Innovise Guys Podcast – Part 2

March 28, 2006

Installment #2 of my podcast with the Innovise Guys is now online. You can find it on their website, or on iTunes.

Here’s what they wrote about this session: “In part two of the interview with Stephen M. Shapiro, author of Goal Free Living, Doug and Gregg riff on Shaprio’s 8 secrets. The energy is high and the content is dense and fascinating. All lightened by humorous Shapiro anecdotes and improvised sidetrips to connect the 8 secrets to creativity and innovation. This might be the funniest — and most relevant –interview the Innovise Guys have done to date.” Now, how can you not want to listen to that?!?

If you missed part 1, you can find it here.

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Quotes of the Day – Will Rogers

March 28, 2006

“It isn’t what we don’t know that gives us trouble. It’s what we know that ain’t so.”

“Everybody is ignorant. Only on different subjects.”

- Will Rogers

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How Do You Measure Success?

March 27, 2006

In life, we often use numbers to measure success. Our salary. The number of dollars in our savings account. In some cases, success is measured by a 5 digit number — your zip code (remember Beverley Hills 90210?). In the business world, revenues and profits rule. More numbers.

I just returned home after being on the road, pretty much non-stop since January 7th. Let me provide you with some numbers from my travels. During the past 80 days, I drove 5,000 miles, flew 10,000 miles, traveled through 15 states, was interviewed on 10 radio shows, appeared on 6 television shows, gave 20 presentations, and sold hundreds of books.

After each speech, I would offer books for sale. What I found interesting was to “measure” the percentage of people in the audience who bought books. For some presenters, this might be THE measure of success of their speech. On overage, I would sell to 30% of the audience. So if 50 people attended, I might sell 15 books. From my perspective, this seemed a bit low, but I had no benchmark. That is, until I read an article recently about “back of room book sales.” The statistics quoted were 12% of an audience buy books, unless it is an after dinner speech, in which case it drops to 6%. Interesting.

But is this really a measure of success?

I had an interesting experience earlier this week. On Monday I gave two back-to-back presentations for a large corporation located in the Chicago suburbs. Each small audience was at the room’s capacity of 35 people. My sister, who lives in the Chicago area, was in the back of the room for both sessions. From her perspective, my second speech blew them away. The audience was engaged, interactive, and laughing. She felt my delivery was perfect. I felt the same way. The first session seemed lethargic. The audience didn’t seem as engaged. They rarely laughed, and the energy level, for whatever reason, appeared to be low.

From these “qualitative” measures, the second session was a success. But was it? Although I sold my 30% at the first session, I did not sell a single copy at the second session! So which was more successful? The funny thing with measures is that there are many factors that affect them. Most attendees did not come with cash in hand; many who bought books needed to run to a nearby ATM machine to get money. The first session was over lunch, so maybe people were equally engaged – just preoccupied with eating. Or maybe people after the second session wanted to buy books but they needed to leave quickly to get back to work.

So, which was more successful? The bottom line: rather than measuring my success by specific measures such as books sold or laughs per minute (yes, comedians use that measure), I choose to look at each speech, every conversation, every interaction as an opportunity to learn. After each session I looked at what worked and what didn’t work. To me, it is about getting the message out and improving my ability to communicate that message. Numbers are too hard to control, and they create too much stress. My client, who was in the back of the room for both sessions, felt they were equally successful. I choose that to be my measure of success. How do you measure success?

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Entrepreneur Magazine Feature

March 18, 2006

Check out the April issue of Entrepreneur Magazine, now in stores. On page 22 you will find a full page interview with me. You will also find an embarrassingly large photo of yours truly. NOTE: It is on page 22 of the main magazine, not the special insert

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Podcast on “The Innovise Guys”

March 17, 2006

Earlier this week, while in Chicago, I was interviewed by The Innovise Guys, Gregg Fraley and Doug Stevenson. The first half of the interview is available on their website, or on iTunes. The second half will be posted shortly. Admittedly, the first half was a bit more about entertainment than content. But there are some nuggets. The second podcast is a bit more substantial, although still quite entertaining. This is not your typical interview!

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Goal-Free Education?

March 16, 2006

I recently appeared on a TV show in Los Angeles, “Between with Lines” with Barry Kubrick. I received quite a few emails in response. One that particularly caught my attention was one from a former teacher, Doug. He writes:

“Your book, Goal Free Living precisely addresses the problem with all of the in vogue accountability and testing in education today. I have been a teacher for 38 years and was able to accomplish so much more before the testing, standards and accountability fad that we are now so plagued with in education. In the 1980′s I had over 18 students accepted to Cal Tech. In the 90′s when I was forced to worry about high test scores on the AP exams, no longer could I let students find the subject themselves but instead had to focus on specific goals to enable them to achieve high test scores. In my last year of teaching I taught in a teacher’s dream of a prep school. I chose not to stay more than one year because the poor students were so pressured in the direction of AP exams that we could get nothing done.”

This is a pressing issue, and one that needs to be addressed. The process of setting these performance goals in our educational system is robbing children of true learning.

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Chicago Tribune Article

March 13, 2006

Goal-Free Living was featured on the front page of yesterday’s Chicago Tribune career section. Click here to read the article.

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Success…Without the Stress

March 9, 2006

In Goal-Free Living I discuss a powerful technique for increasing your creativity: standing in someone else’s shoes. The idea being, that when you “make believe” you are someone else, you begin to see the world through their eyes. You become that other person. At a recent speech, one young woman in attendance – someone who recently graduated from high school — shared a personal story that illustrates the incredible power of this approach.

She told the story of a time when she needed to take an important math test. Math was never one of her strong subjects, so she was concerned. Overly concerned. In the time leading up to the test, she became increasingly stressed with the goal of doing well. This is not surprising. We put incredible pressure on students to perform well on these tests. The stress was overwhelming. Halfway through the exam, she walked out. She could not handle the pressure.

One week before I met her, she was given the opportunity to take the test again. This time, instead of being overly worried, she decided to turn the exam into a game — a very goal-free approach. She walked into the examination room making believe she was Condoleezza Rice, the United States Secretary of State — a very successful and highly educated woman. Standing in her shoes, she had incredible confidence. Dr. Rice wouldn’t worry, right? So she didn’t worry. The result of playing this game? She received a 90% — something beyond her wildest expectations.

When we get overly focused on the goal, we create stress. By turning everything we do into a game – something kids do naturally – we create success without the effort.

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