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This is Speech #10.  My tenth speech for Toastmasters.  Although there are some obvious things that still need to be done with regards to my speaking style, the improvements I’ve made and the things that I have changed have made it worth my time.

This speech was delivered nearly 6 months ago.  At this time, the achieved Competent Communicator award is on my desk.

This speech refers to the goal driven lifestyle that I have been pursuing over the past two years.  It is meant as an inspiration to others to let them know that their goals are within reach.

Toastmaster Speech #10 Download if the stream doesn’t work.

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As a loyal eBay user for quite some time, I’m ready to see someone else take the helm.  The fees have gotten too high.

The fees on eBay for the last couple items I have sold is over 11% of the final value price.  Here is some information on the fees from my last sales on eBay.

Ebay:
Final price: $68.00 (Auction) Final Value Fee $6.12
PayPal:
Gross: $78.00 Fee: $2.56
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Total in fees: $8.68 % of sale price = 11.1%

Ebay:
Final price: $292.28 (Auction) Final Value Fee $26.31
PayPal:
Gross: $304.78 Fee: $9.14
————————————————–
Total in fees: $35.45 % of sale price = 11.6%

Most things on eBay appear to be of the “buy it now” variety.  They are not auctions, just listings to buy something at a fixed price.  They need someone to take them out of the personal auction business all together.

This was actually the 9th speech that I gave at a Toastmasters club.  It isn’t the best, but I’m posting it anyway.  You may have the same issues with speaking that I do.  There is a lot of concern to get every single word right.  That’s just not possible.  The less time that I spend thinking about every word, the more time I can spend relating to the audience.  The tone was a little off in my voice.  It came across as more teacher/student then I would have liked.  If you want to know more about why laptops cost what they cost, the New York Times did a great article on the topic.

Toastmaster Speech #7 Download if the stream doesn’t work.

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Colin Powell is an amazing  success story.  He happens to be a very good story teller as well. In this post I am reviewing his book, It Worked for Me.

It is surprising to me how many people give the book bad reviews simply because they are judging him based on his speech at the UN.  To avoid political quagmires, this review is going to take him at his word.

It Worked for Me is broken into six parts.  They cover various and broad topics. The subtitle, In Life and Leadership, is a good summary of what to expect.  The book feels like an autobiography at times and a leadership manual at other times.

The book begins with the 13 principles of life (aka 13 Rules of Leadership).  They are insightful and one of the better lists to lead by that I have seen.   I’m not going to repost them all, but comment on the two that I was touched by:

Rule 2: Get Mad Then Get Over It!

It’s ok to get mad 🙂 .  This was interesting to read because it goes contrary to what I had heard before.  Showing emotions such as anger has been used against politicians as a sign of being out of control.  My reaction to this is that it is ok to feel the way that I feel even if it is one of those “rash” emotions.  Please comment if you have thought about how this applies to your own life.

Rule 13: Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier!

One of the reasons that leadership is so fun for me is that I am naturally optimistic.  Both positivity and negativity are contagious.  People (including myself) work better in a positive environment.  The leader needs to be the one to set the tone in this regard.

The book then goes into some leadership lessons that Colin has learned during his life along with the stories that go along with the lesson.

There are lots of leadership nuggets that are sprinkled into this section of the book.  “One team one fight” is one that will stay with me for a long time.  It has always been true that a house divided against itself cannot stand.  One team one fight is a way to simplify this message and drive it home.

Colin impresses me with the way he continually mentions how everyone performs a crucial job.  This shows a deep appreciation of those around him.  He commends those who do vital jobs such as taking out trash and sweeping floors.  In this regard, he sets a great example that we all should follow.

The later parts of the book are personal stories.  He writes about the lead up to the speech to the UN about weapons of mass destruction.  He writes about gifts he has given and received from foreign politicians and diplomats.  These stories really have the “just a normal guy” feeling to them.  He seems genuinely genuine and quite funny at times as well.  His story telling abilities are excellent.

It Worked for Me is an inspirational and uplifting book.  It is apparent that it was written by an optimist who believes in the greatness of the people of America.

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Go Karts are one of the greatest Summer activities in existence.  Over the course of my lifetime, I have developed some simple tips for getting the most speed out of your Go Karting experience.  If you are as ridiculously competitive as I am, they may be therapeutic.

Tip #1: Find the Fast Kart

Not all go karts are created equally.  It is almost always the case that there exists a kart that is faster then the rest.  If you are waiting in line, observe the karts on the track.  Try to figure out who is fast because they are a good driver and who is fast because the kart is a winner.

Tip #2: Hug the Inside of the Track

The vast majority of all passing will occur on the inside.  It is often forgotten (especially be people without driver’s licenses) that the shortest distance through the track will always be the inside line.  Even when there are four possible lanes of width out there, hug the inside.

It also is worth mentioning that if someone has a faster kart then you, they will have a tough time of passing if you are on the inside.   Passing on the outside is really a hassle and can lead to losing a position.

Tip #3: Everything Else is Momentum

The acceleration of a kart isn’t the greatest.  It is crucial to be traveling as fast as possible whenever possible.  Although sliding the back tires around a corner may look cool, it causes a loss in momentum.  Try to keep all four tires from losing their grip.  Do this even if it is a slight violation of Tip #2.

Never hit anything that is slower than you.  It will naturally try to bring you down to its speed.  This includes everything.  Do not hit other karts, guard rails, or the person who is running on the track who is asking for it.

Tip #4: Enjoy the Ride

This one is the most important of all.  If you are not having fun, it doesn’t matter how fast you are, because you won’t notice anyway.

Which laptop is best for you?  This speech is intended to answer that question with regards to physical aspects of a laptop.

This is my eighth Toastmaster speech.  Two more before I earn the Competent Communicator award.

If this ends up being a help to others, I’ll do some more speeches on similar topics. Speech reviews welcome.

Toastmaster Speech #8 Download if the stream doesn’t work.

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It’s about time for some enjoyable reading. This time, I decided to to opt for something in the science fiction realm. It was a snap decision to buy Pathfinder.  I have read Ender’s Game and thought it to be awesome.  So why not another book by the same author?

Pathfinder initially struck me in two ways.  First, the cover is one of the best covers I’ve ever seen.  The blue color is great, it is shiny :), and it has a dagger on it.  The second thing that struck me is that it is 600+ pages long.  I really wasn’t expecting that much, but in the days of Harry Potter, perhaps that is what people are expecting.

I mention Harry Potter because this is also a book intended for teens.  I appreciate a few things about Orson’s writing in this book.  It is as clear as possible.  He goes through great lengths to explain what is going on in the “science” parts.  At the end of the book, he actually reviews what is the most perplexing of these in length. His writing is clear and straight forward.  It is clean enough where I would have no problems reading it to a pre-teen (although I don’t expect they would understand everything that was going on).

Pathfinder is an adventure.  It takes the reader to places that have never been thought of before.  It also ties this place in with concepts we already know.  Things everyone has knowledge of such as sailing, taverns, and friendships are in the book so we feel like we can relate to this new world.  He describes this world brilliantly.  From the waterfalls to the Tower of O (you have to read it to know what the Tower of O is :)), you feel like you are there.

The reader is left with more questions then answers.  It felt like watching the TV show Lost.  For every question that was answered, two more popped up.  Some things were explained incredibly well and other things were ignored all together.  The dagger that is on the cover of the book is a good example of this.  It is on the cover of the book and yet hardly gets mention in the book.  In this way it feels like an incomplete adventure.  My guess is that is because there is a sequel coming out later this year.

The characters are memorable and distinct.  Each one of them plays a role that only they can play.  It makes for interesting displays of teamwork when their “powers” are used together.  One of the abilities that Rigg (the main character) has been taught is the ability to observe his surroundings.  Some of the best parts of the book are when he uses this analytical skill to play mind games with other people.  He will notice things that others may not and that gives him the upper hand in getting his desired result.

There are intertwined stories going on in Pathfinder.  Since some of the characters were more likable than others,  I kept thinking how much I wanted to know what was going on with the characters I did like.  Orson does a good job of mentioning those other characters even though we are following someone else.  This way, we don’t just forget what was going on and remember that we are getting two or three (or four?) stories in one book.

The pacing of the book is slow at the beginning and then faster towards the end.  It is more of an adventure book then an action book.  That written, some of the last chapters were full of action and made me forget just how much I should be sleeping and not up reading.

I had a good time reading Pathfinder and will most likely read it again to my son when he is old enough to understand it.  As fun and adventurous as this book is, leaving things open-ended doesn’t much appeal to me, if I’m left with more questions after the second book in the series; I’ll probably stop reading there.

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People are predictably irrational.   We make decisions based on many factors.  Sometimes that leads us to the right place for the right reasons; other times we are lead to the wrong place for the wrong reasons; other times we are lead to the the right place for the wrong reason.

Lately, I’ve been examining the choices that I make.  Why did I buy that PS3?  I can’t play games.  I need that time to write in my blog, or perhaps mow my lawn, or perhaps read chapter two of Predictably Irrational.

Chapter one in this book is awesome.  You should buy the book just for that chapter.   Dan does a great job of explaining how, when we compare things, we can end up getting something that we didn’t really want.  It is better to understand what we actually need instead of being lead by comparisons.

There are few books where the message is so clear and applicable.  Here is the meaning of that chapter in my own words:

Life is a competition; it is you against you.

We all thought we were the fastest until we lost a race, but does that mean we shouldn’t run?  Should we dwell on the fact that we are not the fastest people on the planet?  Of course, this is not the case.  We should do what ever we can with what we have.

I will never be the best software developer on the planet.  Does that mean that I will never write code that helps millions of people?  Of course not!

The only reason to dwell on the accomplishments of others is to gain inspiration.  Never sell yourself short.  Never quit just because there are people who could probably do it better.  Just keep living life to the fullest.

It seems odd that I got all of that from one chapter in a book.  I’m excited to finally write this so I can get to the other chapters.

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Canned Chicken

Lunch time has always been a great time for experimentation. Lately, my goals are leading me down the path of a very high protein diet. After browsing for the best way to get protein during, I decided on eating canned chicken breast for a while. Here are some pros and cons in case you ever want to do the same.

The Good:

  • It has an amazingly high amount of protein. The type I went with has 60g of protein per can. That helps immensely to reach my goal of 160 grams per day.
  • Along the same lines, the portion of the calories that are protein make up a very high percentage of the total calories.  There is very little fat.
  • Surprisingly, the texture is good.
  • It can be bought in bulk for a reasonable price per can.
  • They keep good for quite some time.  It works to “stock up” on them and then not have to worry about buying more lunches for a while.
  • I am having a blast trying a bunch of different things to find the best combination.

The Ok:

  • The taste can only be described as ok.

The Bad:

  • It is only 300 calories. A 300 calorie lunch is just not enough.
  • The smell.  How on earth did they make chicken smell like tuna fish?  I would highly recommend chasing it with some sort of breath freshening.
  • Most of the weight of the can is water.  Make sure you understand that when measuring how much protein is contained in the can.  Multiply the grams of protein by the amount of servings to get the correct amount.
  • It gets stuck on my teeth.

The Ugly:

  • Reddish colors have been found in the cans of chicken that I have eaten so far.   It’s not a lot, but it doesn’t add to the appeal.

Conclusion:

Canned chicken isn’t the amazing super-food I was hoping for.  Feel free to leave me a comment about some other food that I should check out.

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There are very few television shows that I watch.  When “The Apprentice” is on I try to catch it.  Why?  Because Donald Trump is like the Dr. Phil of business.  It’s amazing to me how he gets people to say things that they may or may not want to say. People typically focus on a symptom and not the actual problem.  He is a master at cutting through to the problem.

This book is about 25 years old.   Even though it is an oldie, I still wanted to read this book in order to learn about his background, and also see if that gives some insights on what makes him so perceivably successful.

The book begins with a week in the life of Donald Trump.  It was an impressive week.  There were deals that he was working on that have far exceeded my lifetime earnings.  How exciting (and depressing (if you believe in comparisons))!  There was one important thing that I picked up from this.  Few things where actually driven by him.  He had a lot of people who where presenting him with ideas or providing recommendations to him.  He has an exciting life, but without these other people, what would he be?  During this part of the book, I was thinking about the importance of keeping trustworthy and influential friends.

Donald comes from a family of privilege.  His father was an influential real-estate developer.  He came from influence, but his father didn’t baby his son.  There was a trust fund, that was, admittedly, huge, but for someone who could’ve given his son enough money so he would never have to work, it’s a step in the right direction.  He had to open the doors for himself to some extent.  Given the amount of success Donald and his siblings had, this approach must’ve done something right.  They provided the door, but it was up to their children to open it.

A good portion of the book is dedicated towards projects he had completed or was working on.  Quick observations:

  • If Donald likes you, he really talks well about you.  If Donald doesn’t like you, he really talks poorly about you.  Partially reminds me of a Carnegie quote, “Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise”.
  • Deals of a large magnitude have many moving parts.  Your project is only as strong as the weakest part.
  • Luck happens sometimes, but it happens more often when you look around.
  • There are a ton of regulations around real-estate.  Those regulations give ultimate power for the project to government officials.
  • He has an obsession for the best.
  • Whenever the risk can be passed onto others, he does it.
  • Trump is a symbol.  The business equivalent of Batman.
  • Speaking of symbols, advertising something as the “world’s biggest” will sell.
  • It is great to read a book about someone who has had the experiences as Donald Trump.  The contrast between the beginning of the book and the end of the book is my favorite part.  In the beginning there is excitement and grand visions.  The last chapter talks about the results from those grand visions.  It was interesting to see how reality sets in, even for someone as famous as Donald Trump.  Not everything he touches turns to gold.  He is under the same rules as the rest of us.He dreams big.

The project that resonates the most after reading the book is the Wollman rink.  Trump totally embarrasses Ed Koch, the mayor of New York at the time.  He really rips on the incompetence of the people who worked on the original rink plans.  I really think this hurt him in the long run.  The mayor has a lot of influence.  Make him mad; and your projects suddenly fail.  Perhaps the moral lesson is “Don’t burn bridges” or “Don’t publicly say anything negative about anyone”.  The obvious lesson is that the right leadership can make a huge difference.

It has an incomplete feel to it as a lot of the things he was working on are still in progress. It is good be able to to see the outcomes of these projects. The flip side of the successful Wollman project was the failure to build the world’s tallest building.  Perhaps, if he had not ruffled so many feathers, that vision would’ve been better received and, possibly, realized.  Perhaps not.

Few of his failures were mentioned in the book.  The only failures that were mentioned lead to something positive.  Although I like this type of lifestyle, when more projects fail then succeed, and this book is 95% success stores; it comes across as unbelievable.  He comes across as more than human (a symbol :)?).

I didn’t get many insights into what makes him so good at cutting to the core of a problem.  Perhaps he has learned it though just the sheer number of times he has worked with different people or the number of experiences he has had.

It is great to read a book about someone who has had the experiences as Donald Trump.  The contrast between the beginning of the book and the end of the book is my favorite part.  In the beginning there is excitement and grand visions.  The last chapter talks about the results from those grand visions.  It was interesting to see how reality sets in, even for someone as famous as Donald Trump.  Not everything he touches turns to gold.  He is under the same rules as the rest of us.

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