Friday, October 30, 2009

Thursday, October 29, 2009

If you want to find hidden opportunity in your life...

Click here to see the article in my new blog.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Choosing Clarity and Confidence for 2010

Have you noticed that this year has flown by and is nearly over! Yep, that's it. Ten months of the year are now history.

That's the nature of life and that's what allows us to savor and appreciate our time here. I heard someone say recently that you don't begin to live until you face death.

This year has been one of huge transformation for me. I finished my PhD in Communication after 6 years of graduate work, and I realized more clearly than ever that I don't want to play the academic game of going for tenure. (Note that no university is asking me to apply for tenure at this point.) I've had this sneaking suspicion for a long time, but like many of you, it took some reflection for me to begin to trust my ability to create a life that supports me in every way.

I'm excited about getting ready for 2010. Not in a hyper way, but I have a calm confidence that it will be a year of continued growth and prosperity for me, a time of reaping and sowing new seeds. My life is meaningful and profitable.

Like many of you, I'm not doing more things; actually I'm paring down my activities and focusing on leverage. Leverage gets you more time for yourself, in my case, to do nothing. ;-)

Here are some questions to help you get ready for another trip around the sun:

- What are you doing to get ready for the next year?

- How clear are you on your true purpose and priorities?

- What are you doing differently that will produce better results for you?

- What relationships and activities are you letting go of because they don't serve you?

- Do you trust yourself to make choices?

It's fun to take inventory, assess your progress and develop new plans. We're still in October, barely, and here's to living with greater clarity and confidence in 2010!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Your 3 Critical Communication Choices

This is the essence of a talk I'm giving Monday at the College of Charleston Faculty House. It's about leveraging language to serve you better.

Language is a tool. You can use it to build up people, including yourself, or bring yourself and/or others down. Here are some choices you probably don't usually think about, but the way you decide to be clear, to interpret and to encourage impacts your every experience.

1. Choose clarity.

Being clear about who you are and what you want is an ongoing process. But the more clear you are, the better and faster your decisions. Sitting on the fence seems to be the right way, keeping your options open, but truly it's an awkward and unproductive way of living.

What helps me sharpen my clarity is my journal. Being basically lazy, my favorite journal posts are lists. I'm constantly writing lists of what I love about my life as it is presently constructed, and what I would like to experience differently. With these lists, clarity emerges.

You can also ask yourself, "Do I really want to do this?" "If I were clear, which way would I go?"

2. Choose your interpretation.

The most important thing I learned in 6 years of graduate studies in Communication is the flexible nature of reality and the power of language to shape our perceptions. One healthy habit is separating events from the story about them. Another is not to settle on the interpretation that seems obvious ("Obviously he's a jerk because he didn't hire me") -- look for one that serves you better ("Obviously there is something better for me out there.)

3. Choose to encourage.

It's probably second-nature to encourage others, don't forget to encourage yourself. Ultimately, you want to be your own coach and cheerleader - someone who's always there for you.

Encouragement is part of of love and of leadership, it's something to live as well as do for others. It's also fun and rewarding!

Friday, October 23, 2009

10 Ways To Get Unstuck (Last of 3)

The theme this week is about getting back on track after a setback, or two, or a dozen. Yesterday I wrote about changing neural pathways, today I'm giving you a list of simple, concrete things you can do right now.

If you're tired of this theme, I totally understand. Come back on Monday. For the rest of you, here's some help.

1. See if you can pinpoint the trigger to what got you off track. Separate the event from the dramatic story about the event.

The event could be an unexpected loss of income. The story is that every time I get ahead financially, something unexpected comes to set me back.

The event is one thing, the story is a separate entity.

2. Take a nap. So many of my clients run around exhausted so much, the simple act of getting rest grants a whole new and fresh perspective on the situation.

3. Be extra kind to yourself. Ask, "What do I need right now?" It could be a nap, talking to a friend, baking cookies, listening to a good recorded book. What usually works for me is to sit on my bed and do nothing. Then I get inspired to write a blog post. ;-)

4. Think of a past success. I know it's hard to do this when you're feeling defeated, but you know there are past successes in your life. Make a note of some of these. If you're not coming up with anything, ask a confidant to help you.

5. Go for a walk. Clean your room. Hire a maid. Do something unrelated.

6. Strengthen your other disciplines. I heard this from Jack Canfield earlier this year. The example he gave was if you're concerned about money, turn your attention to exercising more and eating better. The multiplier effect helps you gain needed perspective. This practice has been great for me this year.

7. Think about people less fortunate than you. In other words, count your blessings. I know it's trite but really in the country we are all so blessed that we tend for take things for granted.

8. Brainstorm other interpretations. So many times my daughters think I'm sad when I'm just lost in thought. Just like the students who assume the teacher is mad at them when in fact the teacher has just had an unpleasant encounter with someone in administration. You're not a mind reader, think of alternative interpretations to your situation.

9. Ask yourself, "What is the lesson in this?" Choose to learn from it, rather than be defeated.

10. Lower your standards. Maybe your goal is too ambitious. Maybe you need to learn something more profound so that when you do reach the goal, your success is so much sweeter. It's possible that you're tying too hard. Been there and done that.

Happy week-end to all!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

What To Do When Your Good Intentions Blow Up

This post is for everyone who's made a serious commitment to effect a positive change in their lives, only to find themselves (seemingly) slapped back by that same intention.

There is so much to say, and so little time and space to say it, and read it. Here's the basic paradigm.

When you decide to go on a diet, it works for a couple of weeks, then you find you're unfairly passed over for a promotion, that makes you feel so defeated that you react by overeating. Then you say to yourself something like, "You see, Ms. Glutton, there is NO WAY you can lose weight. Just give up now!"

Only those who knew me in my early twenties know that during those years my weight was around what it would be much later, when I was nine months pregnant. I've now been at my ideal weight for many years, and I maintain that with no effort at all, just care with my health habits.

I'm painfully aware of what it's like to "feel like a failure."

The truth is, you've got a unhealthy habit. The first step is to recognize that.

This habit has formed strong neural pathway in your brain, so certain events can trigger a reaction that you follow without being aware of it.

What you want to do is create new neural pathways, which will facilitate new and healthier habits. What helped me the most was to shift my focus away from the result I wanted to the habits I wanted to establish.

I stopped weighing myself, I stopped thinking about losing weight, I focused on eating well, and not eating in reaction to emotional triggers. I made changes in my life that removed those triggers, one at a time. Or I worked so that the disappointment didn't automatically result in over eating.

This post is getting way too long. But the principle applies to health changes, financial improvements, or stronger relationships.

Become the detective in your life and look for patterns of behavior that you want to change.

Ask yourself, "What kind of person do I want to be?" "How does the person I want to be live?"

There are so many things you can do, but the first thing is stop beating yourself up for being a failure, but to totally transform that focus to what you can do to establish twenty things you can do that help get your new habits into your life.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

When Your Good Intentions Backfire

(OK, alright already. I got the muse back to work. Thanks for all the encouragement. I even heard from an ECU student I had 8 years ago!!!)

When you commit to something, a change, a transformation, a project or a relationship, you're making and taking a stand for something. You are no longer sitting on the fence. The marks left by the fence on your derriere will begin (slowly) to fade.

You are excited. You are ready to embrace a bigger version of you. You are ready to shine more brightly than ever before.

Here's the thing.

What one of my mentors has taught me, and what I have found to be true is that as soon as you really really commit to something, what you get is resistance to that change you seek to make. Some people might interpret this as "It's not God's will for me to....lose weight, be financially independent, enjoy better health or freedom from addictions."

The process looks something like this:

If you commit to being punctual, all kinds of things crop up to delay you.

If you commit to saving more money, for sure you're going to get hit with an unexpected expense.

If you commit to an exercise program, you will find yourself more tired than ever before.

And so on. It's so annoying.

It seems that you're really not meant to go there, to do that, to start that new habit or project or business.

It seems like you have only two choices. One is to deny that it's not working out, telling yourself you feel fantastic and victorious, when in fact you feel sad, deflated and defeated. The other is start complaining about how nothing ever works for you, that life is awful and you're an innocent victim.

Well, I'm here to tell you that neither one of these options takes you where you want to go. You can neither deny what you're experiencing, nor give up. There are other options you may not have considered.

Tomorrow I'll publish a list of things you can do when life appears to be conspiring against your wonderful intentions.

Here's the Scoop

Inquiring minds want to know....what's up with Mixonian?

The truth is, the Mixonian Muse went on strike a few days ago. I was ashamed to admit it, but her lingering refusal to work leaves me no other option.

I told her that muses from good families didn't go on strike, but she refused to listen. She's negotiating for new designer clothes and a more cool website on which to publish her brilliant posts.

I'm offering her week-ends off.

Obviously, this is a high-pressure situation and our mediators are working feverishly to reach an agreement soon.

Meanwhile, I'll leave you with instructions for establishing world peace, per Mother Teresa of Calcutta (paraphrased):

The fruit of silence is faith.

The fruit of faith is prayer.

The fruit of prayer is love.

The fruit of love is service.

The fruit of service is peace.

Back to you real soon...I hope!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Is Your Job Like High School?

Early in September my boss and I had this great conversation. He explained to me why my area of research, that of foreign authoritarian charismatic political leaders, was not interesting to the academy.

In essence, the reason is I'm not in the popular crowd.

As he explained how the system really works, the "top-rated" communication programs, the "star" professors and their disciples, I got it. It's exactly the same as high school.

I was so mistaken to think that academics really took their stated commitment to critical thinking seriously. Not at all. They don't even have time to because they've got to play the popularity game to get tenure.

Today Seth Godin explained how everything is like high school. People just don't take the time and effort to make informed decisions. You can read what he wrote about it here.

It's encouragement to relax and not take things so seriously. Happy Friday!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Take Your Presentation to the Next Level

No matter how many presentations you give in a day or a week, you probably want to make your next talk more effective, more authentic, more natural. You want to build relationships with your people.

In using the term "presentation," what I'm talking about is broader than a formal presentation to a group, each day you're presenting yourself to the world by the way you show up.

Your presentation reflects you in a unique way; even the way you get dressed in the morning impacts your presentation throughout the day. Each time you polish your talk, you're also polishing yourself.

Some things you can work on to get your presentation shining more brightly:

1. Your presentation is never perfect; it's never done. It's an art form that you spend your life crafting and fine tuning.

2. You already know that how you say it trumps what you say. The foundation for your presentation lies in your purpose. Why are you presenting? Why are you here and what is really important to you? Another way to look at it is to think about the person you want to become.

3. Develop a manifesto for the presenter you want to be. If you know why you are making a certain presentation, consider what kind of person would you be if you had already achieved that objective. How would you feel? What would you look like?

Many people want to make a great presentation that builds relationships and somehow brings them more money. In other words, they want security so they can feel more relaxed. How does being relaxed about money feel? Can you practice feeling that way right now?

4. Question your assumptions. This is really challenging to do by yourself. It's like asking the fish to describe the water in which he lives. How does a fish compare water to something else?

I have this young beautiful client who is passionate about art. Yet she "knows" that artists don't make money. Tell that to Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso. If you're willing to stretch the boundaries about the ways you think the world works, you can find a way to merge your passion with your profession.

This is where Christine Kane has inspired me. She's a musician, and everyone knows musicians hardly ever make good money. And you need a record label to make money selling your music. For years she has questioned all the assumptions that surround the music industry. And she's succeeding on a scale that has attracted a huge following.

Really isn't taking your presentation to the next level the adventure of your life?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Couple of Communication Reminders

1. How you say it is more important than what you say.

2. Who says it is more important than what is said.

We communicate from the inside out.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Opposite of Being Nice.... not being mean, it's asking for what you want. Asking in a way that shows you mean business and in a way that's drama free.

I'm not sure why it's so hard for some of us to ask for what we want.

I work with this client, Michelle, who is sooooo nice. Everyone loves Michelle.

Unfortunately, Michelle has always had a hard time asking for what she wants. She knows and expects certain things to come forth, and gets angry and/or frustrated when they don't appear. After all, she is a very nice woman. She goes beyond the call of duty consistently and her students adore her.

That's part of the reason she loves teaching. In the classroom, she is the authority figure. Everyone has to play by her rules. Once she leaves the classroom however, it's often a different story.

Part of her problem comes from taking everything personally. So, we're working on her seeing situations as impersonal business deals. In business, you always ask for more than what you expect, and you don't expect to win every concession.

The real deal for Michelle is getting clear on what she wants. So many times, she's given a "whatever" sort of answer to people that they're not used to her having preferences. She's so easy going, easy to please, easy to deal with.

Not anymore. Michelle has come so far in a very short time and I'm extremely proud of her.

She's constantly writing down in her journal lists of things she wants. She asks for all kinds of things.

She asked her landlord to lower her rent (one did not, the next one did), she asked her boss for more money (she got some of what she asked for), she's asking her ex for more money (in process), she's asked for refunds when the policy is no refunds (gotten partial and complete refunds), she asks the cashier at the bakery to cut the huge brownies in half (no problem), she asks to pay in installments without paying interest (no problem), she asks for charges to be reversed (no problem), she's asking asking, and asking.

She's asking with a quiet determination these days. Finances have been a huge issue for her and she's learning, quite frankly, to ask for more. She doesn't do it perfectly and sometimes the people she asks get all angry with her for acting out of character. But she's winning a lot more these days.

Before you can get what you want, you have to know what you want. Then you ask.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Get Inspired to Play "Opposite Day"

If you've ever been a kid, or been around one, you know they love to trip you up by playing "opposite day." It's really fun for about 30 seconds or so, but usually the kid wants to keep at it, until you are so confused as the game gets into the opposite of the opposite of the opposite.

You might have detected I'm not a natural fan ofplaying "opposite day." But some recent challenges that cropped up inspired me to play it with myself for a few days. For a few days I'm trying to go against my normal reaction to everything, and do just the opposite.


The answer is simple. Remember that definition of insanity being the result of acting the same way and doing the same thing day after day and expecting a different result? Well, you've heard that, and agreed with it, but did you really ever think how to break out of that, or any pattern of yours that you don't really see?


My coach tells about an episode of "Seinfeld" in which George Costanza, pretty much a loser character, decided to play opposite his normal behavior. The result is that Costanza gets an awesome job, a lovely lady friend, and all kinds of unusual respect. But then he gets uncomfortable with it and goes back to normality. And yes, I do realize we're talking about fictional television series. (You can watch the clip here.)

So, how do you play "opposite day" with yourself? The key word is play and keep it simple.

Here's how I played it last week at work. It was the week of informative speeches, typically super hectic because each student's speech needs to be recorded, timed, and evaluated. My normal approach is to keep everyone on a strict time schedule so we don't "waste" time. I'm usually rushed and stressed out.

Last week I decided to take a much more intentionally relaxed approach. It turned out to be useful on the first day in one classroom where the audio-visual equipment was not working properly and I had to call in outside help. We ended up starting the talks at least 20 minutes late. And you know what, the world didn't end. I bet you didn't even hear about it on the evening news. We didn't get through all the presentations I had scheduled for that week, but I figured out a way to make up for the lost time.

Just as your mind plays tricks on you, you can actually grow by playing tricks on yourself without the help of a psychotherapist. It's also a trick I use with coaching clients: they have to pretend to be relaxed about speaking in public. It works every time.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Vocabulary to Impress and Confuse

Some suggestions offered from readers, from in and outside the academy.

- modularlize

- productionalize

- operationalize

- socialize

- templatize

- strategize

- containerize

- interpretism

- signification

- objectivism

- effectivity

Thanks to all who sent in suggestions. Happy Friday!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

How to Talk Like An Academic: A Primer

Most Mixonian readers are far too intelligent to spend their lives slaving away in the hallowed halls of the ivory tower. However, now and then you might want to have a few rhetorical tricks up your sleeve to converse in the language of aca-dementia. it's good for sounding intelligent, yet unclear. If you're good at it, no one will question what the heck you're talking about.

By far, the most important thing you need to know is never to ever say anything without a qualifyer.

That means you would never say, "Gosh, this cake is delicious!"

You would say, "Speaking only from my perspective as a bodacious sales manager, this cake appears to be delicious." Then, if the next day your bathroom scales seems to indicate that indeed you did eat the cake, it's time for a fresh analysis.

You see, in PhD school, you're trained to doubt EVERYTHING. In the case of the cake, a true blue academic would doubt whether it's really cake, whether it's really delicious, and whether you're really eating it.

The two words you want to insert as frequently as possible are: perspective and paradigm.

You always want to say that you're speaking from your perspective as something, and then you define that something.

If you want to discuss a situation, try to throw in the word "paradigm." For example, "Obviously, he's still operating in the nineteenth-century capitalist industrialist paradigm."

If something is weird, call it an outlier. "Don't mind Fred, he's always been an outlier." If your boss criticizes something about you, you can deflect that criticism by casually dismissing itas an "outlier." This will confuse your boss and he will be too insecure to ask what you mean.

Finally, you can always insert the phrase "my premises may be flawed but." To put Alice in her place, you could say, "My premises may be flawed, but speaking from my perspective as an awesome widget manager, Alice is worthless as my administrative assistant."

Be patient with yourself. It takes time, 21 to 30 days, to develop a new habit. I can promise you that learning academic speak will serve to confound your colleagues, customers, and bosses and they'll learn to leave you alone.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

When Your're Not Being Appreciated

Feeling unappreciated is something I struggled with for many many years. A really long time. I even asked a priest for help with this inner conflict in a confession.

The priest said it was perfectly normal to want people to show appreciation for your contribution. But he didn't know how to "make" people appreciate you.

Like you, I love helping people, serving. I'm not sure if you're like this, but after a while I was usually feeling that no matter what I did for others, it was never enough. This would inevitably make me angry, but then I'd feel bad for being angry.

The cycle would usually end with an ugly emotional outburst. I would be reminded that I was "overreacting." After blowing up at something, I would calm down, and the cycle would begin again.

I finally got the answer to this. It took me a while.

People will never appreciate you for what you really do for them. They will never get how hard you tried, how big your sacrifice was, how much effort you put into the task. Never.

Here's the deal.

It's a matter of asking a different question. It's a matter of making sure you appreciate yourself and your contribution.

Aspects of appreciation:

- Appreciate your body by feeding it well, getting rest and exercise.

- Appreciate your mind by feeding it quality material.

- Appreciate your creativity by providing an outlet for it to manifest.

- Appreciate your soul with prayer and meditation.

- Appreciate your spirit by doing what it takes to be cheerful.

If you don't truly appreciate yourself, your special existence, then it's not realistic to expect others to appreciate you.

A wise reader, Sally, sent this response: I don't do anything hoping someone else will appreciate the action. I do everything hoping I will appreciate the action.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Get Your Audience Really Involved

The more you can get your audience involved in your presentation, the stronger your connection with them. This is especially important the first time you present to a group.

Remember that building relationships is the foundation; you can't get transactional until a relationship is pretty well established.

Some quick ideas for audience involvement:

1. Ask questions. Get them to raise their hands. Ask rhetorical questions you will deal with in your presentation. Remember it's all about them, not about you.

2. Have them make lists. Lists of their top concerns, priorities, favorite things to do....think of some list that serves to get them thinking about your topic. Then you can ask questions about the lists and tie it into your presentation.

3. Give them a written exercise to do. It could be a creativity-builder, even if your talk is about financing a Caribbean resort. There are all sorts of brain exercises, one that's super easy is a page full of circles. Ask the participants to draw things on the circles to make them into different objects (faces, soccer ball, globe, etc.) Make it a contest with a time limit.

4. Get everyone's body moving. Ask everyone to stand up and stretch. You certainly don't want your audience to feel sleepy.

5. Depending on the situation, you may want to ask your audience to relate to each another, do an exercise in pairs, or in groups of 3, depending on the size of your audience.

Your presentation is a tool to build community among the members of your audience and you. You have more leverage than you think.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Ultimate Sock Experience

I was showered with great gifts last Saturday for my birthday. One gift stands out....a pair of socks. These socks are pretty impressive and I'm writing about them to illustrate how value can be added to the most ordinary of objects.

You might come up with ways to add value to your own products or services.

The feature of these heavenly socks include:

- They have a moisturizing quality with Shea butter that lasts through 15 washes.

- They're made from organic cotton.

- They have three layers to keep your tootsies really warm.

- One of these layers is a thermal fabric. Whatever that means.

- The toe and heel parts were reinforced and are more cushy.

- They're supposed to mold to the shape of your foot.

- Part of the profit is donated to fight breast cancer.

-They're pale pink and white.

We've thrown away the packaging so I can't tell you the brand but they're available at Bed, Bath & Beyond. They are incredibly soft and warm and would make a great gift for anyone who gets cold feet. ;-)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

What the Heck is Coaching?

Professional coaching provides a nurturing and accelerated learning experience to achieve extraordinary results.Through coaching, clients focus on the skills and actions needed to successfully producte their personally chosen results.

Coaching clients usually experience fresh perspectives on personal and professional challenges and opportunities, enhanced critical thinking, and decision-making skills.

Based on the goals set by the client, coaching takes place bothone-to-one and in groups; sometimes a combination of these two gives awesome results.

My coaching practice focuses on confidence and presentation skills.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Do You Hang with Genuises?

More and more often, weird things and events are coinciding in my life....or maybe I'm just paying more attention to what's going on out in the world.

Just one example, on Wednesday I assigned random topics to my awesome speech students about which they were to give a short, impromptu talk. And in so many cases, the student would have a personal connection to the randomly assigned topic.

In another case, twice on Tuesday I read about hanging out with geniuses.

One instance was a practice Dr. John Demartini recommends. That is to make a list of the Nobel Prize winners, and to systematically read their work. As he put it, if you stick your hand in the glue, some of it will surely stick. So, there's a reading plan for you to consider.

The other example came from Gina Rudan. And who is Gina Rudan? She's someone who recently made a successful transition from the corporate world to the parallel universe occupied by us entrepreneurial types. And her business is about personal branding, and finding your core genius. You can find her on Twitter. (I'm spending more time these days on Twitter. No wonder my Chavez book proposal is lost!) One of her big themes is actively building relationships with really smart people.

My third point on the subject of genius is a definition my friend Ruben shared with me. He says that being a genius is a matter of laser focus on something. If you think about it, the kids that have trouble in school are those who have trouble focusing, while the reverse is also true. The good news in that is that the genius quality is more accessible than what you probably think.

So, make some space in your life for genius- yours and that of the people you hang out with.