writing


You may have seen ukulele phenom Jake Shhimabukuro’s YouTube video, shot in NYC’s Central Park, of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” which has more than 11 million (!) views.

You might also have seen Jake’s TED video where he performs a masterful version of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” all on four strings…:-)

I’m here speaking in Waikiki and chanced upon an excellent PBS-Hawaii documentary last night about Jake, a virtuoso who has “hit it big,” yet remains grounded in his values.

Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings

A favorite segment of the PBS special was when Jake played his ukulele in Sendai, Japan (ravaged by the 2011 tsunami), at a senior care center.

The expressions on these people’s faces, their tapping along with Jake’s strumming, was particularly poignant and profound.

Perhaps most powerful was Jake’s statement, “My goal when I play is to connect with my audience, to play music that moves them.”

Kudos to Jake. His goal deserves to be our goal as speakers and writers.

The goal of speaking is not to get a standing ovation. It is not to get a perfect 10 on our evaluations or to generate lots of “back of the room” sales.

The goal of writing is not to have a book that serves as a business card (gak). It is not to have a bestseller or to have “product” that drives our career.

Those are nice; those are welcomed; they’re just not the primary reason we speak and write.

The goal of speaking and writing is to connect with our audience members and readers; to share ideas, insights and stories that move them to feel something, to rethink something, to do something differently.

A participant came up after my presentation on Friday and said, “You just radiate joy. What is your secret?”

First, I thanked him and then told him, “I am so grateful for the opportunity to speak for a living.

To stay centered in my goal of genuinely connecting with participants and sharing something that puts the light on in their eyes; I repeat the following mantra to myself in the minutes before a presentation.

I am here to serve; not to show off.

I am here to inspire; not to impress.

I am here to make a difference; not to make a name.

Then, I start every presentation with Arthur Rubenstein’s quote … “I have found if you love life; life will love you back.”

I have found that if I center myself in that mantra and start off with Rubenstein’s quote, it grounds me in how much I love speaking.

And when we love what we do, people often love being around us and want to be part of it.

Any nervousness or self-consciousness disappears.

What takes its place is a sublime stream-of-consciousness where we’re swept up in an exquisite state of flow in which we’re one with our audience.

What mantra do you use to ground yourself in your clarity that the purpose of your speaking is to serve, not to show off; to inspire, not to impress; to make a difference, not to make a name?

When writing, I picture someone specific across the desk from me and write to that person. It could be one of my sons, a client or a friend, someone who could benefit from what I’m trying to get across.

It transforms writing from being an intellectual exercise, a brain dump of “What do I want to say?” to “What would put the light on in this person’s eyes?”

When I mentally reach out to a specific person, when my purpose is to write something that would resonate with them; the words flow out so fast my fingers can hardly keep up.

How about you?

Who are you going to speak to – write to?

How are you going to keep them top-of-mind by focusing on how you can reach them, resonate with them?

How are you going to center yourself in your intent to connect; which is the real reason we communicate?

Always has been. Always will be.

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I hate you

“My eldest daughter told me she hated me when she was in the second grade.”

Bet that got your attention!

Which is the point.

Most articles, blogs and books start off with blah-blah preliminaries to “set the scene.”

Forget that.

Don’t set the scene. Jump into the scene.

That article could have started out predictably with, “This is a review of Sheryl’s Sandberg new book about women in the workplace.”

Yawn. Are you motivated to drop what you’re doing and keep reading?

I didn’t think so.

But instead, that first sentence popped off the page and motivated me to read the rest of this excellent article by Katharine Weymouth of the Washington Post entitled, How Can You LEAN IN If You Don’t Have Anyone to LEAN ON?

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/katharine-weymouth-how-do-you-lean-in-when-you-dont-have-someone-to-lean-on/2013/03/22/b117d730-8b24-11e2-b63f-f53fb9f2fcb4_story.html

What are you writing right now? A blog? Article? Report? Book chapter? Web copy? Marketing brochure?

Review your first sentence and paragraph.

Does it set the scene – or jump into the scene?

If you want to have readers at hello, pleasantly surprise them by JUMPING into a dialogue phrase pulled from the story that illustrates your point.

Readers will be intrigued, and they’ll want to know … the rest of your story.

Serendestiny - doing what makes you come alive

Chances are you’ve seen this inspiring quote from H. Thurman,  “Don’t ask what the world needs.  Ask what makes you come alive ; then go do that.  Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

What makes you come alive?  What puts the light on in  your eyes?

One of the things that does it for me is … writing.

Tennis player Pete Sampras was asked what it was like winning his first U.S. Open.  He said, “No matter what else happens the rest of my life; I’ll always be a U.S. Open champ.”

That’s one of the many  benefits of writing.  It is so TANGIBLY, ENDURINGLY REWARDING.

Many things are fleeting. Quality books are not.

Yes, writing a quality book is a front-loaded project. 

You pour your heart, mind, soul … and plenty of what Bryce Courtenay called “bum glue” …  into writing a quality book.

But it will still be out in the world,  years later, making a positive difference for others and a propserous living for you.

I am just re-experiencing this glorious phenomenon,

We’ve just released a new e-version of Tongue Fu!® … which was first published (ahem) 16 years ago!  http://www.amazon.com/Tongue-Better-Anytime-Anywhere-ebook/dp/B00APRX4FG/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1357067747&sr=1-1&keywords=tongue+fu+-+get+along+with+anyone%2C+anytime 

How satisfying it is to know this book is still positively influencing people around the globe.  I’ve welcomed this opportunity to update the content and include examples of cyber-bullying, internet gossip and what to do when someone’s texting at dinner.

What’s this mean for you?  It’s the beginning of a new year.  You have a fresh start opportunity to do what makes you come alive. 

If that is writing, then resolve to put pen to paper or fingers to keys today.  It’s time to get your experience, expertise and epiphanies out of your head and into the world.

I promise. You will never regret writing – you will only regreat not writing when you had the chance.

 

“You can’t build on broken.” – Angela Blanchard, http://www.Neighborhood-Centers.org

Wise advice from Angela Blanchard, the visionary leader of the team who turned Houston’s AstroDome into a home-away-from-home in one day following Hurricane Katrina to provide much-needed services to the thousands of refugees arriving on buses from New Orleans.

“Imagine losing your home, job, community and almost all your possessions . . . and not knowing what happened to your family members and friends.

One woman told us, ‘No one came, no one came for days. We thought the world had come to an end. We thought something much worse had happened ‘out there.’

We realized asking questions such as, “What happened? What did you lose or leave behind?’ would only drive these individuals deeper into despair.

We decided instead to focus on what they did have instead of what they didn’t; to build on what’s strong instead of what’s wrong by asking, ‘What skills and knowledge do you have? Who might you know in this area?'”

Angela spoke of the across-the-board decency and dignity of these uprooted Louisiana residents.

“When Neighborhood Centers and other philanthropic organizations filled gyms with donated presents to give at a holiday celebration, many only took 1 or 2 gifts. ‘There are a lot of people worse off than us who need them more than we do,’ they said graciously.”

Angela’s “You can’t build on broken” epiphany is universal and enduring.

Next time you’re facing a challenge, remember, “The best way to move things along is to focus on what’s strong, not what’s wrong.”

P.S. In terms of POP!, why was Angela’s message so intriguing and “sticky?” Why did people continue to come up to her after her 15 minute presentation to thank her for her stirring insights?

One reason is because her conviction was so convincing. We were swept up in her heartfelt passion and vivid story-telling.

Another reason was she crafted her enduring insight – her eBIFany – into an alliterative sound-bite that rhymed.

Alliteration (words that start with the same sound – such as build-broken) gives our mind a hook on which to hang a memory.

Rhyme (wrong-strong) makes our language lyrical and our ideas instantly eloquent.

If you want people to remember and repeat YOUR insight – so they’re thinking about it, talking about it and acting on it days, weeks, months later – craft it into an alliterative sound-bite that rhymes to give it a long tail of influence.

Doing so will scale its impact – and isn’t that the point of communication?

Want more eBIFanies from BIF-7?

This inspiring conference, hosted by Saul Kaplan, showcases visionaries who saw a problem or opportunity and thought, “Somebody should do something about that.”

Then they thought, “I’m as much a somebody as anybody; I’ll do something about it.”

Their stories of how they figured out what to do when they didn’t know what to do show how we set our SerenDestiny® in motion when we care enough about something to do something about it.

E.L. Doctorow was asked what it was like writing a novel.

He thought about it for a moment and said, “It’s kind of like driving a car at night. You can only see to the end of your headlights; but you can make the whole trip that way.”

The innovators featured at BIF-7 weren’t quite clear what their destination was at the outset. They weren’t exactly sure where they were going or how they were going to get there.

They didn’t let that stop them.

Their instinctive desire to solve and serve told them, “Just ‘cause you don’t know isn’t an excuse not to go.” They just started driving.

And because they did, http://www.GlobalGiving.org exists. http://www.BigPictureLearning.org exists. http://www.WillowCreek.com exists. http://www.FutureLogic.com exists. http://www.Climb7.com exists. http://www.HealthLeadsUSA.org exists. http://www.Seriosity.com exists. http://www.Intent.com exists.

You’ll hear more about the above organizations (which represent just a few of the brilliant 30 thought-leaders who spoke at http://www.BIF-7.com ) in upcoming blogs.

Subscribe if you’d like to know how they got out of inertia and uncertainty and drove to the end of their headlights when there was no “there” there.

And, be sure to go to http://www.BusinessInnovationFactory.com to check out their BIF-7 highlight videos and @thebif Twitter feed, to join their community of “transformation artists and audacious change-makers,” and to access their blog, book club and video studio that can help you and your colleagues “unleash and accelerate the transformative power of innovation.”

“Inspiration often emerges from our work; it doesn’t precede our work.” – Madeleine L’Engle (author of A Wrinkle in Time)

A client emailed me to say she was having a hard time making progress on her book.

I sent her the following message – and thought it might have value for you if you’d like to get in that delightful stream-of-conscious state where the words are flowing out of your head so fast your fingers can hardly keep up.

(Name of client) . .. please keep giving yourself props for writing, writing, writing.

E.L. Doctorow was asked what it was like writing a book.

He said, “It’s kind of like driving a car at night: you can only see to the end of your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

Keep driving to the end of your headlights.

Keep producing pages and getting your thoughts on paper.

They don’t have to be perfect and they don’t have to be right.

Just getting your thoughts down will trigger more – which will trigger more – and before you know it, your book is out of your head and on paper.

THEN – you can go back and start cleaning it up.

Don’t try to think up what you want to say. That keeps you in your head. Blocked. Stymied.

Just get your thoughts written down. That keeps you moving forward. That produces a momentum where your writing takes on a life and pace of its own.

All the best-selling authors at Maui Writers Conference – from Mitch Albom to Frank McCourt to Nicholas Sparks to James Rollins to Jacquelyn Mitchard – agreed.

Ink it when you think it.

Jot the thoughts when they’re hot.

Muse it or you’ll lose it.

If writing is hard, it’s because you’re thinking too hard.

Free up the flow.

How do you do that?

Get out in nature. Go somewhere the sun is shining. Fill yourself with the fresh air of a beautiful day, the serenity of deep, calm water, the eternal beauty of green trees or a sweeping vista of towering mountains. Drink in the quiet but powerful energy of that place.

Now, ask yourself:

“What do I passionately believe?

What do I feel is important?

What have I learned – the hard way – that might have value for others?

Who is my target reader? What is that person’s name? What is their story? Man? Woman? Married? Single? Kids? Working 60 hours a week? Out-of-work? What are they going through? What’s keeping them up at night? What are their doubts, fears, hopes, dreams? What could I share that would keep them going, help them deal with their challenges, put hope in their heart?

Fill your mind with that person. Picture him or her in front of you.

Now, reach out to that individual with your words.

Put your pen to paper – your fingers to keys – reach down into your gut – and start writing to THEM.

Pour out your heart, mind, soul and insights to THEM.

Make writing a outreach to that man or woman.

No fancy language. No struggling how to say it just so.

Write and reach out to them with your words until you see the light go on in their eyes.

Writing is not meant to be an intellectual execise where you are in your head, thinking, “What can I say?”

Writing is meant to be a communication – a bridge between our experience and expertise and our readers. The question is, “What would they benefit from hearing?”

Write to connect.

Write to share what you know, beleive and feel in a way that might add value for anyone reading your words.

When you do that, you free yourself up to to serve.

Writing is simply a way to pour out, “Here’s what I’ve experienced, observed, learned . . . and I’m sharing it with you in the hopes it might be of benefit.”

Write on.

“If you stick to what you know; you sell yourself short.” – Carrie Underwood

Do you have an idea you’re pitching? A venture or cause you’re trying to get funded?

What are you going to say in the first 60 seconds to get your busy decision-makers’eyebrows up?

If you stick to what they already know; you’ll sell your idea, venture or cause short because your listeners will have tuned out and moved on.

People are so busy these days, if we don’t pleasantly surprise them in the first minute with something they don’t know – but would like to know – it’s NEXT!

Adrian Ott, an expert blogger for FastCompany.com, interviewed Sam about her innovative approaches to motivating people to give you their valuable time, mind and dime.

What’s something you care about?

If you want other people to care about it, use these techniques on “How To Gain Buy-In To Your Idea in 60 Seconds” to capture your decision-makers’ undivided attention so your idea, venture or cause gets the respect – and buy-in – it deserves.

Here’s that interview – http://www.samhorn.com/media/articles/sam_horn_adrian_ott_interview_gain_buy-in_for_your_idea_in_60_seconds_or_less.htm

“Never allow a person to tell you no who doesn’t have the power to say yes.” -Eleanor Roosevelt

It happened again.

A consulting client sent me an essay she’d written – and it was packed with track changes from her editor on what she was doing wrong.

There were no specific suggestions on how to make it stronger – just cryptic notes about what she should fix.

This type of punitive editing saps our spirit.

Our author self esteem goes right (write?) out the window.

What’s worse – there wasn’t ONE positive comment from her editor.

Not one, “Well done!”

Not one, “Compelling opening sentence. You had me at hello.”

Not one, “Kudos on this real-life example with dialogue that put me in the scene so I could SEE what you were saying. Do this with the example on page 8 so it’s equally vivid and visually specific.”

It was all critique.

“Change this comma to a semi-colon.” “This paragraph is too long.”

I understand.

Many editors think that’s what they’re getting paid to do. It’s what they were taught, and it’s what their editors have done to their work.

However; this type of negative-focused editing hurts more than it helps.

It’s time for editing to evolve – and it is up to us authors to catalyze the change we wish to see.

I suggest we follow Jack Canfield’s advice.

Jack says, “People treat us the way we teach them to treat us.”

If you have an editor who’s making you feel you can’t do anything right; teach your editor to be a coach not a critic.

Ask that editor to comment on what you did well – so you can do more of it.

Ask your editor to point out examples of sentences in your work that sing – so you feel encouraged instead of discouraged and can’t wait to get back to work.

Ask your editor to be a “yes” editor instead of a “no” editor.

Ask, “Instead of making me feel like I’m a bad writer; please show me how I can be a better writer.”

And yes, (smile), you are welcome to share this with your editor.

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