June 25, 2011


The phone company brought several trucks to our neighbourhood last Friday for preventative maintenance. After they left, we lost our dial tone until the following Friday.

Fixing our line took five hours, three trucks and several technicians. The cause? Damaged wiring houses away.

Not everything has a dial tone to tell you something is wrong.


Since everyone in our family has a mobile phone (and the monthly bills to prove it), a landline might seem unnecessary. Wrong. We
  • missed an important call from overseas
  • missed the date change for a school event and arrived a day early (much better than a day late)
  • missed ... who knows what else? Telemarketers couldn't reach us with their latest greatest offers

Plan B

The alternatives (mobile phones and email) were not suitable substitutes. If you called, the phone rang and rang. You might think the problem was with our answering machine and eventually stop trying. You might not bother contacting us in other ways even if you knew how.

As the days passed, we started experiencing an unsettled feeling of loss. We took phone service for granted ... until we lost the dial tone. We almost missed the telemarketers.


How strange to value the bird in the wood more than the bird in the hand. Yet all too common. We most value
  • extra keys ... when we're locked out
  • batteries ... when there's a power failure
  • fire extinguishers ... when there's a flame
  • medicine ... when we're in pain
  • insurance ... when there's a claim
To get protection when we need it, we need to prepare in advance. Getting ready now gives us peace of mind. That's worth more than we realize.

No Dial Tone

When you pick up your phone and don't get a dial tone, you know there's a problem. What if there's no obvious sign? Dead batteries look fine. Your spare tire inflater looks fine. Your fire extinguisher looks fine. You can't be sure they'll perform when you need them even if you check them. Having extras might help. Medicine has a "best before" date. Replacing the old according to a schedule may be the solution.

Intangibles are even tougher to check. Your investments and insurance may look okay. You might not know how to inspect them yourself or who to trust for a review. Relying on the salesperson is less than ideal without ongoing signs of trust. Is what you sold me still right for me? You can guess the answer.

Scheduled preventative maintenance can have side effects. Yet it's essential.

Gotta go. The phone's ringing.


Podcast 123 (3:57)

direct download | Internet Archive page | iTunes

PS After the phone repairs, a technician said we may have problems with the wiring inside our house. They'd be willing to take a look ... for a fee. No thanks. We had enough maintenance for now.

June 18, 2011


crude (click to enlarge)taking shape (click to enlarge)finer (click to enlarge)Mona Lisa (click to enlarge)
Everything you do online adds to your permanent digital tapestry which grows pixel by pixel, letter by letter, frame by frame and note by note. You aren't Leonardo Da Vinci but you too can leave a Mona Lisa.

Isn't being visible online risky? Others can see you. Your mistakes are permanent. Maybe we're not important enough to leave a legacy. Let's not quit that readily.


I am an old man and I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.  — Mark Twain
You will mess up. Everyone does. The consequences vary. You may think everyone is looking but they're busy with their own lives. Or the latest celebrity scandal.

Doing more things establishes what's "normal" for you. As your tapestry grows in size and detail (resolution), the small blemishes and mistakes vanish. The big deviations lose their significance. You become predictable --- not in the sense of boring but as reliable and consistent.


Where's Waldo? (click to visit wiki)
Like Waldo in the Where's Waldo books, your "unforgivable" mistake is somewhere. Someone could find it but few will take the time to search. Even if found, this "Waldo" may not be of much relevance — especially as time passes.

The searchers will also have a deeper appreciation of you from their exploration. Human frailties bring us closer together. We don't want perfection even in our superheroes. After all, Iron Man didn't  save Leslie Bibb and the painting of Mona Lisa isn't perfect.

The Bigger Challenge

Your bigger challenge is escaping from the cage of mediocrity and fading without a trace.

You don't want to be one of the interchangeable drab minions in Apple's '1984' commercial. Instead, smash conformity with your personality. That's your free hammer.

Why Bother?

Your digital tapestry is your legacy, the past you build everyday. Your tapestry is part of the impression you make on others. This might even be the first impression.


Parting gift from George W BushStaying offline is hardly a solution. Others can discuss you without your knowledge or permission. You might not even know. This is like a sign stuck to your back with the words "KICK ME" written there. You may be oblivious but you're not invisible.

You are leaving a digital tapestry even if you'd rather not. This is empowering if you choose to be the artist.
When you're gone, your digital tapestry could remembered more than your financial legacy.


Podcast 122 (3:44)

direct download | Internet Archive page | iTunes

PS When you're the artist, you'll get a kick --- instead of getting kicked.

June 11, 2011

THE TALENT MYTH-conception

Edwin McCain: talent or sweat?Friends were chatting about music and art. And talent. You've got it or you don't. You're born with it. Talent is innate.

What an excuse!

If talent is innate, we're doomed. To avoid a lengthy discussion, I didn't argue. There's something bigger than talent. That's determination. Within reason, of course. Some activities require specific body types. For instance, squeezing into a tight space is easier if you're smaller.

If you're determined (beginning with the end in mind), you'll have the discipline to practice and practice and practice. And then practice some more.

Not just any practice. Repetition could lead to bad habits. You need feedback and goals just slightly out of reach. A coach helps since we can't be objective about ourselves.

I learned writing, public speaking and networking. Each was difficult. I had no natural skill and stacks of excuses. Yet I wanted to learn. And did. You can achieve your goals too.

The Crutch

If we're born (or not born) with talent, we have a wonderful excuse for not being good at math, not being able to draw, not being able to sing, not sticking with things, etc. We have ready-made excuses for almost everything.
The factory shut down and the only thing I knew how to do was install door handles. We couldn't compete with the _______ (fill in the current culprit). I'm too old to do anything else now. The government needs to take care of me because this isn't my fault.
Brian Tracy calls learned helplessness the second major obstacle to growth.


If you believe that talent is innate, these books could change you're mind. They're in the order I read them.
  1. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell: 10,000 hour rule
  2. Talent Is Overrated by Geoff Colvin: deliberate practice (a tad dry but has practical suggestions)
  3. The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle: practice to myelin to perfect
  4. Bounce by Matthew Syed: choking, double-think (you convince yourself of success next time though you know you don't win 'em all; he builds on Malcolm and Geoff and focuses on the world of sports)
There's less overlap than you might expect. Outliers and Bounce are the most interesting.
There's a special world for those who look beyond talent and forge their own lives. Do you remember The Little Engine That Could?
Think you can
Think you can and then
Do what you can
Do what you can
(with apologies to Wally Piper)


Podcast 121 (3:47)

direct download | Internet Archive page | iTunes

PS What other misconceptions bother you?

June 4, 2011


Breaking through the sound barrierHow's this for weird? I joined Toastmasters about six months ago and this week I got elected President of my club, Goodyear Toastmasters. I'm speechless (which made the podcast tougher to record). The club already runs well and fellow officers are excellent. I'm looking forward to working with them to several implement new initiatives.

Even if you communicate well, you may benefit from the leadership opportunities at Toastmasters.


This post is about a speaking breakthrough that occurred two months ago. I'm well-regarded as a speaker but knew I could improve. I wasn't keen to hire a coach because there's no specific, debilitating problem to overcome.

Here's the paradox: it's tougher to speak for five minutes than an hour. Yes, you can fill in five minutes easily but I wanted to convey a specific message. That means that every word, every second and every gesture matters.

Breaking Rocks In The Hot Sun

In the corporate environment, feedback on presentations ranges from useless ("well done") to overly-critical ("why did you ..."). What if you disagree with feedback from your boss? Do you make changes or stick with what you feel is better?

Getting critiques at Toastmasters is much more useful. Fellow members are trained to give feedback. They see your progression and are there to help. You can also experiment in a safe environment.

360 Degrees In The Shade

A 360-degree evaluation combines many perspectives. I had my first one years ago as part of a pricey Franklin Covey course in Principle-Centred Leadership (the step after The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People). My staff, peers and upper management were asked to rate me anonymously. The results were fascinating and a tad painful. You're not required to share the results but I did. That helped me improve faster and better.

In Toastmasters, you're normally evaluated by one person. Since opinions vary, I gave all attendees a form for their comments. That's a 360-degree evaluation. Most participate, which is also a way to build their skills.

I'm most interested in patterns. If only one person says something, I tend to ignore that outlier.

The Breakthrough

I was doing Speech 4: How To Choose An Advisor You Trust. I spent much more time preparing than usual. Even so, my speech ran 7:20 (20 seconds above the target range of five to seven minutes). I didn't notice the warning lights (green at 5 min, yellow at 6 min and red at 7 min). During practice, the length was 5:02. That's shows how much can change when live (and the risk of starting with too much content).

I combined two blog posts you may remember
The blend created an engaging story with extra impact. Storytelling is the breakthrough. While my earlier presentations weren't boring (no snoring), they weren't as well constructed. Now you know why I read Peter Guber's book Tell To Win about storytelling.

I've since included more stories in my talks. You'll find an example on YouTube (Building Trust With Social Media).

Your own challenges and objectives will vary. That's fine.

Is Toastmasters the only place that offers so much affordable, ongoing support in a safe, nurturing environment? As far as I know. If you have other suggestions, please leave a comment below.


Podcast 120 (5:15)

direct download | Internet Archive page | iTunes

PS What's your speaking breakthrough or fear?