Genuine Curiosity

Author Dwayne Melancon is always on the lookout for new things to learn. An ecclectic collection of postings on personal productivity, travel, good books, gadgets, leadership & management, and many other things.


Colossal Public Speaking

I've just finished reading James Greenward's ebook, "Colossal Public Speaking: A Public Speaking Guide for Shy People," and I enjoyed it so I wanted to tell you a bit about it.


This book is not really about how to create a presentation (though there are some pointers for how to structure your story); instead, it focuses more on how to prepare yourself -- both mentally and physically -- to maximize your chances of delivering a compelling message, while overcoming fear, anxiety, and doubt.

Advice from someone who's been there

Greenward's guide is a "from the trenches" perspective on how to overcome some of the challenges of public speaking and presenting, particularly the aspects in which we tend to become our own worst enemies.

In this ebook, you'll find practical advice for how to become more comfortable in front of crowds, and tips and tricks to get some practice in before you actually stand up in front of the crowd.  I use a few of the techniques he describes (for example, "presenting" to myself during my commute), but I also learned a few new techniques from the book that I'm going to try.

One of the sections discusses how to get rid of stage fright (there's no silver bullet, but the tips he shares will help), and how to leverage your own personality and create a higher-impact presentation.  He also talks about how to get rid of things might be distracting, both in your voice and in your appearance - there is some good advice here, for sure.

More than just the presentation

One thing in this book was a bit different from other presentation books I've read:   Greenward's treatment of the Q&A session and how to prepare for success.  In particular, he discusses how to deal with adversarial audience members and how to deal with uncomfortable (and even unfair) questions.

If you consider yourself to be a shy or inexperienced public speaker, have a look at Greenward's site, where you'll find out more about this ebook as well as an ordering page.

Five Great Books on Motivation and Success

When you look at people who are successful and happy, do you ever wonder, "What's their secret? Why do they get to have it all?”

The secret is simple: There is no secret. Most people we classify as successful will tell you there is no magic formula or golden ticket that has led them down the path to prosperity. To a large degree, it comes down to careful planning, smart choices and a great attitude.

Timeless lessons

books success.png

If you browse the "books" category of my site, you'll notice that I review a lot of current (or at least recent) books on management, leadership, self-improvement, etc.  This week, I though it would be fun to jump into the "wayback machine" and take a look at some of the best self-improvement books from the past.  

There are plenty of well-known figures who have shared their strategies and tips for success, and we can increase our odds of success by reading and reflecting on their books. Famous motivational speakers like Tony Robbins, religious leaders like Joel Osteen and Ed Young and scholarly experts like David Schwartz have written books offering motivation, inspiration and sound advice to help anyone prosper.

The list of successful professionals who can offer significant insight into being successful and happy isn't limited to modern-day writers. If you're looking to change the trajectory of your life with regards to business, family, romantic relationships or spirituality, check out the advice from some of these gurus (by they way - each of the book titles below is a live link to the book on Amazon):

"Awaken the Giant Within" by Tony Robbins

You may have heard of Tony Robbins, or seen one of his infomercials on TV. In this book, he takes on mental, physical, emotional and financial health and gives us a lot to think about. Robbins is famous for laying out step-by-step plans to improve yourself, and this book is no different - the techniques are very good and practical.  This book is 30 years old, but I think it stands the test of time, and so does Robbins.  Now in his 50's, he has reached over 50 million people over his 30-year speaking career - that's about a million people per year of his life.  Not too shabby.

"In the Zone" by Ed Young

Ed Young shares biblical principles about what it means to live a productive and rewarding life. Young is the founding pastor of Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas, and shares how and why we should avoid materialism, to increase the amount of hope and joy in our lives. "In the Zone" also gives actionable advice on escaping debt, achieving financial freedom and managing the resources we've been given.

"Rich Dad, Poor Dad" by Robert Kiyosaki

Robert Kiyosaki's well-known personal finance book discusses money from the perspective of two fathers. The poor/middle class dad works for his money, bringing home paychecks to sustain his family. The rich dad's money works for him. Kiyosaki discusses the philosophies that allowed him to retire at 47 and reveals actions you can take now to reach financial security and freedom.  There are a bunch of interesting financial habits in this book, and you'll benefit even if you only apply a few of them.  Good stuff.

"The Power of Positive Thinking" by Norman Vincent Peale

Norman Vincent Peale's inspirational classic has been translated into 12 languages and reprinted for a global audience. First published in 1952, this book outlines how to achieve popularity, overcome defeat, develop confidence and more. Peale believes a life rooted in joyful faith and a positive outlook can lead to these and he gives specific examples of how simple changes in your mental attitude can improve your life.

"How To Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie

This one is a classic, for sure.  Since it was first published back in 1936, Dale Carnegie's legendary motivational book has sold more than 15 million copies. At the heart of the book is a reassuring assertion: that communication, not brilliant insight, is what leads to success. Carnegie describes how readers can get the job they want and improve the job they have. As one of the books that pioneered modern self-improvement books, this is a must-read.

[Review] The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win

[Updated January 15, 2013 to include link to longer excerpt - 170 pages, using the link at the end of this post.]

Last week, I read the newly released book, "The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win."  This book was written by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, and George Spafford, who also wrote "The Visible Ops Handbook" (I was a contributing researcher on that project). 

The Phoenix Project is a business novel that takes you through a few months in the life of Bill Palmer, an IT manager at a large auto parts manufacturing company. The book begins with Bill's boss (head of IT Ops) and his boss's boss (the CIO) getting fired.  Bill gets a battlefield promotion and works directly with the CEO, who expects him to solve some serious IT problems (that threaten to destroy the business) in 90 days.

"The Goal" for Information Technology

Don't let the fact that this is a novel fool you - this is not fluff, and there is plenty of rich learning in this book.  If you've ever read "The Goal," by Dr. Eliyahu Goldrattl, you'll know that it was a business novel designed to make it easier to understand his "Theory of Constraints" (TOC) model and it succeeded in making a lot of very complex concepts approachable for business seeking to improve the performance of their manufacturing and supply chain operations.

The Phoenix Project is a lot like The Goal, in that it wraps a compelling story around such complex topics of DevOps, ITIL, Agile development processes, risk management, top-down risk-based audit scoping, and a lot more.

A captivating read, with realistic scenarios

As the story unfolds, you not only learn about these topics, you also see them in situations that you'll recognize.  I ran across quite a few scenarios that felt familiar both from my day job, as well as the work I do with enterprises and executives around the world.  In other words, the situations in the book are very real business scenarios.

The characters remind me of people I know, as well.  I had mental images of the characters as people I've worked with and you probably will, too.  After all, the stereotypical IT security curmudgeon is not just a story - and you may be surprised what happens to the head of Information Security in this book.

I read this book on the plane the other day and found myself irritated when I had to shut down my e-reader for landing because I couldn't wait to see what happened next!  I can almost see this becoming a movie at some point (though the idea of an IT-oriented feature film is probably a bit of a stretch - maybe there could be a car chase or an alien invasion or something).

Learn to improve your business

As entertaining as this book is, there is a lot to be learned from it.  In today's business world, IT is involved in almost everything we do. One of the challenges faced by many IT professionals is that the non-technical parts of the business often don't understand the linkages between IT activities and business success.  The result is IT getting the short end of the stick and starving for resources.

IT contributes to these problems, as well, because they spend a lot of time on activities that aren't "make or break" for the business so they have a hard time demonstrating value created with the budget they've been given.

The Phoenix Project hits this problem straight on and presents ways to get everyone on the same page about what's really important to the business, provides tools for IT professionals to focus on delivering meaningful results for the business, and tying all of it directly to how the business makes money by satisfying customer needs.

A must-read for IT professionals and business people alike

The principles shared in this book are critical for any business that relies on IT for its livelihood.  I recommend The Phoenix Project to every business person and IT professional that wants to increase their business performance.

If you want to see what it's like, click this link to read a brief excerpt from The Phoenix Project.

Your Best Just Got Better - A Review

I've been reading Jason Womack's book, "Your Best Just Got Better," on my Kindle for the past week or so.  I just finished it and the verdict is in: It is so well done!

Book YourBestJustGotBetter

I met Jason a few years ago when he still worked for the David Allen Company, and have been impressed with his perspective from day one, particularly his ability to provide insightful suggestions to improve your skills no matter what your current situation.

Expand your perspective to improve your outcomes

This book is very interesting, practical, energizing and I highly recommend it.  Throughout, Jason offers hands-on exercises to get you into a more active mode of driving your own future.  I read the book cover-to-cover, but now I am planning to go back and conduct the exercises step-by-step (I skipped some exercises because I was on planes, or my energy / attention levels weren't where they needed to be) because I can see just how powerful they can be.

One pervasive theme throughout the book is to think beyond your "normal" perspective so you can stretch your goals, drive different and better effort, and get more assertive in pushing your life where you want it to go.  For example, the book begins with an interesting visioning exercise called "Your Ideal Day," which gets you to begin imagining how things could be if you had a magic wand.  If you want a taste of this, be sure and check out Jason's web site for a sample, along with a contest that goes through the end of 2012.

One of the things I like about Jason is that he uses a lot of models and constructs that make sense to me (I'm big on finding models that I can apply in different situations.  For example, I like the I.D.E.A. model that shows up throughout the book:

I: Identify a very specific area you want to improve. Focus your attention on making the best better in one area of your life, and clarify what that will look like when you get there.

D: Develop strategies to engage in specific actions and techniques to direct your professional improvement and personal development. Acknowledge the process—remember, you’re just getting started! An important aspect is that the most sustainable changes people tend to make usually start small, are repeated with consistency, and often result in a payoff greater than anyone could have hoped.

E: Experiment by planning for and taking actions that generate bursts of momentum. Experimenting gives you the freedom to stop at any time to try something new. It also provides a more objective framework so that you can determine whether you should stop or continue moving forward. When you take actions to make your best better, it continues to get better.

A: Assess the value the effort has created. Here is the question I consistently ask myself, my friends, my family, even my clients: “Is what you’re doing worth the effort?”

Womack, Jason W. (2012-01-05). Your Best Just Got Better: Work Smarter, Think Bigger, Make More (p. 5). John Wiley and Sons. Kindle Edition.

 Shape your own outcomes

Jason also provides some great advice in shaping the results you get in your life - one involves adjusting the words you use to create more positive, future-oriented results; the other involves taking inventory of the people you hang out with, and distancing yourself from those that have a negative or counter-productive influence on you.  Truly great advice.

You'll find some familiar concepts (including some I've written about in the past, like time audits) and they're always presented with solid step-by-step methods to help you apply the concepts.  For example, you'll find some great techniques for more effective "chunking" (aka time boxing) your day to get more out of each 15-minute block in your day.  You'll also find good techniques to track how you're doing on your goals, as well as how well you're using your energy to get there.As someone who's always looking for ways to become more productive, I eat this stuff up.  

This book is that it isn't just about getting more done, Jason also coaches you on methods you can use to make more money - that's something we can all use, particularly in this economy.  And Jason's advice on how to build and leverage your network (business, social, etc) is excellent.  Very cool.

A great book for "now"

Lately, I've noticed that a lot of people I know are taking hard looks at their lives - either to increase their success, make more money, or fig our out what's next for them.  If that sounds like you, this book is perfect for you right now, and I encourage you to pick up a copy and get started going through the exercises.

If you aren't sure, or you want to get a feel for Jason's writing style, why not start with a free e-book from him called, "7 Keys To A More Productive Day," from Jason Womack's web site.

If you're convinced and ready to jump in, grab a copy of "Your Best Just Got Better," today.  By the way - I think this book will be a great gift for some recent graduates I know, as well as great gifts this holiday season for some of my good friends.

Begin with the end in mind

I have been traveling a lot the past couple of weeks and was catching up on my reading today, when I learned that Stephen R. Covey died on July 17, 2012.  Apparently, he had a bicycle accident back in April and died of complications from the accident.  I am sad to see him go.

Back in the late 80's, I started to get into time management in an effort to be more productive.  Like many people at the time, I began with a Franklin Planner and even took a course on how to use it.  The Franklin method made a big impact on me and helped me begin my decades-long relationship with productivity methods.  In the 90's, I discovered Covey's book, "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," which helped me re-frame why I did things and helped me more consciously work on more impactful activities.  This matrix is one I still think about as I plan what I want to work on:


From this book, I began to embrace the "Sharpen the Saw" concept and tried to spend more time in Quadrant 2, Important but Not Urgent.  I also learned the value of outcome-oriented thinking with his principle to "Begin With the End In Mind," and tried to create mutually beneficial results with his admonition to "Seek First To Understand."  Very powerful and motivating stuff.

Dr. Covey's work has influenced me quite a bit - in fact, my first post on this blog was a review of his book, "The 8th Habit."

I have since turned to other methods for the "how" part of productivity (such as David Allen's Getting Things Done, and my current favorite system, Michael Linenberger's Master Your Workday Now), but Stephen Covey's work is still my anchor for the "why" part of productivity.

Rest in peace, Dr. Covey - and congratulations on a fine legacy.