Simple Equation
January 24, 2009

I have been inspired by Sanjaya Malakar. Yes, of American Idol fame, but before you conclude that I have lost all credibility let me explain.

Below is a link to an interview Sanjaya gave on Good Day New York. In writing this post I had so much I wanted to say about the interview because there was so much to say. I just kept writing and writing, and we all know if you say three things you say nothing. So I stopped. I was looking for the transcript because it would have been fun to see the actual words he used or lack thereof. Then I found the clip and thought, it speaks for it self.

No Core + No Concrete (examples) + No Story = NOBODY CARES.

Sanjaya Malakar, Good Day New York, 1.22.09


The Big Bad Wolf
January 22, 2009

big bad wolf
The audience does have a desire to hear what you have to say. They have given you their most precious possession, time. However, that is as much as they will give you. The rest is for YOU to give. You need to give them meaning. You need to give them something memorable. You need to give them something moving. You need to do ALL the work for them.

Metaphors add meaning and emotion to what we are trying to convey. In A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink’s highly recommended book about the new worker of the 21 Century, he suggests beginning to listen for and collect the metaphors we hear. The real gift of the suggestion is to wake us up to the world around us.  We begin to listen consciously, taking clues from our surroundings.

The other night I was watching Top Chef.  This episode took place at Blue Hill Stonebarns restaurant in upstate New York. I have never been but I hear it’s great. The contestants were broken up into teams which had to prepare lunch for a groups of 16 people, including the judges and the special judge Dan Barber, owner/executive chef of Blue Hill at Stone Barns

The interesting thing is I don’t really care about food. It is sort of an ongoing joke amongst my friends that I don’t eat and have no interest in food. I appreciate good food and presentation but if I am going out with friends I care much more about the ambience and the company than “whose” restaurant it is. I can be in the middle of a meal and just get bored with eating.  I digress a little only to say I think in this situation I am representative of your average audience member. I am not watching Top Chef because of my love of food, but I have given it my time.

When the judges comment on the food it really doesn’t mean that much to me. Something is too crispy, something is undercooked, some flavor overwhelms another. I certainly understand what they are saying and what they mean to a degree, but it does not hold much real meaning for me. What that means as an audience member is that I don’t care. However, during the judging of this episode the judges had just finished the savory part of one of the meals and they seemed to be pleased. Now came the desert, I don’t know what it was but they didn’t like it. They each went around describing how displeased they were by using all the same sort of descriptions mentioned above. Again I did not care.

Suddenly, one of the judges said the desert is the BIG BAD WOLF of the meal. My ears perked up because I was struck by how powerful it was to me. Again, what I consider to be an average audience member in this scenario. I immediately understood what Daniel Pink meant. Very simply, I cared and I don’t care about food. I thought, “oh that’s not good”, “that is a glaring mistake”, that desert sucks. I have never even tried the desert. I probably would have loved it. I AM a big fan of desert.

The impact of such a well-placed metaphor with all that it conveys is immediate and visceral. The big bad wolf is angry, mean, destroys the houses of little pigs, it ruins things, it’s monstrous. That is why that simple phrase was so powerful. Look how much in conveyed in just a few words and it had nothing to do with the language of food. But now I got it, now I cared, now I understood, now the judging had meaning.

If you are trying to convey something to a friend, to a single donor or to an auditorium of people, discover, record and use metaphors.

DESIGN NOTE: the big bad wolf is also good to keep in mind when designing slides for presentations. Watch out for those monstrous elements that stand out and ruin the presentation/meal for the audience. (more…)

We are “how” we do.
January 21, 2009


What I am and what I do are different things. However, what I am and how I do (what I do) are not. How we do is a direct reflection of who we are; how we approach work projects, how we meet someone new, how we deal with conflict, how we manage change, how we act as husbands, wives, brothers sisters and friends. How we do all of this is a reflection of who we are. I am not just my job or my various relationships but I am the energy I give, the attention I direct and the love I project. Each area of our lives deserves to be nourished by this understanding. All true philosophies and spiritual paths direct us towards unity of thought, word and deed so that “how” we do reflects the highest us.

Speech is creative, not only in the artistic sense, in that it creates actions, emotions and thoughts. It can create worlds within our minds, worlds that we live in worlds that are positive or negative. Speech can raise a nation and topple a civilization. The “how” brings us right up next to who we are. It mirrors our thoughts, hidden intentions, desires, weaknesses, strengths, emotions, intelligence, love, kindness; you cannot speak and hide. The spoken word betrays our inner world.

Speech can be meaningful in all situations. It is not necessarily the content. Best friends can speak of the most trivial things but the authenticity is apparent. What matters is the authenticity of the moment. The search for authentic communication is no different than the search for your Self. Find your Self and you can not help but be authentic. Find your authentic voice and you have found your Self.

Authentic speech can lead us to our Self and the everyday world can lead us to authentic speech. The clues are everywhere, the stories of our time are waiting to be heard, the beauty of design is waiting to be seen, the language of emotion is waiting to be felt. Listen, look and feel and speak your way to your own heart and the hearts of others.