How do you handle your disappointments? If you have children, how do you teach them to handle disappointment?

I had a disappointment last Friday, November 9. I am a Toastmaster, and I had made plans to attend the District 13 Fall Conference in State College, Pennsylvania. It did not happen.

I could see the disaster approaching. As a technology professional, when our computer network crashed, I knew it was my job to get it back up and running. This crash would consume my time, and personal engagements would need to be postponed or canceled. Please, no pity. I am quite content with the fact that this is a part of my job.

However, I was disappointed. I was going to miss the conference which I was looking forward to very much. And my children knew it. Time to sulk? Or time to teach a lesson?

First, I had to convince myself.

  • Positive: There’ll be another conference.
  • Negative: But I was looking forward to this one.
  • Positive: You’ll look forward to every conference.
  • Negative: But I was prepared for this one.
  • Positive: You’ll be prepared and excited for any conference in the future.
  • Positive: There will always be another conference that you’ll look forward to and enjoy.

So what I ended up repeating to myself and to those who tried to grant me sympathy was: “It’s just part of the job. I’ll enjoy the next one.”

I then went home and repeated it several times for the sake of my children. If I wanted them to look on the bright side of things, I had to let them see me doing the same. And repetition helps to seal in a message, whether that message is to yourself, or your audience.

When you are preparing a presentation, determine what is your main message, and be sure you repeat it. Repeat it to yourself. It will help you master your message under any conditions.

Repeat it in your presentation for your audience. Let them hear it often enough that they go home with it.

How do you remain positive?


It is now time for our young to return to school. For many, you are now sending your children off to Kindergarten, to high school, or to college… for the first time. Do you stop and think about that, every few days, and fret about your ‘babies’ growing up.

You should be in our house when my wife and I get started. We are sending our second, and last one, off to kindergarten. Our little baby is growing up. And when she grows, we are forced to face the reality of change.

If you are like most people, you don’t like change. You gripe about it, you resist it, and then you give in but not without a fight. My career for the last 17 years has been computers. Little ones, big ones, many connected ones. And you might think, “Since you work in the technology industry, you must surely be accepting of change. Technology changes all the time.”

I would certainly agree that technology changes. If you google ‘computer lifespan,’ you will find that most experts say a computer has a lifespan of 2-5 years. I would recommend three. If you buy a computer today, you will be unlikely to find that same model for sale in six months. ‘Cool gadgets’ today, become ‘out’ in 18 months. So yes, I do see more than my fair share of change.

However, so does everyone. Computer chips have continued invading every item in our lives. Watches, clocks, radios, phones, toaster ovens. How about your cell phone. It’s now easier and cheaper to buy a new phone, rather than a replacement battery when it will no longer hold a charge.

But do I, because of my close relationship to technology, accept change any more willingly than you? I am ashamed to say no. It is said that we fear change because fear means loss. And upon self-examination I found myself getting very anxious and upset when dealing with change. 

You should have seen me recently. I thought I found a great way to deal with technology management and the changes involved with it. I had plans! Six-year plans, then three-year plans. But just as my plan would come to fruition, something would change. “How can I see the gains of my plan if I can’t sit back and let it work its way toward my goals !?!”

Have you seen the movie, Rocky Balboa? I was watching it one evening, and I got to the part where Rocky gives a monologue to his son. In the midst of that scene, Rocky says “It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.”

If you had seen me then, you have probably seen the proverbial light bulb above my head. It finally struck me that life’s ‘hits’ are ‘change.’ And no matter which of your plans, life decides to change, you have to make it through and keep progressing. Change is eternal. No one has the luxury of doing without change. But the winners don’t let change stop them.

How does this pertain to public speaking? Yes, change happens here too. Change in the plans. Change in the venue. Change in the audience.  Change in your expectations.

When you are preparing for a presentation, know it so well that you can flow with changes. Know it so well that you can adjust the content to meet new time considerations, audience reactions, and venue changes.


Not long ago, I got sick. Sick enough that I ended up going to the emergency room. As many men know, we don’t go easy. From many men’s point of view, whatever may ail us will certainly get better on its own if we just ignore it long enough.

But on this day, ‘ignore therapy’ was not working and had just made me feel much worse. I woke at 2:00 a.m., sure that some animal had just reached its claws down my throat and scratched out whatever used to be there. My throat was so very painful. 

Also, I had shooting pains through my jaw and in my ear. For any of you who have had a migraine, this pain was so bad that I wished I could just have a good ol’ migraine instead of this.

So there I was, walking into the ER and I couldn’t imagine feeling more miserable.

My visit to the ER consisted of seeing four different people, answering the same question for all of them, and getting cleared for strep throat. That was the good news. After the doctor had seen me, she diagnosed me with a throat infection and an ear infection. I was given a prescription and sent on my way.

Now please understand this. Through my rounds of staff, questions, and answers; I repeatedly asked if they would treat the pain. I had understood that they would treat the cause, but I wanted the pain relieved as well. It didn’t work that way. On the way out the door, I asked one more time and was told to take some Tylenol.

I realized something that day. I, the customer, had walked in the door that day wanting help. I had left that ER feeling just as bad as when I had walked in. Feeling… not helped.

Was it because they were incompetent? Did they just not care? I am sure that all the medical personnel I met, and the ones I didn’t meet, are professionals that even today want to help and heal. Same thing I wanted. They did an excellent job healing. I am sure my medications were going to fix me right up, as they planned.

But was I helped? I believe that they were convinced so. They had helped to heal someone in distress. That, to them, was helping. And they had efficiently moved on to help others.

I, on the other hand, wanted a different help. I knew I was on the way to being healed. I didn’t feel helped when I had left.

You see, I work with my assistant in schools, helping staff who are having troubles with computers. The two of us take care of the 900 computers, 20 servers, and all the network cables and equipment. To do that, we try to be as efficient as possible. The less time we spend talking with people and explaining what we do, the more time we can spend fixing problems that are occurring with the computers. This approach allows us to fix more people’s computers, thereby helping more people.

But my realization that day? Here it is. If people don’t feel helped, it doesn’t matter how many problems we fix. It was time to spend a little more time making people feel helped.

The same is true in public speaking. If you are standing in front of a group, trying to persuade them, you’ll do much better if the audience leaves feeling helped.  Get them to see things your way, to feel as if they are better off with this new perspective or new information.


Do you remember learning to drive a standard shift vehicle for the first time? Did you pop the clutch out and it stalled? I remember learning to drive a standard. Two years of one person after another trying to teach me how to gas, clutch and shift without stalling the car before I hit 5 mph. It wasn’t pretty. 

After getting frustrated with one person, I would wait several months before I ran into someone else who would say, “I can teach you. Really, I can.”

The last person who ever tried to teach me was my cousin, Cynthia. We had always lived on opposite ends of the country, and I had just recently become acquainted with her. We’d been hanging out for several months, getting to know one another when the conversation came up.

Cynthia said, “I can teach you. Really, I can.”

I had heard that before! But she followed up with, “Everyone I have ever taught was driving within 30 minutes.”

Well, that was a boast I could not let go. After all, NO ONE had ever been able to teach me before. Boy, was she in for a surprise!

So, we went out to her car. She ushered me behind the wheel, got in the passenger seat, and instructed me to start the car. Easy enough so far.

Cynthia said, “Push in the clutch.”

“Done,” I replied.

“Put it in gear.”


“Give it a little gas.”


“Let out the clutch slowly.”

“No one ever told me to do that before.”

“When you feel it grab, freeze your foot on the clutch.”

“Hey! I can feel the gas/engine/wheels start to grab a little.”

“Now give it more gas till the car starts to roll.”

“I’m rolling. I’m rolling!”

“Once the car has a good roll going, let the clutch out the rest of the way.”

“Yippee! I have it moving!

 That day I thought, “Unbelievable!” 

I had never before gotten anything but a movement and a stall. But, you see, no one had ever said anything to me except, “Let out the clutch as you give it gas.”

If you follow THOSE directions literally, you are bound and destined to stall.

When giving directions, have you ever taken your directions for granted? Did you know them so well that you were unknowingly leaving some steps out? Or did you do it knowingly, because you didn’t want them to be too cumbersome or too insulting?

I once wrote a memo with step-by-step directions for a computer task. This task was taught in a class conducted the previous Friday. When the participants of the class had received that memo, they looked at it and threw their hands up in defeat. “We just learned how to do this in only eight steps, and now it’s twenty-five!”

For those who knew how to do it on Friday, it looked like I had invented steps. But they didn’t truly need those directions. I needed to include in this memo all the steps because there were some people out there who didn’t get it the first time around. I had to clarify every step. And after explaining this, those who complained about the extra directions understood why it was needed. But more importantly, the others got it this time. Now everyone could do it.

So next time, try it your normal way. And if they can’t ‘do it right, step back and take a second look at your directions. Maybe a couple more details could make all the difference in the world.