What we should be telling young men and women headed off to college….

Along with mini-fridges and dorm bedding, we should be sending young people off to college with some important information: that young women are at highest risk of sexual assault in the first three weeks of college… and that 94% of college victims of sexual assault know their attackers.

So while it’s important to lock your doors and be safe walking around at night, it’s also important to choose your friends and your parties well.

It turns out that connecting quickly with friends is one of the best strategies to stay safe on campus. And it’s also a key indicator of academic success.

So, next time you ask a new college student how their grades are, you might ask how their friends are as well.

On James Brady and Good Riddance

On a terrible day in March 1981, James Brady thought the most dangerous thing he’d encounter was a hostile reporter.

As President Reagan’s Press Secretary, Brady walked alongside the President and was felled by a shot that left him paralyzed with a brain injury that changed him forever.

Jim Brady and his wife, Sarah, devoted the years after the shooting to advocating for gun control.  Their experience with gun violence led to them to a conclusion that guided their lives from that moment on.

Americans have a unique relationship with guns.  They’re much more a part of our culture than they are in other parts of the world and they’re a major player in our nation’s story.

I understand all that.  What I don’t understand is how, upon hearing the news of Jim Brady’s death yesterday, anyone could think “good riddance.”  And I really don’t understand how people can post such a sentiment as many times and in as many places as I’ve seen it in the past 24 hours.

I’d like to believe that the practice of anonymous posting is largely at fault here…that autographing one’s work would have a gentling effect.  But I’m not so sure.

Civil people have the capacity to hold together opposition to ideas and sympathy for the human condition.  It’s what makes us human.  And those of us who are increasingly concerned about the effects of living life on the polar extremes will have to start speaking up if we want to live in a world where ideas can be considered on their merits and those who utter them can be treated with dignity in life – and in death.

What’s In a Name?

The professional association I turn to for guidance, training and support is called The National Speakers Association – for now.

To be sure, “NSA” is now more associated in the public mind with listening than speaking which may have been one reason the organization started down the path to changing its name.

But after a lengthy and confidential process, the board wound up choosing a name that had already been branded brilliantly by a highly successful speaker and announced it July 3 to several thousand attendees at its national conference – complete with new printing and promotional materials.

Yesterday, the National Speakers Association announced it’s stepping away from the new name and that was the right thing to do. But there are some powerful lessons to be learned along the way.

1. NSA decided that it would change its name and chose a new one in a vacuum of confidentiality. Posing the issues separately (should we change our name? If so, to what?) would have engaged the membership in the process and helped gauge reaction to the emerging result. (And it might have surfaced in a more compelling way the conflict with the already branded name).

2. NSA acknowledged its mistake. The President contacted the affected speaker,
acknowledged the error and recorded a video message for the membership saying the organization had “stumbled” but was dusting itself off and moving on down the path and asking for member feedback every step of the way.

3. The affected speaker issued a gracious response, thanking the association and reminding its members that their leaders are highly principled volunteers who deserve their support as they seek to develop a new name.

The upsides are many: NSA will certainly get the input of its members and likely come up with something that speaks beautifully to its purpose and expanding membership base.

But there are also people like me who, as a result of the controversy, have discovered the excellent work of Michael Hyatt (Intentional Leadership) about which you can learn more at www.michaelhyatt.com.

We all stumble. What matters is that we acknowledge it and how we fix it: how honestly,
how compassionately, and how candidly. It’s why I’m proud to be a member of the National Speakers Association – and whatever its members and leadership determine it should be called in the future.

The Art of Passion

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I have fallen utterly in love with Scotland, in great part because of the people. At the St. Andrews Costa Coffee (think UK Starbucks), I am struck by the engagement of the staff I have observed over five consecutive mornings sitting at the same table.

To a person, they seem to enjoy their jobs immensely – from the baristas to the table bussers. They knew me – and my order – by the second day: a turbo-caffeinated confection known as a “Flat White.” But beyond knowing my order, I watched as they engaged each customer differently, often with a “darlin'” in that distinctive Scottish accent.

When the consistency of foam on a latte did not make the grade, the customer said, “Oh, that’s all right.” “No, it’s not!” said the barrista to which the other replied with a grin, “Sir, you must never stand between this woman and the foam on her latte!” The customer, who was willing to take the first version of what the barista produced, was utterly bowled over by her artistry – and said so – which seemed genuinely pleasing to the woman who had such a high standard for her work.

The personal exchange of delight is a rare and wondrous thing in a world of digital “thumbs ups.” Have you been delighted by the efforts of others? Have you let them know?

Expressing delight is another way we can secure the world one conversation at a time.