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.

 

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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

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

Making Goals Can Be Challenging

Goals are essential to growth. Whether it is a business goal or a personal goal, without them, we all wander around aimlessly. When I worked in a corporate setting, We had daily, monthly and annual goals for production. Those decisions were made by others who were higher up in the organization. There were budgets, earmarks, and sometimes even rewards in place to help meet those goals.

Personal goals are a different thing altogether. For whatever reason, it seems personal goals are a lot harder to accomplish. Maybe it’s because society is so focused on making money so we can have a life or that we always find ways of letting other things get in the way of our personal desires. Maybe we need to micromanage our personal lives better.

Making Goals - Goals

Helpful Goal Setting Ideas

Making goals has always been a challenge to me. I think it is because when I do, sometimes things get in the way. Instead of adjusting or setting new goals, I try to force the same ones even though they are no longer realistic.

Here are a few things that have helped me get better at making goals that I can achieve. They are challenging enough to keep me moving forward.

  1. Make a one-page business plan. I have one that I took from a video and made my own. If you would like a copy of the template, I can send it to you. Simply email me and it will be on its way.
  2. Make monthly, annual, 3-year, and 5-year goals. Start with the five-year mark and reverse engineer the goals. By reverse engineering the longer term goals, you can make your smaller goals granular enough to be able to accomplish them.
  3. Make sure your business plan is a living document. By living document, I am referring to the idea that your longer-term goals need to be adjustable. If you are getting ahead (or behind) in your ability to reach your goals, you need to be able to adjust your plans.
  4. Make personal goals measurable, attainable, and time restrictive. Having a “To Be Done By” date will help motivate you to complete the task. Simply saying something like “I will lose weight this year” doesn’t mean a whole lot.
  5. Don’t forget to plan your family/personal time. This should probably be done first. Try not to let anything interfere with those plans.

Making Goals - Achieve Greatness

Granular Planning

In a recent post, I talked about Implementing Micro-habits. In that post, I referenced the idea of starting slow and building. In a business setting, it isn’t always possible to take it slower. In that case, we need to be able to plan, even on a daily basis, what needs to be accomplished.

My weekly planning involves sitting down ahead of time and planning the next week. However, the first thing that gets scheduled is my family time. No scheduling is worth sacrificing your family. Work should always be secondary to your family needs. What meetings do I need to have and when? What needs to be done with social media? What advertising needs to be accomplished? What education do I need to do to stay fresh in my field? We should be learning something new every week. How many people will I be contacting? What social events will I be attending?

Make sure you leave some downtime in your schedule to allow for unexpected details that arise. You never know (especially in real estate), when you will need to make a special property showing based on your client’s schedule.

Turn It Off

Don’t forget to have the ability to turn your business off from time to time. It’s easy to get wrapped up so much in your business that it consumes you. Don’t be afraid to set a schedule for yourself and your business. Sure, things are going to get in the way sometimes.

My wife and I have very different schedules. We try to schedule Friday’s together. In real estate, I tend to work more on the weekends and as a Pastor, my wife works Sunday thru Thursday.

Things tend to get in the way. Sometimes, I end up having to show properties on Friday’s or my wife might have to service a wedding or funeral. We have the goal of having Friday’s together. When something gets in the way, we try to make arrangements to have a meal together on another day. It’s not perfect but it seems to be working for us so far.

It certainly helps us to have a work/life balance. It allows us to connect with each other and share precious time together.

What is important to you in your work/life balance?

———————

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

Implement Micro-Habits

Congratulations! You’ve set goals for 2018. Maybe you called them Resolutions. Either way, they include things you would like to accomplish in 2018. How can you make sure you achieve the goals you want?

Micro Habit Motivation

Micro-Habits!

Micro-habits are small steps you can take towards your goals. Goals are challenging and should stretch your abilities. Sometimes they can feel daunting, especially when the date to accomplish them is getting closer and you haven’t fully dedicated the time for the goal.

One of my goals for this year is to write a devotional with my wife in time to have it published and ready by Advent 2018. It’s January 2018 so we have plenty of time to get it written, edited, and published. However, if we wait until October to start on it, the likelihood of having it ready will be slim.

Looking at the whole thing can be overwhelming. Instead, we are breaking it up into mini-goals or micro-habits to get the work done.

For instance, we have a goal of writing one devotional per person, every two weeks with the first one due on January 21st. By the 28th, we will have the devotionals reviewed by the other person.

We have also written down the parameters for each devotional. Each devotional will include a TITLE with up to six words in it. A SCRIPTURE with no more than three verses in it. The DEVOTIONAL itself which will be written at 350 words and then edited down to 300 words max. A THOUGHT OF THE DAY which is a 2-3 sentence review of the main thought for the devotional. That portion will be written by the other person. Finally, we will have a PRAYER which will be 2-3 sentences. The main goal of the devotional is to have 40 days written for the time of Advent.

We have a secondary goal to write another devotional for Lent 2019. By planning now, we can have everything in place. The hope is that by having a schedule for Advent now, we will be done writing it in about 5-6 months. But when I schedule it out, it will take about 10 months to complete. To remedy that, we will be adding a few weekends where we focus on writing devotionals and get several done at one time. This will shorten the development time and help us finish early.

Accountability

With a schedule in place, we can hold each other accountable to get the work done. By writing our plan here, we are also having you help us to be accountable since you will get the progress report periodically about our process.

Habits take about two months to become routine. Of course, that is if you are doing them every day. I know it seems like a lofty goal but our goal is to write 35-36 words per day towards the devotional. I’ve written a lot more just in this post so 36 words seems to be not much of a challenge. However, the challenge is more about setting the schedule and accomplishing the daily goals we have.

Micro Habit Automation Systems

Your Turn

This type of goal setting or micro-habit creation can be applied to everything. It helps to keep you focused on the larger goal while not getting overwhelmed. Any process can be broken into bite-sized pieces that will ultimately lead to the accomplishment of your goals.

Whether you are in sales and need to generate a certain number of quotes, or designing the latest automation system, simply break down the larger items into smaller bits until the bits are small enough to accomplish.

Just as our devotional book is broken down into 36 words per day, your loftiest goals can be accomplished using this method.

Got a project that needs organizing? Let me know how this process works for you.

———————

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

Why I Started Journaling

Everyone goes through stuff in their lives. It’s not uncommon for people to get married, get divorced, have children, not have children, get jobs, and lose jobs.

What is less common are the stories that go along with those things we all go through.

Journaling

Write It Down!

It’s amazing how alone you can feel when you are going through something. Leading up to my divorce, I began keeping a journal. I had never kept a journal before in my life but I needed some mechanism to get the thoughts out of my head.

When my marriage began to have issues, the “couple friends” we had dropped away. After the divorce was final, “our friends” were no longer “my friends.” I felt quite alone through the whole ordeal.

So what was the point of the journal? I never established a set format for it. I simply wrote what was on my mind any given day. Sometimes I wrote just a few words. Other days, I could write four pages. After the first year, I decided that it would be better if I wrote the journal in a Word Document instead of by hand.

Did you know that habits can be formed in about 66 days? I saw that in a video somewhere on YouTube. Honestly, I don’t know how long it took to create a habit of writing in my journal. All I know is that once I had started, in a short period of time, I was writing in my journal every day. On the occasions I missed writing in the journal, it actually felt bad and I would end up writing a whole page on why I missed my journal entry.

Electronic Journal

What Was The Benefit?

The benefit was huge but I didn’t even realize it until years later. I remember several years later looking back in my journal for a piece of information. As I searched for the information, I began reading some of the things I had written. I was amazed to see the thought processes I had been working with at that time.

The benefit for me was that I was able to see the changes in my life over time. I kept a daily journal for over ten years. Looking back over that time, I can see incredible growth in so many areas of my life

Sure, it’s not something you can see overnight. Time takes time. But, if you pursue the idea of documenting your life, you might be surprised what you can find out about yourself in the long run.

 

When Computers Go Bad

A Brief Computer History

IBM Personal Computer

The personal computer has been around since about 1991. Although there have been some brands that have been around longer, widespread use didn’t really begin until the Internet became available to everyone.

I can remember a time when the cost of 1Mb of memory cost $1000.00. It was the days when you had to use two floppy disks to load the operating system before you could do anything. It was the days of DOS, the Disk Operating System. It was also the days that Bill Gates announced that there would never be a reason to have a program larger than 1Mb.

Computer Floppy Disk

Now look at us. We don’t even have floppy disks and it is becoming more rare to even find a CD or DVD drive on a computer. After the DVD came the jump drive. With the USB port still available, jump drives can be great for traveling with files. A SSD ( Solid State Drive) is becoming the norm and computers are getting nothing but faster all the time.

Computer CD DVD

Finally, there is cloud storage which allows us to store our files on the Internet. Just like any tweet out there, once something is placed on the Internet, it’s never going away. The only problem there is that the files could be hacked into from outsiders wishing to get the information.

Computer Jump Drive

The Computer Crash

Computer Laptop

Recently, I had my laptop crash. I’d had the computer for over four years and wasn’t too sure how long it would be before it was useless. Trying to run adobe products on the computer was next to impossible. Well, it finally went out. Fortunately, it wasn’t a hard drive crash. Windows would simply not come up. I tried multiple reboots, and even said a prayer or two to see if it would come up. No luck. I was in trouble because there were files on that thing that had not been backed up yet. Important stuff like articles i would read one day, pictures of stuff that I’d never look at again because they came from free image sites, and misc. Ideas for all the dreams I have. However, there were a few that I had wanted to save like some work files, education documents, and some photos of family that had been copied from my AGING PHONE that I might not be able to get back.

The Big Save

Alas, the computer came up and offered some advanced troubleshooting things to try. No luck there either. Then I noticed something. Something I had not considered. Yet, there is was. Access to the command prompt. Boom!

Computer Command Prompt

I accessed that feature and tried to remember some basic commands. I remembered c:\ which gave me the familiar c:> prompt. Then I remembered DIR. Sure enough, I could see the hard drive had stuff on it.

Since the cd-rom had stopped working a while ago, I could not tell which drive would show up if I attached my external hard drive so I started searching. I found it on the F drive.

The next step was to try and navigate the c drive directories and find my files. Once I found them, I actually had to look up on another computer how to copy files and folders and subdirectories. With some quick searches on Google, I was able to find the commands I needed and copy the files from the temperamental c drive to the f drive.

Success!

I checked on another computer and was thrilled to see my files intact. Whew!

I got my new laptop that day and began the process of loading all the adobe products back on and then the biggest snag. Where the heck did I put the Office 2010 disk? And another issue – I no longer have a cd drive. So not only do I need to find the disk, I get to buy an external cd/dvd drive.

In the meantime, I will start using google docs to create my files. They will all be stored on the cloud and I can continue to work with my files as needed.

Tragedy averted.

Of course, I will be making sure that any files I do store on my computer are backed up on the cloud so that I don’t have to worry about this kind of thing happening again.

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