Cults are Fun, Easy and Popular

I'm fascinated by the phenomenon of cults, and our inherent vulnerability to the influence of charismatic leaders. The topic also touches on another personal interest, the human desire and ability we have to embrace supernatural and unsubstantiated beliefs.

My personal definition of the term cult is:

A derogatory term for any religious or philosophically-based minority group whose core beliefs and values you don't personally agree with.

Yes, I know it's a little different from the wiktionary definition, but I want to emphasise that cultness is in the eye of the beholder. It's a derogatory term, rarely used by the members of the cult in question, although they may use it freely referring to other cults; just not their own. When you're in a cult, you don't see that it's a cult. So when someone else uses the word cult, what they really mean is that they don't like the … Continue reading…

By Graham, ago
Public Speaking

How to Write and Present a Winning Speech

I won the Best Speech award (again) at my Toastmasters club last meeting, for a humorous speech entitled Share The Love. I love delivering funny speeches, because I get to make people laugh, I'm able to live in the moment, and I get distracted from self-consciousness by the story-telling. In short, I get to feel free. Plus I can tell immediately that the audience is engaged when they laugh. Even if they're not laughing, they seem to be paying attention, and either way I'm in the zone having fun.

Now I know it was just a regular club meeting; it's not like I won a humorous speech contest or anything yet, that's coming up in a few week's time. But here's my process for writing and delivering a humorous speech:

Pick A Painful Story

The essence of public speaking is to tell a story, and make a point. Story-telling … Continue reading…

By Graham, ago

The Dance of Fear by Harriet Lerner

The main thing I got from this book is that fear and anxiety aren't just individual problems; they totally affect the way we relate with each other. Anxiety is contagious and gets passed around between us whenever we interact with anxious people. Families, companies, organisations, churches, countries and social groups of all kinds can become infected with anxiety that affects everyone in the group. When a social system becomes fear-based or shame-based, everyone in it suffers.

Since anxiety causes suffering, we naturally want to escape. One way of escaping is to dump our anxiety on someone else. Being a sensitive person, I've always been susceptible to having other people's anxiety dumped on me, but it's only now that I'm learning to recognise when this is happening.

This book helped me identify such a situation recently when I volunteered to lead a public speaking training course run by my Toastmaster's … Continue reading…

By Graham, ago

Communication, Public Speaking, and Leadership Skills Development at Toastmasters

I've concluded that our ability to communicate authentically with other people is the most important life skill that we can possess. We often spend a great deal of our education learning how to analyse, think, solve problems, and understand how things work; but tend to downplay the importance of subjects that teach us how to communicate. The ability to communicate, inspire and influence other people is also a key leadership skill. Whether in business, relationships, or just in our personal lives, our ability to communicate our thoughts, feelings and ideas to other people is absolutely crucial to our success... and ultimately our happiness.

Globe with Gavels and Toastmaster InternationalFor the past couple of years, I've been improving my communication and leadership skills as a member of Chatswood Communicators Toastmasters club.  I have to admit that I wasn't really thinking of becoming a world-class communicator when I first came across Toastmasters. In fact, I … Continue reading…

By Graham, ago