Monday, July 6, 2015

How public speaking isn’t like riding a bike

Today’s Savage Chickens cartoon is titled The Fear of Public Speaking. Doug Savage also recently has discussed why meditation might not help, and what being an introvert is like. 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Donald Trump’s Presidential Campaign

On June 16th Donald J. Trump gave a speech announcing that he was running to become the 2016 Republican candidate for President. TIME has a full transcript of  it. You can watch the whole speech here on Cspan. I tried to, but it was so poorly done that I gave up in disgust. It looks like the ‘before’ reel that a speech coach would use as an example of how he helped a client to improve. 

Comedian Jon Stewart deftly summed up the speech: 

"what followed was over half an hour of the most beautifully ridiculous jibber-jabber ever to pour forth from the mouth of a batsh-- billionaire."

For example, at the 7-minute mark Donald claimed:   

“Last quarter, it was just announced, our gross domestic product - a sign of strength, right? But not for us. It was below zero. Who ever heard of this? It’s never below zero.”
What was below zero really was the rate of growth for GDP rather than GDP, as was discussed by Politifact

He’s an arrogant jerk, who seems to believe that there is no such thing as bad publicity. But Trump also made disparaging comments about Mexicans,which led to other businesses refusing to work with him. On July 2nd Forbes even began a Forbes Tracker: Who’s Dumped Trump Today? 

Near the end of his speech Trump noted:

“Somebody said to me the other day, a reporter, a very nice reporter, ‘But, Mr. Trump, you’re not a nice person.’ 

That’s true. But actually I am. I think I am a nice person. People that know me, like me. Does my family like me? I think so, right. Look at my family. I’m proud of my family.”

Saying Trump isn’t nice is putting things way too mildly. Even this year he has continued with ‘birther’ claims that President Obama’s birth certificate is questionable. Based on that idiocy, comedian Bill Maher has parodied Trump’s position by joking that there are now also ‘apers‘ who question whether Trump’s father was an orangutan (since that’s clearly the only other place in nature where his fluorescent orange hair color appears). Trump even sued Maher. Donald still hasn’t produced his long form birth certificate, although in late June The Guardian has begun asking for it too.   

Back in 2013 Trump’s birther statements led Jon Stewart to proclaim that Donald’s birth name was F*ckface von Clownstick. When Trump recently announced his 2016 campaign, all Steward needed to say was:

“Let’s dance, Clownstick.” 

I suspect it will take less than a year before Trump realizes he can’t win and drops his campaign. 

The image was adapted from a Mexican hunchback figure

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

July 2nd is Freedom From Fear Of Public Speaking Day

But, it also is World UFO Day, which has its own page on Wikipedia. Down in Memphis they’re even going to celebrate with a World UFO Day Festival. Meanwhile for the past month at Google, Bing, and Yahoo there was no mention of Freedom From Fear Of Public Speaking Day, which was downgraded from being a week.

How can you celebrate both days? Do one part of that famous speech from the 1976 movie Network:

“So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell: ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!’ “

The image is based on this World War I recruiting poster.


While last year she downgraded it to just a day, this year  Beverly Beuermann-King went back to having a Freedom from Fear of Public Speaking Week on July 1 through 7. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

How to face your fear monster

On June 18th at there was an excellent brief article by psychotherapist Amy Morin titled How to Face Your Fears One Step at a Time and Conquer Your Anxiety Forever. She discussed using exposure therapy. Her article also appeared at

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Is cleaning a boring topic? Not at Don Aslett’s Museum of Clean!

If you ever are anywhere near Pocatello, Idaho, make sure to stop in Old Town and pay the $6 admission to see the Museum of Clean. Back in 1989 its founder Don Aslett wrote a public speaking book called Is There a Speech Inside You? He also has co-authored a whole shelf of books about cleaning, including, of course, The Cleaning Encyclopedia. Watch the brief AP and CBS videos about his museum and his mission spreading the gospel of clean. Then watch Don play Happy Birthday with a toilet plunger. 

I visited it on June 24, 2015 and Don gave me and three other visitors a tour. When you walk in the door you’ll see a pair of knights made from galvanized steel buckets, tubs, and furnace ducts. He has a wide variety of items - thousands of them. There are curiosities like a trash compactor from the Space Shuttle Discovery, a quilt made from vacuum cleaner bags, and a bunch of plungers for hand washing clothes in buckets called Mountain Maytags.

Down in the basement there are exhibits that include Sweeping, Dusting, and Mopping. There’s a totem pole made of mop buckets, and a Bad Mop Bouquet.

On the ground floor the museum has an amazing collection of vacuum cleaners, including the World’s First (powered) Vacuum, a 1902 horse-drawn monstrosity as large as a modern carpet cleaning van. There are whimsical sculptures, and vacuums marked Try Me. There are exhibits on Hand Laundering, a bunch of washing machines, and Ironing. At the upper right of the ironing display there even is a pair of pants stretchers for putting in a crease by just air drying. I dimly recall those from before I was ten years old, when permanent press fabrics were not common.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Five most common fears for younger Americans ages 16 to 34 are other drivers, public speaking, death, snakes, and spiders

On June 23rd the Ford Motor Company issued a press release mis-titled Younger Americans Fear Other Drivers More Than Death, Public Speaking, and Spiders, New Study Finds. It was about an online survey done between April 29th and May 4th by Penn Schoen Berland on a sample of 1000 people in the U.S. from Generation Y (ages 23 to 34) and Generation Z (ages 16 to 22).  

Results are shown above in a bar chart. (Click on it for a larger, clearer view). The five most common fears were other motorists driving dangerously (88%), public speaking (75%), death (74%), snakes (69%) and spiders (69%). For this sample size the margin of error is plus or minus 3.1%, so the difference between 75% and 74% is not significant.

The survey also covered driving situations. Those results are shown in a second bar chart .The five most common ones were snowy or icy roads (79%), maneuvering into a tight parking spot (75%), backing out onto a busy street (74%), monitoring blind spots (70%), and not knowing where I’m going (69%).

Ford’s press release displayed fuzzy thinking. Their title suggested the survey was about what people feared more, while the data actually described what more people feared.

Two opening paragraphs said:

“Public speaking just lost the top spot as the most feared task for younger Americans. Distracted, dangerous drivers are now the first concern for Millennial and Generation Z consumers, new research finds.

For decades, public speaking was America’s most anxiety-inducing activity. Now, dangerous drivers are more frightening than speaking in public, death, spiders and snakes – according to independent research company Penn Schoen Berland.”

Public speaking didn’t just lose the top spot. Back on March 19, 2001 Gallup released the results of a poll in an article titled Snakes Top List of Americans’ Fears. That article  had results from an earlier 1998 poll that also had snakes first. I discussed that article and results from other polls in an October 2012 blog post for Halloween titled Either way you look at it, public speaking really is not our greatest fear.

How do the Ford results compare with other recent surveys of young people? Back in 2014 I blogged about how a YouGov survey of U.S. adults found they most commonly were very afraid of snakes, heights, public speaking, spiders, and being closed in a small space. That survey also listed results for A Little Afraid, which can be added to those for Very Afraid to produce totals that ranked in the same order as those for Very Afraid. The YouGov survey listed results for different age groups, including one from 18 to 29. Those results are shown above in a bar chart. The top five fears were spiders (65%), snakes (61%), public speaking (58%), heights (50%), and being closed in a small space (47%).

Lots of journalists thoughtlessly parroted the title from the Ford press release. MotorWeek said Young Drivers Fear Other Drivers More Than Death, and said Young drivers fear other road users more than death and spiders. They and others who communicate about the auto industry are hereby awarded honorary membership in Journalists Asleep at the Wheel (JAW).

Back in February 2014 I blogged about Busting a myth- that 75% of people in the world fear public speaking. The 75% for public speaking in this new Ford survey likely will get spread around as if it applied to the whole world, but it instead apples to just about half of the U.S., as shown above.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Getting one of your favorite TV episodes wrong

This week I was reading Paul R. Brown’s 2015 book, Entrepreneurship for the Rest of Us and on page 123 I saw the following story highlighted in a gray box:


We all like confirmation that something we believe is correct. I got mine, for this chapter, from my favorite antihero, Homer Simpson of The Simpsons.

After realizing that he has lived half his life and doesn’t have much to show or it, Homer, in one of my favorite episodes, is inspired by Thomas Alva Edison and sets out to become an inventor.

Not surprisingly, given that this is Homer, most of his inventions - a horn that sounds every three seconds when everything is perfectly okay, a musket that women have to aim at their face to apply makeup - are profoundly lame. But in the midst of creating these dumb ideas, Homer inadvertently comes up with a good one.

While he was pondering his next invention, Homer would lean back in his chair... and promptly fall over. This happens repeatedly. To solve the problem he creates a chair with two hinged legs on the back, making it impossible to tip over backward. VoilĂ ! A new invention is born.

If Homer Simpson can turn a problem into an innovative solution, so can you.”

But, that’s not how that episode, The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace, really ends. Instead:

“His hopes are destroyed when he notices his poster of Edison, which shows Edison sitting in the same type of chair, indicating that he has already invented Homer's untippable chair. Bart points out that the chair is not featured on a list of Edison's inventions, and that maybe no one knows he invented it.”

So, Homer goes to sneak into the Edison Museum to smash Edison’s chair with the electric hammer that he really invented. He changes his mind, but accidentally leaves the hammer behind. On the TV news the Simpsons see that both the chair and the electric hammer have just been discovered at the Edison Museum, and are expected to generate even more money for Edison's already wealthy heirs.

That ending illustrates what is known as The Matthew Effect (Matthew 25:29) which tells us that life isn’t fair. The the King James version says:

“For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken even that which he hath.”

Before you put a story in a book or a speech, it is important to double check and see that you got it right.