An ode to Toastmaster’s…

People always seem impressed that I go on my random trips… sleep in my car, go to hostels, blah blah blah.

But to be honest, it isn’t that big of a deal to me.

I really love to learn… and putting myself in those situations helps me do that. Even sleeping in my car, I get to listen to the conversations of passer-bys as I sit in my car. The stuff you hear in a Wal-Mart parking lot can bequite fascinating.

Actually, Eben Pagan said in the Altitude DVDs that every once in a while, he’ll just drive to the local Wal-Mart and sit in the parking lot for a few hours… just to kind of get back to “reality”. I mean, the guy runs a multi-million dollar business… he’s not exactly “normal”. And to be able to still appeal to his customer avatar, he can’t lose touch.

So anyway – I think sleeping in the car is a good thing. And constantly putting myself in new situations can only help my writing.

Because of this, not much scares me.

Except for public speaking.

I don’t know why, I think it’s because when I used to be much heavier, I hated the attention on me.

One-on-one with one or two people, I’m fine. Ask me to talk in front of a group though, and I am NOT a fan. Even in my masterminds with friends… I’ll email everyone ideas until the cows come home, but I don’t want to be talking.

So in the spirit of pushing myself out of my comfort zone, I joined Toastmaster’s. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a nonprofit club where people go and learn how to publicly speak better.

Every meeting, there are 4 people who have a prepared speech. Once they deliver it, they get on-the-spot feedback from every single member, as well as an established evaluator who really goes into extra detail.

If you’re not doing a prepared speech, you have to do extemporaneous speaking. You’ll randomly be called on and have to talk, off the cuff, for a full 1-3 minutes on ANY kind of topic. You never know what’s going to be thrown at you.

I kid you not – the first time I had to do this, I had tears in my eyes. I was freaking out. I don’t think anyone knew what I was talking about. I don’t think *I* did.

Even when I got back to my seat, my hands were shaking for at least another 10 minutes.

(Side note: they say more people are afraid of public speaking than death.)

But anyway, I went back a few times…and although I’m still nervous to speak, I’m 437643x more confident than that first time.

It’s really quite awesome. I originally went there just to push my comfort level, but there are so many side benefits. Learning how to speak succinctly, improve communication, leadership, confidence…

And even though I have a love/hate relationship with it, Toastmaster’s is the best night of my week, hands down. I have more fun there than when I do belly dancing, core fusion, or even if I go out with friends. It’s just such an INCREDIBLE experience. The adrenaline that comes with doing something that scares me and conquering it… I love it.

So anyway… I have my first prepared speech next week, and I’m psyched. :)

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More observations about Los Angeles…

Before I get started, I’d like to once again reiterate that I really do love Los Angeles. The area that I live in (right near Santa Monica and Venice) is amazing, and in my opinion, the best part of the city by far.

But this is something that I’ve been thinking about for a while, have talked with some people about… and still can’t get over.

When I moved to L.A., my friends and family warned me not to “turn California” – meaning, not to become image obsessed, superficial, etc… and I rolled my eyes. I mean, how can an entire state be that way?

But I’ve got to say… what they said about “California” is ridiculously true of Los Angeles.

It’s fascinating.

You can get any cosmetic procedure you’d ever want here. I was getting a pedicure, and one of my toenails was broken. The lady offered to put in a fake toenail while it grew back.

You could also get fake eyelashes glued on for $200 plus $50/month maintenance… Mommy Makeovers” where you get a tummy tuck, breast lift, etc… butt lifts… I think half of the women here have hair extensions…

It’s neverending.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Some of this stuff’s cool. A friend got the eyelashes done and they look awesome. When my “blow account” (10% of my monthly income that I blow on random crap every month) gets big enough, maybe I’ll do some of it. It’s fun to play dress up.

But DUDE. I just can’t get over how image-conscious people are as a way of life.

Interesting story:

I went to a seminar for a few hours last weekend (great time!), and I ran into a guy I had met at Idea Incubator. He asked me if I had been working for someone, and I told him no… but that a lot of the marketers there thought that Jaime and I were Playboy Bunnies (we told them we met at the Playboy mansion, so they assumed…)

So anyway, he says to me… “Honey, I know better. If we were in Iowa, you’d be an 11… but this is L.A.”

Then he starts to tell me about how sister was just serving in Iraq, and how a lot of the guys there liked her because there weren’t a lot of females there. When she got to L.A., she expected a lot of the same attention. He proceeded to tell me that his sister isn’t even that beautiful, and she’s crazy if she expects that kind of (or any) attention in Los Angeles.

…And you know, that’s how it is. While I hate that anyone would talk that way about their family, the fact of the matter is – that’s how most people here think.

I think that’s where the whole “flake” thing stems from, too. It’s very easy to become captivated by the next shiny thing that passes by.

And again – this isn’t to complain, be upset, whatever. I truly don’t even get offended anymore. It’s a way of life. When someone tells me that they’re going to call me, I believe it when I see it. It’s not even that I’m bitter, it’s just something I’ve come to accept.

When that dude told me I’d be an 11 in Iowa… I wasn’t offended. I don’t even WANT to be one of those “drop-dead gorgeous” girls. It’s too much work. I met a porn star here on Wednesday, and she told me she wasn’t eating for 3 days because she had a shoot on Friday.

She was 100% serious.

And I have friends that are super-image-conscious… it’s just a lot more effort than it’s worth, in my opinion. I prefer to surround myself with people that want bigger things. People with an insatiable curiosity for life. People who want to learn. People who want to help people. So I take a positive spin on the whole image-crazy thing and appreciate it, because it’s a good way to weed people out.

But it doesn’t mean the whole thing won’t continue boggling my mind.

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I’m going out to Laguna Beach tonight to hang out with the guys I met on my road trip back in August (You can view the blow post here – probably my favorite night from the trip. :))

Should be fun, I’m excited to play with the elevator again. ;)

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Toastmaster’s has been AMAZING. The first time I had to get up and give a speech, I was freaking out. Last time was a lot easier… and I only expect it to get better and better.

And man… it’s SO liberating to not worry about having to stand up in front of a group of people and speak. Not only is it good for communication and leadership, the confidence benefits are huge.

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There’s a lot more going on, but I didn’t expect to type so much out about Los Angeles. And I didn’t even make a dent in my observations. But oh well – back to sales letter tweaking. :)

Oh, and here are some odds and ends pictures from the Master’s Seminar:

Brian McElroy, me, Jason Moffatt

Jaime and Chad

Brian and Me

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Two lessons, one post. :)

I did it.

It took all I had, but I did it.

I deleted my Firefox extension that handled all my gmail accounts… gave me email previews… and basically let me keep tabs on my email 24/7.

I was doing well with only checking email a few times a day, but that extension definitely wasn’t helping.

I keep going to check it… it’s so weird that it’s not there.

But now that I have the best virtual assistant in the world, it’s not necessary anyway. :)

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You know, in the Altitude DVD’s, Eben talks about the “OCD loop”. He says that he finds most people, whenever they have some extra time, will go to their computer and check their email. Once they’re done, they’ll check their stats. Then any auctions they’re bidding on. Then the MySpace/Facebook/whatever. And once they’re done, they’ll start all over again, back to email. Then stats. Etc. He says it’s completely involuntary and he does it himself sometimes.

Anyway, I did the same thing with that gmail extension. I’d check one account. Then another. Then another. And I’d go through all 12 or so accounts. What a waste of time :)

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In other news, bartering ROCKS.

I went on E1KAD (for the love of all that is holy, I love that site… ignore that hype-y letter!)… made a post offering to write copy and/or consult for people that wanted to do things I don’t enjoy – PPC, site design, rewriting articles, ghostwriting, etc… and ended up with a plethora of people.

Seriously, I have a small army of people doing stuff for yayFOOD. I know I could just get the money from copy and outsource, but it’s more fun this way. I can help those that otherwise couldn’t/wouldn’t want to afford me… work with great people… AND not have to deal with training people or language barriers.

I cannot WAIT to see how this turns out. :)

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Lessons of today’s blog post: Get a virtual assistant. And barter. Both will rock your world. :)

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