microphoneI’ve heard that for most people, their second greatest fear in life is dying; with the fear of public speaking being their first.

This makes perfect sense to me, because for the longest time I was in that lot!

Thankfully there was hope… and a solution!

Actually, there were several solutions, and this of course began with information. Information was not enough though, because the truth is activity conquers fear. The information I went through on how to be a better speaker gave me the courage to speak, but it was the actual speaking that helped diminish the fear.

If you’re someone who has fear of people of public speaking, or just wants some tips on being better, this story is for you. I’m going to go through what I did, and some pointers that I think will really help.

My journey began with information from Life Leadership’s Public Speaking pack of 4 CDs, which I must have listened to 7 or 8 times, and the book “Splash: A Leaders Guide to Effective Pubic Speaking.”

What I learned from these were the principles that make a good speech, and a good speaker.

The first was being prepared. In “Splash”, it talks about continuing to learn and reading great books, which help keep you knowledgeable on the subject matter of which you may one day speak. It also means actually preparing your speeches, especially if you’re new to speaking.

I definitely needed to do this! Other than an oral I did in my grade 9 french class, which I will talk about later, I would spend half my talk just staring at everyone if I didn’t first prepare my speech. When I was talking, I would be stumbling over my words and mixing things up.

Here are a few other pointers to keep in mind that I got from the CDs and book (I highly recommend you go through the materials yourself to understand all the principles with the reasoning behind them and great examples)

  • Smile! (there are exceptions to this obviously, but you should generally be doing this)
  • Be Excited! (if you don’t seem to care, don’t expect anyone who is listening to care either)
  • Fluctuate your tone, emphasize your points (or you will bore the audience and put them to sleep!)
  • Look at your audience (makes your voice clearer, and grabs their attention)
  • Speak loudly (make sure your heard clearly!)
  • Don’t fidget (it’s ok to be nervous, but don’t look nervous… it will just make you more nervous!)
  • Don’t move around without purpose (it’s distracting)
  • Don’t be a statue either (move and use your body to emphasize your points)
  • Pace yourself (don’t speak too fast; your points will be missed)
  • Practice the speech in advance and know the material
    • Don’t worry about mesmerizing the speech, just the important points
  • Relax, know that you know the main points (It’s not important to say it exactly like you wrote it.)
    • It’s ok to leave things out and add things in the middle of the speech.
  • Be humorous if possible (but make sure it’s relevant to the speech)

Once I knew all this, it didn’t make me a good speaker, nor did it eliminate my fears. It was the first step I needed though…

My suggestion (and the suggestion of all decent public speaking books) is to find somewhere to speak in front of groups and practice. This works best when done in real life situations – not just practicing among friends (but that is not a bad start!)

Last August, at the suggestion of my mentor, I joined a toastmasters group. This organisation is an amazing place to practice, because not only does it allow you speak in front of groups, but you get feedback on your speeches; everyone fills out a small form that lets you know what you did well, and where you can improve.

To show how much being prepared can help you, I did 10 speeches and got my Competent Communicator certificate in 4 months (I heard it might be a record for this particular club)

For me this was pretty close to real presentations, because each of my speeches was about subjects I was studying, and on information I wanted to share with people. I gave talks on the 5 love languages, the different personalities, better finances, and of course on freedom (which is NOT easy to do in 7 minutes! :))

One of the reasons I think real presentations are best is because you will be at your best. I think the most importan thing is knowing your material and being passionate about it. This makes the speech so much easier, and much less frightening. This will make your performance better, and boost your confidence even more; making the next speech even easier.

I don’t know if it’s the same for the rest of you, but one of the things that really frightened me about speaking was making a mistake, and worrying about what others would think of me. What made things easier for me was simple in the end; I made sure I didn’t have to worry about making a mistake!

The last 10 speeches I gave were on subjects that I was passionate about. I organized the speech to fit the time frame I had (for the most part :)), and memorized the main points I wanted to cover. When it came time to speak, I just started talking; saying whatever came to my mind next.

Not one of my speeches came out exactly as I wrote them, but other than the nervousness before starting it was fairly easy. Since I was well prepared by knowing the subject matter, I knew it didn’t matter if I remembered what I had written down; I knew whatever I ended up saying would still be appropriate.

So if you want to have a good speech, talk about what you are passionate about, and most of your problems are solved. You will naturally speak more enthusiastically about it, and you will know a lot about the subject too; after all, you’re not likely to be passionate about something you don’t know about!

You don’t have to passionate about the subject though, it just helps a lot! All my orals in school were boring and painful, for both me and the audience, with on exception; my grade 9 french oral (I’m pretty sure it was grade 9 anyway…)

I was supposed to do an oral on a vacation I went on, but I never prepared it; I was really good at procrastinating too long! One day, the teacher calls my name to do the oral, and I hadn’t even thought about it yet! I was lucky though, because we were told that it doesn’t have to be a real vacation; we can make on up. Not having anything prepared, I started like most of my other orals, but then I just started talking. I didn’t have to worry about remembering anything, so I just said whatever came to my mind.

I started talking about going to Germany, and proceeded with whatever crazy thought entered my mind. The thoughts that came out included being mugged by a one armed and one legged man who chased me down a street! People were laughing like crazy, including the teacher, and I spoke very easily. I probably made lots of French mistakes, but it was also the best grade I ever got on an oral; probably because the teacher was so busy laughing that she couldn’t notice the grammatical errors. :)

The point, is that if you are not trying to follow a script words will come easily. So even after you prepare your speech, do two things when you go out to speak. First, leave the notes behind; if you have them, you keep trying to remember exactly what’s on them and they will hold you back. Second, just say whatever you feel is important to say; if you prepared properly you don’t have to worry about having anything memorized.

Being a better speaker is simple. Learn how, be prepared, and practice.

Now you know; and knowing is half the battle!

LaRonde - Flash PassI got involved in a conversation the other day when someone was talking about LaRonde; Montreal’s amusement park. The discussion ended up veering to the price of admission and what the park was doing to earn to earn a greater profit. At this point one of my coworkers started to say that it wasn’t right that you can get special passes to jump a head of the line and not have to wait.

The conversations started down the path of it not being fair, but knowing who he was talking to, he quickly changed it to him not liking this ‘legal’ line jumping to be done around other kids because they wouldn’t understand. He quickly came to realize why it was fair, if not right in this circumstance, but only after seeing what is not normally seen; which is part of what I want to share here.

As is usually the case when it comes to economic issues, the problems start at the same spot; not seeing the whole picture, but only looking at what is happening directly in front of our eyes. In this case, what is seen is one group of people getting preferential treatment that another does not have access too. It is allowing those with more money to be able to cut in line. The question is then asked (negatively) “What gives them the right? Why should they be allowed? They should have to wait like everyone else!”

I could go into how it’s fair because they did the work in the past to earn the money required to afford this treatment, while those complaining chose to watch TV during the evening instead of doing something to be more successful. I could go into how it’s fair because this amusement park is a private company that is allowed to make their own line structure and that if we don’t like it we can vote with our feet and not show up.

But this argument can be difficult to understand without enough background in economics, freedom, and what makes a society prosper.

Instead, let’s look at why it’s actually in the best interest of those without the money to have this special option available for those with the money.

What is not seen

First, consider the cost of entrance. Those people without much money probably think the cost is already really high, especially when you have to spend so much time waiting in lines and not getting the opportunity to go on as many rides as they would like. If the cost is what it is because the owners of LaRonde want to make a profit, imagine what these owners would do to cover the costs and still earn the same profit if they didn’t have this extra income stream. They would probably raise the price of admission.

So with the ability for those with enough money to pay for the privilege of not waiting in lines, they probably allow those without as much to get in for a cheaper price. This is hard to see however, as it is not the current reality – only a possibility that at this point is only in our minds. Maybe this setup actually allows some people to get into LaRonde who wouldn’t be able to afford it without this opportunity. Maybe the cost of a whole family would be big difference in the ‘everyone is equal’ scenario with no one being able to pay more.

For more of an explanation on the idea of what is not seen, and it’s importance, see the end of the article in this link.


Second, we should consider the idea of the ‘distinction’ at play. I will cover this more in a later article when I talk about Orrin Woodward’s book ‘And Justice For All’, but the principle is that people will do more because there is something to be gained. There is distinction to be obtained; the recognition of being different or of having better things. Here are some interesting words from the book that will help explain the concept

Distinction, in effect, drives people beyond the normal effort they would expend for mere monetary rewards. Thus, when distinction is not possible for most people within a society, productivity levels predictably decrease. Whereas distinction incentivizes societal growth, its absence disincentivizes the same.

Although distinction may appear to be a minor point, in reality it is vitally important. People are not like draft animals, which can work obediently so long as they are provided food, drink, and shelter. In contrast, human beings must believe their efforts will lead to increased distinctions and rewards (metaphysical progress), or they will mentally “check out”.

Orrin was not necessarily talking about distinction in monetary rewards, or of getting physical things, but was talking more in terms of status and the acknowledgments we can get. But this applies to things we want to have, or things we want to do, as well. He makes this point later on when he says,

Rare is the individual, in other words, who will strive for great accomplishments without the ability to reap the commensurate rewards.

So letting people with the money to use it in this manner is a concept needed all over society just to motivate people to do more with their lives. We need these ‘extras’ available in life to keep people working harder, to keep the economy growing (or reverse the decline) and to create more prosperity for all.

Now you might be thinking (like my co-worker) that we don’t necessarily need this particular distinction here, that there is many other things in the world to strive for. You would be right. But then the question is where would you draw the line? In each area of distinction, we would be able to argue that it is not necessary in that particular case since its available elsewhere else.

A lesson for children

You may also feel that amusement parks are no place for this kind of distinction, that the kids don’t understand these things and that it causes problems when they don’t understand why other kids don’t have to wait. This comes down to parenting, and how you react to the situation. You can be the parent who doesn’t like to deal with difficult situations, or one that wants to give their kids everything they want. You may be more interested in being friends with your children than be their parents who will raise them. For these parents I have no real answer for you… this situation, and all others like it in the world will be problematic for you.

But here is why I think this can be good, and here is my advice. You can use this as a lesson. Since distinction is so important, you can use this to explain the differences out there, that some people have more than others, and that those who go out and be successful in life, have certain advantages; like not having to wait in line at an amusement park. Give them something to look forward to, to help motivate them to do more with their lives instead of complaining about what others have. If you are worried about them thinking less of you for not providing them this option, tell them if this is something they want, they will have to earn the privilege themselves. If they are really too young to understand this concept, then they probably wouldn’t notice the distinction of others in the first place.

You can also use this a financial education lesson, pointing out how society is set up to get people to spend money they don’t have (many of the people who pay for these passes are almost certainly in debt). You can point out that you are not spending extra on this extravaganza because it will mean having less for more important things later on, while those participating will have have bigger problems down the road.

He told me that I don’t understand his point of view because I’m not yet a parent, and that I would only understand once I have kids of my own; I still get that line from my mother to this day! :)

I do understand where he is coming from however, and I don’t blame him for thinking the way he does. He doesn’t want to have to listen to his daughter complain, or have to deal with her questions at a time when she wouldn’t understand the answer. But ignorance is not bliss; to hide how the world works from our kids, is to stop them from being ready for the world when it’s time to face it on their own.

PAiLS by Chris BradyI recently starting doing small presentations and leading discussion groups based on the resolutions from the Mental Fitness Challenge that was created by Life Leadership. I did 2 separate sessions of the first resolution, to discover our purpose. I think many people understand that most people are floundering around with no real destination in mind, and understand the importance of having goals in our lives, and want direction. It became apparent to me that so many of these people just don’t know where to start; they don’t know what their own purpose should be.

I’ve read many books that go over how important having big goals or a purpose is essential to have success in our lives. I’ve read the same, or very similar, awesome quotes so often that they have been permanently etched in my brain. Some of these include “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else”, “If you don’t have a goal, you’ll hit it with amazing accuracy”, “Begin with the end in mind”. All this stuff is inspiring and makes a lot of sense, but there was something missing.

I was asked a question at the end of the last session that really made me realize what that something was. I was asked “what books can you recommend to help me discover my purpose”. I came to realize that of all the books I read, and all the talks I heard on the importance of finding a purpose or of creating good mission statement for our life, I could never recommend one that is a really great book to actually do it!

There are many books that have great information on the concept, such as Resolved, but most of these books only touch upon the concept while the rest of the book would be about other really important ideas. Thankfully there was now an easy answer to the question that was asked of me; PAiLS by Chris Brady.

This was a really fun book to read, partly from Chris Brady’s humor, but also because it is short and to the point with everything being discussed. There is so much to take from this book that could help us on our journey to discovering what we should be doing with our lives.

Chris goes through a really interesting point at the start of the book, showing what the book is designed to do, and what it answers. He writes about how his mother was given the advice to become a nurse, because she would always have a job. This proved to be true. His mother may have identified with the nurturing and caring aspects of it, but she was rarely excited about the profession overall; probably because of how challenging this profession can be, especially when you have a family. This career seems to require a lot of learning, very long hours, and used to have very low wages (maybe still does for all I know). His mother seemed to like the profession for what it did, but the profession did not actually make her happy.

He also writes about some cousins who got very different advice. His cousins were told to do follow their hearts and do what they loved. These cousins got degrees in obscure fields and by necessity lived with low wage menial jobs.

Chris Brady describes the situation best in a talk he gave, where he says “On one side you get the advice ‘go do something you hate, because you’ll always be able to do it’. On the other side you get the advice ‘Go do something you love, even if it doesn’t work'”

He writes in PAiLS,

“Pursue a career solely for the sake of pragmatism and security” and ” Do what you love, and the money will follow” are equally misleading. While there may be elements of truth and even wisdom in each (more on this later), they are both patently untrue on their face. The real problem is that the two look like different and separate paths. They are not.

Chris goes on to explain his concept of life as a layer cake, or ziggurat, with different levels of our life building up to another (if we do it right!)

Life ZigguratLife Ziggurat part 2

Like Stephen Covey’s concept of ‘begin with the end in mind’ from his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, this follows the same principle.

Everyone always starts at the bottom, which is the learning stage of ‘Preparatory and Preliminary Experience’ . Whatever happens to us stays with us for the rest of our lives, and these experiences are used to fund the next level; Pragmatic Occupation. Whatever we do in the 2nd level is influenced by the first . For example, you need an education to get most jobs. You also might subscribe to a self directed leadership education to get the necessary skill to move up the ranks of your pragmatic occupation. Maybe you’re occupation is a teacher, where a preliminary experience would have been a sport you played with coaches that helped you; showing you how fun it can be to help others become better. Everything that happens to you, no matter how insignificant can be a preliminary experience for something.

*** Note that with everything that happens to you counting, realize that we are not immortal and only have so much time. This is why it is so important to make sure we are doing the right things with the time we have, as we can only fit so many preliminary experiences into our life.

An Occupation could even be a preparatory experience for a future occupation. For example, I believe my time as a manager of a Tim Hortons helped me learn what I needed in order to move into management at a movie theater I later worked at.

As for the pragmatic occupation itself, it’s sole purpose is to pay the bills. It allows us to survive. This is not to say that we can’t be passionate and love what we do, which is the next level (I believe that for most sports players, their passion and occupation are usually the same thing.)

The real problem is that for so many people, their ziggurat ends at the occupation level. For people to truly be happy, to be living the life they really want, they need to move up to the next stages of passion and purpose. I believe that most people are not happy because they haven’t found what their passion is, or have not found purpose for their life to work towards. If occupation and paying the bills was enough, why would so many actors and musicians with all their money be committing suicide, or getting into trouble with drugs and going into rehab?

Living your purpose is much easier when we first figure out what belongs at the top of your life’s ziggurat, and finding out what needs to be done at the level below so that you will actually be doing what needs to be done; to be doing what you feel you should be doing. Once you have an idea of this, find out what you’re passionate about, and which of these might lead to you doing that which you should be doing.

When you have defined what your passionate about, ask yourself what you should be doing in the pragmatic occupation level that will allow you to pursue those passions. What education or what experiences should you pursue that will get you the occupation you need to do what you are passionate about?

Chris Brady’s PAiLS is an amazing and fun manual on how to start doing just that.

Watch the video below of a talk that he did introducing this concept before the book was released (and then read the book!)

As Chris Brady writes in the book, “There is another incorrect motivational phrase … it’s the one that says, “it’s never too late.” There most certainly is a “too late.” There always is. It’s just not yet. It’s not too late yet.


McDonald's Behind the ArchesSome people believe that more government is better; that they can do things more efficiently and cheaper due to the principle of economies of scale. Some people would know better than that, but still feel the a central government is best to make decisions for society as a whole, because they know what is best for people, and because they can make sure no one person or small group, is taking advantage of everyone else.

Other people understand how this is not the case.

The same thing goes for private enterprise. There are cases where companies have tried to keep all the decisions at the top, while others kept only the major decisions at the top that couldn’t be handled at the lower levels, and left everything else to be done in the local areas.

In the Freedom series from Life Leadership, you learn how a government can’t understand the needs of the individual, but can only see global statistics. It uses a great example. Imagine someone’s arm is burning and needs to be put in ice, while his other arm is freezing and needs to be warmed up. overall the body temperature is average. If a central planner doctor were to look at the overall statistics, without looking at each arm, he would assume there is no problem and do nothing!

The best decisions will always be made by those who can clearly see the situation, and so should be left to the lowest level possible, right down to the individual when the individual can make the decisions.

I’m in the middle of reading McDonald’s: Behind the Arches by John F. Love and came across a section that makes the point clearly. This is from a chapter on McDonald’s rapid expansion.

…as soon as Turner embarked on his massive expansion program, he began boosting McDonald’s regions, increasing the number of regional offices from five in 1967 to eight in 1973. More important, Turner vastly increased the regional manager’s authority…Regional manager’s were given powers nearly equal to presidents of independent regional chains.

In a few years, Turner had replaced Sonneborn’s relatively centralized management style with one of the most decentralized structures in corporate america… decentralizing power actually increased McDonald’s control over expansion. Managers were closer to where the action was and thus could make better informed judgments. Their decisions were tailored to the unique operational problems and growth opportunities of their local markets…Turner notes, “the closer decision making is to the stores and to the marketplace, the better are the decisions that manager’s make.”

Turner, who was president of McDonald’s at the time, understood how a centralized power can’t see the smaller picture clearly; that it can only see big picture stuff. It can’t see all the little details and events going on in each and every town; only those close to the action have a chance of knowing this. He gave the power to those who were able to see the situation, and who actually had the time to look at it.

We all have only 24 hours in a day. So even if you think you can have people in every town reporting to some higher authority who can make final decisions that works for everyone, those people in the higher echelons of power don’t have the time to go through all the individual data to make individual decisions for each case.

If you try making one decision that works for the majority of people, you will find you are still hurting a minority. It would be like dumping water on every city in your country when the 5 most populated cities are on fire. You would waste a lot of resources on the cities that were OK, and probably cause a lot of needless water damage for them.

Do you want your company’s prosperity to grow? Do you want your nation’s prosperity to grow? Put the power and the responsibility as close the individual as possible.

Turn The Page, How to Read Like a Top LeaderI’m in the middle of reading “Turn the Page: How to Read Like a Top Leader” and have come to some realizations; one is that I’m certainly not reading enough, and for everything that I have read, I could have gotten more out of the books.

I’ve learned that reading is so important to our future, because when we read the right books, we are getting the life experiences of the author in the amount of time it takes to read a book. Success then becomes less trial and error, and more about leveraging the success of those who went through struggles before; about being mentored on what we should  and shouldn’t do.

You are where you are because of who you are; if you want to be somewhere else, you have to become someone else. This thought has come to me often throughout my leadership journey, as it has been said and taught in many different ways. I’ve learned that when we aren’t reading or listening to someone, we are talking to ourselves; this means we are talking to ourselves with the mind that got us to where we are. When we are reading, we are shutting ourselves up and listening to someone else with good information. This works for listening to great talks on CDs too, but I think reading takes it even a step further, and you get more out of what is written because you have time to think about what is written and reflect on it.

When I got the book Turn the Page in the Life Leadership ‘LIFE’ subscription for the month of January 2014, I wanted to start reading it right away; I knew that I wasn’t reading enough and thought this book can give me the boost I needed to read more. It has, and it is the reason for writing this piece; it is probably more for my benefit than for anyone else reading it (unless you don’t read yet, and this get’s you to start!).

Although the book goes into many great concepts, including when and where to read and how to find the small cracks of time that no one thinks about, it also talked about making lists and being kept accountable. This post is an introduction to my reading list.

I’m making a list (see it here) of all the books I can remember reading on leadership and personal development, and I’m listing everything I still want to read on it as well. I’m going to put the date of when I started the books I’m currently reading, and when I finish them. This will keep me accountable to how much I’m actually reading since you will all see it!

I’ve also decided to start getting back into some of the books I read for fun, as this book even suggests to do that – as long as you’re not messing your mind in the process, and as long as you are not putting off the other reading we should be doing.

I hope you are reading some great books yourself, as I believe it is one of the only ways to truly learn how to be successful, and the only way we can truly educate ourselves. If you’re looking for some ideas of good books to read, take a look at my list. If you noticed that I haven’t been putting any end dates recently, feel free to give me a nudge and ask me what’s wrong! :)

Picture of Books

Click to view my reading list!

inertiaWe have seen how the previous 4 laws of decline can bring an organization or a country down. The 5th and final law, of Orrin Woodward‘s Five Laws of Decline, plays a different role in my opinion. This law won’t bring about a decline, but it does keep the current decline from the previous laws in place, which includes the momentum of that decline. If only 10% of leaders are good leaders, as per Sturgeon’s Law, this law will make it difficult to make things better. If everyone has ways to get something for nothing as per Bastiat’s Law, this law makes it extremely difficult to stop the beneficiaries from getting their special deals. If people are being rewarded for doing things that wrong, as per Gresham’s Law, this law will make it very difficult to stop the behavior. And if you have a growing bureaucracy and getting fewer things done due to the law of Diminishing Returns, this law will stop you from reversing that trend, if not decreasing the returns at the same momentum.

The Law of Inertia

This law comes from Newton’s first law, which as Orrin Woodward explains in Resolved ‘Every body remains in a state of rest or uniform motion, unless it is acted upon by an external unbalanced force. In layman’s terms, an object at rest tends to stay at rest, and an object in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by another force.’ Read the rest of this entry »

Last Saturday night I had blast with my friends by organizing a dream session. This is where a bunch of people get together and brainstorm and share what they want there future to look like. As I discuss on my top 100 goals and dreams page, this is super important if you want to achieve greatness. As many leaders have said, if you don’t set goals, you’ll hit them with amazing accuracy!

What was great about this group of friends is how on a Saturday night, when most people are out at bars, watching the hockey game, or some other activity that will give them pleasure for the moment, this group was working on their future and what will give them pleasure for a lifetime. This is one of those things that makes you stand out from the crowd and be above average.

It was actually even more fun than when I used to go to bars and watch hockey games. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my Bruins; but when they won the cup 2 years ago, even though it was fun being in Montreal as a Boston fan, it didn’t do anything for my future. It goes without saying that this future includes being able to go to every Stanley Cup final game, and Olympic Hockey medal round game.

What we did instead was plan our future. Most people spend more time planning their 2 week vacation than they do planning their life time. Read the rest of this entry »