Monday, January 24, 2011

The End.

I've kept this blog going for almost two years, though it has had its share of down time. While it had its moments, for the most part it hasn't served the purpose I had hoped, which was to inspire people and help keep myself and others accountable. For this I have only myself to blame.

I've decided to go in a different direction with my blogging, returning to my more general blog style from RichSpeaks, which I stopped writing in Summer of 2009 - the last post there, in fact, covers Michael Jackson's death!

I will continue to blog about the importance of Choice and finding your Self-Defined Success, but I may also just blog about a movie I like, something that happened with my kids, or my take on current events. The blog will also be my first attempt to embed a blog into my main website.

Of course, I will continue to write Speak & Deliver, my blog dedicated to public speaking, as well.

Special thanks go out to David Goad and Robert Jensen, two of my stalwart readers and commenters over the time of this blog.

It's been fun everyone - and I hope to see you all at my new digs: Rich Speaks

Remember - your success is always up to you - go out and be a Champion of Choice!

Friday, January 21, 2011

When You Make the Wrong Choice Part II


About  a year and a half ago, I talked about making the wrong choice when I quit Toastmasters.

Last night, I watched the premiere (a day late, thanks to my DVR) of American Idol Season 10, and Jennifer Zevita reminded me of that post, and about a few other wrong choices, and wrong thoughts I've had since my showing in the 2008 World Championship of Speaking, where I performed, according to both my own opinioin, and the opinions of the judges that day, rather poorly.

In the clip below, Ms. Zevita talks about her own 'failure' which led to her own wrong choice:

The quotes that stick out to me are: "I kind of thought it was destiny telling me this wasn't the best path for me," Followed by her realization years later: "What the hell is wrong with me? Since when do I give up on anything?"

Wow. It's amazing how we can let other people tell us who we can be, instead of deciding for ourselves. We can blame judges, parents, friends, bosses - any number of people for telling us we aren't good enough, but in the end, the real culprit is ourselves. We choose who to believe. (Now, for the record, she shouldn't believe me either, because if she makes it past Hollywood Week, I'll be shocked - but who am I?)

She is so shocked that Jennifer Lopez remembered her, and thought highly of her and her voice. It's important to remember that even though we aren't going to be liked by everyone, it doesn't mean that we won't be liked by anyone! The most important person who must like you and what you do? YOU.

There are a lot of reasons people give up on their dreams. In Ms. Zevita's case, it was because she believed in the judgement of three judges, and possibly a producer. Others give up because of money, family, injury, anger, frustration, and depression - and the list goes on. All of those reasons, even some that may be 'good, rational reasons', are still false excuses. The real reason most people really give up their dreams because?  They no longer believe they can achieve it to the degree they wanted to when they had the dream in the first place

Have you ever stopped believing in yourself? Thrown up your arms after a bad day , a bad year, or even a bad decade? Decided the greatness you thought you could achieve was outside your grasp? Ask yourself this: what would it take for you to decide you shouldn't have given up? What would it take for you to realize you deserve to succeed the way YOU want to?

Put your dream to the test:

A. Did you quit because others said it wasn't possible?
B. Did you quit because you lost a competition?
C. Did you quit because you thought you could never be as good as someone else?
D. Did you quit because you got distracted? 
E. Did you quit because you couldn't afford to continue?
F. Did you quit because it was too hard to accomplish?
G. Did you quit because you were afraid you wouldn't succeed?

Believe it or not, none of those are good enough reasons to quit. I could provide numerous examples of people who have faced similar circumstances, buy what would be the point. You're not them, right? Think about it for yourself. Whatever your reason was, what concrete, incontrovertible truth do you have that that reason is reason enough? 

Are you so certain others are right? Is the competition over forever, or can you try again? Do you want to be the next Elaine Page or the First *insert you name here*? Do you believe you are incapable of refocusing, refinancing, or pushing past obstacles? Do you believe you are incapable of beating fear? 

The only concrete proof is your own belief. And the only reason your belief is concrete is because you believe it is. Think back in your life - how many things have you done that you, at one point, felt you would never do?

Don't let your biggest obstacle be yourself - because you are likely the only obstacle that can actually stop you. Giving up your dream is always the wrong choice - unless you are replacing with a dream that is even bigger. Never give up on your Self-Defined Success.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Yesterday's post was difficult to write. But nothing is as difficult as follow-through, a challenge on this blog since day one. Tough to bill yourself as a Champion of Choice if you aren't also a Champion of Follow-Through!

Without follow-through, all decisions, choices, plans, resolutions, mission statements, and the like, are impotent. Lack of follow-through is why so many people keep chasing the same goals day after day, week after week, year after year. I know I've been chasing many of the same things for longer than I care to admit.

Follow-through is a daily decision. Yesterday I made a decision, and followed-through, just as I'd planned. First day is usually the easiest. Today was tougher, particularly on leg excercises. My left leg was actually sore from all the exercises yesterday. Still, I've done what I can, and more than before. I'm crawling as the doctor ordered, and used my crutches while out of the house today. After just a day and a half, I am noticing progress. Slight, but its there.

Follow-through can be infectious. Beyond my physical goals, I was able to actually focus on other goals I've set, as far as productivity in my business. Goals that had been eluding me for far too long as I buried my follow-through under a sea of pretty good excuses.

Have you had victories lately? No matter how small, or for how short a time, don't be afraid to celebrate successful follow-through. It'll make it that much easier tomorrow.

Monday, January 17, 2011

My Way, or the Mountain Top?

I have a bit of a reputation for doing things "My Way". Sometimes, it's a good reputation, other times it's not.

I believe it stems from being born disabled, and spending a large portion of my life proving people wrong. Wrong about what I was capable of doing, whether it be crossing a tree bridge, playing basketball, or spending my life in a wheelchair. Wrong about their perception of me, that I was somehow less of a person because I 'walked funny'. Amazing how many people see someone with a physical disability, and decide it equals a mental challenge as well.

Over the years, the attitude expanded to include teachers, bosses, friends, family members, and even coaches. If I didn't like what they were saying, I assumed they didn't get it. Didn't understand me, didn't believe in me.

Frankly, its worked for me. I've been successful in the jobs I've decided to be successful in. I have a beautiful wife and six great kids. I've been to the World Championship of Public Speaking twice. I've co-written three books, and helped my wife launch her first book. And, my biggest victory of all, I'm still walking, even after opting to let go of my atrophied lower left leg in favor of my self-proclaimed 'Super Deluxe Robot Leg'.

Until now.

Last Monday, I started physical therapy, ostensibly to treat the sudden onset of Sciatica that started just before Thanksgiving. Initially I had gone to a local Urgent Care, who prescribed steroids and vicodin. A week later, I was out of pain, but only for a few weeks. I went in again just after Christmas, and left with yet another prescription. This time, it only worked for a week, and by the end of the first week of January, I was again battling a combination of Sciatica and intense back pain - not a good mixture.

I've gotten prescriptions for PT before, but only once had I followed through. The result was one visit, with the therapist giving me exercises to do at the local gym, which I had a rarely-used membership to at the time. Epic fail, as my kids would say.

This time I forced myself to go. I didn't even accept another prescription for pain killers, because they weren't working, and frankly, addiction to anything other than Ben & Jerry's doesn't set well with me.

My first three sessions last week were interesting. I was again given exercises to do. The therapist mentioned adjusting my sacrum, and that I'd been walking wrong for so long, its a wonder I could walk at all. My left leg (what's left of it) is 5 centimeters smaller in diameter than my right, which has been compensating for 42 years for the weakness of my left. Even now that my legs are the same size with the prosthetic, my left 'kicks out' out of habit, and the lack of muscles in the right places.

In addition to the 'physical' therapy, there was 'motivational' therapy, as she started telling me about behavior modification, the need for my buy-in and commitment, and lots of other concepts that I tell other people all the time, but oftentimes find difficult to live by, as anyone whose followed this blog can attest.

Who motivates the motivator? Particularly one who's prided himself on doing it 'his way' his entire life?

I was frustrated, though, because it felt like nothing was being done for the pain. The therapist said the pain is a result of the way I walk, and until we build up my left leg, the pain will not only continue, but get worse. I went home after my third session with orders to exercise three times a day, walk with crutches, and crawl in the house as often as possible. This did not set well with me.

After so many years working to stay off crutches, after so much time crawling in 2006 when my leg stopped working, leading me to the decision to amputate, how was I supposed to lower myself back to that level? The goal was for me to walk without pain. I was used to limping - if I defiantly didn't care if I had to limp the rest of my life. That's what I'm known for, after all - it's part of my identity, and oddly, my Self-Defined Success.

For the four days between PT visits, I did about half a day's worth of exercises. No crutches. No crawling, other than those 3 am trips to the bathroom when trying to put a leg on is a dangerous endeavor.

Ok - it wasn't as bad as being yelled at by Sue Sylvester

This morning, I showed back up at PT, without crutches, and was given the riot act. Rightfully so. The therapist again explained the process. She asked me what I was afraid of. She told me that if I did what she told me to do, I would see progress. She also said it wouldn't work if I didn't want it to as much as she wanted it to work for me.

I could hear myself saying the same types of things to various speaking clients, and to audiences from the stage, over the past few years. What was I supposed to say back? I just nodded, said yes ma'am, and proceeded to do the exercises on the floor mat. As I looked up into the fluorescent lights, and tried to raise my weak leg in the air, I knew I was at a crossroads. More accurately, I decided I was at a crossroads.

I could either keep doing what I've always done, and continue to live with a limp, live with pain, and perhaps even end up in further debilitating pain - or I could listen to someone who was telling me I had to change the way I was living and the way I was thinking.

On the drive home, I started to take my thinking a bit further. Over the years, I've gotten a lot of advice. Some of it solicited, some of it not, but still supplied by well-meaning individuals. While I've always had a tendency, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post (getting a bit long-winded, so I figured I better remind you), to do things my own way, it has gotten worse over the last 5-7 years. I see many of you nodding vigorously.

The Library of Congress has nothing on me.

What if I should have been listening more? What if, perish the thought, other people were right? What, if instead of building what is lovingly called on my external hard drive "The world's biggest self-help library" of mp3's videos, and .pdfs, I focused on just one of them, and actually followed through? Instead of just listening and thinking, "Yeah, I'll think about it, and maybe apply a concept or two," I actually followed the program step by step, and, as my physical therapist says, retrained my muscles and replaced my behaviors?

Then I answered her question in my own mind, and began to form this post. What am I scared of?

I'm scared of being wrong. Of having wasted all this time, all this effort. Of wasting the last 42 years of my life doing things out of prideful determination instead of educated persistence. Scared that if I change now, its too late anyway.

Those fears feel real, even though I know they are not. I can poke holes in each one of them, as easy as popping a soap bubble. The past is the past, and its led me to right now, and all I can deal with is right now anyway. Every experience I've had will help me in the future, even if its just learning from my mistakes. And, as my friend, and 2003 World Champion of Public Speaking, Jim Key once famously signed in his victorious display of persistence, "It's never too late to follow your dreams."

If you've made it this far, you may be ready to ask yourself some of the same questions. What if you retrained your muscles and your mind? Replaced your behaviors? What are you scared of?

And the most important question of all - what is standing in the way of your Self-Defined Success? It's you, of course. But it may, as mine did, go deeper. It may be what your definition of Success is in the first place, and your Choice of how to get there.

Now what? Where do I go, where do you go, from here? And HOW?

I've decided it's OK if I've been wrong. I'd rather have been wrong the first 42 years than wrong the next 42 years as well. I've decided to listen to my physical therapist, and follow through - which means I've decided to start walking more normally than I ever have, even though my body, right now, has no idea what that is like.

I've also decided to start seeking more advice - even advice I may not agree with, or feel comfortable with, and start following through. Because I'm tired of limping through life - in more ways than just physically.

I have had my share of victories. I've had a great life by many measures. But to get to where I want to be, it's time to change the way I'm getting there. A car won't get you to Everest. A plane won't get you to the Moon. If I have to change "My Way" to "My Better Way Based on Other Ways", so be it.

He's been where I want to go, and is no doubt still there.

I'd rather get to the Mountain Top, and thank those who helped me get there, than spend the rest of my life with blinders on, taking satisfaction in climbing hills; living forever in the shadows of my goals, with only myself to blame.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Ted Williams: Finding His Self-Defined Success

If you don't know who this man is by now, you either don't live in the U.S. (which a surprising number of you reading my blog don't), or you've been away from any form of media over the last week.

It was just a 7-8 days ago this man burst upon the scene in a YouTube Video that quickly went viral. This one-time radio personality turned small-time crook, druggie, and alcoholic turned homeless man begging on the roadway is going through yet another transformation. Thanks to the local cameraman and the mystic tides of the world wide web, he's now he's being offered jobs and homes from companies including Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and NFL Films.

He's appeared on numerous news programs, and has reportedly received 500 job offers. We love our underdogs, and our redemption stories, don't we? Just look at the resuscitation of Michael Vick's career with Philadelphia in the NFL this year. Or the hopeful looks aimed towards Tiger Woods as the 2011 PGA Season begins.

Many people have said he's "lucky". Others wonder why they can't get a break, when they've never broken the law or had the problems Mr. Williams has battled with. Others just scoff, believing this is just another internet fad that will burn itself our, a la Pants on the Ground.

The way I see it - this man is a Champion of Choice. At least the Choice he made to make the sign espousing his God-given talents, and find a busy intersection to beg at, and be willing to be filmed. His Choices before that may be suspect, but how many of us have never made a suspect choice? Or an outright BAD Choice?

The key is that he changed the Choices he was making in an attempt NOT just to survive from day to day, but to draw attention to his talent, which he knew could lead to his Self-Defined Success. What I doubt he realized was that his end-result would be his goal multiplied by such a large degree.

It's not over for Mr. Williams. He has many Choices ahead of him, including Choices that, if poorly made, could take him back to his old version of Self-Defined Success - drugs and alcohol. For his sake, I hope he's figured it out after all these years.

What about us? What can we do? What small Choice can we make that God, or You Tube, can multiply by an nth degree? Without a doubt, to achieve your success you must choose to do so. Even 'The Voice' would still be a voice in a cardboard box without making a Choice to step towards his resuscitated Self-Defined Success.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The New Idea Burden

We're always looking for it, aren't we? That wonderful, vacuum-sealed, never been seen before idea.

Whether its a new invention, a new story idea, a new sales technique, a new technology, or just a new thought to put on twitter, turn into a YouTube video, and bask in viral glory.

It can be frustrating, particularly in today's world. 20 years ago, we could at least have an idea that, if no one we knew had heard of, was a new idea. At least until we did a patent check. We could be pithy and funny and no one would check to see if we'd ripped it off, intentionally or not, off the Internet.

Would you steal from this man?

Today, its tough to even write a blog post without feeling I'm ripping it off from somewhere. Over in Speak & Deliver, I offer advice to speakers. There are tens of thousands of other blogs, websites, books, cd-sets, videos, and subscription services, and real-life coaches that do the same. As you might suspect, I read a lot of their work - even review their books, from time to time. I have a list of other speaking blogs in my own blog!

Frankly, it can be paralyzing. We don't want to be unoriginal, we don't want to appear to be copying other people's work. And, of course, we don't want to be boring. If I write about How to Give a Great Introduction, I don't want to do it the same way everyone else has done, or do it within days of someone else in my circle of peers writing about it.

Should we just start ignoring everything? Never expose ourselves to another blog, book, or podcast and risk hearing our brilliant ideas being used by others? Seems rational, doesn't it?

Rational Insanity. What I refer to today as The New Idea Burden - which somebody else has probably else called it somewhere, someway, somewhen.

But it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter who had the idea first, it matters what YOU do with it right NOW.

Unless you are deliberately plagiarising, duplicating plans for the next model of Porsche, or selling term papers, its OK. Chances are nobody cares.

Speak, write, draw, paint, play, invent the way you want to. We're all influenced by the everything we've ever experienced. And if a great idea exists, chances are you're not the only person to think of it. And if you do nothing with it, you'll just be copying the countless others who suffer from the same rational insanity of The New Idea Burden. 

If you've suffered as I have, stop it already. Use the key in your hand, and unshackle your feet, and get moving. There are millions of people waiting to read your next book, watch your video, comment on your blog - even if Chris Brogan just did the same thing on one of his multiplicity of blogs.

The real challenge now, which I'll leave to another day, is The Traffic Burden - getting those millions to know and care that you exist.

Keep building your Self-Defined Success!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Success in Whose Judgment?

The Age of Judgment is Here.

And its been here for a long time. These days, every day is Judgment Day, and everyone is a judge. I'm not talking about a religious Age of Judgment, nor do I refer to the oft-predicted End of Days.

Instead I mean the Age of Judgment on You and I, on our ideas, on our dreams and hopes, on our Choices. Judgment is a weapon wielded not just by the Naysayers in your life who work so hard to discourage you, but even by those who believe in you. It's used by relatives and church friends, and often even coaches you've hired to help you along your journey.

Judgement comes in many forms: ridicule, guidance, scoffing, critique, dismissal, suggestion, sympathy, love, anger, respect, outrage, depending on the wielder, and the moment. Judgment can put you on a clearer path, or torch all the paths you thought you had in front of you.

One minute your advisor says "Yes, this is completely feasible," the next moment, "in three to five years." One moment you're discussing your latest public relations victory to a friend, the next they ask "So, how much money is that making you?"

The Squire of Gothos tells Captain James T. Kirk he will
hang by the neck until he is dead, dead, DEAD! What is the
World saying about YOU?

It shouldn't be surprising or discouraging to us, in truth. Everywhere we turn, talk-show hosts, critics, politicians, bosses, teachers, bloggers, twitterers, and little kids across the street weigh in on anything at anytime with their Judgment. Nothing is universally accepted, nothing universally abhorred. We spend our lives working to please the majority, even if our thoughts are in the minority, just to keep from getting slapped down. Heaven forbid, for example, I declare I believe in God in this blog and lose a reader who doesn't.

More on point, for those of you who do read this blog, you're likely being judged for wanting to be different. People around you wondering what you're thinking, wanting to take control of your life outside the normal constraints of public approval. For wanting to create your Self-Defined Success.

Maybe you want to quit your job. Maybe you want to change your weight, and its going to affect everyone in your household when you stop buying Pop-Tarts. Maybe you have decided money isn't as important as family, but the family still wants to watch The Cartoon Network and buy clothes at their whim.

Maybe just the opposite - you've decided a cubicle or a corporate job is the perfect place for you. That you're tired of dieting and you'd rather stay 30 lbs overweight and lose the stress of not being able to eat your daughter's birthday cheesecake. Regardless of your vision of your Self-Defined Success - that is just what it should be. It shouldn't be defined by anyone you don't want or need to give power over you.

Even when you've broken away from the Judgment of others, you are not yet safe. The Age of Judgment doesn't fade away without a fight.

Despite the many ways and means Judgment can come from the outside, it is most potent when it comes from within. Our Self-Judgment can destroy our futures before we even take the first step, and burn the foundations of dreams before the the cement even hardens. Even more cruelly, Self-Judgment can cause us to turn back even as we reach the cusp of success, and torch a brilliant structure for the sake of an unexpected flaw or challenge.

Self-Judgment may find its roots in the Judgments of others, but ultimately it is our own responsibility. While it can manifest itself positively, helping us discern between choices, too often it appears in the guise of fear, confusion, and uncertainty. It sabatoges, distracts, and discourages. It can make us defensive, embarrassed, and hopeless.

Have you been there before? Have you been there today?

Time for a reality check. Before making a knee-jerk move that sets you back or steers you in another direction altogether, perhaps just before reaching the final horizon, STOP.

Escape to a neutral environment - the library, a coffee shop, even just hopping into your car and heading to a park. Take a pad of paper or a notebook, and start an honest assessment.

Look at the moment:

Who are you right now?
Who do you want to be?
What are your talents?
Who are your allies?
What victories have you experienced in the last year?

Look at the Judgers:

Do they have credibility?
Do they know the whole story?
What happens to you if you take their advice?
What happens if you take a PART of their advice?
What happens if you ignore it?

Look where you are going:

If you stay the course, where can it take you?
If you change course, what are the consequences?
If you could take any course you wanted, what would it be, and where would you go?
Now ask it again - and choose two more.

Once you've taken the time to put these items in writing - good old fashioned pen to paper - start making your plan. Whether its your old plan, that you've managed to refocus on through all the Self-Judgment, or a new plan that became clear in the process, put it down as a step-by-step, realistic and achievable process.

Then go out and DO the first thing on the plan. Nothing beats Judgment like Action in the face of it.

It won't stop there. You may very well find yourself in the same spot tomorrow, depending on how much you have going on, how many obstacles you're facing. But the process stays the same, whether you spend 10 minutes or two hours. Your plan may change day to day. It may mean removing or adding activities or people from your life, your plan.

Just make sure the plan is always yours, always going in the direction you want to go, even as you evaluate the desires and intentions of others. Ultimately, the Choices, the consequences, the defeats, and the victories are yours, and the Judges will continue doing what they do - but they will never sound the same again.