Seven Leadership Tips from a Public Speaking Champion

Craig Valentine

Craig Valentine

What does it take to get remarkable results in leadership and life? Craig Valentine has a pretty good handle on this question.

Craig won the world championship of public speaking for Toastmasters International in 1999. Before becoming a full-time professional speaker and executive speech coach, he had a successful sales career with Glencoe/McGraw-Hill. He’s also an author whose books include The Nuts & Bolts of Public Speaking.

He’s come a long way. At age ten, Craig had a pronounced lisp. One day, a friend’s father told him, “Every time you talk you remind me of Daffy Duck.” That remark crushed young Craig–and changed the direction of his life.

Several years later, he walked into a bookstore and happened to come across Les Brown’s Live Your Dreams. After he paid for the book, the cashier said to him, “Good luck living your dreams.”

Craig shared these stories when he spoke this month at a Toastmasters’ conference near Washington, D.C. Here are seven takeaways from his talk:

1) Average people place blame. Successful people take responsibility. Avoid the tendency to point fingers at spouses or employees when something goes wrong.

2) You are always too something to someone. Some examples: You’re “too quiet” to be a leader, “too inexperienced’ to manage a department or “too old” to start a business. Be too good for it to matter.

3) Create a mess to create a message. You may have to sift through a huge pile of thoughts and wordy ideas before you find a message that’s succinct — and right. Aim for a crystal-clear foundational phrase that’s fewer than ten words.

4) Always state the result before the request. Figure out what your audience really wants and start from there.

5) Don’t get ready. Stay ready. You never know when an opportunity will come along.  Be prepared to seize it when it does.

6) Silence is the best tease. This is a good tidbit to remember for a business pitch. Use pauses to let your key ideas sink in and keep your audience hungry for your message.

7) Specifics stick. Avoid vagueness if you want to be memorable.

Good luck living your dreams.

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How a Late Bloomer Created the World’s Largest Burger Chain

One of the best-known late-blooming entrepreneurs is Ray Kroc, creator of the McDonald’s fast-food chain. This month marks the 60th anniversary of when Kroc opened his first McDonald’s franchise in Des Plaines, Illinois back in April 1955. He was 52 years old.

Time magazine recently retold the Ray Kroc story. Before McDonald’s, Kroc was a salesman for 34 years. For half of that time, he sold paper cups to Dairy Queen, Howard Johnson’s and other fast food retailers. The other half was spent selling a machine that could mix five milkshakes simultaneously.

When two brothers bought eight of the “Multi mixers” for their small hamburger chain in California, Kroc went there to check out their operation. That meeting with Dick and Mac McDonald changed the course of events, to put it mildly.

Kroc was so impressed with this operation that, despite the opposition of his family and friends, he opened the first franchise of what he called “the McDonald’s System.” In 1961, Kroc bought the company from the McDonald brothers.

Sixty years after its first franchise opened, McDonald’s is one of the biggest corporations in the world — and Kroc’s lessons about vision, persistence and hard work continue to inspire today’s business owners.  As he once said,  “I was an overnight success alright, but 30 years is a long, long night.”

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Five Inspiring TED Talks for Entrepreneurs 40 and Older

Longevity, opportunity and living life to its fullest. Those are some of the themes you’ll find in the following five TED Talks. Enjoy.

“How to live passionately — no matter your age” —  Author Isabel Allende, 71, gives a candid talk about her fears as she gets older and how she plans to keep on living passionately.

“Life’s third act” — Jane Fonda, who has had multiple careers as an actor, activist and fitness guru, talks about the extra 30 years that have been added to the average life expectancy, and how we can think about this phase of our lives.

“How to live to be 100+” — National Geographic writer and explorer Dan Buettner shares nine common diet and lifestyle habits found among certain communities whose elders live long past the rest of us.

“How to make work-life balance work” — Author and marketer Nigel Marsh lays out an ideal day balanced between family time, personal time and productivity — and offers some stirring encouragement to make it happen.

“Older people are happier” — Psychologist Laura Carstensen shows research that demonstrates people become happier, more content and more positive about the world as they get older.

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A Retired Engineer’s Cool Inventions

Seth Goldstein was a biomedical engineer at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland for 37 years. When he retired thirteen years ago, he needed something new to do.

So Goldstein, who has four degrees in mechanical and electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, started making “kinetic sculptures.” Basically, these are machines that move.

One of Goldstein’s inventions is the “Ro-Bow,” a device that plays a violin. Its repertoire consists of “Hello Dolly” and “Amazing Grace,” plus a few other songs.

His other creations include a machine (“Why Knot?”) that ties a necktie and “Cram Guy,” a moving sculpture of a student cramming for an exam.

“I delight in creating kinetic sculpture machines which are novel, aesthetic, and unexpected, and which also can inspire, entertain, and demonstrate the power of engineering,” says the 75-year-old Goldstein on his website.

As observed in this New York Times article, “He is pushing the envelope of engineering and hoping to stir the imaginations of young engineers to push their own envelopes.”  Looks like he’s having fun, too.

Here’s a video that shows the Ro-Bow in action.

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A Late Bloomer Gets Fit – And Finds a New Cause

For 25 years, Len Leshem worked in an auto manufacturing plant near Wilmington, Delaware and spent most of his free time smoking and drinking beer. As reported in this CapeGazette.com article, his physical state deteriorated to a point where he couldn’t do two pushups – a realization that struck him as “ridiculous,” he said.

Leshem decided to do something about it during a drive back to Wilmington from a vacation in Lewes. It was a decision that changed his life.

At age 50, he ran his first 5K. A few years later, he competed in his first Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. He went on to compete in three more Kona Ironmans, the Boston Marathon, the New York City Marathon, Washington, D.C.’s Marine Corps Marathon and Virginia Beach’s Shamrock Marathon.

Leshem is now 78 and lives in Lewes. He still runs half marathons (13.1 miles) and is a fixture at his local YMCA.

His athletic accomplishments, however, are just part of his story.

Once he got into fitness, Leshem began working with the Special Olympics, an organization that provides sports training and competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. At Leshem’s first practice, an athlete ran up and jumped into his arms, providing a memorable introduction to the Special Olympics.

Since then, Leshem has coached in all kinds of sports, from long-distance running to power lifting. The Special Olympics inducted him into its Hall of Fame in 2005.

When he isn’t coaching, Leshem runs a business – Hurricane House Watch – that takes care of homes for part-time residents who are away during the winter. He also volunteers for Autism Delaware.

Would Len Leshem have discovered his passion for working with young, special-needs athletes if he hadn’t decided to get fit at age 50? Maybe. Maybe not. But one thing’s for sure.

A lot of kids are glad that he did.

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Good News for Onion Lovers

It took more than 20 years for Alastair Findlay to develop an onion that doesn’t cause tears or bad breath. But he finally did it.

Findlay, a British farmer affiliated with the agricultural co-operative Bedfordshire Growers, says he tasted 400 to 500 bulbs per season to develop the onion. Asda, a UK supermarket chain, just introduced Findlay’s creation, called the Asda Sweet Red.  Asda’s website says the onion was selectively bred to have “lower pungency levels” than regular onions.

“We’re incredibly proud to have worked and supported Alastair on his journey,” said Asda vegetable buyer Andy Wareham. “Introducing the UK’s very first sweet red onion is a fantastic achievement and like the USA, the UK has a sweeter palate than most so will appreciate the same tangy flavour, without the strong acidity of some onions.”

Alastair Findlay’s work isn’t finished, however. He wants to create a better and improved version of the Sweet Red for launch next year.

You can read more about Findlay and his creation in this article.

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Former Ad Executive Starts Kids’ Haircare Business – and Finds More Life Balance

For almost 20 years, Megan Sanders held executive positions with advertising agencies in New Zealand, Singapore, Britain and Australia. When her son, Jimmy, was born three years ago, the Auckland woman began developing a different perspective on life.

“Being in a creative industry, it’s quite natural that one comes up with harebrained ideas.  And I have come up with a few in my time. I started looking at this amazing world of ours with a different lens,” the 43-year-old said in this New Zealand Herald article.

A business idea surfaced when Sanders was unable to find what she considered quality, natural products for her son’s hair. In 2012, she launched Pineapple Heads, a line of children’s hair care products that uses all-natural ingredients and fun, colorful characters that appeal to a very young clientele.

To develop her products, Sanders worked with a specialist in organic lotions and a French perfumer. Not long ago, British supermarket chain Sainsbury’s accepted Pineapple Heads for a trial run on its shelves.

The transition from an advertising professional to an entrepreneur hasn’t been easy but Sanders doesn’t regret it. In the old days, she was often the last one to pick up her son from daycare. Now, she still works long hours – and worries about earnings — but has flexibility that allows her to spend more time with Jimmy.

“It’s a different pressure now but it’s a nice one. I want to be the mum who picks him up.  That’s the goal,” Sanders told the New Zealand Herald.

“Most mornings I have to pinch myself that I am actually living the dream.”

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