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.

What did the meditation teacher say to the hot dog vendor? “Make me one with everything.”

Have you heard of the concept of “entrainment?”

When you “lose yourself” doing something you love, (whether that’s reading a great book or working in your garden), that’s the exquisite state of entrainment.

When you’re completely immersed in your sport and playing “out of your head” – that peak performance zone state is a form of entrainment.

When you spend hours happily engaged in your hobby and you’re not even aware of the passage of time, that’s entrainment.

As someone who’s earned her living as speaker/author for 20 years presenting to clients ranging from Intel to Cisco; I’ve studied the art and science of intrigue and have developed specific ways to “become one” with our listeners, readers and viewers.

See, one of our goals as a communicator is to establish this exquisite state of entrainment. And one of the best ways to do that is to re-enact real-life examples so they come alive.

People are yearning to be swept up. When we re-enact something important that happened to us, everyone is right there “with us.” They’re not just passively reading or hearing about it; they’re experiencing it as if they were there too.

For example, when I’m speaking about SerenDestiny and the importance of taking wise risks, I love to relive a memorable day at Hawaii’s famous North Shore.

I was living on Oahu at the time. My firend Leslie and I were both young, fit, and bold/brave enough to tackle Waimea Bay’s winter surf. (The inside waves – not the huge, 20 foot outside waves.)

Two Bodyboarding

Waimea Bay’s winter surf.

I don’t just tell my audience what happened. That would still be my story, not theirs.

I act it out so participants can see us standing on the sand watching the waves come in. I paint a vivid word picture so everyone in the room is in the scene and in the story. I re-create the dialogue . . .

“Leslie and I stood there with our boogie boards wondering, ‘Should we go in, shouldn’t we go in? Should we go in, shouldn’t we go in?

If we go in, we could have the time of our lives. We could also get tumbled around, inside out-upside down and deposited on the beach.

Thirty minutes later . . . we were still standing on the beach, ‘Should we, shouldn’t we? Should we, shouldn’t we?’

Leslie and I finally looked at each other, simultaneously nodded and said, ‘Let’s go in.’

We kicked as hard as we could to get out past the surf line and then bobbed in the water, gripping our boards, waiting for a suitable set. We knew once we committed, there’d be no turning back. You can’t tell a 6 foot wave, ‘Sorry, I changed my mind.’

We finally saw a wave we thought we could handle. We kicked, kicked, kicked to match the momentum of the wave and caught it at the same time. The swell lifted us up and shot us forward. Whoosh.

Aaahh . . . the thrill of cutting back and forth on the face of that powerful wave and riding it all the way in until we scraped our bellies on the beach. We looked at each other, grinning from ear to ear, and decided to go back out again for another ride, another shot of adrenalin.

Later that day on the drive home, we debriefed and both realized . . . we never would have had this exhilerating experience if we’d stayed on the beach, wondering, “Should we, shouldn’t we?”

I then ask the audience, “What is something you’ve always wanted to do? Write a book, start your own business, get your pilot’s license? Are you standing on the beach going, ‘Should I, Shouldn’t I?’

You’ll never know standing on the beach. Go in!

I’m not suggesting we wade into 20 foot waves. I’m suggesting we take the first step towards making our dream a reality – we initiate one action that will move us closer to writing that book, starting the business or getting our license to fly.”

Soren Kierkegaard said, “We always experience anxiety whenever we confront the potential of our own development.”

We are not here to play it safe. We are here to appreciate and act on the opportunities of life. Do what makes you anxious. Don’t do what makes you depressed.

What’s something you’ve been wanting to do? Ask someone out? Train for a mini-triathlon? Go back to college to get a different degree?

As Hue Wheldon said, “The crime is not to avoid failure. The crime is not to give triumph a chance.”

Give triumph a chance . . . today. You won’t regret going in, you’ll only regret not going in.”

Break, break (as pilots say when they want to change the topic.)

Are you wondering, “And how does this relate to entrainment?”

I frequently get emails from people who tell me about a dream they’ve realized because they remembered that “Should I, shouldn’t I?” story and decided to “go in” instead of standing on the beach and letting their doubts get the best of them.

When are you speaking next? What article, blog or chapter will you be writing next?

If you want to win over your audience – and if you want a long tail of positive influence – identify a real-life example that is original to you, that illustrates your point, that is on-topic and that is relevant for your readers/listeners.

Put yourself back in the scene and re-enact what happened so you put everyone in the story and establish that state of entrainment where your readers or listeners are right there with you.

When everyone feels “one” with you and your message, you will have connected. And isn’t that the ultimate goal of all communication?

If you’re preparing a presentation or writing a book and would like to work with Sam to create a state of entrainment to win buy-in to your message, mission, cause, company; contact us at

In a Dec. 13 Wash Post article on directors,