Question: Our company is really struggling. I have to give a presentation to upper management about new ideas or new ways to try to help grow our business. It’s a big presentation. I’m afraid if it doesn’t go well, our department will face serious cuts, and people will lose their jobs. Any suggestions from your experts or people you’ve dealt with in the past?
Answer: Yes to both, and they require moving mountains and making miracles.
I have attended literally thousands of business presentations, most revolving around technology products, applications, business systems, methods, practices, etc. Almost all included PowerPoint. Some were God-awful, a few were great; most were in between but usually sideways of good.
MY FAIR SHARE OF STINKERS
I’ve given a lot of presentations and polluted the business world with more than my fair share of business-presentation stinkers. Some were so foul I’m surprised they haven’t been cited as one of the causes for global warming.
I learned something from each and every one. The good, the bad and the butt-fugly. I understand your pain. Your fear. Been there. Done that. Done it recently. But I’ve also had the great opportunity to work with and learn from a lot of great thinkers, writers and presenters.
A very eclectic group with an incredible amount of knowledge and expertise. Storytellers all … but by necessity, business presenters as well. Great ones at that.
All had one thing in common.
THE POWER IS IN THE CONNECTING
Well, almost nothing. All had different styles. Different methods. Different personalities. Different differents. But, all have successful histories of connecting emotionally with their readers. With people.
That’s what you have to do. Connect. How?
BE BOLD. STEP UP. STAND OUT.
“Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute! Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Only engage, and then the mind grows heated. Begin, and then the work will be completed.”– John Anster
Be bold in your thinking and presentation. Emphasize the concept of
“Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all others.”– Winston Churchill
Courage to overcome this adversity. Courage to make it a stepping stone to a better future.
You and your company, along with millions of others of us, are in a tight spot right now. Bad economy. High unemployment. Uncertain future. High energy costs. Healthcare costs, terrorism, you name it. The current economy and business outlook is piled high with difficulties.
Sometimes a person could just feel screwed. Start wishing for a miracle to change everything. Wishing won’t make it so. But boldness and courage can help you make things happen—and maybe even make your own miracle.
I mentioned writing with Dr. Paul Pearsall. He was an incredible human being and happened also to be the author of the New York Times bestseller “Making Miracles.” He had an approach to adversity I much admired. He faced death with dignity and … humor? Yes. But he also left a legacy, the sharing of his life’s work and the people he touched. The miracles he made continue. Because of Dr. Paul Pearsall, I became acquainted with a 22-year-old woman.
She had just begun her life. Had just started teaching English Literature in high school. Then … she was struck down by a drunk driver. She was left pentaplegic (unable to move her arms or legs and unable to breathe on her own.) She was on a ventilator.
Life for her was over, right?
At that time, she was writing a book about her experiences. Writing a book on the computer that had been especially adapted to allow her to operate the keys with a stick held in her mouth.
A stick held in her mouth.
Let me say that one more time.
She was operating a computer with a stick held in her mouth.
And what did she say about it?
“You don’t have to feel screwed. You can construe. Trust me, that one word has very special power. The dictionary says it means to discover and apply meaning, and what a power that is. It means your life is all in your mind. I am actually happier and more productive now than I have ever been. I sure have more friends and, as you can easily see, I am totally free from multitasking.”
And yet, she still had a sense of humor. So how tough a spot are you in really? Compared to that? How can you use that mental approach to the situation you face right now?
Dr. Pearsall also introduced me to the five reactions to life challenges and how they apply right here, right now.
FIVE REACTIONS TO LIFE’S CHALLENGES – CHOOSE WISELY
Kindling—Make matters worse. React like kindling wood added to fire.
Surviving—Pretty essential, but don’t you want more?
Resilience—Bouncing back to where you were before.
Thriving—Flourishing not only in spite of the crisis, but because of it.
You don’t want to just survive or to bounce back do you? You want to thrive. Communicate it. With confidence. Even if you don’t feel it.
TELL THE STORY
Tell your story. What the situation is now and where you want to be in the future—which should be a much better place. Between those two things, now and the future, is the path to success. To travel that path, you will have to have the
Courage to Be Creative
Courage to Change
Courage to Commit
CHANGE AND COMMIT
The two mega-elephants in the room. Change and commitment. All the bold, creative thinking in the world won’t get you to a successful future without the courage to change—and commit to that change.
Donald N. Sull, author of “Revival of The Fittest: Why Good Companies Go Bad and How Great Managers Remake Them” (Harvard Business School Press), discussed commitments with me in an article we did together. How to use commitments to revitalize, rebuild and transform a company into a market leader again. It pretty much boiled down to commitments. “Effective, transforming commitments share three characteristics: they are credible, clear, and courageous,” according to Professor Sull.
Now the question is, commit to what? What, with all your boldness, courage, creativity and plans for change, are you going to commit to?
“The path up and down is one and the same.”– Heraclitus
How are those commitments going to be the pathway from where you are to where you want to be? To help you climb the mountain—to move the mountain—that’s the crisis you’re in today?
To help you flourish not only in spite of the crisis, but because of it? To help you, your department and your company to become what Dr. Pearsall defined as a “Thriver?”
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Those are the questions for your answer. But take heart. It’s been done before. Lots. Here’s one example of a “Thriver” who turned tragedy and crisis into a symphonic unity that resonates to this day.
FROM “ODE TO MISERY” TO “ODE TO JOY”
Beethoven’s ninth symphony, “Ode to Joy,” was written when Beethoven was totally deaf. The chords and chorus heard only in his mind. Was he crazy? Was he so crazy as to think that this musical wonder haunting his mind could be adequately expressed to others though he could not hear himself?
On May 7, 1824, at Vienna’s Kärtnertor Theater, “The Ninth Symphony” was first performed. Beethoven, totally deaf, could not conduct the premiere. But, he did stand next to the conductor during the performance to indicate proper tempi.
WEEP NOT FOR ME MY ODE TO JOY
On the final note of the premiere, the audience exploded with thunderous applause. But Beethoven, standing next to the conductor with his back to the crowd, looked straight ahead—he didn’t know.
He had heard nothing.
His “Ode to Joy” was received with rare, effusively raw human emotion. The kind reserved for awe-inspiring moments of a singular human’s triumph over seemingly unconquerable odds. And, most unusually, some of the players in the orchestra wept.
Raucous cheering. Yells and tears echoed, thundered.
None of which Beethoven could hear. He continued to conduct.
The solo contralto noticed Beethoven’s introspective incomprehension, and turned him around. One could only wonder what went through his mind at that moment. He could not hear.
But he could see. He bowed before the cheering crowd.
Now go—be like Beethoven
“When Ode to Misery beckons … find your Ode to Joy.”
There are no easy answers.
THE END CHALLENGE
At the end of your presentation challenge everyone. At the very end? Yes. Challenge them to action.
“Accept the challenges, so you may feel the exhilaration of victory.” – General George S. Patton
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning.
We will remember them.
- From “For the Fallen” by Laurence Binyon
A MEMORY BOUQUET
At the end of each year, major media outlets run feature stories listing notables and celebrities that have passed away during the year; stories that recount highlights of the person’s life. I’m two weeks late – but there’s a reason. This year’s list was long. Really long. And special. These people really were notable, but weren’t celebrities. They were not widely known … except to their families.
THROUGH THE DARK RECESSES
Sometimes memories connect through space and time linked to your own remembrances of the person. Memories of what you were doing at a certain time in your life, at a certain place.
Special memories randomly emerge from the dark recesses of time. You feel heaviness, a sense of loss, not only for the “notable person” or “celebrity” that you probably never met, but also for yourself. For the loss of time.
Well, here’s my feature story.
It’s a little bit longer than the major media outlets would publish. Names of real people like Adam, Alberto, Christopher, Kevin, James, Jessica, Jose, Jonathan, Cwislyn, David, Timothy, Schuyler, Simone, Daniel, Raphael, Florence, Nelson, Stephen, Israel, Lance, Raul, Tyler, Omar, Christian, Esau, Rosyln …
THE LOVED AND LOST
… and on … and on … and horribly on.
Fathers, mothers, daughters, sons, wives, husbands, cousins, nephews, nieces, all.
NOT BY ACCIDENT
They passed on not by accident, not by bodily deterioration brought on by the mean ravages of time, but because they had a special job.
A job that ended a too-brief sojourn on this blue-green magical wonder called earth.
A job they chose.
SO COSTLY A SACRIFICE
They were American soldiers.
A step behind.
A look left, instead of right.
Right, instead of left.
Up instead of down.
Down instead of up.
A blink of the eye at the wrong time.
And … it was over.
WHAT IS LIFE?
It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime.
It is the little shadow that runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.
- Crowfoot, Native American Blackfoot warrior and orator
The fleeting flash of a firefly in the night … gone.
THEIR EFFULGENT LIGHT …
… echoes eternally throughout the music of the spheres like heavenly bagpipes playing Amazing Grace … across the unfathomable unknowable on their way to The Last Post.
WHO WERE THESE FIREFLIES IN THE NIGHT?
Who were these shadows that ran across the grass riding a Sonata of Moonlighton an Ode to Joy – to living, giving and life?
WHO WERE THESE FIREFLIES IN THE NIGHT?
Who were these shadows that ran across the grass into the arms of an …
On the way to their …
BECAUSE WHEN THE SUN GOES DOWN … WE WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER THEM
Have you considered how precious and fleeting each moment is? How each breath extending our existence is an amazing blessing on this blue-green magical orb called earth?
An earth that travels through space at over 1,000 miles per hour and moves around the sun at 67,000 miles per hour?
Too Much to Do
Or did you have too much to do to wonder at that?
Have you considered that if the expansion rate of the universe was changed by one part in a trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion, faster or slower, life on earth would not exist?
Too Many E-mails
Or did you have too many e-mails to think about that?
My inbox was pretty much always full.
A Really Big Inch
Did you know that if a measuring tape were stretched across the universe and segmented in one-inch increments (billions upon indescribable gazillions of inches) representing the force strengths of nature (gravity, electromagnetism, weak and strong nuclear forces) and the tape was moved by just one inch in either direction, life on earth would not exist?
Too Many Meaningless Meetings
Or were you too busy to think about that because you had to prepare for another meaningless meeting?
Too busy here – too many meetings.
Do You Know?
Do you know what would happen if the cosmological constant (the energy density of space) was not tuned to one-part in a hundred million billion billion billion billion billion (10 followed by 120 zeroes)?
Life on earth would not exist.
Too Many Petty Wars
Or were you too embroiled in petty internecine political turf wars, in business and life, to consider that?
I was too embroiled.
A Light Year
is about 5,878,625,373,183.61 miles.
A Long Minute
Globally, 21 children die every minute from poverty.
And, “they die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.”- Unicef
So Now This Is Christmas
Another year past.
What Have You Done?
2010 soon upon.
John Lennon wrote a song about this 38 years ago called “So This Is Christmas.” The lyrics were both timely and timeless.
They were turbulent times. Times much like today. Differing only in the increased speed, ferocity and utter destructiveness with which things can happen.
The lyrics transcend time. Race. Creed. Sex. Religion. Age. Not many do. The words are a calling to stop, reflect, consider, act, and hope … hope for a better future.
2010, the road ahead, beckons
Many will come.
Many will go.
Lyrics , audio and video below.
And what have you done Another year over And a new one just begun
And so this is Christmas I hope you have fun The near and the dear one The old and the young
So this is Christmas A very Merry Christmas And a happy New Year Let’s hope it’s a good one Without any fear
And so this is Christmas For weak and for strong For rich and the poor ones The world is so wrong
And so happy Christmas For black and for white For yellow and red ones Let’s stop all the fight
A very Merry Christmas And a happy New Year Let’s hope it’s a good one Without any fear
And so this is Christmas And what have we done Another year over A new one just begun
And so happy Christmas We hope you have fun The near and the dear one The old and the young
A very Merry Christmas And a happy New Year Let’s hope it’s a good one Without any fear War is over, if you want it War is over now War is over now
You saw it here first. Social Media’s version of Ali vs. Frazier. Jordan vs. Bugs Bunny. Luci vs. Dezi or Curly vs. Moe.
It’s the Thought Leader of the World Wide Rave vs. The Thoughtless Leader … AKA the World Wide Knave.
SPOILER. The Knave Rules!
SHOWTIME: Presenting … the Animotorized Premiere of the movie trailer for the World Wide Rave vs.. The World Wide Knave.
From the article … “How to Create a World Wide Rave … or NOT.
I know … I gotta get in better shape if I’m gonna be a movie star.
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