The whole world is gradually adapting to the need to do most of its talking virtually. Back in 2018 when Dr. Nick Morgan wrote Can You Hear Me?, his book on the perils of virtual communication, he did not have the slightest idea that the world will be hit hard by a global pandemic two years later. But the principles he wrote somehow became all the more tangible and important as many of us are forced to rely heavily on virtual communication just to get business done. As a result, we are also forced to live with the reality of its many perils, a fact that is not lost to many a keynote speaker who is now forced to deliver their craft to an audience of nodes. A top communication theorist and coach, Dr. Nick now helps speakers and coaches make the most out of this situation. Listen in as he discusses these things on the podcast with Adam Markel.
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The Perils Of Virtual Communication And The Future Of The Speaking Business With Dr. Nick Morgan
I am sitting in my seat and this is the seat for a lot of things these days. This particular task is something I look forward to deriving pleasure out of the conversations that I’m having with people that I’ve known or followed for years. Friends, colleagues, and even some people that I’ve never met before, especially those conversations that have been breathtaking. I feel like I’m on my growth edge when I’m speaking to somebody new. There’s much that I want to learn, questions that I have. Hopefully, you are getting tremendous value out of these conversations for yourself. I’m trying to intuit what it is that I want to know and assume that if you’re following this, if you’re subscribed to the show, that these are things you want to know as well.
Our guest is no exception to what I said out there. He is somebody that has been doing some pretty amazing things in the world and helping people for a number of years. I’ve been following him and reached out to see if he has an interest in engaging in a conversation about what’s going on in the world now. He’s uniquely situated to provide some perspective there. I’m in great anticipation and feeling quite grateful that I’m going to have Dr. Nick Morgan with us. He is one of America’s top communication speakers, theorists, and coaches, a passionate teacher. He is committed to helping people find clarity in their thinking and ideas and then delivering them with panache. I’ve interviewed a lot of people and I have not until this moment had anybody that had as part of their introduction, the use of that word panache. I’m already happy about that. It’s a great word.
He has been commissioned by Fortune 50 companies to write for many CEOs and presidents. He’s coached people to give Congressional testimony, to appear in the media, and to deliver unforgettable TED Talks, something that is near and dear to my own heart. He himself has spoken, led conferences, moderated panels at venues around the world. During the last election cycle, in fact, he provided expert commentary on the presidential debates for CNN. His book, Can You Hear Me? on the perils of virtual communication published by Harvard in 2018 is definitely a topic that we’re going to have on the agenda, given what’s going on in the world. Welcome to the show, Nick. It’s a pleasure to have you with us.
Adam, it’s a great pleasure to be with you. This is a cool connection and not just because of where we are, both in the Massachusetts area.
You and I chatting before, are you in Massachusetts at this moment?
Yeah. I’m outside of Boston. I’m envious of you and your vacation isle.
I’m found out.
I won’t specify the place because I don’t want you to worry about it.
No, it’s cool. Martha’s Vineyard. Good luck finding me. We’re in the woods but tucked away nicely and quite.
How is that witness protection program working out? Is that going well?
The jig is up for me now. Seriously, look for a bald guy with a beard on this island. You’ve got a few to choose from, I’ll put it that way. It’s ironic. This has nothing to do with our conversation, except it has everything to do with everything. I was on a Zoom call with an old college buddy. My wife, Randi and I, we met at UMass Amherst back in I don’t want to say the year. I’ll just say, we’re going to be married, 31 years. It’s longer than that ago. This guy, Joe, we were housemates. We were all so tight back in the day. He was at our wedding. We haven’t seen him and spoken to him in 30 years or something. It’s a long time. He’s going through a pivot of his own now and had reached out because through the stuff that’s happening in his career life, found the book Pivot and then went and did some more looking and found a TED Talk and some other things. He goes, “I know that guy. He had a lot more hair back then.”
It’s reconnecting with an old Massachusetts buddy who still lives in this great state. No accidents. Nick, I’d love for folks to know a little bit more about you. I read this cool bio. This is a greatly and wonderfully written bio. I’m normally scribbling things out on people’s bios, they’re awful, but this is great. What I’d love is for you to share one thing that’s not a part of that bio that you’d like for people to know about you at the outset.
It all started with a phone call. I was at the University of Virginia. I was teaching the literature of Death and Victorian lit. It’s a toss-up as to which it was harder to get the students excited about. I got this phone call from a friend of mine who had become the state Secretary of Education in Virginia. He said, “Nick, the previous speechwriter has just had a nervous breakdown and had to quit. How would you like to replace them on short notice? The governor needs a speechwriter.” I said yes because I had a PhD in rhetoric and I was fascinated with public speaking and I had taught it occasionally, but I hadn’t any practical in the trenches experience like that.
What I should have asked was, why did the previous speechwriter have a nervous breakdown? That was the obvious question that I failed to ask until later, it turned out it was from overwork. I wrote five speeches a day for the remaining two years of the governor’s term, seven days a week. I only had one day off and that was Christmas day, which happens to be my birthday. I had announced to everybody in advance that I was taking the day off, whether they liked it or not. I said, “Don’t call me at Christmas. I’m going to be in the bosom of my family, having homemade wine that my father-in-law prepares.”
It’s not that great, but it’s wine and it was Christmas, naturally. The phone rings at 1:00 on Christmas day, it’s the chief of staff and he says, “Nick, get your butt down here. We decided to work on the speech. After all, the governor was bored on Christmas, too much food and so he wants to get to work.” I said, “I can’t. This is my day off.” He said, “No, it’s not. This is a workday now.” I played my trump card. I said, “I’ve had two glasses of homemade wine. Who knows what the alcohol content is? I can’t be driving out there. It will cause an incident. The local paper will pick it up. A DUI from the governor’s aid, that would be disastrous.”
He says, “Don’t worry. I’ll send the state police to pick you up.” Twenty minutes later, two state police cars with the lights flashing show up at my door. To this day, my dear friends down in Richmond are convinced I was arrested on Christmas Day and there’s nothing I can say. I think they liked the story. They don’t want to hear any explanation. That’s how it started. That’s how I got into the speech writing and coaching business. I worked for a couple of big consulting firms in the ’90s and then started my own company, Public Words in ’97.
It all began by getting arrested on your birthday.
Now, who can claim that?We care more about the person’s intent than the actual words they’re saying. If we can’t get clear about it, we just assume the worst. Click To Tweet
We validated that whole story at this point. It’s funny. I said in the intro that I came to know of you by reading your blog on PublicWords.com. I was impressed with the approach that you were taking to the business. What was it that inspired you to start? You said 1997 is when that began for you? Blogging was a new thing at that time, I would say.
I didn’t start the blog until 2006, but that was still early days for the blog. I’ve been blogging essentially forever. We switched from one provider to another at one point. We don’t ever try to move. We had over 1,500 blog posts and what a nightmare that was, but all the broken links, you name it. In ’97, the internet was starting to take off and I’d been doing some work coaching in the IT company of researchers. They were speaking and they were rock stars. Who knew that IT people would be rock stars and they’re not necessarily the world’s greatest speakers. They’re smart, they’re engineers, but it’s not their normal thing to do, so they needed a coach. That’s how I got started and created enough of a network that I do my own thing, start my own business, and never looked back.
This is an interesting time for the book that you wrote to be out there. Let’s talk about what the perils of virtual communication are because right now that’s much the main form of communication. Obviously, if you’re an investor in Zoom stock, you would have been doing well. We were using Zoom several ago with our company and then started to tell people about it, how much easier it was than some of the other platforms. What are some of the big parallels of virtual communication as you see it?
The biggest thing and the first thing that everybody has to understand is that what we humans care about way more than we care about specific words when we’re communicating is we care about each other’s intent. I want to know, are you a trustworthy guy? What are you meaning to me? Are you going to be good to me or bad to me? If I work with you, then I want to know, can I trust you? Are you going to be on my side? When I propose something, are you going to work against me? These are essential, fundamental questions about intent. That’s what we care about.
Face-to-face you can easily, quickly, and unconsciously get a read on the other person’s intent. You can tell whether you think this person is a straight-up person or not and whether they mean you well or not. In the virtual world, that’s incredibly hard to get. All that information and feedback that you normally get about the other person’s intent is instantly cut out. You get a little bit of it and we can talk about the ways in which you get both good and deceptive information on video conferencing and certainly on audio conferences. Text-based communications, of course, are the worst, but all three of those virtual means of communication are fraught with danger for the reading of intent. We think we’re getting the intent 90% of the time. That’s what the research shows. We’re only correct about 50% of the time. There’s this big gap in intent and an accurate understanding of intent. How do we fill that gap? We fill it with negativity.
That sounds like we’re bad people. We’re not, there’s a good reason for that. There’s a good reason to fill that gap with negativity and that’s survival. If I assume the worst, then I’m not going to be caught by surprise. Imagine the early hominid ancestor walking through the jungle. If you assume that every shadow is a tiger, you’re going to be the one that survives. You may be a little anxious, but we humans, therefore, have evolved to be anxious species. When you don’t give us information, when I don’t know what your intent is, I’m going to fill it with negative assumptions. It’s understanding how difficult it is to get intent across in the virtual world, and then understanding the negativity of bias toward that intent. You’ve got communicating the virtual world summed up precisely.
Nick, that is fascinating to me. It seems as though when we can’t determine someone’s intent, there’s this uncertainty. We know as human creatures, we don’t like uncertainty very much. We don’t like the unknown. We make up stories and a lot of those stories are fear-based stories. It’s interesting too because let’s say we’re in a typical Zoom meeting, which is something that people are familiar with now or maybe it’s using a different platform. In any event that you’re in this virtual training space and you’re wanting to be able to be effective in your communication, are you saying that what’s happening there is that the communication itself is less effective? You can’t see a person’s body language. You can’t get the cues that would otherwise clue you into the person’s true intent. Is that something that’s happening?
That’s absolutely part of what’s going on. On a video conferencing system like Zoom, the person is visible but small. It’s a little harder to read that body language in the same intuitive, easy way that our unconscious minds read each other’s body language when we’re together when we’re face-to-face. There are a couple of other subtleties that go on in video conferencing in the general world that add to the difficulty, and those are less obvious. The first one is despite the best efforts of the engineers who created video conferencing, there’s a slight lag between the image and the sound.
They’ve got it down to the place, thanks to bandwidth and clever engineering to where you’re not consciously aware of it, but unconsciously you pick it up as a slight lag. It looks like the other person you’re talking to is having a constant series of little strokes and can’t talk back. You assume that the other person is less competent than they are. The other person assumes you’re an idiot most of the time and that dumbing down response is one of the things that makes it difficult. Another one and this one gets a little geeky, but it’s important for your readers to understand, and that is, we have this sixth sense called proprioception. They don’t teach it in school. They should but they don’t beyond the five senses.
This sixth sense is how we keep track of where we are in space. This is the sense that allows you not to bump into things, even when your vision is not 100%. By the way, it goes 24/7. If you sleep with a partner, you don’t roll over and whack your partner in the face. If you ever wondered why that was the case, it’s not because you’re a genius. It’s because you’ve got this sixth sense called proprioception. It keeps track of where you are in space and where the people around you are in space. Why is that important in the virtual world? When you see an image that’s about an arms-length away on a computer screen, your proprioception sense says, “That person’s close. I should take action. I should prepare for somebody coming into my intimate space.”
The question is immediately asked by your unconscious mind, friend or foe. What happens is because the picture is too small for somebody who’s theoretically 2.5, 3 feet away, your proprioception sense can’t figure that out. It gets confusing. What it does is it responds with stress, fight, flight or freeze, as we call it, the adrenaline response. You get this low-level adrenaline response with low-level adrenaline enhancement while you’re on video conferencing. That makes it harder for you to evaluate the other person, to read their body language, even to participate intelligently in the conversation. That’s, by the way, why we get what everybody calls, Zoom fatigue these days, because by the end of several of these sessions with your slightly elevated heart rates, slightly elevated stress response, adrenaline going through your system, low levels, you’re wiped out.
It’s a simple explanation for something that many people are confused about. Why is it that they’re fatigued from Zoom and it’s that cortisol or that adrenaline that’s coursing this low-level anxiety that we’re living with? It’s interesting too. I’ve found this out. You’ve explained it to me now, so I understand why it is. We were playing music. We were trying to get together with a group of people and play guitar and sing together but it was always a little off. We were like, “Why can’t you keep up?” Always thought somebody else’s lagging behind like, “I know I’m playing in time but what are you doing?” This is what we’re dealing with now and I’m not judging it.
It’s brilliant that we have the technology to be able to connect the way we can as imperfectly as we can. Is there something that we can do? Let’s say, you’re going to put on an event or a workshop for some part of your office and you’re aware that these things are issues. What can you do? Is there anything that can be done about this other than to make people aware of it? Is making people aware of it at the start, when you’re setting a context, let’s say, does that alleviate some of the fight and flight response and some of the, look at this idiot, those judgments?
Unfortunately, telling people intellectually about the emotional difficulties that we have with Zoom doesn’t help much. The reason for that is your unconscious mind responds before the conscious mind does. It’s a couple of milliseconds ahead of it. Before you can stop yourself and go, “That other person I know is competent and nice,” your unconscious mind has already thought, “Idiot,” and it’s too late. I would remind the readers who have ever gotten the email from a boss or from a colleague, “We’ve got to talk.” I’ll ask you, did you ever assume that the other person wanted to talk about something good? No, never. That’s the unconscious response kicking in. It’s the uncertainty and the negative bias. That’s the reason why that doesn’t help much. There are things you can do but unfortunately explaining why it’s hard doesn’t help much.
Let me ask you a little differently, do you think it does any harm in setting out at the beginning as a part of how you create a context that, “Just to let you know, this is what’s happening?” On an unconscious or subconscious level, does it help or where you said it may not help, but will it hurt? I’m thinking this is a good thing to do.
It is a good thing to do. I’m just saying it doesn’t help stop that instant response, but it’s helpful for people to understand the context. It’s reassuring as you reacted. It’s good to know, “That’s why I feel tired. It’s not because there’s something wrong with me. It’s because that’s the way I’m hard-wired and we’re all hard-wired.” It’s reassuring and having a rational explanation for why these strange things are going on during this stressful time is helpful.
It’s good to know for me personally, that I can’t get ahead of people judging me as an idiot. It would’ve been so great if that was the case, but it’s quick. It’s instantaneous. That happened many times in my life.
What you need to do, Adam is immediately, and the first thing out of your mouth should be, “I’m a genius.” Just remember that and see how that works out.Learning is not always fun. It can be painful, but once you're through it, it's amazing and you never want to go back. Click To Tweet
I’m going to try it. Are there other things tactically that can be done? Many people are delivering these trainings or participating in them.
The first thing to keep in mind is that the power dynamic and I don’t mean that in a controlling, evil way. The relationship between speaker, let’s say an audience or instructor, and trainees, people in the room, changes online and think about the traditional keynote speaker. He or she comes out on a stage that’s elevated above the audience. The audience is in the dark. The speaker is lit up. There’s applause and a great introduction, there maybe even music and the stage is decorated. There are a lot of implicit signals that this person is important. There’s an inequality that the speaker learns to use to his or her advantage to help the audience focus and it’s all good. To help the audience focus, pay attention and get a good experience out of it. That’s why we do those things.
We say this hour is special. This person has something interesting to say to us, that’s the built-in presumption. In the online world, we’re all on the computer network. We’re just all nodes. On a network, it’s all equalized. You have to start from the assumption that this is one big democracy and everybody’s input, therefore, feels as important as everybody else’s. That means a couple of things. First of all, you simply got to make everybody include themselves. You’ve got to put everybody to work. Everybody has to be in on it.
Second, you’ve got to understand that if you’re not allowing other people to have their voice and to express their opinion, they’re going to tune out. They’re going to cut the link. It’s easy to leave these settings. Those of us who remember going to conferences, I hope that’s everybody. It was a beautiful golden era that we can hardly remember now. Remember that sitting in the audience, and maybe you had to leave for one reason or another, call of nature, or you got an emergency, a phone call or something, a text or you had another meeting to go to.
It was awkward to get up in the middle of this thing and walk out. It was funny. You watch the body language of people leaving early and they’ve got their heads down. They’re trying to minimize themselves to be invisible as they go out. None of that happens online. Online, you just click, you go. If you don’t give people a reason, both to participate and then to feel like their voices are being heard, their part of this new network that you created, then the feeling is not going to be good and they’re not going to be enthusiastic. They’ll just leave.
Whether they physically, as you say, turn their camera off and then go to the loo or pick up a paper, they’ll just mentally check out. For those folks that are out there thinking that they either are already leading groups online or they’re wanting to step up and do that thing, part of my takeaway here is that, you’ve got to have a lot of interactivity. It’s different. I was with Eileen McDargh, an experienced public speaker for many years, and we both speak about resilience.
We had a conversation and that’s one of the things that when typically you’re on a stage, it’s less conversational. I always want one at a lot of engagements how I was trained so there was quite a bit, but even still that’s a different dynamic, less conversational. Whereas now, in this arena, as you said, for more eloquently than I’m about to say, that interactivity is how you not only keep people there and present. There’s something more going on that you unearthed for us, which is that there isn’t this important nest to the person who’s say leading, that all eyes should be on them, the lights are on them.
You’re being rude if you’re not paying attention or you’re not at least staying in the room in the body. It’s a different situation now. If you’re leading a group or you’re facilitating for someone else for higher let’s say, it’s good practice in that period of time whether it’s 30 or 45 minutes or an hour or something that there’s a lot more conversation and interaction going on than the classic, “Here Let me show you my slide deck. Let me hit you with all my great stories. I’ll take my check and head to the airport.”
We like interactive speeches, audiences do, and they consistently rate them higher. I’m glad to hear when it was face-to-face, you were keen on interactivity. They consistently rate interactive speakers higher than ones who preach more. It’s still a case where the keynote speech, if you’re a good charismatic speaker, you could talk for 45 minutes and then do your fifteen minutes Q&A and out you go. There’s the hour. You can’t do that online. You simply cannot deliver that standard speech online and expect people to get the same thing out of it. They won’t.
I was arguing with an old friend of mine, “Can you go 5 or 10 minutes without interactivity?” We had a vicious argument about that. I would say the jury is out. If you’re good and you had something interesting to say, and you’ve got the audience involved, then you can go as much as ten minutes. I would use that as a good rule of thumb and thinking, or toward every five minutes, look for some way to bring the people in, whether it’s an online chat comment, a vote, a poll, or those things. That’s the good news about video conferencing and these platforms. They give us the opportunity to have these virtual interactions. Use them.
Are you working with TED speakers as well? Is that still part of your daily work?
Absolutely. At the moment, we’re not doing prepping a lot of TED Talks. Just because like everything else, it’s slowed down. I’m still involved in the TED world and I’ve done a number of them over the years. I love TED. I love the format. It did a huge amount to elevate public speaking in general. That’s all to the good. The only thing you could critique it for is it made all public speakers think they could be rock stars.
Aren’t all public speakers rock stars?
Yeah. I love all my children equally.
I want to ask you about your own personal definition of resilience. I’ve had a couple of questions that are important to this community. How would you define resilience?
I’m with the Chinese on this one. The Chinese have a saying, and I can never remember whether it’s, “Fall down eight times, get up nine. Fall down nine times, get up ten.” It’s one of those two. Resilience is about putting yourself back together after you’ve been punched in the gut or something tough has been dealt to you. I had a personal pivot a couple of years ago. My spouse left me and I was devastated and putting myself to get back together was the hardest thing I ever did. It also in retrospect was one of the better learning experiences for me.
I’ve meditated long and hard about why the marriage had failed and spent a lot of time thinking about how I needed to be a different person to make it better. It’s not easy to say, but at this point, I am grateful, but at the time it was devastating. I would say resilience for me is getting back up and then owning the experience, understanding what your role was in it. What was your fault or what wasn’t your fault? What was happening because of you? Let’s take the word fault out of it.
What was external to you? Understanding those things and any experience can be this huge learning opportunity. Learning is not always fun. It can be painful, but once you’re through it, it’s amazing and you never want to go back. You never want to say, “Put me back in that pre-time before I knew what I knew,” because that’s not a place you want to go back to once you know something larger, bigger, and better.When the speaking business comes back, it will come back twice or ten times as strong as ever. Click To Tweet
If you were creating a recipe for what resilience looks like, there are a lot of people that are having to pivot at the moment and I talked about that before we started. This is a time of pandemic change and something the likes that most of us haven’t seen. The only thing that even resembles it in memory for me is 9/11. Let’s look at even our own industry. People had speaking gigs booked many dozens or more. I’ve been doing this work for a long time and most, if not all of those events have either been canceled or move to date, uncertain. The whole industry has changed. I know you speak to our industry a lot, so that is a part of our audience now. Those folks they’ve got to be resilient. If you’re a public speaker who let’s say is mid-career, got started, not just yesterday, but has a house mortgage, car, kids, and all the rest tied to their speaking income and now this thing comes along and literally stops it on a dime. They’ve got to be resilient, what does that look like?
It’s brutal. There are few, as you say, it’s hard to point to other times in our experience where you could go from 95% booked to 0% in a couple of weeks, which is what happened to a lot of good speakers, speakers who grace the keynote stages of great conferences around the world. We can all say, you can redesign your speeches and pick up the slack with some virtual stuff, but it’s not going to be the same. It’s not going to be 100% of that. I would say resilience, and this is a tough message. It’s much easier for me to say this than it is for anybody to hear it. Resilience is now going okay.
This is like a season-ending injury for a sports player. What do you do when that happens? This is the time to write the book, redo the speech, and do that basic homework. I hope that you’ve got enough salted by so that you can get through it or you’ve got a supportive spouse or got enough money in the bank. Let’s be blunt so you can get through the time. Of course, there are things you can do. You can do what you have to do to pick up a bit of the slack. If you want to stay in the speaking business, I will tell you when it comes back, it will come back twice or ten times as strong as ever.
It did after 9/11, 2008, 2009, so-called Great Recession, which doesn’t look great anymore from this standpoint. It will, again in 2021, maybe 2022. We’re all hoping it’s going to come back vaccine enabled by the end of 2020 or the beginning of 2021, but we don’t know. It’s potentially a long haul. This is the time to do that pivot to use your word to develop the new content and speech. A friend of mine whom I have a deep reverence for, and is a great speaker, and always allows me to use his name, Josh Linkner. He’s also a jazz guitarist and I asked him how he was doing with this. He said, “I’m treating it like a band that’s been on the road, no time to develop new material. Now I’m going to the studio and I’m going to develop a bunch of new materials as long as this lasts. When the road happens again, I’ll be ready to go out on the road with a bunch of new material back better than ever.” That’s what resilience means in the speaking business and it is hard.
Thank you for going into that depth. Nick, something you said to me that I want to restate because personally it landed, was the distinction between a season-ending injury. Analogies are great because they create a visual for people and you don’t have to be a sports fan to get this. There’s a difference between a season-ending injury and a career-ending injury. Part of how you are tackling this now and what will help you to be more resilient has a lot to do with the way you see it. The way you frame this whole situation and reframing things is an important element of what we found through research. We’ve studied thousands and thousands of people from all walks of life in business, etc.
That the most resilient people have this capacity to reframe things almost automatically but even by way of training, at least that’s the good news, the silver lining is you can learn how to do this and you helped us with a reframe. Frankly, if you realize that this might be a season-ending thing, then what are you doing? You’re rehabbing, you’re working on yourself. I love that, Josh’s own example, of being like a band that’s now going to work on new material because you can’t be on the road, but it doesn’t mean it’s a career-ending thing. What’s also great that you threw in there that people absolutely crave knowing, is that your experience of having been through the cycle at least two other times, where there was this unexpected macro event that changed the landscape for a period of time. After that event cleared, whether it was 9/11 or the financial crisis, it started in 2008, the market for the work that many of us do was even stronger.
It came back stronger than ever. The speaking business starting in about late 2009, early 2010, became better. The last several years were better than we’ve ever seen but the same thing happened after 9/11. For those of us who are old enough to remember, it’s hard to imagine, but there are people who have been born since 9/11 now that are grownups. People wouldn’t get on a plane, essentially the conference business stopped for nine months, and then everybody got back on planes and there was more air traffic, more conferences than ever. The same thing will happen.
I’ll give one more analogy, which I happen to be doing a little research on and that is the Spanish flu from the second decade of the 1900. Most of us have heard a reference to that. It killed more people than World War I. People may not be aware of this that for two years, essentially the world was shut down much the way it is now, only it was scarier in many ways because people then didn’t have the medical knowledge that we do. They weren’t working on a vaccine. There was still a lot of witchcraft than they were thinking about medicine.
There was a huge amount of fear and people talked about it exactly the same way they’re talking about it now, that fear of contagion, the fear of getting too close to other people. The world was put on hold in an eerily similar way. What happened after that? We got the roaring twenties. People went out and partied for a decade. That’s what happens when you confine human beings and when you build up that urge to connect. Humans have a deep urge to connect with each other and when you build that up and frustrate that for a year or two years, it comes back delightfully stronger than ever. That’s what will happen however long it takes this time to.
We talk a lot about in our research finds that creating rituals is important when it comes to how you develop that internal strength, fortitude, grit and resilience. Is there a ritual to help you to do that?
I do four things. I exercise every day. I have to do that because I have a slow metabolism. If I don’t, I’ll balloon up to about 300 pounds in no time. I’ll have fun doing it, but it’s much harder to lose it than it is to put it on. I meditate every day. That’s the closest thing to a ritual. I’m an amateur musician, so I play guitar and piano. I do that every day and that’s helpful for letting go of the stresses of the day. Finally, I’m a writer, so I make sure I write something every day. Those are my activities. Call them rituals if you like. They’re ritualistic for me.
They’re habits, but at least I like to think of rituals as something you do consciously, and sometimes habits are the hand you brush your teeth with and don’t think about it. The last question I’ve got for you, Nick, and this is one in particular that I know our audience appreciates. Do you love your life?
I sure do. Somebody asked me this and said, “Nick, you’ve been doing this since ’97. You’ve had a great run. You could take this as a sign to retire and take the rest of your life off. Would you do that?” I said, “No way, I’m having too much fun. Even virtually connecting with people is what floats my boat.” It’s endlessly interesting. I never know what new world of knowledge and experience and what are new stories I’m going to run across. That’s such a thrill. I do love it.
You answered the second part of the question, which was why. As we sign off from this episode, I will restate my own waking ritual, which was the topic of my own TED Talk regarding how it is that we deal with adversity in our lives. The question for me and the question I pose to the audience that day, which was met controversially, not at the time, but in comments on YouTube, once it was released. This idea of whether you could love your life no matter what and it’s this idea of no matter what the people are grappling with and always do, and now have more fodder there than they would like.
I have a simple way to wake up in the morning that hacks that and that is to wake up, to begin with. It’s not a guarantee, it’s not a given that we’ll all get to wake up again tomorrow, we did today. You and I evidently are at least have to wake up, I would say. If we’re fortunate, we’ll get to wake up again tomorrow. If you’re one of those fortunate ones that will have that happen for you, it’s a moment you can pause and feel gratitude. All the research and science behind the impact of gratitude is profound. In particular, the impact of gratitude at the start of the day, it’s like my grandmother would say leaving the house on the right foot or planting a seed in the soil which you try to see something grow if you throw it out in the concrete.
That first seed of the day, it can be gratitude by acknowledging the fact that as you take your first conscious breath of the day, there are people who are taking their last breath in that exact same moment. For me, I wanted to convert that thought and that intention, as you were speaking, into something that was a catalyst for how my day would go. I decided I’d say something out loud. The thing I’ve been saying for many years, every day when I wake up in the morning, good, bad, or otherwise day, my feet on the floor and I say those four words, “I love my life,” no matter what. With that, Dr. Morgan, it’s been a pleasure to have you on the show. I know people have gotten tremendous value out of this, and I appreciate your time.
Adam, it has been a great pleasure chatting with you and who knew I’d get to connect with somebody, my new best friend, in Martha’s Vineyard. It’s great to meet you.
I get a place you can go to go clamming, musselling, fishing and all that. Everybody, please check Public Words. Look for a great video series called Just One Question as well as other information about what Nick is up to, and get his book, Can You Hear Me? It’s relevant now, especially. We’d love to hear from you and get your comments, questions, and thoughts. You can go to AdamMarkel.com/podcasts to get access to that for everything. We appreciate you being a part of this community. Ciao for now.
About Dr. Nick Morgan
Dr Nick Morgan is a communications coach and theorist, acclaimed author, keynote speaker and popular blogger.
In his interactive speeches, Dr. Morgan reveals the mysteries of communication, body language, and storytelling. He shows how recent brain research confirms ancient wisdom and together adds up to a revolutionary new approach to communication that will have you capturing and holding an audience’s attention, whether it’s a one-on-one conversation, an essential business meeting, or a presentation to a thousand listeners.
Nick has taken his message to executive retreats, annual meetings, high-level training sessions, winning sales functions, high-tech conferences and entrepreneurial conclaves around the world. Contact us to talk more about booking Nick to keynote at your next event.