Monthly Archives: February 2011

What Is Your Keynote Address?

Over the last couple of months, I have been inspired by some amazing speakers. It wasn’t necessarily their topics that have captivated me, but rather how they engrossed their audience. This has happened mostly in professional settings such as conferences and workshops, but also from a rabbi as part of some religious exploration that JB and I have recently embarked upon (more on that in a future blog — talk about balance!).

Anyway, I want to be like these speakers. I want to capture an audience’s attention and not lose it. I want there to be a topic that I am so informed and comfortable with, while also possessing genuine emotion for, that I don’t need a PowerPoint or an activity to keep listeners engaged. Basically, I started thinking, “For what type of conference or event would I like to be a keynote speaker?” In what would I like to be a “perceived expert?”

One of the speakers who inspired me last month was Marlee Matlin. If you are not familiar with her and don’t want to click on the link, she is an actress who won an Oscar in 1987 for Children of a Lesser God. She’s also deaf and a recovering drug addict.

As the keynote speaker at a workshop for those who work in addictions counseling, Matlin signed her entire speech, while her interpreter spoke her words from the audience. She was so engaging, after about three minutes, I completely forgot that the person I was staring at was not the voice (and a male one at that) I was hearing. I was also trying to not hate her for looking so absolutely incredible in skinny jeans and stilettos after four kids, but mostly it was the speech. Being able to communicate a message like that, much like looking good in skinny jeans, is a gift.

It’s more than just knowledge. Yes, you have to be competent in your subject, but you could tell me you want me to present on the 10 ways that cloud computing will change the world and I could dutifully research the topic and put a presentation together. Maybe even a good one, though doubtful, seeing as I have yet to understand a definition of “the cloud.” I mean, how is it different from a server? Sorry, topic for another day. But I would want my keynote to also be about something I have experienced and lived. Something I truly believe in and would authentically and enthusiastically want to share with others.

I might not ever become a keynote speaker for anything other than something I organize (but of course!), but thinking about it in these terms helps me gain a better grasp of what is important to me and where I would like to focus my professional and personal goals. I haven’t figured it out completely yet, but I have a few ideas. I’ll let you know when you can book me 🙂

Have you ever thought about what event you would like to keynote? What speakers have you seen live who have just captivated you?


Dear 23-Year-Old Self…

Last week, WordPress’s Daily Post posed the blog topic: If you could have a 5 minute conversation with yourself 10 years ago, what would you say? I’m game, so let’s set the scene: I am 23 and it is February of 2001. I’m about six months into my first job at a public relations agency. I’m still at home after moving back from college, but it’s cool. The economy rocks and I’m pretty much just rolling along. In my 5 minutes, here are the 6 pieces of advice I would impart to my younger, dapper self:

1. In 7 years, you will turn 30. About four minutes into your 30th year, your metabolism will pack a bag and joyfully head south to live out its days in retirement on a beach. It won’t even leave a note.

There will be no major visible change to the outside eye, but you will have to start making conscious efforts to stay healthy and maintain your weight. I implore you, start these habits now! Modify your diet, learn to cook, and above all, start exercising. The earlier you make these changes, the easier it will be to carry them out throughout your life. Otherwise, at 33, you’ll be the queen of excuses to skip the gym.

2. Circles don’t fit into squares. Stop trying so hard to convince yourself otherwise.  In a few years, your best friend will give you a card with Buddha’s quote: “Learn to let go. That is the key to happiness.” You will keep it on your counter for years and years (still do). You will even quote it at social gatherings, pretending you are a cultural scholar of sorts.  But you won’t really believe it for a long time. Believe it.

3. Save your money. Not because of an uncertain economy or the rising costs of higher education, but because around 2008, I want you to invest in a self-serve frozen yogurt franchise. People will think you are crazy. They will say, “but we already have TCBY.” Ignore them. And soon, over a cup of red velvet cupcake yogurt mixed with a little bit of cake batter topped with sprinkles, they will apologize for doubting you.

4. Travel abroad! We already regret not studying abroad in college, don’t make the same mistake during this early part in your adult life while you are still living at home and have few expenses.

5. Take a graphic or website design type of class at a community college. Actually, I probably didn’t need to tell myself that 10 years ago. I need to tell myself that now.

6. You know that voice (which sometimes manifests itself as stomach pains on Sunday nights) that keeps telling you that you don’t really like your current job or the industry you chose? Listen to it. You eventually will, but you could do it a lot sooner. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure. And one day you will make a living out of telling people that it’s okay to change their mind about career decisions.

I don’t mean to present these as regrets (besides not studying abroad in college, I meant that one) because they are not. And I suspect that in 10 years, I will look back at my 33-year-old self and have plenty of “if I knew then what I know now” wisdom to share as well. But it wouldn’t be life without figuring it out for yourself. Your current self, that is.

What would you share with yourself 10 years ago? Would you even want to talk to yourself? I’m kind of afraid of what my hair would look like. I don’t think I bought a CHI until 2004.

Why I Love: Taylor Swift

Happy Valentine’s Day readers! Since it’s the “holiday” of love, I figured this is the perfect time for the next installment in my “Why I Love” series. This is my ode to the pop culture entertainment that provides the escape I need to restore balance.

It’s been about three weeks since I’ve listened to Taylor Swift’s most recent album, Speak Now. Consider it a self-imposed detox. Since buying the CD upon its release in October, it has moved in and taken over the deed of my car’s CD player. I never tire of it. I never skip a track. I listen to it all the way through and then I listen to it again.

I own the two Taylor albums before Speak Now, so this was not the beginning of my adoration for her and her music, but it did heighten it. Sure, the confessional nature of  her songs is fun and voyeuristic seeing as most of Taylor’s romantic relationships are well-publicized so the tracks have that tabloid feel about them.

But it’s not the gossipy vibe that makes me like the music, but rather how it evokes the feelings of being young and open and optimistic about life and love, despite the heartache, which is of course her favorite subject.

Taylor receives a lot of slack for her singing ability. She is clearly no Mariah or Christina when it comes to the depth and range of her voice. But for me, that sums up her charm — it’s more about the words she writes and the emotion she conveys — even more so because she sounds so normal and relatable. And yes, I understand she’s a brand and in real-life she may take the heads off dolls and keep them in a shoebox, but it doesn’t change the music.

This is a lyric from my favorite single off of Speak Now, “Enchanted”: This night is sparkling, don’t you let it go/I’m wonderstruck, blushing all the way home/I’ll spend forever wondering if you knew/I was enchanted to meet you.

It’s such a simple way of describing the beginning of a crush! I’m sure some would call it elementary or downright silly. And maybe it is. But when you’re 20-years-old, that’s how it should be! She doesn’t write about her dreams of world peace or even how to be successful in love because she clearly doesn’t know. She’s doesn’t try to be daring or sexy with her music or lyrics, and I love how so many people, especially young girls, have responded to that.

In short, Taylor Swift’s music is whimsical, youthful, and eternally hopeful about love. She’s like the Charlotte York of music. And on Valentine’s Day, whether we’re in love, down on love, or contentedly looking forward to the next love, we can all benefit to remember those feelings of hope, wonder and excitement about what’s yet to come…

Enjoy your Monday! And if you like Taylor or even if you’re a hater, leave a comment and tell us why. What music takes you back?

Who’s The Boss?

He is.

So is he.

And – surprise! – they ALL were.

And as of this week… MEEEEEE!!

Well, I’m not really the boss, but for the first time in my professional career, I have been given the opportunity to supervise a full-time staff member. I’ve felt ready to assume this challenge, but it hasn’t been a possibility in my office until the recent hiring of a new position. I’m thrilled to have this chance.

Before I go any further, for the record, I would never actually use the term “boss” in my characterization of the relationship with our new employee. It sounds so…. bossy. But I have been thinking a lot about how I will settle into this role. I think those pictured above can give me some good advice for finding balance in this new part of my career.

1. Do you know how Springsteen got the nickname “The Boss?” When he started playing with his first band, he was the one who always received the paycheck and then distributed it to the other members. They jokingly started calling him “the boss.” At least this is what Wikipedia my extensive research tells me.

Clearly I’m not signing any paychecks. But I like the bigger idea of a manager looking out for those he/she manages.  I’m used to looking for opportunities where I can contribute or take ownership of a project, but now I have to balance that with looking out for someone else and making sure she is getting these experiences for growth as well.

2. I like my professional relationships to also be personal. Not too personal, but you know what I mean, within reason. While Michael Scott on The Office may not understand “within reason”, I can understand his need to feel close to his colleagues. I’m an ESFJ, I like sharing and feeling and all that goo in my work environment. I’ve had close relationships with my managers and I know it’s possible with the proper boundaries. But the real question — can we be Facebook friends??

3. Finally, I think the biggest area of growth will be just figuring out what the heck to do in order to be an effective supervisor. But I’m sure I will. I mean, when Tony Micelli arrived at Angela’s door, he didn’t expect to become a housekeeper. And after a few seasons of those crazy mishaps, he became quite excellent. I have to just be comfortable with the uncomfortable for a while. That is not my strong suit.

Despite a bit of self-doubt, I’m very excited for this role and for the professional and personal growth that will come with it. I hope I can be as good of a supervisor as I’ve been lucky to have over the years. I need to re-read this post by my friend and career blogger Joy who solicited feedback about good and bad bosses. And most importantly, I look forward to Monday, Oct. 17th. Feel free to send flowers. 😉

Who are your supervisor role models? What is your management style?

Do You Wordle?

Well folks, it’s Snow Day #4. North Texas continues to be shut down due to ice and now the almost 6 inches of snow we got overnight.

Obligatory snow photo! Obligatory snow photo!

Not too much has changed since my last post about the weather, except perhaps my attitude. And JB and I did venture out Wednesday night for some enchiladas and human interaction. I also figured out why it’s so easy for soap operas to catch you up in 10 minutes. Today I was exposed to All My Children once again (it’s the same channel of the local news I prefer, stop judging). Most of the characters are still in the same clothes as the Tuesday episode except for the one woman who was getting a massage on Tuesday and is now hooked up to tubes in a hospital bed. Bummer. But it’s not too difficult to update a viewer who hasn’t watched in 15 years because in Pine Valley, only one week has passed! Genius!

Anyway, I decided to use this time to put some blog entries into Wordle. On this wonderful and addicting site, you submit text and an image is generated (that you can then customize) showing you the most frequently used words in the copy. I put in some recent posts and here is the Wordle (this is as big as I could get it, you can click on it to enlarge).

Wordle: Blog

Clearly, in the last several entries I have written a lot about “days.” But what really stood out to me was that “perfect” was used so often and, um, where is the word “balance”?? Isn’t that the topic upon which I created my blog in the first place? Isn’t that what I am trying to achieve?

It’s easy to lose track of goals and of a blog theme. I’m going to try to get back on point for both.

So throw some text into Wordle. If you enjoy writing, I think it’s great for seeing all those little words we use so often but shouldn’t – like “really” and “very.” And even if you don’t, let’s face it, if there is a Snow Day #5, you won’t have anything better to do.

Stay cozy!


Thoughts On A Snow Day

The buzz of incoming text messages woke me up today at 6 a.m. I knew this was a good sign. It meant that the overnight ice storm that blew through North Texas resulted in my employer, a local university, shutting down for the day. In its decision, the university joined every other school district, educational institution and countless other area businesses and government offices.

Move over 75-degree weather from 3 days ago, we have ourselves a snow day!

I feel a little guilty about this inclement weather seeing as the DFW Metroplex is hosting a teeny-weeny sporting event this weekend and I want our awesome cities to shine on this national platform. Instead, we will likely endure the mocking from our northern neighbors about our winter weather ineptness.

But here we are. So after the requisite celebration at 6 a.m., the joy of getting back into bed, and finally emerging around 9 a.m., I actually did a little work.

The folder is out and it has a pen attached to it. Working from home? Check!

I spent the day at JB’s place. His office was open, so he really did have to work from home — and his definition of this includes actually working. At one point, he took a break and asked me if I was bored. I was offended — only boring people get bored, I told him! Just look at some of the developments of my day:

1.There was a brief time today when the remote control was out of my reach. As a result, I began to watch All My Children. Within 10 minutes, I was completely caught up on the story lines since the last time I viewed an episode — 15 years ago. I want to master this skill. No more two-hour phone calls with friends to “catch-up.” In just three sentences, I could somehow weave in and allude to everything that has happened in the past week, month, year. Amazing.

2.Clearly there was going to be a lot of HGTV going on today. I am waiting for the day when the host of any of the design shows answers “yes” to the inevitable “Are you kidding me?!?!” shrill that comes out of the mouths of the recipient when he/she sees the home or room makeover. Don’t they watch design shows? They are never kidding.

3.I want to scream “Are you kidding me?!?!” HGTV, come to my little condo. Make it pretty! Or just give me the 2011 dream home.

4. I have no idea what JB does for a living. As I write this, I am eavesdropping on a conference call he is hosting from his study on his cellphone. I thought I understood, but I think he might be a transponster. Regardless, I’m pretty sure he totally knows what he’s talking about!

5. There is a movie coming out about gnomes. Yes, please.

I just re-read this post. I think it’s time I leave the couch or at least open a book. But first – what do you do when forced to stay inside all day? Are snow days as fun as an adult as they were way back when?

Stay safe out there wherever you are!