WWBD- What Would Batman Do?

Do you remember when you were little and people would ask “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

When I was 5 years old someone asked me that question and there was only one answer.

BATMAN.

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Watching cartoons, I’d learned about Batman. He’s the secret identity of Bruce Wayne, an American billionaire who witnessed the murder of his parents as a child and swore revenge on criminals. His vengeance is tempered with the great ideal of justice.

I was captivated. Being the Caped Crusader fighting crime was the perfect job….and he had a butler.

Nearing Halloween my mom asked me who I wanted to be.

I planted my feet, put my hands on my hips and said “I want to be Batman!”

“Don’t you mean Batgirl?” She asked, buying into gender roles.

“NO, Mom. I want to be Batman.”

She wasn’t happy. She looked like she had a row of pins clasped in between her lips.

She’d always wanted a little girl to dress up and have tea parties. Instead, she got a girl who wanted to be a superhero and, not just any superhero, a male superhero.

But I stayed true to my Batman self.  I begged until I got the costume for Halloween.

I patrolled the neighborhood to keep it safe…for a year.

I endured a lot of teasing from other kids:

Where’s your bat cave?

Where’s your bat mobile?

Aren’t you a girl?

I learned something about life. Being Batman was hard.

After awhile, I didn’t wear my costume around anymore, but inside I still wanted to be like my superhero.

In 4th grade, I joined the band program to learn to play an instrument.

I wanted to play the trombone, but my parents couldn’t afford one. My dad handed me a beat up instrument case. “Here. You’re playing this,” he said. It was a trumpet.

When I arrived at band class, I sat with all the other kids who played the trumpet.

They were all boys.

The band teacher looked at me, sitting in the row with all those boys, and said “You need to play the bells.”

He took me over and gave me this big silver instrument you tap at with little wooden hammers. “Girls play the bells,” he said.

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Plink- Plank- PLUNK.

This was really boring!  I didn’t like playing the bells at all.

Then, I thought “What would Batman do?”

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At the end of class, I told my music teacher “I’m playing my trumpet and that’s how it is.”

And I did from then on, earning 1st chair — the best player position–my sophomore year of high school, beating a senior boy.  Actually, the whole trumpet section was still all boys.

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After law school, I became a prosecutor at age 24. I was now involved in the real justice system.

But I also looked like something straight out of Legally Blonde.  I had Farrah Fawcett blonde hair wore short skirts and 4 inch heels.  When I walked to court one day, I heard someone say “She isn’t that smart.”

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After awhile, I convinced myself I should dye my hair darker so I would be taken more seriously. To maximize my IQ, I went all the way and dyed it black. People instantly thought I was smart.

But it wasn’t me.

I thought “WWBD?” Would he change his life to conform to what other people think he should be? No.

So I dyed it back and I won plenty of cases being Legally Blonde.

It doesn’t matter what people think of you.
Be your own superhero

Because in the end, the most important thing to be in life is yourself.

Unless you can be Batman. Always be Batman.

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NOT ME,US- THE SANDERS CAMPAIGN

This week I went to the San Diego Convention Center on Tuesday morning at 10:30 a.m.  I’m a veteran of many Comic-Cons, so it was eerie to walk along a nearly-deserted sidewalk and go right into the building. Inside, things got a bit more familiar. There was a roped off area inhabited by about 20 people. I assessed the situation and claimed a spot against a wall to support my back, near 3 friendly Latinas. To my left, a young man was immersed in Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yoginanda and listening to music. Cell phones were already being charged in the few electrical outlets.  We were in for a long wait. The doors to the event would open at 5 p.m.

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As time progressed, the space filled and people were crammed in close.  Volunteers with clipboards picked their way carefully through the throngs, registering people to vote and getting signatures on proposed initiatives. A baby slumbered face down on a blanket near his watchful mom, a young blonde woman braided her boyfriend’s long locks into a festive look and passed out organic fruit, I got to chat with a smart Latino boy and his charming Muslim long-time friend.

As it drew closer to 5 p.m., local security gave announcements over an inadequate bullhorn that blared with static.  I think he spoke about what we could/could not bring into the event, but no one could really hear, except maybe 3 people in the front. Then the Secret Service took over. We all went through metal detectors and security screenings. I lamented not eating the two protein bars that were tossed out.

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People swarmed into Halls D & E. I’d never seen it empty. At Comic Con it’s used as the main exhibit hall and is packed with vendors and nerds. Now, volunteers directed us toward the stage where Bernie Sanders would appear. Behind us was another stage filled with members of the press with cameras and behind that stage were tables for reporters. Music played, including “Disco Inferno” (Bern, baby, Bern). People held signs, tossed around balloons and chatted. Outside, the lines were so long they rivaled those at Comic Con when the Dr. Who or Game of Thrones cast made appearances. They let people into a side room to watch the event on a video screen. The total attendance: nearly 15 thousand people.

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My boyfriend, who had arrived late, managed to sneak into the building and find me. While he’d been outside plotting his way in, he’d gotten a Bernie temporary tattoo on his neck.  An older woman from Wisconsin, who was a voracious reader, chatted with a high school age boy who did a killer Bernie impression. A tall man with a beard sat serenely in the lotus position and meditated. The press played blaring coverage by CNN talking about the GOP race until the crowd chanted “Turn it off! Turn it OFF!”

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Finally, around 8:30 p.m., after standing pressed together for three hours, Rosario Dawson took the stage and gave an eloquent speech about why now is the time for everyone to be engaged in the political process. You can listen to it here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=igxN65qK_Ek

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Then Bernie Sanders arrived. He’d spent the morning talking to students in Flagstaff, Arizona (I won’t talk about the voter suppression in Arizona or the need to reinstate the voters’ rights act in this country, but if you don’t know about it, get on Twitter and put in the hashtags #ArizonaElectionFraud or #RestoretheVRA) Sanders had also made an appearance in Los Angeles on the Jimmy Kimmel show. He’s 74 years old and filled with energy, except for a voice that, understandably, cut out here and there from overuse. You can watch his full speech here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGfnuO7kLwU

It’s hard to describe the atmosphere, the love, the energy. Once you see Bernie in person, it validates everything you’ve read about his trustworthiness and compassion. From a viewpoint as a public speaking coach, he’s a master. But I don’t say that in a way that suggests he’s trying to manipulate his audience. When he talks about what’s happening in the world and where he stands on issues, his sincerity shines. He begins segments of his speech with the phrase “This campaign is listening to our brothers and sisters in…” and goes on to talk about the African American, Latino, Native American, gay and female communities.  Around me, there were people of all ages and ethnic groups, all finally waking up and understanding that we aren’t in control of this country anymore. Corporations, Wall Street and other special interests took away democracy ages ago, and many didn’t notice.

If you want to know who the Establishment wants in power, see who’s getting the mainstream media press (Hint: It’s everyone but Bernie Sanders.) If you’ve never gone outside TV news, go online and watch The Young Turks.

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Now is the time to get past superficial preferences and learn about candidates. What are their positions? Does their platform make sense for you as a whole? I’m a “no party preference” voter because I want the chance to look at both parties. In the California primary, I can’t vote for a Republican because I’d have to be registered as one. I’ve checked their candidates on all issues, and until they change on women and minority issues, I’m out of that party. That leaves Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

I won’t vote for Hillary on the sole basis that she’s a woman and we allegedly need a woman president. I was a prosecutor at age 24 and have been through plenty of the issues women deal with in a male-dominated career, especially when I first started. Being female should never be the only qualification. I also want a woman I can trust. I’ve looked at Secretary Clinton’s record in depth and she’s changed her stance on so many issues over the years, it’s hard to keep track of them all. Since the Michigan primary is over, I’d like to find a time she’s mentioned Flint again. I know Senator Sanders did at the San Diego rally. She’s also more hawkish on getting involved in wars (She voted to go into Iraq)

Who you prefer is always your business, but please look at the FACTS about your preferred candidate, not just the “spin.” Get educated, get involved. When you’re done doing a thorough check and someone asks you why you voted for (your candidate choice) you will have real reasons, not just “feelings.” You will be able to state them with confidence. You will be part of what has always made America great– people getting involved in democracy.

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Register to vote, give money, give time and VOTE.  Your country depends on it.

 

WHY FACTS DON’T MATTER

          When it comes to making an impression in a speech, one of the most important things to remember is that people don’t care about facts.

What? That can’t be right! You might be thinking.

Here’s an example: I recently heard a speech by a businessman who owns his own company. He told us about how he started it and detailed all the services it provided, giving us all the facts and figures. Did I care? No.

Why?

It was BORING.

          If you want to capture the attention of your audience, don’t put them to sleep with facts. Here are some tips on how to keep people interested and, most important, awake.

  1. PEOPLE RESONATE WITH STORIES, NOT FACTS

          Once upon a time…

          I am an invisible man…

          This is the saddest story I have ever heard…

These are considered some of the best opening lines of books. Why? Because they capture the imagination. People are wired to hear stories. It goes back to sitting around in the evening, before radio, TV, the Internet and Netflix, when entertainment was storytelling.

Use stories to tell your facts.

Compare this: “More than one in three women are married before the age of 15 worldwide.” to:

“Sonali Khatun was just 14 years old when her parents told her she would be getting married. She dropped out of school. Her wedding was arranged in just 14 days.
“She did not want to [get married], but we forced her, because in villages, when an adolescent girl is unmarried, people start to talk,” Matiura Bibi, Khatun’s mother, told the American Jewish World Service, an advocacy group. “After the marriage, we realized the boy was not nice. He was suspicious of Sonali. He started to control her and argue with her. I understood the marriage wouldn’t last.” Sonali got a divorce and faced being taunted by the girls of the village, but she is now an independent, successful working woman.”  Read more here:

http://www.refinery29.com/2015/09/93839/child-marriage-in-india-divorce-advocacy

By telling facts through a story, it gives the audience someone or something to visualize and identify with. By using stories that include facts, your speech will resonate with the audience, causing it to be remembered.

  1. HOW A SPEECH MAKES YOU FEEL IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN FACTUAL CONTENT

Now that it’s election time, we see candidates who are distorting the truth for the purposes of furthering their campaigns.

Here are some examples:

Arab Americans cheered during the Sept. 11th attacks.” – Donald Trump (untrue)

Then United States is going to accept 250,000 Syrian refugees” – Carly Fiorina (untrue)

Hispanic and teen unemployment went up under President Obama.” – Ted Cruz (untrue)

The handling of secret emails through a private server was permitted” – Hillary Clinton (untrue)

          “Climate Change is directly related to the growth of terrorism” – Bernie Sanders (overstating)

Studies have shown that misinformation has lingering effects, even if a falsehood is quickly corrected. This is especially true if the “fact” ties in with a person’s beliefs and resonates with them.

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We’ve all seen items going around the Internet claiming to be “facts.” A famous one from 2014 was a woman who claimed to have three breasts. She circulated a photo claiming she’d had a 3rd breast implant in the center. In actuality, it was a prosthesis. However, this “fact” did lead to her recording a song and music video in Florida.

Why have the three-breasted woman and the not-candid candidates captured the imagination? The things being said aren’t true, but they evoked emotion. If you listener feels an emotional reaction, what’s being said will resonate more strongly with them.

  1. NOVELTY OR SURPRISE EXCITES THE BRAIN

          Let’s go back to politics. A master of media attention is Donald Trump. He says things that are outrageous and has been discourteous to other candidates during debates. What has this done? It’s put a lot of focus on him because the media likes sensational stories– and so do we.

When Darren LaCroix won the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking, he walked out on the stage– and fell down. He stayed down for a purposefully long time, making the audience uncomfortable.

This was a masterful move. An audience views new information from the “reptile” brain, the part that processes information through a prism of fear and boredom. They’re afraid of new ideas, but they want to have their imagination captured. What Darren LaCroix did was shocking and, thus, excited the audience. It got everyone’s attention.  

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          Think about your speech content and how to incorporate an unexpected moment into the presentation. It will keep your audience’s attention and make your presentation memorable.

         

 

BLOGGING FOR SUICIDE PREVENTION: ONE YEAR LATER

One year ago today I got a phone call no one should ever receive. I’d lost a close friend to suicide.

I assisted her family by taking over her legal practice and obligations, attended the informal memorial service put on by her friends, because her family couldn’t bring themselves to have one, and learned more about her end days. She’d kept her friends separate, like corn silos in a field, so her death came as a surprise.

But it shouldn’t have.

Looking back, I feel naive. The warning signs had been there. Knowing what I do now, she was screaming at me for help, only her words were stopped by the soundproof glass of my uneducated mind.

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Am I done beating myself up because I missed the signs? No

Do I still feel anger and grief? Yes. Although it’s less, it’s still there.

Can I calculate the profound loss that rippled out across the world because my friend isn’t here anymore? Never.

Here’s what I have done:

Walked at an  American Foundation for Suicide Prevention “Out of the Darkness” suicide prevention walk in my friend’s honor, reached out to experts to learn what to do/say in these situations, given money to support suicide prevention awareness and given speeches about what I’ve learned to educate others.The good news:  I’ve heard back that a person who heard one of my speeches reached out and saved a friend.

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Suicide remains one of the leading causes of death worldwide.

  • It’s the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.
  • We lose 22 veterans a day in the United States.
  • It’s the 2nd leading cause of death in young people ages 10-24. More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, COMBINED.
  • Each day in our nation there are an average of over 5,400 attempts by young people grades 7-12. 
  • LGB youth are 4 times more likely, and questioning youth are 3 times more likely, to attempt suicide as their straight peers.
  •  Nearly half of young transgender people have seriously thought about taking their lives, and one quarter report having made a suicide attempt.
  • While males are 4 times more likely than females to die by suicide, females attempt suicide 3 times as often as males.

Stop the Silence. If you think someone you know might be considering suicide, ASK these questions:

Are you considering suicide? Do you have a plan? What will it take for you to stay?

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If you’re considering suicide, no matter how hard it is to believe, you will be taking the lives of a lot of your friends and family with you.

Reach out to family, friends or any of the below resources.  You deserve to live.

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THREE QUICK TIPS FOR TACKLING TOXIC PEOPLE

          Know-It-Alls, Bullies, Whiners, Gossips, Angry Aggressors, Passives…

          We’ve all come across toxic people, in both our work and personal lives. But what do you do when you’re stuck dealing with one for more than a prolonged encounter?

During a recent seminar I taught on how to read body language, an attendee had a question. It began with him describing how a co-worker sat with one hand behind his head and what that meant. This was easy to decipher. The guy was practically yelling “I’m superior to everyone!”

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But the attendee’s concern didn’t stop there. He wanted to know how to deal with this self-important co-worker, a guy who thought he knew everything, but didn’t. The man’s ignorance was impacting their projects negatively and he wasn’t sure how to approach the situation.

In many of the classes I’ve taught, no matter the subject, someone usually has a question about how to get around a person who has become the bane of their existence.

If you have someone plaguing your life, here are some thoughts on how to overcome the problem.

  1. Don’t Escalate the Situation

          Many times, toxic people can be neutralized without a fight. In the case of the arrogant and ignorant worker described above, I told the attendee to first try a non-confrontational approach. In Tai Chi, a Chinese martial art, a key principle is to yield to an oncoming attack by redirecting the incoming energy rather than meeting it with an opposing force.

Here, I suggested the attendee/manager try letting his subordinate save face by saying “I’m sure you already know this, but…” and filling the guy in on his missing knowledge. Hopefully, by phrasing this in an agreeable way, the co-worker would finish his part of the project and feel kindly toward my attendee for helping him.

Often, people who are arrogant and angry are insecure, or they might have too much to handle in life. Try to look past the bluster and see if you can find a kind way to handle the problem before moving on to a more aggressive solution.

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  1. See If You’re Contributing to the Problem

          Many of the people who ask about how to neutralize a difficult person don’t want to. They’re not sure of themselves or don’t want to “cause problems” by saying anything. If this sounds like you, you have two choices: Act or Suffer in Silence.

There’s also a flip side of that, of course. When confronted, some people get angry and the situation becomes a shouting match or devolves into a physical confrontation.

Imagine you’re in a room with a number of colleagues and another co-worker approaches and begins to berate you loudly about the things you do wrong.  No matter if what’s being said is true or untrue, what do you do?

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          A good way to stop someone from continuing their diatribe is to remove them from the vicinity.  First, ask them to step outside the room. This takes the person away from their audience and has them comply with something you’ve asked, changing the “power” structure.  If it seems like they won’t go, you can gesture to the door and walk away. They will probably follow. Once outside the room, step closer to them, within 6-8 inches of their face, and hold eye contact. This move invades their personal space, showing by body language that you aren’t afraid. Keeping your voice quiet and calm, tell them you’ll be glad to discuss any issue they might have with you, but in a more private and civilized way.

This maneuver usually stops and de-escalates the situation. If it doesn’t, go with the next tactic.

  1. Don’t Engage the Devil

Although it’s tempting to argue or defend yourself, sometimes it’s best to walk away. Do a calm assessment of the situation. If you come to the conclusion that nothing you say will change the other person’s attitude, leave.

You might want to have it out, but if it doesn’t change anything, wasting your breath and time will have the same effect as saying the same things to a wall. Don’t bother. You can’t always control another person’s actions, but you can control your reactions.

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Cabin in the Woods 2015

Once upon a time there was a cabin built on a pine tree-dotted mountain in Northeastern Arizona. At first, it was a simple A-frame used as a summer home, a respite from the heat of a California desert residence.

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When my parents retired there, some rooms were added, one filled with windows to let in the sun. It provided a peaceful place to watch birds enjoy the plentiful food provided year round.

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There was a deck with a porch swing to watch Blue Jays get up their courage to hop down from trees to feast on raw peanuts left on the rail.

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A window in the living room with glass shelves displayed a collection of Hummels, porcelain German figurines. Upstairs, ceiling fans cooled a large loft where music by Barbra Streisand, Glenn Miller or Pavarotti might be playing.

When entering the house, the scent of freshly baked bread, cakes or chicken & dumplings filled you. You’d find an assortment of homemade pies cooling on the kitchen counter.  The pantry held boxes of recipes, cookbooks and the ingredients needed, its shelves covered with sticky fingerprints as things were fetched.

My dad would welcome visitors by saying “I’m not well you know”– as he had joked for 20 years. My mom might have a little flour in her hair from cooking or she might be quilting. The house was filled with love, laughter and friends.

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Then, in 2010, it all stopped. Both of my parents passed on within months of each other.

The next tenant was a neighbor whose house had burned down. She moved in until her home could be rebuilt. Then there was a lovely lady from Sweden who stayed until a family crisis sent her home.

The most recent tenants had a great credit score, no criminal history and were just out of the military. The wife seemed a bit hyper- but anyone on the planet is hyper compared to me, so it didn’t send up any red flags. They paid their rent mostly on time and didn’t seem too unusual. Then, they gave notice that they needed to move out early. I advertised the cabin for rent again, with them agreeing to show the place. I’m in California and most of the property managers I’d interviewed caused more problems than solutions.

One afternoon I received a call from some prospective tenants who had looked at the house…the cabin in the woods was NOT how it had looked in the photos I’d posted with the rental ad

Hopping a plane, I traveled to Arizona with a former military friend, who is easily the scariest person I know. What we found was intermittent destruction.

The minor stuff: The tenants’ dogs had scratched the bottom of doors, curtain rods had been ripped off the frames and bedroom closet doors removed.

Since pictures are worth a thousand words, here’s a tour through before and after photos:

The Hummel display window and shelves had been torn out and the place the shelves had sat were filled in with hammered wood so they couldn’t be used again.

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The living room and stairs had once featured natural tongue and groove wood paneling. Now, it was painted white and unable to be restored.

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Random walls were painted dark brown with a wire rack added for no apparent reason.

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 The carpet in the loft upstairs and a ceiling fan had been removed.

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 In the large bathroom, the wallpaper had been partially torn out, a wood cabinet and medicine cabinet removed–revealing a window to nowhere.

After Large Bathroom Cabinets and Wallpaper Removed After Large Bathroom Medicine Cabinet Removed

In the pantry, the doors to the storage and a cabinet had been removed.

After Pantry Without Doors After Pantry Cabinet Removed

The heart of the house– the kitchen– had been painted like a pro in dark brown. But..the cabinet doors, the range hood and the dishwasher had been removed. The hood’s electrical outlet had been drywalled over and the panels in the ceiling lights were removed.

Before Kitchen (4) After Kitchen showing Lights, cabinet doors and dishwasher removed

Now we get to some weird stuff: piles of computers and electronics were in a bedroom and stacked 10×10 feet outside by the garage. The tenants were mining them for “gold.” They even tried to melt them on the barbecue. The cinder driveway and yard was littered with nails, screws, computer parts, glass and other debris. Each time I used a magnet, it took seconds to fill it.

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The best part? They’d used the back of the kitchen cabinets to write in magic marker about conspiracy theory book titles and, randomly,  “Kombucha”. Kombucha is a probiotic drink, written there like someone was going to rip off the cabinet and take it to the store  “Hmm.. what else do I need?”

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Thus began the forced remodel/restoration of the cabin, done over 2 long weekends. Here are a few things I’ve taken away from the experience:

  • It’s great to have friends– even better to have friends who can do electrical work and carpentry. And even better if they are also skilled in weaponry and defense. The tenants had unsecured assault weapons, so it’s nice when you ask “What if they go for a gun?” and your buddy grins and says “That’s when the fun starts!”
  • Those hideous red curtains the tenants kindly left behind make great drop cloths for painting.
  • There is a thing called “Mountain Time.” Do you believe you don’t get much accomplished? Californians operate at the speed of sound and maybe we should slow down, take time to tell stories and reminisce. I’m not sure, however, if it’s a good thing to do when a customer is waiting to ask a question and you’re a Home Depot  or Lowe’s employee. I did, however, become well known enough there that I had groupies.
  • You can get a lot done in between screaming.
  • The local people know things– like how maybe your tenants might have been smoking a controlled substance. Hmm…that explains a lot.
  • Painter’s tape was invented by a demon from that special part of Hell that makes it rip into shreds or come off in jagged pieces, particularly when you’re tired and want to finish.
  • To the electricians who, over the years, put 10 1/2 pounds of electrical crap in  half ounce holes– if you are dead, my friends and I would like to dig you up and shoot you.
  • Taking time to look at paint samples on the walls is for pussies. Pick some colors from cardboard examples, buy the stuff and rock on.
  • Your problems aren’t really as bad as they seem. I hired a painter who told me about his life, how he’d been thrown out of the house at 13 because his dad didn’t think he was his father and he had to live on the streets. He also he has a son with cerebral palsy.
  • My dad used to say “My wants are many, but my needs are few.” I learned all I needed was a pot to boil water for tea, a bucket of KFC and a few hours of sleep.

In the end, the cabin has been restored, rejuvenated and reawakened- ready for a new chapter. We did a lot in six days:

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Even though it was emotionally hard to put a fresh coat of paint over those sticky fingerprints, this story is once again on its way to a happy ending…after urinalysis and a modern day version of the Spanish Inquisition for the next proposed tenants.

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How to Detect a Liar

Let’s face it, everyone lies.

Lies can run the spectrum from trying not to hurt someone’s feelings to toxic manipulation in work, life or love.

Can you tell when someone is lying?

Fortunately, with a little practice, liars can become easy to spot. These simple tips will help you not be deceived.

Listen To What Is Being Said

“Timmy, did you eat one of the cookies without asking?” a mom questions her six year old.

“No, Mommy. I did not eat one of the cookies without asking.”

If you know what to look for, Timmy’s words tell you he’s guilty.

Think about a time you’ve been falsely accused. You probably got pretty heated in your defense. If Timmy were innocent, his words might have been “No, Mommy! I didn’t!”

Instead, Timmy repeats his mother’s words verbatim and in an almost robotic way. The next time you hear this type of response, you’ll know you’ve got a guilty party on your hands.

Another way people tip off they’re lying is when they change mid-story from using the pronoun “I” to something else. When people talk, they want the spotlight on them, but if their actions are called into question, they want a metaphorical crowd to share responsibility.

Here’s an example:

I got that project completed by coming in early today.”

“Did you add in the stats that the manager asked for?”

“Well, we planned on it.”

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Watch For Added or Deleted Facts

Let’s take a simple question to a significant other, “How was the gym?”

If there isn’t deception, he or she might answer, “I had a great workout. I got really pumped.”

What if they’re feeling guilty about something, maybe having a flirtatious conversation with a hot fitness instructor?

Their answer could change into a lengthy description of the crowds, the equipment, and the lack of towels in the locker rooms or forgetting their water bottle. Why all the unnecessary details? They want to divert the listener from what they perceive as a potential problem by adding facts.

Next, imagine conversing with someone about their day. They talk in detail about things that happened, like what they did at work in the morning or what they ate for lunch. That afternoon, unbeknownst to you, they got into a car accident on their way to the store and fled the scene.

Here’s the conversation:

“How was your lunch?”

“Great! I had some pizza with Lisa at this great little Italian place downtown.”

“What did you do after that?”

“Not much.”

The speaker has gone from detailed and natural to closed.

They might also use passion in their words where it’s unexpected. For example, “I drove to the store” might be injected with more passion than is warranted for the words and seem out of place.

In both of these situations, it’s likely that the speaker isn’t telling the truth or is hiding something. In order to catch them out, keep asking specific questions and see if you get direct and appropriate answers.

Watch Body Language

In addition to listening carefully, you can tell someone’s lying by their body language. Using these two skills together increase your chances of not being fooled.

  • People who lie put up barriers. Maybe it’s a hand, fingers or raised water bottle placed over the mouth, folded arms, crossed legs or getting up and going behind a desk, table or other object mid-conversation.
  • They fidget. They play with their clothing, touch their nose, tap their fingers, twitch their legs or move their feet.
  • They drop eye contact, signifying shame or that they’re hiding something.
  • Their gestures change. People normally gesture straight ahead and up in front of their bodies. Their gestures might move to the side, like they’re shoving something away when trying to deflect guilt.
  • Their facial movements don’t match their words. Think about at time someone gave you a gift you didn’t like. You said “I love it!” and then you smiled. If you had truly loved it, your smile would have coincided with your words.
  • Sometimes when people lie, they lock down their facial gestures or have tight lips.

A Few Final Tips

Think about a skilled interviewer, like Barbara Walters. She’s able to elicit information by building a rapport with her guest before going in for the hard questions. When she is going to ask a more difficult question, she moves her body forward, getting closer to her subject so they have confidence that they can share openly with her.

If you want to uncover the truth, first establish rapport. Then use a series of clear questions that elicit a narrative response, rather than a simple yes or no. If you suspect that some of the answers aren’t true, ask more questions.

Keep your body in a power position, with your shoulders squared and maintain good eye contact. Watch for verbal signs, especially unnecessary facts. See if the person becomes more or less talkative or diverts away from the topic.

Watch for body language changes such as blocking, fidgeting or facial expressions that don’t match the words being used.

A fun way to practice your skills is to watch people being interviewed. Check for all the things we’ve discussed and see what you can spot. Soon you’ll be a human lie detector and it will be of great use in your personal and professional relationships. Happy Hunting!

WHY I WRITE

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Hey! Get away from my keyboard!

So rude. I hate it when other people’s characters sneak into my head when I’m writing.

*puts out Do Not Disturb sign*

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I blame it on all the books I’ve read and the movies I’ve watched.  The authors who created places, people and fantastical stories inspired me to think I could come up with something of my own. Occasionally, I have to stop and tell myself, “You know, that’s a bit of a trope. Do over.”

At age eight, I began experimenting with paragraph-long tales written in colored ink and hidden in a notebook. If it was a story about faeries, I added glitter. I wasn’t monogamous. I played around with all types of genres and became addicted.

When I got older, no matter what I wrote, my characters ran amuck. They waltzed in, spoke their lines and sighed with impatience as I typed their words onto the page. They developed characteristics I hadn’t considered.

When had my tough protagonist become such a pussy?

That’s who I am, okay?”  he said, clearly tired of putting up with me.

Maybe it’s a bit like God felt when Eve went for the apple.

Plot twist!

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Writing is like Willie Wonka’s world of pure imagination and limited by nothing except grammar rules and plot conundrums.

Like Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

Some people are all about facts and reality, while those of us who write are about slipping into another dimension and turning ideas into stories.

Look, I’d love to talk more, but there’s a character that just came in and she’s got a lot on her mind.

Catch up with you in a good book somewhere.

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5 Reasons Leaders Crash and Burn

Can you recall when a supervisor/manager/CEO in charge of a business, committee or project caused everything to derail?

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Why does this happen?

  1. They Aren’t Natural Born Leaders

Leadership comes pre-loaded in some people. They’re the ones everyone turns to when a decision needs to be made. They step in and say “Here’s what we should do…” in a crisis. Of course, they can always be better leaders by learning more about how to be effective, but it’s in their DNA. If they don’t recognize they are natural born leaders, they might walk through life wondering “Why does everyone always want me to be in charge?” It’s simply been a fact of life for them.

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For those who have had leadership bestowed upon them and don’t have a clue how to be a leader, it’s different. They have to learn how to do it. Many times, unfortunately, they don’t.

  1. They Want to Star in their Own Show

Some people who are given leadership roles merely want what comes with it: the corner office, the view, minions…

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Their thoughts aren’t about what’s best for all; it’s about what’s best for them. Instead of doing work, they want to brag about their position and think about more important things, like their next vacation. They guard their position and never tell anyone what they’re thinking or why they’re doing what they’re doing. The words consensus, cooperation and connection remain in their dictionary under C and are not real life concepts for them.

More traits of self-interested leaders are bad tempers, anger, ingratitude, harassing employees, demeaning subordinates and more. It’s like working for a toddler no one has ever told NO.

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  1. They Have Poor Communication Skills

Bad leaders don’t know how to communicate. Perhaps no one ever taught them or pointed out there was a problem, but many don’t care enough to think about it. Maybe they don’t collaborate with their staff because they think that they (and perhaps a few cronies) know better. Maybe they’re wedded to the status quo, scared of opposite opinions or are afraid of change.

Imagine there’s a decision that needs to be made that affects the entire company. An inadequate leader will make a unilateral decision then send out a memo stating there’s been a change with little or no explanation about the thought process or reasons behind it. If the leader had taken the time to consult the staff, maybe they’d learn that this change didn’t need to be implemented or there was a better way.

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 Instead, those learning of the decision will raise their eyebrows, do some head-scratching or perhaps have a nuclear meltdown with shouts of “Why? echoing through the corridors.

  1. They Don’t Want to Do the Work to Inspire and Connect

Inspiring and connecting with people takes time and energy. Sitting in an office, tapping on a computer sending out emails about policy or what needs to be done is ineffective. A good leader will get up and go out to talk to people– and not just about business.

I had a good friend in hospice care at a convalescent home. I went to see him every day and got to know the nursing staff, the cafeteria workers and receptionists. I’d stop and ask how their day was, chat briefly about their vacation plans or other things. It never took much time. After awhile, people told me they wished I ran the place. Do I know anything about nursing homes? No. What these people wanted was someone who would listen and connect.

Their manager stayed in the office and never came out.

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Sub-standard leaders don’t work on themselves or their relationships with others, then wonder why things aren’t going well.

  1. They Don’t Stay Focused on the Goal

When working to attain a goal, knowing what needs to be achieved and moving towards it sounds simple. To an ineffective leader, distractions, internal squabbling, indecision and more can keep a project from getting done. Because of all of the previous reasons listed above, they can’t get a group to work together and get things done.

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In order to be a good leader, it takes good communication, consensus, connection and leading by example. A leader inspires others to do what needs to be done then stands back and gives them credit when the goal is achieved.

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Be A Better Leader 

If you’ve recognized something you’ve done wrong in this blog post, congratulations! You can now make changes and learn to be better as a leader. Learning is a constant process and everyone makes mistakes. It’s a new day– get out there and lead!

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How To Be a More Effective Communicator Than the President

I’ve been a fan of Marc Maron’s WTF podcast quite awhile and was surprised President Barack Obama had decided to visit Marc’s garage in LA and give an interview.

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Then I listened to it.

And I got annoyed. (And for anyone who thinks I’m going down Politics Road, sorry to disappoint.)

President Obama is known for giving moving and commanding speeches. However, delivering a prepared speech (read from a teleprompter, notes or even from memory) is a lot different than answering extemporaneous questions or giving an interview.

If you want to be a great communicator, you have to think about all areas of speaking and abstain from some of the problems that have crept into the President’s speech.

Avoid Filler Words

Our Needs Improvement Communicator- in-Chief’s words were sprinkled with ums, uhs and you knows. Known as “filler” words, they have no place in your discourse if you want to sound authoritative.

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Here are some examples of things you should work to eradicate from your speaking:

  • Uh, um and er creep into speech when you’re thinking about what you’re going to say next and forget to close your mouth.
  • Like is Valley Girl speak. Or as used by Will.i. am and scolded hysterically by Miriam Margolys in this clip from the BBC’s Graham Norton show
  • Don’t use xerox or repeat words. Here are some examples:  “I-I” or “You know- You know” etc. Just say it once.
  • You know is a phrase that you shouldn’t use unless you need to say “Do you know what you’re doing?” or other appropriate sentences.
  • The words so or and so are unnecessary when you’re transitioning from one sentence to the next.

Don’t Drop Your G’s

Here are some examples of some words ending with g’s: reading, thinking, going, caring, saying…You get it.

Here’s how the President pronounces them: readin’, thinkin’, goin’, carin’, sayin’…

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I don’t know where he dropped his G’s, but I hope he doesn’t have to pay for them to stay  there.  Not completely pronouncing a word is fine for casual conversation, but consistently missing a G doesn’t elevate your level of conversation.

“Folks”

Whenever President Obama refers to people, he calls them “folks.”  If this happened occasionally, it could work. However, he does it all the time, even when discussing serious matters.

Please stop.

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Being A Great Communicator Takes Practice

Once you’ve learned how to listen for filler and crutch words, you’ll notice them everywhere. You’ll hear them used by politicians, professional athletes, actors and anyone who hasn’t practiced speaking in front of the public.

At Toastmaster meetings, where people can learn to become better speakers, a dog clicker is used each time a person slips up.  The once innocuous tool used to discipline pets becomes a dreaded but effective method to eradicate bad habits in speech. Filler words quickly cease.

If you want to be a better speaker, practice eradicating these small problems from your speech and you’ll be able to say that you are a more effective communicator than the President.

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