lament the past. And we can’t predict what’s around the corner, what awaits us tomorrow.

Focusing on what happened last week, last month – only anchors and enlarges that in our mind. It doesn’t make it go away. It doesn’t make it better.

A better use of our mind and time is to focus on the beauty that is around us … today. Focusing on what’s right in our world anchors and enlarges that in our mind.

So, what will you pay attention to today? How will you choose to see and appreciate the beauty in your world, right here, right now?

Are You Customizing Your Communication?

Are You Making Your Customers King-




“We’re all in a race for relevance.” – journalist Eleanor Clift

When you were growing up, did your parents or teachers tell you to “Use your words?”

If so, it was their way of encouraging you to express what you were feeling, whether that was “I am angry” or “I am afraid that when you go away on a trip you won’t come back.”

That advice to “Use your words” served an important purpose back then. It taught us to put language to our emotions and experiences, and to voice how we were feeling instead of just acting it out.

However, if we “use OUR words” to articulate what we want or feel when trying to connect with people, our communications may fall on uninterested ears.

For example, telling an agent how badly WE want a book deal won’t motivate them to want to represent us.

Telling a corporate donor how much OUR non-profit needs their donation won’t motivate them to write a check.

Telling an interviewer, “I need this job” won’t persuade them to hire you.

EVERY author wants a book deal. Every non-profit needs funding. Every interviewee wants the job.

That doesn’t make us different, it makes us just another in a long line of people who focus on what we want rather than why this will be a win for the other person.

This was eloquently articulated by Elon Musk, the visionary founder of Space X and Tesla. When I found out Musk would be speaking at the National Press Club, I called my son Tom, who works for NASA, to ask if there was anything he’d like me to ask him.

Tom said, “A lot of my friends who worked on the shuttle have been laid off. Many of them are applying to work at Space X.”   Tom said, only half kidding, “Ask Elon Musk’s advice on the best way to get an interview.

Sure enough, in the Q & A following his talk, Musk asked for questions. I raised my hand and posed Tom’s question, “What’s your advice to job seekers?”

Musk said something brilliant, in one sentence. “Don’t tell me about the positions you’ve held .. tell me about the problems you’ve solved.”

Now, that’s relevant!

In my book Got Your Attention? I provide a W5 Form and suggest that you invest the time to think it through and fill it out before every communication.

Every communication!?

YES. If you want to produce desired results, this is the single best thing you can do in advance to put yourself in your intended decision-makers’ shoes and crystallize exactly what you can say that will be meaningful and relevant for them.

Some of the questions on the W5 Form include:   Who are your decision-makers? What do they care about? What matters to them that you have in common? What problems are they facing that you have already solved elsewhere or could solve?

How could you language your communication so it uses THEIR words? How could you introduce yourself by mentioning an interest you share? What is “insider terminology” you could use that would indicate you’ve done your homework and are familiar with their industry?

All of this could fast-forward a mutually-meaningful connection that gives all parties involved a win.

That’s exactly what happened with Casey, a twenty-something family friend. Casey was applying to the Peace Corps and asked for my help with his application essay. I said, “Casey, let’s bring up their website and review their criteria.”

He said “Why is that important?”

“Because they’re giving you the answers to the test! Look at their job description. It tells you exactly what they’re looking for. Address every single one of those criteria by giving an example of how you’ve done it, using their language.”

That’s what Casey did, and guess who got accepted to the Peace Corps and ended up working with school children in Guatemala, and loving every minute of it?  That’s right, Casey.

How about you? What’s an important communication you have coming up? An interview? Sales presentation? Staff meeting? Training workshop? Instead of focusing on YOUR wants and needs – could you focus on what matters to your decision-makers and bring that up first?

You’ll discover that customizing your communication and leading with your audience’s priorities dramatically increases relevance, and dramatically increases the likelihood everyone gets what they want.

Are you Commenting on What’s Current?

Self-publishing pioneer Dan Poynter says, “If you wait to write, you’re not a writer, you’re a waiter.”

Agreed. That’s why I’m sending props to Cliff Kurtzman for an incredibly evocative post, “I Go to the Hills, when my Heart is Lonely,”  and I’m not just saying this because he was kind enough to mention me.

I just got off the phone from our 2nd session of “Write Well, Write Fast, Write Now” for Learning Strategies and featured Cliff’s post to our hundreds of participants because it is a shining example of doing what I call “Comment on What’s Current.”

We’ve encouraged participants to submit questions, and many center around, “How can I write when I’m so busy?” & “How can I come up with interesting things to say?”

I told the group about a recent epiphany I’ve had.

For years, my morning ritual has been to read the Washington Post and USA TODAY . I tear out intriguing articles, circle inspiring quotes and star interesting paragraphs and then put them aside to write about when I have “more time.”

I never have “more time.”

It’s kind of embarrassing to admit that I have BAGS of articles stuffed in closets and stashed in a corner that I’ll blog about “someday.”

As the saying goes, someday is the busiest day of the week – and it never comes.

So, I’ve started writing in the moment. When I read or see something that POPS out, that is intriguing, relevant to my work and potentially useful to readers, I take 10-15 minutes to write about it THEN.

Like I’m doing now. Because when you write about something you’ve just observed, the thoughts flow out of your head so fast your fingers can hardly keep up.

Writing is no longer work. It’s fun, fresh, and what you want to say gets written in a fraction of the time it would take if you re-visit this, cold, weeks/months later.

Furthermore, writing is no longer an intellectual exercise where you’re struggling to think stuff up. You’re simply getting down what’s in your head, what wants to be said.

Look at what Cliff did. He watched the Academy Awards and was moved by what he saw. Instead of keeping his thoughts to himself (which helps no one), he shared his insights about what was special about that evening.

By “commenting on a current event” and hash-tagging and hyper-linking names that were top of mind for millions, he jumped on their bandwagon of buzz.

That was strategic, smart and must be oh-so-satisfying because Cliff’s post has been “liked,” shared, forwarded, commented on and (deservedly so) gone viral.

Read his “Did you know that Lady Gaga practiced EVERY DAY FOR 6 MONTHS” to prepare for her “Sound of Music” medley? And it was worth it because she knew that, done well, it could pivot her public perception/persona and position her for a new career. Isn’t that a thought-provoking insight?

Notice how Cliff “hooks and hinges” his observations about Moore and Lady Gaga into his “Domino Principle” message so his post is on-topic and on-brand.

I could continue with all that Cliff did RIGHT with this post (the eye-catching photos, citing of sources, universally applicable revelations) … but the point I hope to make is this:

  • Do you feel you’re “too busy” to write?
  • Do you sometimes have a hard time thinking stuff up?
  • Do you have articles you’ve set aside you’re going to get to “someday?”
  • Do you plan to write a book when you have “more time?”

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, there’s a solution.

From now on, when something POPS out that gets your attention that is intriguing, relevant to your topic/business/project, and could be useful to others ….

TAKE 10-15 minutes to capture your observations about it IN THE MOMENT.

Don’t put it aside and think you’ll write about it “later.” Jot those thoughts while they’re hot. Post them on your Facebook page almost immediately.

DON’T think you have to put them in a blog or article. For many people, that’s a daunting, time-consuming task that becomes a barrier to entry.

Don’t think your posts have to be perfect. Better done than perfect. Better out in the world than in your head.

And don’t think that writing about what’s current and on-brand takes you away from your work. If you’re a thought leader, business owner or topic expert, doing this IS your work because it’s contributing to your BODY OF WORK.

If you do this, you’ll be a WRITER, not a WAITER. And that’s saying something.