The Day of the Speech

Coaching people for public speaking opportunities is one of my favorite elements when it comes to professional development. There is nothing better than seeing somebody positively influence an audience, generate energy in a room and possibly even change lives for some of the attendees.

During speech preparation process, my job is to answer questions while creating minimal anxiety.  Most importantly, the day of the speech the less advice, the better.  Before somebody steps on stage, the hay is in the barn – time to block out all distractions and execute!

An hour before the talk I recommend three things:

  1. A confidence-building activity that gets you a little winded such as wind-sprints, shadow boxing or pushups.  This will raise your heart rate and then allow it to smoothly recover.  You don’t want your heart rate to elevate for the first time when on stage.
  2. Deep breathing and meditation. Block out everything and focus on the way you’ll take the stage and the first words that will come out of your mouth.
  3. Your first sentence.  I don’t suggest memorizing speeches except for the first line.  Stick the landing on the first line and you’ll flow from there!

Personal Records

Yesterday I achieved a PR or Personal Record in a half marathon running the race in 1:37:57.  This is not actually a record of any real type.  In fact, 34 of the 656 entrants in this small Chicago race finished before me. 

Rewind: Last weekend there was an actual record set in distance running when Brigid Kosgei completed the Chicago Marathon in 2:14:04.  This is a world record as it was an sanctioned course (by whom, I don’t know) and checked all of the official boxes needed.  This is unlike the event that happened 48 hours earlier in Vienna when Eliud Kipchoge covered the 26.2 mile marathon distance in 1:59:40.  While this did represent the fastest time to run the distance, the help of a rotating pacer team, hydration mules (not actual mules as they likely couldn’t keep up) and a pace car shooting lasers to mark the pacer spots disqualifies this from a world record. With that said, I bet Eliud is pretty proud of his accomplishment.

As am I despite the fact that nobody will talk about my accomplishment in years to come.  I own the effort and set a record that may stand for some time.

Are You a Connector or Separator?

A connector is somebody who freely makes and takes introductions.  A separator is somebody who actively tries to drive a wedge between relationships. 

Connectors broker relationships because they intelligent discourse among smart people.

Everybody wants to view themselves as connectors as it feels magnanimous, friendly and congenial.  But how many introductions have you made this month? How many unsolicited recommendations have you written and done so without demanding credit for it ? Connectors do what they do to make the world a closer knit and open place.

Conversly, do you speak negatively about people not around to defend themselves?  Do you try to discredit people?  If so, you are likely a separator and the world needs less of your type… but the good news is you can change. 

The next time you’re asked for an intro between two people with whom you have respect, make it.  Set up a mentoring session for somebody in your organization. Make a connection between people who have a common interest.  People will remember it and will at some point repay the favor to the world.  Even if they don’t connect you to somebody, they will be more likely connect two people down the road.

Embrace the Suck – It’s Good Practice

Work, sports and relationships challenge us periodically, sometimes with more trying issues than others.  These situations create varying levels of stress that will impact or determine the way we handle the issue. Prioritization of issues is important but asking the most basic questions can help in creating a plan to attack. 

Will anybody die or face grave danger based on the outcome of the decision?  If the answer is yes, I’m not the right person to provide advice. 

If the outcome is anything less dire, it is helpful to ask trusted advisors for a point of view.  A different vantage point can lend perspective on the importance of the problem and a variety of ways to address.

Lastly, these challenges, as annoying as they can be, will serve as good preparation for the truly life changing struggles we will inevitably have in life.  Embrace the challenge – It is good to practice working through difficult decisions with slightly less significant topics to build thicker skin, coping mechanisms and decision processes that will help when bigger stakes are on the line.

Get Back to Your Baseline, Reset

Improvement, achievement and success are great motivators. Inevitably, there are times when we face challenges.  Projects with longer time horizons lead to mounting challenges that become overwhelming. This can take place around both physical objectives and those of the intellectual nature.

An example for a marathoner is a nagging IT band or slight hamstring pull.  While we want to continue our training to accomplish our goal race time, doubling down when an injury persists is rarely the best solution and may create more serious setbacks.  Similarly, if you are working through a difficult project at work without the necessary support and a positive outcome seems nowhere in sight, you may tempted to soldier forward disregarding your well-being.  This approach could lead a stressful breaking point where the anxiety itself reduces your chance of success.  

In both cases, continued attempts at forward progress can be detrimental in the long-term.  Even creating an effective plan when experiencing heavy stress can be difficult. It is important to get back to your baseline, recover, reset mentally and recalculate your course. A short recovery period will allow you to develop a clear and unclouded path to success without adding greater risk to your project’s outcome.

Leadville Starts at 4:00 AM

Leadville starts at 4:00 AM

On December 31, 2018 I stated my New Year’s resolution aloud.  This is a rarity for me as I don’t normally believe in such arbitrary timelines to commit to things we should probably be doing anyway.  Resolutions such as “eat healthily” or “spend wisely” should be constant themes in life, not fleeting commitments once a year.  

My 2019 resolution was to prepare right for Leadville.  I had signed up to run the Leadville 100 Trail race in August 2019.  While finishing the race in under 30 hours seemed to be the goal on the surface, my resolution was to prepare flawlessly every single day.  Such preparation would allow me to perform to the best of my ability and never second guess my effort.  Vowing simply to finish the race misses the point and the hard work, difficult tradeoffs and commitment to excellence along the way. 

I changed my daily alarm to be titled “Leadville starts at 4:00 AM” as a daily reminder that I could do something that day to achieve my goal.

On August 17th, Leadville started at 4:00 AM and after running 100 miles, successfully finished for me at 8:33 AM August 18th.

It Gets Darkest At Night

Before you think that today’s column was brought to you by Captain Obvious, let me explain. Of course it gets darkest at night with the exception of some parts of Alaska and a few other places on the planet.  It is not only a matter of physical darkness but there is a mental aspect that kicks in when one pushes their limits in the dark.

Recently I paced a friend of mine in a 100 mile race. The race held at a farm in Vermont and repeated a .87 mile loop that he would need to circle 115 times to complete his challenge.  While the pastoral scenery was beautiful for the first five hours, the mind-numbing experience was accentuated around hour twelve.  My friend ran much of the race without a headlamp as he normally enjoys running in the dark. This turned out to be a detriment making his world closing in around him and making the task much harder to conquer.  Sometimes we create our own obstacles.

After a few hours of running in circles in the dark, he opted to use a headlamp and his pace and spirit improved finishing 100 miles in just under 26 hours.  Badass!