The Adventure of a Lifetime: Inside the Mind

Each day was a battle. The room was filled with a symphony of coughs, sneezing, shuffling and shifting of cushions. Inside my mind, random thoughts roared like a lion for attention. The pain from cramps overpowered my self-determination to sit still cross-legged for one hour. Many emotions danced in and out and forced me to run for the Kleenex box every few minutes. Wait, where’s the nirvana moment my friend experienced in meditation? 

Last year, I saw a friend glowing with calmness and happiness like Yoda. I wondered if he was on a special pill. The source turn out to be very simple. My friend had returned from a Vipassana retreat, where he meditated for 10 hours each day, lived in silence and observed the source where everything starts: the mind. He persuaded me several times to explore this technique to find everlasting happiness and to really understand the root cause of my stress and challenges. I was skeptical. Moreover, I feared disconnecting from the world for 10 days!

Early this year, several events inspired me to sign up for the waiting list and pack up without guarantee of admission until the day of the retreat. Though people refer to this as a "retreat," it was far from relaxing. It was physically challenging and emotionally overwhelming. From early morning we meditated for 10 hours, lived on 2 meals a day (breakfast and lunch) and remained in silence without eye contact. Only a deer received a faint “hello” from me.

The aim was to observe sensations and maintain equanimity. My mind was very agitated thinking about the past and the future not the present. The pain cluttered my focus from the breadth. Many times, I opened my eyes and broke away from stillness seeking relief. In one hour I moved 17 times! It’s incredible how the world has trained us to multi-task that paying attention to the breath feels like climbing to the top of a summit. Add to the mix the temptation to return home.

One evening I decided to come back home but the teacher spoke to the experience that brought me there, “only you can do the work, nobody is going to do the work for you.” For many years, I was dependent on a therapist, antidepressants and many distractions to find happiness. But I took a leap of faith on Vipassana to stand on my own two feet. Instead of leaving, the next day, I showed up at the meditation hall at 4 in the morning despite the heavy rain. By day 8, the shuffling of cushions stopped. All the discomfort did not come from having the right amount of cushions and support—the pain was created by the mind. The trees outside, the broccoli, the rain, even the worms crawling out of the dirt, shined. I embraced the silence and continued to work patiently and quietly through this journey, accepting the world as it is, not as I want it to be.

The retreat is over now, why am I still sitting down each day and night in silence? Wasn’t the retreat more than enough to sharpen the mind for the rest of my life? The retreat taught me the technique—that alone is not enough to keep the mind sharp! Just like a gardener who nurtures his seeds, the mind will only stay sharp if effort and time is given to it. Last summer on a roadtrip, I posted a photo on Instagram and said, “Sitting still is my way of falling in love with the world.” At the time, I traveled to different national parks seeking peace and happiness. Looking back, peace and happiness are not achieved through the external world or given by other people. Today, I say that sitting still anywhere (even my bedroom) in silence is really my way of being at peace with myself and the world.

Start with Observation First, Not Wishing for Empathy

Anyone can do design thinking and that’s a double edge sword with blessings and dangers. The technique can help many. And the technique can also be reduced to repetitive white-boarding sessions and post-it notes where we (the creators of the product) spend many hours imaging the user’s mind, needs and wants from our perspective. For many years, I ran and shared design thinking sessions for marketing and product teams. Everything seemed perfect but a conversation with an occupational therapist and a meditation experience changed my view on why we cannot skip the fundamental step: observation.

In design, the word “Empathy” has been overused and misused. In theory, Empathy is like the nirvana of designers that helps them truly understand the user. Wishing for empathy doesn’t create it or even just doing some exercises. I found this the hard way. I even recreated scenarios by acting it up with a few people on the team or outside of the organization—that only took us to the surface ofEmpathy. We were not empathizing, we were imaging things and processes according to our desires, not the user. How do we arrive at Empathy then? Nothing has to be reinvented. It’s simple but it will require a lot of effort. Empathy starts with observation.

The and IDEO encourage people to go out in the field and observe the user in the real environment first before coming back to do brainstorming. I recently learned from an occupational therapist the value of seeing clients who we are designing for in the environment they will use the product or service. The occupational therapist meets her clients in their homes instead of a beautiful air-conditioned office. Though visiting her clients at their homes was heartbreaking and at times scary, it brought a new level of understanding where she was able to feel, touch, smell and even see how people moved around in their own house.

Observation is powerful! At a recent meditation retreat where I meditated for over 100+ and only observed my breathing, I discovered observation doesn’t come easy. We are trained by the world to just do do do, not to pause and observe. That’s why it’s easy to skip observation and jump straight to brainstorming. On top of it, two enemies feed our excuses for skipping this: money and time. If money and time are constraints, then we as designers and creatives are not doing a great job of advocating for it to our stakeholders.

Maybe it’s time that designers and creatives take an oath to live by when they practice just like doctors. Observation would be at the top of the ethical pledges. It’s fundamental, not an option to reach Empathy.

Artist date: Interview with an occupational therapist & Vipassana Meditation (10-day course)

What Walt Disney Taught Me About Valuable Training

“The first thing I did when I got a little money to experiment, I put all my artists back in school.”

The skills that made your first success will not get you to the next. Walt Disney lived and breathed this idea and infused this into every one of his employees. Most companies will agree with Walt Disney’s statement above since they pour tons of money into training every year. However, they may be hesitant to take the next step, which is what made Walt Disney an innovator.

“But we were going a little bit beyond what they were getting in art school, where they work with a static figure. Now we were dealing in motion, movement and the flow of movement. Action, reaction, all of that. So we had to set up our own school”

It takes a lot of courage to say that you don’t have all the answers for the challenges right now. But it takes even more courage to say you are willing to learn and push the envelope of the industry. This is radical! It changed my view of valuable training since I managed training of technology products and also live in-training right now for my next marathon.

Often times training is outdated even though the information may be in the greatest and latest powerpoint deck. It is based on assumptions of how the world works today, not how the world can be tomorrow. Walt Disney saw training as experimentation, which most people will think is risky.

“Isn’t training suppose to have the answers to my problem?”

No. But if training is designed with experimentation maybe you’ll find the answer.

 Courtesy of the Walt Disney Archives Photo Library

Courtesy of the Walt Disney Archives Photo Library

Walt Disney brought in animals into the studio while artists sat around that horse, elephant or deer so they would be able to capture the animals’ natural appearance and give them personality. If he would have just settled for what art schools were offering at the time, we would not know Bambi today.

“What?!?! Training can be play?”

Absolutely. There is a difference between listening and doing.

 Courtesy of the Walt Disney Archives Photo Library

Courtesy of the Walt Disney Archives Photo Library

Walt Disney set up a Character Model Department so artists would keep the animations consistent. These 3-dimensional models could be viewed from any angle. It gave the world the perfect Pinocchio. Pushing the envelope is tough because it requires more doing than listening, otherwise, we’ll never be able to test if the idea works or not. How can we expect to innovate if a bunch of information is being dumped into our heads and we’re not creating? If that’s the case then a Borg drone might as well assimilate you!

The Design of Training

If training is designed as an opportunity to create and dream, people will see the value of training and bring back value to the company. But if training is designed as an exchange of information, people will continue to doze off or check the phone for the next break.

#theartistsway #creativity #design

A Darling Creative Retreat

Imagine scribbling a few thoughts on paper, some characters and a short story. Minutes later a stranger you just met 2 days ago is reading your story aloud to a group including the Editor-in-Chief of Darling magazine. That powerful surrender can only happen when there’s a deep commitment to vulnerability. Like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, I stepped into a magical land along with other 11 women at the Darling Creative retreat. Together, we laughed, we cried and we celebrated the beauty of vulnerability from the first dinner when we shared our struggles and dreams to our final collaboration on an abstract painting.

What fueled the space for vulnerability each day? Was it sharing a bedroom with strangers, the floral arrangements throughout the house, the peaceful yet powerful ocean outside the house, the awesome food made with love, the event organizer or the conversations? Yes, but above all, the personal stories of each woman. Their love stories, weird dates, battle with depression and career journeys revealed wisdoms I haven’t come across before. That weekend I saw many paths in life through them, which sparked my curiosity to explore and renewed my gratitude for what I can offer to the world.

I also drew strength from the presence of each woman in this community. At the spa, my eyes were burning when I was sitting down inside the eucalyptus steamed room. We were not allowed to speak to each other there. I turned to the side to see the faint shadows of other women going through the same experience and I found the courage to numb the pain for a few more minutes and to dive into a pool of cold water afterwards.

On the last day, we worked together on a big canvas. We started in one corner, gave each other feedback and rotated to the next space until the entire canvas was completely covered in painting. At first I struggled to work with the chaos, rough textures given to me and to let go of the color teal (they were present in all of my paintings!).

“How can I work with what I have?” I sighed every time I came to a new space on the canvas (sounds familiar).

After a few rotations and encouragement from the instructor to not be afraid to destroy our neighbor’s vision, I embraced the complex space and splashed other colors like a kid to overlay a new vision on top of it. Towards the end, I lost track of time and kept going when everybody had stopped. When it came time to move on to the next space, I happily said goodbye to what I created it, just like I passed down my notebook to a fellow writer.

One evening we huddled around the fireplace and asked the event organizer if this is what she had envision for the retreat. We were all in awed at fate when she said the invitation was sent out to a mailing list of 20,000 people and 200,000 followers on Instagram. I really did go over the rainbow this weekend, on painting too! I came to the Darling Creative retreat seeking to re-inspire my mind as I start a new career. Instead, I gained much more than I expected and more respect for vulnerability.

#Vulnerability #darlingretreat #theartistway

3 Surprising Lessons from a Toastmasters Club About Leadership

Toastmasters is where leaders are made. Really? Wait…isn’t Toastmasters a public speaking organization? Let’s find out via a personal reflection.

A leader creates a vision, builds a team and makes the team unbelievable.

Creating a Vision

Member: Why should I follow you, presidential candidate? Why are we doing this?

My first attempt at creating a vision failed! I focused on me, me, me... And I forgot the “visual” of the term’s focus (if you elect me, y’all will get unicorns at every meeting…maybe). People are not inspire by promises. They want to hear what they will gain (Why are you taking me from point A to point B? What does point B look like? Why do I want to go there?). To the left is the first draft of the election speech. My mentor replied:

“Apollo 13: Houston, “I” Have a Problem. Yes, too many I’s and me’s. It’s a good expression of Rocio’s emotions. But…It should be about YOU, the voting members: what’s in for YOU. Can Rocio clearly state 2~3 things YOU will get in the next 6 months?”

To the right is the revised election speech. Was this the perfect election speech that won the hearts and minds of members? Ask the members.

Building The Team

Inner Voice: How do I recruit? There aren’t enough people running for position x, position y, position z. He/She is too busy.

This is perhaps the toughest part and where members helped me understand the potential of people beyond experience and expertise, sometimes the hard way. The Yoda of Toastmasters, Michael Tao, shared with me this simple criteria for identifying candidates:

Learning — Does the person want to learn?

Ambition — Does the person have a goal/dream?

Love — Does the person genuinely care about the well-being of others?

Integrity — Does the person show commitment?

Making Them Great

Robert Joss: Your job is to walk around with a can of water in one hand and a can of fertilizer in the other hand. Think of your team as seeds and try to build a garden. It’s about building these people.

During my first term as president, I approached several situations as “you’re wrong, I’m right” and scared some away in the process until I served as the Club’s secretary. Someone always commented on the Minutes (summary of the meeting) I sent every week. Sometimes it was feedback. Sometimes it was encouragement that motivated me to continue doing this work with more enthusiasm each week (remember in a volunteer organization nobody gets paid to do anything). This experience ingrained in me the importance of recognizing the work of others at all times.

The next term, I let go of control (maybe not 100%). It wasn’t smooth at times but it felt invigorating to give ownership. I followed an Officer’s decreed to dressed up as a Minion for the club. At Officer meetings, others presented the challenges instead of me. I did less talking and more listening — that’s still a work in progress.

Experiences in Toastmasters are worth more than a thousand books. I lived through many by only investing $96/year, instead of 200k (2 years of business school). Each year, I gained new friends from all over the world and explored many places together. These videos do not do justice to our adventures:

2014 Adventure

2015 Adventure part 1

80th Anniversary part 1

80th Anniversary part 2

Thank you Toastmasters. Thank you Lee Emerson Bassett Toastmasters!

#Toastmasters #Leadership #Communication

The Affair

It was love at first sight. From the moment my friend Magda introduced us four years ago, I knew you were THE ONE. You are the first to show me creativity, passion and commitment — what more can a woman ask for!

You inspired me to focus on simplicity.

You excited me to invest on kitchen tools.

You enriched my life with a great selection of books.

You relaxed me with scented candles.

For many years I went on many dates from one department store to the next — no one really understood my style or cared to listen until you came along. They just wanted my credit card.

From the first time I walked through your doors and even today, I always find myself in a magical space. One of your lovers said it best at the checkout line, “I’m so happy here…this just feels like home!”

I’ve been wondering for years what spell you put me (and all those lovers too) under.

A month ago, you finally let me in!

As a Sales Associate in the Palo Alto store, I lived and breathed the values that make you so special, Anthropologie.

Creating an Unparalleled Visual Presentation

My love for you has taken me to different locations from coast to coast. Though each store has a unique architecture, fixtures and setup, the ambiance of discovery is still intact. I never get bore spending time with you. The design transports me to another world where I can touch, play and imagine many possibilities. You don’t show me a rack of tops and dresses. Instead you help me dream how these tops and dresses come to life in an environment from a winter wonderland to an oasis.

When I had the opportunity to learn about what goes into this, I finally understood that details matter a lot. You spent a lot of time curating pieces and moving them around from one place to another (though it drove me nuts when I had to process and find the clothes on the floor! Btw…I proposed to a manager to invest in developing a tracking system for the clothes). You also spent a lot of time lining up each piece so it has the perfect fold, the perfect hanger space and the proper sizing. It sounds insignificant but each detail adds to that whole. No wonder why you’re so perfect!

Developing Relationships Not Transactions

Every interaction I have with you feels effortless. You listen attentively, look at me in the eye and care to every need. It’s never been about what you can get from this relationship. Anytime I’m with you, you always offer genuine help.

Someone asked a Manager, “How come we don’t get commission here?”

The Manager replied, “We are a team, we are all helping the customer.”

Many interactions without any effort are just mindless dates. But many interactions with care (and love) can be the beginning of a beautiful relationship (Btw, we know the customer name at the end because we all communicate via the walkie talkie.)

Though our time living together under the same roof was short, I’m glad I had the opportunity to see the world from your perspective. Let’s continue this love affair even when your fan base explodes to billions.

It was a humbling experience to work in retail this season and to meet wonderful people who mentored me in the Fitting Room, at the Cash Register and even as a Greeter.

Your Reading Adventure is Not on a List

’Tis the season to start making that list for next year: the reading list. Unfortunately sometimes this doesn’t turn out well. After a few weeks early this year, my reading list became daunting and another chore I avoided.

In 2015, I let my experiences, relationships and friendships guide my spontaneous reading adventures. Some book recommendations came from hanging around too many explorers. Health challenges inspired me to finally pick up cooking books. Hooray, I found the joy in reading again! Instead of viewing reading as another resume bragging activity or sticking with a book I didn’t even enjoy, via this alternative I started to appreciate the experience and saved space on the bookshelf for more treasures.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to brag about the list of 100-something books I’ve read this year. Is that even possible? Our experiences and tastes may be different but this is a flavor of what you may discover if you listen closely to your friends/experiences in 2016 instead of just bonding yourself to a list.

Taking Epic Adventures to the Real World

Perhaps the chance of getting stranded on Mars or fighting a dragon on planet Earth is slim for me but immersing in these out-of-this-world adventures through these books inspired me to start exploring places from Delani to the Rocky Mountains.

The Hobbit

The Martian

To the Top of Delani: Climbing Adventures on North America’s Highest Peak

Connecting Body with Choices

Several times this year I was struck with too many sicknesses. I even thought for a moment I’ve been cursed by a witch! I turned to these books to help me figure out how my body works and how to start making choices that make me feel great inside and out. My mom was blown away by my cooking — she lost hope I would ever learn to cook when I was college.

Our Body Book

Forest Feast


Discovering Elegance Within

In the midst of personal struggles, I’ve been questioning my own beauty and strength. To my delight this year, I found support from writers and communities who are discussing what it means to be a woman today beyond just beauty and looks.

Love x Style x Life

How to be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style and Bad Habits

Darling Magazine


If any of these themes resonate then go ahead and knock yourself out with these recommendations but for the rest of the year remember to discover your own. Life is unpredictable so let’s not plan everything.

The Difficult Person

Have you met the difficult person? The one who makes your life hell, keeps complaining, refuses to collaborate with you…the list goes on. How do you avoid or get rid of him/her?

Unfortunately you can’t. Unless you have a pact with an alien who can help you abduct the person. The difficult person exists everywhere you go becuase he or she is a human being and has the same right to be on planet Earth just like you. A Compassion Cultivation Training recently shed some light about how to confront, actually embrace, the difficult person with kindness instead of hostility.

Starting Point

The first mistake we make is to treat the difficult person as an enemy and thus the situation becomes a confrontation of “me vs. you.” We forget to recognize that “me and you” are part of the same experience and we have some commonality: the difficulty.


We jump into assumptions and judgement right away, igniting more in our hearts and minds the confrontation. This is the perfect opportunity to simply understand by asking a gazillion of questions like a child and in the process get to know or befriend another human being.

Discover the Internal Seeds of Suffering

The difficult person may not be so difficult, the difficult person might even be us. We all suffer at least from one of these: confusion, pride, prejudice, addiction, biased, among others. Even when we have been on Earth for so long, we are not completely perfect. Embracing the difficult person with kindness at least allow us to understand ourselves to continue improving.

How To Create A Reading Date This Summer

Ever found yourself taking too much time reading through a book? Then consider making a reading date. For months, I’ve been reading from the comfort of my cozy bed/couch. However sometimes this has been a choppy experience even before going to bed. I get distracted by the notifications on my phone or sometimes my attention shifts to something I forgot to do in the kitchen. The chapter I planned to read suddenly becomes only a few pages. Recently, I decided to make two simple changes to address distractions and make this a pleasant adventure.

Make a Sanctuary

When you go exercise, you don’t do it from the comfort of your bed. You get dressed and go to the gym. Your bedroom is meant for rest! Like exercising, give reading a special place, especially this summer. At home it’s easy to get distracted by almost anything. You don’t have to go far away. The park around the corner can be a sanctuary for your next reading adventure. You’ll be craving to go to this special place often.

Go Off the Radar

The joy of reading is not about getting through the pages, it’s really about savoring a good story. To do this you need focus. Turn off that phone! I was the victim of credit fraud but the bank was able to still reach me even after first attempts. The world can wait for you. When you focus on reading only for a few minutes(or hours) you give yourself the chance to actually appreciate the characters’ dialogue and let your imagination wonder. Your reading pace might also improved—mine has a lot now.

Off you go!

July Reading Adventures

Go Set a Watchman — I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. Some parts were slow between present and past events. It was still worth to wait for the Atticus/Scout debate at the end. It was punchy and very philosophical!

How to be the Parisian Wherever You Are : Love, Style and Bad Habits — Love it! After seeing this book often at Anthropologie I couldn’t resist it. I finished this book in one sitting! I love that the authors give practical steps that ask women to be as “natural” and “simple” as possible.

Inspiralized — Yum! I’m still amazed by the noodles you can make out of vegetables. They’re more healthy and savory than the regular stuff. Try it out! I’m trying to make a recipe from this book every week!

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People — (still reading) I only got through a couple of chapters that a mentor suggested I read. The most insightful has been seek to understand first and then to be understood. I highly recommend this if you’re trying to improve communication or interpersonal skills for your professional career or personal relationships.


Growing Up in a Magical Community

I don’t go to Toastmasters, I come from Toastmasters.

My friends imagine Toastmasters is where I practice toasting or roasting bread. Bread might be a great addition to our meetings since we meet around dinnertime on Wednesday nights. The truth is we’re a community who practice public speaking. For me that’s only 50% of what it really is. The other half has been the personal adventure I’ve embarked on with this magical community.

Straight out of college I thought I had everything figure out after living in NYC, social dancing for several years and cultivating friendships with people from all over the world. I arrived in Toastmasters hot-headed and thinking, “I’ll just do a couple of speeches because my employer is telling me to do so and then go back to dancing.” I danced religiously nonstop for several years every Wednesday night. But I stumbled on a truth that inspired me to stay around.

In 2013, at Post-Toasties, a get-together after the regular Toastmaster meeting in Palo Alto (yeah we have late-dinner!), we were having one of the usual debates over drinks. A member remarked, “Rocio, aren’t you going to stand up for yourself?” I froze. He had a point. At times I struggled voicing my opinions. I tried to avoid conflict — sometimes settling down with others’ opinions and choices. I had to change this now. I wanted to standup for myself instead of having others telling me to do so.

Someone suggested I join the Officer’s team to grow and to give back to the club. I refused. I already had too much going on in my life. I did not show up to elections to deliver my campaign speech. Eventually I came back and halfway through the term I observed and wondered: Why are members not renewing? Why are the meetings not going well? Why am I not growing…I put the blame on people. But on the way to the parking lot someone stopped me. He challenged to rephrase my questions and even to inspire people by leading. That’s when I first understood the connection between leadership, the club and my personal quest.

I moved away from speeches or talking in front of an audience. I found myself often times performing or reading from the script, instead of speaking from the heart. (I can tell because there was no reaction from people…not even a chuckle).

As an Officer I focused on talking to people and listening, the best way to practice speaking from the heart. It sounds simple like chatting with a friend over drinks. For an introvert like me it was not easy especially when I was the only girl or youngling in the group.

“What you put in the well is what you get from the well” –Gerry Cannon

By working with others in the Officer’s team over the years, I became more aware of my interpersonal dynamics (or as the Stanford GSB calls it –Touchy Feely). I discovered sometimes I was forceful or had too much energy, which may have intimidated and demotivated some members. When it came to recruiting, I found it difficult to persuade people. I struggled to navigate disagreements and debates gracefully when we argued over budget, programs or the schedule. But over time, I built that spark — Confidence — to stand up and say “I don’t agree with this because…or I think there’s another way…” And out in the real world, I started to see the same pattern in my job, my relationships with friends and people. Even my skills in public speaking were refined because I listened before I spoke.

“I knew you were the right person to open our presentation. Way to open the topic and grab the audience’s attention. I love how you added in a throwback to Daniel tying together what we heard earlier. You rocked it, Rocio!” –Senior Manager

Last week, I delivered a solid evaluation with poise and chatted away with the guys at Post-Toasties like a social butterfly. Achieving this level of confidence has taken time and patience. Behind the scenes I had a fair share of panic attacks and also great joys with the friends I have made along the way. I keep coming back to this magical community, even when I hear the toughest feedback, because this is not a lonely adventure. People offered to help. Some really meant it and even hand-held me from my first Officer meeting as president to practicing for the International Speech Contest.

Each meeting, each person, each story I’ve heard and even those random talks at Post-Toasties have empowered me too — helped me blossom into a girl who is not afraid to speak up her mind. This magical community continues to nurture me even today.

Introductions: It’s NOT Just About You; It’s FOR the Audience Too

I used to take introductions of roles or speakers for granted in Toastmasters. I scrambled to type something quickly on my phone a few minutes before the meeting. Or if I was really late, I just wrote something on a piece of paper and passed it to the Toastmaster during the meeting! Or worst, I did not send it at all to the Toastmaster or General Evaluator and let him improvise (you can guess the embarrassing or flowery introduction he gave me). Over the years, a few old timers (aka the dinosaurs/past members) have taught me that introductions have a purpose! Take a look at some exemplary work from your fellow Toastmasters and understand the purpose of introductions.


Mark the transition from speaker being in the group to stepping forth to lead its thinking

Introducing the Election Chairman: Here to run our club elections tonight is our one-time club president, and also legendary ruler of all Britain who was a slayer of mythical dragons, seducer of fair maidens, and defender of all things awesome. Please raise your swords for our Immediate Past-President Sean Arthur!

Introducing the Timer (this can be creative, even a year later I still remember this memorable introduction by Jeff Battle): I received my masters and PdD in Timing from the Andreas Timing University. I did my dissertation on Timing under the supervision of Sean Arthur so I am more than qualified to help you develop your internal clock and keep the meeting running on time…here is the timing for

Help the audience understand what the speaker is undertaking so the audience may be perceptive and appreciative

Introducing Speaker doing CC#1 IceBreaker: Our next speaker comes from a place called Scandinavia. He says that coming here to toastmasters is a dream place. In his continent, education is free, healthcare is free and talk is cheap. My friends, he is two sides of the same coin. By day he is physicist, and by night, he is also a physicist. In school they said he was the gingerbread, the gingerhead, but let’s not be the judge of that, help me welcome Andreas.

Identify reasons for and/or the experience/expertise in the chosen topic

Introducing Speaker doing CC#7 Research your topic: Our last speaker has spent over 5 years practicing the Japanese martial art of Aikido. He has trained extensively with the four-foot staff known as the jo. Today in Speech #7: Research your topic, he’ll share how to defend oneself using improvised weapons. Let’s welcome Trevor Davis!

Facilitate a smooth transition in thoughts of the audience towards the topic of the speaker

Introducing an Evaluator (or serenading the Evaluator!): Our next evaluator is a very active member who aspires a bit like Disney movie herself. In fact a Sargent-At-Arms is active, she takes on a lot of roles, she aspires to Disney movies and fulfills her speaking goals. She’s funny and animated; it’s just how she’s always been. For our second evaluator, help me welcome Mimi Nguyen. Here’s the song.

Start today!

To guide your audience on your next project, make some time to write succinct introductions (no more than 30 seconds!) and practice your creative writing. That’ll also help you start thinking about your next speech!

Are you succinct?

“Can I have 10 more minutes?”

“7 minutes is not enough for my speech, I need xx amount because the manual says so”

“I promise this won’t take too long”

Regardless who you are communicating to, you will always face a constraint: time.

Some see it as a curse. Others grasp this as an opportunity to be creative.

A few years back, I complained too much about time constraints on discussions, meetings and even speeches. My perspective was the following:

“They need to listen to me because my idea is too cool. This is important for the project. I don’t care about their time. They should make time for me because I paid to be a member.”

In other words “me me me me me me me me me me.” Until one day, someone at Toastmasters told me to “Be Succinct.” For several months, I didn’t really understood what that meant. The dictionary defines it as speaking “briefly” and “clearly.” I found a better definition from a Stanford professor, Lee Emerson Bassett, that given more context to the word.

“The ability to say the right thing in the right way at the right time”

the right thing

This does not mean that you have to be 100% accurate on your idea but the idea does have to be genuine and relevant to your audience. Before addressing your audience, you need to think before you make a comment. Does your message really matter to the group of people you are talking to? Be respectful of people’s time; they are bombarded with a lot of information from all directions everyday.

the right way

Words are valuable. Use them wisely. Pay attention to how you use your words. I often neglected this because I assumed that more talking is good and makes me look smart. But that person who told me to be succinct also said less is more. This is where as a communicator I begin to put more thought into the way I used my words. There’s benefit to you too. You’ll be saving energy on explanations.

the right time

Sometimes, nothing needs to be said. People may not be ready to hear your message or ideas. Does that mean you move on? No, you wait until they are ready to listen to you. Communication is not about talking and dismissing people. Communication happens when someone speaks and the other person listens.

This past year, I learned that being succinct is really about developing awareness so you make choices on the right thing, the right way and the right time. It’s an effort worthwhile because you’ll save the world from gobble-gobble-gobble. People will love and than you thank you for speaking with clarity and being genuine.