Funny Stuff Happens When You Mix Up The Generations

August 26, 2015
                                                                              Doing the YMCA thing
Legal waiver: There were no alcoholic beverages involved in the taking of this photo.
This was the scene at a recent conference for the Texas Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus (TACVB.org) where I was the closing keynote speaker. After three days of serious sessions about the travel and tourism industry these folks were ready for some serious fun.
centers around standing out from the crowd to succeed in today’s marketplace and I emphasize points by playing popular songs on the piano. (OK, to be clear…this is not me playing piano with a flaming shoe).
This audience spanned across four generations from Millennials to Baby Boomers and since the client had said there were major challenges working together,
we set out to prove differently.
A key point in the presentation is about innovation.
                                                                                   Great teamwork!
I divided the audience into teams with all four generations in each team and told them to perform the song “Yellow Rose of Texas” in the most creative way possible. The only rule was to listen to ideas from each generation.
OMG! Talk about funny! Talk about creativity at it’s best! Old song, new interpretation, impressive results.
For this group of destination marketers we discussed how to make their area shine by highlighting unique and exciting things to do and see. One idea was to feature the colorful Hispanic culture with its lively energetic music, so we ended the program with reps from each generation on stage banging tambourines in tempo to a popular Spanish song. Olay! Oh yay!
                                                  Audience members participating in the music of ‘Malaguena’
Who says the generations can’t work together?
This is where you hear crickets…

From Fired To Fearless: Use This to Boost your Biz!

June 17, 2015

Have you ever had things go so wrong you couldn’t see straight? Did you wonder “Why me?” “What did I do to deserve this?”

As an entertaining motivational speaker I recently spoke to a group of 700 small business owners at their awards luncheon in Texas. Their theme was ‘Fearless’. It was a perfect fit for the story about the worst day of my life…

Laid off during a recession from an office job I loved 30+ years ago, I still remember how devastated and utterly terrified I felt not knowing how on earth I was going to pay rent and bills. With no college degree and no network support, opportunities were scarce. Plus – I was 1,000 miles away from home.

Theresa at piano blue sequin jkt croppedAlthough I’d had a passion for playing piano since age five I was always told you could never earn a living with music so no hope there. What to do? It seemed the world was totally against me as I knocked on doors, made cold calls and was rejected over and over again.

One day a man called desperately looking for a piano player in a hotel for two weeks and asked if I could do it. “Yes!” said I, without thinking. Immediately I was consumed with fear. What if I wasn’t good enough? What if I made a fool of myself in front of people? After all, I’d never played in public before and I only knew 50 songs – mostly Beatles. Eeeeks!

Use the fear of failure to propel you forward and take risks rather than paralyze you into a rut. Remember most people FAIL their way to success because mistakes are opportunities to learn and you don’t learn anything sitting in your comfort zone.

Olympic Rings smallLong story short: I ended up becoming a professional piano entertainer who not only toured the world but got to perform at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino. Who would have thunk it?

The worst day of my life became the best thing that ever happened.

Fear and passion are great motivators. Find things you love about your work and let the fear of unemployment motivate you to do a GREAT job vs just a good one. 

People are influenced by people with passion. 

Passion gets you noticed by customers and bosses.

Cha ching!

The Power of Passion for Profit

June 4, 2015

If you ask J J Watt, Bill Gates and Taylor Swift what they have in common they will all tell you they started with the same thing: they had a passion for what they do.They will also tell you there is no such thing as an overnight success. These guys have been at their game since childhood and put in their 10,000 hours worth of practice while we were all watching re-runs of Will & Grace.

Do you love your work? Or are you one of the 74% of Americans unhappy with their job?

If you’re one of the latter with no options in sight, try this tip: find three reasons to fall in love with your organization.

As a motivational speaker I get to travel the country speaking to a variety of professionals in corporations and associations. Recently I was the closing keynote at a conference in Dallas for a group of accountants (yeah I know, right up there with engineers on the fun scale) These people were ready for a snooze fest after two days of stats and facts but I have a ‘no nap’ guarantee for my presentations that works every time: I play piano to emphasize points and involve the audience in the music. Result? Maximum engagement, very entertaining, high energy, fun for all.

We talked about how passion is the beginning of all success because when people love their work, they’ll do whatever it takes. I asked this group of number crunchers to give reasons they love their company and the three main answers were:

1) People. Most of them said they like their team members or bosses.

2) Fulfillment. Whether it was doing a good job for the team or knowing their work resulted in helping people, many said they liked the sense of satisfaction of a job well done.

3) Benefits. A steady paycheck sure helps reduce stress levels, health insurance is a great perk and bonuses never lose their sweet taste.

How about you? List three things on a post-it note  you really like about your organization and stick it on your computer to see every day. Be grateful you have a job.

Passion comes in more than fifty shades of gray.

Passion, Possibility & Elephants

November 18, 2014

One of my favorite groups to talk to is admins because they’re efficient, organized and innovative. They know how to get things done. And……..they’re always ready to have fun.

They’ve been called secretaries, personal assistants and the backbone of a company. Without them chaos rules.

Last week I was the keynote speaker at an awards banquet for a great group of admins from various companies around Houston and the Clear Lake area. We talked about how the power of passion is the beginning of all success because it motivates people to do whatever it takes. The admins receiving awards had the discipline to earn their certifications because they wanted to be the best on the job. They SO rock!

We did a fun exercise on teamwork and the importance of being creative. I divided the audience into groups and gave  each a song to perform with instructions to find out the strengths in team members to see who could sing, do back up, dance, mime or anything else to demonstrate innovation.

The first team sang Sweet Caroline sitting at the table. The second team exited the room and made an entrance singing Hello Dolly. The third team’s song was Margaritaville. One woman laid on the floor pretending to be a tourist on the beach covered with oil sipping a margarita, while the rest of her team acted “wasted away in Margaritaville” singing and swaying to the music. LOL hilarious!

Team C’s passion to be the best
opened up new possibilities.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

How did the elephant cross the river?

Why, by boat of course

Finding the Funny in Days of Drama

October 15, 2014

Last week saw me on the road to Corinth, Texas to speak to CoServ audienceemployees of CoServ – an electric co-op 30 miles outside Dallas.                              The drive was stress-free and took five hours thanks to my GPS gal Samantha who gave clear concise directions for a change. Her robot voice was silent for the 233 mile hike on I-45 except when she chided me for stopping for lunch.   Have you ever apologized to your GPS?

Having arrived safely at my hotel, I called the client to arrange a sound check and set up my piano keyboard on site at the company where I was the closing speaker for their customer service conference.  the following morning. The sweet woman gave me directions saying “it was about a mile from the hotel”. 20 minutes later I called her lost and  Cartoon image - woman driver stressed outconfused. Apparently her estimate of a mile was a little off. She meant a few hundred yards and I had flown by it.

The sound check was a nightmare. Every outlet I plugged my keyboard into blew the circuits (Ironic? We’re in a freakin’ electric company!) Two hours later we’re all sweating buckets thinking the problem was my keyboard.
CoServ playing keyboard - small(175x240)The 30-something-year-old meeting planner was texting everyone she knew looking for a back up piano with no luck. Suddenly a light bulb went off in one of the staff’s heads: try plugging the keyboard into another room. It worked. WHEW!!!

Back at my hotel I was soooo drained I turned the lights out at 9 p.m. Alas however, sleep was not on the agenda. The a/c unit was circa 19th century and sounded like a freight train next to my bed. Although my presentation wasn’t until 9 a.m. it was being videoed, so I got up at 5 a.m. to take extra time for my makeup to be camera-ready. Flipping on the bathroom light the image in the mirror would have scared small children. The lighting was a very Cartoon_of_Tired_Woman_With_Rollers_in_Her_Hair_Looking_in_the_Mirror (120x140)unflattering fifty shades of grey. Oh swell. Now I look like an Ebola patient.

Breakfast in the dining room was a self serve deal with very strange food-like dishes. There was a smooth shiny bright yellow turnover that was apparently someone’s idea of an omlet. The sausage links were downright sugary. The ketchup packets wouldn’t open.The other diners were part of a religious convention so everyone  was giving a “Hallelujah!” to everyone else.  All I wanted was a miracle to make some edible loaves & fishes appear.

Stepping out into daylight I realized my makeup resembled a remote tribe of red Indians, the temperature had dropped 20 degrees overnight and I had no jacket. Grrrrrr!!!

CoServ audience doing chicken dance

Doing the YMCA thing

The good news? The CoServ group were the most fun folks of all time.  They responded enthusiastically to my motivational message of influencing people by being extraordinary on the job. They laughed, they learned.  They rocked!

POINT:  I’m still laughing. After all, if everything went perfectly all the time, where would we find the funny? 

Why Failure IS an Option

September 15, 2014
I just read a blog on ‘Embracing Failure’. Sounds weird, right?

Not so fast….          

One survey found  the happiest people are often those who have learned how to fail.  They’ve learned how to pick themselves back up after being knocked down, reflect on the experience, grow from it, and push on. The net result  is that people are paying more and more attention to the process instead of just the outcome.

Taking a systematic look at the process that has led many to their success, one of the common elements among them is the resilience they exhibited when things weren’t going their way.

How resilient are you? Do you give up too soon?

Failure becomes a problem when people are too afraid to take risks because they dread consequences that  may not ever happen.

And so they stay stuck. Stuck in a job they hate, a relationship that’s toxic or an unhealthy lifestyle.

Organizations that encourage innovation and calculated risks end up success stories like Apple and Virgin Air.

In my motivational speeches I use an example of making mistakes (some in front of celebrities like Andrew Lloyd Webber – see video HERE) and what I learned from the embarrassing experience. CROPPED Photo shoot The Forum Jan 2014 034

Using major mess ups as life lessons and stepping stones is key to success.  In my case it resulted in touring the world solo on a piano bench ending up here in the good ‘ol US of A (yay!)

Instead of allowing fear of failure to be an obstacle, I used it as motivation to survive. 

C;mon. What’s stopping you from taking a leap into the unknown? You never know …… you may just like it.

Being A Little Crazy Could Be Your Big Success

August 27, 2014

Recently I received a call from American Express asking if I would be the keynote speaker at their annual meeting in Chicago. The man explained the purpose of the event was to unite major clients with Amex staff to collaborate and communicate.            American Express brand logo

United Airlines is one of their biggest clients and in the TV ads for United they use the theme from Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. It’s quite cool. Watch video HERE.

The man from American Express asked if I could create a program to include some of the Rhapsody with a relevant motivational message for his group. (I play the piano during my speeches) Errrrrr sure, said I. Just give me a couple of hours and I’ll send you an outline. (Gulp! I hadn’t played that music in 30 years)

Lady Gaga leg on piano with fireMy presentation on extraordinary performance in the workplace refers to Lady Gaga and how the wild costumes and bizarre stage acts resulted in her fame and fortune. She stands out from the crowded entertainment industry by constant creativity and innovation. George Gershwin composed amazing music using a unique combination of a classical style infused with jazz chords and irregular tempos. Unheard of at the time. 

I called the man from American Express with a program titled “From Gershwin to Gaga: Extraordinary Performance is the New Norm for Changing Times!” He loved it.

Whether it’s your resume, an office project, team work or an interview, get a little crazy. Think outside the proverbial box. Search the internet, brainstorm ideas and run with something different.

Sticking out from the crowd will get you noticed….and you don’t even have to play the piano.

Got Summertime Sluggishness? Wake Up and Try This!

July 23, 2014

With temperatures soaring, days lengthening and folks posting pics Summer season - two chairs on beach of cool vacations on FaceBook, productivity takes a 20% dive in the average workplace this time of year.

So how do you avoid the seasonal sluggish thing in these lazy hazy crazy days of summer?

Some professionals are taking time out to regroup and refresh. Tackling to-do lists that get ignored in busier times such as updating websites, creating a plan for better work/life balance, catching up with friends, exercising (tennis anyone?), host dinner parties, sharpening skills with further education, trying something new to be revved up for fall. As a motivational speaker I’m taking time out to create new programs and networking with peers.

Cartoon - yoga

You can do this, right?

One company in Florida uses summertime to boost teamwork and collaboration by closing at 1 p.m. on Fridays, catering a two hour lunch on Thursdays and having the whole staff take a yoga class once a week.

A single Mom entrepreneur takes a vacation with her daughter that would not be possible any other time. She packs a journal because she says “with rest comes creative ideas” for business.

So what are YOU going to do to beat the summertime blues?

I’m thinking about dance classes……….Cartoon image - couple dancing tango
in between tennis, of course.

How to Come Back to Work After Vacation without being Miserable

July 16, 2014

Folders work pileWork after a long vacation is like Monday on steroids.
Here’s how to tackle the work that’s piled up–even your overflowing inbox.
Vacations are great, but they exact a price. You come back to such a pile of work that you wonder if going away was worthwhile.The answer is probably yes, but even so, there are ways to make re-entry less traumatic.
1. Plan ahead.
Managing the post-vacation plunge starts before your vacation does. You may be tempted to pile on meetings and projects as soon as you get back to make up for lost time, but a better approach is to stagger the catch-up work over a longer period. At least don’t aim to do it all on the first day. Accept your limitations. A lot of stuff can wait.
2. Set boundaries you can live with.
I work for myself, so no one ever “covers” for my vacations. That’s why I don’t see anything wrong with working for a few hours, especially over longer trips. If you really need to get away, or if vacation work upsets the people you’re vacationing with, then disconnect. If that doesn’t describe you, then maybe every other day you get up early, and work for half an hour on only the most urgent matters. Then you disconnect for the next 47.5 hours. That trade off can make the post vacation plunge less plunge-like.
3. Come back before you absolutely have to.
If you’re going away for a week (or two!), there’s a lot to be said for returning Saturday instead of Sunday. Not only do you get a chance to unpack, catch up on the laundry, and sleep off jet-lag, you can do a few hours of work on Sunday night. Getting a grip on the week’s schedule, and triaging your inbox, can help you feel more on top of things.
4. Keep the out-of-office message on.
Speaking of that inbox, if you’ve created an out-of-office message for your vacation, keep it on for an extra workday. Sure, the people sitting next to you know you’re there, but there’s no need for the world to figure that out. An extra day gives you space to get things sorted out without new expectations piling on. Of course, you can also just . . .
5. Delete everything.
This technique is only for the brave, but you could just make a quick skim of the inbox stack-up, flag a handful of messages you do want to read, and delete everything else. Chances are, if it’s still important, someone will follow up with you. And if they don’t, you can just miss an opportunity. Getting to take a real vacation may be worth the trade off.
6. Schedule something fun after work.
The first day back can feel like a slog. Plan something you genuinely enjoy for that first post-work evening–even if it’s just watching a favorite TV show–so you have something to look forward to. It’s not quite as good as a vacation, but it’s not a bad way to end the day, either.
Written by Laura Vanderkam nationally known writer and blogger for Fast Company.

 

Why You Need to be Like the World’s Favorite Clay Boy

July 9, 2014

Who doesn’t love Gumby? Gumby with arms in air
Children love his adventures,
adults love the art form and
people everywhere love his kind heart and good nature.

Flexibility and Gumby are synonomous.

Last week I got a call at 9 a.m. from a distressed man who said the motivational speaker he had booked for his company’s quarterly executive meeting was stuck on a plane in Mexico and couldn’t make it. Could I fill in for him and deliver a 45 minute keynote after lunch that day? And by the way, we can’t afford your full fee.

No worries, said I.

With no time to prep or customize we lunched together so he could brief me on his organization Uchi Restaurants and explain the purpose of the meeting. The group consisted of managers, chefs and corporate executives from Austin and Houston.

Piano cartoon mouse playingWe talked about HOW TO RAISE THE LEVEL OF WORK PERFORMANCE using the same principles that it took for me to master the piano:  Passion, Persistence, Attitude, People, Focus and since I included the company’s core values the young (and very cute) guy that booked me was over-the-moon happy. Whew!

 
In today’s competitive job market we need to be flexible with a ‘can do’ attitude and a willingness to help out.

AHA Indiana - Theresa acknowledging audience applauseBeing a GOOD team member is about collaboration. Being a GREAT team member means going above and beyond what you’re asked to do. Why does it matter?

Effective teamwork is crucial to any organization’s success.

And let’s face it, the bottom line is what pays YOUR bills.

Gumby is one smart piece of clay.

I wonder if he’s single…..?