I am a firm believer in taking advantage of OPE—other people’s experience. Find someone who does well what you want to be able to do and "pick" that person’s brain. Take her to lunch or ride with him on a trip. I've done this several times and have found the experience to be invaluable. I have learned from a variety of such mentors.
An important mentor in my life, however, is one I never met. I first was introduced to him through his cassette tapes, long before disc players and MP3s. His ideas and experiences about any number of things I have heard multiple times and have put into practice. His name was Jim Rohn; he passed away a few months ago.
I learned many speaking principles, especially how to use the voice, in listening to his speeches and tapes. For example, no one could use the pause better than Jim. Just when he was coming to a punch line or important principle, he would pause; as the listener, I waited with great anticipation. He articulated distinctly and never ran his words together, no matter how excited he became. His words and tone were pleasing to the ear.
I learned the power of stories through his speeches. No one could describe a scene better than Jim Rohn. He knew how to set the stage before going to the heart of the story. You felt like you were there with him. Listening to his stories is like listening to your favorite songs: you look forward to certain phrases or details even though you have heard them many times.
But probably what made Jim Rohn most memorable are his ideas. No speaker that I have listened to has more quotable thoughts than Mr. Rohn. Here are a few of my favorites:
"Don't wish it were easier, wish you were better."
"Don't just read the easy stuff. You may be entertained by it, but you will never grow from it."
"Formal education will earn you a living. Self education will earn you a fortune."
"A rose on time is more valuable than a $1,000 gift too late."
"Be aware of what you become in pursuit of what you want."
"Don't learn to get through the day. Learn to get from the day."
Some of his recommendations are staples in my daily living. For example, he said, "Keep an idea book." I'm on my l5th idea book. He said, "Take lots of pictures." I carry a camera with me wherever I go. I have some awesome photographs because I had a camera when an unexpected event occurred. For example, I had never seen a double rainbow, but now I have that image in this photograph. He said, “Pay attention—don't miss anything.” One of my favorite topics for an after-dinner speech is on paying attention—“Be Present When You Are Present.” For more Jim Rohn insights, go to http://jimrohn.com.
When you seem stuck in what you are thinking or doing, pick a new direction. Then find a mentor to assist and guide you. And it might even be someone you never meet.
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. He presents keynotes and seminars to corporations and associations whose people want to speak and listen effectively. See additional articles and resources at www.sboyd.com. To book Steve, call 800-727-6520 or email him through his website.