Monday, June 11, 2018

Hesitation or the Road Not Taken

I am an introvert. That doesn't mean that I don't talk or talk in front of people. In fact, I love it.
But it does mean for one thing that I don't rush into things. I tend to analyze, prepare more, and ponder things before I say yes or no. I want to give a careful response- to look before I leap.

It doesn't mean that leaping in impulsively is bad, or that others don't plan. It just means that I am wired to take time before responding and some may get frustrated - but I am okay with that and I thus feel more comfortable with my choices. I see that as a strength.

But it can be stretched too far and like other strengths stretched too far become a weakness.
It ceases to be contemplation and becomes hesitation and even indecisiveness and ultimately
a lost opportunity.

One example I call '" the road not taken" (with thoughts of Robert Frost). Some of you may
have heard my speech "The Road Goes Ever on and on" about my Grand Canyon hike down
the Bright Angel trail from Rim to River and back up to the Rim in one day -in July years ago.
It was an arduous journey - about 18 miles, 4500 feet of elevation difference each way and donesolo. It is not recommended to do it in a day, but I have reasons I needed to do it that way
and I was in great shape and well prepared. I had done many shorter hikes in the years before.
It was the most exhausted and yet the most exhilarated adventure I have ever done. I have neverregretted it.

What you don't know about is the hike I didn't take in the Grand Canyon. I was looking
down from the rim at another trail - the Tonto trail, which stretches across the Tonto Plateau,
connecting the Bright Angel and the Kaibab trails. It was a way to experience a steep downhill
section of the hot, dry, shadeless Kaibab, traverse the flat Tonto Plateau, and come back up the
gentler, watered, sometimes shady Bright Angel to the Rim. And it offered a refreshing visit at the oasis of Indian Gardens, with a potential trip out to Panorama Point with its view ofColorado far below. It only involved half of the rim to river elevation gain going back up.

It should have been fine and a no-brainer hike decision. But two things gave me pause.
One , there was the matter of having 2 trailheads to manage transport to and from, with a
a fair distance between, instead of going down and coming back up to the same spot.
And then as I gazed down on the very visible Tonto trail I began to worry "there aren't many
people crossing it" as opposed to the Bright Angel and Kaibab. I worried about getting
lost (long before cell phones) and I hesitated and ultimately did not make that hike. And I
regretted it ever since.  A little thing like not having the same trailhead and too much thought
sabotaged my plans.

It's not to say that preparation is not important, nor is weighing the risks and benefits of actions
not valid - because many people have suffered and died from hasty unprepared hikes - nature
can be very unforgiving. But if over-analysis can become paralysis and you can miss the
adventure of a lifetime.

And did I mention that the "road not taken" hike came after my Rim-river-Rim one day hike?
I had already had success, but hesitation can strike at any time. Please don't let it stop you from

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Visualizing a speech

In my years of being a Toastmaster, I have never once used notes in giving speeches.
I have written out speeches ahead of time to practice, but when I get up to speak
I leave notes behind. It does help that I have a good memory and have done plenty
of memorized presentations in the past - Shakespeare in high school and college
memorized passages in church as a child, etc - but also how I build my speeches.
And how I visualize them.

For me, a speech is like a room. It has a floor, a ceiling, and walls.
The flooring is the introduction of your speech, both the Toastmaster-read introduction
and the first spoken paragraph of your speech.
They set the stage for what is to come. They tell the audience where you are coming from
and hint at where you are going - the ceiling.

The ceiling is your goal - the point or points you want to make by giving the speech.
You need to have that firmly in mind. If you don’t you will get off track
and your audience will get confused. And instead of a nice neat room,
you will have just a mass of lumber.

The structure of the speech is composed of the walls, 3 or 4 main points
that support the ceiling and are grounded on the floor. Having just 3 or 4 main points
helps you focus on the message you want to communicate and helps the audience
follow as you lead them to your conclusion. You can subdivide each point,
but keep your focus so that the ceiling will remain strong.

Once you have created that basic structure you can go about decorating,
adding illustrative details. Explore the “room” and see what it can contain.
As you write, rewrite, and rehearse the speech make sure that all you “see”
in the room fits and is the best use of the space.

Make sure you time the speech so that you will know the ‘dimensions’ of the room
because you will need to trim and sometimes it can be hard to cut out words
to make the time fit.

We all can fall in love with our words and phrases, and it is easy to exceed
the time limits that speeches entail. Filler words, “helping”phrases,
and just plain wordiness - using many words when one or two will do -
are easy to spot and remove.

Off topic sentences are harder. And some of the hardest are very creative
bits of writing/speaking that we are proud of, but which don’t fit into this
particular speech. They can be fragments that would be very supportive of
another point, but don’t fit here.

The words of a speech that illustrate a point are like the furniture in the room.
In any room, you have certain furniture that would be suitable but not others. It doesn’t matter how well made it is you only have items in the room that fit i
ts purpose.
The same thing applies to a speech. You may have been very creative
and it sounds great,but if it does not fit the room you must remove it.
You may have created a very beautiful, solid and functional pool table,
but if you are creating a restaurant dining room - it does not fit.
Save it for your next speech - the pool hall. Likewise, a “bed” would not fit either.
Don’t fall in love with your words.

And don’t forget that any good room needs doors or windows.
There needs to be an opportunity for people to leave and take the message
with them. Your speech should call for action and provide guidance for listeners
to respond. Otherwise, all you have is an echo chamber,

This helps me go without notes and still stay focused so that the audience
understands and benefits. I hope this will help you as you tell your own stories.
I delivered a speech on this a while back and will share others as we continue
this journey together.


Sunday, May 27, 2018

Tell your stories

Today marks a new beginning of sorts, a relaunch of this blog with a new purpose. I started it originally to deliver political commentary and critique in an attempt to prod people to action on important issues of the day. I believed that people - especially people of faith - had forgotten what they really believed and or had a disconnect between what they said they believed and what their actions demonstrated what they believed. I still do,  and I believe that needs to be communicated widely. But rather than presenting others with facts and figures and arguments,  we can be more effective sharing our stories to make our points and lead,  rather than drive, people to consider changes.

I have been a member of Toastmasters for the past 5 years,  both speaking and leading in various roles. I have delivered more than 50 speeches and many of those have been stories with a point. I find that being subtle rather than "in your face" works well to communicate my point across in a way that gets past the usual defenses and makes people examine themselves. For instance, I delivered a speech that talked about prejudice but did not use any of the usual "trigger" words. Rather it examined the whole meaning of prejudice (pre-judging),  the basic human self-defensiveness that drives it, and how to overcome it. I used three far back prejudice examples - redheads, left-handedness, and women teachers getting fired upon marrying - to address the issue and asked people to consider what illogical things we are doing today that we need to stop.

In our Toastmaster meetings after a speaker finishes, we give a minute or so for the attendees to write a note of evaluation or commentary for the speaker,  as well as a formal verbal evaluation from one designated member. I keep all those notes because I am interested if I made an impact on my speech. From that prejudice speech, I got many notes, included one that said: "I was convicted, I will have to go home and examine my own prejudices".

And my mantra throughout my Toastmaster time has been "everybody has stories to tell". I encourage everyone to speak up and tell their stories. All those stories need to be told, and we need to hear them.
This is true in Toastmasters and beyond, so I am expanding my storytelling through this blog. I encourage you to tell your stories and encourage you to check out a local Toastmasters club. I am providing a link to the Toastmasters International site, which has a club finder function.
I have found it to be a great help in improving how I deliver my stories, as well as a good platform to share them.

I welcome your feedback and look forward to sharing my stories with you.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Today is the anniversary of the birth of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. It is a day of reflection and resolve to do all we can to make this a better world, to stand up for the marginalized, and to influence change for the better through non-violent means. Each and every person can make a difference by the seemingly little things they do. Great change is made up of a lot of those 'little' things. You make a difference by every positive thing you do, every smile you give to others, every time you stand up for a friend or stranger. Every time one of us who are privileged (and most of us are in one way or another) reaches out to give hope and help to one who is marginalized , we make this world a better place.

11 years after Dr King was shot down my mother passed away. Her passing was much less sudden and peaceful, but still it was way too soon. Today I remember that passing , 39 years ago on this date. And I pause to remember and reflect on the legacy she left - a legacy of inclusion,  compassion for all , and a quiet stand against bigotry, hate, and prejudice.

Two instances I remember. One was from the church we attended when I was young. The church had sent missionaries to Africa, specifically Cameroon, and had shared the gospel and built churches and helped the people improve their lives over many years. One day one of the native pastors came to visit our church and was sitting in the pews. My mom overheard a few ladies comment that 'why is he here?" dismissively. She thought to herself how can they be so prejudiced . We send missionaries over there , but heaven forbid they come over here to our church. The church was very white. it was a good church overall, but there were still people who hadn't quite got the message that God loved the world not just their little corner of it. They only saw God for the folks that were like them. My mom was conservative but she lived the love of God and knew it was for everyone.

A second example was when I was in college in Arizona. We had neighbors who were very poor - and had not had the advantage of education, yet she showed love to them just like any other. Our school district was always having problems with getting school levies passed to fund improvements. Part of the reason was that included in the school district area was a retirement community (50+) where many had the idea that that since they had raised their kids they shouldn't have to fund anybody else's kids. They didn 't want 'their" taxes raised when it wasn't benefitting them,

My mom was appalled at the selfishness of those folks. She was in her 50s at the time and all 5 of her kids were grown, so she did not have any stake in public education herself. And she could qualify for living in that retirement community. But all her life she had been involved with teaching kids (hers and others) , didn't want to wall herself away from kids, and felt a responsibility to providing help to others. She felt that the community had an obligation to provide a good education for all. And she was so happy when the retirement community (Sun City) was separated from our school district and we could finally get school levies passed to provide for the improvements they despirately needed

Like Dr King her legacy lives on in the hearts and minds and lives of those who knew and loved her. And in even in the lives of those who never knew her, but have been touched by those who did and who were changed by it.
Thanks Mom

Monday, January 1, 2018

new year's

It is a new year and time for new opportunities to make a difference in this world.
A time to resist what and who are wrong , and fiercely support what and who are doing right.
Every day can bring new discoveries and new open doors - every day can be new year's day.
Time for reflection and legacy. Reflect on what has gone before and resolve to build upon the good and resist the bad. To make amends for past misdeeds and faulty thinking.To celebrate when we got it right.
In the midst of our looking back in amazement and regret at what was done by our ancestors, it is good for us also to examine what we are currently doing now that if not corrected will be viewed with regret by our descendants.  The errors in the past often occurred because nobody thought to or had courage to question them. We need to examine our assumptions and current common practices to see if there are errors, hidden prejudices, group labels. We are all capable of indifference and faulty assumptions and just going along to get along. We all have moments of blindness to others' pain.

Let us resolve to be open eyed, open eared, open hearted  to all, not just to those who look, speak, or worship like we do. Let us resolve to remember that we are citizens of one world, not just one country, that everyone on this planet is our brother or sister, and that as John Donne said, "no man is an island' .....Let us resolve to help 'the least of these" and help all rise.

I resolve to share more reflections and legacy tips as we travel through this year.  It is time for us who have been around here a long time to reflect on what we have learned and leave a legacy for those who come after so that we can build a better world.


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Remembering Bobby

There are moments in your life for which you always remember where you were and what you were doing.  Like Pearl Harbor was to my parents' generation, and 9-11 to more recent generations, the Kennedy and King assassinations were not just historical events. They were personal - part of our lives - especially since their words live on and resonate in our lives.

I don't have a specific memory about Martin Luther King, though I love to read his speeches - such passion!  I don't have a specific memory about JFK, though again his words invigorated a nation and called us to a better place. And though I don't recall hearing Bobby Kennedy speak,  I remember very vividly where I was the night he died.  It was 45 years ago this week.

The summer of 1968 my parents and I traveled from Oregon down to Arizona to pick up my youngest sister, Betty, after she finished her freshman year at the University of Arizona in Tucson. We  did a day trip to Nogales, including my first foray into Mexico, and then returned to Tucson. While we were resting at a little motel we heard the news on the radio that Bobby had been shot. The next day we traveled several hours north to the town of Cottonwood and stayed the night with family friends. It was there that we heard the news that Bobby had died (it was 26 hours from when he was shot till he was pronounced dead).

In the years since I have learned and read more about Bobby and John and Martin and though all three were flawed, they spoke to the better part of us, inspiring us to rise above the ordinary and challenge the status quo. They accomplished much in their all-too-short lives. They were masters at persuasion and focused on being "for" things, not just "against" wrong. We really need more people  like them today and we need to remember their words.

As the late Teddy Kennedy said in his eulogy of his older brother Bobby, "My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life, to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it. Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass for all the world." Teddy strove to live out his brother's legacy.

And he closed with words that I have taken as a mantra: "Some men see things as they are and say why?. I dream things that never were and say why not?" I believe we need a little more "why not?" thinking today.

text of Edward Kennedy's eulogy of his brother Robert

Monday, May 27, 2013

remembering Arlington

I remember years ago visiting my uncle's grave in Arlington National Cemetery. He was a Navy ensign pilot during WWII and was killed in a plane crash while he was training a new pilot. He had just gotten married a few weeks before and so it was especially hard on my grandparents and my mom (as well as his widow). I never got to meet him, though I played his cello in school and heard many stories from my Mom about this creative, fun-loving brother of hers.

I remember seeing a group of kids walk by and I remember thinking "Oh God, please no more stupid wars. Please protect these kids from those who would throw their lives away as a way to make political points or settle personal scores".  The Iraq war was still going on then and I was opposed to it from the beginning because it was such a stupid war.  We had a bumper sticker which said "Support the troops, Bring them home". Those who serve should have their service honored, in part by using that service wisely.

We have had in our history too many wars and other military engagements which squandered many lives and should have been avoided. One of these was the Mexican-American War, which was opposed by Congressman Abraham Lincoln, later one of our greatest Presidents. He believed that it was contrived and not in our national interest. He was one who agonized over war, not gloried in it, something that our political leaders should remember and emulate.

Gazing over the field at Arlington should be a requirement for anyone who contemplates political office. And remembering the lives those graves represent should be a requirement for everyone. Honor the dead and be resolved that, as Lincoln said, "these lives should not have died in vain".