self improvement

Public Speaking and The Matrix

Much of today’s self-help and personal development programs and materials are geared towards the ‘quick fix’ crowd. People want results fast and the want them with minimal effort. It’s like the film The Matrix where whenever a character within the supercomputer needs to learn a skill, the needed knowledge is downloaded in a matter of seconds. Unfortunately, despite the fact that many tools only feed this frenzy, life simply does not work like that.

Why People Fail

I’ve never been a big fan of “date” movies – romantic comedies where you know the guy and the girl are going to get together at the end, but not sure exactly how they’ll get through the mess created during the first twenty minutes of the film. With these types of films, part of the plot line usually has to do with a guy who’s afraid of commitment.

I usually get frustrated with this plot line – the gal should just move on (or to make it a movie more to my liking, blow up his car while he’s driving away). But no, it gets drawn out for 90+ minutes and somehow the guy sees the err in his ways and decides that he was wrong to not commit in the first place and spend the second half of the movie trying to correct the situation. In most cases, there’s a happy ending but not always. But what’s interesting is that fear or lack of commitment happens a lot in real life and the results are often not a happy ending.

Why Most Self-Help Books are Garbage

I try to read at least one book per week. It doesn’t always happen, but I try. While I love sci-fi and other fiction, I always find myself drawn to non-fiction so the majority of these books are from the self-help category. I don’t know what it is that draws me in – perhaps the quick fix, answer to all my prayers, one missing ingredient that’s keeping me from my dreams – but I find them fascinating. I also find these books to be fun – sort of like a treasure hunt – as I search for those useful morsels that I can apply to my own situation.

But with more and more of these books hitting the stores each week, the quality of the books (and their material) has dropped significantly. I’m finding it more difficult to not only find useful information, but actually getting through the book. I’ve noticed that many of these books use a similar format – a breakdown of the content of their book into a few distinct categories. As you read along, you’ll probably notice that many of the recent books you’ve read use this very same formula. So without further ado, here’s the breakdown of major parts of today’s self-help books:

On Being Shy

I have a confession to make: I’ve spent the majority of my life being shy. When I was a kid having to meet new people – adults especially, but even kids – was a challenge for me. I grew out of it in high school and college but then when it was time for me to hit the workforce, it came back.

The Trouble With Thinking Big

Many people that keep up with the latest trends in personal development find themselves surrounded by fads. These fads are often started by a new book, film or web site and then spread like wildfire. Some of them work while others are just noise.

One that I’ve been seeing and hearing over and over again is the concept of thinking big – if your goal isn’t big, throw it out and find a bigger one. To me, it’s just another way for people to feel like they’re moving towards their goals when they’re really not.

The Good Heckler

When most of us think of hecklers, we think of bad audience members: people questioning us in a condescending way, people talking over us, people trying to discredit us and people trying to show off. However, sometimes there is such a thing as a good heckler – someone who is enjoying your talk and is so engrossed in it that they feel like they are part of it.

So instead of the person shooting down what you’re saying, they’re reinforcing it – it’s just that they’re reinforcing it every couple minutes by repeating what you’re saying, adding their own two cents or simply completing you. Normally, this wouldn’t sound like a problem but it can be a point of frustration for the rest of the audience. Remember, they’re there to hear your material, not a constant endorsement of you as a speaker.

A Defeat Every Now And Then Can Be a Good Thing

Early in my career as a professional speaker, I made a lot of mistakes. I took on too many engagements when I had a lot of things going on with my personal life and with my job that paid the bills. I also made the mistake of allowing my contact for the presentation to select any topic that interested him or her, and then I would design a presentation around it. So I laugh to myself whenever I meet someone just getting into the speaking business that’s finding themselves battling these very frustrations.

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