Tag Archives | personal development

5 Keys to Becoming a Good Conversationalist

“Conversational competence may be the single most overlooked skill we fail to teach.”
– Paul Barnwell, teacher and writer

A fellow blogger and good friend of mine once described good communication as “the act of furthering understanding between two people.” I think that’s true, which is why I find the increasing polarization of our society deeply concerning.

Today, people seem to live in echo chambers where they continually reinforce their own belief systems. The result: We are less likely to compromise and more likely to make decisions based on what we already believe–losing our ability to listen to and learn from one another.

If you’re serious about personal development, you must be committed to the free exchange of thoughts and ideas with others. In other words, you must learn the skill of good conversation.

CREDIT: Getty Images

Here are five “must have” skills shared by good conversationalists the world over:

1) Be present. According to public radio host Celeste Headlee, the average person can talk at a rate of approximately 225 words per minute, but we can listen at up to 500 words per minute. Our minds tend to fill in the other 275 words (this is a huge struggle for me!) which is precisely why it takes energy and concentration to be attentive during a conversation. Remember, multi-tasking is a myth–you can only focus your attention on one thing at a time. Engaging in true conversation means giving the other person your undivided attention. It requires the same concentration and self discipline as training for a marathon or studying for an exam.

2) Listen more than you speak. It’s been said that the most interesting person in the world is the one who makes you think you’re the most interesting person in the world. That may sound like cheesy networking advice, but it’s true. The more you talk, the more you deprive yourself of learning and growing. As Stephen Covey wrote in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Seek first to understand…then be understood.” Becoming known as a good listener is one of the best ways to build your personal brand because you build rapport and trust with others very quickly.

3) Stop stealing stories. Resist the urge to interject your own stories and experiences. If someone shares their grief over losing a close friend, for example, don’t tell them about the time you lost a family member. You don’t know exactly how they feel, so don’t try to equate your experiences with theirs.

4) Ask questions that provoke a thoughtful response. Good questions are open-ended, asking who, what, why, and how verses questions that ask for a yes or no response. Listen to a skilled interviewer like Charlie Rose or Oprah Winfrey. Their questions help those they’re interviewing feel safe and understood, they are clear and relevant, and they continuously move the conversation forward.

5) Practice genuine curiosity. As Mary Schaller writes in The 9 Arts of Spiritual Conversations, “Curiosity is the bridge that moves you from listening to asking questions and fully engaging.” The word curiosity comes from the Latin word cura, which means “to care, to tend, and to heal.” Genuinely curious people possess a sincere and humble desire to know more about other people. They honestly believe that they can learn something from everyone.

Celeste Headley tells her audience that if you really want to share your opinions with no response or disagreement, then write a blog. But if you’re serious about engaging the world in the marketplace of ideas, commit to growing your capacity for good conversation.

Which of the five points about conversation challenges you the most? What is one habit you could develop to get better?

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Guest Blog Post: Remembering the WHY with Stephen Twomey

I’ve written several posts about the importance of getting started — specifically, getting started with the development of habits in order to help us reach our lifelong goals — and the importance of keeping in mind your initial motivation: why you got started in the first place. This week, I’m featuring a guest blogger: Stephen Twomey, local Traverse City business owner, husband, father and fellow fitness enthusiast. Read on as Stephen explores the ways in which getting in touch and staying in touch with the WHY that fires us up can help us press through the WHAT and the HOW when times are tough.


Consistency is the key to achieving anything in life. We have heard our parents, our teachers and self-help gurus state, “It is not about how you start but how you finish that counts.” And to finish well requires consistency. And while I agree with that axiom, it is with one significant caveat: To finish well, you must actually start. Far too many people plan and plan and theorize without ever applying their learning to the actual task. Information without implementation accomplishes nothing.

In the entrepreneurial world we call them “Couch CEO’s.” They are equivalent to NFL couch quarterbacks or social media critics who scream at players and refs, or spew out venom and what they consider to be sage advise, but never actually do anything.

So at the risk of stating the obvious: In order to finish well, you must first start. But this post is not about starting. It is to encourage and inspire those who have started to endure, and to not give up when tests and tribulations come your way. Whatever your goals are, you need to remember them. Remember the reason why you started in the first place.

Ever since I was in 7th grade, I dreamed of owning my own company. It started when I was playing paintball with my friends. The problem was that paintballs are expensive, especially when you have a rapid-fire paintball gun! So I did some research and discovered that I could buy large quantities of high quality paintballs online, package them into bags of 100, and sell them to my friends locally that not only saved them money but allowed me to play for free. It was the old “buy low, sell high” plan, and it lit a fuse in me to one day be a business owner.

That early experience led me into several career paths that eventually evolved into my own business. There was a season of learning, of data gathering, of gaining expertise. But eventually you have to take a first step. You have to launch. And once that happens, so does adversity (broken promises, deals that don’t go through, etc). And this is where perseverance comes in. This is where remembering the dream—WHY you started in the first place.

A huge motivator for me is my family. I have an amazing wife and two precious sons who mean the world to me. I press through the challenges of owning a business in large part for my family—not only to provide well for them, but also to have the flexibility to be with them as husband, father, coach, mentor, tear-dryer, counselor, referee, and human play mat.

via Steve Twomey

What about you? When you are facing struggles and you are tempted to quit, what keeps you going? What gets you out of bed, or keeps you awake at night? Getting in touch and staying in touch with the WHY that fires you up will help you press through the WHAT and the HOW when times are tough.

What keeps me going is faith, family and friends. I want to honor God in every area of my life, be a great husband and father, and a faithful friend. But to do that requires me to do some things that don’t come natural to me… as in getting up five days a week at 5 a.m. to work out. My physical fitness is directly tied to my mental and emotional state, which impacts my work day, my family, etc. When I connect the discipline of regular rigorous exercise to wanting to live a God-honoring, well balanced life, that’s the motivation I need to press on rather than roll over and hit the snooze button.

So to all you starters, keep going! Don’t quit! Yes, there is adversity. Sometimes life can kick us in the stomach and leave us breathless. It’s one of the reasons that having great friends to support you when those times come is so important. But I am a firm believer that the only way to fail is to simply give up. As long as you do not admit defeat — you instead get up the next morning and put one foot in front of the other, and you stay with it — you will succeed.

In conclusion, a blog post from me would not be complete without a movie reference. In the movie The Dark Knight, Alfred asks Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), “Why do we fall, sir? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.” Bruce Wayne responds, “You still haven’t given up on me.” To that Alfred states, “Never.”

Well my friends, as long as we do not give up on ourselves, we learn to pick ourselves up (and each other from time to time), and we keep moving forward, we will be a success. Here’s to the journey!


Stephen Twomey is a resident of Traverse City, Michigan. He is married to his beautiful wife, Jane, and they have two young sons. Stephen is the owner of SEOTraverseCity and MasterMindSEO. When he is not working, he enjoys spending time with his family, snowboarding, weight training and hiking.

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Creating a Productive Morning Routine in Five Steps

Creating a productive morning routine is critical to harnessing your first waking hour, living healthier and getting more done!

Up until I turned 40, I considered myself a night owl and figured I would be for life. As a young manager in my father’s dealership, I remember sitting at my kitchen table late at night writing radio ads and planning sales meetings, feeling focused and energized late into the evening. And since I needed to be at work early, I became a caffeine addict, downing multiple cups of high octane coffee during my morning commute to fight off the inevitable brain fog.

But as I grew older, I gradually changed into a morning person.

Although the transition wasn’t entirely intentional, over time, I began to realize that my health, productivity, and personal effectiveness rested partly on embracing the morning.

by David Marcu | stocksnap.io

There’s plenty of research to support my morning migration: Early risers not only live longer than night owls, they earn more money, are more productive, and enjoy greater health and happiness.

If you’re interested and intentional about joining the growing ranks of morning people, here are five habits that helped me make the move:

  • Drink a large glass (20 oz+) of water soon after waking up. Twenty years ago, after listening to a Tony Robbins audio series entitled “Living Health” that extolled the benefits of drinking pure water and eating water-rich foods (fruits and most vegetables), this single habit change has had perhaps the most dramatic impact on my energy and focus. The science is simple: After laying in bed for 6 – 8 hours, your body is dehydrated, which is why drinking coffee or other caffeinated drinks only makes it worse. In addition to hydration, drinking water upon waking up fires up your metabolism, helps your body flush out toxins, and helps curb your appetite. Try it!
  • Stay away from your TV, computer, and smartphone. As my mentor and fellow blogger Bill Zipp puts it, “Crisis kills creativity and short-term urgencies undermine long-term priorities.” Tuning into headline news, reading emails and checking texts as soon as you wake up puts you into a reactive, task-driven mode that stifles creativity and escalates into what Stephen Covey called “urgency addiction.” Avoiding the urge to plunge into emails and social networking sites first thing in the morning will pay huge dividends in your personal effectiveness down the road.
  • Spend at least 30 minutes in prayer, reflection, contemplative reading or meditation. One of the most common qualities of great leaders throughout history is depth of character, cultivated through deliberate care and feeding of the soul. My personal “quiet time” includes Bible reading, prayer, and journaling. Whatever your spiritual tradition, think of this time as an investment in your inner world that will return more than you could ever expect.
  • Review your personal mission statement, goals, and current priorities. If you don’t currently have a personal mission statement, I urge you to take the time to make this critical investment in your future. Like a pilot deploying his plane’s flaps on takeoff, a mission statement serves to elevate your perspective from runway level to 30,000 feet, where clarity and wisdom supercede crisis and urgency in guiding your decisions.
  • Stand, move, and stretch your body. Although many people have difficulty exercising in the morning, committing to a few simple body movements and stretches can have huge benefits, such as improving posture and stimulating blood flow to muscles, joints, and the brain. Best of all, it takes only a few minutes to get a good, healthy morning stretch.

I know there are many who see the benefits of a morning orientation but can’t see how they could ever change their own habits. The truth is, it’s not easy, but it’s not like becoming an NFL lineman if you weigh 150 lbs. You can do it, but not without changing your story; that is, without considering the very real possibility that being a morning person is not a function of genetic hardwiring but instead of personal preference reinforced by habit. By changing your story, you start telling yourself, “From now on, I love rising early–this is life-changing.” Over time, many people simply adjust their lifestyles to fit their new story. It’s not easy–it takes time. But, believe me, it’s worth it.

If you’re a morning person, what additional advice can you offer those who want to make the change? If you’re not, what would it mean to your life to embrace the morning?

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Four Superfoods of High Energy Addicts

As you launch into the New Year, here are some powerful insights on nutrition to help supercharge your health and vitality in 2016!

I’ve always been a bit obsessive about energy. Despite all you read about time management, the way I see it, performing at your best every day is much more about managing energy than it is managing time. You could have all the time in the world, for example, along with a clear sense of purpose, powerful goals, and deep convictions, but if your energy level isn’t there—if you are frequently tired, lethargic, or sick—chances are, you will squander whatever time advantage you have.

A high energy lifestyle starts with food.

by Abigail Keenan |stocksnap.io

But let’s face it, eating for maximum energy is hard work in a world where no matter where you go, you are assaulted by highly processed, sugar-infested, chemically-treated junk foods that cause your body’s insulin levels to act like a yo-yo.

If you struggle with energy ups and downs that frequently frustrate your ability to get things done, here are four superfoods that, according to leading nutritionists and high performance athletes and trainers, pack the most nutritional bang for the buck. Think of them as the “Rolls Royces” of energy-addicting fruits and vegetables!

(1) Avocado. This popular super-food–is it a fruit or a vegetable?– has more potassium than a banana, but without the high carb content that causes your blood sugar to spike, then drop through the floor (along with your energy). A great source of vital healthy fats, avocados are also high in copper, help reduce cholesterol, fight hypertension, and taste great!
(2) Sea Vegetables. These nutrient-rich superfoods include seaweed, kelp, dulce, wakami, and many others. High in metabolism-boosting iodine, sea vegetables aid digestion, have huge amounts of calcium, iron, and magnesium, and can be easily added to salads, soups, stews, rice, etc.
(3) Chia Seeds. Another great source of calcium, chia seeds are also high in boron, which make them perfect for promoting bone health, fighting arthritis, and enhancing energy. Since chia seeds absorb more than 12 times their weight in water, they make you feel full and satisfied long after eating. I have found that the best way to consume them is to add 2 – 3 tablespoons to a smoothie. Although many people soak them before eating, I don’t—and they digest fine.
(4) Cruciferous Vegetables. This vegetable family includes broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts. These nutrient-rich, energy-producing super-veggies stimulate your body’s own detoxification pathway system, neutralize cancer-causing carcinogens, and help lower estrogen levels. My favorite way to prepare: Cut them into small pieces, place on a cookie sheet, add some olive oil and sea salt, and bake for 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees. Delicious!

Although I was blessed with a fast metabolism, athletic body type, and a naturally high energy level, I am constantly exploring new ideas and approaches to optimizing my energy. After reading about “superfoods” a year or so ago, I began to incorporate them into my diet daily—with outstanding results. And if you’re looking for an easy way to consume them, check out my smoothie recipe, which include 3 of the 4 superfoods on the list (see below).

Question: What are your favorite high energy foods? How do you prepare them? Do you have any other habits you can share for increasing energy? I’d love to get your comments.

Get my nutrient-rich, energy enhancing smoothie recipe here:

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