My First Public Speech

I still haven’t abandoned my new year’s resolutions. But they did take a little turn, which I’ll get into in another post.

One resolution was to join, attend, and participate in Toastmasters. Toastmasters is a national organization with local clubs that meet regularly to provide a place for people to improve their public speaking in a supportive setting. The club I found is excellent. There is a range of well seasoned speakers to people like me who need a lot of work. The more seasoned speakers are there to provide advice and feedback to the newer members.

Yesterday was my first “icebreaker speech.” I think overall it went well. I’ll have to watch the video they took of it and see for myself. Although I put in a lot of preparation, I should have worked on the speech more over time, rather than fine-tuning it so close to speech time. I think the later additions and subtractions threw me off a little. And the changes I made came after I really started to rehearse. So the learning is to rehearse earlier on, and finalize the speech before the last day. Then rehearse the final version some more.

It’s funny they say that after a speech you’ll kick yourself for accidentally leaving things out. That happened to me. There were parts that I completely forgot to say that I think were important in tying the entire speech together better. This is all a learning experience… Again, I think the late changes threw me off a little.

I relied only on an outline. I didn’t get stuck or fumble, which is an accomplishment. I wasn’t too nervous either–which is another accomplishment. There was someone there counting “ums” and “ahs,” and I had my fair share. I’m completely ok with that for now. There are other areas I want to improve on first before really honing in on eliminating filler words. I was able to make pretty decent eye contact.

Besides improving public speaking and speech in general, I another important thing Toastmaster provides is a setting to purposely get out of my comfort zone. I touched on this a little on my End Scatterbrain site. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that purposely stepping out of your comfort zone does a lot to improve other seemingly unrelated areas of personal development.

Mind, Body, and Spirit

I’m trying to document all of the areas that I’m zeroing on in my pursuit to think clearly and focused at all times. What I’m learning, and what I’m truly believing, is that the mind, body, and spirit work together in sync and influence areas like focus, concentration, memory and other areas like creativity, happiness, outlook, etc. Many overlap, but I tried below to put some of the tools, strategies, and theories into the 3 different buckets.

I’m not necessarily weak in all of these areas, but I do want to keep them in mind and not ignore any. And I will go through exercises even if I think I’m stronger in one area. Because maybe a “jumpstart” in an area of strength can boost an area of weakness.

While “spirit” scares some people off, I don’t think it necessarily means a religion or religious practice. The way I see it “spirit” revolves around a life with purpose.

In the spirit of visualizing the 3 as a cycle, there can be seemingly unrelated downstream consequences (positive and negative) to getting on or off track in one area. I’ll try to expand on each in later posts, but here are some:

Meditation – I haven’t started yet, but will start to spend 20 minutes a day in quiet meditation. Many of the sources I’ve found recommend meditation.
Mindfulness – Be conscious of your mood and state at all times. And ask yourself things like, what should (or shouldn’t) I be doing right now.
Brain and Memory Games – This might be on the bleeding edge, but I’ve been experimenting with games like dual n-back (and others), which some neuroscientists believe can stimulate and change important parts of your brain.
Choice of social circles – Birds of a feather flock together. Do your friends, co-workers, etc. help of hinder your pursuits?
Input and inspiration – Garbage in, garbage out. Fill your head with junk, then junk will come out. Intellectually stimulate the mind, and good things (ideas, etc.) will follow.

Exercise – Exercise has been shown to enhance brain function.
Nutrition – Certain nutrients (like Vitamin D and Omega 3s) have been shown to enhance brain function. Others (like sugar, especially fructose) have growing evidence that show they are detrimental to overall health and brain health relating to mood, behavior, and habits.
Hydration –  Drink plenty of water. So simple, but surprisingly I find it hard to stick to.
Sleep – Get plenty of sleep. I find this hard to adhere to also.
Healthy body weight, lifestyle, etc. – No brainers (pun intended)

Purpose in life – This can be things big and small. This is a very good place to start when setting goals.
Happiness and gratitude – Getting back to the “brain influences the mind, and the mind influences the brain,” studies show that practicing positivity and gratitude influence the “wiring” of the brain–thus influencing the entire cycle in a good way. Examples are keeping a journal or just purposely finding time each day to think about the good things.

Soon I will be posting more about each of these areas. “Stay tuned.”

Book Review: The Accidental Creative How to Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice

I finished up The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice, by Todd Henry, recently. I can’t recommend this book enough. My feeling though, is a book of this type can be seen as great or not depending on where you are with your knowledge of the subject at the moment. This one struck (me) while the iron was hot. I had all of the thoughts and feelings floating around in my head, and the book summed them up and articulated them perfectly. It also gave me some actionable advice.

First, the book was very well written and flowed very nicely. There wasn’t much fluff if any at all. It drove home points very directly. I find books that get right to the point easy to read and easy to absorb. I also respect that he cited other sources.

This is the third book on my scatter brain endeavor. All three books point to the same things you must do to gain focus and concentration (be mindful, deliberate, and have purpose). The Accidental Creative’s premise is that when you gain focus and concentration, creativity will follow.

The Accidental Creative in a nutshell revolves around 5 practices (FRESH).

  • Focus – Define your challenges and pick the most important ones to concentrate on.
  • Relationships – Choose your social circles wisely as they influence creativity.
  • Energy – Plan wisely (whole life plans, periodic check ins)
  • Stimuli – Garbage in, garbage out. So choose intellectually stimulating things to enjoy.
    • Create a study plan. Reading list, etc.
    • Have purposeful experiences (cultural, intellectual, etc).
  • Hours – Carve out specific time for purposeful thinking and creative endeavors.

It is no surprise to me that these same themes are mentioned in not only the last 3 books I’ve read, but also in a lot of other resources I’m reading too. I guess what this did for me is drive home the theory that creativity depends on focus and concentration.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m done with my discovery phase. No more reading books on focus, concentration, memory, creativity. It’s time to put the other 40 books on hold while I put things into action.

From The Accidental Creative, I’m going to:

  1. Create a reading list of classic books. And read them (duh).
  2. Go to museums, art shows, etc. with the family.
  3. Come up with a career skills study plan. Define areas/skills where I need to strengthen.
  4. Capture ideas in a journal.
  5. Define and prioritize challenges (work/company and personal).

I’m getting there!!!

5 Whys

I’m not sure what this has to do directly with focus and attention, but I thought I’d post it anyway. Scatterbrained or not, I was always a great problem solver. Part of my strength, I think, is not accepting one cause (which may be a symptom). One tool that helps tremendously in getting to a root cause of a problem is to ask why 5 times.

So very simply, lets say your car runs out of gas.
1) Why did I run out of gas? I forgot to fill up. (duh, right?)
2) Why did I forget to fill up? I was in a hurry and didn’t notice. (hmmm ok)
3) Why was I in a hurry? I woke up late.
4) Why did I wake up late? I went to bed very late.
5) Why did I go to bed late? I was out partying…

That’s a very simple example. In practice, you probably won’t use it on such examples, rather in that case you can say to prevent running out of gas when I’m late, let me never go under 1/4 full. So rather than saying the partying caused me to run out of gas (which it did), I would say that carelessness did.

I did kinda sorta put this exercise on myself and challenges I faced and signs that would not normally be brought to light kept bubbling up to the top. Like focus, concentration, and attention.

Try putting 5 whys to work for you.