Baseball – The Game of Life

Robinson soon realized he was invited but not welcomed

Baseball is America’s favorite pastime, but to me, it is more than just a game – as it has taught us many valuable lessons – about winning at the biggest game of them all, the game of life. And that when we refuse to remain silent in the face of injustice, we can change the world.

This story about the life of Jackie Robinson made me a believer, so today, I invite you to come with me to the dark days of summer when America was segregated, and so too was the game of Baseball.

Back then, there were the major leagues. The same major league we know today. Then there were the leagues for people of color, the Negro leagues, with great players like Satchel Page, Gosh Gibson, and the legend; James Cool Papa Bell, the fastest man who ever ran the bases.

It was said that Papa Bell could flick a light switch and get into bed before the room got dark. He was that fast. Still, all of Americans never got to see those great players in their prime because of the color of their skin.

It was also a time when the good people from the better side of the tracks did not attend the same schools, worship at the same churches, or drink from the same water fountains. The Jim Crow laws of the day even made that illegal. 

And while many of those good people felt in their hearts that segregation was wrong, they remained silent.  Some knew the owners’ dirty little secrets and ties to the vigilante groups controlling the game’s revenues. So, to protect themselves and their families, they remained silent. The players of Negro League also remained silent. Choosing to play for the love of the game while the Major Leaguers were celebrated, playing for silver and for gold, with their pictures on beautiful baseball trading cards with statistics far inferior to those of the players of the Negro leagues.

As a kid, I collected baseball cards initially for the bubble gum in each packet. I began collecting by players, teams, and leagues regardless of the color. Then one day, I discovered a card that seemed out of place. The player was Jackie Robinson – the team, the Brooklyn Dodgers.

I even scratched the card’s surface to see if the player’s complexion would change. It “didn’t” – who knew, I might have started scratchers, right?  It was then I ran to my Papa, Big George, to ask how Robinson become a Dodger. That’s when Papa gave me the rest of the story.

Son, in 1947, when a retired Baptist Minister, Mr. Branch Rickey, managed the Brooklyn Dodgers; he was adamant that if all men are created equal, they should compete equally on a level playing field regardless of race, color, or creed.  But when he invited Jackie Robinson to join the Dodgers, everyone turned against him. Yet, despite all the negative feedback and threats, Mr. Rickie refused to remain silent.

Although Jackie quickly silenced all his critics with his heroics on the field, Robinson soon realized he was invited but not welcomed – when his teammates quietly went to Mr. Rickey to ask that Robinson be removed from the team. But, again, Mr. Rickey refused to remain silent, and Robinson became a Brooklyn Dodger.

From that moment, I was inspired!  I wanted to be just like Jackie Robinson. I was even more committed when I learned that Robinson’s greatest fear was not the constant death threats he received. Instead, his main concern was how he would perform when he had his first game in the South.

And when that day came, the good people of the Cincinnati Reds did not fail to disappoint. Jackie was called every N-word imaginable. But not once did Robinson say or do anything to disgrace himself or his team.

When the Blue – The umpire shouted – Play Ball! – Pee Wee Reese, a star player beloved by all of Cincinnati, did the unthinkable. He walked over to first base with tears in his eyes to recognize Robinson as his teammate in front of fans, friends, and family. And in that one triumphant moment, baseball became America’s Game. 

Today, we proudly stand on the shoulders of Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, and Blanche Rickie, all heroes of the biggest game of them all, the game of life.  They proved that we can change the world when we refuse to remain silent in the face of injustice. And so today, I ask you – what you will do when next your face injustice. Will you remain silent?

Every Mother’s Day

“Where there’s a will, there’s always a way.”

The song M-O-T-H-E-R has always been a favorite of mine. The music was written by Theodore Morse back in 1915. The lyrics were penned by Howard E. Johnson, a pianist in Boston Theatres who later became a staff writer for a New York publishing company during world war one.  But my favorite version of the song is and will always be sung by the great actor and musician Burl Ives, M-O-T-H-E-R. A Word That Means The World to Me. That version makes me believe that every day should be Every Mother’s Day.

His version of the song begins with: When I was a baby, long before I learned to walk. While lying in my cradle, I would try my best to talk. It wasn’t long before I spoke, and all the neighbors heard. My folks were very proud of me, for Mother was the word.

Although I’ll never lay a claim to fame, I’m satisfied to sing her lovely name.

My Mother’s name is Wilma. Her sunrise was May 20th, 1923.  Her sunset 7th July 1973. She was a blessing to us all during her fifty years.  She will always be remembered for her presence, love, and ability to make everyone feel invited and welcome to share whatever we had. Her favorite saying was, “Where there’s a will, there’s always a way.”  To her, what mattered most was not your words but your deeds. To this day, I often wonder about the many times she made what seemed impossible – possible effortlessly.

What are some of the memories of your Mother? Do you remember the million things she gave you? And how about the tears she shed? Were they more tears of joy than those of pain and grief? A mother’s heart is one of purest gold, but even gold takes time and reflection to reveal its beauty. Back then, one of our favorite sayings was, “Father knows Best.” It was also the title of a popular TV show of the times. But we all knew who knew and saw all things – MOTHER. We knew who was always right – MOTHER. We knew who was the glue that held the family together – MOTHER.

To all who continue to struggle with their relationship with their mother, remember you are not alone. How about a timeout today? Call to say we may never see eye to eye, but that’s OK. We all feel your pain when we hear the words; I don’t have a good relationship with my mother. Remember this bit of wisdom that has brought about change for many. There is so much good in the worst of us and so much bad in the best of us; it’s difficult to tell which of us ought to change. Any good mother knows criticism will not hurt unless it should. It’s their job. The truth is one thing for which there are no known substitutes, but sometimes it’s better to be happy than right.   

And so today, I offer a Mother’s Day prayer for all the mothers and those who have had the honor and continue to serve as a mother, as one of my dear friends would often remind me.  May you be blessed with the compassion and wisdom the good Lord provides. Strength to face your everyday challenges. Joy in your beautiful smile. Warmth in your precious hugs and the pleasure of your presence that fills every room in your home with laughter.

May we know that in every loving moment you invest in, the joys of Motherhood will someday return to you in blessings that will fill your hearts for a lifetime. Happy Mother’s Day to my mother. And to all the mothers in our lives, let’s make today and every new day – Every Mother’s Day.  

So, let’s take a minute to listen to Burl Ives and his version of MOTHER:

How are You Communicating

For starters, do you know your speaking rate?

Public Speaking comes from thinking great thoughts which, when shared, form solid interpersonal bonds that allow those great thoughts to become shared values and actions. However, to become actions, those values must be communicated clearly and effectively.

For precise and effective communication to be achieved, close attention must be paid to your instrument of contact – your voice. And how you use your voice to communicate.

For starters, do you know your speaking rate?  Do you know how fast or slow you speak? The best speaking rates when you are presenting are between 120 and 170 words per minute. One hundred twenty words per minute when speaking slowly. One hundred seventy words per minute when speaking at a medium rate.  

Many speakers write out their speeches and use the “Word Count” feature in their software to determine the number of words they should prepare for the time allotted to speak. To make that determination, they divide the number of words they have written by their speaking rate. That indicates approximately how much time they will require for their delivery.

Knowing your rate of speaking is critical. A simple way to determine your speaking rate is to take the one-minute speed test. First, record yourself reading a passage for one minute at your average speaking rate. Then count the number of words you read. Finally, divide the number of words completed by the minutes it took – to arrive at your speaking rate. Many other good examples are available online for determining your ideal speaking rate.

The size of the audience you are presenting to – can affect your speaking rate. Volume is related to the distance between you, the speaker, and your listeners. The amount of surrounding noise should also be taken into consideration. Speakers should also realize that their voice sounds louder than their listeners.

They must learn to control their vocal sound to ensure it is communicative.  Your emotions are also communicated to your listeners through your voice. Volume and tone also play an essential role in emotionally connecting with your listeners.  The characteristics of your vocal quality and vocal variety make you a more exciting speaker when you are on the platform.

Moving from conversations with friends and family to public speaking, you must recognize your rate and pitch as a speaker. In private settings, we all speak faster and use language loosely. As a result, we slur sounds, drop syllables, and develop bad speaking habits.  And although those lazy speaking habits may be accepted by many as your communication style, they seriously undermine your credibility as a serious speaker if or when they are taken to the speaking platform.

When speaking to audiences, it is essential to open your mouth wider to force your lips and tongue to form your consonants firmly. It is also necessary to achieve the usual standards of pronunciation. Form your sounds carefully to meet your audience’s expectations.

You may have a “foreign accent” – we all have one. Your articulation and grammatical arrangements of words determine your dialect. However, many audiences will find the sound of your voice exciting and entertaining when you deliver your enunciation with crispness and precision.

Speakers should also alter their speaking rate to match their ideas. To provoke thoughtfulness, slow down. Quicken the pace to stimulate tension. A varied pace keeps your audience’s attention riveted on your speech. Changing your pitch is also important. Level, range, and variation are three aspects of pitch that affect your communication. 

What is your optimum pitch? Are you habitually a soprano, alto, tenor, baritone, or in the base range? Generally, higher pitches communicate excitement and lower pitches create a sense of control or solemnity. Adjust your pitch to fit the emotion you wish to express. And remember to use the six emotions to which all humans respond – Happiness, Sadness, Anger, Fear, Surprise, and Disgust.

Stress is another important factor that should be observed. Stress is how sounds, syllables, and words are accented. Without vocal stress, we all will sound like computers. Vocal stress is achieved through vocal emphasis – how we accent or attack words. Stress can also change or affect the meaning of words in a sentence. And finally, the power of the pause.

Pauses are the intervals of silence between or within words, phrases, and sentences. The placement of a pause in a presentation is most important. When placed before a critical idea or at the climax of a story, it can create suspense. When placed after a significant point, it can add emphasis. Silence can also send your message.

Pauses help speakers eliminate unnecessary words that make verbal clutter and meaningless fillers. Do not be afraid of silence. Pauses allow speakers to stress important ideas. However, audiences may find it distracting, manipulating, and over-rehearsed if overused.

These are just a few areas all speakers should work on as they move from casual everyday communications to speaking platforms. And as they continue to develop as a speaker, if they focus on one development area each time, they step onto the speaking platform. Over time, they will see the great thoughts they continue to share form stronger interpersonal bonds that allow their great ideas to become the values and actions of those with whom they have communicated.

Dialogue – Your Sleepers – Weepers & Keepers

Sleepers and weepers are seldom keepers

Dialogue can be a powerful public speaking tool. It can engage audiences and convey your message effectively. But how do you know if your dialogue is a keeper, weeper, or sleeper? Sleepers and weepers are seldom keepers. However, keepers can create a more engaging and dynamic experience for your audiences. Since you are the speaker delivering the address and the dialogue, practicing your timing and pacing is imperative. Focus on your purpose for adding the dialogue until you receive the desired effect you are seeking.   

Audiences receive dialogue well when it sounds natural, engaging, and not forced into a presentation. In addition, the exchange you insert should have some impact on your audience. Speakers should also remember that it is effective when your dialogue is short, necessary, and realistic. Ask for feedback to know if your dialogue has the desired effect on your presentation and audience. Focus on the following three questions with at least three different evaluators. The responses you receive will go a long way in helping you decide if your dialogue should stay in or out of your final presentation.  

The first and most important is whether your dialogue was necessary to support the presentation’s message, purpose, and point. Did it sound natural and conversational? Finally, was it engaging, and how did it impact your audience? If you receive more negative comments than positive responses regarding any of those questions. You may have a weeper or sleeper that may need reworking.

Knowing something about the audience you are preparing for is crucial. Being aware of what will resonate well with that audience is an excellent starting point. It is wise to take a moment to research your audience’s demographics. Be aware of the language, style, and phrases they commonly use. Your research will help you include language your audience would easily understand. However, most coaches will advise avoiding using dialogue that merely states a myriad of facts, personal feelings, and language that is considered repetitive. They are sleepers and usually have precisely that effect on audiences. They put audiences to sleep.   

Every presentation involves the giving and taking of information. When we speak, our audience listens and reacts. Therefore, every speech is really a dialogue, not a monologue. The speaker is having a conversation with the audience. However,  dialogue adds a third voice to the conversation. And that third addition to the party is usually a character. The speakers should remember that the exchange with that third voice, verbal and nonverbal, was added to impact the conversation. The discussion just moved from a two-way to a three-way exchange. And it is crucial to give that third party a unique voice as your dialogue develops.     

Including dialogue in your storytelling can help bring your stories to life. Telling your audience what occurred with a verbal exchange using a character’s voice is far more effective than telling the audience what “he or she” said. When you use dialogue to recall what took place conversationally, you are taking your audience back to the time and place of the event as it unfolded. Drop into the emotional experience of the conversation with dialogue. One way to make your dialogue conversational is to add the six emotions to which all humans respond to your delivery. And those six emotions are happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, and disgust. 

Speakers can also use dialogue to reinforce their story’s point or message. We all have heard it said, the secret to public speaking is, you tell a story to make a point or make a point to tell a story. Speakers can achieve a similar result with dialogue. Use dialogue to highlight the point or message in place of a story. Short and direct dialogue also has a powerful and engaging impact on audiences. A great example is one that takes me back to a famous movie scene.   “Harry met Salley”  – “I’ll have what She is having.”

Adding dialogue to presentations is fun. But it takes time, patience, and practice. Remember,  dialogue should emphasize or clarify your point or message. Let your audience know who is speaking when new characters are introduced. Be descriptive. Add emotions, suspense, and reality to your delivery. Make sure your dialogue supports your story, point, and message. Keep exchanges conversational. Engages your audience. And lastly, add a dialogue section to your story file for your keepers, sleepers, and weepers. I love them all and keep reworking my weepers and sleepers until the day they become another of my keepers.  

Your Amazing Grace

Where there’s a will, there’s always a way!

Wilma & George

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound! It is a song that awakens the power of the human spirit – to remind us – that where there’s a will, there’s always a way for you, and you to be filled with Your Amazing Grace. Are you filled with Your Amazing Grace? It is the feeling of being unshakable, unbreakable, unsinkable. Even when you truly believe that all but hope is lost.

On Christmas eve, hundred and forty years ago, Pastor John Newton spoke those beautiful words when he delivered a sermon. In that sermon, he spoke about a time in his life when he was lost and how he came to be found. When he was too blind to see the beauty of humanity and how his troubled life was transformed when he came face to face with what he was sure was going to be his destiny; a watery grave at sea.

Newton, a self-proclaimed wretch, a vagabond of the sea, was sailing across the Atlantic with his crew and human cargo. Yes! He was a slave trader. They ran into a storm that could only be described as one of biblical proportions. The seas were angry. The winds were howling like mad dogs. His sails ripped to shreds. Newton, an experienced seaman, realizing that he was no match for the fury of mother nature that day, fell to his knees, begging for mercy, promising to change from his wicked ways if given a second chance at life.

Newton got that second chance. Miraculously they made it to a little port named Donegal on the Northern coast of Ireland. It was there he first spoke those words that would become the lyrics of the song of songs, hymn of hymns Amazing Grace. However, the author of the music remains anonymous to this day. Some say it was inspired by the moaning and groaning of the slaves in the whole of his ship, who also wondered what their destiny would be as they fought to save their lives and the vessel.  

In my youth, my parents, Wilma and George, often used the lyrics of Amazing Grace to teach my siblings and me their golden rules of life. We must always treat others with the same love and respect we would like to be treated. That second chances don’t come easy. But if ever you are so blessed – the promises you made must be promises kept. And in your hours of darkness, if you reach out to the power of the human spirit, you too will be filled with your Amazing Grace.

Can you recall a moment in your life when you thought it was over? Did you, too, make promises as you begged for your second chance? We all have. We all will have a John Newton moment in our lives. When your bend in the road feels like the end. Even after you have given all that you have to give and then some, all you can see up ahead are those two dreaded words – The End! However, in your hour of despair, I want you always to remember these words that have brought hope to presidents and many mortals like me and you:  “Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come, ‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”

In 2016, I had my Newton moment when I broke one of my wife’s golden rules. Don’t go climbing ladders when you are home alone. The ladder to the loft in the garage slid, throwing me headfirst into a beam. To this day, I will never forget the sound that left my body when I hit the concrete floor in the garage – Woosh! Blood was everywhere. First, I saw a bright light, stars, then felt a feeling of peace as darkness overcame my body. That darkness stayed with me like a shadow for the next three years of my life. There were many times I thought of giving up. But the words of that song gave me hope to carry on.

My friends, we don’t know if, how, or when we will have our John Newton moment – When your whole life will flash like a bad movie before your eyes. But I know this for sure: in that hour of darkness, you will find a way if you have the will. And if you reach out to the power of the human spirit, that spirit that is unshakable, unbreakable, unsinkable, you too will be filled with Your Amazing Grace.

A lesson from the GOAT

You will win some and lose some, we can’t win them all!

As long as we have life, we will have bigger and bigger battles to fight. You will win some and lose some, we can’t win them all, but the secret to success in life is – you must pick your battle carefully. That was the life lesson I got when I met the GOAT, The Greatest of All Times – Muhammed Ali, on a Monday morning in the summer of 1989. A Monday morning that would change my life forever.

I was about to step into the elevator at the Lincoln Building in Manhattan, New York, as I did every work day for the past fifteen years. Suddenly, the door began closing slowly when a giant hand reached out. The door sprung open. I looked up to thank the perfect stranger, only to realize that he was no stranger.

Standing majestically in front of the marquee was Ali. I stepped back; he said, “get in! what floor you’re going to?”  Like he was the elevator operator. Now, this is no table topic question, but tell me what you would have said or done. I froze, then whispered – I’ll take the fifty-second, please, sir – as I stepped into my neutral corner in the elevator – bewildered.  

At that moment, a little voice popped into my head, screaming don’t say anything stupid. Still, the motor in my mouth started running. I know you. Ali -No, you don’t. Then silence until my engine revved again. So, I see you are going to the thirty-sixth floor – The Banquet Hall? Ali Yep! – To retire again, Champ! It’s over – it’s over, Champ!

The GOAT did not like my comment. Like a caged lion, he growled, spun around, and came at me with his clenched fist, screaming – No! It’s over for you! Get them up! – I shall return! Luckily for me, the elevator bell tolled for his floor just then. It was only when Ali stumbled out of that elevator in stitches I realized that the world’s greatest prankster had just pranked me. Yes, he got me good. Like Elvis, I was all “shook up.”

We immediately realized that the thirty-sixth floor was in darkness, except for a dimly lit red sign – EXIT. And that was not the reception we both had expected, so I offered my services. Jokingly, I said Champ, I can stay and protect you. I know this building well. Oh! Ali replied, now you want to be my bodyguard. OK – And we began chatting, not like a prince and a pauper, but like two mere mortals. We spoke about some of his fights going back to the first I against Sonny Liston.

As we spoke, Ali kept looking at his watch. I told him my dad was his biggest fan. He asked who’s your dad. – Big George – I said. Ali growled – I hate that name, George. But I could tell he was uneasy about something. Ali then said, yes, today is the day. Looking at his watch again, he said, “I’ll finally be announcing my retirement to the world at seven am today.” And it was then I got my life lesson.

Soon after, his entourage arrived. And I was tickled when he introduced me as his newfound bodyguard. We all had a good laugh as his photographer Bingham, took pictures. What I remember most about that morning was Ali’s reflective mood. He finally realized that he had reached the end of fighting many battles inside and even outside the ring. Of all the pictures we took that day, I will always cherish the one when he gave me his secret to success. Again, the little voice in my head said -listen and lean. – this is not an accidental meeting. Ali is your messenger!

Ali didn’t know that I, too, was fighting a child custody battle within. I was at that building at six thirty that morning because I couldn’t sleep. I struggled for weeks with a major life-changing decision that I knew could even land me in prison. But, after that meeting with Ali that morning, I knew what I had to do. And one month later, I was driving to San Jose, leaving all my earthly positions behind to start life all over.  

Before that day, I had never driven further than New Jersey. Five days later, I arrived in San Jose shaken. It was the day after the Loma Perata earthquake. To this day, my grown kids still say – Dad, when California heard you were coming, the earth shook. My child custody battles were many. But I never lost the most important of them all, the custody of my children.  

My friends, if ever you are faced with a life-changing decision, remember this secret I got from the GOAT- As long as we have life, we will have bigger and bigger battles to fight. You will win some and lose some, we can’t win them all, but the secret to success in life is – you must pick your battle – carefully.“ It is a message that changed my life and could also change yours forever.

Your Speaker’s Blueprint

Every speech should have a Blueprint

Turning your great ideas into an unforgettable speech that inspires others begins with Your Speaker’s Blueprint. Every speech should have a Blueprint – Your plan that answers the following questions – What’s my purpose? How will that purpose impact my listeners? What will it make my audience think, feel or do?

For that reason, some coaches believe the most important minute of your speech is the minute of silence after you have spoken. If a speaker can inspire their audience to jump out of their seat to make a significant change in their life or the lives of others, they have made their case. They have achieved their purpose.

Once a speaker has answered those questions, they can start developing their blueprint by collecting their supporting material. Although the title is always your audience’s first introduction to your speech, it can wait. You can use a placeholder if you wish. Titles are a relatable premise of the speech. As your speech develops, the title often changes.

Focus more on committing your thoughts to paper. Write them all down. The memos of your flashes of creativity often come in handy later in the editing process. I call those jottings – “The Keepers and the Weepers.” Enjoy documenting them all, although you know some of the best lines won’t make the final cut. But where possible, share those creative ideas as were first experienced.

We all have unique ways of speaking in private and public. However, be mindful that it’s not what you say. It’s what your audience hears. Next, develop your Foundational Statement. It should be a tweetable and easily repeatable sentence. All speakers believe that their ideas are great. However, speakers must remember they are preparing a speech for their listeners’ gratification, not theirs.

Therefore, they should also ask themselves why this idea inspired them and why it should inspire others. Will their audience feel what they felt when this idea first popped into their head? And how they should structure their speech to touch all the emotions to which all humans respond.   

Your introduction should capture and engage the attention and imagination of your audience. It should keep your audience focused on your topic. As you write out your speech, deciding on the body parts you wish to engage is a good idea. Will it be the heart for empathy, the head to make your audience think, hands or feet to get your audience moving?

Whichever you choose is fine. However, your choice should always transition smoothly to the body of the speech. The body is where the speaker develops and expands their point, purpose, and proposition. If you don’t have a purpose, you don’t have a speech. Also, there should be a message in your purpose.

To make your message crystal clear, you can tell a story to make your point. Many coaches teach the secret to public speaking is you make a point, then tell a story –  or tell a story to make a point. You then repeat the process over and over.

From your opening to the conclusion, your point, purpose, proposition, and message should echo through the delivery of your speech. One world champion calls it your scarlet ribbon that runs through the body. Varying how you deliver your B1, B2, & B3 will keep your audience focused on your message as you build to your big takeaway. That takeaway is what some coaches call your Magic Moment. The moment that will turn an excellent speech into one that is immortal.

To avoid ambiguity, your structure should be a single introduction, moving to the body of the presentation. Then, to close, choose your final words carefully—end with a single conclusion, and make sure your last words linger in the minds of your audience. We all have our preferred speech-writing model. Call it whatever you wish. It is Your Speaker’s Blueprint. A popular model we are all familiar with is the “Tell Them Model,” – Where -you tell your audience what you’re going to tell them – You tell them – Then you tell them what you told them. Use that model to check your script for clarity.

From the moment a speaker steps onto the platform, pause and begin reading the audience. However, the closing is where you will seal the deal. Many deals are lost because the speaker didn’t realize their audience is sold. Your audience tells you silently if you made a good connection and you have made your case.

While it is difficult to receive feedback over Zoom, it is possible. Remember, a smile is just a frown turned upside down. If you can see your audience, focus briefly on the frowns; the decenters and move on. If your audience is not visible, use carefully placed pauses and rhetorical questions as check-ins during your delivery.  

Nothing is built without a solid plan or blueprint. Your blueprint does not have to be fancy. If your written plan serves as your guide to help you stay focused on your plot, it is your blueprint. If it increases the effectiveness of the connection with your audience, it is your blueprint. Create a blueprint for your next speech. Experience the joy of turning your next great idea into an unforgettable moment for you and your audience. And remember, all great speeches begin and end with – Your Speaker’s Blueprint.

My Leadership Style

Many are called, but few are chosen.

Leadership is not a game. It is a process – It is a calling. But as the good book says, many are called, but few are chosen. We all will be called upon to lead at some time. Most great leaders have a style that is unique to them. Their style is shaped by traits developed over time through various leadership experiences. Great leaders motivate and inspire others. They encourage those they lead to better themselves and the people around them.

Knowing your leadership style is essential as you continue your process of self-discovery. Today, when I think of my leadership style, Dynamic, I think about a time in my life when I was twenty-one. The year was 1970, and my homeland, Trinidad, was embroiled in a revolution. I was chosen to lead a squad because of my rank. Everyone in my squad was older than I was. That’s when I quickly realized the virtues of being a Dynamic leader. The mission at hand was to get everyone back to base alive. We worked together as a team and achieved our goals as a team. That was when my Dynamic leadership began to take shape.

As a Dynamic leader, my focus has always been to find better ways to direct, guide, motivate and influence the behaviors of others I lead. Achieving each individual’s goals and the organization’s purpose is essential. However, leadership does not mean you take ownership of the organization. You take ownership to ensure the success or failures of those you lead. Leadership demands that you maintain good interpersonal relations while staying true to your values. Your challenge is to motivate each team member to contribute and work together to achieve their goals and objectives.

Since that 1970 experience, I have used the Dynamic Leadership Model to implement changes when faced with difficult situations. It is a model that teaches us to change with the changes we encounter. It demands that your words and actions must be in sync. And while it is wonderful to be optimistic as a leader. It teaches us that leaders must also be realistic. And that sometimes a pessimist is just an optimist with information. Dynamic Leadership also requires you to show respect for time – your time and the time of others. It helps you understand your strengths and preferences that can help you adjust to the leadership styles of others.  

Here are four Leadership styles. Can you identify which best describes yours?

Autocratic: The leader has complete control of the team. The team cannot present their view in the decision-making process. Everything comes from above!

Democratic: One that offers everyone a fair hearing while respecting and conforming to the organization’s basic rules.

Laissez-faire or Free-rein: Translated from French, meaning ‘to let it do.’ This style results in a hands-off approach to leadership.

Bureaucratic: A leadership style in which a Governing Body establishes the management and decision-making norms of the organization.  

We all have deferred to one of those leadership styles as parents or members of an organization to which we belong. But can you identify which styles you most commonly default to when pressured or faced with your moments of truth? Does that style offer ways of working and communicating within the organization? Does it state who does and is responsible for what? And how is that information shared? The Dynamic Leadership Model allows members to understand, communicate and express that information clearly.

Over my years as a leader, I have found that the organizational structure is often a reflection of the personality traits of the membership. And when all are invested in the organization’s structure and policies, the result is success. However, when those policies are adjusted to fit the whims and fancies of individual members, it’s only a matter of time before the culture and essence of that organization are lost. And most likely, it will stay lost forever.

When we join an organization, we can move in one of three directions. We can remain where we were on the first day we joined. Some may regress, while others will improve as communicators and someday become high achievers and leaders. The choice is ours. The foundation of our Leadership style is based on knowing yourself, your beliefs, and your core values. There are many challenges one will face as a leader. However, it is those moments of truth that will always reveal who we truly are as a leader and why we were called upon or chosen to leadership.

Love & Marriage

Love & Marriage -D101 2017 Winning Humor Contest Speech

Love and Marriage! – According to that old song, they go together like horse and carriage. However, my Papa says, sometimes you’ll feel like the horse, sometimes the carriage. But you’ll be well on your way to a happy marriage – If you or your partner don’t ever behave – like that part of the horse that faces the carriage. Fellow Horses and Carriages!

Now, I don’t mean to pry but tell me, in your relationship or marriage, who is the horse and who – is the carriage? If your horse or carriage is sitting next to you right now, trust me; this is not the time to ask any questions. Yes! It takes more than five to seven minutes to figure this one out. But what is your secret -secret to a happy marriage? Can you have one without the other? And what do you do when your horse starts bucking and is pulling away from the carriage?  Well, these are some of the questions I hope we can answer as we take another look at love! And the institution of marriage.

Married life used to be so simple. First, you fall in love. Then you get married. And you live happily ever after. Right!  Wrong! In some cultures, first, you get married, then you have the rest of your life to fall in love. But ever since the beginning of time, there has always been this debate over which should come first. Love, then marriage? Or marriage, and then Love – Who knew, do you?

Then tell me, how do you know when you are in love?  Yes, that was a question, but now is not a good time to turn to your partner for answers. That would be stepping in it – what the horse always leaves behind. But how do you know? I believe you are still in love when you can remember some of these magical moments, the first kiss. The first time you looked into your partner’s eyes, didn’t know a word of Italian but saw Amora. And when you can remember those early morning breakfasts in bed with a smile?  You are still in love.

Now I don’t profess to be an expert on this subject of Love and Marriage. Yes!  I am married – again. But back in the day, when I thought of marriage, I saw myself waving that white flag of the Olympic Games. The five rings on that flag always reminded me that there are sometimes five rings in many marriages. First the engagement ring, next the wedding ring, then comes the suffer ring, boring and even the boxing ring. 

However, I take full responsibility for all of my rings, as my X father-in-law forewarned me. I wrote him a five-page letter asking for his daughter’s hand in marriage. His response came back, one word. No! I thought the man liked me. Then he invited me to meet the entire family at this posh restaurant to tell me no! You cannot have just my daughter’s hand in marriage. You will take her hands, feet, and all the spare parts that come with her. Then he said (SON) there is no warranty with my baby. She’s all yours. I should have seen it coming. No, I wasn’t blind. I was in love.

It wasn’t my fault. You see, there is no University you can attend to get a degree in love or marriage. But again, who needs one? When a man gets married, he loses his bachelor’s. And the woman! She earns her master’s with honors. Once you lift her over that threshold, I guarantee you that’s not the last time she’ll be putting her foot down in her house. Statistics show that in the first few years of marriage, the man speaks, and the woman listens. Soon the woman speaks, and the man listens. Then before long, everybody speak and speak, and only the neighbors listen.

My friends, you don’t need a bachelor’s or master’s to enjoy a successful marriage. We must realize that the two people are different in any relationship. You could be the best magician; you will not change each other. So, what’s the secret to a happy marriage? Respect! Respect each other’s differences. And when you are the horse – be a stallion. When you are the carriage, enjoy the ride. You can’t separate love from marriage. That’s an illusion that will always take you back to one conclusion, that love and marriage do go together like horse and carriage. And you will find your secret to a happy marriage once you or your partner don’t ever start behaving like that part of the horse – that faces the carriage.  

Is there a formula for a Winning Humorous Speech ?- Whenever I am asked that question, my answer is always the same 20 Laughs, 5 Chuckles, and One Belly Full of Laughter – delivered in 7 minutes.

Your Voice – Your Instrument

If you want people to listen to you, you must be prepared to listen to yourself.

Your voice is your instrument. You carry it with you every day of your life. However, do you know the sound of your voice? Can listeners clearly understand what you are saying when you speak? Every instrument has a distinctive sound.  We all know what a trumpet, sax, or tuba sounds like.  If you were to hear a snippet from you and seven of your close friends, would you be able to identify which voice was yours? We all have accents and different ways of pronouncing certain words. We recognize and even admire the sound of our favorite speakers and singers. Over time, we become familiar with their pitch, range, and tamber.   

Every instrument has to be tuned, and so too is your voice. To produce a clear sound, you have to work on improving your “Buzz,” which makes your tone. To create that “Buzz,” you must work on breathing. All speakers understand the importance of inhaling air when speaking and the control required in its emission.  We all depart from our natural breathing as infants with age and personal development. Many of us use almost exclusively the upper portion of our lung capacity when speaking. To develop proper resonance, flexibility, and a beautiful tone, we must focus on correcting how we breathe while avoiding the condition we call shallow breathing.  Many articulation exercises are available in books and on the internet to address this problem.

Before you can even begin to improve your speaking voice, you must first find it. You should know how you sound.  Your voice tone in everyday communication is an excellent place to start. Observe the pitch you typically default to if you were to start humming. Observe the natural ease and comfort you feel. Take note of how you felt when you tried humming at a lower or higher pitch. William Shakespeare had this to say about finding your beautiful tone when speaking:

“Two factors are necessary; first, the breath must be under perfect control; and second, the vocal organs must be trained to act with unconscious ease – without correct breath control, and without freedom of the vocal muscles, a beautiful clear tone of voice cannot be attained.”

Once you have found your speaking voice, your next step is improvement and maintenance with exercises to strengthen your facial muscles – your jaw, throat, tongue, and lips. These are all critical muscles of your “Mask Cavity” that speakers must develop with vocal exercises. One I highly recommend is “Mouth exercise for Clear Speech,” available here: Articulation Exercises. Here you will find exercises that cover many letters and sounds of the alphabet.  Some speakers may need more help from a speaking coach to produce a clear tone. However, this is an excellent place to start.

Speakers should also be aware of times when their tone and pitch change while delivering presentations.  It is natural for a speaker’s voice to change if they are nervous, excited, or are being assertive. Understanding those changes in your communication style and using them effectively can turn what may be, to some, a liability into an asset when presenting. Starting with your natural Hum or Buzz and changing registers is an excellent exercise for beginners. This exercise helps speakers move seamlessly between registers.  With soft lips lightly touching, hum a few of your favorite tunes. Recite or read and record a few short sentences. Listen to your recordings.

As any coach will say, if you want people to listen to you, you must be prepared to listen to yourself.

Practicing correctly is critical. As you practice, pay attention to details. When you do, you will achieve the best results. Maintain good posture and proper inhalations.  Practice humming and buzzing with ease as you exercise your vocal muscles. Make sure your lips are soft, barely touching. They should also be loose at the corners. The tongue should lie easily and loosely, with the tip of your tongue lightly touching your lower front teeth. Ensure your throat is free as if you are about to begin yawning. Also, remember that exercises are useless when performed incorrectly. Start slowly and increase your speed as you become more proficient. Exercises performed once correctly are far more valuable than an exercise repeatedly done poorly. Begin your humming and buzzing with simple songs. As you improve, step it up to include classical pieces and choruses as your breath control and resonance improve. Keep practicing, and over time you will find what is unique and natural to us all – Your distinctive, beautiful sound – Your voice – Your instrument.  

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