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Escaping the Corporate Cube Farm

Escaping the Corporate Cube Farm

Time to Moo-ve On?

If escaping the corporate cube farm, living free, earning more, and living life on your own terms appeals to you, then you should definitely keep reading. The organizing and mass production of human efforts humbly began as Henry Ford’s big idea. Henry Ford is the father of mass production and the idea of expendable employees. His legacy created our modern day cube farms. In public schools, we are prepared to be domestic animals herded into cubes, exploited, and put out to pasture with our best years behind us. We buy into this huge, unthinkable life compromise for the promise of:

  • Marginal economic security – now
  • Rapidly eroded retirement dollars – later
  • Ailing health and ongoing doctor visits, because you lacked a purposeful life that reduces your pasture time1!!!
  • And, when you FINALLY have the freest time, you’ll mainly see your friends at their funerals (seated or lying down).

There are only three endings to this story:

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  1. You like cubes and will make yourself indispensable2, because you love it. (Happy Cow)
  2. You just want a pay check – not interested in climbing or growing. (Dispensable Cow)
  3. You hate cubes, want to see more of your freest time now, and produce income that supports your life outside of the cube farm. (Divergent Cow)

If you are #3, diverge with me from the cube farm philosophy, and escape the malodorous stench of office-politic cow pies, big brother policy cattle prods, and straight-jackets constricting our creative and innovative minds. If you’re like me, your cube walls are closing in fast and you are having a Morgan Freeman – Shawshank Redemption moment where you hear yourself say, “Get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’!” Morgan chose life and so should you. Life away from the cube farm. Here’s some helpful tips and to avoid the slaughter house or a lack luster stay in the “Life-Interrupted-Pasture Zone”:

#1 Compelling

There’s only one way off the cube farm: Under a dark, sewage storm cloud of self-doubt, fear, naysayers, and deprogramming after years of telling yourself – get a job and hang on for dear life. To endure this constant barrage of escape-derailers, there must be a light so powerful that it eclipses the pain of change, circumstances, and anything that can make you turn back. You need a compelling vision that is WORTH enduring the dynamic changes your body, mind, and priorities must undergo to break out and stay out of the cube farm. For some people, it’s creating a new technology, feeding the hungry, starting an enterprise, or improving someone’s life! This vision2 has to grab you by the short hairs, look you in the eye, and say, “Ride or Die,” and you agree wholeheartedly!

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#2 Bridging

As you plan your exit, you must BUILD a bridge that takes you to your happy place. When you think about most bridges, you have a roadway, support underneath, and a good reason to get to the other side, right? In this scenario, your compelling vision is your good reason. What you have to figure out are the road way and support pillars.

Road way

This is all about what you have or can easily get, if you are resourceful. Based on your existing skills, knowledge, net worth, and network, how could all these things fit together and form a bridge you are willing to cross over, after leaving the cube farm? And, when will this bridge be viable. For example, you are a killer graphic designer working for firm “Douche Bag, Inc. or DBI” and you decide you need to work remotely, see the world, and do creative work that DBI won’t allow you to do. You hit your college network, you call in favors/friends, Google flex opportunities, and create a bridge strong enough to carry your existing financial obligations without depleting your savings/company retirement. This means creating and/or borrowing all the resources you need to support this weighty decision. This bridge can be as simple as setting yourself up as an independent contractor4 up to an S/C corporation.

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Support Pillars

These are things you don’t possess, but you need for a secure roadway. They represent all of the additional resources you need after a careful inventory of your “Haves” versus “Have Nots”. For example, most escaped cows don’t have a strong enough business or social network that can provide additional/initial income generating opportunities, housing, advice, introductions, and the list goes on. Back to the graphics designer. This could mean realizing he/she needs to set up a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC), but doesn’t have a clue how to do it. Or, doesn’t know how to market his/her services on social media. As the old X File saying goes, “The Truth is Out There.” Because I transitioned off the cube farm in 2005 and got pulled back in 2011, I had to learn how to be in business, engage in trial and error, before coming to the realization what I lacked were exposure and connections with those already in my happy place or in need of me being in my happy place with them. Here’s where the rubber hits the road. It’s not enough to escape the cube farm. It is absolutely imperative that you achieve financial viability that trumps ever going back.

#3 Sustaining

On average, most business or entrepreneurial attempts fail in 7 years or less. This can feel like a deal breaker or show stopper, but it’s truly no riskier than having a job that can be remade, moved, or removed at any time! And, the new economy has tons of individuals to corporations looking to extend flexible opportunities, mentor new business owners, and get you engaged in the business of never needing to go back to the cube farm – again. It starts with making valuable connections with people in your career field5 and those who need your skills. This means MAKING time to MEET new people, who you CAN HELP and CAN HELP YOU. This move further strengthens your bridge, while opening up your happy place for business, so you never have to return to the cube farm ever again. Many of my business opportunities come through people I already know, have done business with before, or knows someone who knows me. As I plan my great escape, I will be shoring up my bridge, one more time, and this time for good.

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Good luck and God speed!

References:

  1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/media-spotlight/201507/how-sense-purpose-can-help-you-live-longer
  2. http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2010/04/16/seth-godin-on-apple-dell-and-the-business-of-being.aspx
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=311&v=Eig23J5SByo
  4. https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/independent-contractor-defined
  5. http://www.directoryofassociations.com/

Featured photo credit: The Bartlett School of Architecture, led by Johan Berglund from 42 Architects. via floda31.com

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John St. John

Blogger, Writer, Leadership Developer, and Purpose Coach

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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

Not a lot of people are good at public speaking. You could even say that virtually everyone needs to get some practice, and preferably good guidance, before they can learn to stay calm when facing a room full of people. Having all eyes on you is an uncomfortable experience and it takes time to get used to. However, even if you can manage to control your stage fright and stay focused, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your presentation won’t put people to sleep. This is usually the case with long presentations on a very dull subject, with the presenter speaking in a monotone voice and dimming the lights to play a PowerPoint presentation.

You have to work hard to develop the right skills

If you want to be remembered and actually get people engaged, you need to make your presentation fun and enjoyable, without coming off as corny or desperate to please. I know, it doesn’t sound that easy at all! A good presentation during a promotional event or given to an important client can be a game changer for your business, so it is easy to get stressed out and fail to perform all that well. Luckily, giving an interesting lecture is something that can be practiced and perfected. There is plenty of advice out there on the topic, but let’s look at the most important aspects of giving a memorable and fun presentation.

1. Make your presentation short and sweet

With very long, meandering speeches you tend to lose the audience pretty early on, and from then on out it’s just a test of endurance for the few bravest listeners. Not only will people’s attention start to drop rapidly after sitting and listening to you talk for 30 minutes, but you also risk watering down your core ideas and leaving your audience with little in the way of key phrases and important bits of information to take away from the whole ordeal. Famous speakers throughout history have known the importance of condensing the information by using well thought out sentences and short phrases loaded with meaning.

JFK’s famous: ”It’s not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” expresses so much in very few words and gets the audience thinking. Ancient Spartans, for example were famous for their quick, dry wit, often demolishing their opponent’s argument with a single word or phrase. You’ll want to channel that ancient spirit and be as concise as possible when preparing your presentation.

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2. Open up with a good ice breaker

At the beginning, you are new to the audience. There is no rapport, no trust and the atmosphere is fairly neutral. Even if some of the people there know you personally, the concept of you as an authority on a particular matter giving a speech will be foreign to them. The best way to encourage a warm and friendly atmosphere is to get some kind of emotional response out of the audience right at the beginning. It doesn’t matter what emotion it is, you just need to connect with them on a more personal level. It can be shock, curiosity, laughter, knowing smirks, nervousness – whatever gets them out of that initial feeling of indifference. There are different kinds of effective ice-breakers, but generally speaking, the most successful ones utilize one of these tactics:

  • Joking
  • Tugging on their heart strings
  • Dropping a bombastic statement
  • Telling an interesting and relevant anecdote
  • Using a metaphor or drawing comparisons

You can make a small, self-deprecating comment, stir the presentation one way and then suddenly surprise the audience, use sarcasm, open up with a short childhood story that taught you a lesson, quote a famous person and elaborate on it from personal experience, use an inspirational anecdote or hit them with a bit of nostalgia. Just remember to keep it short and move on once you’ve gotten a reaction.

3. Keep things simple and to the point

Once you’re done warming up the crowd you can ease them into the core concepts and important ideas that you will be presenting. Keep the same presentation style thoughout. If you’ve started off a bit ironic, using dry wit, you can’t just jump into a boring monologue. If you’ve started off with a bang, telling a couple of great little jokes and getting the crowd riled up, you have to keep them happy by throwing in little jokes here and there and being generally positive and energetic during the presentation. You need a certain structure that you won’t deviate too far from at any point. A good game plan consists of several important points that need to be addressed efficiently. This means moving on from one point to another in a logical manner, coming to a sound conclusion and making sure to accentuate the key information.

4. Use a healthy dose of humor

Some of the best speeches and presentations in the world, which have been heard and viewed by millions, all feature plenty of humor. No matter the subject, a great speaker will use natural charisma, humor and beautiful language to convey their points and get the crowd excited about what they are saying. A great example of building rapport with the audience through the use of humor is Barrack Obama talking about the government building Iron Man.

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It is silly and fun, and absolutely not something that you would expect from a man in a position of power speaking in such a serious setting – and it’s exactly why it works. The more serious the situation and the bigger the accent on proper social behavior, the harder your jokes will hit.

5. Try to tell a story instead of ranting

Some people can do all of the above things right and still manage to turn their short and fun little presentation into a chaotic mess of information. You don’t want your speech to look like you just threw a bunch of information in a blender in no particular order. To avoid rambling, create a strong structure. Start with the ice breaker, introduce the core concepts and your goals briefly, elaborate on the various points in a bit more detail, draw logical conclusions and leave your audience with a clear takeaway message. You want to flow naturally from one part to the next like you are telling a big story chapter by chapter.

6. Practice your delivery

Standing in front of the mirror and practicing a speech or presentation is a technique as old as mirrors – well, come to think of it, as old as human speech, since you can see yourself reflected in any clear and calm body of water – and that means that it is tried and true. The theory is incredibly simple, yet the real problem is actually putting in the effort day in and day out. Work on your posture, your tone of voice, accent, pauses between sentences and facial expressions. The most important thing is to talk slowly and loudly enough to be heard and understood clearly. Many famous speakers, such as Demosthenes and King George VI, overcame speech impediments through hard work.

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7. Move around and use your hands

Although you won’t instill confidence in your project if you are very jittery, moving around erratically, not knowing what to do with your hands and making fast movements, standing dead still can be just as bad. You shouldn’t be afraid to use your arms and hands when talking as it makes you seem more passionate and confident. The same goes for moving around and taking up some space. However, try to make slower, calculated and deliberate movements. You want your movements to seem powerful, yet effortless. You can achieve this through practice.

8. Engage the audience by making them relate

Sometimes you will lose the audience somewhat in techno-babble, numbers, graphs and abstract ideas. At that point it is important to reel them back in using some good, old-fashioned storytelling. Make comparisons to events from everyday life that most people are more than familiar with. By making things look simple, not only will you help your audience get a better understanding of the subject by enabling them to visualize the information more clearly, you will also draw a connection between you. After all, you are all just regular people with similar experience, you just happen to be performing different roles at the moment.

9. Use funny images in your slides

Although slides are not really necessary at all times, if you do need them to make your point and present your information more effectively, it’s best to liven them up. They say that facts aren’t always black and white, and your presentation should reflect this. Add a bit of color, make the information stand out and use an interesting animation to switch from slide to slide. You can use the slides to add some more humor, both in terms of the text and the images. An image that is used to elicit a positive response needs to be funny within the context of what you are discussing. For example, if you are discussing the topic of authority, an image of Eric Cartman from South Park in a police uniform, demanding that you respect his “authoritah,” is a nice way to have a bit of fun and lighten things up.

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10. End on a more serious note

When all is said and done you will want the audience to remember the core concepts and keep thinking about what you have said after the presentation is over. This is why you should let things naturally calm down and end with an important idea, quote or even a question. Plant a seed in their mind and make them think. Let us turn to Patrick Henry for a great way to end a speech: “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”

As you can see, there is quite a bit to learn when it comes to giving a good presentation, one that is both memorable and fun. Be sure to work on your skills tirelessly and follow in the footsteps of great orators.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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