We all have a backstory. How does that help you?

In the case for effective communication, it is important to recognize and appreciate that every single individual you will ever interact with has a backstory. A backstory is background information about a real person or thing that promotes fuller understanding of it. In his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, author Steven Covey lists the following as one of the habits: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. If we all have that approach when we communicate with others, it will make for clearer communication and better outcomes. backstory

I once remember having a conversation with two colleagues in the office and because I did not know the backstory of the other people in the room, I was very much tempted to be defensive and judgemental of their opinions and their ways or reasoning. I am glad I did not, because when they eventually got to share their backstories during that meeting, I became empathetic and more accepting.

Getting to know their backstories helped me show more compassion and be more loving. Next time you interact with someone and you are tempted to “lose it”, remember they have a backstory and their position might be an evolution over years, or a combination of several factors. Knowing someone’s backstory is the first step to understanding them better, and thus to be understood.

What is your backstory, and how will that help someone understand you better?

Knock, and it Shall Be Opened Unto You

Have you ever been pestered by someone who wanted something from you? One of my students wanted to earn extra credits points to further guarantee a good passing for one of my courses, and she would not take no for an answer. I was admirative of her persistence and perhaps if she had not stopped knocking, I would have opened and granted her request.

There are too many times when I thought I was being as persistent and tenacious as possible. In foresight, if I had held on longer, it would have been opened. Whatever door you are knocking on, knock until it is open. If that door does not open, find a bigger door and keep knocking. Knock, and it shall be opened unto you!

Top 20 Countries Where I Want to Travel for Paid Speaking Engagements

I just finished reading the book: Keynote Mastery by Patrick Schwerdtfeger and was inspired to create a list of my top 20 destinations for paid speaking engagements. Patrick has a Google map on his website with geo-markers on cities where he has spoken before. It’s a brilliant way of showcasing instant credibility. If you have travelled to that many places (over 50 for Patrick) to speak, you must be doing something right.

Let’s get to it. In no particular order, these are cities where I will have paid speaking engagement in the years to come:

  1. Seattle in Washington, USA
  2. New York City in New York, USA
  3. Chicago in Illinois, USA
  4. Washington DC, USA
  5. Montreal, Canada
  6. Toronto, Canada
  7. Dallas, Texas, USA
  8. Miami, Florida, USA
  9. Salvador, Brazil
  10. Abu Dhabi, UAE
  11. Dubai, UAE
  12. Barcelona, Spain
  13. Rome, Italy
  14. London, UK
  15. Tokyo, Japan
  16. Hong Kong, China
  17. Helsinki, Finland
  18. Manchester, UK
  19. Dublin, Ireland
  20. Mumbai in India

The list started with 20, but I was inspired to add 5 more when composing the list.

  1. Paris in France
  2. Cape Town in South Africa
  3. Lagos in Nigeria
  4. Nairobi in Kenya
  5. Yaounde, Cameroon

Thomas Edison is quoted as saying “Success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” Let me get to work so I get to meet you one day in one of those cities and countries.

Top 5 Lessons From 5 Years in Toastmasters

Today marks the 5th year anniversary of my primary Toastmasters club, All Nations Toastmasters in Anaheim, California. I have experienced exponential growth from my membership with the organization, and learned both from the people I have met as well as the education program.

Lionnel at Toastmasters

As I take a moment to reflect on the achievements of the past and look ahead to the victories of the future, some of the lessons drawn from this endeavor surface. Here they are, with some of my thoughts on them:

  • Self-confidence is a skill

It can be improved. When I joined Toastmasters 5 years ago, my confidence level was at about -10/100. Today, it hovers around 70/100. What is different today compared to then is that I am aware that just like playing soccer or using the guitar, self-confidence is a skill that I can keep getting better at. Here is a great TEDx talk that elaborates on self-confidence as a skill: The skill of self confidence | Dr. Ivan Joseph

  • Courage is not the absence of fear

The fear of speaking in public is not logical, but so isn’t falling in love.  I have seen terrified people step up to their fears and thrive. Fear is normal, and should be embraced, not fought. The more you step up and face your fears, the more courageous you become.

  • Serious work beats talent

I have been told that I am talented as a public speaker, and it might be true. However, I have also put it an incredible number of hours into developing my communication and leadership skills. I have seen countless others do the same. Talent is the seed. Hard work is the soil and nurturing that grows the seed into an oak tree. If you lack talent, hard work will make up for it. If you already are talented, serious work will make you extraordinary.

  • Humans are not that different from each other

I have heard hundreds of stories throughout the past 5 years, and we all live our versions of the hero’s journey. We go through similar challenges, face similar evils, have similar aspirations, and all strive to live happy and fulfilling lives. That’s one of the fail-proof ways of connecting to anyone you interact with. Relate to others the way you wish they would relate to you, and you will build better relationships. If you need a friend, be a friend.

  • If you don’t use it, you lose it

This has been my first hand experience. It relates to the third point. I have friends who have been active Toastmasters for the past 20+ years. They don’t need to be members anymore, but they know that the best way to remain sharp is to keep sharpening oneself. If you don’t use your good health, you will lose it. Similarly, if you use the skills and talents you have or are acquiring, you will lose them.

I personally believe that the largest room in the world is the room for improvement. No matter how good I think I am, or how bad others see me as being, I am only getting started. My best is ahead of me, and it is exciting to be moving towards it.

PS: If you want to learn more about Toastmasters International and find a club near you, visit www.toastmasters.org

The Power of Association

It is no secret that the people we associate with have a significant impact on our lives. Who we associate with determines what we earn, how big or small we dream, and how well we fare so far as our psychological and emotional health is concerned.

In the past few months, I have observed how the people I spent an increasing amount of time with impact my day to day habits and choices. It is important to make a conscious choice of the people we associate with, and to make sure we reach our goals, near and far, we must remember that our life will always be the average of the sum of the lives of the top 5 people we associate with.

Who are the top five people you associate with and how are those associations (or relationships) impacting your life?