Enlightened Conflict

Speeches and speech writing

March 17th, 2016





“He who wants to persuade should put his trust not in the right argument, but in the right word.

The power of sound has always been greater than the power of sense.”



Joseph Conrad




“Speech is power: speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel.”



Ralph Waldo Emerson







With an election going on all you have to do is turn on the television or go to any news website and you will see someone giving a speech. Great oration is a skill … almost an art. Some people are naturals. More people are not.




process presentationHaving given some presentations in my lifetime, as well as provided some training, let me share one of the biggest secrets to presenting … if you have a great speech it is easy to present it.



In business we spend so much time trying to train someone on ‘how to present comfortably’ and ‘tricks’ to connect with an audience that it masks what presenting & speeches have in common with social media – content is the key.


Give me the best speech in the world and the worst presenter can give it.

Conversely … even the best presenter will stumble over the worst speech.


I thought of this as I watched several presidential candidates give a post mortem speech after the Tuesday elections.


I watched Rubio <sadly, yet defiantly, dropping out of the race>, Kasich <touched by a win in his own state>, Clinton <stepping up to the bigger beast in the room – Trump> and … well … the beast himself.


I won’t go into specifics of the four speeches but let me say that Rubio & Clinton must have great speech writers. Poetry and prose mixed with aspirations & hope & pragmatic expectations.


By the way … that is incredibly tough to do in a speech.

Very very few people can write that stuff.


Kasich speeches are easy to write because he has some common themes that come from his core beliefs & values. But suffice it to say that all three of those speeches were about ‘we the people’, what ‘we’ can do together, the spirit at the core of a country, hope for something better … and a dose of caution to not be enticed by the easier road of frustration, fear & hate.




And then there was Trump.


He has no speech writer. He is the speechwriter and you can tell.


There was no ‘we’ it was all ‘me.’

My poll numbers. My popularity. My smartness. My success. My creating voter turnout.dumb ass me


And the only “we” incorporated in were the stupid people who were losers or the enemy peering over the gates like China, Islam & Mexico <who he is gonna punch>.


It was all about his polls, his numbers, and him.


The contrast between speeches is stunning.


Everyone else talks about the people and attitude and spirit … he talks about how popular he is and … well … how stupid everyone is because we are losing too much.


The difference between the words, tone and attitude of the speeches was … well … truly stunning.


Anybody in business who writes presentations and gives speeches knows the Trump speech path is ultimately a dead end. People like to hear confidence & strong leadership but they want to feel participation and connection.

Solutions are always preferred to problems.

Implying people together is always preferred to tearing people apart.


Suffice it to say that without a grander purpose, something beyond an “outcome” objective <like a ‘win’> a speech only leads everyone down a dead end path.


A speech should attempt to find that sweet spot of prose, real facts, anecdote and the commitment to a greater purpose. People deserve to hear the good and it shouldn’t be overwhelmed by any bad.

do souls need to be hugh

Trump offers speeches carved on … well … tombstones and not hearts.




“Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones.


A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.”



Shannon L. Alder





I love words and I love hearing a great speaker give a great speech. While Trump may be one of the most comfortable people I have ever seen behind a podium and a microphone he also may be one of the worst speech writers I have ever heard.

Simplistically … he delivers bad words, bad thoughts & bad rhetoric … but he does it well.


I admit.


Give me the good, the hopeful, the commitment to a higher purpose any day of the week. And I honestly believe most people want to hear that.

Great speeches, given well, lift people up off of the easy angry, resentful, blame-paved path and let us fly when we don’t even realize we can fly.




I can write an okay speech <I have two posts coming up – one on writing a presentation and one on giving a presentation … as if there aren’t enough “how to” garbage already available online>.

But I am honest enough to know that even on my best day and in my best speech writing moment I may only get a glimpse of what a great speech writer can accomplish.


As I share that thought I remember a nice little scene from West Wing where Toby <the chief communications director> comments on Presidential State of the Union speeches and who can write them. He suggests there are maybe 6 or so in the country that can do so. I will not haggle over the number but suffice it to say he is correct … great speechwriters are few and far between.

This also means the everyday schmuck <think … “you & I”> writes a generally crappy speech <even though we all think it is great>.


I believe I am in the minority in this thinking.

I think many people <more than can actually do it> believe they write great speeches.


Maybe worse for the business world is that I think many businesses believe too many of their own people should, and can, write speeches.




As a word guy I want to teach & coach everyone to use words well & wisely.

But, in business, it is … well … business.

This is not a popular thought in the current business world view of collaboration & empowerment but I believe businesses should identify their great speechwriters and empower them to write the business speeches.


What this means is that some people end up delivering speeches written by other people.

This freaks a shitload of people out.


I actually believe they get freaked out for two main reasons:


<1> conceptually it fights the internal “I am best at delivering shit in my own words … words I would use”. The key here is ‘conceptually’. Good words are good words and good thoughts are good thoughts. The kind of words you would actually use shouldn’t change the meaning of a great speech or presentation. But we freak out nonetheless … even before we even see the speech

what want need give

<2> pragmatically most business presentations and speeches are written by crappy writers therefore I do end up freaked out just by looking at what I am being asked to speak. This is beyond the ‘corporate speak’ stench that emanates from every hallway in every business. That is just business crap. a great speech has order and ebbs & flows and seamlessly slides from point to point. Most businesses do not have a shitload of people who can do that.



In business … you almost cannot pay a great speechwriter or great presentation writer enough money. If you have one in your organization you should treat them like gold.





Within a great speech there is often a paragraph or a line that you know is great even as it slips across your lips:



  • Clinton’s line about Trump … “it doesn’t make him strong … it makes him wrong.”


  • Kasich’s indirect jab at Trump … “I will not take the low road to the highest office in the land.”



But the greatest of the great speeches cross over into some unseen universe of euphoria. As a listener you listen, hear … and may not remember specifics but you remember how it made you feel.


Nowhere has this been showcased better than on the old television show West Wing.


For example … after a pipe bomb explodes at a university killing 44 people, including three swimmers, the president gives a speech that includes the following:



“… More than any time in recent history, America’s destiny is not of our own choosing. We did not seek nor did we provoke an assault on our freedoms and our way of life. We did not expect nor did we invite a confrontation with evil. Yet the true measure of a people’s strength is how they rise to master that moment when it does arrive. Forty-four people were killed a couple of hours words big brevityago at Kennison State University; three swimmers from the men’s team were killed and two others are in critical condition; when after having heard the explosion from their practice facility they ran into the fire to help get people out … ran ‘into’ the fire. The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels tonight. They’re our students and our teachers and our parents and our friends. The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels, but every time we think we have measured our capacity to meet a challenge, we look up and we’re reminded that that capacity may well be limitless. This is a time for American heroes. We will do what is hard. We will achieve what is great. This is a time for American heroes and we reach for the stars. God bless their memory, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.”






The explanation that the director of communications gives when discussing free trade:


Toby Ziegler:


You want to know the benefits of free trade? Food is cheaper.

Food is cheaper! Clothes are cheaper. Steel is cheaper. Cars are cheaper. Phone service is cheaper. You feel me building a rhythm here? That’s because I’m a speech writer – I know how to make a point.

It lowers prices, it raises income. You see what I did with ‘lowers’ and ‘raises’ there?

It’s called the science of listener attention. We did repetition, we did floating opposites, and now you end with the one that’s not like the others. Ready? Free trade stops wars. Heh, and that’s it. Free trade stops wars! And we figure out a way to fix the rest.



Words really do matter and, possibly even more important, words delivered well really matter. The wrong words and speech can kill the best idea. Back in 2012 I wrote about elections and words used well and made this point.

Hugh something to believe in




Speeches are not like stories. Just as presentations are not really stories.

Speeches are all about using words well to lift people from one place to another.


Yes, lift.


Speeches are not meant to lower themselves into the ordinary uncomfortable truths of what we feel. Speeches are meant to recognize the uncomfortable truths and then lift us above it so we can see a horizon where things are better … the comfortable truth that what is will not always be and what will be is better for you, me & everyone – that no one gets left behind.


Bottom line.


A great speech lets us see what will be and not what is. Anyone who writes a speech … and gives a speech … would do well to remember the wise words of Hugh McLeod … “the market for something to believe in is infinite.”

All I know is what’s on the internet

March 17th, 2016

 stupidity handicap napoleon trump



Here is the quote of the day.



From aspiring president candidate Donald Trump:




“What do I know?” Trump replied. “All I know is what’s on the internet.”



trump generation of idiots



This actually explains a lot.


Credible sources track Trump comments/claims he makes running at about 75% false.


Now we know why. He clicks on Wikipedia or urban dictionary or instagram <scanning an image with some quote or factoid> and then tweets it out or parrots it in on-air interviews.



He has no credible sources … he just makes shit up or maybe even worse … he doesn’t truly think about what he believes.



I know many of my readers do not live in USA … but for those who do … please think about that before you vote.





Now ponder this Trump wisdom.




“I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things. My primary consultant is myself and I have – you know, I have a good instinct for this stuff.”



Well, Donald, that sounds quite reasonable. It’s not as if the world, let alone the Middle East, Ukraine, the South China Sea, is particularly complex or that there are nuanced delicate diplomatic situations or even that it is important to get it right.


I imagine just going on instinct makes sense. Or maybe go on the internet because there you will surely find all the answers you will need.



<note some heavy sarcasm there>



When I read what he said I thought of a Samuel Adams quote:




“If ever time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.”




Samuel Adams





With Trump we are facing a vain man, maybe the vainest of vain, and an ego amigoaspiring man – one who aspires with no rules, no boundaries, seemingly no moral imperative, or … well … any trivial nuisance that could get in the way of a win.


He appears, alarmingly so, to be free of any actual solutions.


He appears to be free, alarmingly so, of any real policy <beyond his ‘good instincts for this stuff.”


He appears to be free,  alarmingly so, to offer frighteningly hollow rhetoric.


He is the ruin … not of the country <we will still be standing despite him> … but he is the ruin of what makes the country great <which is not simply ‘winning’ as he suggests it is>.



In my little corner of the world I will do everything in my power to convince everyone of the sham Trump is and what he offers.




I will refer to Samuel Adams again <and let everyone who has not spoken out yet think about these words>:



“… the necessity of the times, more than ever, calls for our utmost circumspection, deliberation, fortitude, and perseverance. Let us remember that “if we suffer tamely a lawless attack upon our liberty, we encourage it, and involve others in our doom.” It is a very serious consideration, which should deeply impress our minds, that millions yet unborn may be the miserable sharers of the event.”



Samuel Adams in The Boston Gazette 14 October 1771


online megaphone listen speak


Speak out now.


For what we say, and do, today has an impact … an impact that millions yet unborn may be the miserable sharers of the event.


We seek to circumvent the miserableness for the millions yet unborn.







Toby Ziegler <West Wing>:


“We don’t know what the next president is going to face. If we choose someone with vision, someone with guts, someone with gravitas, who’s connected to other people’s lives and cares about making them better; if we choose someone to inspire us then we’ll be able to face what comes our way and achieve things we can’t imagine yet.”



sense of relief

January 1st, 2016

life making sense




“I pass with relief from the tossing sea of Cause and Theory to the firm ground of Result and Fact.”




Winston S. Churchill











It is a new year. 2016. The first time I have typed that.



sigh charlie

What kind of year will it be? Well. I admit. I woke up this morning … checked the online papers … and gave a long sigh of relief.



No terrorism as we transition into a new year..



What an odd feeling.


I didn’t celebrate a new year.


I wasn’t feverishly planning how to take over the world in the new year.




I simply began it with a sense of relief.



But that is today’s world. It seems like on the heels of what feels like a couple of turbulent years in a row it has become the new norm … this feeling I had. Now … it is not really fear it is simply a sense of foreboding.


It is the feeling of the inevitable of something bad happening. It doesn’t mean we don’t do the things we don’t want to do just that … well … we wake up in the morning to check if something bad happened and maybe give a small sigh of relief and go on sigh of relief typewith our Life.



Here is the deal though.


I never thought I would ever be thankful viewing a new year with a sense of relief. Especially in 2014 when we began 2015.




On December 30th 2014 I wrote this:



Someone asked me to explain 2014 … I hesitated … and then I said “it was the year of fear.”


It would have been easy to suggest it was a year of anger … or intense negativity … or a seemingly relentless crisis and end up all the way to an overall anger at society <or ‘the system’ … whatever the system is>.


2014 was the year of fear.


Let’s make 2015 the year of unfear.



2015 was anything but unfear … in fact … it seemed to ratchet up the fear. It got ratcheted up so far that it almost became anger … and anger directed at the institutions … the institutions which we may not realistically demand security from but certainly expect it.


The system was failing us and while pundits claimed we needed to manage our fear they were missing the point. It wasn’t fear. It was foreboding.


A belief the system, that which has always done fairly well for us, is now failing us.



And it wasn’t just in security but in almost every aspect of every institution. It wasn’t just government <albeit we seem to spend a shit load of time beating the crap out of the government> but banks and shipping companies and online retail and mobile technology companies … it was every institution we could think of.



Why wouldn’t we feel such foreboding … the institutional infrastructure around us seemed incredibly flawed.



But it was also in 2014 that I tried to explain how we got to where we are:



Why did it seem so bad?



One word: “exogenous.”

Exogenous events are events impossible to predict.



The world is strewn with exogenous events … events impossible to predict.


And the world is also strewn with assholes with access to media <who love to put these assholes onscreen> who love to treat exogenous events as rational predictable events <and therefore someone can be blamed>.


And the world is strewn with everyday schmucks <people> who love to believe exogenous events are anything but exogenous.







All that really matters is that things that are impossible to predict create fear among normal everyday people. And when exogenous events occur we feverishly attack institutions for their lack of perfection. We become incredibly unforgiving and at the same time offer solutions as if we were all smart enough to do any job that any institution does.


But even all our irrational behavior has a rational core.


At our core we want to seek a sense of relief from everyday grind … not have to feel relief from a larger sense of insecurity, instability & an innate sense that Life is even more unfair than we think it should be.

That is a bigger feeling I tend to believe most of us not only do not want to bear the burden of but actually do not believe we should have to bear the burden.




“People, he thought, were as hungry for a sight of joy as he had always been–for a moment’s relief from that gray load of suffering which seemed so inexplicable and unnecessary.”

inevitable fear gloom changeAyn Rand




I believe all of us don’t believe it has to be easy … just maybe a little easier.


And maybe we don’t seek peace of mind we may simply desire a little ease of mind.



Do I see that happening in 2016?          Honestly … no.


I think I am not alone in carrying around some sense of foreboding. It certainly doesn’t over ride my daily behavior nor does it make me any less optimistic with regard to getting shit done and finding some joy & happiness in 2016. It just means that everywhere I go, every morning I wake up in the foreseeable future I will encounter at least a small sense of relief if nothing bad happened that day.



I didn’t like the feeling I had this morning <albeit I liked it much better than if something bad had happened> and I really don’t like the thought that I cannot see it going away for the foreseeable future.


But we people are resilient.


We typically, unflinchingly, face adversity because we understand the choice … the choice that … well … we have choices. And by making choices we take Life out of the hands of fate from which point we can be hopeful rather than just optimistic.


I read somewhere that ‘to have hope requires courage, strength, resilience and the desire to work for the common good. To be optimistic requires no work on our part, to be hopeful does.’






A sense of relief on the first morning on the first day of the year as my first strong emotional thought.


It seems to shape a very low bar for the year.



And, yet, I am also fairly sure that at some point someone smarter than me will point out that most people can handle fear fairly rationally … but that we need to address this nagging sense of foreboding.


Somehow someone will figure out how to explain to everyone that this gray load of foreboding which seems so inexplicable and unnecessary is … well … a reflection of exogenous events … irrational unpredictable events.



Because if we can manage that … if we can somehow explain it in some rational acceptable way … most people will unhesitatingly apply the courage, strength, resilience and desire to work for the greater common good.


optomist hope

While shaken a little, personally, when I examined how I felt this morning I remain hopeful for 2016.



I remain hopeful that our institutions are not as bad as we tend to try and make them.



I remain hopeful that the watchers … the ones who explore exogenous events with the intent to circumvent them or abort them … remain vigilant and do what they do <which I perceive is a shitload better than many people think they do it>.


I remain hopeful that our anger at our institutions turns to a healthy involvement in shaping a world in which we end up creating new ways of doing things and new ways to think about things.



And, mostly, I remain hopeful that on the morning of January 1, 2017 my first thought will not be a sense of relief.

aiming in the new year

December 31st, 2015

iaming new year thoughts triumph


“Aim above morality.

Be not simply good, be good for something. “

Henry David Thoreau







It is New Year’s Eve 2015.


day new dawn hopeIf I read one more “how to be happy in the New Year” article I am gonna not only be unhappy but pretty grumpy.





I have a feeling that anyone who has to be told how to be happy is unlikely ever to actually be happy.





I am not sure happiness is a task … heck … even an objective … it is an outcome of actions not an action in and of itself.






The perfect formula for just about anything good in life, and business, is when you can inextricably tie strategy to tactics and tactics to strategy. Basically … if you can embed your strategy into each and every task or action that means everything you do is contributing to the objective you aspire to.



The problem with most new year resolutions or ‘things to do to make the new year successful’ lists are either


<a> the objective is so frickin’ big that it makes the success % so low it’s depressing to even think about <after the initial elation of ‘thinking big’>, or


<b> the tactics are so pedantic and uninspiring <declutter your Life, call a friend, make time for yourself, smile more, etc.> it diminishes the “bigness” that goals, dreams & objectives could, and should, be.



That is where Thoreau offers us the perfect New Year’s resolution.


spring new beginning differnece

The objective is to aim above morality.


The strategy is to be the best you can be <all the time>.


The tactic, the task, is doing the right thing <all the time>.




These are real actions someone can take. No ‘steps to success’ but rather simply steps which embrace and embody your objective.





If you are aspiring to be happy or happier then you surely should, maybe even need, to ask yourself some very serious questions about your Life and what steps you are taking each and every day.


Once again … not milestone challenges but actual behavioral type steps.



But maybe even more importantly is to better understand WHY you are taking the steps.



I imagine I suggest this because it is the “why” that will keep you going on those days that things aren’t going so well. And, I promise you, not all days will go well.



Oddly, this whole discussion <monologue> makes me think of something Nixon said on one of his speeches in 1970 as I think about HOW we should meet the challenges of a new year.



He said that the United States could no longer … “conceive all the plans, design all the programs, execute all the decisions, and undertake all the defense of the free nations of the world”.


He noted that other nations had to do more too.


He also noted that we needed to … “discipline our occasional impetuosity.”





Think about all of that on a personal level.

You just cannot conceive all plans, design all the programs and undertake all the actions … and be successful. You do need others to assume their responsibility <and you not assume responsibility for them>. You do need to curb the occasional impetuosity.



You have to because while Life offers us a very difficult assignment it is rarely a unique one. There are multiple similarities between each and every one of us.

In carrying out our assignments we will do some things well, others not so well, and … well … others just badly … and sometimes encounter some occasional impetuosity <which we should seek to discipline>.




I can almost guarantee this one thing <assuming you aim above morality> … later on in Life … years after this year passes, with the perspective that time affords, both the calamity of the bad and the praise we drown ourselves in for the things done well will inevitably seem obviously excessive.


I can guarantee in the next year we will all sometimes be brilliant, sometimes be foolish, sometimes be lucky and sometimes be terribly unlucky.



But all of the things I just typed are … well … things. Tactics implemented in everyday Life which will be successful & unsuccessful in and of itself.


And, yet, if we were to aim above morality within each tactic we will be successful.



I would also suggest to aim above morality means you set aside the societal norms of measurement of success & failure. No longer do you hesitate with prejudice, ignorance, selfishness or any societal pressure placed upon you.

change world and new


You, all alone, take actions with the objective to aim above morality.


And in taking actions with this objective in mind we are capable of our best each & every moment. We become a powerful force for what is good & right. We become a force of one for … well … all the ones.



And I also imagine you become a powerful force with regard to your own health & wellbeing.



All I know is that once I saw Thoreau’s quote I knew what I would be doing in 2016 – aiming above morality in all that I do.





“In spite of the prejudice, ignorance, selfishness and all the other impediments that drag us downwards, there are billions of people who want a better, brighter life for themselves and their descendants – who want to be free from fear and want.


When combined with the foresight and ingenuity we’re capable of in our best moments, this is a powerful force for good that congenital pessimists are far too hasty to dismiss.”



Adam lee


Enlightened Conflict