My Interview with Jenny Blake

In May I did an interview with Jenny Blake on some of the public speaking I do and what it means to speak like a pro. The interview is live (and free) for 24 hours. Some excerpts are below.

On reading books.

Jenny: Shane and I both share that we have a compulsive shopping problem when it comes to books and I love when I first found Shane’s blog, he has this philosophy that he makes reading and learning an absolute priority. If there’s room in the budget for it, if there’s room in his day, he will cut out TV. He will cut out all other kinds of spending to make room for reading and gathering information. Shane, what’s so important to you about that?

Shane: I think it’s been, over my life, it’s been the key to learning, so throughout all school and university and it’s always been book based and I love books. I love the depth of thought that goes into them. I love the organization that people put into them.

I love that they’re not a two-page article just giving you a little bit of a twist on a topic where you run away thinking that you know something, but if you read four or five books on a subject, you have a much better understanding of that subject. Personally, I spend most of my time reading books when I can. I love them.

On our headline culture.

Jenny: I love the recent blog post you wrote on 10 Ways to be Smarter, Sexier, Faster and More Productive. You get to your blog and it’s like, “This is all BS. Stop clicking these links. Go read a book instead.”

Shane: I get emails all the time from people going, “How do I be more productive? What do I need to do?” I found myself drifting in that way too. I’m trying to get out of those headlines, but I’ve been experimenting a little bit. People click more on them. I get more traffic out of them, so it’s this great positive feedback loop.

But, at the end of the day, I think I just went through my Twitter feed one day and I was like, “I’m sick of this. I don’t want to see any more of this.” Why do people click on this? Because you forget it. The next day you’re clicking on the exact same thing because you’ve completely forgotten the 10 ways you can be healthy that change every two weeks.

My accountability talk at Bradley University.

Jenny: I love – on the topic of bringing all these disparate seeming things together, you recently gave a talk at Bradley University. … It just jumped out of the screen to me because the title of your blog post was something like On Accountability, but then I start reading your notes, your transcript from the speech and you talked about courage, resilience, moral codes, acquiring knowledge, failure, deserving success, complex problem solving. All of a sudden, I’m blown away. I’m like, “This isn’t about accountability. This is about so many important ideas.”

Shane: Thank you. It was one of the most amazing – yeah. It was an amazing experience for me … somebody asked for a custom speech on accountability and I kind of went through, “What does accountability mean?” What do I already know about accountability and how do I package that together and connect it?

You end up with all these disparate threads and it’s really cool how you can take that – the students there, I thought they appreciated the fact that I’m giving them multiple examples across a different subject. I’m not just up there talking about how to be accountable and all of that. How do you design systems that are accountable for people? How does accountability factor into different aspects of your life from sports to politics to school, to you as an individual?

Jenny: That’s what I love about it. It really stood out to me. That’s actually when I decided to reach out to you for this conference because yeah, it just – it’s what makes speeches like Neil Gaiman’s speech or even Steve Jobs – I’m putting you up there in the mix – Randy Pausch, these are speeches that, I think, they stand out to people because they don’t just give one topic where it is around one of them, but they really draw upon so many different areas to give a framework. Here’s how to think about this across multiple areas of your life and how it’s going to show up.

On why I started doing speaking engagements …

Shane: I know for me, I got interested in speaking because it was a way for me to challenge myself and frankly, it scared me. It was something I wanted to do to kind of push myself towards my limits, but not go past them and I really appreciated that.

Jenny: I love that you started speaking precisely because it scares you.

Shane: Yeah, well it’s scary to do that, but it’s necessary to challenge yourself too right?

On how I prepared for my first (and every speech since then) … hello deliberate practice:

My first speech I actually – and this is going to sound ridiculous, I can’t believe I’m saying this – I went out and I’m a big fan of deliberate practice. I went out … I bought a video camera. I recorded myself. I set it up in the room, recorded myself talking for about 20 times. The 20th time I felt reasonably confident so I sent it to my friends and I’m like, “I need some feedback on this.” It was just horrible. They were like, “Well, it’s not bad for a first try.” I was like “That’s my 20th try!!! What are you guys talking about?” Through that process I’ve gotten a little better at it (maybe.)”

How to follow through on all the interesting tips and ideas.

Jenny: Okay, our last Twitter question. How to follow through on all the interesting tips and ideas. I think that’s an actually important one going back to speaking. When you get up on stage, I often will say, “If all I do is inspire you today, I have failed.” If you don’t actually go do something differently as a result of this talk or workshop I don’t really see that as a success. I’m curious to hear – how do you help people actually take meaningful action?

Shane: I think it’s up to people to take meaningful action. That’s a choice you make as a person. I can give you all the tools and the blueprints to build a house, but unless you’re willing to do it it’s not going to happen. I think the way to do that is make things easy for people. If you want to start a new habit of flossing your teeth, I think it’s like B.J. Fogg who says, “Start with one tooth a night.”

Then the minute you do that one tooth you’re going to do the rest of them, but you break it down into the first step. Remove the inertia of doing nothing. Create some positive momentum. Two or three days later you’ll be flossing your teeth every night. I think that part of what we can do as speakers is when people walk away, the big thing to do is not sell all your possessions, fly to Tibet and become a monk.

It’s what can you be doing that’s a small step in your life, that may resonate with you or may not? Although it’s opening the door for people, but I don’t want to make people walk through doors. I want to open doors.