20 Things

My friend Mark once told me a way to help me achieve my goals: each day, write down 20 things that you can do to that will help you move closer to your goal. Mark had used this technique while earning his MBA when his goal was to win a contest at his school. He did this diligently every day and sure enough, he won.

Through the years, I’ve played around with this technique and created some rules to make it most effective. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

Moving beyond your comfort zone

Do you ever look back on a time in your life where you regretted not taking a risk? Personally, I can think of several opportunities I missed out on ranging from not asking someone out on a date to not taking a chance and starting a dot com business when those businesses were thriving.

Chances are, there’s some kind of fear or discomfort that’s separating the current you from the you that you want to become. If your goal is to find an ideal mate, maybe it’s fear of rejection or discomfort of trying something new like speed dating. If your goal is to get promoted, perhaps it’s fear of the unknown – you don’t know what to expect and if you can handle it.

A quick note about politics

Something I see all too often is people allowing their political beliefs to ruin their relationships. I’ve heard people in business settings say things like “I can’t stand him, he’s a Republican” or “don’t waste your time talking to that Liberal.”

Those of us that are interested in politics have some strong beliefs that we’re really passionate about. And yes, it’s fine to think that people on the other side of a particular issue are wrong. But don’t let it get in the way of your friendship or relationship.

Distractions – How to prepare so you’ll look like a pro.

It seems like you can never be fully prepared for distractions while speaking or giving a presentation. Over the last few years, I’ve experienced everything from loud coughing to a person walking across the room to ask someone else a question WHILE I was speaking.

Not calling attention to such things takes experience and practice — it’s the mark of a true professional. Most audiences are courteous and respect the speaker, so it may take years of speaking before you run into major distractions. But the first time it happens, you find it breaks your concentration to the point where it negatively affects the rest of your speech.

A quick tip for overcoming shyness at networking events

Networking events are tough for many people. You have to go up to a complete stranger, introduce yourself and carry on a conversation with the hopes that either or both of you will find some benefit of knowing each other.

A little research about the organization hosting the event, the people attending, and even the venue will help put you at ease as you’ll have something to talk about. But even that is sometimes not enough – especially if you attend an event where it seems like most of the people in the room already know each other.

Funny Names

Have you ever met someone that had a unique name?

Have you ever met someone with a name that you’ve heard before, but this person spells it differently?

When these things happen, you have a unique opportunity to really connect with this person. I learned this when I was an instructor at Bentley College. I was part of a group of 12 graduate students that would be teaching a course in basic computer use (MS Windows, MS Office & the Internet) and only two of us were from the USA. I remember talking to one of the people from India and asking him how to properly spell and pronounce his name. He was impressed that someone was interested enough to take the time to learn this as everyone else would ask him to use a nickname that was easier to pronounce and spell. He and I quickly became good friends.

Toastmasters – A quick way to become a good speaker

I have been involved with Toastmasters International for about four years. If you’ve never heard of Toastmasters, it’s an organization with thousands of clubs all over the world that help people improve their public speaking skills. But like anything else, you get what you put into it.

I’ve seen people go from petrified to polished in a matter of months. I’ve seen others join, attend a couple meetings, and then quit. If you’re serious about improving your public speaking skills, consider joining a Toastmasters club and commit yourself to completing the first ten speech projects within a year. If you really want to achieve results quickly, become a club officer.