Browsing the archives for the tips tag.


Dallas Dunlap… Author, Economist, Friend…

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I’ve always been an avid reader and writer… a lover of communication of all kinds. At some point after college though, I said farewell to my comics, to Vonnegut, Rand, Huxley, and Robbins. I found a comfortable home in non-fiction, both as a reader and a writer. Today, I spend my time reading about superstar CEOs, management & marketing stuff and of course quality… My writing is almost always rooted in quality, with more creative fiction certainly something I long to be able to tap into one day.

For fun, I teach at the local community college because I actually do enjoy business that much. Over the last several years doing that gig, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting interesting characters of all kinds. One of my favorites is an adjunct economics instructor I’ve come to admire and really enjoy spending time with. He reminded me why I loved fiction!

I can’t remember exactly how I met Dallas Dunlap… adjunct training or something like that. I kind of gravitated to Dallas because he’s such an interesting guy… a true Renaissance Man of sorts. He seems to know something about everything, never forgets anything and has held a fascinating assemblage of jobs that range from life as one of the first EMTs in Florida, to economist, to independent author of crime fiction that incorporates sprinkles of science fiction and erotica here and there. He built his own house and even designs his own cover art for his books. I’m not sure there’s anything he can’t do!

I wanted to pick Dallas’ brain a little to see how his writing process works.  I like digging into interesting people’s brains to find out what makes them tick and usually find some inspiration for myself that I like to think of as a bonus.

Why does he write?

“I have a rich fantasy life. When I write, I get to experience other lives and other worlds.”

Where does he get his ideas?

“I don’t get ideas. I have visions… daydreams really. A question trips a whole sequence of daydreams as I explore all the ramifications. What happens if some Southern rural teenagers find a time machine? What happens to them? To their parents? To law enforcement? That process made The Cabin.

Or, what would a real life vampire be like? How would a rural Sheriff’s Department deal with a vampire? That launched The Food. If I may brag: To make my vampire character believable, I inserted him into an extremely detailed and realistic environment – Narvaez County – and pitted him against vivid and realistic characters. The characters, who continue from one book to the next, are so real to me that I can close my eyes and see them. When it’s quiet, I can hear their conversations about their everyday routines. I don’t feel that I am creating people. I feel that I am watching them. I describe what they do and write down what they say.” 

What does he find to be the hardest part of writing?

“Editing. I edit as a I go. My characters are like everyone else. When they talk, they drift off topic, use incomplete sentences and bad grammar. I write down what they say, but I have to rework conversations to move the story along while keeping each character’s unique voice.  Also, there are many vignettes and even whole subplots that ultimately have to be left out in order to keep the story to a reasonable length. But, beyond the mechanics of writing, the hardest thing is keeping faith. You have to believe that finishing the book is worth doing.” 

What’s his process?

“I try to write at least one page a day. There are many days when I edit out more than I write, though. And, there are many days when things come up and I don’t write anything. But, once I sit down to write one page, I usually end up with five or so.”

Writer’s block?

“I don’t get writer’s block in the sense that I can’t think of anything to write or can’t get started. Sometimes though, I have several alternative directions to take the story so I stop for a few days and think about it.”

His advice to aspiring writers…

“Write something. Writing isn’t something you aspire to. It is something you either do or don’t do. If you want to be a published author, go to a college or university that as an international reputation for its creative writing program. Take it from there.  If you just want to write, write.  Be an indie writer. Learn how to write, edit and do cover art. It’s fun, interesting, and if nothing else, you can give your books to friends for Christmas.” 

I like quality people, and Dallas Dunlap is one of my very favorites. He inspires me. Earlier today, I sent him a random text asking him what his purpose in life is… His response: “Learn and do things that interest me.” 

Check out his books on Amazon!  

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Networking Skills that Work!

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quote2I’ll be talking about networking this evening at HCC’s Institute for Corporate & Continuing Education and sharing some tips that I believe make the process fun and ultimately worth the effort.

So, I’m about as extroverted as you can get… Being an extrovert certainly makes it easy for me to talk to pretty much anyone. In fact, I love it! But, that doesn’t mean extroverts are expert networkers. It actually took me some time to master the art of listening, and it’s an ongoing process. Extroverts tend to dominate the conversation and not know when to be quiet. Introverts are quite different and tackle a whole other host of issues associated with networking.  They are not charged up by having to approach unknown people, and they tend to get quite anxious about the whole prospect of it.  Fortunately, a little planning and a few tips can go a long way to help either extroverts or introverts with this critical process.

“Ask any successful person and they will tell you that networking is a key element in moving one’s career forward. Your network is your networth. The art of developing powerful relationships can do wonders for one’s career and business.” ~Huffington Post – 5/24/14

Certainly, there’s no shortage of networking tips out there.  But, there are a few that I have found to be tried and true.

Craft an elevator pitch.

I think this is a crucial planning step because it ultimately prepares you for basic conversation about yourself without having the stress of articulating something on the spot.  Crafting an elevator pitch takes time because the goal is to be able to summarize “your story” in 30-60 seconds without sounding rehearsed or too generic.  Do a personal SWOT analysis as a way of organizing your thoughts. It’s a great introspective exercise anyway. Write, refine and rehearse until you’re comfortable and what you’ve got accurately expresses who you are and highlights your competitive advantage(s).

Plan for networking.

Whether it’s online networking or active on-site networking, determine how much time you can reasonably dedicate per month and organize your schedule accordingly.  Remember, we make time for what’s important! Resist only networking online. It’s worth it to get out there and attend some events.  Making eye contact and a personal introduction goes a long way. Get involved with a local association chapter that’s applicable to your career goals, or look for other specific networking events where people who have similar interests will all be there for the same reason.  Local Chambers of Commerce, colleges and others frequently host such events.  The Tampa Bay Business Journal even has a calendar of events that’s worth checking out. Corporate training organizations, such as ICCE, frequently host events as well.  The more you put yourself out there, the less stressful the experience becomes and the more successful you are at accomplishing your goals.

Remember: Networking is a continuous process. 

Don’t set expectations. 

I hear people talking about going to networking events and focusing on the number of people they want to connect with. Quality over quantity will win every time. Of course, I know the time you can dedicate to networking is limited so we want to maximize any resources.  But, go with the flow and refine your activities as you plan for future events.  If one doesn’t work out as planned, make the most of it while you’re there and attend a different event next time.

Arriving early or later?

There are two approaches here, and it depends on an individual’s comfort zone.  Arriving early or just as an event starts helps some people acclimate. Others feel more comfortable walking into the chaos of activity and blending into the crowd. Consider what works best for you to reduce nervousness.

Plan conversation starters in advance.

The elevator pitch certainly helps, but consider a few conversation starters.  Being prepared reduces the overall stress of the situation.  (Examples)

Smile… Smile… Smile

Smiling does more than make you look happy.  Research indicates that smiling actually releases neuropeptides that reduce stress.  Also, a study published in the journal Neuropsychologia reported that seeing a smiling face activates your orbitofrontal cortex, the region in your brain that process sensory rewards. This suggests that when you view a person smiling, you actually feel rewarded. Considering that research also indicates smiling is contagious, it’s a win-win endeavor. (Source)

Listen more than you talk. Active listening is key.

As noted, this can be challenging for extroverts who tend to dominate conversations.  But, actively listening to someone else’s story ultimately reflects better on you. Show genuine interest in people, and you’ll find they are more responsive.

Personalize your interactions.

People love to feel special. They like the sound of their own name (and it helps you remember it when you say it too), and they usually enjoy talking about their passions and such. Finding out personal details about people lights up multiple areas of the brain and helps with the retention process. You’ll stand out and also have something distinguishable to discuss during follow-up. It also usually makes the conversation more interesting anyway.

“Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, brain activation patterns were examined in response to hearing one’s own first name in contrast to hearing the names of others. There are several regions in the left hemisphere that show greater activation to one’s own name, including middle frontal cortex, middle and superior temporal cortex, and cuneus. These findings provide evidence that hearing one’s own name has unique brain functioning activation specific to one’s own name in relation to the names of others.” (Source

Plan your transitions in advance.

I see people finding their comfort zone with one or two people during an event, and I can’t help but think about all of the connections they’re missing out on.  Plan a transition strategy in advance to politely be able to move on to another person or group.  Even just being honest and saying that you’re excited to follow-up with them but want to go meet some other people works well.  Work the room and resist getting comfortable with someone you already know or have met and clicked with.  You can always arrange to have lunch or meet with them for a longer period of time later. If you’re there to network, network.

Follow-up and develop connections.

Networking isn’t finished after you’ve introduced yourself to people and exchanged contact information.  When exchanging business cards, take a moment to make a note about something personal about each person after speaking with them.  After the event, connect on LinkedIn.  And, set some time aside each week to reconnect or follow-up with people you’ve met. Use the personal information to help them remember you.

Remember: Networking is about creating relationships that are beneficial to all parties. It’s a good thing!

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