Unicorn

I read various blogs and came across a writing challenge. The challenge is to write a 99 word complete story based on a prompt. The site is called Carrot Ranch.

Here is my entry based on the prompt for Feb. 22: Unicorn. Entries are due by Feb. 27.

Real Unicorn
https://www.cnn.com/2016/03/29/living/real-unicorn-remains/index.html

The large animal lumbered along slowly. It’s strides shaking the ground with each step.

I took aim and fired a shot. Missed.

He looked up, noticing the noise and spotted me.

His body turned to face me. Dipping his head, his single horn pointed directly at me.

A snort and he began a full-out run straight at me.

The ground shook under my feet. Dust flew everywhere.

Another shot, this time hitting the horn in the front of his head. It didn’t slow him down a bit.

I tried to reload but it was way too late.

Game over.

 

Advertisements

My First Speech – Again

I returned to Toastmasters International after more than a four-year break. I went to my first meeting at my new group about a two months ago and joined a little over three weeks ago. A week and a half ago, I gave my first speech upon returning.

toastmasters ice breaker speech

The Ice Breaker Speech

This is the first speech everyone gives at Toastmasters as a way to introduce themselves to the group. The speech is scheduled for 4-6 minutes. It is evaluated by another member of the group so that you can get an idea of your strengths and weaknesses in speaking.

The title of my Ice Breaker Speech was The Phone Call. I shared my personal experience of finding out the diagnosis of a brain tumor.

As much as I prepared for the speech, I stumbled while giving it.

The good news is that I believe I know why.

Speech

Preparing

I prepared for the speech like many others do I suspect. I wrote the speech out in its entirety. I read it several times, edited it and practiced it. I then wrote an outline for the speech and began practicing based on the outline. I soon found that I was not happy with the outline because the clues I had written were not enough for me to remember. I went back to the manuscript and began practicing again. I felt I had enough of it in my mind by the time I went to give the speech.

Within the first paragraph, I had lost my place for what seemed like a full minute. Actually, it was more like five seconds but a lapse in memory while giving a speech can feel like an eternity.

I was able to get back on track and within another few lines. I was comfortable telling the rest of the story.

Speech Ribbon

The Result

I was the first of three speakers at the meeting that day. Along with the rest of the talks, there were also the regular duties and segments of the meeting.

I received two ribbons that day. The first was the “First Time” ribbon. This ribbon is awarded for the first speech you give to your group. The second was the “Best Speaker” ribbon. That was an awesome feeling even though I felt I still needed a lot of work.

Going Forward

While pondering what went wrong with my speech, I realized that I had focused so much on trying to remember every word that I wanted to say. I did that instead of focusing on the main themes for each point in the speech.

As a result, I am working on another speech on an entirely different topic. This time, however, I am going to focus on the main points throughout the speech. I already know the material so the topic is not hard. By focusing on what each section is about rather than focusing on what each word in each section is supposed to be, I feel that the message will not only come across as more authentic, but I will be relaxed as well.

It will probably be about six weeks before I give another speech but I will be using this method to prepare from now on.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

———————

If you need help with the purchase or sale of a home, reach out to me for more information about how I can help you get where you want to be.

I’m never too busy for you or your referrals.

Patrick O’Connor – CHMS, GRI, Realtor®

Ebby Halliday, REALTORS®

Plano, TX

Why Are You Letting Your House Sit On The Market?

It seems, at least for now, that the days when you would slap a sign in your yard and sell your house in 24 hours are ending. Things have changed in the market in North Texas. People are tired of overspending on a home when there are others nearby that will work just as well. Sometimes, even new construction homes will sit on the market because people don’t want to spend that much.

The Number One Reason Your House Doesn’t Sell

I see it often. A perfectly good house in a great neighborhood and it’s been on the market for half a year or more. Unfortunately, sometimes seller’s are just not realistic about the pricing of their homes. Even if you have the best Realtor in North Texas, you still won’t sell the home if the price is not in line with what is going on in your area.

It doesn’t matter if you put in a $100,000 pool with lights and an outdoor kitchen. If no one else in your neighborhood has a pool like that or an outdoor kitchen, it’s likely you won’t get near what you put into that pool or kitchen. People just won’t pay for it.

A decent Realtor will tell you where the house should be priced. Still there are those who insist that their house is better than everyone else’s home in the area.

An Honest Question

Market Bikes

Would you honestly pay more for something when there are other choices that will do the same thing for you? If you don’t race bicycles, would you pay $8000 for a bike when a $200 bike will do what you want it to do? I could ask the same thing about so many items we use every day.

When my grandson was born, my daughter insisted on buying Tommy Hilfiger clothes for him. When I asked her why, she said it was because she never got nice clothes growing up and she was not going to have her child be embarrassed by the clothes he wore. Ouch! When I tried to explain that he would be in those clothes for two months and they would never get worn out, it fell on deaf ears. There was no convincing her about the practical aspects of buying clothes for babies.

What About A House?

Market Similarity

I recently had a conversation with another agent in my office. He had a house listed on the market. It had been going slow and he was considering having a conversation with the owner about possibly lowering the price.

Just when he was about to do that, another house in the same neighborhood came on the market with an inflated price. Before he knew it, he received multiple offers on his listed house. Why? Because the houses were almost the same. People could look at both of them and soon realized that the house he was promoting was just as good as the other house.

Why would you spend extra money on a house when there is another one down the street for less?

Unless there are specific features or needs that one house has over the other, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense.

———————

If you need help with the purchase or sale of a home, reach out to me for more information about how I can help you get where you want to be.

I’m never too busy for your referrals.

Patrick O’Connor – CHMS, GRI, Realtor®

Ebby Halliday, REALTORS®

Plano, TX

My Return To Toastmasters

 

It’s been a few years since I was in Toastmasters International. It is an organization that helps people come to terms with public speaking. They offer education and practice in front of a group, offering constructive feedback on your progress through a series of speeches.

Toaastmasters Logo

Why Did I Go In The First Place?

When I first started going to Toastmasters, I had been a corporate trainer for years. I had been in front of groups of people in a teaching environment. There was a need to take very complex concepts and make them understandable to people who had never used the technology before.

Although it was just a part of my job, I enjoyed it immensely. After a while, I became very comfortable teaching any subject to this group. The nervousness had gone away for the most part because these were people I had dealt with for years in the work environment.

I wanted more.

Something Was Very Wrong

One day, my boss invited me to go with him on a recruiting mission. My job was to present our “pitch” for getting new people to apply at the company. When I got up to speak in front of this “foreign” group, I stammered terribly. I was suddenly so nervous speaking that I barely got the words out.

Afterwards, my boss asked me what was wrong. I knew but I wasn’t about to tell him. I was nervous because I had been speaking in front of the same group of people for so long. I had not experienced speaking in front of groups I did not know and it was completely different. I knew I needed to improve. Enter Toastmasters

What I Accomplished

After about 18 months and two different clubs due to relocation, I achieved Competent Communicator status. I think the name has changed now to Competent Toastmaster Certification but it doesn’t matter. To get to that level, I needed to give ten speeches on different topics in front of people I didn’t really know. I even gave an evaluation at a competition and came in second place. It was kinda cool to accomplish those things.

It was during that time that I applied to teach at a Junior College in order to get in front of people I didn’t know on a regular basis. My Toastmaster training allowed me to take on that role without getting into a panic.

Shortly after that, I relocated again and fell out of Toastmasters.

Why I Returned

Due to medical conditions, I had to leave my employment. I returned to school, got a degree, but ultimately decided on Real Estate as my new career.

While I was in school, there were requirements to give speeches as assignments. Again, I could feel some nervousness getting in front of people. I pushed through it though and was very successful.

I realized, getting into Real Estate, that I would need to be comfortable talking to people I had just met with confidence and assurance. They needed to know that I knew what I was doing and could help them.

As part of my transition into this career, I had mentors through my office but wanted different mentors. I thought it would be beneficial to have mentors from other industries.

My “lead mentor,” the one I  would be sharing everything with and asking for specific feedback, suggested getting back into Toastmasters as a way of improving my communications skills.

I thought back to all the times I had given a speech at Toastmasters and the valuable feedback I had received. I knew that I could not only continue to improve my communications skills but could also focus more on my leadership skills. Together, it had the potential to change my effectiveness in my career and dealing with people I already knew.

So here I am, getting ready to give the first speech over again, just like the first time I attended Toastmasters. It’s the “get to know me” speech, The Ice Breaker Speech, so my new group can know my background. It’s the easiest talk since I already know the subject – me!

I will post occasionally on my progress and even include video when I get it.

What About You?

There are many reasons to join Toastmasters. There are probably more reasons not to go. However, if you want to improve your speaking ability in a variety of ways, give it a try.

See you at the next meeting or competition.

———————

If you need help with the purchase or sale of a home, reach out to me for more information about how I can help you get where you want to be.

I’m never too busy for your referrals.

Patrick O’Connor – CHMS, GRI, Realtor®

Ebby Halliday, REALTORS®

Plano, TX

Those Sneaky B@$t@rds

phishing

Phishing Scam

My wife and I had a scare several days ago. She had received an email that looked like it had come from our bank asking us to click on a link to authorize a deposit into our account. It was a bit suspect from the beginning because my wife doesn’t use the account from this particular institution.

I looked at the email and noticed there was no indication of what the account number was and the return email was random letters followed by something other than the bank (ex. gr13ccea@southwestbell.net).

Sneaky B@$t@rds!

Calling The Bank

I called the bank and talked to customer service. I also checked the account to make sure nothing had been going on with it. Nothing. No weird deposits or withdrawals.

After some time with the customer service folks, they sent me over to security and asked me to forward the email to the abuse center. They checked everything with our account and made sure there was nothing suspicious going on.

Phishing - Two-Step Verification

2-Step Verify

We set up a 2-step verification process for accessing the account. It’s something I had overlooked. I have 2-step verify on so many things and this one slipped by.

2-step verification adds an additional layer of protection to your accounts. When you log in, the system will send an additional code to your phone which you need to enter back into the system before you can get access to the account. It seems like that would make it much harder for someone to get in otherwise. If someone did get access to your account information, you would get a text message when they logged in and could immediately say it wasn’t you. You can then call the bank and change passwords, check account activity and change cards if needed.

Credit Monitoring

Did you know that many banking institutions have free credit monitoring? I didn’t. Check you bank and see if they provide this service for free. If they don’t, maybe it’s time to find another bank.

Solutions

Well, now we are safe. No one has stolen anything and our accounts are secure. It could have been a lot different if my wife and I were not talking regularly. Talk to others on your accounts and make sure they recognize suspicious activity.

In this instance, the bank said the email address was wrong, there should have been a partial account number visible, and any email that comes from them would be directed to a specific person on the account, not “Dear Customer.”

With so much fraud out there, it’s easy to get your finances screwed up. Take the time to make sure you are as protected as you can be.

———————

If you need help with the purchase or sale of a home, reach out to me for more information about how I can help you get where you want to be.

I’m never too busy for your referrals.

Patrick O’Connor – CHMS, GRI, Realtor®

Ebby Halliday, REALTORS®

Plano, TX

That Feeling Of Despair

Despair - What Have I Done

Now What?

The New Year has begun. Remember over the holidays when everyone over-ate, over-spent, and generally over did it all? You woke up a day or two later and thought “What have I done?”

Despair - Overwhelmed

The House

The same thing can happen with a home purchase. It’s called buyer’s remorse. It’s not quite as easy to “return a house to the store.” You own it now. You’ve moved in and now you’re starting to rethink what you have done. Don’t worry, it’s a normal thing many people go through.

Despair - Own It

How To Combat Those Feelings

  1. Embrace what you have done. You are a homeowner now! What a great thing. It might seem like the costs are huge and there is no way you can really afford what you have done. Take heart. If you worked with a Realtor and a Lender, part of their job is to make sure you don’t overextend yourself. You actually can afford the home you are in.
  2. Make it your own. No house is perfect. Not even a new construction home. It’s quite possible there are things you will want to do to improve the property. Remember that it is your home now, not the previous owners. You can paint with whatever colors appeal to you, you can also change counters, drapes, and any other improvements you would like to make. Take it slow and start small. Paint one room. It doesn’t have to be done overnight. More than likely, you will be in the house at least seven years so plan things, save some money and be smart with the change decisions you want to make.
  3. Enjoy. You have spent a lot of time looking at properties and finding just the right thing for you and your family. Rest in the knowledge that you make an informed decision and it was what was best for your family at this time. The feelings of remorse will go away when you start making changes and making your new home more – well – homey!

If Something Changes

Job loss, illness, family dynamic changes, more family members moving in or out. All these things can affect your ability to maintain the house you had so many hopes for.

If something happens that prevents you from enjoying the tranquility of your home, don’t despair. Keep your Realtor and Lender informed of changes within you family. They are there to help you. If the need arises that you need to change things, they can help figure out alternatives or sell the property if that is the best course of action. They have spent a lot of time with you, building a relationship. It was never intended to be a “once and done” setup. Every day, there are new programs being developed that could change your outlook even if there have been dramatic changes to your family.

———————

If you need help with the purchase or sale of a home, reach out to me for more information about how I can help you get where you want to be.

I’m never too busy for your referrals.

Patrick O’Connor – CHMS, GRI, Realtor®

Ebby Halliday, REALTORS®

Plano, TX

Save With Purpose

Saving With Purpose

Several years ago, my wife and I were in New York City. It had only been about nine months since I had brain surgery and I was still very unstable. Sometimes I wonder why we took that trip because it took all I had to stay upright and she was holding onto me with a bear grip the whole time to keep me steady.

We were walking down 34th street and trying to hug the buildings to stay out of the way of pedestrian traffic as much as possible. It was a sloooooow walk.

Before long, a group of three teenage girls walked by and one of them glanced over her shoulder and said “Walk.With.Purpose.”

Brat!

She had no idea what I had been dealing with.

Save With Purpose

What’s Your Purpose?

I think about what those girls said that day as it relates to savings and it takes on some significance.

What is the purpose of your savings?

Actually, there can be many reasons for saving. Some good and some bad.

What?

What could be bad about saving?

Well, biblically speaking, I think about Luke 12:13-21 “The Rich Fool” who hoarded money and possessions. Greed to the point where you have more than you know what to do with but only want more isn’t a good thing. What’s the point? When you die, you aren’t taking it with you.

There are many good reasons to save though. In today’s society, it’s important to save towards retirement so that you can have the life you want when and if you decide to stop working. Ask around. It’s tough to live a decent life anywhere on social security alone.

Save with purpose Priority

Emergency Savings.

Emergency savings are important to cover those unexpected events that always seem to come our way. However, $1000 can cover just about everything that can go wrong. It doesn’t matter if the A/C in your house goes out or your car breaks down. Unless the car engine or transmission is gone, you can pretty much fix just about anything else with your car for $1000. Broken windows in your house, repairs to you air conditioning and even a water heater replacement can be covered by that money.

Specific Savings.

These types of savings are for a specific purpose. Want to take a trip to another state? Save some money. Buying new living room furniture? Save something for that. Kids college? There are accounts for that too.

What Should I Save For First?

I would think the emergency savings would come first. Having that account allows you to fix just about anything without having to go into debt using a credit card. The alternative would be to use a credit card instead, which only means paying interest that could have been planned for in advance.

Don’t have an extra $1000 laying around for an emergency fund? That’s ok. Start where you are. If you can save $100, or $50, or even $5 this week, start there. Put the money aside and next week, work on adding more to it. Even at $5 per week, at the end of a year, you’ll have $260. That’s a whole lot better than having $5 and your car needing new tires.

What do you do to save money? What is the purpose of your savings?

Save. With. Purpose!

———————

If you need help with the purchase or sale of a home, reach out to me for more information about how I can help you get where you want to be.

I’m never too busy for your referrals.

Patrick O’Connor – CHMS, GRI, Realtor®

Ebby Halliday, REALTORS®

Plano, TX