When The Student Is Ready, Will The Teacher Really Appear?

Posted on March 9th, 2014

“When one door closes, another opens.”

“The universe will provide.”

“If you can conceive it you can achieve it.”

[Parental warning: I hate insipid bromides. If these are sayings you appreciate, things you hang on the wall or slather on your coffee mugs, please don’t read any further. You’re not going to be happy, and who wants to be unhappy?]

“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

Really? Now I’m no expert on dogfighting, but I’d bet that big dogs kick the crap out of little dogs every single time regardless of how feisty the little dog might appear.

“Quitters never win and winners never quit.”

That sounds like it makes sense unless whatever you’re trying to do turns out to be undoable. In which case sticking with the undoable just to avoid being a quitter is stupid. Giving up and going on to some other more valuable opportunity is a much better way to ultimately succeed.

Built-To-Sell-FinalYears ago, web marketing expert Jay Berkowitz from Ten Golden Rules did me a lovely favor and sent a copy of John Warrillow’s book Built To Sell. Jay had just read it and learned how to convert his business – not to sell his firm but to figure out how to remove himself from things he didn’t need to do everyday so he could concentrate on what he did need to do – pleasing his clients and growing his business.

It was something I needed to learn but I didn’t know I needed to learn it.

A year or two later I was at a seminar and the speaker was talking about how to systematize a business. His point was that there are lots of revenue streams a business can provide, but only if there’s a consistent, coherent, cogent protocol that can be managed by a team of experts, each doing what they’re best at.

That was something I needed to learn too, but didn’t know that either.

Steve-Shapiro-FinalThis morning I was at the National Speaker’s Association meeting listening to Steve Shapiro talk about how to leverage business assets and he opened his talk with: “After all is said and done, more is said than done.”

Now there’s a saying I can get behind. Much more is said than done. But Steve went on to show how to actually do more. He explained how systemizing your business can create all kinds of opportunities to generate more revenue, increase free time for other activities, and help your other associates generate revenue too.

It was something I needed to learn but I still didn’t know I needed to learn it.

Then I wandered into Bill Cates’ breakout session and listened raptly while Bill spoke about what it takes to license products. His first suggestion? Systemize your business so others can do what you’re doing and you can focus on generating multiple revenue streams.


After being taught, and taught, and taught, the student was finally ready. I finally heard the message that systemizing my business practices is what I need to do to continue to grow our business. This is something I do need to know and now I know that I need to know it.

But the other thing I learned is that the old saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear” is true. Not for the assumed reason that the teacher magically pops up when the student has the need, but for the metaphorical explanation that the teacher is there a lot of the time, the student just simply isn’t listening.

I’d been given the information I needed time and time again; I just wasn’t sensitive to it because it hadn’t become important enough to me. But as soon as the need was clear and the message was repeated enough times, it sunk in and I got it.

Does this suggest that I’m not very aware, sensitive, or perceptive? Perhaps. But what it also suggests is that I need to spend more time prioritizing what I want to accomplish and then paying attention to all the resources around me that are generously offering their recommendations and assistance. Maybe you do too.

After all, I’d hate to look a gift horse in the mouth.

The Three “E”s of Successful Public Speaking

Posted on December 17th, 2012

How many times have you attended a speech and decided whether the speaker was worth listening to within the first few minutes of their pitch? Often they hadn’t even gotten deep enough into their presentation to present metrics worth judging but you’d already made your decision.

The election season we all just sat through was an excellent example of this. Regardless of which side voters were on, candidates were often chosen with little regard for the facts or issues. And often no amount of facts or figures could change their minds. After all, you can’t logically talk people out of something they didn’t logically talk themselves into.

So if you’re sitting in the auditorium at a seminar and your first impression is that the person speaking isn’t worth listening to, what’s the chance that you’ll actually pay attention? First impressions are critical to getting you to appreciate what’s being said; regardless of the quality and veracity of the information you’re hearing.

If you’re following me so far, the obvious question for doing a great presentation becomes, “So how do I make a powerful first impression?”

From all the years I’ve spent watching and studying speakers, I’ve narrowed the requirements down to two simple attributes.

First, the most important thing a speaker can do to make their audience comfortable is to be comfortable themselves. After all, no one wants to sit and watch a presenter who’s squirming on the stage. Worrying about a speaker is about the worst feeling an audience member can have besides out-and-out hating the person up on the platform.

Talking about being comfortable on stage is easy. But actually learning to be comfortable is a whole lot harder. Common knowledge in the speaking business says that the best way for a speaker to be comfortable is to know their information cold. The thought is that if you know what you’re talking about, there’s no reason to be nervous.

But I believe that knowing your material backwards and forwards is simply the cost of entry. You can’t sit at a poker table if you don’t ante up, and you can’t get up in front of people if you don’t know your material. Knowledge and expertise are critical but they’re table stakes.

You know the old saw about the best way to get to Carnegie Hall? “Practice, man, practice!” It’s the same with speaking in public. The best way to get good at it is to speak in public. A lot.

Sure, you can read a book on presentations to absorb best practices (I’ve read them all, by the way. The best of the bunch is I Can See You Naked by Ron Hoff). But reading a book on speaking in public is about as effective as reading a book on swimming. You can read the book and pass the test, but when you get thrown out of the boat you still won’t know how to swim. And someone can even toss you the book, but unless it’s made of Styrofoam, that book ain’t gonna help you keep your head above water.

Andy-RooneyThe second way to make your audience comfortable is to establish, right up front, the value proposition of your talk (more commonly described as “what’s in it for me?”). The sooner the audience realizes that your talk is going to be valuable to them, the sooner they’ll be on your side. How do you do this? Take a tip from Sixty Minutes commentator Andy Rooney. Remember how he used to start his whiney diatribes? Rooney would raise his owlish eyebrows and screech, “You ever notice…” and then he’d be off on his rant about ill-fitting toupees, or airline food, or speaking English in France, or whatever. But by starting with that ubiquitous question “You ever notice…” he got us all to agree, “Yes, I have noticed that, Andy, tell me more.” Rooney was the master at letting us know that the bit he was about to do was going to be about us. And we’d pay attention.

A good speaker can be entertaining, enlightening or educational. A great speaker can be all three. The best speakers are all three “E”s AND make you think they’re talking directly to you.

7 Steps to Building Brand Value

Posted on December 8th, 2009

Seven simple steps to building, maintaining, and communicating a great brand. Bruce provides entertaining anecdotes and real world examples to illustrate the finer points of brand building. Learn how to add significant value to your products by making your products more valuable to your customers.

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