Too Many Promises

How many promises have you made? Can you remember each one? Are there any promises you’ve forgotten? How would you know?

When I fell in love with my girlfriend, I made a lot of promises. Which was sweet and everything, because they were from the bottom of my heart.

But then three years later, I would suddenly remember something. Didn’t I promise her I wouldn’t do that? Or, didn’t I promise her I’d be doing this, instead?

Truth is, I really didn’t know. I’d made too many promises.

Maybe I should have written them down–kept a journal of promises I’d made.

Then again, as we both grew older and continued to change, we decided some of the promises were downright crazy.

Just how much does a promise mean when you’ve made too many to remember?

And just how seriously can your promises be taken when you make and take them lightly?

Promises are great, but they need to mean a lot.

Are you being careful when you make promises?

When you feel like making a promise, slow down and think. Do you really mean it?

What is a promise you shouldn’t have made?

3 Strengths You Had as a Kid

Staring up at giant sky-scrapers. Riding glass elevators. Feeling absolute awe and excitement. It’s one of my earliest memories. I don’t even remember what city it was. Maybe Chicago or Atlanta. But I always remember what it felt like to be a child.

When I was a kid, I had a very big outlook on life. At 7 or 8 I would wake up in the morning and sprint full-tilt around and around our big house, dreaming of the day I would run like Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire.

I wanted to be a zoo keeper when I grew up. An airline pilot (or spacecraft maybe?). A cowboy. A baseball player. Even a WWII soldier.

What did you want? When you were a kid, what did you dream of doing one day?

And why did you stop?

Most of us, as we grew up, were pressured by people around us to “be realistic.” To let go of some of those dreams. To face the cold, hard reality of life. That we’ll probably never amount to much.

Well with that attitude, we won’t!

There are 3 things most of us grew out of as we grew up. Well, there are lots more, but 3 things we probably shouldn’t have grown out of:

Enthusiasm

Do you remember how energetic and excited you were as a kid? About simple little things like going to the playground or on a roadtrip? Do you remember how obsessive you got over little projects and hobbies? And how shamelessly you expressed your excitement, happiness, and love?

Where has our genuine enthusiasm gone?

Curiosity

Do you remember how much everything amazed you when you were little? How you couldn’t stop staring at a squirrel, wondering how and why it does what it does? How you just had to know what was hidden in that closet, just because? How you wanted to know everything? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Do you remember how open-minded you were as a kid? Open to anything?

When did this incredible world stop interesting us?

Confidence

Remember how unstoppable you were as a toddler? Fireplace, balcony, kitchen table, bicycle. It didn’t matter. And you knew if you fell of your bike, you’d pick yourself up and try again. Until you made it. Remember how intent you were on making your dreams come true? How you didn’t care that you didn’t know how to do something yet, you were determined to figure it out? Remember when you believed in yourself?

When did we decide it’s bad to hope and expect great things of ourselves, others, and this incredible world?

Reconnect With Your Inner Child

I miss being a kid. I miss the feeling of awe and excitement in a big, awesome world. I miss the enthusiasm. I miss the curiosity. And I miss the confidence. And goodness knows we could all use a boost of each!

Imagine the power and productivity, the excitement and energy you’d feel if you brought childlike enthusiasm, curiosity, and confidence to your life and work!

The past couple of years I’ve been getting back in touch with my inner child. It’s been awesome! “Growing up” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

What do you think?

Create a Powerful Speech in 2 Minutes (Step 2 of 5)

Last week I shared a few tips for deciding what to speak about (quickly when necessary) and why that’s the most important part of the preparation process. It’s important to end up with a very specific point to your speech.

The next step is picking your introduction. Once you know what is the main thing you want to tell your audience, it is time to persuade your audience to listen.

Pick a Catchy Intro

There is one and only one purpose to your introduction: To grab and keep your audience’s attention.

(Just keep in mind, it can’t just grab attention–it has to make sense: If you use Subject A to introduce your speech, and then give a speech that in no way connects to Subject A, your audience will spend the first three minutes thinking “Wait, what?” and the rest of the time daydreaming.)

So how do you grab your audience’s attention? Well, what grabs your interest? Picking an intro isn’t nearly as tough as people think. The options are endless. Here are a few:

• An interesting and memorable personal story.

• A shocking statistic.

• An experience everyone shares and can relate to.

• An activity the audience can participate in.

• A hilarious or dramatic story that engages people emotionally.

Just ask yourself what is the first story or memorable concept your subject reminds you of. And then ask yourself how you can present it in an effective way.

Make Them Want to Keep Listening

As I touched on earlier, your opener can’t just be interesting in and of itself. It has to make sense: It has to end up convincing the audience they should listen to the rest of the speech.

For instance, I can tell a fascinating story, with dramatic flare, about an adopted child. And then I can say, “I want to speak to you about adoption today.” Well the story was great, but why should that mean the audience wants to hear the rest of the speech?

Instead, you might tell the same story about adoption, and then connect it to the audience. Whet their appetite! “Have you ever met an adopted child? Have you ever wondered what memories they might be dealing with? Or how you might be accidentally hurting them? Let’s talk about how adopted children need you to talk to them!”

Make it Memorable

There’s a statistic I don’t remember that says lifeless information like statistics aren’t as easy to remember as stories. When your audience gets home, they probably won’t remember the outline of your speech or all its details. But what they will remember is an awesome story or a shocking revelation.

So it’s absolutely vital to make your introduction not just momentarily amusing, but very memorable. If you want your audience to remember why being thankful is important, give them an incredible story they want to share with others, so that every time they recall the story, they are reminded of all you had to say about it.

Your Intro Matters Almost as Much as Your Subject

When I have to prepare a speech quickly, though I pay the most attention to choosing my subject and purpose, the intro is a close second. There are two reasons:

First, you can have an absolutely fantastic speech prepared, but if your audience isn’t still fascinated by the end of your intro, that fascinating speech will do no good. So your second highest priority in preparing your speech is planning your intro so well that your audience will definitely be listening to the rest of your speech.

Second, when you’re crunched for time, and possibly nervous, you can get away with being unsure of what all you’re going to say, as long as your intro is solidly prepared. At times, my intro is the only clear thing in my head when I actually start speaking. But then I have an extra minute or two of delivering the intro I’m already comfortable with, to think up the rest of my outline, even if I can only think of 1 or 2 quick points.

Takeaway: After you know your subject and purpose, your introduction is the most important part of your preparation. It must be fascinating and engaging in the moment, and it must interest the audience in hearing the rest: e.g: Dramatic story + how it applies to each audience member. It must be memorable. And being sure of your intro ahead of time frees you to use your first minute or two of speaking to decide what you’ll say next. As far as the actual content goes, your introduction is your highest priority–especially when you only have a couple minutes to prepare.

What is the most effectively an introduction has ever drawn you into a speech or presentation?

Scaring the New Guy

You can win or lose a great team member in a day.

First impressions, ambition, insecurity, judgement–there’s a whirlwind of variables inside the new guy’s head. Variables that none of us older teammates really wonder about anymore.

So we criticize each other, criticize our leadership, criticize our employees, criticize our systems, criticize our tools–to us, it’s no big deal. We’re just having fun and blowing off steam. But we’ve been here a while. Our criticisms come with a bigger perspective: After all, we’ve found a reason to stick around.

But the new guy hasn’t. The new guy doesn’t know what it feels like to be a part of your company for six months, a year, five years. All he knows is the chatter going on around him on his first day.

So be careful what you say around the new guy. Silly banter can turn into a make it or break it moment for an unseasoned pair of eyes and ears.

Before you criticize, argue, make fun, or roll your eyes about anyone or anything, ask yourself: “What would this say to the new guy?”

Have you ever been given a disappointing or misleading first impression on a new job?

When Panic Hits in a Relationship

We are addicted to happiness.

That seems pretty sensible. Like a pretty good addiction, if there ever was one. In theory, there’s nothing wrong with that.

But the “happiness” we are addicted to isn’t quite the happiness that lasts. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.

See, when it comes to romance and relationships, happiness is largely defined in many cultures as immediate feelings of comfort and satisfaction.

And when you define happiness as feeling-perfectright-now, and then pursue it like an addiction, momentary imperfection becomes disaster. Molehills become mountains. And the tiniest bump in the road of an otherwise loving relationship becomes a reason to panic and break up.

Now to be clear, a generally unhappy relationship certainly is not a healthy one. It’s silly to suggest being “okay” with an unappreciative and unfriendly relationship.

But you’re in for a rough road (and a lot of breakups) if you panic whenever things don’t “feel” right.

I can’t remember how many times I’ve heard someone say, “Something’s off, I just don’t feel the same way when we’re together lately.” Understandable. But then the next day, “Oh yeah, we’re fine now! I don’t know what I was thinking!”

Too many relationships go in dramatic cycles you should only expect to see in a sorority or in a high school cafeteria.

So here’s the big deal I think bi-polar couples aren’t getting: “Happiness” does not mean immediate satisfaction or perfection-right-now.

We are far too fickle and moody for that. Feelings and emotions come and go with the weather, with grades, with lack of sleep, and every other insignificant circumstance you can imagine.

But when you’re addicted to feeling “sure” or “perfect” right this moment, because you think that’s “happiness,” those feelings become your “reality,” and your reality becomes harsh and unstable. The beauty is replaced by insecure introspection.

One of the most helpful things in my relationship is my girl’s level-headed outlook. She takes everything in stride. Whether it’s excitement or heartbreak, she takes it with a grain of salt. When emotions are involved, she has a healthy dose of skepticism. She realizes that an extreme feeling today might be a little quieter tomorrow, and will probably be forgotten in a week.

Here’s the bottom line: Most struggles, disappointments, and frustrations in a serious relationship are going to be temporary. Most things we worry and panic over are really just passing phases.

Again, that doesn’t mean for a second that an unhappy relationship is just fine. It just means that “happiness” isn’t nearly as stable, as dreamishly “ever-after,” as we wish. A happy relationship probably won’t “feel right” every single day.

On the other hand, though, I’ve seen a lot of pious people justify their often cold and lifeless relationships, defined by unkindness and selfishness, by saying, “Oh, love isn’t a feeling! It’s not about the butterflies in your stomach. It’s about commitment and sacrifice, bla bla bla.”

Well if romance isn’t about feelings, then I certainly want no part of it.

Love is absolutely about feeling happy and fulfilled. But it’s also about patience, self-control, understanding, forgiving, and everything else that turns patience-now into happiness-ever-after.

But again, here’s the bottom line: In every relationship, the going will get tough, on occasion. There will be a time for everything–for laughing and for crying, for doubting and for trusting, for encouragement and discouragement. It’s all going to happen.

But the strong relationships that end up happy after years and years (and not just piously pretending to be happy out of some showy commitment to “goodness”), are the ones where two people can say, “We know something feels off–really off–and we’re scared and hurt. But we know it will probably feel better later, so let’s not get crazy.”

The strong partner sees that life is full of passing phases, and that there’s nothing wrong with that.