Einstein knew less is more…

Einstein says, “I soon learned to scent out what was able to lead to fundamentals and to turn aside from everything else, from the multitude of things that clutter up the mind.”


How much time we waste in meetings!  The famous video ‘Meetings Bloody Meetings’ is a humourous look at this challenge.


But the untold lost productivity is not too funny.  A meeting should have actions which justify the cost of its participants, or it’s a money-losing proposition.  Simply add up the cost/hour of your hour-long meeting, and you may be surprised!  This exercise alone will help you become more aware.

Meeting Ground Rules

Start / end meetings on time.  All attendees are expected to be present.
Members will read materials, minutes etc. in advance, and be prepared to discuss at meetings.
Stay on task; no side conversations.
No email or laptops open in meetings unless taking notes. Phone off.
Listen to others and don’t interrupt.
All meetings will follow an agenda.
Operate on consensus – seek general agreements all can “live with.”
Make decisions based on clear information.
Bring closure to decisions amongst the group.
Identify actions that result from decisions.
Agree on what information goes “out” – and what stays in the group.
Accept the fact that there will be differences of opinion.
Show mutual respect
Honor brainstorming without being attached to your own viewpoint.
A note-taker will be assigned, and minutes will be distributed.
Check egos at the door.
Attack the problem, not the person- “no blame game”
Share time so that all can participate
People will speak when recognized.
Be free to speak your mind without fear or reprisal.
Identify pending issues and agreements at end of meeting.


If there was one key to happiness in love and life and possibly even success it would be to go into each conversation you have with this commandment to yourself front and foremost in your mind, “Just Listen” and be more interested than interesting, more fascinated than fascinating and more adoring than adorable.
Mark Goulston

Less is More!

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Crazy English

Working in Asia many years, I certainly feel empathy for those who have English as a second of third language..what a challenge!


Homographs are words of like spelling but with more than one meaning. A homograph that is also pronounced differently is a heteronym.

1) The bandage was wound around the wound.

2) The farm was used to produce produce.

3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

4) We must polish the Polish furniture..

5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.

6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert..

7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.

8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.

9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.

10) I did not object to the object.

11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.

13) They were too close to the door to close it.

14) The buck does funny things when the does are present.

15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.

16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.

17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail.

18) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear..

19) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

20) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

Let’s face it – English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren’t invented in England or French fries in France . Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet, are meat. We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig..

And why is it that writers write but fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce and hammers don’t ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn’t the plural of booth, beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? One index, 2 indices? Doesn’t it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell?

How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites? You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which, an alarm goes off by going on.

English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all. That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.

PS. – Why doesn’t ‘Buick’ rhyme with ‘quick’ ?

Stories and a Challenge

From John Mauldin….this is true about writing, and about presenting:
There is a hierarchy to what is offered in publications these days. The first and lowest level is data, the raw numbers. On top of that come the levels of information, news, analysis, opinion, and actual actionable advice. Each adds to our depth and breadth of understanding. Yet, even as they add to our store of knowledge, we find ourselves drowning in information and knowledge. All too much of it is random noise, serving only to drown out clarity and wisdom .

The highest form of writing … is storytelling.

Our goal (and that of many of our friends) is not to be the teller of old tales, but to seek to find the analogy, the resemblance of what is happening in the world to what we can readily understand. If the reader can come away with a fresh insight into the mysteries of life and markets, of our larger social contracts and how they impact our financial future, then we have done our work.

Scientists have found that we humans actually get an endorphin rush when we arrive at an understanding of an event that that has perplexed us. Sadly, that understanding does not have to be true, but merely believed, to release that ancient chemical rush.

Our craft is part of the human heritage, harking back to when our ancestors sat around the fire at night relating the events of the day to the larger picture.

Are you helping your audience find the fresh insight?  Are you helping him or her to understand things in a new way, minimizing complexity and improving clarity?


Rehearsal is a Process

Many people don’t understand there are clear steps to a rehearsal.  There is a process.  Once you have an understanding of this process, you will be better able to prepare and practice powerful presentations.

Read Through

Read Through is the process we all learned in school. It’s a mental process. Once you have your script, bullet points, notes, etc., take your presentation and read it through, paragraph by paragraph. Hone it and polish. Clarify. Look for cumbersome words and sentences. Simplify. Think of the audience. Do they have your language as their second language? Will they understand this?

The Sharpening Stone

As you do this, get more focus: think as if you were the decision maker in the audience. Hone your content against the sharpening stone of your audience understanding and your objective. Make it sharper and sharper, like an knife on a sharpening stone. At the end of each paragraph, stop and ask yourself: Would I (as the decision maker) understand that? Do I care? So what? Does this statement help to meet the objective? What does that mean to me, as a prospect? By being ruthlessly critical and thinking like the prospective audience, you will be able to cut unwanted material and to sharpen the message.

Remember the Four P’s: Properly Prepared Pitches Prevail!

Talk Through

This is the first step in physical rehearsal. In this step, you actually speak the presentation out loud. This is the only way you’ll really crystallize the ideas in your mind. Many business people bridle at this step
 when I’m working with them, saying, “I’ll just talk you through it.” You can no more learn your presentation by talking about it than you can improve your swing by talking about golf. Actually deliver it. The more you speak the pitch out loud, the more comfort you will have when presenting. I suggest you do it several times for new material. Even better, speak it into a recorder, and listen to yourself. Do you sound confident, professional, and interesting? Go ahead. You can do it.

When you do this, you will again find cumbersome sentences and words. We tend to write at a higher level of language and precision than we speak. We use larger words and sentences. Now is when you personalize your pitch, making it sound the way you talk; making it warmer and less stilted. Make it yours. Continue to hone it against the objective and audience. Continue to ask, “Will they care?” You will find that you can make your points clearer and clearer as you trim and focus. Each time you rehearse, you will find something that could be better.

Walk Through

After Talk Through, do a Walk Through. This second step in physical rehearsal consists of standing and delivering the pitch. You can do this wherever you are, but it’s best if you can do it in a room similar to (ideally the same room) the one in which you will present.

For this to be most effective, have some audience members in attendance and use a video camera.

Rehearse to yourself in the office (door closed if you must), in the shower, in front of a mirror, in the car, in an empty boardroom, in front of your colleagues, and in the actual presentation room you will be using. Ideally, if possible, you should do a full rehearsal in the room where you will present, with a coach and with video. But any rehearsal is better than none!

For a big pitch, you will want to do full dress rehearsal as the final Walk Through. As we know from theatre, this is a full rehearsal on the final stage, wherein the full performance is run as it will be on the opening night. We run a dress rehearsal with full lighting, slides, videos, etc., so the pitch team has a very good level of comfort with each of their parts and the overall flow, impact, and delivery. The presentation is recorded. A dress rehearsal often is where you iron out the “bugs” regarding logistics, microphones, technical issues, etc. All team pitches will be better after a dress rehearsal. If you are unable to use the actual venue, replicate it as best you can.


  • Professionals rehearse.
  • Practice and rehearse in advance, not in front of the prospect.
  • Hone your content against the sharpening stone of your objective and audience understanding.
  • Four steps of rehearsal:

1. Read Through (a mental process)

2. Talk Through (a physical process)

3. Walk Through (stand and deliver)

4. Dress Rehearsal (on location, with props)



Barriers to Listening


Below is a list of those things that get in the way of listening. Sometimes, it’s a wonder we get the message across at all!


Physical Barriers

–        Background noise and competing conversations

–        Visual distractions

–        Hunger (thirst, other physical distractions)

–        Hearing impediments (sinus, respiratory, auditory impairments)


Mental and Emotional Barriers

–        Not “present” — mind elsewhere, wandering, tuned out

–        Not “open” — already decided

–        Disinterested, bored

–        Stress, anger, dislike of speaker

–        Prejudices


The more you are aware of these barriers, the more you can do to overcome them.


Three Basic Listening Modes


How often do we listen, really listen, to another? I suggest it’s not common at home or in business. Listening consists of three general modes in a continuum.


–        Competitive or Combative Listening happens when we are more interested in promoting our own point of view than in understanding or exploring someone else’s view. We either listen for openings to take the floor, or for flaws or weak points we can attack. As we pretend to pay attention, we are either impatiently waiting for an opening or internally formulating our rebuttal and planning our devastating comeback that will destroy their argument and make us the victor.


–        In Passive or Attentive Listening, we are genuinely interested in hearing and understanding the other person’s point of view. We are attentive and do listen. We assume that we heard and understand correctly, but stay passive and do not verify it.


–        Active or Reflective Listening is the single most useful and important listening skill. In active listening, we also are genuinely interested in understanding what the other person is thinking, feeling, and wanting; and we are active in checking out our understanding before we respond with our own new message. We restate or paraphrase our understanding of the sender’s message and reflect it back to the sender for verification. This verification or reflective process is what distinguishes active listening and makes it effective.


Reflective listening is another way of rephrasing what the other person has said in a nonjudgmental manner, and then saying it back to them to make certain you have understood what they have said — not just the words, but the feelings and meanings. Reflective listening may be the most important and often underutilized skill involved in effective communication.


One of the biggest barriers to reflective listening is the notion that repeating back the ideas and feelings of the other person is to accept and agree with them.  This is not the case — you are simply demonstrating that you understand what is being expressed (and you are affirming the person for expressing the thought and feeling).


This technique gives the other person the chance to correct or modify the thought or comment. It also makes them feel good because they see you making the effort to really understand what they are about. Once you have a clear understanding of what the other person has said, then you can begin to evaluate where to go from there. As Stephen Covey said, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”


Reflection is possibly the most powerful device in our personal tool box for relating to and working with other people. It is also very underused by most people. It is a fundamental approach toward affirmation and shared understanding.


The technique is straightforward.


–        First, you listen with aggressive attention. Listen to learn. Listen without judgment. Don’t assume this is easy; it requires concentration and mental discipline!

–        You support this physically: lean slightly forward while you listen, maintaining good eye contact with the speaker, being calm and not fidgeting while they are talking. Give verbal feedback as they speak (“yes,” “I see,” “uh-huh,” etc.).

–        The next step is to empathize with the feelings involved. Take a few seconds to quickly remember a time when you experienced the same or a similar feeling (it doesn’t have to be the same situation). The feeling is the thing that counts.

–        Then you find the words that feed back the essence of what the other person is saying and feeling. Do not interpret any element of their statement. Don’t guess at their motivations, for example. Just rephrase what they have told you. The interpretation comes later. You can use empathic statements such as “so you feel that…” or “I can sense that you…” to help capture the emotional qualities of what they said or how they said it.

–        Feel free to name the feeling or emotion expressed. This is key to affirmation of the other. “So you are upset about the new policy.” I call this “naming the emotion, without becoming emotional.” Maintain your disciplined, cool demeanor.

–        Once you have done this, then you can add your own thoughts and feelings to the situation — but only after you have fed back the critical portion. If you are off a little in your understanding, the other person will correct you. Now, you have real communication and understanding. If you were right on, they will realize that they have been understood. Rapport will skyrocket as a result.


“Listening, not imitation, may be the sincerest form of flattery.”

– Dr Joyce Brothers

Great Quote

For those of us with older children, this one really strikes home…

“When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around…

“But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years!”

Don’t Do It

I recently worked with a client preparing for a board presentation. We spent a number of sessions, getting the flow, messaging and takeaways just right.  The talk fit well within the allocated time, with plenty of time for Q&A.  He was comfortable and ready.  Then, a few minutes before his presentation, the boss took out one slide (he only had 5).  So his whole flow was thrown off, and the messages got jumbled.  The manager said he cut everyone, as they all were too long!  Nothing like putting your team in deficit!  Now, he also said they were supposed to ‘be flexible’.  I agree with the sentiment, but most certainly not in the method.  Managers:  Don’t do it!  Give your team the best chance you can for a good impression on the board.  It speaks to them… and to you.