Present Perfect

“Every negative event contains within it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” ~ Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich

Perhaps you’re familiar with present perfect as a grammatical term, but I would like to offer a different perspective of these words – as in “the present is perfect.”

Now, before you scream at me that your present is anything BUT perfect, please indulge me for a moment and consider an event from your past that you judged to be ‘bad or ‘wrong’ at the time. Now, think carefully about what transpired as a result of that experience.

What events unfolded because of it? What was the outcome? Is it possible that something ‘good’ came about? I would venture to say that it did… every time.

At first, it may be difficult at accept that there was any ‘good,’ but I guarantee that if you look hard enough and long enough, you will ALWAYS find it. Something ALWAYS happens as a result of an experience that makes it perfect.

The first personal example that comes to my mind happened a few years ago. One morning, I woke up with some discomfort in my lower back. Within a couple of hours, the discomfort had escalated to the point where I couldn’t move without excruciating pain. The only way I could get around was by dragging myself across the floor. Raising my body to sit on the toilet was almost unbearable, and sitting on a chair or couch was impossible.

Walking was also out of the question, so I ate very little that day. It was far too painful to stand up and prepare food, and I could only manage a few minutes at a time. I swallowed some pain-killers, gathered some cushions around me, and tried to make myself as comfortable as possible on the floor. With the TV remote on one side of me and the telephone on the other, I managed to get through the day.

Sleep that night was fitful to say the least, but I managed to get in a couple of hours. The next day wasn’t any better. The pain was still unbearable, so one of my daughters came over to help. She took one look at me and carted me off to the Emergency Department of the local hospital where we waited for almost ten hours to see a doctor and for them to examine me. They took x-rays, they poked, and they prodded. Their diagnosis was ‘probably’ sciatica so they gave me drugs for the pain and referred me to my family doctor who later referred me to a specialist for tests.

At first blush, there doesn’t appear to be anything positive about this experience, but let me elaborate a little about my circumstances at that time. I had returned from Thailand a few months earlier and had made the decision not to work at a traditional office job because my boredom with office work was what sent me to Thailand in the first place! But, we all have to eat and pay for a roof over our head, so I had been working for a couple of temp agencies to tide me over until I came across the “perfect” job. I hadn’t the faintest idea what that would be, but I had faith in the Universe that it would materialize.

The only problem with temp work is that there are no benefits: No sick leave, no medical insurance, no drug plan. Plus, no work = no income. How was I going to pay my rent? My savings were nonexistent since my Thailand trip and my family were in no position to help out so my financial outlook was pretty dismal. My only recourse was… dare I say it?… WELFARE.

Just the word sent shivers down my spine! I had never received ‘charity’ in my life and even disliked unemployment insurance the couple of times I had been laid off past jobs. How was I ever going to accept welfare?

To cut a long story short, Social Services treated me with dignity and respect and I have nothing but praise for their help. Sure, walking into the building was tough on my pride. (Who would see me?) What would my bank say when they recognized the source of the funds paid into my account and realized I was on welfare? (As if they had someone checking!) How would I answer friends’ inquiries about what I was doing these days? It was a very humbling experience to say the least.

So what was perfect about it, you may ask. Nothing… at the time. Enduring pain, humiliation and guilt are not my idea of positive experiences. However, there was an up side to it all. As I was unable to sit for extended periods of time and therefore unable to work in traditional jobs, Social Services directed me to a self-employment program that taught participants how to set-up their own business as well as the skills necessary to maintain it.

In the months prior to my sciatica episode, I had written my first book “Joy Makers” and had the brilliant idea of creating a business around it. I wrote up a proposal for my idea and was accepted into the self-employment program. As a result, I received impressive instruction from a wonderful business advisor/trainer who also became a personal friend. In addition to this friendship, I also benefited in other ways. Here are some of them:

* My new business advisor/friend generously invited me to participate in a private course she was teaching about creating your own life. This led to some amazing personal revelations and was a turning point in my life.
* The same person also introduced me to another wonderful friend who I would probably never have met otherwise.
* My book was eventually published.
* The experience I gained from publishing my own book, led to a meeting with another self-published author who also became a very good friend.
* This friend became my business partner in two different ventures.
* I now co-own a self-publishing service where we assist writers to become published authors, and another wellness business which provides healthier, safer products for families and the environment at very reasonable prices.
* I still maintain contact with many of the people I met on the business course and have been able to share and network with many others.
* I learned a great deal about online marketing.
* I taught myself website design to market my book and my businesses.

These are just some of the results of that event. In addition to the above, one of my daughters who had been living in Pennsylvania, was prompted by my sciatica challenge to come back, and we continue to share a home. Since I had been missing her very much, I was overjoyed at her return as we get along very well. This relationship has proved to be a godsend to us both and we continue to grow from it.

I hope this account of a ‘bad’ incident has provided you with an example of the perfection of our experiences. Certainly I didn’t look upon it as a ‘good’ thing at the time but, in retrospect, a great many good things came about because of it… both the sciatica and my ensuing welfare episode.

There have been many other incidents where I can look back on a ‘bad’ experience and recognize the blessing that transpired as a result. In retrospect, I can’t think of one single event in my life that was not positive. So now, when something “unwanted” takes place, I look at it with acceptance – the attitude that this too shall pass and I will eventually find the ‘pearl within.’

For me, this is a much better way of looking at my life situation. For me, the present is ALWAYS perfect!

Book Review – The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, by Carmine Gallo

The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs is a book that a speechwriter can love. Gallo quotes from sources such as Nancy Duarte’s Slide:ology and Garr Reynolds’ Presentation Zen. He even has a sidebar on JFK speechwriter Ted Sorensen’s influence on Barack Obama titled, “What the World’s Greatest Speechwriters Know.

The message of this book is that Jobs’ extraordinary impact is based on his authenticity and his passion for his company’s people and products. Most presenters can’t claim to be the CEO of an archetypically cool Silicon Valley company.

Neither can they get away with wearing faded jeans, sneakers and a turtleneck onstage. But simply everyone with a product or service that improves people’s lives has a story to tell. Gallo’s book explains in detail how Jobs presents his story so that his passion shines through and ignites the audience. It’s Gallo’s claim that anyone can learn how to deliver an “insanely great” presentations.

The “secrets” that make Jobs so effective onstage include the usual stage tips taught by presentation coaches: Make eye contact with the audience, use vocal variety and know the power of a well-timed pause. But the majority of the book analyzes the structure, rather than the delivery techniques, of major keynotes Jobs has given at Macworld and elsewhere over the years. This makes the book of inestimable value for anyone who needs to understand the nuts and bolts of writing a speech.

Performance piece

When Steve Jobs takes to the stage he often tells dramatic stories, so it’s appropriate that the book itself is structured as a three-act play. Act 1 tells how to create the story, Act 2 tells how to deliver it, and Act 3 stresses the importance of rehearsal. Gallo adds “Director’s Notes” that summarize each chapter (or scene), and he introduces a cast of supporting characters.

Organizing the book in this way also reinforces the importance of telling a story in three parts; of delivering a speech with three messages. In fact, Gallo concedes, the chapter on the effectiveness of breaking a speech into three “could easily have become the longest in the book.”

Speechwriters’ playbook

The book is a playbook for writing a great speech. Jobs and his team start scripting a speech long before firing up PowerPoint or, in their case, Keynote software. They settle on an attention-grabbing headline (“The world’s thinnest notebook”); then they decide on the three key messages; develop analogies and metaphors; and scope out demonstrations, video clips and cameo guest appearances.

Next they develop the “plot” of the speech, setting up an antagonist (Microsoft or IBM in the early days), dressing up numbers and including plenty of “amazingly zippy” words. Finally, they script a memorable “holy smokes” moment that people will talk about long after the event ends. The slides they eventually create are heavy on images and light on text and bullet points.

Live action video

A book alone will go only so far. If you’ve never actually seen Jobs present in person, then you haven’t experienced the “reality-distortion field” his charisma and eloquence creates in the auditorium. Gallo has this covered.

The book’s end notes provide URLs for some of the 47,000 YouTube and Apple.com video clips showcasing Jobs and clearly demonstrating the techniques discussed. Viewing the videos compensates for the poor-quality monochrome photos of Jobs onstage-the one disappointment in the book.

Learning from his mistakes

To counteract any feelings of inadequacy you might have after watching Jobs deliver a flawless keynote, do a quick search on YouTube for “Apple Bloopers” and you’ll see that, even for Steve Jobs, things don’t always go well onstage. Demos fail, screens freeze, and he stumbles over words. But as with any masterful presenter, Jobs remains calm. 

Even if the speeches you write or deliver are not destined for “insane” greatness, they’ll be much, much, better for having read Carmine Gallo’s insanely great book.

Negotiating With People of Prestige and Power

When you negotiate with people of prestige or power, do you become meek?

Sometimes, when we negotiate with people that we perceive as having more authority, power, or prestige, than ourselves, we become fearful or intimidated. Then, we tend not to negotiate with them as firmly as we might with other individuals. This can occur for several reasons …

  1. You don’t want to alienate the person of power for fear of losing something more important in the future.
  2. You fear the possible retribution that might come from being perceived as a ‘difficult person.’
  3. You want to be perceived as a person that everyone can get along with.

You could have all kinds of reasons and thoughts that create barriers in your mind, as to why you don’t want to negotiate from a stronger position. Regardless of the thoughts, seek to understand the impediments that prevent you from negotiating and address them.

When you negotiate with your boss, a power broker, or anyone that has more perceived authority than yourself, you can utilize some of the following strategies.

  1. Since the person has more prestige, power, or authority, appeal to their sense of fairness. You can cast yourself in the position of someone lower in stature that seeks their support. Depending upon the personality type of the individual you are negotiating with, that person’s ego may be stroked. Let her know how much you look up to her and the ‘good’ she’s contributing to your environment. Be prepared with a very good rebuttal if she tries to turn this strategy against you by suggestion the things she’s already done for you should be your reward.
  2. Seek grounds of mutual agreement as to the value you possess and be prepared to substantiate why your position warrants merits.
  3. Exploit, in a positive manner, any leverage you can utilize. If you’ve recently been cited for something of notoriety, especially if it relates to your goal of the negotiation, mention it as additional justification as to why you should receive what you seek.
  4. Suggest to the other person that they prepare to see you in a different manner, from which they may be accustomed to viewing you. Then, let them know you’re putting on your ‘business hat,’ or whatever metaphor is appropriate. If possible tie a positive trait that they possess to your actions and suggest you are attempting to imitate the good ‘business practices’ you’ve gleaned from them. Once you get their ‘buy in,’ you’re more than half way home to getting what you want from the negotiation.

Eventually, when negotiating, if you continuously put the feelings and desires of others ahead of your own, you will become very frustrated. In addition, your self respect will eventually start to suffer. You will look in the mirror and not like the person looking back at you.

When all is said and done, if you can’t summon the courage needed to negotiate with those that have more perceived power, and if the prize is large enough, consider having someone else negotiate for you. Just be aware of the inherent risk in doing so … and everything will be right with the world.

The negotiation lessons are …

  • When you negotiate with someone in a higher position than yourself, be mindful of what they might seek from you. If possible, give it to them and appeal to their sense of fairness to get what you seek.
  • If you find it difficult to negotiate with those that have greater authority, put your mind into a psychological state that cast you into a figure that can’t be beaten. Really psyche yourself up. Gather background information that will help you substantiate why you deserve your goal of the negotiation and start negotiating.
  • If you can’t summon within yourself the courage, strength, or whatever is needed to combat that which prevents you from negotiating with ‘stronger’ figures, and you have no other source to turn to for assistance, be prepared to live with the consequences of not negotiating.