Monday, March 27, 2017

Speech #2: Always leave them wanting more

[Toastmaster Project 2: Organize your Speech.  Objectives: Select an organization, strong opening and closing.]

Madam Toastmaster, fellow toastmasters, honored guests.

The showman P T Barnum once famously said, Always leave them wanting more. That is my topic tonight.

I'll offer several examples, mostly from my personal experience.

First, let me cite two examples from pop culture to put it in perspective.

Happy Days was a popular TV show that ran for 11 seasons. But after 7 seasons the writers began running out of ideas. They should have left them wanting more. In one episode Fonzi on water skis had to jump over a shark. Ever since that day, “jumping the shark” has become show business jargon for overstaying your welcome.

Jerry Seinfeld did the opposite. He decided to terminate his TV series after 7 seasons just when the shows popularity was at its zenith. Seinfeld wisely avoided jumping the shark.

Now for an example from family life

In the 90s, my family lived in Burlington Vermont. One son moved away, but two of our three children were finished with school, but were still living at home. One of them got married and a daughter in law was added to the household. Soon thereafter the daughter in law got pregnant. You can see where that was heading. My wife and Imoved to another state into a tiny house with only room the two of us. We left those children wanting more, but chicks who fail to leave the nest early enough, sometimes need a little shove.

I have examples from my work l ife.

On seven occasions I felt that my work was becoming repetitive, so I impulsively quit my job, sometimes without having a new job lined up first. Twice I moved overseas with my family. Twice we moved back again. Several times I went unemployed for months. But in all seven cases, I learned after the fact that my ex employers said that I was welcome to come back at any time in the future. In every case, I departed leaving them wanting more.
Here is an experience from my sailing life

Sailors use the word passage to refer to a sea voyage. A passage begins with great anticipation and a surge of exhilaration. At the end of a passage you get to shout “LAND HO” That land ho moment is emotionally laden. You feel “Whew. Once again we survived yet another passage. What a relief.” If the passage was difficult, perhaps one with bad weather or one where you had do deal with emergencies, the relief was even more intense, but perhaps tempered by a sense of accomplisment.

In our 12 year cruising life, my wife and I rode that exhiliration-relief emotional roller coaster four times every year. But toward the end, I noticed a change. My anticipation of coming passages gradually shifted from exhilaration towards dread. Mid passage, out at sea, my thoughts began to turn toward “I don't want to do this any more.”

But my wife Libby didn't share those feelings. Her love of the open sea grew more intense each passing year. What to do? As captain, my wishes prevailed and we now cruise only part time.

In this case, Always leave them wanting more is a melancholy experience.

My blog provides another example.

I write a blog nearly every day. So far, I have posted 2908 articles on my blog without jumping the shark. Except once. OK, now I'll have to tell you what that one time. One day, sailing past the beach at Sandy Hook New Jersey, I was curious about the relationship between key words and the number of people who found my blog with Google searches. So I wrote a blog post that repeated the phrases nude beach and naked women more than 30 times. It did not increase my readership.

I have a loyal base of about 500 readers. Some of them are attracted by the subject matter. They are armchair sailors who dream of living the cruising life themselves and live it vicariously via my blog. Others seem to be true fans who just like my writing style, no matter what the subject. More than a dozen of them told me that they went back to the start and read every one of those articles. One man told me that he printed the whole history, more than 3000 pages, on the color printer at work and spent two weeks at work reading them.

But now as I back away from full time cruising, my supply of material to write about is getting thin. Rather than jumping the shark, I choose to leave them wanting more and publish much less often.

That brings us to this evening.

Standing at the podium, delivering a speech to a Toastmasters Club.

I say, "Always leave them wanting ..."

Madam Toastmaster, thank you.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Speech #1: The Dumbest Guy In The Room

[Toastmaster Competent Communicator Project #1, The Icebreaker.  Objectives: To introduce yourself.  To begin speaking fora an audience.]

The Dumbest Guy In The Room

Mr. Toastmaster, ladies and gentlemen.

You may have seen the best selling book and movie called The Smartest Guy In The Room. I'm here today to tell how I have benefited from being the dumbest guy in the room.

I was trained to be an engineer at Clarkson College in northern NY. When I got to be a senior. I realized that I didn't know two important things. I didn't know what engineers actually did all day, and I didn't know where to look for a job.

I went to my professor. He said, “Dick, interviews are not for you. I have arranged for you to work for General Electric in Schenectady, NY. Report there June 6.”

Little did I know what I was getting into. GE had amassed in Schenectady a brain trust of scientists and engineers that was the envy of the world. In fact, in the years 1900-1965 more than half of the patents in the entire world named at least one of those people as a co-inventor.

As a green engineer, I became the dumbest guy in the room. But what happens to the dumbest guy? He is motivated to improve himself.

GE then sent me to Daytona Beach Florida for a few years to work at their Apollo Support division. Those were the people who put a man on the moon. They really were the smartest people in the world, and I was the dumbest guy in the room. I benefited greatly from that association.

When I returned to Schenectady, I found that 7 of GE's best and brightest were about to leave the mother company to create their own startup. They asked me to join them. Once again, I became the dumbest guy in the room. But the startup prospered and I benefited.

They sent me on assignment to Sweden with my family. There, I was the smartest guy in the room; at least with respect of the technology I was sent there to teach. But outside of work, I and my family found ourselves in an alien culture where we didn't speak the language. Believe me, not speaking the language is the most humbling experience imaginable. It was perhaps the cure for a young man who's head was getting swelled.

Speaking of family, I met my wife Libby in high school. I was a senior and she was a junior. We went out on a date. That was the first and last date of my life. Now, 55 years later we have 3 wonderful children, 5 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren. I guess it is fair to say that it was a very good date.

Years later, I went to work for NYISO. That is the organization that runs the power grid and the energy futures markets in NY. When I got there, I found that my engineer's training was not enough. I had to learn economics and law also, to the extent that I could explain to lawyers how the power grid works in lawyer's language. Once again I became the dumbest guy in the room.

That brings us to this evening. Here I stand at the podium, surrounded by experienced Toastmasters. Once again the dumbest guy in the room.

Mr. Toastmaster, thank you.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Toastmaster Speeches

Umatilla, FL

Here's a heads up.  I told you that I have been enjoying two Toastmasters clubs in recent months.  Actually, I have been creating and presenting speeches at a rate that nearly matches my blogging productivity.

Libby has been very helpful.  She comes up with the topic ideas, and she is the even patient audience that listens to me practice over and over again.  She times my presentations.  She ding's a bell every  time she hears me say ah or uh or er, or if I do something distracting with my hands.

My preferred manner of expression has always been the essay, about 600-800 words in length.  As you may have noted, most of my best blog posts are about 600-800 words in length.  Toastmasters speeches are allowed 5-7 minutes which means (guess what :-) 600-800 words in length.  In other words, the format suits me just fine.

So, I propose to publish my Toastmasters speeches here on this blog after I present them at the club.  About one per week.  The Toastmasters training program puts me through a series of about 70 speech assignments.  Each emphasizes a different aspect, or gives experience in specialized speaking  situations.

You should understand that speaking is not exactly the same as writing.  For example, my assignment for next week is to emphasize body language.  That is missing in the written word.  Nevertheless, I hope that most of the speeches will entertain you in written form.

At the very least, these assignments encourage me to broaden my  choice of topics and forms and especially to get out of my shell and speak about things (like feelings) that make me uncomfortable.  Look for much more variety than you have seen on this blog in the past 12 years.

Each speech has an assigned goal.  I'll explain the goal in italics at the start of each post.  Look for a new speech about once per week.  I'll post them in chronological order.

One part I can't publish here, unfortunately.  A regular feature of Toastmasters is called table topics.  That is when you are asked to speak 1-2 minutes extemporaneously on a topic chosen by someone else, and where you have no advance knowledge of the topic.  Compare it to improv on Whose Line Is It.   I find that kind of speaking very scary.  Unfortunately, after the fact I have no written copy of what I said to post here.

p.s. I have a secondary motive.  I think that Toastmasters is a wonderful organization.  Perhaps, I can encourage you to try it out for yourself.  There are local clubs everywhere.  Guests are always welcome.  There is no fee, and there is no undue pressure for guests to speak if they don't want to.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Can a Ship's Clock Define Home?

Umatilla, FL

One thing we did this week is to take our ship's clock from Tarwathie.  I hung it on the wall of the RV.   It is the clock that sounds ships bells every 30 minutes.   Hearing those bells makes us feel at home.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Probably No Surprise To You

Umatilla, FL

I hung this sign on Tarwathie yesterday.

I suspect that regular blog readers have seen this coming for years.  You might say that I was the last to know.

On Sunday, we went to the boat to start prep for our planned April 15 departure to the Bahamas.   Guess what, I started finding problems caused by the boat sitting idle for a year.  I also found that my will to roll up my sleeves and deal with tough problems has drained.  I stayed up all night in emotional turmiol.  I didn't sleep an wink.

At dawn, I made up my mind.  Time to sell the boat and to beome CLODS (cruisers living on dirt).  An hour later, I steeled myself to tell Libby.  I did so with great trepidation, fearing that she wouldn't like that at all.  But before I could open my mouth, Libby looked at me an said, "Let's sell the boat."

Libby is an amazing partner, lover and wife.  She reads my mind better than I can myself.  She is so supportive, that she is unable to segregate her own persona from our collective persona as a couple.  If I asked her what her decision would be if she disregarded me, she would be unable to answer.

Bottom line, we both agree that now is the right time to move on to the next chapter in our life.  Which is --- we don't know yet.  We are still in excellent health.  Many things are possible.   But we decide to leave the cruising life while all the memories are still good ones, and before an accident or tragedy forces us out.  

We also think of Tarwathie as almost part of the family.  It is unfair to her to sit in storage so much of the year.  She should belong to a young couple who will use her to the fullest extent possible.

This is not my last word on the subject. My head is still in turmoil. Look for more to come.

Meanwhile, it will take me a week or two to prepare a proper advertisement for Tarwathie including inventory and pictures, and a price. I know that many readers of this blog dream of cruising themselves on a worthy vessel like Tarwathie.  Here's your chance.  The rest of the world doesn't know yet that she is for sale.

p.s. We had planned to go to the Bahamas with Walt&Pat and Larry&Terri.  But when we told them yesterday that we were backing out, all of them said that they would cancel too.  It turns out that they were going only because we were.  That's sweet and very touching.  We have really wonderful friends.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Hi Ho Tarwathie

Port Charlotte, FL

It has been more than two months since we were on the boat.  We got here today.  She's fine.  Sitting try, smelling fresh, no mold.

Our purpose is to get her ready to splash in April.   We'll be here two or three days.

News:  We may have a nice young man, from Val David Quebec as crew for part of our Bahamas cruise this spring.  His name is Luc. That should be fun.

See in the picture.  Tarwathie has her name freshly applied after we removed the old name for repainting.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Back In The Groove

Umatilla, Florida

How do you like that beautiful hand-stiched blanket that Libby made for me?  I love it.   But, it was the biggest craft project Libby ever did.  It took her nearly 3 months, working maybe 6 hours per day, 7 days per week.   It really took her out of social circulation for a long time.  

But now it is finished, so she returned to pine needle baskets, and to teaching other women the craft.  She really loves that.

Me?  Here's a picture of me posing with Kayla, a sock doll that I made as a visual prop for a speech that I'm presenting tomorrow on The Internet of Things.

I love Toastmasters.  It is a real quality institution, with depth that I never imagined.

We plan to spend several days back at the boat to prep her for a voyage to the Bahamas in April.  Stand by for more news on that.