A life-changing rule c/o comedian Sarah Millican.
As you might know, I’m a comedy fan. I watch it online, on TV and live too. I’ve even been on five comedy courses now and I’ve done some standup myself. As a speaker, you’d think that it would be easy for me, right? But actually, standup comedy is very different to being a speaker. One of my mates who’s a pro comedian was joking with me that quite often speakers and preachers chat to him saying “we do the same job really, don’t we?”. I think he probably doesn't say anything, but to be really honest they are very different.
Comedy is like speaking on speed and it is often cited as one of the toughest things you can do, well, it’s not brain surgery or bomb defusing, but it is pretty tough. It is scary because, not only are people generally scared of public speaking but add to the mix that for stand-up the audience is sat there expecting that you’ll make them laugh every 10-20 seconds! When I’m speaking I aim for a laugh every 3-5 minutes, so every 20 seconds kinda piles on the pressure!
So, lots of people I’ve trained with are doing it to build their confidence and to push themselves out of their comfort zone. Our comfort zone is great, but we grow when we push ourselves out of it, like getting a new job or trying something new for the first time. As a speaker I just wanted to push myself to be better ‘in the moment, on stage’ and so stand-up comedy and improvisation courses are one of the few places I can go to stretch myself.
Lots of people try comedy, lots of people fail, there is a high drop out rate, almost as high as the drop out rate at the gym on the fourth week of January. So when people really make it in comedy, I like to find out more and learn a bit about their story. Sarah Millican is one of the big names in comedy right now. She has been on a long journey to get there. My friend who runs comedy nights for years said that she had slept on his sofa as she did the local circuit years ago, learning her craft.
Being from the north-east myself I've always liked to watch north-eastern comedians and when Sarah Millican hit the big time I thought she was great. She is cheeky, thoughtful and honest. As I started following her on Twitter I saw some articles on her, and about her: i.e. she does an amazing thing every Christmas helping lonely people by using the hashtag #joinin and people on Twitter support each other at a tough time of year for many. Brilliant.
But one of the things that I discovered about Sarah, could well be the secret to her success. She calls it ‘Millican’s law’. She developed this during long runs on the Edinburgh Fringe where she was doing dozens of comedy gigs back to back.
So, here it is…
If she has had a bad gig, she only allows herself to be mad, moan, wallow and be angry until 11am the next day. Then she draws a line under it and gets on with the next gig. Because if she goes into a new gig thinking she’s terrible then, of course, she’ll probably fail again.
But there is another side to it too…
Even if she nails it, storms it, does well or even gets a standing ovation. She only allows herself to be smug until 11am the next day. Then she draws a line under it and gets on with the next gig. Because, she says that if she goes into a new gig thinking she is God’s gift to comedy, she’ll lose her sharpness and her focus and she’ll probably fail.
She says that this little law, has made a real difference to her. It has helped her move on from life’s up’s and down’s.
But because Sarah is a comedian and they live fairly nocturnal lives, getting home in the early hours and getting up late - then 11am works for them. But for us who have day jobs we need to move that forward to 8am.
So Millican's Law has henceforth become the ‘After Eight’ rule.
Yesterday was yesterday, and whether it was a bad day or a good day, today is a new day, with new opportunities.
Don't live in the past, embrace the present and learn to move on.
Well, at least by 8am, just so we can moan a little but then get our heads straight for when we walk into work!
Let me know how you get on with the ‘After Eight’ rule (not just the chocolate!). It could be a life-changer.
Throughout my summer, I always enjoy having a different routine and a bit more space to think, with fewer talks to prep. So, I’ve been thinking and planning about lots of stuff – work, life, and how untidy the loft is. All of this occurred during weeks of holiday/family time/dog sitting, with some sporadic bits of work, both in and out of the loft!
Here’s how some of those thoughts linked together, please do read on, you will find them useful honest!
Joined up thought one: The weather
Like many, I enjoyed the summer warmth, and even though I did have a fan surgically attached to me for a few days – I still enjoyed the break from our normal damp English climate. But then it all changed, the jet stream moved south and all of a sudden our summer was mainly us looking at weather apps and the sky, thinking, should we, shouldn’t we? Then on the 19th August, I had a revelation – it was one that no local weather presenters will like. I now think that they don’t know what’s going to happen more than 2 hours ahead!
We’ve been watching weather apps and we even made decisions to go out or stay in for some summer activities. We even postponed a trip to Malham because the weather looking horrific. But on that day when we stayed at home, it didn’t even rain! Yep, they haven’t got a clue! We can spend ages looking and sometimes obsessing with the weather, the most oddly British of all our quaint pastimes. I can also guarantee that in the next few days the tabloids will report both a very rainy and a very sunny September! They always do.
So as Billy Connolly says “There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing”. I for one will be spending less time trying to guess where the moving target of the weather will be this coming year and just go with it…
Joined up thought two: The moving target of happiness
I came across a short video from Nadia Bolz-Weber on Facebook who said:
“Many of us are tormented by our ideal self versus our actual self. Between our ideal income and our actual income. Our ideal personality and our actual personality. Our ideal weight and our actual weight. But here’s the thing. No one has ever become their ideal self. It’s a moving target. It’s this mirage of water in a desert. You spend all your energy trying to get to it—and that just creates more thirst.”
This wonderful quote is a real challenge to us all and particularly to the self-help and self-development industry, that, at its worse can actually make people feel more unhappy with themselves and their lives*. When I’m doing my “motivational talks” (a title that I’ve never been happy with because of its often unreal and fluffy unicorn like connotations!) I always try to research what I say well, not give false hope, but teach the proven down-to-earth stuff that will genuinely help us all to “Get Good”, in both senses.
This quote was a reminder to me to always encourage people to enjoy the journey and in their loud and quieter moments be comfortable in their own skin, knowing that they are enough as they are, but also can develop too. A tricky balance to get right, for sure…
Joined up thought three: A more realistic target we can all hit
And finally I did some research and found lots of target based diagrams useful for helping us to focus on what we can really change, so we can enjoy life and work more. So using the bare bones of an idea from the author Steven Covey and others I have designed my own target to put on your phone or wall.
When I showed it to some friends, some got it straight away and some immediately said: “Why have you put politics and government into the area of no control?!” So to clarify, I am a member of a mainstream political party and I sometimes even do some canvassing at election times. But even so, I know that my obsessing over politics in this country or abroad does not really change those situations. Sure I can vote once in a while, and campaign, but I only have a very limited influence on the government on a daily basis. So I’m not saying do not get involved in politics, but what I am saying is that we should spend more time and energy on our ‘area of control’ and not on what others think about us, the weather, the media, other peoples opinions on social media, our past and the current political climate.
Once we realise that idealism and perfection is a moving target we can never hit, we can learn to focus on what we can really influence and what really matters.
Then we can enjoy work more and focus on enjoying life.
Let me know what you think.
So, after 10 years of Pro Speaking and Presentation coaching Lee has just launched his very own podcast:
“The Get Good At Presenting podcast is the no-nonsense guide to authentic and engaging public speaking with Motivational Speaker and Presentation Coach Lee Jackson. This down-to-earth podcast is ideal for anyone interested in better public speaking, for those who want to speak better or who even speak for a living as Lee does.”
It is a combination of his live talks, some exclusive content, interviews with speakers/experts and questions from the audience/listeners – we hope you’ll find it a lively and refreshing take on speaking up front.
The first 3 episodes are available now on all podcast platforms, wherever you normally listen to your podcasts…
Google Play / Android (U.S. Only):
Enjoy, share and subscribe 🙂
#publicspeaking #presentations #podcasting #presenter #leadership #coaching #business
I found this fascinating article on Forbes.com from Jan Bruce…
“One of the most counterproductive pieces of advice spewed from keynotes, gurus, and motivational speakers of every stripe is this: Think positively. Why? It’s not a one-size-fits-all guide to leadership (or life) and adds considerably to your stress load. Because you not only have to tackle the obstacles you’re already facing; you have to also wrestle any negative thoughts you have about them to the ground. (Read more on how optimism can impair your success.)
There is a better and more important way to lead. Because there’s something far more valuable than being simply optimistic, happy, or upbeat—and it’s cultivation of emotional agility . Your ability to be aware of and receptive to all kinds of shifts in thinking and the emotions they create, without getting toppled by them, is what will make you the leader you need to be.
In their recent piece in the Harvard Business Review (“Emotional Agility”), Susan David and Christina Congleton of Evidence Based Psychology, point out that in their experience consulting with business leaders all over the world, they’ve learned that the reason so many of them stumble is not because of the fact that they have negative thoughts (who doesn’t), but because they get snagged on them. To try to “fix” those thoughts, they say, is not the solution.
“Effective leaders don’t buy into or try to suppress their inner experiences. Instead they approach them in a mindful, values-driven, and productive way—developing what we call emotional agility. In our complex, fast-changing knowledge economy, this ability to manage one’s thoughts and feelings is essential to business success. Numerous studies, from the University of London professor Frank Bond and others, show that emotional agility can help people alleviate stress, reduce errors, become more innovative, and improve job performance.”
Anticipating the Negative Makes You, Well, Negative
In his fantastic book, The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking, Oliver Burkeman notes that “our constant efforts to eliminate the negative… is what causes us to feel so insecure, anxious, uncertain, or unhappy,” and advocates instead the embrace of a ‘negative’ approach to happiness.
Again, the way to cultivate emotional agility is through being mindful of what’s happening, rather than trying to blind yourself to the bad stuff for fear it will hurt you.
Here’s why this is important: We are generally wired to be on high alert for threats. But think about it. If you are fearful of negative thoughts and feel the need to forcibly expunge them, then you’ll go to great lengths to protect yourself and likely be distracted by them (as you would be if you’re expecting an assassin and see a shadow slip by the window). When you attempt to take on and destroy all those negative thoughts, you’re forever in a defensive pose.
But bad thoughts—and bad events—are like bad weather; they happen. They always will. The answer isn’t to undo that millennia-old wiring; it’s to keep from getting hooked like a fish on every bad line of thinking. (Find out why should see stress as a good thing.)
My advice is very much in alignment with what David and Congleton suggest:
Acknowledge the thought (trap it). When you hear that same old broken-record thought again (“I’ll never make the right decision”; “I don’t do well in situations like this”), rather than follow it down the rabbit hole, trap it: Be aware of the role that the thought is playing, almost as if it were separate from you.
Seek out the source (map it). When’s the last time you heard this thought or felt sucked into this downward spiral? What’s causing it now? When you can identify that as a symptom rather than a flaw, you can keep it from getting you into a stranglehold.
Accept and move on (zap it). Whether you call it acceptance or the negative path or whatever, the key is to recognize that this thought is not who you are. A thought alone can’t doom you to failure.
Let your values, not your thoughts, drive. You need to get bigger than the battle between negative and positive, and the way to do that is by remembering what drives you, what matters most.
We all want to succeed—but the answer is not spending all our time hunting down and killing fears one at a time; it’s to rise above the negative by recognizing that, come good or ill, our values sustain us in a much stronger way than positive thinking ever could.
“Much as we like to hear positive messages about ourselves,” writes Burkeman, “we crave even more strongly the sense of being a coherent, consistent self in the first place.”
Jan’s other articles are here
How to Get Good At Presenting – a candid and honest podcast with Presentation Coach and author Lee Jackson c/o ‘Be your best in business’.
Forbes Books Radio interview with Presentation Coach and author of Get Good At Presenting Lee Jackson. You can book Lee to teach your workplace Presentation Skills here.
10 years in business for me = $1 or 99p books for you!
Thank you for journeying with me over the last 10 years 🙂
This weekend only! From Friday 6th April to midnight Sunday 8th April 2018 grab a bargain…
Get Good At Presenting: The No-nonsense Guide To Authentic And Engaging Public Speaking on ebook (epub)
(Use the code on the page below)
Getting Your Teenager Through Their Exams
PowerPoint Surgery: How to create presentation slides that make your message stick
Did you know that knowing lots of people can be bad for our health?!
Research says that on average we all know about 150 people. We have 3-5 close friends/family, then 15 people who are quite close to us, 50 people who are acquaintances and finally a large group who we know a bit and we just wave to in the street!
But because of social media now we can easily keep tabs on hundreds or even thousands of people, this is great in many ways but it also can bring us stress too. If our brain is only really designed to hold the tension of a handful of people, then keeping tabs on hundreds means that there is – always someone ill, always someone struggling, always someone having a tough day, always someone who hates their job. And the flip-side too – there is always someone having a great time, on a great holiday, got a better job and earning more money that us that day. And all this can happen when we are sat in our dressing gown feeling sorry for ourselves!
When I first started my job as a pro speaker I used social media to grow my business as I still do now. But in the early days of self employment it can be very quiet! You don’t get as much work as you’d like, as things have to grow and the word about you has to spread. So for me it became bad for me to see what I thought was that every other speaker and trainer I knew was working and I wasn’t! They all seemed to have bigger and better clients than me too. I think it really got to me for a while and certainly de-motivated me at times. It wasn’t good for me. So I made a few decisions and reminded myself that I was not seeing the world as it really was. Not everyone was working every day but because I followed 200 other speakers there would be always someone working but maybe 185 of them weren’t! But people rarely say online that they are doing nothing (unless it’s the old double hot dog leg shot from a foreign beach somewhere!).
When you have a “gig” based job like mine there is lots of marketing to do and contacts to make but there is also a part of my job where I’m waiting for the phone to ring or an email to arrive out of the blue. It’s just part of what I do. So I do still play the numbers game for business purposes but I also know that personally I should meaningfully connect to less, not more people and we should all of course choose those people very carefully.
We are designed to have a few really good friends not hundreds of vague acquaintances that always seem to be having more fun than us!
Don’t compare yourself to others
Watch the numbers that you connect with
(have an occasional cull and remember on Facebook you can stay ‘friends’ with people but ‘unfollow’ them and they will never know!)
Let’s learn to live a deeper life with fewer people rather than a shallow life with hundreds online.
We’d find life a whole lot less stressful I reckon.
Interview with Sam Dixey the Tinder Powerpoint Viral sensation!
This week a Leeds lad went viral for posting a funny powerpoint presentation on Tinder!
With a glint in his eye Sam Dixey (@samdixey) did a really bad (in fact – so bad – it was good!) Powerpoint Presentation on his Tinder profile to stand out from the crowd for potential girlfriends.
He uploaded his Powerpoint over a year ago and it randomly went viral this week after a potential date Gracie Barrow (@GracieBarrow1) posted it on Twitter
“A genuine 10/10 effort from this lad lmaooo I’m crying” she said – https://twitter.com/GracieBarrow1/status/965001035151495168
“On one slide, the 21-year-old detailed his hobbies as “laser tag”, “dad jokes” and “petting doggos” and even added some pretty cool pictures alongside. Another listed his rather notable skills, including “knowing all the rules to drinking games”, “not the worst at sex” and “owning a Netflix account”
The Sun – https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/5625749/tinder-powerpoint-extra-swipes-sam-dixey-leeds-student/
“And, once she’d stopped laughing, Gracie knew what to do. “I swiped right,” she said. “And we matched and have spoken about how viral the tweet has gone. I’d say I would go on a date with Sam based on his tinder profile, because it shows he’s got a really good sense of humour and I like that, plus he seems like a lovely lad.”
The Lad Bible – http://www.ladbible.com/community/uk-viral-guy-creates-presentation-for-tinder-profile-20180220
This week has been mad for him as he has been interviewed on national media and has become a bit of a star around Leeds, where he is a student.
So because he was based in Leeds and he made headlines for a Presentation related story I contacted Sam and met him for a coffee today.
He is a great guy and has a great future ahead of him and thankfully he is not taking his temporary fame and himself too seriously.
I gave him copies of my books and offered to coach him in the future before his next Presentation at Uni. A fun meeting.
Here is a short interview recorded in the cafe…
Here are his fun slides…
PLEASE NOTE: This is the only time that I think that bad Powerpoint has ever been good!