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Living your Story and Surviving the “Downs” – in business and in life

All of us are living our stories -

all of us, you , me , we, journeying through life.

And all of us, you, me, we will journey through ups and downs - in business as much as in life.  Wouldn't it be lovely if life were a straight line, rising, always rising until we reached nirvana?  Wouldn't it be lovely if our business lives were the same - always improving, growing the business, making sales, improving the lives of our customers  simply, pleasantly and easily?

Unfortunately it's not, not always simple, pleasant and easy.  And yet, that's how the learning, the rising, happens. It seems we can't gain wisdom in some things without going through the ups and downs - the challenges, the learning, and sometimes that learning can be painful.

In Story Framework terms it's progressing through the story arc - going along a horizontal road, and then challenged, and falling down, down, down, through challenge after challenge, into the pits, maybe despair, maybe overwhelm, maybe confusion, maybe lost.  We slide into those pits and I don't know about you, but I don't like being there. It's painful and confusing and not at all how I wanted life to be. It takes resilience to sit it out, to sort it out, to find the way out and up, up to the learning and growth.

I like that we can know that we are all living stories, though, and that we can recognise that this is normal, this diving down before we rise.  It's reassuring.  So we have acceptance that this is what life is like - full of ups and downs, or visits to the pits before we can see the sunlight again, following that story arc over and over as we face new challenges, new learnings, and that everyone does it at times, and that people have been going through the process for centuries - the stories tell us so!

That acceptance is vital, I think, to maintaining some sort of hope and sanity and faith through the rough times, through the bottom points of the story arcs.

But sometimes the resilience is hard to come by.

How do you achieve it? ...........

In the stories there are all sorts of ways to survive the "downs".  Fairy tales and fiction are full of them, and I have been compiling some of the best for an upcoming workshop, but the one I want to use today is particularly special, and it belongs, I think, to some of the best stories - an unexpected twist.

I was reminded of it as I was out walking yesterday afternoon among the trees and rocks, and remembering where in my own story it suddenly rose up at a particularly difficult time.

It began about 25 years ago, when my husband and I had two little boys and we brought my mother down to live closer to us after my father died.  It became increasingly obvious that something was wrong, and it wasn't just grief and shock.  She was diagnosed with dementia and the years that followed were difficult ones indeed as we supported her through the stages of aged care for dementia patients.  It is heart-breaking to watch a parent become a child, in effect. Eventually, she lost speech and became bedridden, this beautiful woman who had held me in the comfort and warmth of love and joy and gentle challenge, humour, intelligence and unconditional love for so many years ... though somehow the love never diminished.

It is a horrendous thing to face, and yet to visit any of these facilities is to be denied the sorrow and misery and taken into a place of uplift.  The staff create an environment of constant positivity, well certainly while I visited, so there was a strange dichotomy of horrifically challenging change and loss superimposed with the atmosphere of positivity, calm and care.

My mother reached the end of her life. I arrived at the building and was allowed time to spend with her.

Again it was disconcerting that though I knew logically that she was dead, it seemed that she was just asleep.  I could not comprehend that she had gone.  There were the hands that had stroked my hair, peeled vegetables for dinner, held mine with such love and care, just the same and yet ...not.  It was a surreal experience, and so incredibly sad, compounded by the whole place with its seemingly senseless loss and heartbreak.

I had to leave the room.  There was no way to say any momentous goodbye, so I just said it as though I would see her next time she woke.  With a realisation that there was nothing left to do, I walked out and waited for the staff to come and move me to the next phase.  I was bewildered, hurt, confused, feeling surreal, looking out of the door at the garden, neglected, obviously in the throes of being rejuvenated, just bare dirt and sticks and dead leaves.

Yet in the middle of this desolation there was a red geranium - the flower my mother was so happy to grow in the dry country she had gone to to make her home when she married.  Beautiful, glowing, yet ordinary and just there, suddenly, in the middle of the ugly, dead disorder.

And my heart lifted.  Not high, but it lifted, focused, found hope and love and an acceptance of what was and what would be.

The memory stayed, and rises every so often as those memories do - signposts that something was learned there, though it may not have been obvious at the time.

So resilience comes, survival in the pits comes - from many processes and this is just one.  I suppose it could be called Stop - Look - Truly See. Sometimes we have to stop - stop the control, stop the expectation of how things will be, stop the train we had put ourselves on.  Looking means being open, through the senses, in this case the eyes, to something - not knowing, not controlling, not following any particular path to knowledge or understanding.  And something that might have just been something ordinary and not important in everyday life, somehow takes on significance, beauty, as a signpost for change.

When I am despairing, or bored, or overwhelmed with the technology at my desk, I go outside. When a presentation will not coalesce, a marketing message will not distill, I drop it all and go outside. We have ordinary gum trees along our back fence - nothing special, but if I take the time to just look up - at the trees, the leaves towering up there and the blue sky in between, my shoulders drop, my despair and overwhelm drop away and I can settle and return to the challenges, rejuvenated, with a new approach, a new way of communicating the message.

Of course that is just one little mundane challenge in life.  Sometimes they are huge, the pits, the bottoms of the story arcs, and they stay.  And that's when we have to keep returning, keep going to those solutions, keep being open to creative ways that we learn the lessons the story wants us to learn so we can return to the surface, rise out of the despair/challenge/discomfort and change and grow into the speakers/humans we need to become.

What is it that you Look and See already, or that you might use next time you are journeying through the downs of life (and business!)?

[Pivotal Public Speaking] Prepare for confident, effective speaking – Own the Stage

 

Pivotal Public Speaking Own the Stage

 

 

You own the stage.

It doesn’t own you.

The audience doesn’t own it, the venue host doesn’t own it, the functions coordinator doesn’t own it.  You own it.

For the minutes (or hours) in which you are presenting, the stage is yours – or the section of floor or the table or the truck – whatever it is you are using to present your message.

So no-one can dictate (within limits) where you stand or how you use that space you are given.  

Own it.

Before you present, if you can, walk the stage – walk right around it and into its corners and into its centre.  Own it.

If you can, before you present, stand with your arms stretched wide in the place you intend to use.

Strut if you need to, dance if you need to, but build the confidence to own the stage.

You can do all of this in your head if you cannot do it physically. 

Be different, be crazy, be powerful within the space.

Pivotal Public Speaking Confidence on stage

And when you return, to give your presentation,

to inspire, connect and motivate,

take that memory that you have embedded with you.

What does it feel like to own the stage?

You know because you embedded it earlier.

Do it again      -      

powerful memory, powerful confidence!

 

 

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Quick Public Speaking tip – Gestures, naturally

gestures

Natural gestures are basically the aim for any public speaker.

We watch an excellent speaker, and maybe we notice their gestures.

I said "maybe" because if he or she is an excellent speaker, we should not be noticing their gestures.   We should be taking in the whole package as a message,

without noticing how it is done.

A major measure of excellence in any sort of craft, of course, is not noticing how it was done, unless we deliberately look or search..

If you suspect that are not a natural gesturer, ask yourself

"Is this a cause for concern?"

What does it mean to be "not a natural gesturer"?

Probably this is a person who is self-contained and does not need to gesture to keep their brain functioning or the speech flowing.

Not a person of flamboyance.

Why does it matter?

Get a second opinion, and a third and a fourth if necessary.

It may be that you are communicating successfully without many gestures.

If the feedback says that you need to improve -

and the reason given is that your presentation feels wrong, or rigid or unnatural

(NOT for the reason that it doesn't fit a set of rules that someone feels should be followed for no other reason than that they are rules),

then you can work on them.

The first step to take is to learn to stand with your arms wide open.

Get comfortable doing that.

Feel grounded doing that.

Feel yourself expand out to the audience doing that, while remaining grounded and in your own space.

Once you have established that feeling, it may be a simple progression to loosen up and become expansive with gestures,

flowing along with the emotion and flow of your speech.

If not, then you can learn to gesture - there are any number of general styles and specific movements that I have shared with clients over the years, but those who needed them were quite few.

Find the gesture,

then practise it, and practise it, and practise it until it becomes natural and flows with the language it supports.  If it is not natural or flowing, keep practising until it is does, because otherwise it will look incongruous and you may as well have not gestured at all.

I remember my days of representing my high school in competition speaking and being coached to put my finger on my nose when talking about people putting on sunscreen.

For days it felt weird, contrived, uncomfortable.

Eventually, though, with days and days of practice and a supportive teacher-coach, it became natural and I could produce it naturally.

It felt good.

It felt right.

It felt appropriate.

And furthermore, having relaxed through that performance, gradually, I learned to relax into natural gestures.

That was a child, nervous, aware of a very critical judgement as she spoke, and aware, too, of the people who had put in so much effort so she could win for them and the school.

With adult clients, I find those who need some guidance to "loosen up", generally do so quite naturally as they learn to believe in themselves and their message, along with the practice of standing with open body language and relaxing.

If you speak with passion - for your subject and for your audience's outcomes - your body will support your message.

Even if you make no gestures, your stance, your facial expressions and your eye contact, will work powerfully to support that passion and your message.

 

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Are you in control of your story online?

story_google_ed

 

Who are you?

If someone wants to know who you are, they type your name into Google.

Before the meeting,  you have been googled.

Before the interview, you have been googled.

Before the pitch, you have been googled.

What is Google saying about you?

What did you give Google to say about you?

It's an interesting exercise to Google oneself ... interesting and sometimes surprising!!

Right there is a little window into how people might be seeing you.

That is the story people are seeing and reading about you - your personal brand story, your business brand story.

Did Google put it there?  No.  But Google chose which parts of it to put in front of searchers as the first thing they saw.

Did other people put it there?  Yes.  Your clients comment on your business and connect with you.  Your friends comment on you and connect with you.  You listed yourself on other websites, and commented or interacted there.

So to some extent, this is happening without you.

Consider, though ...

You gave your clients something to comment on.  What was that?

You connected with them.  What impression did that give?

You gave your friends something to comment on.  What was that?

You connected with them.  What impression did that give?

You associated yourself with other websites.  What impression does that give?

Everything communicates.

My mother said to me often and often, "Put your words on the palm of your hand before you say them."

She probably said that as I grew into a teenager with attitude, and not much thought for what I said, or what the consequences might be.

Everything communicates, especially words, but actions too.

So everything we do on the internet communicates something and it's not always what we might expect.

Google, and the internet as a whole, gives us an unparalleled opportunity to communicate, to share and to build a brand, and there is nothing so challenging, nor so rewarding as to to watch that brand build and grow.

Enjoy!!

Author:  Bronwyn Ritchie.  

If you would like help telling your story on-line, please contact me.  I have a "Connecting the Dots" programme that helps my clients find the story they need to tell.