Monday, November 19, 2007


Thanks to Darren LaCroix and the Champions Edge program, I learned about a documentary of Jerry Seinfeld perfecting an entirely new act after his TV show ended. It's called Comedian.

I swear I will never feel bad about stumbling and mumbling again when I am developing a new speech... and you shouldn't either.

Even Jerry Seinfeld used notes, forgot what he was talking about, said um and ah and er all the time when he was developing his new routine.

He got better... way better and was eventually wowing audiences again after working, and working, and working on his new routine in front of live audiences, refining every word and every bit until... he was Seinfeld again.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Carrot or stick?

Many organizations are faced with situations where they can take a carrot or stick approach with members or employees.

Too many choose the stick and then wonder why they meet resistance.

Let me ask, if you a dealing with customers or clients would you make the same choice? Would you even consider punishing customers? (Well if you were really considering your policies mindfully that is.)

Yet, often, organizations choose to punish members or employees who don't follow "the rules". For example, in requiring training or during a hastily conceived change.

What might be gained if organizations enticed members and employees to attend needed training or to embrace a change?

Treat your members and employees to a carrot more often than a stick. You may be pleasantly surprised at the results.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Mackinac Bridge 50th Anniversary Walk

On Monday my wife Sharon & I walked the Mackinac Bridge with about 80,000 other people from all over the world. It is an annual event held every Labor Day (the only day pedestrians are allowed on the bridge). It is the quintessential Michigan occasion. This year is the Mighty Mac's 50th anniversary.

Back before the bridge was completed in 1957 a fleet of ferries took people and their vehicles across the straits of Mackinac between Michigan's Upper and Lower Peninsulas.

The ferry trip took about an hour and the average wait time for a ferry was 2 hours. There were longer waits than that during times like deer season (another big Michigan event). Many times no one could cross because of bad weather or ice, which stopped ferry service in the winter.

After the bridge, the entire crossing took only about 10 minutes with only rare closings due to weather.

No matter how many ferries, no matter how efficient the process, the ferry crossing would never have gotten as short as 10 minutes.

It took a completely new approach. A bridge.

There was a need to Do Something...Different! get radically different results.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

"...I had this crazy opportunity to do something different."

So said Ashley Qualls (age 17) of Southgate, Michigan, the founder of She's an average 17 year old (yeah right!) who happens to be featured in this month's (September 2007) Fast Company magazine. Pretty normal event in the avereage 17 year old's life, right?

Well maybe not.

Here is someone with a business making $800,000+ a year that she started at age 15 from NOTHING. She borrowed the $8.00 for a domain name from her Mom.

So what's your rationalization for not starting something (or mine for that matter).

Check out the article about Ashley here. and here. and here.
and here. and here.

Do Something...Different!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Toastmaster's Convention was HOT!

and I'm not just talking about the 110 degree temperatures.

There were so many great events, learning opportunities, and people at the convention I'm still processing everything that happened. Every Toastmaster owes it to him or her self to attend at least one International Convention.

By the way, that's me with the 2007 Toastmasters World Champion of Public Speaking, Vikas Jhingran,

The three elements of personal and professional change that I talk with people about are: 1. Do Something...Different! (Go to Try Outs!) 2. Meet New People! (Get Help!) and 3. Tell New Stories!

The convention had all three elements.

It was my first time so it was something different. Another something different was attending the 1st ever Edgenet Summit on Tuesday August 14, just before the Convention. I also volunteered to help out at the convention...a great way to learn something new and meet new people. Always volunteer!

I met new people from all over the world, Australia, Bahrain, England, Germany, Russia what a great experience.

New stories? Yes I can tell you about the people I met, those I got to know better, and the kindness of strangers.

All in all a Grand Toastmasters Adventure In Phoenix, Arizona.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Toastmasters International Convention

I spent last week in Phoenix where I attended the Toastmasters International Convention and the Edgenet Summit sponsored by World Champion's Edge (Darren LaCroix, David Brooks, Ed Tate, Craig Valentine, Mark Brown, and Patricia Fripp). What a fun and educational week!

I will report more on these two events in the next week but let me say today that the Champ event was outstanding. I highly recommend these guys to anyone wanting to improve their public speaking or get into the information marketing business.

I also recommend Toastmasters to improve your speaking and leadership skills. Toastmasters also helps maintain your skills by giving you a place to practice in a safe atmosphere.

Toastmasters and the World Champions Edge makes an unbeatable combination.

More later.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Black Swan

A Black Swan according to Nassim Nicholas Taleb is a highly improbable event. And although any particular Black Swan is - ur - highly improbable, the chance of SOMETHING highly improbable happening is, well, actually highly probable. We just don't know what it might be.

This is still another reason to get out in the real world and try stuff and not just sit around and PLAN to do something really great...someday. The more you try the more likely it is that something highly improbable will happen...something good...some opportunity. Sieze on any opportunity or anything that looks like an opportunity. Maximize your chances for serendipity.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

What's next?

is filling the funnel!

Getting in touch with Associtions and service groups to give my speech and seminar, "Do Something...Different!". I'm looking for (thank you Darren LaCroix) Stage time, stage time, stage time! I want to hone this presentation and make it better.

Formerly this was called "Use Your Gifts" and I started giving it in 2004 beginning at the Toastmasters Region VI conference.

Mostly, I am enjoying my peaceful life here in rural Michigan. My wife Sharon and I live on 6 acres...4 of them wooded, with a koi pond, deer, turkeys, a woodchuck that I need to discourage from living under our shed, many rabbits, some coyotes, pheasant, and much more wildlife than I can list.

I want to speak and give seminars without disturbing this lifestyle. Currently I am concentrating on speaking as an avocation as much as a vocation. I don't have this all figured out yet but it is time to take action.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Ashes to Ashes

Hey, my Daughter-in-law's (Jennifer Armintrout) new book is out! Blood Ties Book 3: Ashes to Ashes. Jen writes contemporary urban fantasy...hey, its about vampires, its great, buy 'em by the dozen...and the 1st two as well.

Write, even if what you write is crap!

Write, even if what you write is crap!

Sometimes we talk or write about what we need to learn.

It has been a couple of weeks since my last posting. Yes, I’ve been busy but I should have found at least a little time to write…and post. For the past few days I couldn’t seem to figure out just what to write about. Then I didn’t know how to write it. But I should have known…just write! Even if what you write is crap.

Doing is the only way forward. And it is the way toward better ideas. So let me just tell myself…follow your own advice!

So, write crap if you must, but write!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Do you know how many comedians are out of work?

I recently read Jim Key's new blog. I saw this posting thanks to EdgeNet.

Jim is the 2003 Toastmasters International World Champion of Public Speaking. What an awesome title and Jim is an awesome guy. He will be at the Improv in Addison, TX on Wednesday, July 25 mic night. Below is my comment concerning bringing PASSION into your life.

Hi Jim,

So why did I hear about this blog in Edgenet?

I don't know the answer to your question in the title of this posting but I know that when I was interested in being an actor that only about 3% of "actors" were actually making enough to support themselves.

I knew several amazingly talented folks who went off to New York or Los Angeles and who found no or limited success as actors. Now some went on to backstage careers or found work in the studios behind the scenes but only one ever made a even a limited living as an actor.

Lots of people go after glamour careers and some who are incredibly driven, talented, and fortunate do "make it".

By all means, if you want to change your life, then do something different! Bring that passion into your life, act-do comedy-speak publicly ;-), even pursue it as a career...but bringing the passion into your life whether or not you end up making a living at it is what counts.

Think about actors who "make it" and now spend their days on, say, a soap opera (and there is nothing wrong with that) or doing dog food commercials (and there's nothing wrong with that, either).

Compare that to someone who pursues that dream as an avocation rather than a vocation. They still have the activity they are passionate about and the opportunity to play some of the great roles in theater history in Community Theater.

And there are lots of ways to make money in theater or acting or comedy...starting a non-profit theater as the creative director, doing local commercials, or videos for local businesses and organizations.

For example, I have appeared in and done voice-overs for some state government agencies. I even did a character portrayal as a gig for a whole year for the Michigan Department of Transportation's Centennial in 2005. (MDOT is my former employer.)

I kicked off several events, appeared in parades and at Greenfield village, participated in media day at the Detroit Auto Show, met the Governor, walked the Mackinac Bridge Walk in character as "Good Roads" Earle.

So bring that passion into your life...and don't worry too much about whether the money will follow. Do Something...Different!

Michael Erwine

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Is this off subject?

Peter Mulvey is biking to work for about 10 days in September. That's quite a news flash isn't it? And who the heck is Peter Mulvey?

Well, Peter Mulvey is a musician, a singer/songwriter and a dynamic performer. So, for Peter, biking to work, means traveling to different venues, guitar in tow, literally. What a great idea. Check out Peter's My Space site for details and to sample some of his songs.

If you have the opportunity to see Peter live...Do it! He is great!

I've had the pleasure of catching Peter's act here in Lansing, Michigan and attend a songwriting workshop Peter gave at in town at Elderly Instruments. (If you play a fretted instrument, guitar, banjo, mandolin, you also owe it to yourself to check out Elderly, too.)

Peter is doing something different so I guess it's not off subject after all.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Try this on for size.

Let's say your aspiration is to start your own business. Your problem? You've never run a business. Well, don't quit your job and spend your life savings starting it up.

Instead, find one of those direct selling companies (like Avon, Pampered Chef, etc.) that let you get started for next to nothing and try that for a while. Hey, it's small, easy, simple, and right now. Boom you're in business.

Here's what this does for you. It gets you information. Most of these companies give you a manual of information about how to get started. They show you how to keep simple business records and how to market yourself. All valuable business tools.

One great idea is to make a list of 100 people you know and then contact them to tell them about your new business. Yes it's simple but how many actually do it? Sometimes building a business is one warm call (not coldcall, cold calls suck) at a time.

At least you'll get your feet wet and find out what you like and don't like about business.

Friday, July 6, 2007

The Gaping Void

Talk about small, and simple, and right about a guy does his art on the back of business cards?!?

That's what Hugh MacLeod on the backs of business cards. Simple, easy, small, now!

Check out cartoons on the back of business cards. Hmmm...what could he possibly be thinking!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Do something...small!

Do something small, so small your natural resistance to scary new things doesn't wake up, a nanoaction (TM). Conversely, do something audacious too get exited enough to take action. Whichever path you chose, and it may be different at different times or different tasks, the goal is to take some kind of action toward your aspirations.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Five books to help you do something different!

Five books to help you do something different!

Wishcraft: How to get what you really want

Barbara Sher's great book on getting what you really want in life.

How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci

by Michael Gelb. Sometimes to get what you want you must be creative. This book will help.

The Artist's Way at Work

by Mark Bryan and Julia Cameron. Ditto for this book.

Getting Business to Come to You

by Paul Edwards. If what you want is something... entrepreneurial then this book will really help.


Refuse to Choose.

by Barbara Sher. Gee, I just don't I want to do this...or this...hey, this looks interesting. If this describes you then check out this book.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Do Something...Simple!

If you are trying to work on some complicated action it is a great idea to simplify. Even if you are working on something that really is complex you can break it down into simple actions.

Complicated wording, ideas, and processes get in the way of action. But people believe that such complication is somehow smarter.

It isn't.

According to Jeffery Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton in the Knowing Doing Gap complexity often substitutes talk for action.

Simpler wording makes communicating easier. (It even helps you understand what you are doing better.) Simpler ideas and processes makes getting things done easier. And just more LIKELY to happen. Faced with complicated tasks many people just give up.

All of this simplicity makes it much easier to get other people to help out, to get funding, to sell your project, your product, your service.

So do something different! Do something simple!

P.S. Speaking of simple...what could be simpler than Scott Ginsberg's idea of wearing a nametag 24/7? (See earlier post.) His idea built a career and last week he appeared on 20/20. Way to go Scott!

Check out his blog too.

That's the power of simplicity.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Opporproblemtunity (TM)

Oppor-problem-tunity (tm) seeing opportunity and problems as linked or as different aspects of the same situation.

Opportunity is often fused with a problem in one big mash-up. The problem may seem to be lack of money, lack of time, or even - well - lack of nerve.

Problems too are often just the backside of opportunity. If you are having a problem with something, hey, other people may be having that same problem. Can you solve the problem? Can you find the opportunity wrapped around or hidden inside the problem?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Best PowerPoint Presentation I Ever Saw

wasn't a Powerpoint presentation at all. It was an old fashioned slide show on a Kodak Carousel projecter. The presenter was George Plimpton and he was showing images about all the jobs he had done often as an amatuer competing in sporting events (or for example playing triangle with a symphony orchestra) then writing about his experiences.

The slides were photographs of Mr. Plimpton, and the real athletes he worked with, in action on the football field, the baseball diamond, the tennis court, or in a symphony hall.

As each image came up Mr. Plimpton would launch into a story in his distinctive, upper class, east coast, accent that somehow never seemed elitist and his stories always found their mark with grace and humor.

It was a great evening and the still best use of "PowerPoint" slides I've seen to date. Of course, not a single bullet point in the bunch.

By the way, I was the Theater Technician and so in charge of the slide projector that evening. I sat abou t 4 rows from the front and when Mr. Plimpton would indicate, I would advance the slide. I think I was 19 years old.

The inevitable glitch occured about half way through the presentation. The machine gave a little hic-cup and skipped ahead an extra slide. Mr. Plimpton (he will always be "Mr. Plimpton" in my mind) -well- Mr. Plimpton said, "That's alright just back up one slide."

Well, I tried that but when I hit the reverse button...the carousel more slide. I hit it again, and again it advanced, and again, and again. And...Mr. Plimpton held up a hand and said softly, "That's alright son," he looked at the screen then back at me, "I'll just tell them what they would have seen."

He looked at the screen a moment, turned back to the audience to begin but stopped, seeming to reconsider. He looked at the screen almost wistfully before turning back to me and asking, "Young man, (he paused) do you have a date tonight after my talk?"

Monday, June 18, 2007

30 ways to increase your creativity.

1.Travel to exotic lands. If you can’t go someplace exotic, treat your own home town as an “exotic” land and go places there that you usually never go. Maybe you’ll discover that home is a pretty exotic place.

2.Try a new type of exercise: Tai Chi, NIA, Yoga...the list goes on.

3.Start a journal. It could be a regular journal which is often like a diary, or it could be a focus journal. A focus journal focuses on a subject like creativity, or an organization like Toastmasters, or an activity like giving speeches, or a role like club officer. Use the journal to deepen your creativity on your focus.

4.Read! Read a lot. Read different stuff. Go to a magazine rack and pick up a magazine that you would never buy. Buy it. Read it. What did you learn?

5.Go to events that you would not normally attend. Our family went to a horse show. Not any show but a work horse show. There was a competition of show wagons and a horse pull. We spent the whole day there and loved it. There is a whole subculture we never knew existed. And, hey, we had a great time!



8.Go for a walk., draw, paint, act. (There, that’s four for one.)

13.Ask dumb questions.

14.When you are trying to come up with new ideas don’t just sit there, do something. Get some Play-Doh®, some crayons, some nerf balls, silly putty, canned string, catalogs, magazines, picture postcards, and so on. Use this stuff to stimulate your imagination.

15.Talk to yourself. Tape record your self talk. It opens up different channels in your brain than writing or just thinking. I write out portions of my speeches but, mostly, I just talk into my tape recorder. A lot of what I tape is drivel. Some of it is dynamite or sparks other dynamite ideas.

16.Read some children’s books. I’m partial to Dr. Seuss. Suit yourself.

17.Turn your problem around. If you are trying to attract new members ask, “How can we drive prospective members away?” Or “How can I make my speech as boring as possible?” Or “How can I make sure I accomplish nothing worthwhile this week?” You’ll run screaming in the direction of creativity.

18.Plan a vacation. You don’t have to take it, just plan it. Where will you go? Where will you stay? How will you get there? What will you do? How will you pay for it (or not)? If you can’t pay for it, how could you get to go anyway? What will you learn?

19.Watch something funny, then work on your problem.

20.Establish an Idea Preserve. Ideas are like rare and delicate plants or animals. You must find a save place for them if they are to survive. Write down your ideas. File them if you are so inclined. Even if you just put them in a box or an old coffee can, your creative ideas can be found, retrieved, and used.

21.Obtain and use a rhyming dictionary.

22.Find ways to recreate an innocent viewpoint. Try to remember when you didn’t know all the ways something can’t be done.

23.Learn to play a musical instrument.

24.Network with other people.

25.Take an Anthropology class.

26.Take a Photography class.

27.Take an Art class

39.Learn another language.

28.Spend time with children.

29.Go fly a kite! (Oh, oh, oh! Have you ever MADE A KITE? I mean from scratch, not a kit?)

30.Remember, nobody knows everything about anything. Even the best can (and will) be improved.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Do something...different...right now.

Analysis Paralysis!

We've all been there. (Well, many of us have been!) It is easy to get caught up in planning and research and then never DO anything.

I'm not saying don't plan but if you are thinking about a deep change, it really won't help you to do too much planning BEFORE you get out and actually DO something.


Well, in order to reflect on something you need to have something, well, to reflect. If you think, "Wow, I'd like to open a garden store", well, how do you know? Do you garden? Have you ever run a business? Well then, how can you plan?

But, if you take some action...maybe even, at first, just talking to someone who has a garden store, or trying to sell some garden related products. Maybe you could even sign up to be a "Designer" for Home & Garden Party (actually, I don't know if they sell anything that is actually for the garden) just to see if you like selling garden stuff!

Make a simple list, pick something, find a way to do it. So, for example, if you want to write...write! Don't plan to write, don't create a mission statement that proclaims how you want to write, don't tell people that you want to write. Just write. Then reflect. Today's computer and internet enviornment makes writing and getting your message out to the world incredibly easy.

I'm also an advocate of trying out a home-based business company (like Home & Garden Party, Pampered Chef, Avon, Tupperware) to get an idea if you like running a small business and selling. The initial costs are usually modest and you can learn business and marketing basics. I think they are better than any business classe because you must deal with "real world" business problems. Just don't go overboard buying products and becoming your own best, or only, customer!

If you don't want to run a business but want to change careers...volunteer. You can do this for your employer (as I did when I transisioned from computer technician to being a trainer and business area consultant) or for a community organization.

The opportunities are out there. So get "out there" and Do Something...Different...Right Now! Dream real dreams!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

World Champions of Public Speaking

David Brooks and Darren LaCroix are two of Toasmasters International's World Champions of Public Speaking.

David Brooks won in 1990 and Darren LaCroix in 2001. Both are part of a group of 5 World Champion speakers known as World Champions' Edge.

If you are interested in great products to help you become a better speaker check out their products by clicking in the links section of this blog. Those links will take you to David and Darren's resources pages.

Check out their Champ Camps (Great name!). Also, Darren's "The Path to Powerful Presentations" (AKA "How I Went from Chump to Champ") and David's "The Elements of Eloquence". Great products about public speaking and mentoring.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Tell new stories

Tell new stories?

What's that about?

Well, we tend to tell the same old stories about ourselves all the time. And, all too often, they limit us. We tell them to others ("Ah, I'm just a computer technician") and we tell them to ourselves ("I could never do something like that")

That's why I advise people to get out and do something different. Meet new people. Then reflect on what you've done and who you have met, then tell new empoweing stories about yourself.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Meet new people

I've never been a fan of what you might call traditional networking. All the frantic card swapping and elevator speeches leave me cold. I know this isn't what the top gurus concerning networking, like Susan RoAne, actually advise anyone to do, but it is what I've seen all too often.

No, I'm talking about -well- just meeting new people. Maybe someone who is doing something that you want to try to do. Or getting into a community of practice. That might be a bluegrass jam if you play guitar or mandolin or banjo. Or Toastmasters or an NSA (National Speakers Association) chapter meeting if you want to try professional speaking.

Another idea is to give valuable service to people and organizations.

Get out there. Meet new people. They may lead you right where you want to go.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Lance & Scott

Did you ever come across something you were just busting at the seams to tell people about?

Well, I’m in real danger because I’ve just found two items I can’t wait to share. Here’s number one.

If you’re a Toastmaster, (You ARE a Toastmaster aren’t you?) then by all means contact Lance Miller the 2005 World Champion of Public Speaking, and buy his CD "Building a Championship Club". It is Simply Amazing! It is geared for club officers but all Toastmasters will be inspired by Lance’s ideas in this CD.

Here’s one of those ideas: Colonel Sanders’ secret recipe. Hmm? Lance says the secret to Colonel Sanders is that the 13 herbs and spices aren’t the secret. The secret is to do the ordinary extraordinarily well. Wow!

I would add to that to do that consistently.

Find out more at

Speaking of doing something ordinary extraordinarily well, and extraordinarily consistently, what would you say about a guy who has worn a nametag all the time, everyday since November 2, 2000?

Well, Scott Ginsberg has done just that. He is now the world’s leading authority on…nametags. (Question…What are you the world’s leading authority on? That’s the question I started asking myself today.)

Nametags! But Scott’s expertise is not limited to nametags. His expertise is approachability. Scott Ginsberg now owns that word in my mind.

Scott posted his e-book, "234 things I’ve learned about creating, delivering and marketing speeches" at SpeakerNetNews (What? You’ve never heard of SNN? Go to ) in the compilations section. Again, Wow!

Here’s one: “190. Write everything down – stories, content, facts, quotes, jokes, one-liners, everything! If it goes unrecorded it becomes unmemorable.”

And here’s one from his special report: "Let Me Ask Ya This…55 GREAT Questions to Ask Someone You Just Met". “44. If you could hire any actor to portray you in a movie, who would you choose?”

You don’t want to be unmemorable!

Check out Scott's blog too at:

Oh, one more thing…My answer to number 44? Dustin Hoffman.


Monday, June 11, 2007

Do Something...Different!

“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Do Something…Different!

Meet New People! (Or find out something new about someone old!)

Tell New Stories! (To find new meaning and explain new identities!)

Hey, have you found TedTalks yet. Well go to and check it out. You will find talks on a wide array of subjects, from the def jam poetry of Rives, to David Deutsch on physics, from Tony Robbins riffing on NLP to Malcom Gladwell on…pasta sauce…yes pasta sauce. And it is fascinating. Talk about new stories!

Here are several new people to learn from (you don’t always have to actually meet new people…but it is best if you do).

Many of these people have done something different (very different), met new people, and here they are, telling their stories. This is the sort of mash-up that change comes from.

"Problems are solvable. Problems are inevitable."
David Deutsch